For a website that deals with the productions of legendary Jazz producer Creed Taylor, you might wonder why I’m remembering the birth day of “Little Eva” who became famous for her 1962, Carole King and Gerry Goffin penned track “The Loco-motion”. Well, a few years later, Creed produced two 45RPM/Singles with Little Eva. Possibly some of the lessor known tracks in Creed’s compendium of music recordings. At the time, almost everyone mentioned in this post was in transition, the train had left the station!
I’d written briefly about this before https://www.ctproduced.com/little-eva-the-engine-that-creed-couldnt-restart/, but was surprised to find there was no biography of “Eva Boyd – Little Eva” and wanted to know more of her story.
Little Eva was born Eva Narcissus Boyd – 29th June 1943 in Belhaven, North Carolina, died 10th April 2003 in Kinston, North Carolina, after a battle with cancer. She was 59. Born into a family of thirteen, she performed in the family gospel group, the Boyd Five. 1959, after visiting her brother Jimmie and his wife in New York, she returned to complete high school while staying with them.
Her sister-in-law was a friend of Earl-Jean McCrea, a member of the Cookies https://www.ncmea.net/little-eva/Although I have been able locate via ancestry.com the family and Eva’s siblings, I am unable to confirm the name of Jimmie’s wife. Eva would occasionally fill-in for and sing with the Cookies, most notably backing vocals on Ben E. King’s 1962 hit “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”. Through the Cookies she met Jerry Goffin & Carole King, who she would start baby sitting for and later became their maid. At the time Goffin was 23, and King 21.
What happened next is subject to wide interpretation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Eva and confusion – if they knew she could sing; if her dancing around the house had been significant; how much she was paid etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Loco-Motion#%22The_Loco-Motion%22_myth. Carol King can be heard in an NPR interview giving her version of events, see “More Information” at the end of this post.
The ctproduced “Little Eva” mix. Track details at the end. Press play and read-on.
The Goffin/King song “The Loco-Motion” was the first to be released on a new label, Dimension, founded by Don Kirshner in New York City as a division of Screen Gems, specifically to showcase the songwriting talents of Goffin And King. Together with Al Nevins they already had publishing company Aldon Music, named after themselves.
It’s alleged that the track was originally offered to Cameo-Parkway, as a follow-up to Dee Dee Sharp’s hit “Mash Potato Time” a dance themed tune. They declined as the song wasn’t written by Kal Mann and Dave Appell. Founder and president of Cameo-Parkway Bernie Lowe, by 1961 had established a domination in the youth dance music scene including “The Twist”. Lowe was well known to only release records whose copyright and publishing rights were owned by one of his companies https://500songs.com/podcast/episode-96-the-loco-motion-by-little-eva/ http://albumlinernotes.com/Cameo_Parkway_1957-1967.html American Bandstand : Dick Clark and the making of a rock ‘n’ roll empire – Jackson, John A. – ISBN 9780195093230.
Little Eva had originally recorded “The loco-motion” as a demo that she believed that Dee Dee Sharp would sing. However, according to Boyd herself in a 2001 interview with RTE Radio’s producer Colm Keane, Goffin and King did not tell Kirshner that it was for Sharp and Kirshner decided to go with Boyd as the singer https://www.rte.ie/radio/doconone/909143-the-little-eva-story.
Artie Kaplan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artie_Kaplan who was working for Aldon Music and doing sessions for them, including playing sax on loco-motion, told songfacts that Lowe declined the song because he “didn’t hear the hook” in the first 60-seconds https://www.songfacts.com/facts/little-eva/the-loco-motion.
The Aldon Music house backing singers were, of course, the Cookies. The Cookies backed Eva on “The Loco-motion”, track, Eva Boyd became Little Eva, and “The Loco-Motion” became a massive hit in the USA and other countries in 1962. It continued to chart across the world through 1963. For periods of 1963, Little Eva was touring with Dick Clarkes “American Bandstand: Caravan of Stars”.
There were numerous follow-ups to “The loco-motion” including “Old Smokey Locomotion” another dance styled tune. Another Goffin/King track called “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby”, reached #12 in the pop chart and 6th in the R&B Chart. In 1963 Little Eva would record another Goffin/King track “Let’s Turkey Trot”. It reached #20 in the pop chart, #16 in the R&B chart.
