Born Jewel Eugene Akins, 12 September 1933, Houston, Texas
It's not difficult to guess what your first association with the name Jewel Akens will be. But there's a lot more to him than just "The Birds and the Bees". His mother had her heart set on getting a girl child, whose name was to be Jewel. She got a son instead, but the baby got the name just the same. Born in Houston, Jewel moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1949. At age 11, he was singing in church. In 1958 he joined the Four Dots, a group led by Albert ("Jerry") Stone, formerly of the Fascinators, who had recorded for Dootone. The first single by the Four Dots, "It's Heaven"/"My Baby (She Loves Me)" (Freedom 44002) was credited to Jerry Stone and the Four Dots, but the next single (Freedom 44005), a cover of "Don't Wake Up the Kids" by Otis Williams and the Charms, simply to The Four Dots. Freedom was a subsidiary of Liberty Records (logical enough), with Jerry Capehart as its A&R man. Capehart was Eddie Cochran's manager and Eddie plays guitar on all the four Freedom sides, though he was not really a member of the Four Dots, as is alleged by the discography mentioned at the end.
Akens then teamed up with a friend, Eddie Daniels, who had had two releases on Ebb Records in 1957-58, including the excellent "I Wanna Know". As Jewel and Eddie, they had a few singles released on the Silver label (owned by Jerry Capehart) in 1959-60, the first and best of which was "Opportunity". Eddie Cochran also plays guitar on these sides, as well as on Akens' Crest single from 1962. Prior to that, Jewel and (probably) Eddie Daniels, had a single on Imperial as the Astro-Jets ("Boom a Lay"/"Hide & Seek", 1961), which Wayne Jancik calls "one of the finest and now one of the hardest to find double-sided neo-doo-wop delights". In 1964, Akens signed with Herb Newman's Era label in Hollywood. His first single for Era ("Runaway and Hide"/"Ain't Nothin' Shakin'") was as the lead singer of a group called the Turnarounds. The group split up following disagreements over a song that Herb Newman had offered them for their next single. It was written by Newman's son under the pseudonym of Barry Stuart. This was "The Birds and the Bees", which Akens liked, but the rest of the group didn't. Jewel worked hard on the song, trying out four or five different arrangements. It paid off : in March 1965, "The Birds and the Bees" peaked at # 3 in Billboard.
Akens followed this up with another nursery-rhyme-influenced song, "Georgie Porgie", which sounded too much like its predecessor and got no higher than # 68. Personally I prefer the B-side, "Around the Corner (From My House)". Several more Era singles followed, but nothing further charted. By 1967, Akens was recording for Colgems Records, a joint venture between Screen Gems (a division of Columbia Pictures) and RCA Records to issue records by the Monkees and other Screen Gems artists. For Colgems, Jewel recorded what he considered to be his finest recordings, cover versions of Thurston Harris' "Little Bitty Pretty One" and Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On". He toured with the Monkees and continued to record until the mid-70s in a variety of styles. In 1973 he co-produced the critically acclaimed "Super Taylors", a duet album of Southern soul by Ted Taylor and Little Johnny Taylor (no relation), for Stan Lewis' Paula Records. In 1989-91 he recorded three singles with a group called the Feathers. Akens was a versatile artist, who considers himself lucky that he was able to make a living with his music. He is probably still performing today.
Acknowledgements: Wayne Jancik (Billboard book of one-hit wonders), All Music Guide, and the following discography:
CD : The Very Best Of Jewel Akens (Collectables, 2001). 15 Era recordings.
|These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at email@example.com