Remembering Sunny Gale©2003JCMarion


Selma Sega grew up in Philadelphia in a neighborhood of future singers that graced the American music scene in the fifties and early sixties. Eddie Fisher, Al Martino, Buddy Greco, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian were some of the people from the area. By 1951 Selma decided that she would give show business a try featuring her vocal stylings. She was soon known by the colorful stage name of Sunny Gale. After the always difficult time of knocking on doors and appearing for auditions and tryouts, Gale found herself with a shot at a recording session for a New York independent label called Derby Records. This label had specialized in rhythm & blues mostly, with a series of instrumental jump tunes by tenor saxophone blaster Freddie Mitchell. Head arranger for the label Eddie Wilcox picked out a tune that had been recorded for RCA by Johnny Hartman in the spring of the year. Now at the end of 1951, the tunes "Wheel Of Fortune" and the flip side "You Showed Me The Way" were recorded and soon released on Derby #787 .

By early January after only a few weeks issued, "Wheel" starts a run up the charts. Close to fifty thousand copies are sold which is out of the ordinary for a small independent label in the early fifties. Soon a number of cover versions hit the market and one by Kay Starr for Capitol leaped out in front on the national pop charts. R & B covers are also done by The Four Flames on Specialty and Cardinals with a big R & B version for Atlantic. Sunny Gale's version with its great arrangement by Wilcox scores in both the pop and R & B fields and is a huge plus for the independent label group. On the pop charts Gale's version of the song gets as high as the number thirteen position on the best seller charts and has a stay of two months. Despite the hit status of this record and Bette McLauren's "I May Hate Myself In The Morning", Derby Records runs into financial problems and its future in uncertain. Sunny Gale with a smash hit on her first try moves to a big major label, RCA Victor.

A few months later Sunny Gale is back on the best seller charts with the song "I Laughed At Love" on RCA Victor #4789 (flip side is "Father Time"). This is another good seller, gets into the top fifteen, and stays on the charts for two months. On the strength of her latest record Gale is asked to perform at the Apollo Theater for the Amsterdam News 15th annual Midnight Benefit Show. Headlining will be Milton Berle, Duke Ellington, and Vic Damone. The next side for RCA is "Tossing And Turning" and "You Could Make Me Smile" on #4901. This time sales and airplay are not forthcoming, and in early 1953 Sunny is set to record with the orchestra of Ralph Burns. The result is "Teardrops On My Pillow" and "A Stolen Waltz" on #5103. This time both sides of the record are well received and make the pop hits charts. "Teardrops" is the stronger of the two getting as high as number twelve on the best seller list, and "Waltz" is a top twenty seller. In February of 1953 Sunny Gale appears at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with an all star benefit show which also featured The Ink Spots, Red Buttons, Lena Horne and many others.

Sunny Gale's next release for RCA goes nowhere - "How Could You" and "Feel Like I'm Gonna Cry" on #5216. "Send My Baby Back To Me" and "Meanwhile" on #5306 also misses, and "Smile" on #5386 starts out well but loses steam and sales are not enough to make a dent on the charts (the flip for this release is "An Old Familiar Love Song"). RCA Records releases a unique 10 45 EP set called "The RCA Party Platter" with Sunny Gale featured along with other hit makers for the label. In September of 1953 however, Sunny is back with another two sided hit for RCA which was recorded with Victor's hit making arranger, Hugo Winterhalter - "Love Me Again" and "Before It's Too Late" on #5424. Both sides of the record do well and get into the top twenty five top sellers in the country. That November RCA Victor comes up with a novel experiment for a record aimed at the pop market. They pair Sunny Gale with their top R & B vocal group The DuDroppers during a session in November. The resulting release is "Mama's Gone Goodbye" and "The Note In The Bottle". As a pop record it did not do much, but in subsequent years it has become a highly sought after vintage recording for R & B vocal group fans. There was a self titled 10 inch LP on the Royale label, which was produced by RCA that was also issued at about this time.

