#601: Needles And Pins by Jackie DeShannon
Sharon Lee Myers was born in Hazel, Kentucky, in 1941, a town on the Tennessee and western Kentucky border. When she was only two years old she received her first vocal training. By 1947, she was appearing on a local radio station as a child country and western singer. And by 1952, Sharon Lee Myers was hosting her own radio show. In 1954, with the family farm posing mounting challenges, the family moved to her mother’s home town of Aurora, Illinois, a seven hour drive north of Hazel. A year later, when she was in 8th grade, the family moved to nearby Batavia, Illinois. Her dad became a barber and young Sharon got instant recognition in the local paper. A headline in on May 5, 1955, in the Batavia Herald read “Sharon Lee Myers, Only 13, Is Talented Batavia Vocalist.” The paper enthused, “Though only 13, the youngster can boast almost 11 years of voice training and experience and in the past she has toured most of the south making personal appearances. Also she has sung on radio with a rhythm band for 2 years and has appeared on television 3 times.”
The following year, now billed as Sherry Lee Myers, the young singer appeared on a TV broadcast of CBS affiliate in Chicago on March 3, 1956. In anticipation of her upcoming TV appearance, the Batavia Herald wrote: “Sherry Lee is a busy young lady. Each Saturday morning at 9:30 she is on the WMRO radio show, Saturday nights she is the vocalist with the valley’s Square Dance Band, Don Lee and his Fox Valley Boys. She had made appearances with the Pee Wee King Show at Ottawa, Rockford and LaSalle in recent weeks. Following her television appearance this Saturday night, the young Batavia artist will appear at the West Aurora Junior High School auditorium on Sunday, March 4th for three shows, 2, 4, and 8 P.M.”
In 1956, Sherry Lee recorded her first single on Mar-Vel Records based in Hammond, Indiana. On the Mar-Vel label, their singles bore the motto: “Hits of Tomorrow Recorded Today.” Mar-Vel Records had her billed as “Sixteen year old Miss Country Music” on the label credits. Lee was described as a confident young girl with a clear, warm voice. The single, “Baby Honey,” featured Sherry Lee attempting a fast paced country waltz with ringing steel guitar behind that got out of synch with the rhythm with each successive verse.
Next, Myers was billed as Jackie Dee. Billboard wrote in their June 10, 1957, issue that Sherry Lee Myers is a “16-year old C&W singer of Batavia, Illinois.” Music writer Bill Sachs reported that Myers had been “recently signed as a rockabilly artist by George Goldner’s Gone Records in New York, out of the Gale Agency in the Big Town.” Her managers, Irving Schacht and Paul Kallett, had changed her name to Jackie Dee. Her single for Gone Records was “I’ll Be True,” a 1953 R&B hit for Faye Adams, and “How Wrong I Was.” With her single release, Jackie Dee appeared at the Uptown Theater, Philadelphia on 3rd July 1957, and at the Paramount in Brooklyn, New York, with Alan Freed’s Big Rock’n’ roll Show in mid-July.
Then, in 1958, Jackie Dee recorded two songs she wrote in Nashville. The “Strolypso Dance” was a tune that borrowed from both Brenda Lee and Paul Anka in vocal style. The song was set to a beat that could be danced to either The Stroll or Calypso. The other tune, “Buddy,” imitated Brenda Lee and got Jackie Dee some attention on a few radio stations. After Liberty Records released this single, Jackie Dee switched to Fraternity Records to release “Just Another Lie.” But this time she the song was credited to Jackie Shannon and The Cajuns. Then in 1959, Jackie Shannon released “Trouble,” a song featured in the Elvis Presley film King Creole. This time she appeared on the PJ label. Several more releases in 1959 appeared on Edison International under the billing of Jackie DeShannon. After one more single release with this label, she switched back to Liberty Records. In 1961, she moved to Hollywood.
From 1960 to 1964, Jackie DeShannon released 15 singles with Liberty. A couple of these, including “Needles And Pins” and “When You Walk In The Room” made the Billboard Hot 100 at #84 and #99 respectively. In Vancouver, the former song charted to #8 and the latter to #21.
“Needles And Pins” is a song about an anxious response when you see someone you feel romantic feelings for. The song begins with the singer seeing the face of someone they love. But instead of walking up to them they run away. Then they find a place where they can be alone and get down on their knees and pray that the feelings of “needles and pins” inside will go away. These nervous feelings can’t be quelled. Consequently, the hoped for calm and collected entrance is dashed. The reaction is so strong that she knows she’ll feel this way for the rest of her life even if she never dates him.
Feelings of nervousness and anxiety can be a strong sign that you feel attracted to someone. It often means that the person you behold fits a type you have for a sexual and romantic partner. The surprise of actually finding someone real and in person who matches your hopes and dreams should be a source of excitement. Yet, for some people they run away from what they say they want. There are a variety of reasons people have this response. They include shyness, guilt or shame. For some shy people, the reason for the flight from the object of their desire is their own poor self-image and thinking that the person they are attracted to could never fall in love with them. For people who feel guilty, they may have an inner message that tells them they don’t deserve to have a relationship with someone they feel this much attraction for. And for people who feel shame about having sex at all, the aversion to staying in the room with an attractive person can be overpowering. Needles and pins are good images for the acute anxiety people can suffer when optimally they’d be emboldened and enlivened.
In 1964, she appeared in a surfing movie with Bobby Vinton titled Surf Party. In February 1964, Jackie DeShannon formed party of a touring band with Ry Cooder to open for The Beatles North American tour that included 26 concerts. That same year she wrote “Come And Stay With Me,” a hit for Marianne Faithfull.
In 1965, Jackie DeShannon switched labels again and had a Top Ten hit in the USA with “What The World Needs Now Is Love.” The song climbed to #6 on CKLG in Vancouver. While the sales from the single were auspicious, Jackie DeShannon wouldn’t crack the Top 60 again until 1969. Over the next few years she had little success with her commercial releases. One of these,”Come On Down (From The Top Of That Hill)”, stalled beneath the Billboard Hot 100 at #121. But in Vancouver, the tune reached #13.
In 1967, Jackie DeShannon appeared in a college-themed film titled C’mon, Let’s Live A Little. She co-starred with Eddie Hodges and Bobby Vee. In 1969, she had her biggest hit, “Put A Little Love In Your Heart”, which climbed to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. After the sixties, DeShannon turned to songwriting for other recording artists. He biggest success was with “Bette Davis Eyes”, a #1 song recorded by Kim Carnes in 1981. Between 1963 and 2000, she recorded twenty-one studio albums and was featured on two soundtrack albums.
January 16, 2019
Marc Myers, Put a Little House in Your Heart: After touring with the Beatles, Jackie DeShannon became a hit pop-rock songwriter in L.A., Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2013.
Sharon Lee Myers, Only 13, Is Talented Batavia Vocalist”, Batavia Herald, Batavia, Illinois, May 5, 1955, p. 1.
“Batavia Banter: On Television Show.” Batavia Herald, Batavia, Illinois, March 1, 1956, p. 12
Peter Lerner, Sweet Sherry: The Early Recording Career of Jackie DeShannon, Spectropop.com.
Bill Sachs, Folk, Talent & Tunes, Billboard, June 10, 1957, p. 61.
Fast Forces of Attraction, Psychology Today, January 1, 2008.For more song reviews visit the Countdown.