when jackie deshannon walks in the room she’s got zest appeal

BY 1963, JACKIE De­SHANNON had re­leased fif­teen sin­gles and she had just turned 22 years old! By the end of the decade, she would score a pair of Top 10 hits (What The World Needs Now Is Love and Put A Little Love In Your Heart) but would have prob­lems get­ting any of her other fine sides played on AM radio none ever came close to the Top 10 again.

She had re­leased her first record in 1956 when she was 15 (you know, the knee-high-to-a-grasshopper age in her home state of Ken­tucky). Chris­tened Sharon Lee Myers, she re­leased five sin­gles in the ’50s—some country & western, some rockabilly—under four names: Sherry Lee, Jackie Dee, Jackie Shannon, and fi­nally as Jackie DeShannon.

In early ’63, she achieved modest suc­cess when her soulful reading of Nee­dles And Pins (Liberty 55563) reached #58 on the Cash Box Top 100 but only #84 on the Bill­board Hot 100.

A few months later, Nee­dles And Pins hit #1 on Canada’s CHUM Chart and Jackie De­Shannon was starting to look a little like a hot recording artist.


JackieDeShannon 1963 publicity photo 500

This photo of Jackie De­Shannon was taken for use as a stan­dard pub­licity photo for Lib­erty Records in 1963.

Another disappointment

In No­vember 1963, Jackie re­leased her own com­po­si­tion “When You Walk in the Room” as her eigh­teenth single. It was a Spec­to­rian pro­duc­tion with all the odd and won­derful per­cus­sive ef­fects (cas­tanets?) but also fea­tured 12-string gui­tars. Whereas those same gui­tars had played a subtle role in “Nee­dles and Pins,” here they were mixed promi­nently up front.

A great single, “When You Walk in the Room” was an­other dis­ap­point­ment, pooping out at #81 on Cash Box and #99 on Bill­boardBut the sound of those guitars—an in­stru­ment oddly ne­glected by rock & rollers be­cause of its as­so­ci­a­tion with folk-type music—was an in­flu­ence on the British beat-group scene. 

In Jan­uary 1964, the Searchers re­leased their ver­sion of “Nee­dles and Pins” and, with a nod to the De­Shannon arrange­ment, there was a lovely acoustic 12-string guitar keeping rhythm throughout. The sound of this guitar at­tracted a lot of at­ten­tion when the record topped the UK charts and be­came a big hit in the US as part of the ini­tial British Invasion.

As for those gui­tars: “I think everyone knows by now that what they thought was a jan­gling twelve-string guitar on ‘Nee­dles and Pins’ was, in fact, the very in­triguing res­o­nance of two six-string in­stru­ments cre­ated al­most ac­ci­den­tally in the mix.” (Frank Allen)

These gui­tars on Jackie De­Shannon and the Searchers’ records ap­pear to have in­spired George Har­rison to give the in­stru­ment a try. When he ex­pressed an in­terest, the man­u­fac­turers of Rick­en­backer gui­tars pre­sented him with the second copy of their new 360/12. Beatle George put it to mar­velous use ef­fect on the A Hard Day’s Night album in July 1964.


Searchers WhenYouWalkInTheRoom PS Sweden 600

While PYE didn’t see fit to issue the Searchers’ single with a pic­ture sleeve in their na­tive UK, Pye’s out­lets in other coun­tries did. This sleeve was is­sued in Sweden.

In Sep­tember, the Searchers re­leased “When You Walk in the Room” and had an­other Top 10 hit in the UK, reaching the Top 40 in the US. This one did fea­ture a  12-string guitar, a Burns Double-Six.

“As soon as I joined the Searchers in Au­gust 1964 we set about cre­ating a new single. Someday We’re Gonna Love Again had halted at a lowly #11 in the charts, a re­spectable po­si­tion but rather dis­ap­pointing from one of the leading groups in the UK if not the world and fol­lowing on from the band’s third chart-topping record. The next one had to be good. And it was.

Jackie De­Shannon, who had also pro­vided the blue­print for Nee­dles & Pins, a flop for her and a huge suc­cess for them (I say that be­cause it was be­fore my ar­rival and I make no claim to any con­tri­bu­tion to its de­served suc­cess), had re­leased [When You Walk In The Room] ear­lier that year and had once again missed out chart-wise. It was a great record but maybe a little too laid back and of course she was Amer­ican and by this time the Brits had taken over the world.

We picked up the tempo a little and gave it a pop­pier, more com­mer­cial edge and we de­cided to em­u­late the twelve-string used on the orig­inal. There was a live­li­ness about this new sound that im­me­di­ately grabbed at­ten­tion. But we did not have one of these still rather rare guitars.

An acoustic model—a bor­rowed Gibson I be­lieve, al­though I can’t be ab­solutely certain—had been em­ployed on the IT’S THE SEARCHERS album early in 1964 and can be heard promi­nently on Can’t Help For­giving You, in­trigu­ingly yet an­other De­Shannon com­po­si­tion. But we had no ac­cess to the elec­tric ver­sion. Rick­en­backers were hard to come by and expensive. 

