|Birth name||Jesse Lorenzo Belvin|
|Born||December 15, 1932|
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
|Died||February 6, 1960 (aged 27)|
Hope, Arkansas, U.S.
|Labels||Modern Records, Dot, Impact, RCA, Recorded In Hollywood Tender Records|
|Associated acts||Big Jay McNeely, The Hollywood Flames, The Shields|
Jesse Lorenzo Belvin (December 15, 1932 – February 6, 1960) was an American singer, pianist and songwriter popular in the 1950s. Belvin's success was cut short by his death in a car crash at the age of 27.
On July 10, 1949, Belvin did the opening act with Big Jay McNeely and Lionel Hampton at the 5th Cavalcade of Jazz that was produced by Leon Hefflin, Sr. in Los Angeles at the Wrigley Field ballpark. In 1950, he joined Three Dots and a Dash, saxophonist Big Jay McNeely's backing vocal quartet, and featured prominently on their record releases. In 1952, he joined Specialty Records. Although his early solo records were unsuccessful, his fourth record, "Dream Girl", credited to Jesse & Marvin and featuring Marvin Phillips on saxophone, reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart in 1953.
Having been drafted into the army around 1953, Belvin continued to write songs. His composition "Earth Angel", eventually co-credited to Belvin and Hollywood Flames singers Curtis Williams and Gaynel Hodge after a legal dispute, was recorded by The Penguins, and became one of the first R&B singles to cross over onto the pop charts, selling 1 million copies in 1954/1955.
In 1956, he signed a contract with Modern Records, but continued to sing for other labels under different names. His biggest hit was "Goodnight My Love", which reached No. 7 on the R&B chart. The piano on the session reportedly was played by 11-year-old Barry White. The song became the closing theme to Alan Freed's rock and roll radio shows.
Belvin's other recordings for Modern were less successful, and in 1958, he recorded on Dot Records with a group, the Shields, who included lead singer Frankie Ervin and guitarist Johnny "Guitar" Watson. Their record "You Cheated" reached No. 15 on the U.S. pop chart and No. 11 on the R&B chart.
In 1956, the single "The Girl in My Dreams" b/w "I Wanna Know Why", recorded with Eugene Church as The Cliques, peaked at #45 on the Billboard Hot 100. "The Girl in My Dreams" was covered by the Four Lovers (two of whose members, including Frankie Valli, would later become The Four Seasons).
By early 1959, Tender Records had a 45 released that was credited to Belvin and The Capris. The single "Beware" was composed by J. Dolphin and backed with "Endless Love", a composition by K. C. Reeth and Robert Hafner.
Inspired by his wife and manager Jo Ann to develop his style, Belvin signed to RCA Records in 1959, and immediately had a Top 40 hit with "Guess Who", written by his wife. This song originally started as a love letter from her to him, and Belvin turned it into the hit song it became. He also recorded the album Just Jesse Belvin, developing a mature and sophisticated sound on ballads. His style was influenced by Nat "King" Cole and Billy Eckstine, and became a model for Sam Cooke and others. He acquired the nickname "Mr. Easy", and the record company began molding him as a potential crossover star for white audiences, as well as a professional rival to Capitol Records' recording star Nat "King" Cole.
Belvin recorded a further series of tracks later in the year, with arranger Marty Paich and an orchestra including saxophonist Art Pepper. The songs included soulful covers of standards such as "Blues in the Night", "In the Still of the Night", and "Makin' Whoopee", and were issued on the album Mr. Easy.
However, before the album was issued, and shortly after finishing a performance on a bill with Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Marv Johnson on February 6, 1960, Belvin and his wife were killed in a head-on collision at Hope, Arkansas. The concert was the first concert played before an integrated audience in the history of Little Rock, and was stopped twice by interruptions from whites in the audience, shouting racial epithets and urging the white teenagers in attendance to leave at once. Journalists have stated that police suspected the car was tampered with. Jackie Wilson told the press that he had requested his lawyer look into the matter, but no official determination was ever made.
Belvin was buried in Los Angeles.
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