Little Eva would be required to tour in the UK and Europe multiple times during 1963 to support record sales. One tour with Brian Hyland in early 1963 Cash Box Feb. 2nd, 1963 – P44, again in April to France, starting on April 4th Cash Box Feb 23, 1963 – P41. She would also tour the UK and Europe in 1964 with labelmate Big Dee Irwin.
Big Dee Irwin
Also in 1963, came a duet with former Pastels singer and New Yorker, Big Dee Irwin. Irwin had co-written “He Is The Boy”, the original b-side to “The Loco-motion”. The new track, was a cover of a Bing Crosby hit, “Swinging On A Star” from the 1944 musical film comedy “Going My Way” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Going_My_Way. On the b-side of “Swinging On A Star” was a Goffin/King song “Another Night With The Boys” https://www.discogs.com/master/232341-Big-Dee-Irwin-Swinging-On-A-Star-Another-Night-With-The-Boys.
It’s not clear why, but the 45/single was released without a “Little Eva” or Eva Boyd credit. The track was only a modest hit in the USA, but was big in the UK where it made the top-ten. It was an open secret in the UK that Little Eva was Irwin’s partner on the track. After their 1964 UK Irwin/Little Eva tour, PYE Records would issue a joint Irwin/Little Eva EP and later 1973 album using the same name, “Swinging On A Star” https://www.discogs.com/master/1305043-Big-Dee-Irwin-Little-Eva-Swinging-On-A-Star Cash Box Feb. 22, 1964 P46. Irwin and Little also recorded a couple of Christmas tracks Cash Box Nov. 23rd, 1963 P10.
In 1963, Little Eva was so popular in the UK, the Beatles covered her loco-motion follow-up in their debut live appearance at the BBC “Saturday Club” series at the Playhouse Theatre, London http://albumlinernotes.com/Live_At_The_BBC.html.
Little Eva stayed with Dimension, until they sold her contract to Bell Records The African American encyclopedia, Volume 4 – ISBN 9781854355454. Dimension itself would come to an end in 1965 after being purchased as part of the acquisition of Screen Gems, by Columbia Pictures in 1963.
One of the most significant transactions in the record industry during the first six months of 1963 was the recent purchase by Columbia Pictures and Screen Gems of the industry’s hottest publishing company, Aldon Music and its Dimension Record Company.Cover of Cash Box magazine – May 15th, 1963.
It’s alleged that Goffin and King wrote a number of tracks based on what they’d heard from Eva about her then relationship with a boyfriend, James (Edward) Harris. Among these was “He Hit Me (And it Felt Like a Kiss)”, recorded by the Crystals, produced by Phil Spector https://www.allmusic.com/song/he-hit-me-and-it-felt-like-a-kiss-mt0002113216?1686094111887.
Whatever the truth, Eva Boyd married James E Harris in Brooklyn, October 1962 https://records.myheritagelibraryedition.com/research/record-10459-4568154-S/james-e-harris-and-eva-f-boyd-in-new-york-city-marriage-license-index, but they separated in 1971 Calgary Herald Saturday April 19th, 2003. At least one of her recordings for Spring Records were made under her married name Little Eva Harris https://www.discogs.com/master/352535-Little-Eva-Harris-Get-Ready-Uptight-Mr-Everything.
As the 1960’s came to a close, Little Eva would continue hopping between agents, labels, and producers. Many of the tracks she recorded during this period have been rereleased on singles and in compilations. This is especially true for the tracks she cut with Spring Records, while she was being managed by Roy Rifkind, who was also manager of northern soul legend Chuck Jackson Cash Box Magazine – September 5th, 1981 p8.
Little Eva would quit the music business in 1971, having failed to escape the locomotion. She just didn’t have the enthusiasm for performance after her mother died. She returned to Belhaven, NC. There, among other things she did to support her three children, she again became a nanny The Herald-Sun, 5th Jul 1988, Tue · Page 19. Little Eva did not receive any performance royalties from “The loco-motion” when her version went back into the UK charts in 1986 https://www.officialcharts.com/artist/10296/little-eva/.
