JACKIE DeSHANNON entered 1963 as a 21-year-old singer with fifteen singles under her belt, not one of them a hit! Hundreds of artists who had been more successful—they’d heard thunder boom with at least one hit record!—had come and gone during that time, yet Liberty Records showed great faith in her and kept with her through the rest of the decade. 1
Christened Sharon Lee Myers in 1941, she released her first record in 1956 under the pseudonym Sherry Lee. She was 15. She released more records, first as Jackie Dee, then as Jackie Shannon. She finally settled on Jackie DeShannon in 1960, although it had no effect on her records reaching the charts.
Liberty never figured out how to sell Jackie DeShannon, even though she delivered excellent records to them for ten years.
Things began to change in early ’63 when her soulful reading of Needles And Pins made the national pop charts, peaking at #58 on Cash Box while only reaching #84 on the Billboard. A few months later, it went all the way to #1 on Canada’s most important survey, the weekly chart from CHUM-1050 AM out of Toronto. 2
Jackie DeShannon was starting to look a little like a successful recording artist.
Before we go any further, this article was originally published as “When Jackie DeShannon Walks in the Room She’s Got Zest Appeal” on my Rather Rare Records blog in November 2013.
That article was been rewritten for publication on Medium. It was rewritten, expanded, and retitled (“Jackie DeShannon’s Intriguing Resonance”) and then published in 2019 on the Tell It Like It Was publication on Medium.
Then that article has been slightly rewritten for this article.
An intriguing resonance
In November 1963, Jackie released her own composition When You Walk In The Room as her eighteenth single. It was a Spectorian production with the odd percussive effect (castanets?) but also featured 12-string guitars mixed prominently upfront.
A great single, When You Walk In The Room was another disappointment, pooping out at #81 on Cash Box and #99 on Billboard in January 1964. But the sound of those guitars—an instrument oddly neglected by rock & rollers because of its association with folk-type music—was heard by others. 3
In January 1964, the Searchers released their version of Needles And Pins, and, with a nod to the DeShannon arrangement, it featured what sounded like a lovely acoustic 12-string guitar keeping rhythm throughout. Their record topped the UK charts and became a big hit in the US and an important part of the initial British Invasion. 4
In September, the Searchers released their version of When You Walk In The Room, which was another Top 10 hit in the UK, but only a Top 40 hit in the US. Hoping to ride the British Invasion hit back up the charts, Liberty reissued Jackie’s version of When You Walk In The Room shortly after the Searchers’ record. 5
Again, nothing happened.
Hollywood a Go-Go!
And that brings me to the raison d’etre for this brief piece on Jackie: to show you her lip-synching to her record on the Hollywood A Go-Go television show. This episode of the show (#35) was filmed at KHJ-TV studios in Los Angeles on August 21, 1965, which was Jackie’s 24th birthday. 6
The video gives us Jackie pretending to sing along with her single, already an “oldie” in August 1965. Except for starting a couple of seconds too soon, she does a fine job of lip-synching, a skill many singers never master. She looks good, too, even if you don’t dig early ’60s style and fashion. 7
This article started out simply to share the video of Jackie DeShannon dancing and lip-syncing to When You Walk In The Room in 1964.
I can hear the single anytime but I love this video for her little dance steps—they’re predictably safe for ’60s television but somehow they’re sexier than any pole-dancer I have ever seen! (Of course, that’s an entirely subjective statement.)
To watch the video, click here.
I love this record today and assume that the 12/13-year-old me would have loved it just as much in 1964—if I had ever heard it on the radio. WARM (the “Mighty 590”) may have played it for we teens in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley (“the Valley with the Heart”), but I have no memory of hearing it then. 7
Possible reasons for the lack of exposure of this record at the time was that the Beatles were everywhere and little attention was being paid journeyman pop singers, especially native pop singers.
I hear thunder boom
here are the lyrics to When You Walk In The Room. Regardless of the opening lines and the chiming 12-string guitar that drives the recording along, it’s not a particularly happy song (and the punctuation is mine):
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 a 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 as the singer does nothing because she only has the nerve to stare, not act. 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.
