Paul Vance was one of the premier composers and producers of the bubblegum pop era, authoring a series of chart blockbusters including Brian Hyland's "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," the Cuff Links' "Tracy," and Clint Holmes' "Playground of My Mind." Born in Brooklyn, NY, on November 4, 1929, Vance first earned notoriety in 1957 when he teamed with fellow Brill Building staffer Lee Pockriss to write "Catch a Falling Star," a number one pop hit for crooner Perry Como the following spring. A year later Vance issued a single, "Hey! Now Mary," on the Kenco label. The record went nowhere, and in 1960 he reunited with Pockriss for "Four Little Heels (The Clickety Clack Song)," a minor chart entry for 16-year-old singer Hyland. With "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," Hyland rocketed to teen idol status and Vance and Pockriss scored their second chart-topping hit. The song nevertheless pigeonholed the duo as novelty writers, and their next significant hit was the 1964 "Leader of the Pack" parody "Leader of the Laundromat," credited to the Detergents and featuring vocals by Aldon Music session singer Ron Dante. Vance and Pockriss collaborated with Dante on a recurring basis throughout the remainder of the decade, notching a minor hit with the singer's solo effort "Don't Stand Up in a Canoe" before installing him in their session group the Cuff Links, earning a Top Ten hit in 1969 with "Tracy." When Dante -- also the lead vocalist on the Archies' blockbuster "Sugar Sugar" -- broke ranks to cut a solo LP, Vance enlisted up-and-coming songwriter/arranger Rupert Holmes to assume lead vocals for the Cuff Links' eponymous second LP, creeping into the lower rungs of the Billboard pop charts with "Run Sally Run." Holmes also handled lead chores for Vance's next studio group, the Street People. Their debut single, "Bubblegum Has Come to Town," was slated for release on Musicor when label head Art Talmadge insisted Vance rewrite the song in response to bubblegum's increasingly negative industry connotations. Under the title "Jennifer Tomkins," the record entered the U.S. Top 40 in the spring of 1970, and after resuming his partnership with Pockriss, Vance scored his final major hit with Clint Holmes' "Playground of My Mind." A flop upon its initial mid-1972 release, the single later caught on at AM radio, and in the summer of 1973 ascended to the number two spot. As bubblegum's commercial fortunes waned, Vance retired from the music industry and eventually relocated to Florida. In the fall of 2006, he made national headlines when a man who falsely claimed authorship of his songs died, leaving behind confused survivors and generating a host of erroneous obituaries.
Share this page