JAMES SHEPPARD (By Shaun Mather)
Born James Shane Sheppard, 24 September 1935, Queens, New York City, New York
A street corner battle of the bands saw him join the Queens, New York quintet, The Heartbeats during the mid-'50s. The rest of the band included Wally Roker, Robbie Adams, Vernon Walker, and Walter Crump. With Al Browne & His Orchestra in support, they cut a string of outstanding singles for Hull like "Crazy for You" and "Darling How Long". They reached a climax in 1956 when they scored a # 5 rhythm and blues hit with "A Thousand Miles Away," a magnificently constructed number that was pure doo-wop magic. First released on Hull, then on Rama, the record also crept to # 53 on the pop charts in January 1957. A love-torn Shep wrote the song when his girlfriend moved from New York to Texas. Six months later they had their second hit, when "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" (not the Connie Francis tune) managed to reach # 78 pop. During the next half decade together they recorded for Hull, Rama, Roulette, Gee, and Guyden. In 1961 he formed Shep & the Limelites and between '61 and '65 they had a dozen releases on Hull. The peachiest singles for the group were "Daddy's Home" (# 2 pop - # 4 R&B in June 1961), another gorgeous dip into vocal harmony heaven, and "Our Anniversary" (# 59 pop) from 1962. Their only other chart entries were "What Did Daddy Do?" (# 94 pop in June 1962) and "Remember Baby" (# 91 pop in February 1963). That Shep Sheppard failed to hit the charts regularly is a mystery, because his songs always seemed a bit above the ordinary, plus he had a great voice. The group disbanded in 1966, but Shep reformed them in early 1970 to perform on the oldies circuit, but the venture never had chance to take off as he was stabbed to death in his car on the Long Island Expressway.
Recommended listening: Daddy's Home to Stay - Westside (2cd - 42 tracks)
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