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Ersel Hickey - more than just a one pose wonder, dedicated by
The Most Famous Pose Of Rock and Roll
June, 2005 - Hydra Records is releasing a new CD of Ersel's recordings. Including the 2 Fine recordings
(only 500 45's made at the time) and the two unreleased Fine Records recordings.
All 4 done prior to his Epic recordings. Plus other uneleased gems and single never on CD.
The disc includes all his classic tracks too.
Rock and roll fans know the pose of Ersel Hickey. Many know of the great hit "Bluebirds Over The Mountain".
Not many know the full story of this rock and roll icon, so we present it here.
Ersel Hickey was born in Brighton, New York on June 27, 1934. His Mother was
from Kingston, Ontario, his Father was Irish (O' Hickey was the original name), he passed away when
Ersel was four, there were eight children. Ersel's Mother had a nervous breakdown and was put into a
hospital, at that time he was put into fosterhomes. He would run away all the time, living in different
parts of New York State.
When Ersel was 15 he started traveling with his sister "Chicky Evans" an
exotic dancer. She was very popular in
the circuits and together they travelled for about a year. He decided to go
on his own and travel with the carnival,
then left and then began living in Columbus, Ohio. From there he was sent to
a "tough kids" home, where he
became familiar with the main Rhythm & Blues groups and started singing with
the gospel group there.
Johnnie Ray was sweeping the nation in 1951. Ersel found his talents singing
like him. That year he entered an
amateur talent contest and won first place on his own and second place with
his group. The prize was $500. While
he was there his sister was killed in a car accident. From then on he was
raised between his aunt and his brother.
In 1954 Ersel heard "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine" by Elvis and he
went crazy for it. Telling everyone
about Elvis. Ersel was playing a few places in Rochester that his brother
booked him in, he was drawing very well.
It was around this time that he went and recorded his first record on Fine
Records. One side was "Then I'll Be
Happy", an old song and the other side was called "Baby You're No Good" a
song Ersel had written. The single
was released locally, not much happened with it.
One night Ersel went to a show at the War Memorial in Rochester and was in a
restaurant after and one of the
members of the show walked in, Phil Everly. Ersel approached Phil and said
"I want to be a singer, what should I
do?" He says "Well, you got to have a song." That night Ersel went home and
wrote "Bluebirds Over The
Mountain". Ersel woke his brother up at 2:30 in the morning and asked him
what he thought. He said "It's a hit!".
Ersel decided to leave for Buffalo the next morning with $20 his brother
Getting off the bus in Buffalo, Ersel had no clue what he was going to do.
Looking up and down the main street he
saw a place called "Jan's" a hangout for teenagers. Right next up the stairs
was Gene Laverne's "Studio Of The
Stars" (where his sister had her photos taken). After introducing himself to
Gene he asked what to do. Gene told
him he was going to need to take some pictures. Ersel's Aunt and Uncle
offered to give him some money. Then
came the famous session that took THAT photo .......
Unfortunately with the colors Ersel was wearing, it was only a black and
white shot. He recalls "The kids loved
that outfit, after I got the gold guitar - phew!" He often wore black with
the gold and sometimes grey suits with the
black shirts and white ties. The jacket was a reddish-orange and had a
yellow lining, the pants were rust-colored
with stitching down the sides.
The outline itself has become representational of rock and roll.
LaVerne suggested to Ersel that he call Mike Corda who was a personal
manager, bass player and songwriter
(Corda had previously managed Enzio Stuarti). Corda believed that
"Bluebirds" had potential they had a demo
session for the song at National Studio in New York, which Corda paid for
the session. They brought Jimmy
Mitchell to play guitar and Mike Corda played bass. Mitchell tapped on his
guitar case to make the "percussion"
sound on "Hangin' Around". After they were happy with the session, it was
Corda's job to pitch the song to a label.
Ersel went back to Buffalo and stayed with his aunt. Not much was happening
so Ersel decided to go back to work.
He went to The Town Casino (a big club were Martin and Lewis worked) where
it seated about 1000 people, Sam
Cooke was playing the lounge. Ersel asked the MC if he would watch him. The
MC loved what he saw and took
him to the owner. The owner of the club put him on that night. The band had
no clue what they were doing, they
tried to follow Ersel, but there was very little they could do. They put him
in The Glen Casino the next night along
with Cab Calloway. He worked the lounge until it got to crowded. Ersel was
playing in Niagara Falls at Luigi's
when he got news that Epic Records had signed him. Joe Sherman at Epic
Records picked up on the song. He liked
the demo so much he didn't believe re-recording it would help, but maybe
lose the "sound" that had.
