Hello Stranger

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For other uses, see Hello Stranger (disambiguation).
"Hello Stranger"
Single by Barbara Lewis
from the album Hello Stranger
A-side Hello Stranger
B-side Think a Little Sugar
Released March 1963
Format 7" single
Recorded January 1963
Genre R&B
Length 2:42
Label Atlantic
Writer(s) Barbara Lewis
Producer(s) Ollie McLaughlin
Barbara Lewis singles chronology
"My Mama Told Me"
(1962)
"Hello Stranger"
(1963)
"Straighten Up Your Heart"
(1963)

"Hello Stranger" was a 1963 hit single by Barbara Lewis, which spent two weeks at number one on the R&B singles chart in Billboard, crossing over to #3 Pop.[1]

Original version[edit]

"Hello Stranger" was written by Barbara Lewis herself, who was originally inspired to write a song with that title while working gigs in Detroit with her musician father: “I would make the circuit with my dad and people would yell out: ‘Hey stranger, hello stranger, it’s been a long time’". The song is notable because its title comprises the first two words of the lyrics but is never at any point repeated throughout the rest of the song.

Lewis recorded "Hello Stranger" at Chess Studios in Chicago in January 1963. The track's producer Ollie McLaughlin recruited the Dells to provide the background vocals. The arrangement by Riley Hampton - then working with Etta James - featured a signature organ riff provided by keyboardist John Young. The track was completed after thirteen takes. Lewis would recall that, on hearing the playback of the finished track, Dells member Chuck Barksdale "kept jumping up and down and saying, ‘It’s a hit, it’s a hit.’...I didn’t really know. It was all new to me.” [1]

McLaughlin flew to New York City to pitch "Hello Stranger" to Atlantic Records, who had picked up Lewis' previous two singles for national release. Atlantic optioned "Hello Stranger" but then had second thoughts on the viability of releasing such an unusual track. The ascendancy of "Our Day Will Come" by Ruby & the Romantics to the top of the Pop and R&B charts in March 1963 motivated Atlantic to release "Hello Stranger" that month;[2] Entering the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1963, the track took another month to reach the Top 40. Impelled by its #1 status in St Louis MO, it entered the Billboard Top Ten that June for a five week stay.

Other versions[edit]

In 1966 Ollie McLaughlin had the group the Capitols - who he discovered at a local dance headlined by Barbara Lewis - record "Hello Stranger" to be the B-side of their #7 hit "Cool Jerk".

Also in 1966 an instrumental version was released as an alternative b-side to Deon Jackson's "Love Makes The World Go Round" on Carla 2526. Although it is billed as Deon Jackson it is rumoured to be Riley Hampton who was the original arranger of the song in 1963.

"Hello Stranger" was also a 1969 single release by Darius before returning to the charts in 1973 when it became a regional hit for Fire & Rain, a folk rock duo comprising veteran Tucson musician Manny Freiser and Patti McCarron, Freiser's then-wife who sang lead; their version, which featured Michael Omartian on keyboards, was arranged by Ben Benay who also played guitar. Benay had also been guitarist on the version of "Hello Stranger" by Darius.

Manny Freiser would recall: "Mercury [Records] released "Hello Stranger" as a single against our wishes. It became a legitimate hit at easy listening radio...Mercury then tried to cross it over to Top-40 radio...We started picking up major markets, mostly in the southeast...The single precariously "bubbled under the Hot 100" on Billboard's charts in spring '73: #106 one week, #105 the next, and so on" entering the Billboard Hot 100 that June at #100 where it remained for three weeks and then dropped off the charts. Freiser - "Although it had sold 70,000+ copies, 'Hello Stranger' had basically been a 'turntable hit' at Top 40 radio -- one that got played a lot [sic], but didn't break. It thus became Billboard Magazine's lowest-ranked Hot 100 single of 1973, ranking #573 out of 573 singles that made the Hot 100."[2]

In October 1976 studio group New York Rubber Rock Band recorded a dance version of "Hello Stranger" for the Brooklyn-based Henry Street Records; Colleen Heather was the vocalist on this version which reached #31 on the Dance charts.[3]

