03 April 2006

Only in Oz (1): Jo Ann Campbell - A Kookie Little Paradise (1960)

The first in a series. These are records that were more popular in Australia than in Britain or the USA where they originated. They took the fancy of someone at an Australian radio station, got some airplay, and charted well in some major Australian cities where they are remembered as golden oldies. Back in their home countries their chart history was lukewarm, and some of them ended up as obscurities. More than this, they're records that could have been hits anywhere, they were good enough, but this was not to be. See the whole series here: Only in OzSee also: Only in Melbourne.

1. Jo Ann Campbell - A Kookie Little Paradise
(Bob Hilliard, Lee Pockriss)
USA 1960
ABC single (USA) #45-10134.
W&G single (Australia)  #WG-S-1023
Australian charts:  #5 Sydney, #5 Adelaide, #7 Melbourne, #7 Brisbane

Out there at Jo Ann Campbell's Kookie Little Paradise
the kids are out of control: swingin' about in the trees and bellowin' like Tarzan the Ape Man, drivin' fast cars down the beach without a speed limit, livin' on ice cream and pizza...

The record, from 1960, starts with jungle bird sound effects and a full-on Tarzan call (a sample from a movie soundtrack?), then it's the boys in the chorus, direct from the Riverdale High Glee Club: Dip... dip... dibba-dip-dip-dip. Kookie, huh?

This is Archie and Jughead territory: free juke boxes in the jungle, no school, junk food, sport cars and making out. It's a sugary and sticky kind of paradise:

Soft drink bubblin' down a mountain,
To the Carribean sea...

Ice cream - loaded with bananas -
And there's always pizza pie.

Jo Ann Campbell's record, on ABC, wasn't a hit in the US, but down here in Australia we really liked it: #5 in Sydney and Adelaide, #7 in Melbourne and Brisbane.

A Kookie Little Paradise was composed by Lee Pockriss, and those wacky teen-oriented lyrics were by Bob Hilliard, born 1918, who'd been writing since the 1930s.

In similar territory, Pockriss and Hilliard also wrote Seven Little Girls Sitting In The Backseat, a US #9 in 1959 for Paul Evans. Pockriss wrote Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini with Paul Vance, Bryan Hyland's 1960 US #1.

There was also a version of A Kookie Little Paradise by The Tree Swingers on Guyden. The B-side, in keeping with the jungle theme, was Teaching The Natives To Sing, also written by Pockriss & Hilliard. I have a suspicion that it may've been the original, which would make Jo Ann Campbell's better-known record a cover version.

A British version by Frankie Vaughan charted #31 in the UK. Like Jo Anne Campbell, Frankie was in his early twenties - they were both born in 1938 - but you're never too old for ice cream loaded with bananas.

[See follow-up post.]


Anonymous said...

I can't believe someone actually researched this crazy song of the early 60's. It was my favorite as a child. I would have been 8. Of course the hook for us American kids was the 'Tarzan Call' featured in the song. I have always wondered where this song originated from and who wrote it and what they were thinking of back then.

Thanks again for providing the answers to a mystery that I have wondered about for some 47 years now.

The web is wonderful

Lyn Nuttall said...

Thanks, Mike!

I hope you also checked out Phil's post on 'Kookie Little Paradise', over at his website www.philxmilstein.com/probe/index.htm
(Scroll down to "Session 73", May 2006.)
He even has some audio files you can grab.


Anonymous said...

I am Teery Byrnes, one of the original Tree Swingers (Kookie Little Paradise, Only Forever). Our version of "Kookie Little Paradise" was recorded as a demo for Jo Ann Campbell. The producers liked it so much, they released it, originally under the Shell label, before Campbell's. "Teaching the Natives to Sing" was hastily added to provide a 'B' side. My partner, Art Polhemus went on to produce "The Blues Magoos" and I continue to work with Joe Venneri (The Tokens), and coach college soccer.