If you like pure music talent and a voice
laden for string arrangements, like I do, then Vikki Carr is the first to come to your mind. I have
chosen Vikki Carr as this month's spotlight artist not only for her voice and her beauty but her music was so
much a comfort to me while in Vietnam. I had her album and played it just to relax me during stessful
times. Don't get me wrong, I listened to the Doors, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Cream and others but when I
needed quiet listening pleasure, I opt for Vikki Carr.
I really paid attention to Vikki Carr when I heard her recording
of "It Must Be Him" in 1967. I immediately bought her LP. Although she only had three songs on the
Top Forty on Billboard ("It Must Be Him," "The Lesson," and "With Pen In Hand") I really enjoyed listening to
her music. Through Vikki Carr's music, she made me think she was lonely and heartbroken. How
can a woman so beautiful be heartbroken? It later occurred to me, she put so much heart and soul into her
singing that the lyrics of the songs she sang were actually believable. During
many performances tears would roll down her cheeks as she sang. She just made you feel like she was
living the lyrics. What a great vocalist!
Vikki was born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona in
El Paso, Texas, though her family soon moved to Los Angeles where her name was simplified to Florence
Cardona. Young Florence made her musical debut at the age of five as a singing angel in her
school's Christmas pagent, performing "Silent Night" and "Adeste Fideles" in Latin. Her budding career almost
ground to a halt when she looked into the audience and spotted her mother crying, not realizing that they were
tears of pride and joy in her accomplishment.
Vikki Carr's strict father was lenient when it came to musical
pursuits (he once had dreams of a singing career of his own), and he encouraged his daughter to participation
in high school choir and extracurricular music appreciation classes. After graduation Florence (Vikki
Carr) took a job as a bookkeeper in a local bank, though she continued singing with community groups and
nurturing her youthful admiration for Doris Day.
One afternoon her father was car shopping at the
local car dealership of a friend when his friend happened to mention that his son was in search of
a bilingual female vocalist. Florence's (Vikki Carr) audition won her a spot with Pepe
Callahan's Mexican-Irish band, and she was renamed "Carlita" for their debut at the Chi Chi Club in Palm
Springs. This was during an era when the Gidget beach movies and French actress Bridget Bardot were both
enjoying widespread popularity.
After leaving Callahan "Carlita" travelled the lounge circuit in
Reno as a singer with The Fabulous Woodsons, a neo-vaudeville toupe that included a flaming baton twirler
in its company. She moved on to Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas paired with the Chuck Leonard Quartet and
beginning singing a mix of old favorites and more contemporary material with sophisticated arrangements influenced
by some of the most adventurous vocal groups of the day. At this point a name change was in order, "Carlita"
dreamed of an offbeat spelling of the first name "Vikki" and decided to shorten her original surname to
"Carr." Vikki Carr was born.
After one last tour of the lounge circuit with an act billed as
"The Andrini Brothers." Vikki weared of the grind and with encouragement of her father, took $25 and an
accordian playing friend into a recording studio to make a demo of six of her favorite songs with the
intention of shopping around to various record labels. In 1962, after much perserverance, she finally found a
pair of friendly ears int the person of Sy Waronker at Liberty Records, who took her to meet red-hot producer
Snuff Garrett. Garrett had a Gene Pitney composition on his desk he felt would go a long way
to establishing a new Liberty artist. "He's A Rebel" was not an attempt to change Vikki Carr
into a rocker but to establish her and give her a shot at some exciting new material. Unfortunately,
Phil Spector picked up the song and "The Crystals" with lead singer from "The Blossoms", Darlene Love rocketed the
song to number 1 on the Billboard Charts. Although Vikki Carr's version only reached the 115 position on the
charts it demonstrated her versatality of handling any song and positioned her to become one of the most recognized
voices in pop music in the world.