Born Leonard Welch, 15 May 1938, Asbury Park, New Jersey
Lenny Welch is an Afro-American ballad singer. Treading more or less the same path as Johnny Mathis, Welch built his career singing pop tunes with a hint of R&B flavour and a succinct sweetness in his voice.
In the summer of 1957, prior to the start of what would have been his senior year at Asbury High, Welch decided to drop out to pursue a professional singing career. Soon he was signed by Decca Records, which released his first single "Rocket To The Moon" (30637) in mid- 1958. It was a rocker and quite a good one at that. (It is the opening track of the Taragon CD mentioned at the end.) Sales were minimal, however. The same goes for his second Decca single, "The Last Star of the Evening" (1959). In 1960 he signed with Archie Bleyer's Cadence label. The first Cadence single was an immediate hit, peaking at # 45 on the Billboard charts. It was the Eddy Arnold composition "You Don't Know Me", which had been a pop hit for Jerry Vale (# 14) in 1956 and would see further chart entries by Ray Charles (# 2, 1962), Elvis Presley (# 44, 1967) and Mickey Gilley (# 55, 1981). Welch then endured a three-year spell without a hit, until his eighth Cadence single took him to # 4 in early 1964. It is the song for which he will be remembered most of all, "Since I Fell For You", written by Buddy Johnson in 1946 and originally recorded by his sister Ella Johnson. For me, Lenny's version is the definitive reading of this song, one of the most beautiful love ballads ever. It also went to # 4 on the R&B charts. As the follow-up, Cadence reissued Lenny's version of "Ebb Tide" from 1962, which peaked at # 25. His last Cadence hit was "If You See My Love", written by Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts of the Champs. Then, in September 1964, Archie Bleyer decided to close down Cadence and retire. Andy Williams wound up buying the rights to Cadence's catalog, including Welch's songs. Welch, feeling cast adrift, went shopping for another record deal. He turned down an offer from Reprise Records and signed with Kapp Records, which offered more money up front. He had three minor hits on Kapp in 1965 (Darling Take Me Back, Two Different Worlds, Run to My Loving Arms), but "It wasn't a good fit", Welch says of his association with Kapp. "Nothing was a good fit after Archie Bleyer. He was like a father figure to me. He travelled with me and taught me how to act on TV."
By 1969, Welch had a contract with Commonwealth United Records, for which he recorded the first slow version of Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do", which went to # 34 in early 1970. Sedaka liked the arrangement so much that he recorded it himself five years later. Welch's final chart entry came in 1972 with a remake of "A Sunday Kind Of Love" for Atco (# 96). Later in the seventies, he started his own record label, but it was a disaster.
In the early 1980s, Lenny decided that his singing career was through. He loved to perform, but the business end was hell. He resorted to driving a cab in New York City to pay back the people who had invested in his failed label. For many years he was very bitter. Nowadays he lives in Los Angeles and finds himself in demand again for oldies shows. He's also had a regular gig as an entertainer for the Royal Caribbean cruise line. Every six months or so, Welch receives a nice check from Andy Williams for "Since I Fell For You", which has a knack for turning up on commercials, compilations and movie soundtracks.
Lenny had no chart success in the UK. Nine of his singles were released on London American, five from Cadence and four from Kapp. "Since I Fell For You" was released in the UK almost simultaneously with "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and the "With the Beatles" LP and was swept away by the violence of Beatlemania. To those who think that a ballad singer like Lenny Welch does not belong on this list : remember that "Since I Fell For You" was included in the very first instalment of Ace's long-running CD series "The Golden Age Of American Rock 'n' Roll"...
More info: http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051113/ENT/511130317/1031
CD: Lenny Welch, Anthology (1958-1966). Released on Taragon, 1996. 20 tracks.
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