Between the ages of 13 and 15, British singer Antoinette (later known as Toni Daly) recorded half a dozen singles, none of which were hits. But the quality of her recordings has ensured her a lasting popularity with fans of 1960s British girl pop.
She was born Marie Antoinette Daly (what were her parents thinking?) in Southend, Essex, on England’s east coast.
She landed her first recording contract, with the Decca label, in 1964, at the age of just 13. Her debut single, Jenny let him go, was produced by Charles Blackwell, who worked with a number of gems for girl singers of the period, including French yé-yé singer Françoise Hardy and Britain’s Samantha Jones. It sounded like a cover of an American song – albeit with a distinctly British tang – and suited Antoinette’s bratty vocals perfectly.
Antoinette switched to the Piccadilly label for her next single, the Brit girl classic There he goes (the boy I love), released in September 1964. The song, with its Shangri-Las-esque feel, had been written by Blackwell and, arguably, was one of his very best compositions. (The B-side, Little things mean a lot, was an update of Kitty Kallen’s 1954 US chart topper.)
When it also flopped, Piccadilly turned to the US for inspiration. First up was The Sapphires’ Thank you for loving me, which was selected for the Antoinette treatment in 1965. In the hands of another singer, the song might have needed to be issued with a diabetic warning, but Antoinette’s vocals managed to keep it from becoming too sickly sweet. (The B-side, If you really love me, has its fans too.)
It was followed by Our house, a temporary lapse of judgement. Issued in July 1965, the single was better flipped for the John Schroeder and Barry Mason composition, What’s-a-happening to me.
Then came a version of a US soul hit, Tami Lynn’s I’m gonna run away from you, retitled Why don’t I run away from you. It fitted Antoinette’s effervescent style. (The song was written by Bert Berns, the man behind much of Lulu’s early material, and was issued in direct competition with a version by future star Kiki Dee, also without success.)
Antoinette released a version of US girl group The Poppies’ Lullaby of love as her final 45 for Piccadilly in 1966. The equally good – if not better – I’m for you, a cover of Carla Thomas’ soul number, was hidden on the reverse.
Antoinette switched labels again, this time to Columbia, for one further 45 in 1966, Like the big man said, a cover of Italian singer Caterina Caselli’s L'uomo d'oro, under the name Toni Daly. (The
B-side was You can't get no water.) When the single failed, her contract slipped.
She is still performing today, back in Southend, though she now concentrates on jazz and goes by her married name, Toni Baxter.