Three days after her 17th birthday, Lesley Gore received a belated present when her first single, “It’s My Party,” debuted at number 60 on the Billboard’s Hot 100. It quickly moved to number 26, then to number nine, and 50 years ago, June 1, 1963, reached number one. It remained at the top for two weeks. It also topped the R&B Chart, which was a real stretch.
It was a typical early 1960s song of teen angst where the female protagonist loses the boy at her party. She would get her revenge in the follow-up single, “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” which became another hit, reaching number five. It was a catchy up-tempo pop number that featured some early dual tracking of her lead vocal. It was perfect AM radio fare at the time and sold over a million copies.
She began her career as the singer in a local seven-piece band, which played weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and birthday parties. Their gig at the Prince George Hotel in Manhattan was caught by producer Quincy Jones. He signed her to a contract and, on March 30, 1963, had her record four songs. “It’s My Party” was quickly released as The Crystals were about to record the song.
The song also made history as the first number one for producer Quincy Jones and the engineer for the recording session, Phil Ramone.
Her greatest commercial success came 1963-1967 for Mercury Records as she charted 19 singles. Songs such as “You Don’t Own Me,” “She’s A Fool,” “California Nights,” and “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” were some of the finest pure pop performances of the decade. While she never had another chart hit, she has continued to perform, record, and write songs for the past 50 years.
A half century ago Lesley Gore sent out over a million party invitations in the form of small, seven-inch 45s. They enabled her to top the American music world for the only time in her career.