Country-Pop Singer Jeanne Black (1937-2014): The Woman Behind The One Hit Wonder

Country-pop singer Jeanne Black, who had a million-selling hit with “He’ll Have To Stay” in 1960, passed away on October 23, 2014 in Orem, Utah — two days shy of her 77th birthday. According to her son Josh Shipley she was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Jeannie Black was born on October 25, 1937 in Pomona, California.
Her biggest hit “He’ll Have To Stay” was the answer song to Jim Reeves’ “He’ll Have To Go”. It sold over one million copies worldwide. Because she could never repeat this success, she was labeled as “one hit wonder”. But she was more than that. Jeanne Black was a versatile singer with a dramatic talent. She was not only a fine ballad singer, but could also sing western swing, pop, rock ‘n’ roll and even proved that she was able to sing the blues.

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All photos in the slideshow were taken between 1956 and early 1960s. (Courtesy of Billy Strange)

From 1956 until 1959 Jeanne Black was part of Cliffie Stone’s radio and TV show “Hometown Jamboree” that broadcasted live from the Harmony Park Ballroom in Anaheim, California. The show paved the way for many country musicians of the west coast. Among others Tennessee Ernie Ford, Zane Ashton (aka Bill Aken), Speedy West and Molly Bee played on Hometown Jamboree.

In 1960 Jeanne Black signed a record contract with Capitol. She worked very close with guitarist Billy Strange. He not only  accompanied her on stage and in the music studio, but he was also her arranger and music coach and they became lovers. They parted in the early sixties. Billy Strange became a famous studio musician and arranger in Los Angeles. He worked with stars like Elvis Presley, Frank and Nancy Sinatra and Nat King Cole. He was also a successful song writer and music publisher. After breaking up with Billy Strange, Jeanne Black married Mark Shipley. Together the rose six children and ran community theatres in California and Utah. In 1999 she finally married her early love Billy Strange. They lived together in Franklin, TN until he died in 2012.

In the video Jeanne Black talks about how she and her youngest sister Janie auditioned for Cliffie Stone in 1956 and how she became a singer and recording artist. And while browsing through old issues of country music magazine “Country Song Roundup”, she and Billy share memories and remember the first time they saw Elvis Presley on TV.


The Love Story of Jeanne Black and Billy Strange

On March 20, 2010 Jeanne Black wrote me an email about how she and her sister Janie became part of Cliffie Stone’s radio and television show and how she fell in love with guitar player Billy Strange. It’s a unique contemporary document about the music show business back in the 1950s, when music was played daily live on radio and television. I only edited the email slightly and inserted captions.

Billy Strange and Jeanne Black on Mt Baldy, California on July 15, 1956. (Photo: courtesy of Billy Strange)

Billy Strange and Jeanne Black on Mount Baldy, California on July 15, 1956. (Courtesy of Billy Strange)

Hi Jan, I’ve been looking through the journals and notebooks for some dates or clues to help you continue to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It seems that my Dad was really trying to sell Cliffie Stone on the idea of using my little sister on his show, and so she was the first to audition for Cliffie and he saw her potential.

We first attended those Saturday night television show as fans of the music and of Cliffie Stone himself, but my Dad got the idea to have Janie sing for Cliff because she was so obviously talented at 11 years old and we always sang together in the car as we rode along to get anywhere. We had a 30 minute drive down the mountain road to get to anyplace in ‘civilization’, as we referred to the cities and towns we had to drive to in order to shop, or go to church, or to work and even to High School and College when it became time for that.

So we did a lot of driving together, and we all sang together as we rode along the mountain road to any destination. It was during this regular drive time up and down the mountain that we realized that the additional harmony part we could hear among our combined voices, was  coming from our little sister, and that’s when we first realized that the baby was hearing a harmony part and was singing along with us.

Two sisters singing in harmony

You can imagine our surprise,  but we just continued singing and she harmonized, singing the music she heard in her head. It became a natural thing for us which we just accepted; we all sang together and the baby (about 3 or 4 yrs old) would sing with us. Middle sister Joy wasn’t much interested in singing but Janie and I just picked up the knack of singing together and it became what we did – we sang all the time whether we were at home or traveling someplace in the backseat of our car.  Our Uncle Sammy played a guitar and sang, and we loved to listen to him too. I guess that we just enjoyed what we were doing, and it was happening so naturally that no one questioned whether it was normal or abnormal to sing all of the time.

