To the fans of Sue Thompson, who scored a Top 3 hit in 1961 with the unforgettable 'Norman', she was a pop princess with a baby doll voice. Little did they realise that she had, in fact, been in the business ever since winning a beauty pageant in the late 1940s, and had three failed marriages behind her. A woman of the world with hidden depths, later in the 60s she would travel to Vietnam to entertain the troops, an experience that triggered a nascent spiritual awakening. Sue went on to study metaphysics and became a Buddhist. But I digress.
It's in beauty pageant-style reverse order that your scribe would like to announce Sue's winners, if he may. Indeed, there could be many like him for whom the closing quartet of cuts on SUZIE: THE HICKORY ANTHOLOGY, 1961-1965" will be manna from heaven. It was legendary Nashville songwriter John D Loudermilk who Sue had to thank for Paper Tiger, the stomping, harmonica-driven chunk of feminist-lite pop candy that updated her image and revitalised her recording career early in 1965. She stuck with that new sound for another year but It's Break-Up Time, the Supremes-style Sweet Hunk Of Misery and Walkin' My Baby, a pounder written by Dean & Mark Mathis of Hickory labelmates the Newbeats, all failed to chart. Go figure.
In 1961, it had been another Loudermilk number, the adorable Sad Movies (Make Me Cry), that not only established Sue Thompson as a chart star, but also provided the long-awaited breakthrough hit for Wesley Rose's Hickory label, an offshoot of the Acuff-Rose music publishing empire. The great John D was also responsible for the aforementioned Norman, plus 1962's James (Hold The Ladder Steady) and four others on this collection. His clever It's Twelve Thirty-Five was hit single material, surely? Apparently not.
Talking of legendary songwriters, Sue had debuted for Hickory with the delicious Brenda Lee-alike Angel, Angel, one of many compositions supplied to her by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. Check out their True Confession for an overlooked girl pop gem, if I ever heard one. And heck, even Sue's friend Roy Orbison wrote some songs for her too, like our title track Suzie. Don't overlook Sue's album-only cuts either, like her fine renditions of the Velvets' Tonight (Could Be The Night) and Jill Corey's Love Me To Pieces, both from the "Meet Sue Thompson" LP, and Sob Sister, another Loudermilk creation, from her "Two Of A Kind" platter, to name just three. In the years following the recordings contained on "SUZIE", Sue Thompson turned her attention to country music and made a 1970s chart comeback in that arena. But that's another story..."
By MICK PATRICK