13 February 2009

Only in Oz (10) Bill Justis - Tamoure

Another in my series of posts about tracks that were more popular in Australia than in their countries of origin. See also: Only in Melbourne.

First posted 2009, extensively revised 2023

10. Bill Justis - Tamoure (with the Stephen Scott Singers)

(Heinz Hellmer - Wolf Petersen - M. Singleton - B. Everette [pseud. Bill Justis]; arranged by Bill Justis. Based on a 1956 composition by Yves Roche)
Song also known as Tamouré (The Dance Of Love) or Vini Vini or Wini-Wini
USA 1963
Smash single (USA) #1812
Philips single (Australia) #BF-26
Australian charts: #1 Sydney #1 Melbourne #1 Brisbane #1 Adelaide #1 Perth (#1 Australia)

Strictly speaking, Tamouré has an acute accent over the 'e'. Most English databases - and the title printed on the 45 - leave it off, although it is restored on the record's sleeve.

In the annals of Only in Oz this is a classic case, an American record that topped the Australian charts1 but only managed a ripple in the US: #7 in Chicago, #101 nationally.2 As far as I can see it wasn't a hit in the UK, Europe, South Africa or even Canada where it peaked in the high thirties.

So, let's say Only in Oz.

Bill Justis (1927-1982) started out as a trumpeter, but from the early 60s he worked in Nashville as a producer, composer, arranger and musical director.3

To the record-buying public, though, Justis was probably best known for his earlier hit instrumental Raunchy (1957, #2 US), recorded at Sun Records in Memphis where he had been musical director before moving to Nashville. He played the sax on Raunchy and co-wrote it with the guitarist on the record, Sid Manker. It was the only single in Bill Justis's name to chart Top 40 in the US, but it has been much played and recorded over the years.

One notable Bill Justis enterprise in Nashville was his collaboration with keyboardist Jerry Smith as Cornbread & Jerry. Their first recording, made in Memphis before the move to Nashville, was Li'l Ole Me (covered in Australia by Warren Carr), but they later added a female chorus and put two singles onto the US charts as The Dixiebelles with Cornbread & Jerry: (Down At) Papa Joe's (1963, #9 USA) and Southtown USA (1964, #15 USA).

Tamouré is an English-language version of a Tahitian song known as Wini-Wini or Vini Vini. The tamouré or tamure is a Tahitian dance. 

There are many recordings with variations of tamouré or vini vini in their titles, not all of them the same song.4 Note that the sleeve of Bill Justis's Tamoure single says THE FRENCH DANCE RAGE COMES TO AMERICA.

Whatever its traditional antecedents, the modern hit song was composed by Yves Roche (1929-2022), a French musician, producer, composer and scholar of Polynesian music who worked for Radio Tahiti and lived in Tahiti from his mid-20s until his death in 2022.

The most detailed account of the song's history I've seen is at French Wikipedia's Yves Roche article. (I think it is wrong about Nat Mara's record, though: see below.) 

I have confined myself here to some notable recordings that influenced Bill Justis's Tamoure or at least resemble it:

Terorotua and His Tahitians - Vini Vini (USA 1958is the original version of Bill Justis's Tamoure. It appeared on their ABC-Paramount album, Lure Of Tahiti. The writer credit is to Yves Roche.

Nat Mara and His Tahitians - I Vini Vini Vana Vana (NZ 1962). On Viking (NZ) album VP-80 Peeping At Papeete. See listings at discogs.com and National Library NZ).
The album carries no writer credits, but French Wikipedia credits Singleton-Everette/Justis for this as an English adaptation released in 1958. The official audio of I Vini Vini Vana Vana posted by Viking at YouTube here and (from another album) here has similarities to the Bill Justis record but it isn't an English adaptation. Both are dated 1962.

•  Les Kavika - Tamouré Vini Vini (France 1962): One of four tamouré dance tracks on EP Dansez le tamouré (Vogue, France). Tamouré Vini Vini is the same song as the familiar Tamoure with French lyrics copyrighted in the US by Kavaka (real name Remy Blouin) along with the arrangement by Jacques Barouh.

• Die Tahiti Tamourés - Wini-Wini (Germany January 1963) on Polydor, a hit in 1963 in Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. The writer credits are to Heinz Hellmer and Wolf Petersen. The arrangement sounds the same as on the Bill Justis record.

• Bill Justis - Tamoure (USA March 1963) also credits Heinz Hellmer and Wolf Petersen along with Bill Everette (Bill Justis) and Margaret Singleton (Margie Singleton?). Bill Justis is credited as arranger.

• Betty Curtis - Wini-Wini (Italy 1963) Single by Italian singer (Roberta Corti 1934-2006), peaked at #12 Italy. Credits Heinz Hellmer (see above two versions) and Italian composer-producer Vito Pallavicini.

 • Manuia and Maeva - Vini Vini (USA February 1965), single on Almo, credits Yves Roche as composer but it has fresh English lyrics written by Steve Graham and Leon Pober.
An April 1963 US copyright registration credits Roche as co-composer with Tahitian cinematographer, music collector and studio owner Gaston Guilbert, with English lyrics by Graham and Pober, and French lyrics by Roche.

 Dick and Dee Dee - Vini Vini (USA August 1965) single with the writer credit to Yves Roche

• The Originals website lists some other versions 1958-2005.

Die Tahiti-Tamourés, 1963 European hit.

Finally, a case of Not in Oz: Australians were also contrarian about Bill Justis's big hit, Raunchy (1957). It was a #2 on Billboard, #11 in the UK, but Australians preferred to put two cover versions - by Billy Vaughn and Ernie Freeman - onto the local charts. (Another version by Billy Strange popped up on our charts too, but not till 1965.) 

Thanks to Joop and Walter for lighting up this trail for me.

1. Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books. In this case the other chart books agree: The Book for Sydney and Thirty Years Of Hits for Melbourne both have Tamoure at #1. See also the Top 100 Singles website, sourcing the Australian (Kent) Music Reports for 1963: #1 Australia
2. The Smash Records Story at Both Sides Now.
3. Bill Justis biography at All Music Guide.
4. A couple of examples of tamure/vini vini variations, although different songs from the Bill Justis Tamoure:(i) The Wikipedia article on tāmūrē mentions a post-World War II popularising tāmūrē song by Louis Martin.(ii) As my friend Joop Jansen points out, there is a 1930s recording by Tino Rossi, Vieni Vieni [YouTube], also recorded, for example by The Gaylords in the 50s, but again, not the song we know through Bill Justis.

Bill Justis - Tamoure (USA 1963)

Betty Curtis - Wini-Wini (Italy 1963)

Die Tahiti Tamourés - Wini-Wini (Germany 1963)

Les Kaveka - Tamouré Vini Vini (France 1962)

Nat Mara and His Tahitians - I Vini Vini Vana Vana (NZ 1962)

Terorotua and His Tahitians - Vini Vini (USA 1958)

1 comment:

Tuonela said...

That's an interesting link between Justis and The Dixibelles. I loved all this stuff back in the day, even after I discovered the Animals and The Stones etc.

Nice blog, very nostalgic!