When Janie was nine years old she was singing country music with a small group of other little kids put together by one of the Dads. They called themselves “Troy Farmer and The Western Melody Makers” and his young daughter played a steel guitar and someone else played rhythm guitar. I can’t remember if there were any other instruments or not, but the Dad’s – mine and the other one, saw that they performed from time to time for local groups and they even cut a demo at our local radio station in Ontario,Calif. It was just for fun and kept the 9 to 12 year old kids busy.

Janie became their vocalist and every once in a while I got dragged in someplace to join them at performance for a hospital, and Janie and I sang a couple of duets and then I also began to sing a solo sometimes. I might have been 17 and Janie was 6 yrs younger than me, but we had a really good natural harmony sound and blend, and it was an enjoyable pastime. This was probably during my last or Senior year at High School but during that final school year I was also in two musical productions  when our drama teacher cast me in both big shows.  I was part of the dancing chorus as well as the singing chorus as we  presented the Musicals “Brigadoon” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical “On The Town”, and I had a featured part in one scene in particular where I sang a solo.

Billy Strange (left) with Janie and Jeanne Black (middle).

Billy Strange (left) with Janie and Jeanne Black (middle), probably late Fifties. (Courtesy of Billy Strange)

Auditioning for Cliffie Stone

Our High School Auditorium also served as the community concert hall and seated 3,000 people and that’s how many we played to that year, in our final year of High School productions. I had always been a part of the chorus as well as being a dancer in all of our school productions, but in this final show I had a featured role in an important scene in the plot of the show – so I sang, and danced, and acted, and loved every rehearsal and each performance. I continued on for two years of college by always enrolling in the music and dance classes, as well as the drama classes and it was during this time when I was 18 that I started my association with Cliffie Stone, who had a big name and reputation in Southern Calif.

My father was actively promoting my talented youngest sister Janie, and he had an appointment with Cliffie Stone for Janie to audition one afternoon (Jan.19,1956) after the radio show at KXLA radio station in Pasadena, and I was expected to come along to sing a couple of duets with my little sister to allow Cliff to see and hear her vocal talent as well as her natural ability to hear and sing the harmony parts.

We met with Cliffie Stone one afternoon in a small studio at the radio station KXLA in Pasadena, Calif. where much of the country music in the area originated from. He nodded his head and expressed his approval of our harmonies and the blend of voices and then he asked me if I would sing something for him? It really surprised me but I just picked a love song which was a favorite of mine and stood there before him, and sang it with no accompaniment.  The song was called “I Thought of You” and had a sad message of lost love, but I enjoyed interpreting the lyrics and so I sang it as I felt it, and when I finished Cliffie asked me if I would like to come to “the dance” on Saturday night and sing that song for the audience which stayed around for another 4 hours after the TV show was over, dancing the night away.

Standing close to the guitar player

A few days later I found myself in Anaheim at “Harmony Park Ballroom”. Billy Strange graciously practiced with me as I sang a few of the current country songs I knew. We picked a song and key to sing it in, and I heard what the introduction would sound like and later I had an official rehearsal with Billy and the band. It was much later that evening, after the 10 to 11 pm radio broadcast, when it was finally my turn to sing. Cliffie introduced me and I moved to the front and center of the stage, with a huge crowd gathering below me and stretching back onto the dance floor of that large ballroom.

Billy stepped forward with me and stood next to and slightly behind me with his guitar poised and ready as I listened to Speedy West’s steel guitar introduction. I opened my mouth and with my heart pounding madly I began to sing “Last night another held me in his arms; A lovers moon was shining bright and clear. He whispered words of love so tenderly, but I couldn’t say the words belonged to hear, I thought of you and things that might have been …”

I wasn’t standing there alone.  Billy was right there too, so close that I could feel his presence and borrow his confidence. The emotion that washed over me and through me as I stood there softly singing the words of this love song was peaceful and I thought: “This is where I belong – this is me”.

Cold sweat

The audience was very receptive and the applause was great and they were yelling, “more, more”. Billy quickly leaned in and told me to sing another one, and began the introduction to a song I can’t even remember now. When it was over I exited the stage to the sound of a cheering audience with Billy following me thru the curtain. He reached for me and pulled me close to him and hugged me tightly, and with a kiss he whispered, “You were a SMASH, Red.”

