A Love Song That Became A Four-Time Hit

If you were anywhere near a radio or jukebox in 1958 and had an ear open for pop music, chances are very good that you would have heard a song about love that became a hit for two different musical acts at the same time, but that wasn’t the end. That same song experienced a resurgence in popularity when recorded by a different group in 1966, and a decade later became a hit for yet another singing act.

Songwriter Wayne Shanklin authored “Chanson D’Amour” (song of love), which became a career-defining tune for Art and Dotty Todd, a husband and wife team who had been kicking around the biz for a while. They’d already had their own radio show and often performed in clubs, but when their recording of the song reached hit status it made their career. For the next couple of decades they were popular Vegas performers and TV variety show guests. Eventually they moved to semi-retirement in Hawaii, where they occasionally sang in their own club.

But there was another hit version of the song back in 1958. A singing group I’ve written about before, the Fontane Sisters, also recorded the song and sold a lot of records with it, although they’re more remembered now for their top-seller, “Hearts Of Stone.”

Proving that you can’t keep a good song down, in 1966 “Chanson D’Amour” was revived by another popular singing group, the Lettermen. Their version did very well, but a decade later another singing group really hit the jackpot with the song, proving that the fourth time was the charm.

The Manhattan Transfer had begun to catch the attention of 1970’s music fans with their combination of retro-pop and jazz vocals, and when they recorded “Chanson D’Amour” it proved to be one of their biggest early hits. (Video below.) It did very well in the US, but was an even bigger hit in Europe and reached number-one status in the UK.

Of course, many others recorded the song but those were the biggies. One tune — four hits.


2 thoughts on “A Love Song That Became A Four-Time Hit

  1. Wayne Shanklin, also the composer of “The Big Hurt” by Toni Fisher…what did these two records have in common? For this little boy of 7 years old (when this came out)it was the SOUND, not even so much the song (which was pretty corny even by 1950s standards and especially so when looked back at in the context of it getting airplpay on rock ‘n’ roll stations and American Banstand)…it was the double tracking or stacking of the harmony vocals and the MIX that did me in (forever) on this song. Apparently Mr Shanklin had some interesting ideas since the next time I heard his hand was on Toni Fisher’s “The Big Hurt” which also wiped me out, being the first time I ever heard ‘phasing'(what came to be known as ‘phase-shifting’ or its close just a little more souped up relative ‘flanging’ in the seventies when guitar effects made by companies like MXR made the sound universal) applied to a song (though I’ve also heard The Blossoms “What Did You Do LAst Night” on Shamrock with phasing/flanging from the same era…don’t know which is first.)

    I don’t thinkl The Fontane Sisters version ever filtered down to me (I still haven’t heard it); ditto for The Lettermen’s version.

    Manhattan Transfer’s version, however, IS the real deal and the first time I heard it I played it thirty or forty times (lost track) and recently did the same looping it while I was doing some cataloging and listening to it 30-40 times again. They must have listened to the Art & Dotty Todd version A LOT, because they REALLY got the harmonies AND the Stacking AND the MIX down perfectly.

    Last year I chanced upon of all things an Art & Dotty Todd LP on Beverly Hills Records, ‘Chanson D’Amour'(no release date, but the promo sticker looks a lot like many others from the early seventies I used to own). In Stereo, BH 1137…Instrumental arrangements by Don Ralke in Hollywood & Yoshitarou Itoh in Tokyo. It was recorded in Japan with members of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, who are marginally heard on about half of the tracks. Most of the tunes are unknown, save for a vocal version of the “The Summer Knows (Theme From The Summer of ’42)” which helps date in in the early 1970s and the title track. I had no expectations that it would in any way equal the sound of the original, but was surprised to find it nearly did, probably due more to progress in studio effects & technology. It was pretty much a staright copy of the original version.Their back cover photo shows them looking slightly ‘preserved’…he looks pretty good (though it looks like he dyed his hair recently) however she looks like she got a bad face lift that gave her rather a ghoulish smile…also a little too much makeup and the same hair style from 15 years earlier…kind of long and bobby soxish.
    According to the liner notes…”Art & Dotty Todd are a legend in their own time. A few years ago this talented two-some hit the jackpot with a super-smash recording titled “Chanson D’Amour”, and have managed to stayon top of the entertainment syndrome. Their home base is Las Vegas and they can always be found working at The Dunes Hotel at “The Top O’ The Strip” where, year in and year out, they are beseiged by literally thousands and thousands to repeat in person the one tune that brought them into prominence.”

    A couple things come to mind. Is “The Top O’ The Strip” some kind of Vegas-styled Irish Bar? Does this mean they had to play this song more than once every set? For how many sets a night? How big was that room anyway? And what was the turnover of employees working their shift? Was this song such a landmark that even for 15 years they were able to parlay it to a staedy living in Las Vegas? If so, it actually is very impressive. Somehow I see a kind of sad but maybe sweet movie around the duo and their one song career…beginning and ending with “Rat-ta-dat-ta-da,,,”


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