The only British made model was by the Burns com­pany de­signed by the founder Jim Burns, one of the pi­o­neers of the British guitar in­dustry. One of Mike’s early elec­tric gui­tars had in­deed been a cherry-red Burns Vibra Artiste six-string as seen on the first pub­licity shots at the outset of their success.

There are many who are avid fans of the make, al­though my opinion has al­ways been that they were rather over-designed in a some­what tacky way and lagged far be­hind the Amer­ican brands like Gibson, Fender, and Gretsch. But full marks to Jim Burns for paving the way to every­thing else that followed.

We con­tacted Burns and they im­me­di­ately despatched one of their Double Six gui­tars in a rather at­trac­tive translu­cent green finish. And that was the in­stru­ment used on When You Walk In The Room.” (Frank Allen)

Hoping to ride the British In­va­sion hit back up the charts, Lib­erty reis­sued “When You Walk in the Room” right after the Searchers’ record, but again nothing hap­pened with the orig­inal version.

The video below of­fers Jackie at her best: She is pushing a great single, she does a good job of lip-synching, and she looks gorgeous—especially if you dig early ’60s fe­male style and fashion. Her little dance rou­tine is cute yet bor­ders on re­ally sexy.


Jackie De­Shannon - When You Walk Into The Room - 1964

I pretend it’s me you want

Re­gard­less of the opening lines and the chiming 12-string guitar that drives the recording along, it’s not a happy song:

I can feel a new ex­pres­sion on my face.
I can feel a glowing sen­sa­tion taking place.
I can hear the guitar playing a lovely tune,
every time that you walk in the room.

I close my eyes for a second and pre­tend it’s me you want.
Mean­while, I try to act so non­cha­lant.
I feel a summer night with a magic moon,
every time that you walk in the room.

Maybe it’s a dream come true
Standing right along­side of you.
Wish I could tell you how much I care,
but I only have the nerve to stare.

I can feel some­thing pounding in my brain,
just any­time that someone speaks your name.
Trum­pets sound—I hear thunder boom,
every time that you walk in the room.

It’s about longing and ret­i­cence and un­re­quited love. It may not be of the same cal­iber as record­ings based on sim­ilar yearning songs such as the Tur­tles’ Happy To­gether or the Temp­ta­tions’ Just My Imag­i­na­tion, but it’s up there.

And someone needs to point out that the use of the acoustic 12-strings on this and Nee­dles And Pins in­spired the use of the elec­tric 12-string on the Bea­tles and the Searchers picked up in 1964 which led to Jim McGuinn turning the Rick­en­backer 360-12 into one of the most dis­tin­guished and dis­tin­guishing sounds in all of rock music with the Byrds.


JackieDeShannon PutALittleLoveInYourHeart PS Germany 600

While Jack­ie’s sex­i­ness was often pro­moted in photos that Lib­erty used in her early years by showing some cleavage, by 1969 she was less ob­vious about her phys­ical fea­tures. This pic­ture sleeve from Ger­many makes her look like a model from a teen magazine.

Back to the British Invasion

The Searchers did a fine ver­sion of the song that rang with their 12-string-guitar and the four-part-harmony sound. Re­leased at the same time as De­Shan­non’s, it fared much better, peaking in the US at #29 on Cash Box and reaching #35 on Bill­board

The Searchers were con­tin­u­ally better rep­re­sented in their na­tive Eng­land, where this side was a Top 5 hit, their fifth! They were con­sid­ered by many Amer­ican record-buyers to be rather light­weight if not out­right Bea­tles wannabes. This may pop up on oldies radio in the 21st cen­tury, but prob­ably only during a local sta­tion does a phone-in-your-request show.

Jackie did achieve fleeting suc­cess as a singer in the US. Within a matter of months, her reading of What The World Needs Now Is Love reached #7 on Bill­board and reached #8 on Cash Box in Au­gust 1965. It was her second chart-topper on the Cana­dian CHUM chart.

She would not have an­other major Amer­ican hit until Put A Little Love In Your Heart reached the Top 10 in 1969. Her greatest suc­cess after that would be the recog­ni­tion she re­ceived as the co-writer with Donna Weiss) of Kim Carnes’ mon­ster hit Bette Davis Eyes. This idio­syn­cratic song and per­for­mance was ar­guably the biggest hit of 1981 and one of the biggest hits of the en­tire decade.

While the song­writing me­chan­i­cals no doubt swelled Ms. De­Shan­non’s cof­fers, it had no no­tice­able ef­fect on her ca­reer as a recording artist. De­spite making one fine record after an­other, she never made it big again as a singer. Nonethe­less, when Jackie De­Shannon walks in the room, she’s got zest appeal!


JackieDeShannon photo close up 1969 1000

HEADER IMAGE: The photo atop this page is of the beau­tiful Ms. De­Shannon during the late ’60s when she was breaking hearts left and right. While this photo ap­pears in sev­eral places on the In­ternet, I could not lo­cate a source for it. And I haven’t a clue as to why the pho­tog­ra­pher chose such an odd and dis­con­certing back­drop for this photo.


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