Little Eva and her husband James Harris would reunite in the early 1980’s, although Harris would pass away in 1983 I was able to find a James Edward Harris b:1944 d:1983 who was shot on April 29th, 1983 in Knoxville, TN but am unable to confirm it’s the correct James Harris … Continue reading.
Oldies And Back On Track
Little Eva would see the door of opportunity open again after the success of Australian singer/actress Kylie Minogue had an equally big hit with the same Loco-Motion in 1988. Little Eva would attribute her comeback to People Magazine. A Belhaven woman had called into People Magazine and they came to Belhaven to interview Little Eva for their “Where Are They Now” column. After which the pressure for her to return would grow. At the time, Eva Boyd was working at Hanzies Grill, a soul food restaurant in Kinston, NC.
In July 1988 The Associated Press issued a newswire release about Little Eva, her conversion to gospel and her hopes to record a gospel album. It was carried in some 100 US newspapers. In the press coverage she would say she was let down by the music industry and hadn’t received her share of the money from her recordings. A common complaint made by female singers in the 1960’s, especially female singers, including Astrud Gilberto.
In a March 1989 interview with the Raleigh, NC “News and Observer” – she would describe a CD she’d recorded as “crossover gospel”. The CD “Back On Track” https://www.discogs.com/master/2781320-Little-Eva-Back-On-Track-. was funded by Executive Producer Matthew Katz. Katz was manager of 60’s era bands such as Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and Beautiful Day. The CD would include a tribute “In Memory of CJ”, her former husband. In the article, it says Eva Boyd-Harris is living in Mitchell-Wooten Court in Kinston, which the article characterizes as “the projects”.
In her 2001 interview with RTE Radio’s producer Colm Keane, Little Eva credits Gary Cape for encouraging her to join the oldies circuit, if it was right for her. Cape is still a booking agent and tour arranger for many of the stars from the 1960’s including Lou Christie, through his Cape Entertainment Agency.
Through the 1990’s, Little Eva would perform as part of numerous rock And roll history tours including “Thirty Years of Rock And Roll” tour organized by Mike Pinera. This was filmed with interviews for a video called “Classic Rock Video Hits” The Stuart News – Stuart, Florida • Fri, Sep 27, 1991 – Page 37. Little Eva would perform in some oldies concerts with Lou Christie St. Lucie News Tribune (Florida) – 28 Nov 1997, Fri · Page 33 and would continue on the “oldies” circuit until 2001.
Eva Boyd-Harris was survived by two daughters and a son. She is buried in Black Bottom Cemetery, Bellhaven, NC with along with her parents and other relatives. She was initially interred with just a tin marker. In 2008, as part of a town effort to restore the historically all-black graveyard from the 1800’s. Local stone mason Quincy Edgerton donated a new headstone https://www.wral.com/news/local/noteworthy/video/3929808/.
Little Eva, Eva Boyd-Harris was much more than a one-trick pony. She stands as an example of the music industry steam train, it doesn’t matter what color the lights are when you get to the crossing, you are either in the way, or you are on you way. Little Eva had been both.
What did Taylor record with Little Eva and why?
Pop Goes The Singer!
At the time of the Little Eva Verve recordings, some 10-years after making a success of both Chris Connor and himself as he first arrived on the New York music scene, Creed was continually looking for a way to break into the pop’ market. Arguably, this would continue throughout his production career.
After Connor, Taylor continued with jazz singers both club and big band but as time passed the nascent popular music market would spawn it’s own stars. Taylor produced albums with both male, female and vocal groups. Singers from multi-instrumentalist Don Elliot who sang on early Taylor Bethlehem albums as did Paula Castle; on ABC Paramount Patricia Scot, Pete Brady, Pat Thomas, Anita O’Day, Irene Reid, Jean Dushon and by the mid-1960’s, the phenomenon that Astrud Gilberto had become for Verve. Taylor also dabbled with vocal groups, most significantly Lambert, Hendricks & Ross; enduringly Jackie & Roy Cain; and fleetingly The Accidentals.
