This full-page ad in Billboard‘s “World of Country Music” special edition gives every indication that 1967 promised to be a break-out year for Molly Bee:
October 28, 1967
The previous year, inside the gatefold sleeve of 1966’s Freak Out – the groundbreaking debut double album by Frank Zappa‘s Mothers of Invention – Molly Bee had been identified, (along with 178 other individuals), as one of the people who “Have Contributed Materially in Many Ways to Make Our Music What it is“:
Freak Out‘s Gatefold Sleeve
179 Influential Figures –
“Please Do Not Hold It Against Them“
The Entire List
(digital stitching by Bryan Richardson)
And yet, when you consult Molly Bee’s singles discography on 45Cat — which begins in 1952, when the singer and future television personality was only twelve years old — you might be surprised to find that Autumn 1967 turned out to be, in retrospect, a pivotal time in which the artist felt it necessary to take a seven-year timeout, following a remarkable fifteen-year run in recording, radio, television, and live performance. Valerie J. Nelson‘s obituary for The Los Angeles Times‘ February 11, 2009 edition reveals that Bee’s sudden departure was a life-saving measure that had been prompted by struggles with drug addiction.
Mollie Gene Beachboard (who is said to have Native American ancestry) and The Mothers’ bandleader would differ in age only by one year, and yet Zappa (I have to assume) enjoyed Molly Bee’s frequent performances on Hometown Jamboree, the popular country radio/TV show that was broadcast for a few years in the 1950s from the American Legion Stadium in El Monte, California, outside of Los Angeles — the same venue where Art Laboe (i.e., second “influential figure” listed in Freak Out) later organized dances for Los Angeles youth between the years 1955 through 1961 “that cut across ethnic, racial, and class lines,” noted Jude Webre in a tribute piece, “Memories of El Monte: Art Laboe’s Charmed Life On Air” for KCET’s ‘Armenians in America‘ essay series. This vibrant 1950s teen scene that revolved around El Monte Legion Stadium would later serve as the inspiration for one of Zappa’s earliest songs, “Memories of El Monte,” written in 1962 with Ray Collins.
Released April 1963
Cash Box‘s review:
‘Plug‘ side also served as ad for Art Leboe’s “oldies” LP:
Molly Bee –
Molly Bee’s initial pathway to public acclaim was paved by “Lovesick Blues,” Hank Williams’ then raging hit (originally recorded at Cincinnati’s Herzog Studios). Capitol Records — who signed Molly Bee at the urging of its A&R producer and talent scout, Cliffie Stone — highlighted the song’s pivotal role in a series of elliptical clauses and phrases printed on the sleeve of the promo 45 issued to promote Bee’s 1958 debut album:
“This 18-year-old cutie hails from Oklahoma … when 10, she sang ‘Lovesick Blues’ in a school play … DJ Rex Allen heard her … she sang the song on Rex’s show a few days later … soon after she moved with her family to Hollywood … once more she was heard singing ‘Lovesick Blues’ … this time by Cliffie Stone, country recording artist and TV star … she became a regular on his Hometown Jamboree TV show … also starred in her low local TV show … was featured singer on the daily Tennessee Ernie Ford show.”
Molly Bee’s second single release for Capitol Records was a novelty hit that sold well, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” though not as well as Jimmy Boyd’s original version, both released in November of 1952. At the time, Bee was Capitol Records’ youngest recording artist.
December 6, 1952
“boasts of Indian stock“
Molly Bee was a frequent guest on TV’s Hometown Jamboree, where her popularity was such, it has been said, that the program was sometimes referred to as The Molly Bee Show. Valerie J. Nelson notes in her Times obituary that Tennessee Ernie Ford would sometimes beckon Bee on his television show to demonstrate her yodeling ability, a talent learned from Molly’s brother, according to Hillbilly-Music.com. A few years later, Jimmy Dean, on national television, would likewise coax Molly Bee to yodel — a duet arrangement of Elton Britt‘s novelty B-side, “He Taught Me To Yodel“:
“He Taught Me To Yodel“
Molly Bee & Jimmy Dean (1964)
One Molly Bee A-side that is ripe for rediscovery — 1967’s “I Hate To See Me Go” — is propelled by a Brazilian-tinged backbeat that also brings to mind Skeeter Davis’s bossa nova reboot of “Gonna Get Along Without You Now“:
“I Hate To See Me Go“
Written by Sonny Curtis
Released July 1967
MGM included “I Hate To See Me Go” in their clever classroom-themed ad that makes good use of Jack Davis‘s caricatures:
‘At The Head Of Their Class‘ ad
Illustration by Mad‘s Jack Davis
Billboard – Oct 28, 1967
How interesting, then, to see “I Hate To See Me Go” designated the B-side in this full-page ad from three months earlier:
By 1974, Molly Bee – in partnership with label owner/producer, Cliffie Stone – was ready to return to the music business with a new album, Good Golly Miss Molly, and a new label, ATV-affiliated Granite Records.
“To produce an album with Molly Bee is to experience every human emotion: .hate her, love her, laugh at her, swear at her, suffer with her, threaten, cajole and console her. And most of all respect her. Because she’s a hard-working girl who knows mediocre from good, and will only settle for perfect. We at Granite Records feel that this album is perfect — the way Molly wants it, and the way we want it. As I look back on the three months it took to produce this album, all I can say is … ‘Good Golly Miss Molly.‘”
Bee’s media outreach efforts would include an in-person conversation with Record World‘s David McGee that was published in the November 30, 1974 issue under the title, “Molly Bee Comes A-Callin’“:
NEW YORK — Granite Records recording artist Molly Bee visited Record World recently and talked about her new hit single, “She Kept on Talkin’.”
“The song was once a rhythm and blues hit,” Ms. Bee said, “and one day Cliffie Stone (Granite Records’ president and long-time friend of Ms. Bee) heard it and he thought I should record it.”
The result has been a godsend for Ms. Bee – after only two weeks on the Record World country singles chart, “She Kept On Talkin’ ” is positioned at 53. It’s the best chart action she’s had since her first hit record, “I Saw Mommy Kissin’ Santa Claus,” 25 years ago.
“I was 10 years old then,” Ms. Bee recalled, “and 25 years is a long time to wait for another hit.” For clarity’s sake, it should be mentioned that Ms. Bee “retired” for several years in order to raise her two daughters.
Ms. Bee’s career has included two-and-a-half year stints on the Pinky Lee and Steve Allen shows, a three-and-a-half year stay on Jimmy Dean’s show and several Bob Hope tours.
Prior to her New York visit, Ms. Bee taped guest spots on “Hee Haw” and the “Mery Griffin Show.” She is now booked for an Easter 1975 concert at the London Palladium.
Arranged by Billy Liebert
Married “at least” five times, Molly Bee dubbed herself “the Zsa Zsa Gabor of the country music set.” After her divorce to country singer, Ira Allen, Bee married entrepreneur, Bob Muncy, and in 1986 moved her family to Oceanside, California, according to IMDB, where she opened a dinner club called Molly Bee’s.
Molly Bee’s Legendary Jingle
Molly’s radio jingle for the Stanley Chevrolet auto dealership in Norwalk, California, which she recorded when she was still relatively unknown, ran for many years in the Los Angeles area, well into the 1970s. It ran, in part, “Stanley, Stanley, Stanley Chevrolet/Two blocks off the Santa [‘Sanny‘] Ana Freeway/1-1-9-8-0 East Firestone/Stanley Chevrolet.” In 1981, when the dealership changed its name to Dial Chevrolet, a Molly Bee sound-alike sang the same jingle incorporating the new name.
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