The Wooden Heart Story

By: Johnny Vallis
Source: Johnny Vallis
May 11, 2004 - 6:16:00 PM

Wooden Heart : Joe Dowell CD
Joe Dowell - Wooden Heart - Bear Family Records - BCD
16647 AH - 34 tracks - Playing time: 78:27

When a recording artist records a song that has been done prior, it's considered a cover version. Such was the case with Joe Dowell's 1961 hit version of "Wooden Heart". Along with his cover, Joe Dowell brought many great sides along with it. The story of Joe Dowell and Wooden Heart is interesting one. Now with the long awaited release of Bear Family's CD on Joe we have the story and the music.

In 1961 Joe was looking over songs to record at his first session at Smash Records and someone suggested he record "Wooden Heart" off the fairly recent release of Elvis' "G.I. Blues" soundtrack. It was a hit for Elvis in the United Kingdom (RCA 1226), but RCA hadn't released it as a single in the U.S.A. Overseas Elvis hit it number one for one week. RCA had negotiated an arrangement with Col. Tom Parker which would guarantee he and Elvis royalties for the sales of one million European sales if they allowed them to release "Wooden Heart" as a single. RCA didn't release Elvis' version until 1964, which it only made it to #102 on the charts.

Other songs by Elvis had been covered from his album and made into singles. A couple includes Terry Stafford's version of "Suspicion" and Ral Donner's version of "Girl Of My Best Friend".

There were a few other versions of "Wooden Heart". Including Gus Backus (Fono-Graf 1234) which peaked at #102, Dave Kennedy had a version on Jim Kirchstein's Cuca label (Kennedy also covered Dowell's song "Little Red Rented Rowboat") and Bobbi Martin on Coral. Bobby Vinton recorded his version in 1975 (ABC 12100). Even though Elvis didn't chart with the song in the U.S.A., he'd still sold a million copies. The oddest place you'll find the song is in the 1965 film "Situation Hopeless - But Not Serious" where Robert Redford sings a few lines of the song.

Another popular thing was to create what are called "answer songs". In the early sixties when Jim Reeves had the hit "He'll Have To Go" Capitol released Jeanne Black's recording of "He'll have to Stay". The answer songs often sold quite well and kept the interest of the song they were answering. There are two answer songs on the Joe Dowell CD. Linda Hall's I Don't Have A Wooden Heart" and "I Too, Have a Wooden Heart" by Rhea Renee. Both songs lent themselves to the music of Wooden Heart. It helps to complete the "Wooden Heart" story nicely.

Joe's version of "Wooden Heart" entered the charts June 26, 1961 and took nine weeks to climb the charts to end at the #1 spot! That drew a lot of attention on this new artist.

With all this talk about "Wooden Heart", let's not forget why this review it being written. Joe Dowell is more then just a cover recording. The flipside of his #1 record was "Little Bo Peep" a great rocker with a wild sax solo by Boots Randolph. If "Wooden Heart" hadn't taken off, this would have been the side they would have plugged for radio. I wouldn't consider "Little Bo Peep" as a B-Side, this was a double A side for sure. Along with many released songs, Bear Family includes some very exciting un-issued sides. It's great to hear another arrangement on "The One I Left For You" and the un-issued "Dancing Doll" and "Absent With A Broken Heart". Joe's vocals are top notch on the very beautiful "When You Fall In Love" written by Hank Davis. It would have been a crime to think of these un-issued songs to just be left in the vaults. The singles are still fresh sounding after forty plus years. Some favorites include "The Sound Of Sadness", "My Darling Wears White Today", "Poor Little Cupid". Included are two Christmas songs "A Kiss For Christmas (O Tannenbaum) and "(I Wonder) Who's Spending Christmas With You".

Joe had other chart success with "Little Red Rented Rowboat" #23 and "Bridge Of Love" #50.

The production on Joe's records is first rate and the songs that Joe wrote were great. It's a shame the label didn't plug his songs harder. His song "Just Love Me" shows he is an extremely talented writer. His vocals are very solid and clear. Pat Boone says "If you enjoyed 'Wooden Heart,' Joe Dowell's #1 hit record from the '60s, you'll really like his other, nostalgic-era songs now featured on Bear Family Records."

It is disappointing that Joe is often overlooked and highly under-rated. I'm glad there is finally a respectable release to honor his talents. This is the first time all Joe Dowell hits and classic recordings are available on one CD.

A must!


Wooden Heart (English version) - The One I Left For You - Little Bo Beep - Our School Days - The Bridge Of Love - Just Love Me - The Thorn And The Rose - The Sound Of Sadness - Bobby Blue Loves A Linda Lou - My Darling Wears White Today - Absent With A Broken Heart - Bringa-Branga Brought - No Secret - Poor Little Cupid - When You Fall In Love - Dancing Doll - The One I Left For You - Little Red Rented Rowboat - Lilli Marlene (Lady Of The Lamplight) - Auf Wiederseh'n, Sweetheart - Underneath A Linden Tree - Nur einmal (Only Once) - Morgen - Wooden Heart (German version) - The Happy Wanderer - Wonderland By Night - Oh! My Papa (O mein Papa) - Gift Of Love - Little Dolly - Fraulein - A Kiss For Christmas (O Tannenbaum) - (I Wonder) Who's Spending Christmas With You BONUS: Rhea Renee: I, Too Have No Wooden Heart - Linda Hall: You Don't Have A Wooden Heart

Review by Johnny Vallis May 2004

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