#794: Let Me Tell You About Johnny by Dodie Stevens

Peak Month: November 1961
9 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #7
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart

Geraldine Ann Pasquale was born in Chicago in 1946. She and her family moved to the San Gabriel Valley in California when she was three. She soon started taking singing and dancing lessons and was a singing prodigy by the age of four. In 1954, at the age of eight, she recorded her first song, “Merry-Go Merry-Go Round.” The song was performed on the Art Linkletter’s House Party TV show, and issued on Gold Star Records under the name Geri Pace. From 1951 to 1959 Geri Pace performed at United Service Organizations (USO) shows. The USO is a nonprofit organization that provides live entertainment, such as comedians and musicians, and other programs to members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.

The president of Crystalette Records, Carl Burns, happened to see her in a local show called Strickly Informal. Geraldine was just eleven years old. Carl Burns gave her the name Dodie Stevens and the song “Pink Shoe Laces.” The song began to chart on local radio stations in January, 1959, while she was still twelve years old. Geraldine wasn’t keen about her new name, Dodie Stevens. In her book, Dig That Beat! Interviews with Musicians at the Root of Rock ‘n Roll, Sheree Homer cites more of the back story to the naming of Dodie Stevens. Carl Burns was at a bar one night with local DJ, Johnny Grant. (Grant who went on to induct over 500 celebrities into the Hollywood Walk of Fame was named honorary Mayor of Hollywood by the local Chamber of Commerce in 1980). As Dodie Stevens tells it, “they were sitting at a bar one night, and Carl was telling him (Johnny Grant) about this new artiste had on the label and how he needed to come up with a new name. The two of them started kicking around a few names, and these were the three that came up: Carmen Stevens, Carol Stevens and Dodie Stevens. I liked Carol Stevens, but one already existed. I didn’t like Carmen as that sounded too ethnic. I also didn’t like Dodie, but that was their decision.”  However, she was grateful for her sudden celebrity.

“Pink Shoe Laces” climbed to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and it sold over one million copies. At age thirteen Dodie Stevens was awarded a gold disc for her recording. Following the song’s success, Dot Records signed her to a recording contract. In the July 1959, Dodie released a song called “Poor Butterfly” which made the Top 40 several radio markets in California, Wisconsin and Ohio. The B-side, “Miss Lonely Hearts,” made it to #11 in Sarasota, Florida. Dot Records wanted to show off Dodie Stevens impressive voice that could sound one minute like Judy Garland and the next like Connie Francis. Stevens next Dot recording was “Mairzy Doats,” which made several radio Top 40 charts in the winter of 1959. The novelty song was a cover of the #1 hit for the Merry Macs in 1944. The B-side of this single was “Steady Eddy,” which made the Top 40 in Denver. The song included phrases of spoken word in between sung lyrics and resembled the musical formula that made “Pink Shoe Laces” a Top Ten hit. On her debut self-titled album, local author, Brian Tarling, reveals that the liner notes referred to Dodie Stevens as the next Judy Garland.

In the early 1960s, she had several minor hit singles on Dot including “No” and “Yes I’m Lonesome Tonight.” The later single, in 1961, was her fifth and final appearance on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also an answer song to Elvis Presley’s #1 hit record, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” At the time she was releasing singles on the pop charts, she starred with Fabian in her first film, Hound Dog Man. This was followed by Convicts Four, starring Ben Gazzara. She also toured with other teen idols from 1959 to 1963 including Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Paul Anka and Bobby Rydell.

Her ninth release with Dot Records was a song titled “Let Me Tell You About Johnny.”

Let Me Tell You About Johnny by Dodie Stevens

Whoa, Johnny. Whoa, Johnny.
Let me tell you about Johnny.

Well, he’s got a cute car and he wears sharp clothes,
mention his name and everyone knows that’s Johnny.
Whoa that’s Johnny.
Let me tell you about Johnny.

When he walks to a party and he’s standing at the door,
all the little girlies holler ‘more, more, more’ for Johnny.
Whoa, that’s Johnny. Let me tell you about Johnny.

He’ll say that he loves ya, tell ya “you’re my girl.”
leaves your heart spinning in a whirl.
And then he’ll break it saying “that’s the end,”
and then he’ll ask ya “why ain’t ya my friend?”

Well, he loves to kiss and he loves to coo,
you’ll find yourself a melting when his eyes on you.
When he says he loves you, and he says it’s a fact,
don’t believe him, honey, ’cause his lines an act.
And that’s Johnny, whoa, that’s Johnny.
Let me tell you about Johnny.

