The (Short) Story of Dolly Cooper©2008JCMarion


In the summer of 1952, Savoy Records of Newark, New Jersey, announces the signing to their label of Philadelphia R & B singer Dolly Cooper to their label. Late in the year the song "Believe In Me" on Savoy # 877 is a pick hit of the week by Billboard. The flip side is called "Is It True?" and both were recorded with the Dave McRae Quartet composed of McRae on tenor sax, Larry Johnson on piano, John Simmons on bass, and the great Dave "Panama" Francis on drums. Two other tunes were recorded at that first session but were never released - "Easy To Remember" and "There Are Such Things". Because of the good initial showing of the record, Cooper is booked into the Caravan Club for an extended engagement in Newark.

After a decent showing with her first record, she was back in the Savoy studio in March of 1953 with the Hal Singer Orchestra and the vocal group The Four Buddies. Savoy # 890 coupled "Hometown" and "Easy Livin' " and the more successful # 891 with "I'd Climb The Highest Mountain" with The Four Buddies and "I Wanna Know". Dolly Cooper now had some name recognition which led to a number of club dates in the New York - New Jersey area. The next time she was back in the recording studio for Savoy was in May of that year. Well known arranger and producer Leroy Kirkland was there with the backup band featuring the saxes of George Kelly and Haywood Henry. The songs recorded were "Alley Cat" and "I Need Romance" which were released on Savoy # 898. Cooper was still looking for a solid R & B record seller when she was back for Savoy late in the year. Present at this session was the Sam Taylor Combo which also featured Haywood Henry on baritone sax and Mickey Baker on guitar. Also present was the vocal group known as The Wanderers who sang backup on the songs "You Got To Be Good To Yourself" and "Love Can't Be Blind" which was released on Savoy # 1121. Two songs also recorded at that session were "What Do I Do" and "My First Last And Only Love" which were unreleased. "You Got To Be Good" does get some immediate buzz on radio airplay in the region, but does not sustain decent sales for the record.

The following year even though Cooper was still under contract to Savoy, she recorded for the Modern label out in Los Angeles. The first recordings for the label were made under the name Linda Peters ( for legal reasons). In August "One More Chance" and "Ooh Daddy" are released on Modern # 938. By August, 1955 Dolly Cooper, under her own name recorded "Ay La Bah" and "My Man" with backing vocal by The Flairs on Modern # 965. Late in the year Dolly recorded a cover of the pop hit (by Gloria Mann) "Teen Age Prayer" and "Down So Long" on Modern # 977. Her version of the tune does well in R & B venues and increases her drawing power on the one nighter circuit. In April of 1956 Cooper follows up with "Teenage Wedding Bells" and "Every Day And Every Night" on Modern # 986. During the summer the trade press announces that Dolly Cooper will be recording for John Dolphin's Cash label. However - one month later, Buck Ram announces that Dolly as part of his Personality Productions will be recording for the Dot Records label headquartered in Tennessee. The first songs that she will record are "I'm Looking Through Your Window" and "Big Rock Inn" which are released on Dot # 15495. In September, Ram organizes a touring unit called "Happy Music" that features Dolly Cooper, along with Shirley Gunter, The Penguins, Flairs, Cues, Young Jessie, and Joe Houston. The tour starts out in Toronto, Canada, and then moves to Buffalo where they take part in a benefit performance to raise funds for local charities. At year's end Modern Records releases a R & B LP album which features songs by various artists including Dolly Cooper.

In February of 1957, Dot releases "The Confessions Of A Fool" and "Tell Me Tell Me" on # 15535. She then moved to Flash Records for a short time, long enough to be part of a road show that also featured Roy Tan, The Rockin Brothers, Raindrops, Frankie Marshall, and the Gus Jenkins band. The show was presented by Al Curry. Cooper's next recording however was issued on the Ebb label in August of the year with the songs "Time Brings About A Change" and "Wild Love" on # 109. That seemed to spell the end for Dolly Cooper as a recording artist in the R & B field. Today many compilation cds covering the nineteen fifties R & B scene contain a song or two by Dolly - usually "Big Rock Inn" mostly, but some have included "Ay La Bah". Vocal group fans look for her Savoy sides with The Four Buddies, and Modern sides with The Flairs. Dolly Cooper was certainly a talented performer that never got the big break that led to stardom and fame like so many of her comtemporaries.

(ed note : Some have claimed that Dolly Cooper recorded in the late forties as Thelma Cooper, but that has seemed to be disproved. Thelma Cooper recorded for Philadelphia's Gotham label - "I Need A man For Christmas" and "Let's Try Again" on # 210, and with Daisy mae & Her Hepcats.)

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