By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon
April Stevens was born Carol LoTempio in April 29, 1936, in Niagara Falls. She had a brother named Antonino. Better known as Nino, his sax skills brought him initial notice in the jazz field. He later attempted crossover success as a Teen Idol in the R&R/ Pop and ultimately found his greatest success singing with his sister as April Stevens And Nino Tempo, achieving many chart hits in the 1960s.
But before their duo success April had her own career, starting at age 15 with some small-label releases in 1950. She got picked up by RCA Victor Records and “I’m In Love Again” peaked at No. 6 on the pop chart in 1951. She moved to King Records for a time – an odd choice and settled at Imperial Records by the late 1950s. She achieved only scattered success until 1959’s bold “Teach Me Tiger.”
“Teach Me Tiger” was controversial due to its sexual suggestiveness and banned on many radio stations, causing it to peak at only #86 on the Hot 100, but it was a top hit in many markets in which it got played. The sexiness in “Teach Me Tiger” is almost cartoonish -in the lyrics, in her husky voice and odd vocalizations. I suppose they were imitating the sultry Julie London whose vocals were similar but done with more restraint. Maybe she was also channeling Marilyn Monroe on this one?
She was marketed as a sex-kitten, “the girl with the pin-up voice”, “the intimate miss with the musical kiss”. One fan wrote: “Other vocalists sing, but you actually talk to a guy and boy, the things you say!”
Similar recordings were forthcoming, like 1961’s “Love Kitten”, with copious purring sounds. But she didn’t really hit big again until she started recording with brother Nino, with whom she had a ten-year run in the studios and on the charts. A few songs from that era have found favor with the Northern Soul crowd and their recordings for Rock label White Whale (home of The Turtles) touch on folk-rock and pop-rock zones.
It was with White Whale that they recorded their late classic “All Strung Out”. Critic Richie Unterberger has described it as “one of the greatest Phil Spector-inspired productions of all time”. By the way, the flipside had a long-term record as the longest-titled B-side in history: “I’ve Been Carrying A Torch For You So Long That It Burned A Great Big Hole In My Heart”.
Did I mention that April was very easy on the eyes? April was very easy on the eyes!