My life-long love of music was fueled by the fact that, growing up in Hollywood, I was constantly exposed to some amazing talent.
Like Nino Tempo.
I went to Hollywood High with Nino, who originally hailed from New York. He and his older sister, April Stevens (their birth name, by the way, was Lo Tiempo), went on to become one of the hottest acts in the early ’60s.
Signed as a duo with Atco Records, they had a string of Billboard hits and earned a Grammy Award as “best rock & roll record of the year” for the single “Deep Purple”. “Deep Purple” was originally released as a “B-side” by legendary producer Ahmet Ertegun, who was dubious of Tempo’s belief that it would be a hit, calling it “the most embarrassing thing” the duo had ever recorded. When the “A-side” song, “Paradise”, flopped, Ertegun relented, and the song achieved notability as the longest running hit B-side, a title it carried for 21 years. The version I’ve posted above is from an American Bandstand broadcast of the era.
Music journalist Richie Unterberger has described the later song “All Strung Out” as Nino Tempo & April Stevens’ “greatest triumph”, declaring it “one of the greatest Phil Spector-inspired productions of all time”. For years following their charting singles, the duo continued recording, but failed to achieve continued sales success.
However in March 1973 they scored a #5 hit in the Netherlands with “Love Story” on A & M Records, two years after Andy Williams took that same song to #13 in the Dutch Top 40.
Watching and listening to this old clip from the most popular music program of the era brings back a flood of memories.
I haven’t been able to ascertain what they’re up to these days — or even if they’re still with us. I do know that they were inducted into the city of Buffalo’s Musical Hall of Fame in 1999. And that in November, 2007, Nino performed Amazon Moon (formerly Bahia Manhattan, from his Nino album) at Carnegie Hall at the request of the great Mike Stoller, who labeled Nino’s version of that song one of his all-time favorites. On an evening hosted by Rob Reiner, designed to pay tribute to Stoller and his songwriting partner, Jerry Leiber, Nino was joined on stage by the likes of Natalie Cole, Ben E. King, Sally Kellerman and the late Marvin Hamlisch.
Not bad for a kid from Hollywood High.