Soul And / Or Related Artists
bobby sheen

Bobby Sheen

b. Robert Joseph Sheen, 17th May 1941, St. Louis, Missourri, U.S.A.

d. 23rd November 2000, Los Angeles California, U.S.A..

Bobby Sheen was born in St Louis, Missouri.

His family moved to southern California and, like Phil Spector, he grew up in West Adams (named for Adams Boulevard) district of Los Angeles, then a mixed district. That part of town is very near the University of Southern California (USC).

His early showbusiness experience came as a member of various touring versions of the Robins and the Coasters, two of the most popular Los Angeles vocal groups of the late 50's.

He sang in a high voice heavily influenced by Clyde McPhatter, who was the Drifters' first important lead singer in the early 50's before he embarked on a successful solo career.

In 1962, Sheen hooked up with Spector through a recommendation from Lester Sill, a prominent Hollywood music business figure who had just gone into partnership with the 21-year-old pro ducer to form the Philles label.

Spector was also briefly employed as head of A & R for Liberty Records, and his first venture with Sheen was a single for that label titled 'How Many Days', a copy of McPhatter's solo records, recorded in New York.

A few months later Spector moved his recording operation to Los Angeles, where he booked time at a studio, Gold Star, located at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vine Street.

The site of many hit recordings, Gold Star was noted for its exceptionally resonant echo chamber, located in the bathroom.

It also employed a young engineer, Larry Levine, who was eager to collaborate in Spector's more unorthodox notions.

Their first session together produced 'He's A Rebel', released under the name of the Crystals, even though all the singing was done by session singers - one of whom was Sheen.

It was at a second Gold Star session, in the autumn of 1962, that Sheen found himself singing the lead part on a version of 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah', a children's song from a 1940 Walt Disney film, 'Song Of The South', which Spector had re-styled.

At the session, Spector had assembled three guitarists, three bass players, at least two pianists, four saxophonists, a drummer and a percussionist.

Levine spent almost three hours trying vainly to capture the correct sound balance on the studio's primitive three-track desk.

In frustration, he turned off all the microphones.

One by one he turned them back on, until Spector shouted: 'That's it! That's the sound!'

However, one microphone had been inadvertently left off, and the distant, metallic sound of Billy Strange's electric guitar solo leaking into the microphones of the other musicians became the signature.

A top 10 hit over the Christmas of 1962, it helped prepare the way for the records by the Crystals and the Ronettes which established Philles as the last great phenomenon before the arrival of the Beatles ended pop's age of innocence.

With Darlene Love and Fanita James, two session singers who collaborated as the Blue Jeans, Sheen released two more Bob B Soxx singles in 1963, 'Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Heart?' and 'Not Too Young To Get Married', on both of which Love sang the lead part - as she had, uncredited, on 'He's A Rebel' and the Crystals' next hit, 'He's Sure The Boy I Love'.

When neither Bob B Soxx follow-up matched the success of 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah', Spector turned his interest elsewhere.

But the group's final appearance, as contributors to the producer's legendary 'Christmas Album', also permitted Sheen his finest hour, delivering a soaring lead vocal on a magnificently thunderous arrangement of 'The Bells Of St Mary's'.

Sheen signed a contract with Capitol, and in 1966 released an excellent single called 'Dr Love', which failed to make the pop charts but nevertheless found - and continues to find - favour with the dancers of Britain's northern soul scene (an original UK promo copy is currently available on an internet site for £60).

Later, he resumed his earlier career as a member of one of several groups trading under the name of the Coasters, and for a while ran a label of his own, Salsa Picante.

In later years he continued to take late-night phone calls from Spector in which the First Tycoon of Teen - who outlined grand plans to revive the splendours of the past.

Bobby Sheen passed away on the 23rd of November 2000, from pneumonia.

Sheen will be fondly remembered in the U.K. for his track 'Something New To Do'.

Real Player

Albums:

Phil Spectors Christmas Album (1963)

top of the page

SoulwalkingStart HereThe ArtistsListen Out ForThe ChartBeen MissedRespectReal AudioOpinionNetworkJazz & FusionLinksMotown