What the world needs now
Jackie did achieve some success as a singer: As she was performing on Hollywood A Go-Go, her latest single, What the World Needs Now Is Love, was in the Top 10 on both Billboard and Cash Box and would once again top the CHUM chart later in the year. She would not have another major American hit until 1969 when Put A Little Love In Your Heart was her second and last Top 10 hit.
Arguably Jackie’s greatest success as the co-writer (along with Donna Weiss) of Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes. This record spent nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and five weeks at the top of the Cash Box Top 100 in 1981. The record won Grammy Awards for “Song of the Year” and “Record of the Year.”
While the songwriting royalties no doubt swelled her coffers, it had no noticeable effect on DeShannon’s career as a recording artist. It did call some attention to her own version of the song, which she had recorded seven years earlier. Despite making one fine record after another, she never made it big again as a singer or as a songwriter. 9
Jackie DeShannon's 'When You Walk in the Room' is about longing and unrequited love as the singer does nothing because she only has the nerve to stare, not act, even though she hears trumpets sound and thunder boom. Click To Tweet
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is Jackie DeShannon in Laurel Canyon in 1968. Whether this is a casual photo taken by a friend or an actual publicity shot is unknown. It would have made a great album cover. Weirdly, except for the cleft chin, Jackie looks strikingly like my sister Mary Alice.
Finally, special thanks to Mike Griffiths, who found an earlier version of this article, posted a link to it on the Jackie DeShannon Facebook page, and then kindly sent me a message alerting me to that posting. This spurred me on to rewrite the older article and turn it into two “new” articles: the one above and another on Jackie’s eligibility for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (coming soon to a screen near you).
1 Liberty moved Jackie over to their sister imprint Imperial Records in 1965.
2 What The World Needs Now Is Love also reached #1 on the CHUM Chart. Jackie scored a total of seven Top 40 hits on this survey compared to only three in the US. This could mean that she was more popular in Canada than anywhere else in the world.
3 As an example of how different the systems that Billboard and Cash Box used to tally their charts, on the Cash Box Top 100, Jackie DeShannon’s When You Walk In The Room debuted on January 4, 1964, and remained on that survey for six weeks. On the Billboard Hot 100, the record entered the survey on January 25 and was gone the next week!
4 As for that 12-string guitar, Searcher Frank Allen said, “I think everyone knows by now that what they thought was a jangling 12-string guitar on Needles And Pins was, in fact, the very intriguing resonance of two 6-string instruments created almost accidentally in the mix.” The guitars on these records were heard by the Beatles and when George Harrison expressed an interest in the instrument, the manufacturers of Rickenbacker guitars presented him with the second copy of their new electric 360/12 edition. George put it to marvelous use on the Fab Four’s next single A Hard Day’s Night and the album of the same name that followed.
5 In most of the pop music world, the Searchers’ two hit records probably did more to make Jackie DeShannon’s name known than all of her own records up to that point combined! Except, of course, for Canada.
6 Jackie actually did find her way into three movies: Surf Party starring everybody’s favorite surfer, Bobby Vinton (filmed in 1963), and C’mon, Let’s Live A Little with Bobby Vee (1966); and the little-known Intimacy (1966). Also known as The Deceivers, it is a noir-ish drama where Jackie plays a prostitute!
7 Prior to Jackie’s performance, the show’s host Sam Riddle related that when Jackie had toured with the Beatles the previous year, she had complimented John Lennon on his groovy shirt. The next day, the shirt arrived at her dressing room as a gift from the Beatle. Jackie had it altered to fit her and was wearing it that day for the taping.
8 My first memory of it came years later when I bought the BREAKIN’ IT UP ON THE BEATLES TOUR album from Bleecker Bob in 1977, paying a whopping $25 for a stereo copy!
9 Jackie’s version has an old-timey sound/feel and probably couldn’t have been a hit anywhere in the world after WWII.