It’s not everyone who makes the transition from riding horseback in a circus to riding the airwaves, but it’s one made by German-born Audrey. Sometimes known as Audrey Arno, the singer issued a string of EPs throughout the 1960s in France before heading for the bright lights of Las Vegas.
She was born Adrianna Medini on 17 March 1942 in Mannheim, southern Germany.
Her career in show business began with a stint as a circus horseback rider before being offered a recording contract with the Polydor label in France in 1960. Under the name Audrey Arno, she issued her first four-track disc that year, which led with L’homme et la femme.
Two further EPs were released the following year, Printemps and È vero, both of which included tracks that played on her Italian descent.
Meanwhile in Germany, she recorded with the Hazy Osterwald Sextet, even scoring a small US hit with the German-South American fusion Paschanga. (The song was known as Wieder mal Paschanga [die Musik aus Caracas] in the German-speaking countries.)
Back in France, for her first 45 of 1962, the Burt Bacharach-penned Tower of strength, originally a US hit for Gene McDaniels, was picked for translation, becoming Toute ma vie, though things got more interesting with the follow up, La bosse a nova. The EP included Loco-motion, a version of the similarly titled Little Eva hit (which had also been a success in France for Sylvie Vartan), and Le collège anglais, on which the singer proved her adeptness with languages by mimicking an English accent. (The latter was a version of Freddy Cannon’s equally camp Teen queen of the week.)
At the end of the year, she also took her first acting role, appearing as Gillian in the French comedy Comment réussir en amour.
It was at this time that French star Henri Salvador spotted the singer and persuaded her to join his Disques Salvador label. He even co-wrote the lead track on her first EP for the label, Tu m’as manqué chéri, issued in 1963, and provided a testimonial for the sleeve. In a move to distance herself from her past lack of success, Audrey dropped her surname for the release. It is generally considered one of her finest, and included versions of Burt Bacharach’s Saturday sunshine (Le soleil sans moi), Eydie Gormé’s Everybody go home (Partez tous mes amis) and Mary Wells’s You lost the sweetest boy (Ce merveilleux garçon).
In 1963 she also appeared in the Austrian film Sing, aber spiel nicht mit mir, and the following year in another French comedy, Du grabuge chez les veuves.
Her recording career continued unabated. 1964’s Le mal de leurs vingt ans is perhaps her best-known release. Salvador co-wrote three of the tracks on the EP, with Fière de toi, a version of Steve Lawrence’s Walking proud, as the fourth.
He provided all four tracks on the follow up EP, Quand tu me fais la tête, issued later that year on the Rigolo label, and his jazz-flavoured influence is again evident on the release.
However, despite his efforts, sales remained slow. With artists such as Sylvie Vartan and Sheila
scoring hit after hit with French versions of international hits by this time, the decision was taken to ramp up Audrey’s yé-yé appeal. The Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich-penned Lesley Gore hit Maybe I know was picked as the lead track of Audrey’s final EP of the year. The resultant Je sais qu’un jour has become a fan favourite but did little to improve Audrey’s chart profile.
Des roses rouges pour un ange blond proved a surprising choice for her first disc of 1965. The original 1940s tune, Red roses for a blue lady, had been updated by Vic Dana, giving the American singer a US top ten hit, but was a little easy listening for Audrey’s fan base. Neil Diamond’s equally adult-oriented Act like a lady became Sois une lady, but for many, Mais c’est toi que j’aime – a version of Alma Cogan’s It’s you – is the highlight of the release.
Salvador again took over writing duties on the lead track of Audrey’s final EP of the year, Les amours d’artistes. One further disc, Flamingo, issued in 1966, followed before Audrey was dropped by the Rigolo label.
However, she was picked by the RCA Victor label, where – reunited with the surname Arno – she issued Sur les ailes de l'amour (a version of the Fifth Dimension’s Up, up and away) in 1968 and Quand Jean-Paul rentrera in 1969.
In the very early 1970s, she made a brief return to recording in German, for the Vogue label.
Over the course of her career, she headlined in many clubs in Paris and Monte Carlo, and in the 1970s, she moved to the US, appearing in the Moulin Rouge show in Las Vegas.
She remained in Nevada, eventually moving into in a nursing home, suffering from Alzheimer's. She died on 9 June 2012.
With thanks to Dexter de Sah and Jack Newcastle for additional research.
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