#1138: When A Boy Falls In Love by Mel Carter

Peak Month: August 1963
9 weeks on Vancouver’s C-FUN-TASTIC FIFTY Survey
Peak Position ~ #9
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #44
YouTube: “When A Boy Falls In Love
Lyrics: “When A Boy Falls In Love

Mel Carter was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1939. As a child he was in a choir at New Prospect Baptist Church. In 1954, Carter began studying under jazz singer Little Jimmy Scott. Carter went to Chicago and met Sam Cooke when Cooke was part of the Soul Stirrers. Mel Carter was also part of a street corner doo-wop group. In the late 50’s and early 60’s, Mel Carter appeared on stage with Dinah Washington at Ciros. In 1960 Carter released his first single on Arwin Records titled “I’m Coming Home”. In 1961 he switched labels to Mercury and released “I Need You So”. Then in 1962, he released a duet with Clyde King titled “The Wrong Side of Town”, which was a minor hit in California and West Virginia. In the spring of 1963, Mel Carter released “When A Boy Falls In Love” on the Derby label.

“When A Boy Falls In Love” was cowritten by singer Sam Cooke and Clint Lavert, the latter in his only songwriting effort. Samuel Cook was born in 1931 Clarksdale, Mississippi. His father was a Baptist pastor. After the family moved to Chicago, Cook joined a children’s choir called The Singing Children at the age of nine. At the age of 17 Cook joined an established gospel group formed in 1926 called the Soul Stirrers. He also added an “e” to his surname, becoming Sam Cooke. He honed his vocal abilities further and was signed to Los Angeles based Keen Records in 1957. It was there he recorded his biggest hit, “You Send Me.” It climbed to #1 in November 1957. Cooke got national exposure on the Guy Mitchell Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. From 1957 to 1965 Cooke charted 29 Top 40 hits on the Billboard pop charts. These include, “Chain Gang”, “Wonderful World”, “Cupid”, “Having a Party”, “Twisting the Night Away”, “Bring It On Home To Me” and “Another Saturday Night”. One Top Ten hit in Vancouver was released posthumously titled “A Change Is Gonna Come“.

The night of December 10, 1964 Sam Cooke was at Martoni’s Italian Restaurant. Fresh from the release of his new album, Sam Cooke at the Copa, he was in a  mood to celebrate and flashed a wad of bills that looked like he had thousands in his wallet. He was dining with his producer, Al Schmitt, and his wife, Joan. At the restaurant bar Cooke spied a young 22-year old Asian girl named Elisa Boyer who quickly got cozy with him. They left the restaurant and headed to PJ’s nightclub where a Cooke got into an altercation with a guy who was hitting on Boyer. They left PJ’s at 2 a.m. on December 11 and ended up at the Hacienda Hotel by 3 a.m. Cooke walked from the car to the office front desk and took time to sign himself into the room, making payment and showing his ID.

Sam Cooke was killed by Bertha Franklin in a room at the Hacienda Hotel in Los Angeles on December 11, 1964. His body was found half-naked. His murder continues to be regarded as suspicious and unsolved. Elisa Boyer, a local prostitute, claimed Cooke had kidnapper her and taken her to the hotel, known as a hang-out for prostitutes. But if she had been kidnapped, why didn’t she flee from the parked car while Cooke lingered in the Motel’s office to pay for the hotel room? After she and Cooke went to a motel room she left Cooke’s room with a substantial wad of his cash and Cooke’s clothes, while he was in the bathroom. In 1979, Boyer was found guilty of second-degree murder of a boyfriend.

Bertha Franklin, an ex-madam with a criminal record, was forced to quit her job after receiving several death threats. She filed a $200,000 lawsuit against Sam Cooke’s estate for punitive damages and injuries, but lost.The circumstances of Cooke’s death were contested by members of his family. Was Cooke was a kidnapper, attempting a rape before he was shot? Or he was set up to be robbed with the allegation of kidnapping and rape by the robbers pinned on Cooke? Was this a way to scapegoat Cooke, drawing attention away from the real crime of robbery and murder? Though he died on December 11, a court decided on December 16, 1964, that this was a case of justifiable homicide.

Singer and friend of Sam Cooke, Etta James, recalled in her biography, Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story, that she viewed Cooke’s body prior to the funeral. She was skeptical of the accuracy of the official version of events regarding what took place. Cooke’s injuries did not reflect injuries someone could sustain from having fought Bertha Franklin alone. James noted Cooke was so clobbered that his head was almost separated from his shoulders, his hands were broken and crushed and his nose was butchered. A biopic is in production titled Sam Cooke: The Truth. 

“When A Boy Falls In Love” described how a “boy” gets his nutrients from being in love and looking forward all day to talking to his girlfriend on the phone. He doesn’t have breakfast when he’s in love. Life is just wonderful, as the lyrics explain: “He can hardly wait til the moment they meet, for he knows when he sees her his day will be complete. When they’re finally alone and he kisses her lips, the world sings a love song and his heart turns a flip.” After being with her, the boy goes back to his bed and dreams about the “sweet song” of his girlfriend; And the day he’ll buy her a ring.

The liner notes for Mel Carters’ album, When A Boy Falls In Love, were written by DJ, singer and TV show host Wink Martindale. “Hours turn into days, days pass into weeks, weeks make months, months form years and so it goes…on and on… During these days, weeks, months and years a person in my business sees many records come and go, records that may represent endless hours of training, preparation, hopes and dreams of an artist. Not too many weeks ago one such record passed my way at KFWB. As I studied the title I became more and more interested and I must say that after I listened to a few bars of “When A Boy Falls In Love,” the name of Mel Carter had made a firm and lasting impression on me. No doubt, here was an artist with great talent who had been waiting for that big break…that very special record that every artist hopes for.” 

