Born 14 July 1933, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Singer, songwriter, producer, manager
Richard Barrett was born and raised in Philadelphia where he sang with a R&B harmony group called the Royal Angels. A charismatic singer with a fine voice, he was also a skilled dancer and choreographer. In the early 1950s he moved to New York, where he became the lead singer of the vocal group the Valentines, who recorded one single for Old Town (1954) and seven singles for Rama (1955-57). The latter record company was one of several labels owned by George Goldner, who made Barrett his right-hand man. Richard discovered Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Chantels and Little Anthony and the Imperials, brought them to Goldner's labels, wrote songs for them and produced or co-produced most of their sessions. He managed the Chantels and played piano, bass and drums on "Maybe" (written by Barrett), their biggest hit of the 1950s (# 15). Curiously, his first solo single, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", which spent one week at # 94 in the Billboard pop charts in April 1958, was not recorded for one of the Goldner labels, but for MGM. It was creidted to Dickie Barrett. When Arlene Smith, the Chantels' original lead singer, decided to leave, Barrett took over as their lead singer on a pair of singles, a cover of the Fleetwoods' "Come Softly To Me" and "Summer's Love" (a remake of the first Valentines record), which peaked at # 93 in Billboard (Gone 5060, 1959).
In 1960 Barrett left Goldner to start his own label, Princeton Records. His main act was a girl group similar to the Chantels which he called the Veneers. Their release of "I"/"Believe Me" went unnoticed, but it helped him solve his Chantels problem by matching Veneers lead singer Annette Smith (no relation to Arlene) with the three remaining Chantels. These new Chantels would go on to score hits in 1961 on the Carlton label ("Look In My Eyes" # 14 and "Well I Told You" # 29).
Barrett's most famous solo record is "Some Other Guy", recorded for Atlantic in 1962, credited to Richie Barrett, and co-written with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It never was a hit (Wikipedia's claim that it was a # 26 US hit is a mystery to me), but has achieved almost classic status. In the UK it was issued on London HLK 9552, but I can't remember ever hearing it played on Radio Luxembourg or the BBC and I listened a lot to the radio in those days. Nevertheless, some people in the UK must have heard it, because it became a staple of the British beat scene after the Beatles explosion. The Fab Four themselves played it live in the Cavern and on BBC's "Saturday Club" in January 1963 (released on the 2-CD "Live At The BBC" in 1994). The only chart success for the song was by the Big Three who took it to # 37 in the UK in 1963.
"Some Other Guy" was Richard's only release on Atlantic, though he had further records as Richie Barrett on Crackerjack and Swan. Barrett went on to have great success as the creator, producer and manager of the Three Degrees, probably the greatest girl group of the 1970s. By that time he had relocated to Philadelphia, where he also worked with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and other artists. Barrett was a prolific songwriter, with 148 titles in the BMI database. Well-respected among his peers, Barrett received many honours, including the Philadelphia Music Alliance Founder's Award in 1990. In 1998 he was portrayed by actor Ben Vereen in the movie "Why Do Fools In Love", which Barrett said was filled with inaccuracies. He died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 73 in the Gladwyne section of Philadelphia.
Wikipedia entry : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Barrett_%28musician%29
CD : A Tribute To Richard Barrett (Cat KIng Cole 1003).
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