Little Eva ~ IN THE GROOVE with Cindy Annis
By: Cindy Annis – Nov. 2016
You know, in the Rock & Roll lives of the stars, there are performers that started out as very young stars and didn’t stop till the end, some that were put in front of the microphone and told they will be stars, and there were and are those that just got lucky.
Well, Little Eva, just happens to be one of those lucky ones. Let’s start at the beginning.
Little Eva was born Eva Narcissus Boyd. Quite simply, she was called “Little” Eva, because she was named after her Aunt Eva that would visit often and be spoken of at home a lot. She was born in Belhaven, North Carolina, June 29, 1943. As a young girl, she did the church choir thing and wanted to be somebody. At the age of about seventeen, she moved to Brighton Beach, just near Brooklyn, New York, where she had other relatives. She would occasionally stand in for one of the Cookies, and do a little singing, but she also got a gig as a nanny for the song-writing team of Carol King, and Gerry Goffin.
Doing, what a nanny does, she was entertaining baby Louise, and cleaning house, but also singing, somewhat, regularly, with the Cookies, including, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” Is it definitively known how the song came about? Well, not really, BUT, it is said the song had been in Goffin’s head for a couple years, and Eva loved the dance crazes that were going around at the time, and danced and sang them while taking care of the baby. Did he write it for her or because of her? King and Goffin wanted Dee Dee Sharp to record it, so I guess that answers that question, but when they heard Eva singing it at home, it all came together.
Do you remember that great saxophone solo in the middle of the song? That was Artie Kaplan. He put the recording session together. Carol King wrote the arrangement and played piano for the recording. Carol and the Cookies did all the back-ground vocals while Gerry Goffin directed the whole thing. Little Eva sang the song without a glitch, like it was written for her. So, the demo was recorded.
Artie Kaplan took the demo to Cameo-Parkway where they turned it down before getting even half way through it. So, what do you do when you have a hit and nobody wants it? You start a record company, so this was the first number-one hit for Artie Kaplan’s Dimension Records.
Little Eva would tour with this song, even singing it on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. This was, however, her only #1 hit. Later that year, in 1962, she would hit the top 20 with “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby.” In 1963 she would also do, “Let’s Turkey Trot” which would make the top 20, but after that there wasn’t much. “Swinging On A Star” was a top 40 cover of a Bing Crosby song, and “Old Smokey Loco-Motion” was a top 100 song, all in 1963. She kind of fades into nothingness after those.
Little Eva never owned the rights to “The Loco-Motion” that made lots of money, just not for her. She went from a $35.00 a week nanny to a $50.00 a week singer. A nice raise in those days, but compared to the money made on the song, and still pulling in royalties today, she got nothing. Her 15 minutes of fame lasted from 1962 until about 1971 when she went back to North Carolina with her three children and without their father. It is said that she and her ex-husband reconciled, later.
Little Eva came out of obscurity around 1988 when Kylie Monague did a very popular cover of “The Loco-Motion”. She started performing with others of her past era doing “Oldies Shows’ for large audiences of aging vinyl buyers. She performed the “old stuff” with Little Richard, and Bobby Vee who just passed away a few weeks ago. She recorded “Back On Track” in 1989.
Little Eva stopped working around 2001 due to illness. She passed away in 2003 from an 18-month battle with cervical cancer. She was only 59. She is buried in a little cemetery in Belhaven, North Carolina. The burial site was refurbished in 2008 with a gravestone with an image of a steam locomotive on it with the words, “Singing With The Angels” nicely engraved on it.
Tune into Cindy’s Vinyl Vault every Sunday at 10pm, Monday at 11pm, and Wednesday at 9pm for the best music from the 50s through the 70s ever placed on vinyl. And remember folks, “it’s not how old it is, but how great it sounds!”