If You Can't Beat 'Em Join 'Em

From Song Hits Magazine, August, 1964

Had you heard of Nino Tempo and April Stevens as recently as six months ago, you would have known Nino as a top jazz musician and April as a moderately successful nightclub singer who hadn't had a hit record in a long time. More than likely, however, mention of their names would have brought an I-never-heard-of-them shrug of the shoulders.

But that was six months ago, before the release of a series of of hit-sound records that have made this popular brother-sister singing duo one of the most successful recording teams in the music business. it all happened, as April says of her brother, "Nino would have had a hit record years ago, except that he was too good."

Born in Niagra Falls, New York, Nino and April began their musical careers at an early age. Nino, in fact, made his big-time professional debut at the age of seven, as a special act with band leader Benny Goodman. Later, he sang with the great Glenn Miller orchestra, then continued to make a good living with jazz bands.

He was blowing saxophone with Maynard Ferguson's jazz orchestra when April registered her first record hits - "I'm In Love Again," "Gimmie A Little Kiss," "And So To Sleep" and "C'mon." Her sultry singing voice and swing-easy style were perfect for these pert, kittenish melodies.

But hard driving rock 'n' roll tunes were the rage of the day, consequently, April's hit parade success was of momentary duration. Thus, feeling that their respective career needed a boost, Nino and April followed the words of the adage which advises, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Together, Nino and April explored the unfamiliar world of rock 'n' roll. Newly arrived in Los Angeles, they did their "homework" by attending R 'n' R dances in their adopted hometown.

"It took me a few years," says Nino, "to regress to the point where I could play and sing rock 'n' roll. But now I really love it - honest, I really do. I think that's because it's gotten better.

"Listen to the early rock 'n' roll records. They sound very thin. The singers were poor, the musicianship was poor and generally the songs were poor. But the ones that are coming out today are of much better quality."

The turning point in the careers of Nino and April can be traced to 1963. It happened when they were at home in Los Angeles. Nino was playing the piano as he and April sang some of their favorite tunes.

"Until that moment, we still hadn't discovered what little corner of the rock 'n' roll world we could fit into," explains april. "But all of a sudden, I thought about 'Deep Purple,' and what a great hit it had been years ago. I told Nino that I thought a new approach to the song might make it a hit all over again.

"I fooled around with it for a little while on the piano," adds Nino. "I stepped up the beat - not quite to a rock 'n' roll pace but pretty close to it. After we had sung it together to the new arrangement, we both felt it was a possible winner."

A winner it was. The two attractive singers took their musical number to Atlantic Records executives. The rest of the story of "Deep Purple" is well known. Within two weeks of its release it wa the number one hit song of the country. Music fans liked the soft closely-interwoven vocal harmony that characterized the Tempo-Stevens version of "Deep Purple."

What many of the fans perhaps didn't realize was that harmony was being applied to an already-established song hit. Subsequent Tempo-Stevens successes have all followed this pattern. "Whispering," "Stardust" and their current "Sweet And Lovely" are all newly-arranged versions of songs that have in the past won a place in the hearts of music lovers.

"I like singing these standards," April explains. "It isn't that I don't like rock 'n' roll, but I'm really more of a traditional singer. Nino and I enjoy doing what we do best - bringing a little rhythm to old, slow songs. Making them good all over again."

©1964 Song Hits Magazine