Who Is Bunny Paul?©2004JCMarion


There has been much speculation and some mystery over a recording that was released in 1954 on Philadelphia's somewhat esoteric Essex label . This label was the source for the earliest rock 'n roll with Bill Haley & The Saddlemen, and then The Comets. It was also the source of one of the most beautiful pop instrumentals - Bernie Wayne's "Tropicana" by Monty Kelly's orchestra (and the equally intriguing flip side "Life In New York"). But for vocal group aficionados, the magic Essex release has always been "Such A Night" and "I'll Never Tell" on #352 by Bunny Paul and The Harptones. How did this pairing ever come about, and more importantly who was (and is) Bunny Paul ? Her very appearance on record is very much like that of Carol Blades another mostly unknown and forgotten singer who fronted The Harptones for one record on Gee in 1957. And so the legend continues - who is Bunny Paul ?

Bunny Paul was born in May of 1924 in Detroit, Michigan. She was always a musically inclined person, and by the time she was a teenager, she began to lend her vocal talents to a number of territory bands in the upper Midwest, including the band of Don Pablo where she remained for two years. She was put on record for the first time in the late 1940s, and followed that up with a local television show and work in commercials on early television in Detroit.

In November of 1952, Larry Newton president of Derby Records, noted East Coast independent label, announces the signing of Detroit vocalist Bunny Paul. However somehow no records appear for Derby but one does appear on the Dot label out of Gallatin, Tennessee. Bunny Paul records "Never Let Me Go" and "The Magic Guitar" both written by her, on Dot # 15107. "Guitar" gets on the national pop charts for a monthy and gets as high as number twenty three among the best sellers. Her manager at that time is noted Motor City radio personality Robin Seymour. Little more is heard from Bunny Paul until she shows up on Essex Records located in Philadelphia. "My New Love" and "You'll Never Leave My Side" is released on Essex # 344. Her next recording for the label of "Such A Night" is embroiled in the controversy centering on the hit version of the song by Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters over suggestive lyrics. The controversy centered in Detroit, has listeners vote Paul's version second most popular to the pop version by Johnny Ray. The flip side of the record is "We're Gonna have Some Fun" on Essex # 352. In March of 1954 the record hits the pop charts and again gets up to number twenty three in the country, and again has a one month stay on the best seller lists. In the spring of 1954 Bunny Paul again records a cover of an R & B tune - this time a credible version of The Clovers "Lovey Dovey" for the Essex label. The flip of this side is "Answer The Call" on Essex # 359. It has a short stay on the charts and peaks in the top twenty five. In July Bruce Records lends out the services of The Harptones to Essex Records in order for the group to sing back up on Bunny Paul's version of The Drifters "Honey Love". The flip side of this most interesting record is "I'll Never Tell on Essex #364. Dave Miller, the head man at Essex Records contacted Monte Bruce of Bruce Records for the loan of their top vocal group. This strange arrangement using a Black established R & B group to back a White pop oriented vocalist on another label in 1954 was certainly out of the ordinary and has led to the legend of this side. This record has remained one of the most coveted records from the early fifties by collectors. Bunny next recorded the songs "You've Come A Long Way From St. Louis" and "You Are Always In My Heart" on Essex # 371. One last side for Essex was the songs "Brown Jug" and Dam Poo Day" on # 385.

In March of 1955 Paul continues to mine the field of R & B covers with a new recording of "Please Have Mercy", an R & B hit for Linda Hayes. The flip side is "These Are The Things We'll Share" and is released on Paul's new label Capitol on # 3074. Later in the year Paul records a cover of Billy Brooks "Song Of The Dreamer" for Capitol on # 3178. The other side is "For The First Time". Bunny Paul is part of the big Christmas Week show at the Detroit Fox Theater which headlines Ivory Joe Hunter, the Three Chuckles (who got their start in Detroit with Boulevard Records) and Bo Diddley. Continuing with Capitol Records in the mid fifties Bunny Paul records "Tell The Man" and "Let's Take A Chance" on # 3224, and "Who Am I Fooling" and "Open The Door" on # 3288. Her last record for Capitol is "Two Castanets" and "Leave My Heart Alone" on # 4304.

After Capitol Paul recorded another R & B cover - this time Faye Adams "Teenage Heart" for Dash Records ( # 777) and the other side was "Baby Sitter's Blues". Bunny Paul then recorded two of her own songs "My History" and "Sweet Talk" which were released on Point # 005. Another record for a small independent label Dynamic followed - "The Gypsy" and "That's Love" on #201. In the late nineteen fifties for Decca subsidiary label Brunswick with "Poor Joe" and "Buzz Me" on # 55003, and "The One You Love" and "Beedle-Lump-Bump" on # 55022. In the late 1950s there were a couple of sides for Roulette - "We Wanted To Marry" / "Love Birds" on # 4101, and "A Million Miles From Nowhere" and a remake of "Such A Night" on # 4186.

Bunny Paul was then struck by serious health problems and dropped out of performing or recording for a number of years. One of her last attempts at recording was for the suddenly emerging Gordy label with the songs "We're Only Young Once" and "I'm Hooked" on # 7017. That was the last of Bunny Paul as a recording artist but she recovered from her health problems and went on to live a long and satisfying life. This is as best that can be recalled of the recording history of the enigmatic Bunny Paul. Whatever the limited successes she might have had (especially in her home town of Detroit), her one recording with The Harptones will always prove to be a reason that her name is remembered in the history of America's music. There is also one last memento of her passage through those most memorable of times. A CD of her efforts is available, which was produced in Japan (of course). The title of the CD is called "Such A Rock & Roll Night" and includes all of her sides (Essex # 364 included) and is on the Hydra label. All I can add is thank you for CD technology and the interests of Japanese and Western European fans of American music of years gone by.

Ed. note : Much of the pre and post Essex discographical information was found in an informative on-line article on Bunny Paul by Tony Wilkinson and Klaus Kettner)

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