From that moment on he was my mentor, my coach, my confidante, my friend. When Cliffie would call me up to sing an impromptu song during the Waltz medley, I’d panic and quickly ask Billy, “Do I know a waltz?”. And he’d give me the name of a song and call out the “key” to the band and begin the intro.

I couldn’t stand at the mic without dying inside as I listened to my introduction and wondered how I’d find my beginning note out of the chords I was hearing. I would stand there in a cold sweat and open my mouth praying that that the note would miraculously be there, and it was. Or sometimes I’d whisper in a panic to the tall guy standing just behind me, “Where do I start?” and he lower his face to to my cheek and hum my beginning note into my ear.

Autograph for Billy Strange.

Autograph for Billy Strange.


He talked to me about show clothes and my hair styles and my singing, and he would always practice with me, even before regular practice or “run thru” time. He teased me, he put me at ease and he called me Red. I don’t remember him telling me I was beautiful but I didn’t seem to need that kind of reinforcement.  I just looked like me and that was ok, but I KNEW that he liked the way I looked.

Wherever I stood on stage he was nearby, lending me his strength and confidence. My first appearance on the Hometown Jamboree television show was on the following weekend, which was July 28, 1956. From that time forward I was at Harmony Park Ballroom nearly every Saturday night until the show went off the air in 1959. I remember one night in particular. Easter vacation was the following weekend and Daddy wanted all of the family to go together to Las Vegas, so I told Billy, “I’m not going to be here next weekend” and he wound his fingers into the front of my shirt, pulling me close so that we were cheek to cheek as he bent down and whispered softly in my ear, “I hate you”.

Although at first I didn’t appear on the televised portion of the show every Saturday night, I was there for the rest of the evening’s show and it was often enough for me to be considered as a part of the group; a regular cast member. It wasn’t much longer before I was on the regular Saturday night television show and driving everyday into the radio station station in Pasadena for the noon radio show which was on 5 days a week.


Recording Sessions and Disography of Jeanne Black and Janie Black

Compiled by by Michel Ruppli, Praguefrank, Thieu Van de Vorst
Source: Praguefrank’s Country Music Discographies


