#983: Boomerang by Donnie Brooks

Peak Month: August 1961
6 weeks on Vancouver’s CKWX chart
Peak Position #9
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
WX DISC-overy of the week ~ July 22, 1961

In 1936 John Dee Abohosh was born in Dallas, Texas. His family moved to Ventura, California when he was in his youth. In his teens he was adopted by his stepfather, John D. Fairecloth, who supported young John in developing his voice. John Dee Abohosh was than given the surname Fairecloth. While growing up in southern California, he studied under the same vocal coach who previously instructed Eddie Fisher. In high school John Dee Fairecloth made his professional debut on a classical music showcase broadcast by Ventura-based station KBCC. After graduating from high school, Fairecloth earned his living singing at local clubs, fairs, and weddings, embracing rock & roll and in 1957 signing to local indie Fable Records to cut his debut single, “You Gotta Walk the Line,” credited to Johnny Faire.

While cutting demos for the Surf label, he learned that contractual obligations were forcing friend and mentor, Dorsey Burnette, to abandon a completed track dubbed “Bertha Lou.” Surf agreed to erase Burnette’s vocal and insert Faire’s performance instead. Surf released the single and again John Fairecloth went with the stage name Johnny Faire when recording “Bertha Lou.” The rockabilly number charted in Toronto and Baltimore in the winter of 1957-58. Fairecloth next took the stage name Johnny Jordan in early 1958 to record “Sweet, Sweet, Sweet.” But the rockabilly tune got no notice. It was written by William Michael who would later pen Donnie Brooks biggest hit, “Mission Bell.”

Fairecloth than took the stage name Dick Bush to record another rockabilly tune, “Hollywood Party,” on Era Records. It made the Top 20 in Worcester, Massachusetts, in May 1958. Despite tepid record sales, Era Records was impressed with Fairecloth and agreed to keep him on their payroll in exchange for another stage name change, this time to Donnie Brooks.

His first recording under the name Donnie Brooks was a flop called “Li’l Sweetheart.” His follow up on Era Records,”White Orchid,” hardly got any notice, though it climbed to #3 in Vancouver, Washington, and sold over 50,000 copies. Moreover, it became a Top Ten hit in Australia. Brooks third single under his current stage name , “The Devil Ain’t A Man” was a Top 30 hit in Ventura, California. The song declared that the devil was a girl about five foot tall. However, it was his fourth single release under the name Donnie Brooks, “Mission Bell,” that became his best seller peaking on the Billboard Hot 100 and in Vancouver at #7. His fifth single, “Doll House,” climbed to #31 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 in Vancouver in December 1960. His sixth single, “Memphis,”stalled at #90 on the Billboard Hot 100, but peaked at #5 in Vancouver. While his seventh single, “Wishbone” stalled at #40 in Vancouver and was a flop elsewhere.

Brooks eighth single release, “Boomerang” also missed the Billboard Hot 100. But it gave him his fourth Top Ten single in Vancouver, peaking at #9.

Boomerang by Donnie Brooks
You complain about me,
always putting me down.

I’ve been ready to leave,
but I’m still around.

I could never go, no, no, no,
what good would it do?
I’d come back like a boomerang,
I’d come straight back to you.

Don’t scold me, don’t hurt me,
I need you for my very own.
You’ve told me you love me,
sometimes when we’re alone.
It’s so hard to explain
what you’ve done to my heart.
If you’re sweeter than sweet,
don’t tear me apart.
I could never go, no, no, no,
what good would it do?
I’d come back like a boomerang,
I’d come straight back to you.

Don’t scold me, don’t hurt me,
I need you for my very own.
You’ve told me you love me,
sometimes when we’re alone.
It’s so hard to explain
what you’ve done to my heart.
If you’re sweeter than sweet,
don’t tear me apart.
I could never go, no, no, no,
what good would it do?
I’d come back like a boomerang,
I’d come straight back to you.
Like a boomerang,
I’d come straight back to you.
Like a boomerang,
I’d come straight back to you.

“Boomerang” is one of those songs from the late 50s and early 60s where the relationship dynamics are less than optimal. Poor Donnie Brooks is hung up and desperately in love with a gal that one the one hand scolds him and hurts him, and then tells him she loves him when they’re alone. Record buyers who’d been jerked around by someone they’d dated likely related to the push-pull drama in “Boomerang.” Sometimes when one person knows the other person is irresistibly physically and sexually attracted to them, they can gamble that they’ll get away with a throwing slings and arrows at the one who wants them for their very own, betting that their lover will come back like a boomerang even if they try to leave.

A boomerang is a tool that, when thrown, is designed to spin about an axis perpendicular to the direction of its flight. A returning boomerang is designed to return to the thrower. Boomerangs have been historically used for hunting, as well as a sport, and entertainment. They are commonly thought of as an Australian icon, and come in various shapes and sizes. A boomerang is traditionally a long wooden device, although historically boomerang-like devices have also been made from bones. In Donnie Brook’s song the hunting weapon becomes a simile for attachment to a relationship.

Donnie Brooks was not the only one to sing about a boomerang in 1961. At the end of the year English comedian, Charlie Drake, climbed the charts to #2 in Vancouver with “My Boomerang Won’t Come Back.” In Drake’s song, an Aboriginal meeting is described as a “pow-wow”, something more appropriate for Native Americans, while their chanting sounds more African than Aboriginal. Oddly, many of the Aboriginal speakers in the song have either American or British accents. Most of all, Drake raised eyebrows with the chorus: “I’ve waved the thing all over the place/practiced till I was black in the face/I’m a big disgrace to the Aborigine race/My boomerang won’t come back!” Even by 1961 standards, Drake’s apprehension of an Australian Aboriginal was novel to say the least. For most people in 1961, Australia was a very long way from Canada and we got snatches of Australian culture though songs like those of Donnie Brooks and Charlie Drake.

After “Boomerang” it was pretty much all downhill for Donnie Brooks. He released “Up To My Ears In Tears,” “Your Little Boys Come Home,” “My Favorite Kind Of Face,” “Oh! You Beautiful Doll,”  “It’s Not That Easy” and “Cries My Heart” for Era Records between the fall of 1961 and 1962. None of these successfully charted in the USA, though “Oh! You  Beautiful Doll” went to #9 for Brooks in Vancouver. After this string of disappointments, Era Records cancelled their contract with Donnie Brooks. He would release another 18 singles between 1964 and 1978 as Donnie Brooks variously for Reprise, Challenge, Yardbird, Era, Oak, Happy Tiger Records and Midsong International without any success. He also released one more single under his former stage name, Dick Bush, in 1963. Brooks did appear in the 1964 teen rock ‘n roll movie Get Yourself A College Girl. But once Beatlemania struck, Brooks was passé.

Though his star was fading, Donnie Brooks did continue to appear in concert opening for the Dave Clark Five, Connie Francis and Roy Orbison. In Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Brooks opened shows for both Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. With a revival of interest in early rock ‘n roll with the advent of progressive rock in the early 70s, Brooks began to tour as part of oldies revival shows. He did this for over three decades until in 2003 when a car accident forced him to retire. Donnie Brooks died in 2007 at the age of 71.

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