"Sue Lawley's castaway this week is the singer-songwriter Gene Pitney. Gene grew up in Rockville, Connecticut, the middle child of a large family. His father worked in the local mills and the family sold fruit and vegetables from their garden to supplement this income. A shy child, Gene says that performing couldn't have been further from his mind, although he enjoyed singing. His first solo performance at school resulted in an embarrassing whimper as Gene was petrified by the expectant audience.
In his teens he began to learn the guitar and piano, and formed a local band whilst at high school, finding that performing was a good way to overcome his shyness. Spotted by what Gene calls "the proverbial fat man with a cigar", he was taken to New York and recording contracts soon followed. Soon his songs were being recorded by some of the biggest stars of the time - Hello Mary Lou was released by Rick Nelson, Roy Orbison recorded Today's Teardrops as the B-side to his million-selling single, Blue Angel, and Rubber Ball became a worldwide hit for US artist Bobby Vee and UK artist Marty Wilde. By the mid sixties Gene had found international success with the Bacharach song Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa. In 1990 he had his first number one in this country with Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart, a duet with Marc Almond.
[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]
Favourite track: The Last Song by Elton John
Book: The Giant Book of Mensa Puzzles by Robert Allen
Luxury: Case of Opus One wine
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