The most successful incarnation of "Hello Stranger" since the Lewis original has been the Yvonne Elliman version produced by Freddie Perren for Elliman's 1977 Love Me album; both Elliman and Perren deliberately sought to capture the sound of the original. "Hello Stranger" was released as the follow-up single to Elliman's #14 hit "Love Me" and was similarly successful on the Pop charts reaching #15; Elliman's "Hello Stranger" also charted R&B at #57 and was most successful on the Easy Listening chart where it was #1 for four weeks. [3]

Elliman's "Hello Stranger" was also released as a single in the UK; despite the precedent "Love Me" having reached #6 UK "Hello Stranger" was much less successful reaching #26. In the UK "Hello Stranger" did not have the cachet of being the remake of a "golden oldie" as the Barbara Lewis original was overlooked both in its 1963 UK release on London Records and in a 1968 reissue on Atlantic with Lewis' hit "Baby I'm Yours" on the flip side. Elkie Brooks' first single, released in 1964, had featured a version of "Hello Stranger" although that single's A-side had been Brooks' cover of another US R&B hit: Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold on Me" (not a chart item for Brooks). [4][5] The Capitols' version of "Hello Stranger" was also issued in the UK as the B-side of "Cool Jerk" three times: in 1966, 1969 and 1971 (the last two reissues credited to the Three Caps) with the single falling short of the charts each time.

Yvonne Elliman did take "Hello Stranger" into the Top 20 in the Netherlands (#20) and also New Zealand (#12). In the US, Elliman's version went to number one on the Easy Listening chart and number fifteen on the Billboard Hot 100.[4]

In 1985 Carrie Lucas' remake of "Hello Stranger" - which featured the Whispers - was a Top 20 R&B hit.

The Supremes & The Four Tops recorded a version for the album Dynamite! in 1971.

Other versions of the song have been recorded by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas for their Heat Wave album, by Queen Latifah in 2004 for her The Dana Owens Album, by Ebony Alleyne for her album Never Look Back (recorded in 2003/ released in 2007), by Diane Marino (featuring saxophonist Wycliffe Gordon) for her 2008 '60s covers album Just Groovin', and by Julia Holter for her 2013 album Loud City Song.

Single Versions
Artist Year Recording info Chart position
Barbara Lewis
1963
1963
1968
producer: Ollie McLaughlin (album Hello Stranger)
Atlantic 2184
HLK 9724
Atlantic 584 153

US Pop #3/ R&B #1 (2 wks)
UK did not chart
UK did not chart
Elkie Brooks 1964 Decca F 11928/ producer: Ian Samwell UK B-side of "Something's Got a Hold on Me" (did not chart)
The Capitols
1966
1966
1969
1971
producer: Ollie McLaughlin (album Dance the Cool Jerk)
Karen 1524
Atlantic 584 004
Atlantic 584 251 credited to The Three Caps
Atlantic 2091105 credited to The Three Caps

US B-side to "Cool Jerk" (#7)
UK B-side to "Cool Jerk" (did not chart)
UK B-side to "Cool Jerk" (did not chart)
UK B-side to "Cool Jerk" (did not chart)
Darius 1969 Chartmaker 419/ producers: Pat Glasser & Butch Parker US did not chart
Fire & Rain 1973 producer: Joe Saraceno (album Fire & Rain)
Mercury 73373
US Pop #100 Easy Listening #24
New York Rubber Rock Band
feat. Colleen Heather
1976 producers: Bob Motta & Vince Traina
HS 10002
US Dance #31
Yvonne Elliman 1977 producer: Freddie Perren (album Love Me)
RSO 871
US Pop #15/ R&B #57/ Easy Listening #1 (4 wks)
UK (RSO 2090 235) #26/ Canada #13/ Netherlands #20/ New Zealand #12
Carrie Lucas 1985 producers: Bill Simmons & Jeffery Cooper
(album Horsin' Around)
Constellation MCA 23589
US R&B #20

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 347. 
  2. ^ Carson, David A. (2005). Grit, Noise, and Revolution: The Birth of Detroit Rock 'n' Roll (1st paperback ed.). Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press. p. 25. ISBN 0-472-11503-0. 
  3. ^ Billboard 16 October 1976 p. 36
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 86. 

External links[edit]