“The success of Mel’s initial record is history now…but his career is just beginning. To those of you who were thrilled, as I was, to his smooth and flowing style on “When A Boy Falls In Love,” will be equally thrilled with each selection in this, his very first album. Some songs are new, some are standards that have already made their mark… but as you listen to Mel Carter present each of them, I’m confident you’ll agree that he has definitely made his mark in the business…here’s to a long and brilliant future for a great talent, Mel Carter.”

~ Wink Martindale, KFWB

Mel Carter appeared on American Bandstand on July 30, 1963 and sang “When A Boy Falls In Love”.

“When A Boy Falls In Love” peaked at #2 in Endicott (NY), #4 in Seattle and Phoenix, #6 in Boston, #7 in Los Angeles and Kansas City (MO), #8 in Columbus (OH) and Fort Worth (TX), #9 in Vancouver (BC) and Buffalo, #10 in Detroit, #11 in Worcester (MA) and Denver, #12 in Baltimore, #13 in San Bernardino (CA), Erie (PA), and Chicago, #14 in Toronto, and #15 in Cleveland and St. Louis.

A followup release on the Derby label was a double-sided hit “Wonderful Love”/”Time Of The Young”. One or both sides of the single were hits in radio markets in Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. As well, Carter’s cover of the Johnny Mathis 1957 hit “Twelfth Of Never” also got chart action in several radio markets. Another track from When A Boy Falls In Love titled “After The Parting The Meeting Is Sweeter” was a Top 30 hit in Seattle in early 1964.

Carter switched to the Imperial label. In the winter of 1964-65 he released the single titled “The Richest Man Alive”. While the single charted, Mel Carter appeared on American Bandstand on January 16, 1965. It was a Top 20 hit in San Bernardino (CA) and Los Angeles.

This was followed by his biggest hit “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me”. The song climbed to #2 in Vancouver, #4 in Toronto, #5 in Edmonton (AB), and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. On his album Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Mel Carter recorded covers of several pop standards from the early 50s. These included Frankie Laine’s “High Noon”, Patti Page’s “Detour”, and Perry Como’s “Wanted”. Between April and August 1965, Mel Carter toured with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars.

Carter had a followup titled “(All Of A Sudden) My Heart Sings”. The single climbed to #18 in Vancouver and #38 on the Billboard Hot 100. Next, Carter had a minor Top 30 hit in Vancouver titled “Love Is All We Need” which stalled at #66 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1966. Later in the spring of 1966, Mel Carter released a cover of the 1955 Don Cherry hit “Band Of Gold”. Carter’s cover peaked at #13 in Vancouver, but stalled at #32 on the Billboard Hot 100. Subsequently, Carter covered the Ames Brothers 1953 hit “You You You”. Though it climbed to #23 in Vancouver, it stalled at #49 on the Billboard Hot 100. With each charting single in the USA, Mel Carter experienced better chart runs in Vancouver. This was the case again with “Take Good Care Of Her”, a #16 hit in Vancouver in the fall of 1966 that stalled at #78 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Mel Carter’s last charting hit in Vancouver was in January 1967 with a cover of the pop standard “As Time Goes By”. That year he recorded the theme song for the film Enter Laughing. His last single release that was a minor hit was his cover of the pop standard “I Only Have Eyes For You” which peaked at #104 just below the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974. His 1976 release of “My Coloring Book” climbed to #49 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

Carter’s 1985 album Willing, earned him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Gospel Performance.

Outside of his music career Mel Carter appeared in episodes of the medical drama Quincy M.E., the situation comedy Sanford and Son, the medical drama Marcus Welby M.D., The Eddie Capra Mysteries, crime series CHiPs, the crime drama series Magnum P.I. Mel Carter also appeared in the 1975 crime drama film Friday Foster, the 1976 R-rated comedy Chesty Anderson, U.S. Navy, the 1977 film about crude airwave programming titled American Raspberry, and the 1984 film about a serial killer titled Angel.

Mel Carter also sang on TV commercials for Mountain Dew, Stag Beer, United Airlines, Ford Torino, Miller Beer, Arrow Shirts, McDonalds, Citibank of New York, Olympia Beer, Kraft Bar-B-Q Sauce, Cabbage Patch Dolls, and Yellow Pages.

Over the years Mel Carter performed on stage with Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, Dionne Warwick, Lenny Welch, and others. His tenth studio album was released in 2008 titled The Heart and Soul of Mel Carter. On his website, Mel Carter lists among his concert venues Isy’s Supper Club in Vancouver. If anyone knows what date(s) Mel Carter performed as Isy’s, please let me know.

August 6, 2022
Ray McGinnis

Tony DeAngelo, “Interview with Mel Carter,” Connecticut Morning, November 5, 2013.
Dick Clark, “Mel Carter interview,” American Bandstand, 1965.
Mel Carter, “When A Boy Falls In Love“, American Bandstand, July 30, 1963.
Dick Clark, “Mel Carter interview,” American Bandstand, 1981.
Etta James and David Ritz, Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story, (DeCapo Press, 1995) 151.
Matt Essert, “50 Years Later, Sam Cooke’s Lyrics on Race Are More Relevant Than Ever,” Mic.com, New York, NY, December 11, 2014.
Ben Child, “Sam Cooke Biopic to Probe Murder Theory,” Guardian, March 18, 2015.
Another Attempt at a Sam Cooke Biopic in Collaboration w/His family (Who Should Star?),” Shadow and Act, Los Angeles, CA, April 20, 2017.
C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY,” 1410 CFUN AM, Vancouver, BC, August 17, 1963.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

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