As both a solo singer and lead singer of the group The Raindrops, Ireland’s Jackie Lee – also briefly known as Emma Rede – remained in obscurity until she scored two UK hits with children’s TV themes.
She was born Jacqueline Flood in Dublin, Ireland, on 29 May 1936. By the age of 14, she was singing on Irish radio and with various dance bands. After moving to London in the early 1950s, she worked as a hospital lab technician until joining singing group Ronnie Aldrich’s Squadronaires and performed frequently on BBC radio.
Jackie Lee, as she was now known, left the group in April 1955 and made her recording debut for record label Decca with I was wrong. It flopped, as did subsequent singles.
In 1959 she joined the group The Raindrops as lead singer. The group’s first single, Along came Jones, fared no better than Jackie’s solo material. Further releases, mostly covers of US hits, were also flops.
In 1962, Jackie took part in A song for Europe, the UK’s contest to select an entry for the Eurovision song contest. However, her There’s no one in the whole wide world lost out to Belfast boy Ronnie Carroll’s Ring-a-ding girl.
A year later she recorded her first German-language single, Tschau, tschau, Amigo, aimed at the lucrative German market. However, it flopped, and in 1964, she appeared back with The Raindrops in the film Just for you, performing their version of Little Eva’s The locomotion.
Within a year, Jackie quit the group and released her first solo single, a version of a little-known song by songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David, I cry alone, on the Decca label.
Two further singles, Lonely clown and I know, know, know I’ll never love, love, love anyone else, issued on the Columbia label, also failed.
One of her finest moments came with her third single for Columbia, released in November 1966. The town I live in – penned by songwriter Geoff Stephens about Milton Keynes – was a wry comment on the suburban nature of the Buckinghamshire new town (“The town I live in has 27 churches, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, And avenues lined with silver birches, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,”). The B-side, You too (can have heartaches), was another strong song, but the single disappeared without trace.
The hitless Jackie was renamed Emma Rede for her next single, Just like a man. (The excellent beat ballad I gotta be with you appeared on the flip and has since found favour on Britain’s northern soul scene.) The move resulted in a place in pirate station Radio London's Fab forty charts in February 1967, and the record remains much in demand with collectors.
Perhaps surprisingly, a planned second Emma Rede release, Window cleaner, was never issued. (Truly Smith, however, issued the song as the B-side to her I want to go back there again.)
Later that year, Jackie recorded the strident Born to lose for the movie Robbery!. The song was released as a single by Decca in September of that year, but also failed. She kept her chin up with a variety of engagements as leader of two groups of session singers, Tears of Joy and the Jackie Lee Singers.
In January 1968, under the name Jacky, she released White horses, the theme to a Czech children’s programme, on the Philips label. It spent three months in the UK charts in early 1968, peaking at number ten. A follow up, We’re off and running, proved inappropriately titled, though Jacky did get to release an album off the back of her hit single. She also got to record for the soundtrack to Roger Vladim’s classic movie Barbarella. However, her material never made it into the film. Undeterred, she worked on a second soundtrack, this time for the film Loving feeling, and released the single Love is now, a fan favourite, on the Page One label.
In 1969 she began a contract with the Pye label, and issued the OK Love is a gamble.
In the early 1970s, she released Everybody needs a little loving, a song from a TV advert for Campbell’s Soups, and scored her second and final hit, again with a children’s TV theme. Rupert (as in Rupert the Bear) made number 17 in the UK charts in 1971 and Jackie even recorded a German version, Rupert der Bär.
After her final release for Pye, 1973’s You make my head spin, she moved to the US and, ultimately, to Canada. However, a throat problem forced her to retire from singing.
With thanks to the Jackie Lee website for additional information.
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