At A&M/CTI Taylor would give an opportunity to Tamiko Jones and the first album out of the door for a newly independent CTI an 18-year old Kathy McCord; a spin off label, Three Brothers Records which was under the wing of Tony Romeo, produced Lou Christie and Cassandra Morgan, and Tony Levin who would produced The Clams.
Taylor also did what he did so many times, put his production talent and market sense into comebacks. In 1974 for Chet Baker, who sang on his “She Was Too Good To Me” album and later Esther Phillips. Somewhat ironically, Taylor had his biggest pop-chart hit after Gilberto’s “Girl From Ipanema” with (Eumir) Deodato’s instrumental “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)”; other 70’s chart hit’s would also be instrumental, including Grover Washington Jr.’s “Mister Magic”.
Taylor would finally trip over chart success in the early disco days via staff A&R man, Tony Sarafino and arranger Dave Matthews. Together they would go with funk and soul jazz to disco with Esther Phillips and “What A Difference A Day Makes” and Idris Muhammad’s “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This”.
In a final fling in the late part of the 1970’s, Taylor with Matthews and a post-bankruptcy CTI, would create a statement album for the late part of Nina Simone’s career and the first three albums for Patti Austin. Then there is of course George Benson. Benson became a global star based off his singing and his guitar when he went to Warner Brothers and Tommy LiPuma.
In November 1965, Mort Nasatir, President of MGM/Verve announced a new “Verve Blue” label Cash Box Nov. 13th, 1965 P6.. Nasatir said “the new Verve Blue Label will concentrate on singles at the present time allowing another outlet for Verve “Top 40” product, but will in no way interfere with the continued releases of top jazz artists on the standard Verve Black label, which Creed Taylor, recording director, has been producing.” – Lenny Scheer, director of single ‘ sales and coordinator of independent ‘ single record production, will coordinate his efforts with Taylor to jointly augment the Verve label with pop product.
Verve Blue’s biggest successes in this period would all come from the Righteous Brothers both 45/singles and albums. In 1968, Velvet Underground would have their “The Velvet Underground & Nico” album, featuring the famous Warhol banana artwork on the cover https://www.discogs.com/master/35276-The-Velvet-Underground-Nico-The-Velvet-Underground-Nico, the series had strayed considerably from Nasatir’s original intent. Other artists would have 45/singles released on Verve black and on Verve Blue, including Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery, Walter Wanderly, Wilson Pickett and other pop-styled artists including Susan Rafey.
In September and October 1965, Creed produced an album with a 17-year old Susan Rafey for Verve/MGM. Rafey had been signed as a 15-year old to a major NYC talent agency Cash Box magazine April 6th, 1963 following a 45/Single in 1961 for Kapp Records. She had just bounced from a Jubilee recording deal. Rafey’s1966 Verve album “Hurt So Bad” was received well, and included in syndicated review in newspapers across the country. Cash Box in their review said of Rafey “with her youthful voice putting her, for the time being, squarely in the teen-market area.” Cash Box Magazine – February 2nd, 1966.
It was likely that the Verve Blue announcement and the booking of the first “Little Eva” sessions were as a result of Taylor, Scheer and Nasatir looking for a promotion vehicle and way to distribute the Rafey and other “pop” recordings. While Cash Box November 13th, 1965 issue would declare in the same article that the “First date under Blue Verve is “Some Other Face” by Jim Benson” – the Benson track would be issued with a black label, and it was the only record Jim Benson recorded for Verve. The Rafey album and most of her 45/single pressings came out on black Verve labels.
For context, November 1965 is the month Creed Taylor would travel to the UK and Germany with Jimmy Smith, and would oversea the recoding of Smith’s “Incredible! Jimmy Smith Live” album Hamburg https://www.discogs.com/master/291173-Jimmy-Smith-Incredible-Jimmy-Smith. He would also travel to the West Coast to meet with Lalo Schifrin about another album. Schifrin had done arrangements for singer Pat Thomas’ 1963 albums for Taylor and MGM, which included the Grammy nominated and first recording of “Desafinado”. Taylor would also meet with Count Basie for the album that would be released in 1966 as “Arthur Prysock / Count Basie”. He also produced the Astrud Gilberto & Gil Evans Orchestra sessions in December, which would become the Gilberto “Look To The Rainbow” album in 1966.
