“Hey Baby” by Bruce Channel was like the little engine that could (and did). It was first released as a single on the small LeCarn label, located in Fort Worth, Texas, during early 1961. Most songs would have disappeared then and there, but “Hey Baby” managed to acquire enough airplay on a few local radio stations to be noticed up by the larger Smash Label. Rereleased during December of 1961, it reached number one on the Billboard Magazine Pop Chart 50 years ago this week. It remained on top of the American music world for three weeks.
Bruce Channel, (pronounced Shu-Neal), began his career as a country rockabilly singer during the late 1950s. He is a member of the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame. His early music partner was Delbert McClinton, who provided the memorable harmonica play on his big hit.
“Hey Baby” was a song that reached out and grabbed you due to the sustained first note when Channel’s voice just soared up and away. It was a mid-tempo tune that had a smooth and lazy melody that formed the perfect backdrop for Channel’s clear and powerful vocal.
The song was a departure from his usual country/rockabilly style, which moved him into the mainstream for his only top 40 hit. It really was a classic pop tune that combined elements of doo-wop and early rock ‘n’ roll. It was one of those catchy tunes that were perfect for AM radio play at the time as it just would not leave your mind for days.
On the strength of his one hit, he was a star for several years. On a tour of Europe The Beatles were his opening act and, as the story goes, John Lennon was impressed with McClinton’s harmonica play and incorporated the sound on such early tunes as “Love me Do” and “Please Please Me.”
Channel retired from touring during the mid-1970s and settled in Nashville as a songwriter. This week he can look back on his big shining moment when his “Hey Baby” was on top of the music world.