Two further Brenda Lee LPs – her ninth and tenth - make their digital debut in Ace’s re-release programme of classic Brenda Lee LPs.With her career approaching its commercial peak, US Decca was anxious to secure her services for the future and on 26 June 1963, Nashville’s Chancery Court approved a new 20-year contract guaranteeing Brenda advance of $1,000,000 to be paid in annual instalments of between $35,000-$45,000 - the equivalent of $250,000 per annum in today’s money. She also signed a revised managerial agreement assigning 20 percent of her yearly income to the tireless Allbritten.
“Right now,” the NME reported, “Brenda is engaged in a whirlwind tour of the States, playing one-nighters in many of the principal cities. Last month she was featured in a triumphant cabaret season at New York’s famed Copacabana – which is still more proof of her maturity, for surely she couldn’t have undertaken such an engagement with only rockers in her repertoire! And, when Brenda does return here, the rock fans will find that they are not overlooked in her stage act. For although it is true that she has been concentrating on ballads on her recent disc releases, her in-person appearances convincingly underline the fact that she is still Queen of Rock.”
This latter observation alluded to the fact that Brenda had cultivated a separate persona for British audiences by performing harder rock numbers rarely featured in her American stage shows or her latest albums.
“Let Me Sing”, her ninth LP, was issued in time for the Christmas market on 5 December and spent13 weeks on the album chart, peaking at #39 in early 1964, just as the Beatles were breaking in the States.
Brenda was expecting her first child, having married in April 1963. “The baby is due around the end of May so I guess it will be autumn before I can come now,” she told the NME in December. “I cannot tell you how much I am waiting to get back to Britain and see all my old friends again. I want my husband Ronnie to come too, but of course the baby will be far too small for such a journey.”
On 23/24 September, Brenda recorded eight titles for her next LP, “By Request”, with three recent singles, As Usual, The Grass Is Greener and the double-sided hit, I Wonder c/w My Whole World Is Falling Down, making up the balance.
The album was held in the can until 5 May 1964 by which time Brenda had given birth to a baby girl, Julie Leann, born on 1 April at Nashville’s Vanderbilt Hospital.
This happy event in Brenda’s private life was countered by a less welcome development on the professional front: the seismic impact of the Beatles’ on American record buyers and the entire record industry. Under her conservative producer Owen Bradley, Brenda’s recording profile had strayed just a little too far into AOR territory for many young record buyers and Brenda, still only 19, was keen to reassert her pre-eminence in the fast changing teen market. Brenda’s UK representative, Don Arden, put her in touch with hotshot young British producer Mickie Most who’d recently taken the Animals to the top with House Of The Rising Sun, and a session was set up to coincide with Brenda’s next visit to the UK in August 1964. It was the first time she’d recorded outside Nashville since she’d cut ‘One Step At A Time’ in New York back in 1957. “The first met her the day before the session,” Most recalled, “and she said to me, ‘I’ve come here to make a record with the British August 1964 sound and its up to you to tell me what to do. I made my choice from a bunch of numbers and she agreed with me straight away on Is It True and What’d I Say. She felt she wouldn’t get the same sound in Nashville because they are only just catching up on the British beat group sound of about six months ago.”
Is It True was indeed a Top 20 hit on both sides of the Atlantic, revitalising Brenda’s recording career at a crucial moment in the pop cycle.
By Rob Finnis