The time was right for a Little Eva recording in the same pop market, but what to record?
Bend It & Ban It
Creed Taylor would demonstrate multiple times that he had a connection, close ties, or a knack of picking up on UK hits. This was one of those times. Over in Europe, a UK band called “Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick and Tich” had a #2 song in September of 1966. It was their 4th single, and 3rd Top-10 hit. It would go on to success all over the world including #1 in Germany, New Zealand and South Africa.
It was a punchy short vocal pop song, inspired by music from the 1964 film “Zorba The Greek”. “Bend It!” was written by the band’s managers Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, frequently credited as “Howard Blaikley” https://www.discogs.com/artist/646444-Howard-Blaikley. Released in late September 1966 in the USA, the 45/single was initially well received but soon started being banned by US radio stations for it’s provocative, suggestive lyrics..
The single was withdrawn promptly. According to the band’s “official website” the band went back into the studio and recorded two more versions over the same backing music. One was an even raunchier version, and the USA lyric version which had been turned into a dance-style lyric similar in concept to “The Loco-motion” http://www.dddbmt.com/eng/Main-Eng.html.
The full original lyrics follow the same style and as the tracks tempo picks up, the lyrics arguably get raunchier https://genius.com/Dave-dee-dozy-beaky-mick-and-tich-bend-it-lyrics. Sheet music including the original lyrics were sold worldwide, including America.
Here are both the USA labels for the original and replacement single. There were both white promo and green general labels for both. Note how the catalog number F-1559 remains the same, only the master number, YW1-39024 changes. Curiously the replacement master number, YW1-38890 is lower than the original. To me this suggests that the story on the bands “official website” has actually misinterpreted the recordings. The original lyric was the dance-lyric, then the raunchier lyric was recorded and stuck. This would also explain how Little Eva recorded the dance-lyric and the replacement recording happened so quickly.
Little Eva on Verve
It’s my view that the first Little Eva session was an opportunistic strike by Taylor.
I’ve been digging around on the Little Eva story for a while. I reached out to Artie Butler, who arranged the first two Little Eva sides for Taylor. Butler was direct in his response “I have absolutely not one memory of those sessions at all.” – that is likely because at the time, Butler was at the start of his career in New York as a writer and arranger and had just had his first big hit.
In 1967, Butler would move to Los Angeles to work for A&M and would be involved with a number of recordings with Creed for A&M/CTI including his own album, “Have You Met Miss Jones?” as well as albums for Tamiko Jones and Richard Barbary. Butler also co-wrote Shirley Horn’s indicatif musical “Here’s To Life” Heres To Life – Shirley Horn – A Music Documentary – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUg5jhpRzfU.
Little Eva had been bouncing around looking for a way to escape from the weight of her locomotion success, which ultimately would never happen. In 1965, she’d record a cover of the 1961 #1 Ben E. King hit “Stand By Me” for AMY records, a Bell Records subsidiary. The track was received well but didn’t stand out among the hundreds of other cover versions.
One of two things happened next. Taylor, knowing what a success the “Bend It!” track was in Europe, without necessarily knowing the lyrics jumped on the pop-dance-lyric version. He commissioned Artie Butler to arrange a version of “Bend It!” and the b-side “Just One Word Ain’t Enough”, booked studio time and musicians and on Monday October 17th, Little Eva showed up and recorded.
The alternative take would be that Creed spotted a window of opportunity when “Bend It!” was withdrawn and somehow obtained the revised dance-lyrics, and decided he might be able to fill the gap and make a hit before Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick and Tich could return with a revised lyric pressing.
Neither version of “Bend It!” really happened in the USA. Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick and Tich never “broke” America, but eventually scored just one US Top-50 hit.
Little Eva would be back in the NYC studio in April 1967 to record three more tracks – “Take A Step In My Direction” and “Everything Is Beautiful About You, Boy” would be released as a second 45/single Verve VK-10529. The third track master #102535 “He’s Coming To My Place” remains unissued.
While Creed Taylor would be credited as producer on all 4-sides, it’s really questionable how much involvement he would have had in the actual sessions or production. His credit could have just been perfunctory. While every source credits Taylor with starting CTI as a production company for A&M in 1967, Taylor had in fact registered CTI with the New York state comptroller in 1966. It’s very likely his mind was elsewhere by the time of Little Eva second session.