He’ll say that he loves ya, tell ya “you’re my girl.”
leaves your heart spinning in a whirl.
And then he’ll break it saying “that’s the end,”
and then he’ll ask ya “why ain’t ya my friend?”

Well, he loves to kiss and he loves to coo,
you’ll find yourself a melting when his eyes on you.
When he says he loves you, and he says it’s a fact,
don’t believe him, honey, ’cause his lines an act.
And that’s Johnny, whoa, that’s Johnny.
Let me tell you about Johnny.

“Let Me Tell You About Johnny” concerned a guy who all the girls holler for when he shows up to a party. Johnny, we find out, has a pattern. First, he tells a girl he’s going out with that he loves her and that she’s “his.” Next, he’ll break the girls heart by suddenly announcing, “that’s the end.” Finally, he’ll be perplexed with the girl he’s dumped, saying, “why ain’t you my friend?” Those listening to the song were warned about guys like Johnny who were putting on an act. Johnny wasn’t the real thing.
“Let Me Tell You About Johnny” peaked at #7 in Vancouver and #9 in Calgary, Alberta. However, the single missed the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1962, Dodie Stevens recorded her eleventh single with Dot Records. It was a cover of the Rodgers and Hart 1930 tune from the musical, Ever Green, “Dancing On The Ceiling.” Though the song had become a pop standard, in 1962 deejays wanted to play other dance tunes that were brand new. Stevens married at the age of sixteen and moved to Missouri and lived on a farm. She released a single with Imperial Records in 1963 and two singles on Dolton Records in 1964. But all of these were commercial failures. Of these, “Sailor Boy,” made the Top Ten in Lansing, Michigan, in early 1964. But why rush to the record store to get a 45 by Dodie Stevens when you could get a new single by The Beatles? In 1964 Dodie Stevens had a daughter she named Stephanie. By 1966, at the age of twenty, her marriage came to an end and pursued her singing career. In 1969, she had a minor country hit, “Billy, I’ve Got to Go to Town” (an answer record to “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”) that she recorded under the name Geraldine Stevens. The song stalled at #117 below the Billboard Hot 100.

She took additional vocal lessons and in 1972 began appearing and recording with Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’77. In the ensuing years she toured as a backup singer with Loretta Lynn, Frankie Avalon, and Boz Scaggs. From 1977 to 1989 Stevens was in a concert troupe with country singer, Mac Davis, performing across America. In the 1990’s, she toured with Fabian and her own company “Dodie Stevens and The Pink Shoe Laces Review.”

Today, Dodie continues to sing. She shares the stage with her daughter, Stephanie, making personal appearances in DooWop concerts across the country. She recently appeared on the PBS television special “At The Drive-In”, hosted by her earlier co-star, Fabian, and the TNN special, “Rock ‘n Roll Graffiti”. In February 2009, she was among the rock ‘n roll stars who gathered in Clear Lake, Iowa at the Surf Ballroom to perform in a 5-day memorial concert titled “Fifty Winters Later.” The concert was in honor of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, who died when their small plane crashed in Clear lake on February 3, 1959. In the July, 2015, Stevens performed onstage in Upland, PA, in a bill she shared with The Coasters, The Reflections, and Barbara Lewis.

Over the course of her singing career, Dodie Stevens has performed across the United States. She has been on tour in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan, China, Philippines, France, Monaco, Saudi Arabia and numbers of Caribbean nations. In the United Kingdom Stevens gave a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II and in America she gave a special performance at The Kennedy Center for former President George H. W. Bush. She also teaches singing and stage performance out of her studio in San Diego County, which gives her the opportunity to share all she has learned in her five decades in the music industry. In February, 2016, Stevens released a new song titled “When,” as a tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack in Paris on November 13, 2015.

March 2, 2018
Ray McGinnis

References:
Don Siegel, Hound Dog Man, 20th Century Fox, 1959.
Millard Kaufman, Convicts 4, Allied Artists Pictures, 1962.
Gary James, Interview with Dodie Stevens, Classic Bands.com.
Craig Cronbaugh, “When?”- A Song of Peace by Dodie Stevens, Iowa Peace Network, Des Moines, IA, March 8, 2016.
Michael McGuire, Dodie Stevens to Appear with Other Classic Rock Acts, AXS.com, Los Angeles, CA, July 10, 2015.
Dodie Stevens: Pink Shoe Laces, Wayback Attack.com
Homer, Sheree. Dig That Beat! Interviews with Musicians at the Root of Rock ‘n’ Roll. McFarland & Company Inc., Jefferson, NC, p. 116.
Brian Tarling email.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter