#536: Hushaby Little Guitar by Paul Evans
Paul Evans was born in Queens, New York, in 1938. Although he got some fame with his modest success as a teen idol, Evans is more well known for his songwriting for other performing artists. He recorded his first single in 1957 titled “What Do You Know?”, backed with “Dorothy”. His first hit song was written in 1958 titled “When”. It became a Top 20 hit for the Kalin Twins. Evans told staff with the Songfacts website about the backstory. Evans said ” I was young… 19 or 20. I would write with two or three writers a day. It was our job to write songs… just sitting around, fooling around playing songs. We wrote a song for the Everly Brothers, but they were almost impossible to get. So we brought the song up to Decca Records. The demo was just my guitar, me singing, and my co-writer singing a harmony line. We got the Kalin Twins to do it because when [Decca] heard a duet on a demo, they thought of a duet, that’s just the way it was in the business at the time. We did not write it as a personal experience. We tried. We wrote it because we wanted to write a song that we could get a record recorded on.”
The list of artists in the music industry who’ve recorded a song by Paul Evans include LaVern Baker, Tab Hunter, Cliff Richard, Sammy Turner, Elvis Presley (“I Gotta Know”) Pat Boone (“Johnny Will”), Siw Malmkvist, Bobby Vinton (“Roses Are Red”), The Platters, Mario Lanza (“Lady Of Spain”), Hank Locklin, Johnny Tillotson, Bobby Sherman, Chad & Jeremy, Lulu, Ray Coniff, Paul Anka, Fabian, The Coasters, Frankie Lymon and the Shocking Blue. However, unlike in his native country of America where his chart success was uneven, Evans charted seven songs into the Top 20 in Vancouver. So, in the period between 1959 and 1962, Paul Evans was better known in Vancouver as a teen idol than for his compositions for other recording artists.
Paul Evans grew up in a family where his mom played an taught piano lessons, and his dad played a number of musical instruments. Paul’s father sold his flute to buy his son a guitar. His oldest sister, Estelle, showed Paul how to play the guitar. At high school, Paul produced and performed in a number of shows. While pursuing an engineering degree at Columbia University, Evans had his own radio show with a focus on folk music. He decided to switch his efforts to the record industry and began to sing at clubs and initially was the the ship’s singer on the US Navy ship the SS France.
In 1959 Paul Evans had a Top Ten hit across North America called “Seven Little Girls Sitting In The Backseat“. Evans had a Top Ten hit across North America in early 1960 called “Happy Go-Lucky Me”. He remembers at the time “They would send me out on the road, and I would do record hops. I would lip-synch in front of these crowds of kids, who would then be dancing to the records. I did the Dick Clark Show by lip-synching. Anything that was spent by the record company came out of our royalties. And I made very little money at the time. I was exhausted after three weeks. They were all one-nighters and they were bus tours and stuff like that. And I wasn’t being paid, and I didn’t think this was cool, I’d rather have been home writing with my co-writers.”
He followed up next with “The Brigade Of Broken Hearts” in the summer of 1960. It was a Top 30 hit in Vancouver, but did little elsewhere charting in only nine states in the USA. Evans next release was “Hushaby Little Guitar”.
In “Hushaby Little Guitar” the guitar is used by the guy as a catalyst to get a night of romance started with his “baby.” In an instant, she is entranced and he plays a “simple melody” that makes her move up close to him as he plays. The lyrics tell us that she is now in this guys arms, but the guitar keeps playing. Is she in his lap somehow, with his arms around her as he holds the guitar and keeps on playing? He wants the guitar to stop playing so the romantic night can advance to the next stage. Could his brain not send a message to his hands and fingers to stop playing the guitar? Apparently, the guitar has a mind of its own and is compelling him to play. And so there persists in the song a tug-o-war between his desire for the guitar playing to stop and the guitar wanting to keep on being played. Could his date have been pleading him to keep playing the guitar? We don’t know, but are hopeful at the end of the song that he put the guitar down and moved on with his night of romance to some hugging and kissing.
On the Canadian and American printings of the song hushaby is spelled without an “e” at the end. While the printings of the 45 RPM in the UK had the word spelled “hushabye.” A hushaby (or hushabye) is a form of lullaby with quiet music to lull a baby to sleep. It originated in the 18th century from the 16th century words, hush, and lullaby. Another song titled “Hushabye” (spelled with an “e” at the end) was a Top 20 hit for the Mystics in June 1959. Its lyrics included “lullaby and goodnight, in your dreams I’ll hold you tight.”
“Hushaby Little Guitar” peaked at #4 in Vancouver (BC), #11 in Seattle, and #14 in Syracuse (NY). It made the Top 40 in Chicago and Montreal, but got little attention across Canada or in the United States.
“Hushaby Little Guitar” remained a very popular song in Vancouver based on listener requests on Flashback Weekends on CFUN into the late ‘60’s. The song was listed at #10 on the CFUN Final Top 40 Soundathon for March 1960 to April 1967 as counted down on CFUN’s final broadcast at the time on September 17, 1967.
Paul Evans subsequent releases, like “Hushaby Little Guitar” also failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100. However “After The Hurricane” climbed to #2 in Vancouver, and “D-Darling” peaked at #11. “D-Darling” was one of six singles Evans released on Kapp Records in 1962-63, but the only one that was a hit, and uniquely so in Vancouver. Right after this song in December ’62, Paul Evans had a Christmas themed song titled “The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle” which climbed to #14 on CFUN. But after that he was swept away by the Girl Group sound, Surf music, the Bossa Nova, Motown and the British Invasion. Yet, Evans biggest song for another recording artist, “Roses Are Red” for Bobby Vinton, kept the royalty cheques flowing from the fall of ’62 onward.
Paul Evans was used to doing things a bit by the seat of his pants. He didn’t prepare what he would sing when he went onstage. He just did things spontaneously. In 1963, he told an interviewer with Folk Music Worldwide, he was on a trip to Fredericton, New Brunswick in the winter. When he showed up, he (or his manager) had forgotten to book a hotel room.
In 1963 Paul Evans wrote “Live Young” for the movie, Palm Springs Weekend, sung by Troy Donohue. Evans has soloed on many commercial jingles and appeared on the David Letterman Show, As the World Turns, Guiding Lightand All My Children. Evans voice can be heard in the mid-90s Woody Allen films, Mighty Aphrodite and Everyone Says I Love You (but not on any of the tracks in the Soundtracks from these films).
In 1979 Paul Evans had an unusually morbid country hit on the UK pop charts called “Hello, This Is Joannie” that peaked at #6, and also went Top Ten in Australia. In the song, Joannie leaves the boyfriend’s house very angry and ends up in a fatal car crash on the way back to her home. In 1993 Evans released a country Christmas novelty tune called “Santa’s Stuck Up In the Chimney“. It gets air play on many North American country and western music stations each December. In 2019 Paul Evans enjoys his family life in New York City.
November 4, 2019
Paul Evans bio, Paul Evans.com
Interview with Paul Evans, Folk Music Worldwide, June 8 & 11, 1963.
“Live Young,” Palm Springs Weekend, 1963.
Dan McIntosh, “Songwriter Interviews: Paul Evans,” Songfacts.com.
“Hushaby definition,” Collins Dictionary.com.
“The Sensational Sixty,” CKWX 1130 AM, Vancouver, BC, October 31, 1960.
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