Born Eugene Richard Church, 23 January 1938, St. Louis, Missouri
Eugene Church was born in St. Louis, but was raised in Los Angeles, where his father was pastor at a church at 5th Avenue and West Adams. Around 1955, Eugene became friends with Jesse Belvin, who already had released several records on different labels. Jesse showed him the finer points of vocal harmony and songwriting. The duo first recorded together in 1956, under the name The Cliques ("Girl In My Dreams", Modern 987). After a solo single for Specialty in 1957 ("Open Up Your Heart"), Church sang background vocals on such Belvin recordings as "Beware" and "Deacon Dan Tucker". The latter song was the inspiration for Eugene's biggest hit, "Pretty Girls Everywhere", which made the Top 40 (# 36) in 1959. Church claims that the late Tommy "Buster" Williams, another member of Jesse Belvin's inner circle, inspired the song when they were out driving around in Church's car. "There were these pretty women walking up and down the sidewalk, and Buster said, 'Man, look at this, pretty girls everywhere!' I knew right then we had a song title." "Pretty Girls Everywhere" (also a # 6 R&B hit) was his first record for Leon Rene's Class label. Originally intended for Bobby Day, who was not interested, it was credited to "Eugene Church and the Fellows", though the background singers also included the female group The Dreamers. The house band for Class Records was the Googie Rene Combo, which included the illustrious trio of Plas Johnson (tenor sax), Rene Hall (guitar) and Earl Palmer (drums). Eugene's follow-up Class single, "Miami"/"I Ain't Going For That" also did well (# 14 R&B, # 67 pop) and saw a UK release on London HL 8940, after London had inexplicably withheld "Pretty Girls Everywhere" from the UK public. After two more singles for Class and one for Rendezvous (a label also co-owned by Leon Rene), Church moved to the King label in 1961. The first King single, "Mind Your Own Business" (still with involvement from Messrs Hall, Johnson and Palmer) peaked at # 19 on the R&B charts, but it was to be Eugene's last chart entry. Four further King singles followed in quick succession, produced by Johnny Otis, but sales were very limited.
By 1963, Church (who had relocated to Texas) was ready to join the ministry. Over the next four years he sang nothing but gospel music. In 1967 he recorded one last single ("Dollar Bill") for the World Pacific label, before embarking on a study to become a beautician. Eugene opened his own beauty parlour, from which he made much more money than he had ever seen as a recording artist. Still, the attraction of the entertainment business had never disappeared completely, and in the early 1990s, Church returned to Los Angeles, went back to secular music and toured the oldies circuit, which also brought him to Britain. But before he could make a real comeback, Eugene Church died of cancer on April 16, 1993, aged 55.
Acknowledgements : Stuart Colman, Jim Dawson. CD : The Very Best Of Eugene Church (Ace CDCHD 1067). Released in 2005. 26 tracks from Modern, Specialty, Class, Rendezvous and King. Liner notes by Stuart Colman. One of the highlights is the Specialty cut "Don't Stop Loving Me", which had been unissued until 1994 because writer Maxwell Davis refused to let go of his publishing rights.
Discography : http://koti.mbnet.fi/wdd/eugenechurch.htm
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