Betty Johnson

Betty's Hits, Vol. 1

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After a 33-year hiatus, song stylist Betty Johnson continues to celebrate her return with this album compiling her most popular recordings of the 1950s. It was during that period that she became popular not only through her recordings, but also as a regular on the high-profile Don McNeil's Breakfast Club radio program broadcasted daily out of Chicago and the original version of The Tonight Show. Featuring her clear, sparkling voice, this collection highlights Johnson's amazing versatility as she takes on a wide variety of styles. There's Eddy Arnold's enduring "I'll Hold You in My Heart," which was recorded by everyone from the composer to Eddie Fisher. Sounding like Doris Day when Doris was wearing her "sweet young thing from next door" persona, Johnson is appropriately coy on such songs as "I Dreamed" and "Beginner's Luck." Her "Little White Lies" recalls the throaty sobbing of another popular singer from the period, Johnny Ray. "I'll Wait" is done in R&B style and sounds like "The Great Pretender."

Johnson and her producers used (quite effectively) all the musical accoutrements indulged in by pop stars of those days. They're all here: numerous background singers, the Mitch Miller-like sparkling strings, the "champagne music" arrangements of Lawrence Welk, the wah-wah brass of Russ Morgan (on "Does Your Heart Beat for Me?"), and the whimsical lyrics as sung to kids at bedtime (on one of her biggest hits, "Little Blue Man" recorded for Atlantic). This album drips with nostalgia and shows the development of a singer who had just left one of the most popular religious singing groups in the country (the Johnson Family Singers) to strike out on her own. While she later turned to classic standards as steady fare, she never completely discarded country, folk, and 1950s pop material, some of which stayed in her repertoire even when working at such sophisticated venues as the Copacabana, Coconut Grove, and Blue Angel. For 1950s buffs (including those who might want to be) and Betty Johnson fans, this album is recommended.

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