January of 1958 it was released.
March 12, 1958 Ersel recorded two more singles "You Threw A Dart", "Don't Be
Afraid Of Love" - "People Gotta
Talk", "I Can't Love Another" and the unissued "Shame On Me".
Ersel went back in the studio May 20, 1958 this time in New York at the old
Columbia Studios. They recorded 3
songs "Lover's Land", "Goin' Down That Road" and "Due Time". The next
session was October of 1958, they
went back into National Studio to record "You Never Can Tell", "The Wedding"
and "Roll On Little River". Al
Lewis was one of the co-writers on "You Never Can Tell" (co-written
Blueberry Hill"). Lewis had just formed a
music publishing company with Don Kirshner (later the manager/producer
behind The Monkees). Kirshner
brought Ersel "You Never Can Tell" and a song called "I'm Ready" both demo
recorded by Bobby Darin. Turned
down "I'm Ready", but recorded the other. Fats Domino picked "I'm Ready"
Ersel's record charted high in Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles.
September 29, 1959 recorded "Love In Bloom". By the time Ersel went back in
the studio December 17, 1959 the
music world had changed. Chuck Sagle brought Ersel into the Columbia Studios
for his last sessions. The song
was "What Do You Want" which was a big hit for British Pop star Adam Faith.
Faith sounded a lot like Buddy
Holly, Sherman thought that Ersel too had that sound. They worked up an
arrangement quick and gave Ersel a day
to rehearse it. (It was a split-session with Roy Hamilton and Bobby Vinton).
Ersel didn't like the song and didn't
want to record it, but Sherman told him he was going to.
April 18, 1960 Sagle took Ersel in to record "Stardust Brought Me You" this
version was left un-released until
1993. May 7, 1960 Ersel went and recorded his last single for Epic Records
"Stardust Brought Me You" and
"Another Wasted Day". Al Avellino was the co-writer with Ersel on "Stardust
Brought Me You" a song they had
written on the piano at Famous Music that Hoagy Carmichael used to write "Stardust".
After Ersel three year recording contract with Epic expired, he decided to
work more at writing songs. One day
Ersel was at 1650 Broadway when he saw Joe Sherman. They hadn't worked
together for a couple of years, Joe
offered to manage Ersel. Shortly after he got Ersel signed to Kapp Records.
Late 1960 they went in the studio at
Bradley Film & Recording in Nashville. On December 7 they recorded "Lips Of
Roses", "Teardrops At Dawn" and
the un-issued until 1993 "Magical Love".
Then on December 8 they recorded
the last session for Kapp "I Guess
You Could Call It Love", "What Have You Done To Me?" and the un-issued until
1993 "A Mighty Square Love
Affair". Joe Sherman only managed Ersel for six months, he placed Ersel on a
few tours that he did very well at.
Ersel got married in 1961 which quieted things down and he went into
business. Writing was a band-aid for him as
he wanted to perform, but bookings were slow. It became very complex with
contracts and the business became
overwhelming. Ersel then record "The Millionaire" and "Upside Down Love" on
Apollo, a great record. The
company was already in money trouble and went out of business. Then Laurie
Records with "Some Enchanted
Evening" and "Put Your Mind At Ease" in 1963.
1964 Ersel went back to songwriting, he wrote a song with Eddie Miller
called "Don't Let The Rain Come Down"
it was a huge hit for The Serendipity Singers.
Many artists have recorded
Ersel's songs including Jackie Wilson
"The Millionare" and "A Little Bird Told Me So" for LaVern Baker.
Toot Records was owned by Eddie Miller, Ersel recorded "Blues Skies" and
"Tryin' To Get To You" in 1967 and
"Strings of Gitarro" and "There is Just One Time" in 1968.
1968 was a great year for Ersel when the Beach Boys bought the publishing on
"Bluebirds Over The Mountains"
and cut it as a single. It has appeared on many compilations.
There were many other labels that he went on like Unifax, Rameses II, Black
Circle, Parkway and Magnum.
Ersel has unreleased material - 24 songs in all recorded between 1960-1985
(with musicians such as Dave 'Baby'
Cortez) he owns them all. Wouldn't that be a great CD? We can only hope for
more from Ersel. He does consider
performing again and maybe releasing a new CD if the right deal comes along.
His music and talent is in class of it's own. Ersel is truly a Legend in
Rock and Roll music, not just for his famous
picture, but for everything he has accomplished.
