Somewhat OT: on Louanne and Lena Zavaroni

Jon Merrill
Jon Merrill

May 11th, 2008, 10:15 am #1

My computer was in the shop for a week, and I am just now getting caught up on the Forum.

In 1974 I was a part-time radio DJ in northern Vermont and was also collecting large quantities of 45rpm records from the Billboard Hot 100. I bought sight unseen "Ma! He's Making Eyes At Me" by Lena Zavaroni, which barely touched the chart, but I was totally blown away by the power of the 10-year-old's voice. I definitely thought about the record years later when I began to be equally impressed listening Annie belt-type voices. As far as I knew, NO ONE that young was doing that kind of voice on a record in 1974 other than Lena.

I "leaned" on that record on the air and personally did my best to push it to #1 in Burlington, Vermont, but, alas, I was the only DJ in the area playing it, and it was such a small hit that it never became available in the local record stores. So that was that. I had heard the "Ma!" song as the flip side of Annette Funicello's first hit back in 1959, so I was already familiar with the song. Actually, the song first hit the chart back in 1922 by Ted Lewis when it got as high as #7 and was introduced by Eddie Cantor in the musical "The Midnight Rounders."

The flip side of "Ma!" was "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody," the huge hit (#1 for 8 weeks) by Al Jolson in 1918 and which also was a top 10 hit in the late 1950s sung by Jerry Lewis.

Lena put out an album of old standards later in '74. Louanne was a 4-year-old living in England at the time (where "Ma!" was a top 10 hit), and she and her mother were blown away by the girl's voice the same way I was. That's where they got the idea for Louanne to do the song on The Gong Show a couple of years later.

As Lena grew into a teenager, she continued to release albums overseas, but not in the U.S. I had a friend in Canada who had been an Orphan in Annie there, and she played me later Lena albums that I had not heard before. Lena's voice became more mellow and mainstream as she got older, and she ceased to use the belt that had been her trademark when she was 10. You can sometimes find these old albums on eBay.

That same friend introduced me to the foreign albums of Nikka Costa, who is one of my favorite singers of all-time. Nikka recorded pop versions of "Maybe" and "Tomorrow."

I heard nothing about Lena again for many years until after her death. She was born on November 4, 1963 (one day before Andrea) and died of complications from anorexia nervosa on October 1, 1999 at age 35.



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old fan
old fan

May 11th, 2008, 1:43 pm #2

I thought the story of Louanne and Lena was so poignant. Louanne was AMAZING on the Gong show, and Lena's voice also was incredible. I liked her more mature voice too. Her story was SO sad. I had to wonder if it affected Louanne (and others). I re-read your page, and the yellow dress story was touching.

I also heard on the you tube tributes to Lena, that her manager, whom she left home to live with , did not like children, only "talent" (and dogs and horses). Her cavalier attitude no doubt led partially to Lena's self-esteem problems, and it was this manger who encouraged her to diet from an early age...I could go on....glad for your input. I wondered where you were on this thread ! Glad you're back.
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Dina
Dina

May 11th, 2008, 8:21 pm #3

I so agree Old Fan about the manager..and the way she spoke about kids and her attitude in general. Yuck!! I have heard quite a few horror stories of talent agents, athletic coaches, etc, with similar sort of dispositions. It's scary. I have a client now (at one time famous and a champion in her chosen sport) who is very troubled right now as an adult because of such an experience (with an adult like this) in childhood. It's heartbreaking.

Got your email. Will write you back either later tonite or tomorow.

Dina
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