Gene Pitney was born in rural Connecticut. He was so drawn to music, he dropped his electrial engineering studies to pursue his dream. He released several singles under assumed names, one called “Classical Rock and Roll,” as part of the duo Jamie and Jane (with Ginny Arnell) , and another under the pseudonym Billy Bryan. Thereafter, Pitney reverted to his real name. His earliest success came as a songwriter. Pitney had his compositions recorded by, Roy Orbison (“Today’s Teardrops,” “22 Days”) and Bobby Vee (“Rubber Ball”). Rick Nelson cut three of Pitney’s songs, including “Hello Mary Lou,” and the Crystals had their biggest hit with Pitney’s “He’s a Rebel,” produced by Phil Spector. Convinced he could not only write hits but sing them as well, Pitney re-launched his career in 1961. He multi-tracked vocals and overdubbed instruments for the pioneering record production of “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away.” Pitney’s brilliant third single, “Every Breath I Take,” was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and produced by Phil Spector and is one of the earliest examples of the heralded “Wall of Sound.” Burt Bacharach and Hal David penned a series of hits for Pitney, including “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance” (#4, 1962), “Only Love Can Break a Heart” (#2, 1962), “True Love Never Runs Smooth” (#21, 1963) and “24 Hours from Tulsa” (#17, 1962). Mick Jagger and Keith Richards whom Pitney had befriended on a 1963 visit to Britain, gave him an early song of theirs (“That Girl Belongs to Yesterday”). Pitney recorded and released it as a single, and it hit #49 in early 1964 – the first Jagger/Richards composition to make the U.S. charts, predating the Stones’ own “Tell Me” by a half year. Pitney crossed over to the country charts by cutting two albums with honky-tonk legend George Jones and one with Melba Montgomery. All the while he toured the world extensively and even recorded entire albums in Italian and Spanish for the lucrative and loyal foreign market. Pitney was actually voted Italy’s top singer in a 1964 poll, and he became enormously popular in Britain. Gene died in his sleep following a concert in London in 2006.
Listen for the following Gene Pitney songs on Tunedex Memories: (I Wanna) Love My Life Away • I Must Be Seeing Things • If I Didn’t Have A Dime • Mecca • Tower Tall • Town Without Pity • True Love Never Runs Smooth • Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa • Being Together (w/ Melba Montgomery)