In 1954 Sunny Gale's first two records for RCA Victor did not make much of a mark on the sales charts - "Just In Case You Change" and "Close To Me" on #5609, and "Dream Dream Dream" and "Don't Cry Mama" on #5677. Now during the summer those at the label chose Sunny, who had been at the periphery of the R & B scene, to do a cover version of a prominent R & B hit. They chose The Spaniels "Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight". This song was paired with "Call Off The Wedding" and released on RCA Victor #5746. The song recorded with Joe Reisman's orchestra was outdone by a cover version by The McGuire Sisters for Coral Records. "Goodnight" did well regardless, getting into the top twenty five nationally. This was followed up by a re-release of the song "Smile" (on #5836) from the film "Modern Times" (with "An Old Familiar Love Song" on the flip side). This time around Sunny's version of the song made the top twenty best sellers nationally. At this time in an interesting twist, Sunny's original label Derby Records declares bankruptcy and its catalog is acquired by RCA Victor. Late in the year it is another cover record released by RCA with "Let Me Go Lover" which was originally recorded by Joan Weber from an original television drama. Gale's version of the song released on RCA #5952 (with "Unsuspecting" ) enters the top twenty best sellers in early 1955. This would be the last time Sunny Gale would appear on the best sellers charts.

The records kept coming though. For RCA Victor came "Constantly" on #6160, "Certainly Baby" and a cover of the Four Fellows "Soldier Boy" on #6227, "C'est La Vie" and "Looking Glass" on #6286, "Devotion" on #6398, an attempt at a contemporary sound with "Rock And Roll Wedding" and a cover of The Platters "Winner Take All" on #6479, "Try A Little Prayer" on #6588, and "Our Love Is A Sad Song" and "Georgie Porgie" on #9580. By mid 1956 RCA Victor was out of the picture and Sunny Gale was now recording for Decca Records. A two sided R & B cover was issued by Decca on #30063 - The Charms "Two Hearts" and The Coasters "One Kiss Led To Another". This was followed by Gale's version of Charles Lavere's late forties hit "Maybe You'll Be There" on #30157, and "Let's Be Friendly" on #30319. None of them charted, but Decca released other vocals by Sunny. "My Arms Are A House" and "Don't Worry 'Bout Me" on #30391, "Who Are We To Say" / "A Meeting Of The Eyes" on #30518, "I Don't Want Your Greenback Dollar" on #30597, "A Certain Smile" and "Just Friends" on #30670, a re-recorded "Wheel Of Fortune" on #30791, and "Oh What It Seemed To Be" and "The Gypsy Told Me So" on #30837. All of these songs were well crafted pop performances, but the time had past when these efforts paid off with sales and airplay.

Late in the decade after leaving Decca Sunny Gale had a few more tries at single releases with Warwick Records with "Falling Star" on #526 in 1960 followed by a cover of "Church Bells May Ring" and "My Foolish Heart" on #540, "Where have You Been All My Life" on #578, and "Near You" and "Please Don't Tell Him" on # 648. There were two releases for Blaine Records - "Once In Every Lifetime" on #4002, and "March Of The Angels" and "Let The Rest Of The World Go Away" on #4003. Then Sunny Gale was just a memory of the pre-rock fifties for most. There were sporadic appearances on record, such as inclusion of her version of the song "I Wanna Know" on the LP Disco Express for RCA, and the Canadian American LP "Goldies By The Girls" covering girl group hits of the sixties.

There are at least two recent CD releases featuring the sound of Sunny Gale. One is called "The Story Of Sunny Gale" for Marginal from 1998, and "Sunny Gale Sings" for OriginalCast released in 2000. There may be others especially imports that chronicle the RCA Victor and Decca years. Sunny Gale came out of nowhere on a small independent label in early 1952 and stood the world of pop music on its ear, and for a time was a solid hitmaker for RCA. She was certainly part of that time in our lives.

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