Then I'll Be Happy/Baby You're No Good
2203 Bluebirds Over The Mountain/Hangin' Around (Cnd)
9263 Bluebirds Over The Mountain/Hangin' Around
9278 Lover's Land/Goin' Down That Road
EG 7206 "Ersel Hickey In Lover's Land"
Lover's Land/Bluebirds Over The Mountain/Goin' Down That Road/Hangin' Around
9296 The Wedding/You Never Can Tell
9309 You Threw A Dart/Don't Be Afraid Of Love
9320 I Can't Love Another/People Gotta Talk
9357 Love In Bloom/What Do You Want (Picture Sleeve)
9395 Stardust Brought Me You/Another Wasted Day
372 Teardrops At Dawn/I Guess You Could Call It Love
406 Lips Of Rose/What Have You Done To Me
761 The Millionaire/Upside Down Love
3165 Some Enchanted Evening/Put Your Mind At Ease
602 Blue Skies/Tryin' To Get To You
607 (Play On) Strings Of Gitarro/There Is Just One Time
151 Bluebirds Over The Mountain/Self Made Man
BLACK CIRCLE RECORDS
845 Oh, Lord Look What They've Done To Your Garden/Slidin' Home
100 How Unlucky Can You Get/Put It To Your Heart
RAMESES III RECORDS
2003 Waitin' For Baby/In Spite Of The Fool That I Am
Let Me Be Your Radio/?
BLUEBIRDS OVER THE MOUNTAIN
(KAPP KM2601) KM on the sleeve, KR on the label
Going Down That Road/Love In Bloom/Wedding Day/You Threw A Dart/You Never
Can Tell/Don't Be Afraid Of Love/I Guess You Could Call It Love/What Do
You Want//Hanging Around/Another Wasted Day/Stardust Brought Me You/Blue
Birds Over The Mountain/Lover's Land/Teardrops At Dawn/Self Made Man/Blue
Birds Over The Mountain
18750 "The Rockin' Bluebird"
Bluebirds Over The Mountain/Hangin' Around/You Never Can Tell/Lover's
Land/Goin' Down That Road/Love In
Bloom/Shame On Me/What Do You Want?/Stardust Brought Me You/Don't Be Afraid
BLUEBIRDS OVER THE MOUNTAIN
Bear Family Records - BCD 15676
Bluebirds Over The Mountain (US Version)/Hangin' Around/You Never Can
Land/Goin' Down That Road/Love In Bloom/Another Wasted Day/You Threw A
Dart/Shame On Me/What Do
You Want?/Stardust Brought Me You (2)/Due Time (Incomplete)/A Mighty Square
Love Affair/Teardrops At
Dawn/Magical Love/I Guess You Could Call It Love/Lips Of Roses/What Have You
Done To Me?/Stardust
Brought Me You (1)/Roll On Little River (Unknown)/Don't Be Afraid Of
Love/People Gotta Talk/I Can't Love
Another/Bluebirds Over The Mountain (CAN Version)
Collectables Records - COL 6479
RELEASE DATE: 01/16/2001
Bluebirds Over The Mountain, Hangin' Around, Goin' Down That Road, Lover's Land, You
Never Can Tell, Wedding Day, Don't Be Afraid Of Love, You Threw A Dart, People Gotta Talk,
I Can't Love Another, What Do You Want?, Love In Bloom, Stardust Brought Me You, Another
Wasted Day, Shame On Me, Some Enchanted Evening, Put Your Mind At Ease, Rockabilly Dream,
In Spite Of The Fool That I Am, Kicks
With Many Special Thanks to Ersel Hickey for his on-going support and
understanding throughout this project.
Photos: Kay Martin Source
Ersel at Viva Las Vegas 2003 - Photos: Dave Hermsen
ERSEL HICKEY WATCH! Now available. Click here.
Ersel Hickey in the National Press
Posted February 4, 2003 - For those interested in the man behind the most famous photo in rock 'n'
roll, look for the latest issue of Outre magazine (arriving on newsstands
across the country by mid February). Ersel Hickey's story is told by the man
himself in a feature article written by Chicago's Ken Mottet. Photos from
throughout his career(including shots from last summer's Green Bay
spectacular) are included.
Outre (The Magazine of Ultramedia) is found at most major book stores in the
motion picture magazine section. Look for the bright yellow cover featuring
the post apocolyptic robot invasion scene.
-Ken Mottet, Chicago - email@example.com
Bob Timmers and Ersel Hickey at the 2002 Green Bay Rockin' 50 Fest, July 10th.
Ersel went on stage the following day. -Photo courtesy: Donald Rieck
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