Bobby Sheen, The Bobby Sheen Anthology

Posted on June 12, 2010 by

Artist: Bobby Sheen
Title: The Bobby Sheen Anthology 1958-1975
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Label: Ace 1257
Genre: Doo Wop, R&B, Soul

Bobby Sheen is best known as one of the two lead vocalists for Phil Spector’s Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans, the other being Darlene Love. It was Sheen’s lead that carried the funkiest rendition of “Zip-A-Dee Do-Dah” to date. His other shining moment with the Spector crew was on A Christmas Gift To You, singing lead on “The Bells of St. Mary.” The relationship with Spector goes back to when Phil was an A&R man for Liberty Records, cutting the single “How Many Nights (How Many Days),” a Clyde McPhatter influenced gem of early 60’s r&b, which is also included on this collection.

Sheen’s early days were spent in West Hollywood after moving from his home in St.Louis at the age of four. He grew up in an upper middle class African-American neighborhood, hanging out with the offspring of the Mills Brothers as well as Marilyn McCoo, later of the Fifth Dimension. Show business was his destiny.

It was in 1958  that Sheen entered the studio with a revamped version of the Robins. The Robins had scored a big hit with “There’s a Riot Going On” and the group splintered into the Coasters and the Robins, with the Coasters gaining greater success. The Robins were recording for Knight Records, a subsidiary of Liberty Records. Sheen’s first lead came on “A Little Bird Told Me” a  song very similar to Bobby Day’s hit, “Rockin’ Robin.” The single went nowhere and the Robins didn’t record again until 1960. It was a single named “Just Like That” written by Robin H.B. Barnum and two studio L.A. musicians Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzschke.

Searching for work, the Robins recorded under the pseudonym, The Ding Dongs for Johnny Otis, cutting the single, “Ding Dong (Saw Wood Mountain).” Sheen also made a few guest appearances in the studio with Marvin Spence of Marvin & Johnny fame as the “Johnny” half of the duo, lending his talents on “A Second Helping of Cherry Pie,” which is not included int his package.

Lavender Records was the Last and final stop for Sheen as a member of the Robins in 1961, recording two singles including a doo-wop rave up of “White Cliffs of Dover.” With no success there, Sheen relocated to New York City and signed with Liberty Records. It was during this time he contacted Marshall Leib of the Teddy Bears, an acquaintance he knew from Clover Studios in L.A. And thus, Marshall was in the Teddy Bears with Phil Spector and the relationship began.

Sheen was the constant member of Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans on the package tours, riding high on the success of their Spector-produced hits. Darlene Love and fellow Blue Jean, Fanita Jones went back to Los Angeles six weeks into the tour and Sheen remained with Blossom, Gloria Jones and Carolyn Willis. Charles Wright, later of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band was their guitarist. Meanwhile back in L.A., Spector cut sides with Darlene Love as a Crystal as a solo artist and also signed the Ronettes. With the exception of the release of the full-length Bob B. Soxx & The Blues album and Phil Spector’s Christmas Gift To You, the brand of Bob B. Soxx had come to an end.

To keep the money coming in, Bobby called upon members of the Robins and they regrouped as The Coasters, Mark II. Members of the original Coasters toured the East Coast and Mark II took on the West Coast. during this time, Sheen also focused on his solo career. He signed with Dimension Records, the Brill Building styled label that was the home of The Cookies, Little Eva and had crack songwriters, Gery Goffin & Carole King as well as Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. It was a Barry/Greenwich song “I Want You For My Baby” that Sheen recorded as well as a drenched-in-church version of the country standard, “My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You.”

But by 1965, Dimension folded and Sheen signed with Capitol Records. Capitol had the Beach Boys and the Beatles as their top priorities. Sheen cut what is now a northern soul favorite, “Dr. Love” b/w “Sweet Sweet Love,” with background vocals by the Blossoms and arranged by Gene Page, who had also worked with Dobie Gray, Solomon Burke and the Righteous Brothers. Sheen recorded a few more singles for Capitol but none of them had success mainly due to lack of promotion. He stayed busy keeping his association with Phil Spector, singing background on various sessions including Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.”

After he left Capitol in 1968 he continued to perform with the Coasters and didn’t find himself back in the studio until 1972, this time landing in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Under the production guide of Clayton Ivey & Terry Woodford, they secured two singles with Warner Brothers, but like Capitol, the label did not promote the songs. Still working with Ivey and Woodford, they cut a single for the tiny Chelsea Label, a soul cum disco song, “Come On and Love Me” b/w the smoldering “Love Stealing.” Once again, the label did not push the single, this time for the reason of lack of funds.

That was the end of Sheen’s recording career. He did jingle work, did the theme song for a television series called, Out of This World, and started his own label, Salsa Picante. Sheen passed on in 2000, from complication of pneumonia. He left behind many hidden gems, all of great quality. An artist of this calibre should’ve gotten better promotion from his respective labels. But that’s an old story; one that’s much too common for the extraordinary talents of Bobby Sheen.

Why not an A? the CD dances all around his varied career, going from soul to doo wop and back again and the Chelsea sides are of lesser sound quality. A chronological presentation would have made more sense.

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