Disappointingly, there is no record of who the musicians were on any of the tracks. None of the Little Eva sides had much publicity and didn’t make the charts. That made them perfect candidates for rediscovery.
Northern Soul Siren Songs
Susan Rafey and Little Eva would share not just Verve as a label, and briefly in the case of Little Eva, Taylor as a producer. They would also tour with Brian Hyland. Rafey toured the USA with Hyland in 1962, Little Eva in 1963. Little Eva would find herself again in the UK with Hyland 36-years later as part of the “All American Solid Gold Rock ‘N’ Roll Show with Little Richard, Bobby Vee, Chris Montez, Johnny Preston and Brian Hyland”. By the 1970’s Rafey and Little Eva’s records had found a small but loyal following among northern soul https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_soul fans in the UK and Japan based on their uptempo, mid-sixties beat and vocals.
Northern soul is a retrospective genre. It wasn’t until the mid-70’s in the UK that tracks were recorded specifically to appeal to the northern soul market. It would be wrong to assume that all popular northern soul tracks are uptempo stompers, mid-tempo tracks with an emotional catch are often considered top-tracks. Jimmy Radcliffe’s “Long After Tonight Is All Over” from the legendary Wigan Casino three before eight at 113 BPM is the perfect example. Typically the records are often obscure and did not receive much airplay at the time of release. Records can be equally from black or white artists.
The final Little Eva Verve 45/single, arranged by Herb Bernstein, signaled a change of direction with a more soulful, up-tempo Motown-like tracks as heard in the mix. Bernstein would record many other popular artists in the 1960’s and beyond including Jean Dushon, who Taylor had recorded for ABC Paramount; “Little” Esther Phillips, who Taylor would record almost a decade later; Patti Austin in 1968, almost 10-years before Taylor would also record in the late 1970’s. Austin’s “Music To My Heart” was another uptempo style track which would also find it’s way into the northern soul pantheon https://www.discogs.com/master/503398-Patti-Austin-Music-To-My-Heart. Bernstein would also co-write and arrange Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels “Breakout”, of all the northern soul tracks, this was perhaps his most popular.
Little Eva would go on to record other memorable tracks for Spring Records with Horace Ott and Harold Thomas. I’ve covered Thomas before when looking at Hack Bartholomew https://www.ctproduced.com/ct-504/.
As far as northern soul tracks go, the gold standard in terms of value(rarity+demand) remains Pat Thomas, whose 45/single “I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face (115 BPM) / The Long Long Night (109 BPM)” recorded in September 1964 and was also produced by Creed Taylor for Verve https://www.discogs.com/master/1076340-Pat-Thomas-I-Cant-Wait-Until-I-See-My-Babys-Face. It almost always sells for excess of $100. In popularity terms, Esther Phillips probably takes the win among artists Taylor produced, although more from her Atlantic period, especially “Catch Me I’m Falling” (139 BPM) rather than “What A Difference A Day Makes” (137BPM) from her KUDU recordings.
Track List for ctproduced.com Verve mix
- “Bend It!” (First stanza only of the banned lyrics) – Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick and Tich
- “Bend It!” – Little Eva – Verve Records – VK-10459 (112BPM)
- “Just One Word Ain’t Enough” – Little Eva – Verve Records – VK-10459
- “Take A Step In My Direction” – Little Eva – Verve Records – VK-10529
- “Everything Is Beautiful About You Boy” – Little Eva – Verve Records – VK-10529
- “Night After Night” – Little Eva – Spring Records – SPR 107
If you have read this far and would like a copy of the cuttings, and reference material used to source much of this story, please get-in touch via the contact page. I can send a pdf at no charge.
Don Kirshner took pop music to new heights – The Brill Building; The Monkees, The Archies – The King of Pop. https://www.goldminemag.com/articles/don-kirshner-took-pop-music-to-new-heights
2001 interview with RTE Radio’s producer Colm Keane
April 15, 2003 – All Things Considered – NPR’s Michele Norris talks with Carole King about singer “Little Eva”