British singer Carol Deene scored a number of hits with US covers in the early 1960s. She then rose to the challenge of the beat boom, issuing what is, arguably, her best material in the middle of the decade. Sadly, a car crash put her out of action for much of 1966 – and although she recovered, her career didn’t.
She was born Carole Carver in Thurnscoe, near Doncaster in Yorkshire, on 3 August 1944. She left school at 15 to work in a draper’s shop, then in a hairdresser’s, but held out hopes of becoming a singer.
By 1961, she had realised the path to pop bypassed her hometown, so she went to live with her aunt in north London. She took singing lessons with vocal coach Freddie Winrose, who became her manager. He got her an audition with the BBC, from which she landed an appearance on Joan Regan’s television show. (She was renamed Carol Deene after BBC producer Deene Moray, who had phoned to check her name. The e in Carole was dropped simply because there would have been too many e’s if she had kept it.)
After being spotted on the show by Wally Ridley from the HMV label, she was offered a recording contract.
Sad movies (make me cry), a version of a US million seller by Sue Thompson, was issued as her debut single in September 1961. It was the first of three – count 'em – covers she would issue of Sue Thompson hits. It narrowly missed the UK top 40 but sold respectably.
She bounced back in January the following year with Norman (her second Sue Thompson cover). It was voted a miss on TV’s Juke box jury the week she appeared as a guest on the show. Her very public embarrassment served only to boost interest in the song, and Carol took the tune to number 24 in the charts shortly afterwards.
Johnny get angry – a cover of a song by US singer Joanie Sommers – followed it into the top 40 in July 1962.
Some people became her second top 30 hit just a few weeks later. The song had been issued in competition with a version by Valerie Mountain and the Eagles, though Carol’s was the more successful. On the flip was Kissin’, a song she had performed in the Acker Bilk film Band of thieves. This was the first of a couple of film appearances she made – the other being a cameo role alongside Tommy Steele in It’s all happening (where she performed The boy on the beach). She also co-hosted Show train on children’s ITV and would go on to host her own programme on Radio Luxembourg.
James (hold the ladder steady) became her final Sue Thompson cover. Issued in late 1962, it sold well but failed to make a dent on the charts.
The advent of the beat boom harmed Carol’s career, and a further batch of chirpy singles over the couple of years – Let me do it my way, a version of Steve and Eydie’s I want to stay here, the Bacharach and David-penned Who’s been sleeping in my bed, Hard to say goodnight
and I can’t forget someone like you – all flopped.
Feeling she needed a change of direction, Carol switched management in March 1965 and moved to the Columbia label. It was at this point that things got more interesting – both musically and personally.
Following a makeover, the new-look Carol issued her first single for Columbia, the mature He just don’t know, in October that year and plans were made for an album. She also got engaged and went on to make her debut appearance in a weekly slot on magician David Nixon’s comedy bandbox TV show.
However, in January 1966, Carol was badly injured in a car crash on her way back from a concert in Cardiff. She broke her leg and her jaw in the accident and suffered severe facial injuries, which put paid to any chance of promoting the record and of continuing her role in the TV show (Anita Harris took her place).
Perhaps surprisingly, a second single for the new label, Dancing in your eyes, was released that April, but Carole was unfit to promote it and the disc died upon release.
In all, she was out of action until October that year, and her career lost momentum.
One final single for Columbia, the wonderfully mournful Love not have I, was issued in January 1967 before she was dropped by the label.
She went on to cut the Les Reed and Barry Mason-penned When he wants a woman for CBS later that year, and switched to the independent Conquest label for the release of One more chance in 1969. Neither ballad managed to recapture the quality of some of her earlier discs, and A windmill in old Amsterdam, issued by Pye in 1970, hit a new musical low.
She quit the music industry in the 1970s, before making a return to record Angel in your arms, which she issued on her own Koala label in 1979. The release garnered some interest but couldn’t return the singer to the charts.
She currently lives in Spain, where she manages a radio station with her husband.
With thanks to Mark Willerton for additional research.