LARRY FINNEGAN (By Tony Wilkinson)
Born John Lawrence Finneran, 10 August 1938, New York City
Died 22 July 1973, South Bend, Indiana
When one thinks of 'one hit wonders', one of the names that comes to mind is that of Larry Finnegan who hit in 1961/62 with 'Dear One'. Whilst that may be correct in the USA, it is far from the truth in Scandinavia, Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere on the continent of Europe where Larry was a popular artist. In fact, he notched up a total of eleven hits in total with his gentlish rockin' style that I guess could be classed as quality teen beat. Possessing a voice not dissimilar to that of Ricky Nelson, he was a top draw for a few years.
Born John Lawrence Finneran in New York City on 10th August 1938, he was smitten by the show business bug early on and initially elected for a career as an actor and dabbled with learning how to play several instruments. He soon discovered that he had talent as a songwriter, singer and producer. Along with brother Vincent, he wrote the song 'Dear One' and which he laid down as a demo. After hawking the song around, he struck lucky with Hy Weiss at Old Town Records who signed him to a contract. Old Town was basically a blues and R&B label that had issued many many records by coloured acts and had scored big with groups such as The Solitaires and solo artists of the like of Billy Bland. Signing a white act was a departure from the usual policy and was a prime example of the desire to break into the lucrative teen market
When issued, the disc took off and peaked at number 11 in the USA charts. The record is a mid paced rocker, certainly not frantic but with a haunting quality and a catchy and in place femme voice chanting the title plus repeating parts of the lyrics. It certainly contains good piano/guitar work and was like a breath of fresh air when it was issued throughout Europe in 1962 on the HMV label. It did not achieve great chart heights in Great Britain but elsewhere it was a smash.
Coral Records in the USA issued 'I'll Be Back Jack' in 1962 but the official follow up was 'Pretty Suzy Sunshine' the same year on Old Town. Another tasty little rocker complete with a sax in the backing, it was not a great commercial success. Strangely, this does not appear to have been issued as a single in Sweden but did get a release in the UK on London American. 1962 also saw the release of Larry's cover of Don Gibson's 'Oh Lonesome Me' on Old Town whilst 'A Kiss And A Dozen Roses/Pick Up The Pieces' came out the next year. The disc was issued on Sonet in Sweden and hit big. This was followed by a further six singles and five EPs for the same company in the period between 1963 and 1966.
Meanwhile back in the States, Finnegan had signed with Ric Records in 1964 and had two singles on the label. The first was 'Dear One Part Two' c/w 'Baton Rouge' and was followed by '(A Tribute To Ringo Starr) The Other Ringo'. If one casts one's mind back, Lorne Greene had a smash record with 'Ringo' around this time but this was nothing to do with the Beatles. As such, it was a clever and ambitious attempt by Finnegan to latch onto the world popularity of the quartet from England - it failed.
With his on-going popularity in Sweden, Finnegan set up his own Svensk American Records in the country and between 1965 and 1969, he issued a further nine singles, two EPs and three albums. He also signed with Vogue Records of Germany and issued three German language singles between 1965 and 1967. Some reports have that Larry moved on to Switzerland before returning to America around 1969. He had invested most of his money in the Stock Market but lost most of his savings around 1970 time. He lived a quiet life in South Bend, Indiana for three years before succumbing to a brain tumour on 22 July 1973, dying at the young age of 34. Larry made some tasty records and will always be remembered for his 'Dear One', a song that still gets played today and has been included on several various artists' compilations.
There have been three in depth pieces on Larry in the publication American Music Magazine (issue 61 dated September 1994, issue 63 dated March 1995 and issue 68 dated June 1996). They are accompanied by a host of great photographs but the text is in Swedish.
Sonet SLPD-2642 - 'In Memoriam' - 1979. (Double LP set comprising the cream of his recordings).
OTR CD 666 - 'True American Rock & Roll' - 1995
Bear Family BCD 16275-AH - ' Dear One' (contains his German language recordings plus others)
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