17 March 1960 [no 9354] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Jeanne Black/* & Janie Black aka Jeanne & Janie
001 33468 HE‘LL HAVE TO STAY Capitol 4368/ST-1513 ST 1718 STBB-402 7-97541-2 BACM CD D 354
002/J01 33469 UNDER YOUR SPELL AGAIN* 4368/ST 1718 BACM CD D 354
003 33470 BEAUTIFUL LIES ST 1513 ST 1654 BACM CD D 354
24 May 1960 [no 9466] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Jeanne Black & Janie Black (w. Billy Liebert Orchestra)
004/J02 33869 YOU‘LL FIND OUT 4456 BACM CD D 354
005/J03 33870 LISA 4396/ST-1513 ST-1654 [va] BACM CD D 354
006/J04 33871 JOURNEY OF LOVE 4396/ BACM CD D 354
22 August 1960 [no 9610] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Jeanne Black (Bill Liebert Orchestra)
007 34369 A LITTLE BIT LONELY 4492/ST 1513 BACM CD D 354
008 34370 YOU WIN AGAIN ST 1513 BACM CD D 354
009 34371 YOU DON’T KNOW ME ST 1513 BACM CD D 354
010 34372 I KNOW I CAN’T GORGET ST 1513 BACM CD D 354
23 August 1960 [no 9611] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Jeanne Black (Bill Liebert Orchestra)
011 34377 MY BABY’S GONE 4795/ ST 1513 BACM CD D 354
013 34379 I ALMOST LOST MY MIND ST 1513 BACM CD D 354
24 August 1960 [no 9612] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Jeanne Black & Janie Black (Bill Liebert Orchestra)
014/J05 33869 YOU’LL FIND OUT 4456
015/J06 34382 HOW MANY ST 1513 BACM CD D 354
017/J08 34384 SLEEP WALKIN’ 4456/ BACM CD D 354
24 August 1960 [no 9622] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Janie Black (Bill Liebert Orchestra)
J09 34398 LINGER LONGER LOVER unissued
J10 34399 ONLY GIRLS CAN TELL 4459
J12 34401 PURPLE PASSION unissued
25 November 1960 [no 9793] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Jeanne Black
018 34940 OH, HOW I MISS YOU TONIGHT 4492/ BACM CD D 354
019 34941 SPEAK TO ME (DON’T SPEAK TO ME) 4535/ BACM CD D 354
020 34942 WHEN YOU’RE ALONE 4535/ BACM CD D 354
30 December 1960 [no 9864] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Janie Black
J14 35163 THE DANCE IS OVER unissued
J15 35164 MAMMA TOLD ME unissued
12 April 1961 [no 10042] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Jeanne Black
021 35728 KEEP IT A SECRET unissued
022 35729 JIMMY LOVE 4566/ BACM CD D 354
15 May 1961 [no 10111] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Janie Black
J16 35931 I’M GONNA MAKE IT HAPPEN 4592/ BACM CD D 354
J17 35932 JUST BECAUSE WE HAVE US unissued
J19 35934 A HEARTACHE GROWS 4633
11 August 1961 [no. 10243]Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Janie Black
J20 36335 YOU’RE THE REASON unissued
J21 36336 LONELY SIXTEEN 4633/ BACM CD D 354
29 September 1961 [no 10297] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Jeanne Black
024 36517 THE HEARTBREAK, U.S.A. 4654
025 36518 HIS OWN LITTLE ISLAND 4654
026 36519 GUESIN’ AGAIN 4685
027 36520 KEEP IT SECRET unissued
19 December 1961 [no 10438] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Jeanne Black
028 36941 A LETTER TO ANYA 4685
4 January 1962 [no 10434] Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine St., Hollywood, CA – Black Sisters (Jeanne Black & Janie Black)
029/J22 36981 FIVE MINUTES ON THE HOUR 4713
030/J23 36982 A LONG WEEK-END 4795
032/J25 36984 CRYING AWAY MY TIME 4713
Capitol T/ST-1513 A Little Bit Lonely: Hello Mister Misery; He’ll Have To Stay; I Almost Lost My Mind; How Many?; Just A Little Bit Lonely; My Baby’s Gone; You Win Again; Loneliest Heart In Town; Lisa; Beautiful Lies; I Know I Can’t Forget; You Don’t Know Me – 01-61
BACM [UK] CD D 354 He’ll Have To Stay: He’ll Have To Stay; Under Your Spell Again*; You’ll Find Out; Sleep Walkin’*; Don’t Speak To Me;When You’re Alone; Journey Of Love; Lisa; Oh How I Miss You Tonight; I’m Gonna Make It Happen**; I Stole You Away From Someone Else; Hello Mr. Misery; I Almost Lost My Mind; How Many; A Little Bit Lonely; My Baby’s Gone*; You Win Again; Loneliest Heart In Town; Beautiful Lies*; I Know I Can’t Forget; You Don’t Know Me; Lonely Sixteen**; Jimmy Love; Commandments Of Love – 11 (*Jeanne/Janie Black, **Janie Black)
Capitol (1960-62) Jeanne Black
4368 He’ll Have To Stay / Under Your Spell Again – 03-60 (UK issue CL 15131)
4396 Lisa / Journey Of Love – 07-60 w. Janie Black (UK issue CL 15146)
4456 You’ll Find Out / Sleep Walkin’ – 09-60 (UK issue CL 15165)
4459 You Better Not Do That / Only Girls Can Tell – 10-60 Janie Black
4492 Oh, How I Miss You Tonight / Just A Little Bit Lonely – ca. 02-01-61
4535 Don’t Speak To Me / When You’re Alone – 03-61
4566 Jimmy Love / Commandments Of Love – 05-61
4592 I’m Gonna Make It Happen / I Stole You Away – 06-61 Janie Black
4633 Lonely Sixteen / Heartache Grows – 09-61 Janie Black
4654 The Heartbreak, U.S.A. / His Own Little Island – 11-61
4685 Letter To Anya / Guesin’ Again – 01-62
4713 Crying Away My Time / Five Minutes On The Hour – 03-62 w. Janie Black
4795 My Baby’s Gone / Long Week-End – ca. 13-07-62 w. Janie Black

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