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Retro Redux: Joanie Sommers – Finding Her Musical Path

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A lot of performers have had multi-layered careers with success in a wide variety of musical areas. One singer who successfully navigated her way through several would be Joanie Sommers, who has been everything from a teen idol to a familiar voice in TV commercials, but eventually became a respected jazz vocalist.

Joanie Sommers (real name Joan Drost) began singing as a child, and even won a talent contest in her home city of Buffalo, New York, before her family moved to California. While still in her teens she was signed by Warner Brothers and soon made a couple of acting appearances on the TV show, 77 Sunset Strip. Before long she was paired up musically with one of the stars, Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, who had become the idol of countless fans. He'd had a huge hit with his "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)," a novelty song that played on his character's famous pompadour. Although his partner on that song was Connie Stevens, Joanie and Edd sold some records with "I Don't Dig You" and "Hot Rock," before they went their separate ways.

Joanie soon began to find some individual success with her first solo record, 1960's "One Boy," but it took a couple of years for her to strike it rich with what would be her biggest, "Johnny Get Angry." Its popularity helped her keep working steadily, not only in the recording studio and on TV guest shots (see below) but even with the occasional acting job.

Throughout the Sixties, Joanie continued to do guest shots on TV variety shows, including those of Dinah Shore and Dean Martin, and kept a busy recording schedule too but didn't have another mega-hit. However, she enjoyed another kind of success by singing in a series of Pepsi-Cola TV ads — even becoming known for a time as "The Pepsi Girl." She also began finding more and more success — and appreciation by critics — as a jazz singer, with standards like "Baby It's Cold Outside," "April In Paris," and "I Concentrate On You," among her best.

By the Seventies, Joanie Sommers — by then the mother of three — was ready to leave the business behind for a while. After a number of years in private life she again began to make some occasional appearances, but it now looks like the Pepsi Girl has retired.

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  • Bruce Schwartz

    Did Joanie Sommers sing the commercial for Hunts Pork and Beans?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/big-geez/ Big Geez

    Wouldn’t surprise me, but I haven’t seen anything about it anywhere. Anyone else know?