While I was growing up, one of the most familiar singing voices around our house was that of Teresa Brewer (my subject in an earlier piece). She was apparently a favorite of at least one of my parents — probably my mother, because dad was more likely to go for polkas and harmonica music. In any case, I seem to have a number of Teresa’s many hit songs deeply embedded in my memory, enough so that even after fifty-plus years I can almost sing along whenever I hear one. That’s a little frightening, but it’s a fact that we seldom have much control over how our memories work.
One of those very familiar songs – which was also a top ten hit for her – was “Let Me Go, Lover,” but it wasn’t until many years later that I learned that her version was just a cover of the original. The first hit recording of the song – and the biggest – was the work of a true ‘one-hit wonder’ named Joan Weber.
The New Jersey-born Weber was just a teenager in the early Fifties when she caught the attention of some music pros, and was eventually signed by the legendary Mitch Miller, who was at the time a producer and executive with Columbia Records. He then picked for her a song named “Let Me Go, Devil,” (which was actually a song about the evils of alcohol) but changed ‘devil’ to ‘lover’ for her recording debut.
At the time she recorded the song Joan was married and very pregnant, but that didn’t prevent the studio from booking her on the popular Studio One TV show to introduce the new recording. “Let Me Go, Lover” began to build in popularity and eventually reached the number-one position on the pop charts, but during that same period Joan was progressing in her pregnancy, and wasn’t able to handle the promotional duties that go along with the business.
After the birth of her daughter she tried to restart her career and regain the momentum that a number-one hit had created, but even though she did record a few songs her moment had passed. Columbia didn’t renew her contract and she eventually gave up and retired from music. Not a lot of information is available about her subsequent life, but it ended sadly when she died in a mental institution at the young age of 45.
It kind of makes you wonder. How would her career – and her life – have gone if her chart-topper had come along at a different time?