Born Eva Narcissus Boyd, 29 June 1943, Belhaven, North Carolina
Eva Boyd was born in Belhaven, NC, the tenth in a family of thirteen children. At the age of eighteen she moved to Brooklyn, New York, to stay with relatives and complete her education. There she got to know the Cookies, a trio of professional background singers. Songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who worked with the Cookies, needed a babysitter for their daughter Louise and asked the group if they knew one. The girls recommended Eva, whom the coupled hired. She was making $ 35 a week in addition to her room and board.
Eva sang as she went about the house and her pleasant voice and easy style struck the trained ears of King and Goffin. They began to use her to sing preliminary demos for them. When singer Dee Dee Sharp was looking for another dance song to record (after her hit "Mashed Potato Time"), Goffin and King sent over a demo of "The Loco-Motion" with Eva on lead vocal. Sharp's management turned the song down, but Don Kirshner (co-owner of Aldon Music, the publishing firm for which King and Goffin churned out hit after hit) heard and loved it. "The Loco-Motion" became the first single on Kirshner's new Dimension label. The demo needed only a few finishing touches in the studio, like backup vocals by the Cookies, who became permanent guests on Little Eva's records. And even though there was no accompanying dance (yet), "The Loco-Motion" went straight to the top of the US charts in August 1962and made # 2 in the United Kingdom. It was successful in other countries too and all of a sudden Eva Boyd was an international star. She even had a song written about her, "Little Eva" by the Locomotions (Gone 5142), a group from Philadelphia that included Leon Huff, the later famous producer. (Can be heard on YouTube.)
For the follow-up, King and Goffin wrote "One Fine Day", but the song proved unsuitable for Eva and was later recorded by the Chiffons. "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby" was released instead and peaked at # 12. Then there followed an LP (also called "The Loco-Motion"), containing mostly covers of previous Goffin-King hits and one unfortunate choice, "I Have A Love" (from "West Side Story"), which was outside her range. The third Dimension single, "Let's Turkey Trot", was co-written by Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller ("My grandma taught this dance to me / She did it at the turn of the century"). They didn't even bother to come up with an original melody, borrowing the tune from "Little Girl Of Mine", a hit for the Cleftones in 1956. To avoid legal action, the writing credit was changed to Goffin / Keller / (Herbie) Cox / (Morris) Levy, a bizarre collaboration. "Let's Turkey Trot" went to # 20 on the Billboard charts (also to # 13 in the UK) and the next single, "Old Smokey Locomotion", to # 48, but then the hits dried up. She duetted with Big Dee Irwin on a substantial 1963 hit, "Swinging On A Star" (# 38 US, # 7 UK), on which she was uncredited. Eva would make further anonymous appearances on several subsequent recordings by Big Dee and also on some tracks by her friends the Cookies, who recorded for Dimension in their own right ("Chains", "Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby", etc.). Immersed in her personal appearances, Eva did not bother herself with the business side of entertaining because she was young, making a living at something she loved to do.
Eva's sister Idalia Boyd also had one single release on Dimension, "Hula Hoopin'" (1963), a minor hit in some cities on the East Coast. Eva stayed with Dimension until Kirshner shut the label down in 1965. Her contract was sold to Bell Records and her first non-Dimension single came out on Amy (a Bell subsidiary), a cover of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me". Next she recorded for Verve (1966-67) and Spring (1968-70). Though these later records were firmly rooted in contemporary R&B and showed more vocal maturity, they sold poorly. Disillusioned, Eva retired from the music industry in 1971, the victim of mismanagement, unscrupulous business practices and changing musical trends. By then she was separated from James Harris whom she had wed in 1962. She took their children back to her native Belhaven, to start a new life, recommitting herself to the church and working at menial labour jobs. Times were tough for the family, who occasionally needed welfare assistance to stay fed.
A 1972 reissue of "The Loco-Motion" reached # 11 in the UK, but Eva did not see any money from royalties. In 1974 the song was revived by the group least likely to sing it, Grand Funk. Incredibly enough, their version also went to number one, making it the second song at that time (after "Go Away Little Girl", another Goffin-King composition) to hit the top spot by two different artists. The lasting appeal of "The Loco-Motion" was reaffirmed in 1988 when Kylie Minogue had a # 2 UK hit with the song, thus emulating Eva's original UK chart position. Boyd stated that she didn't like Minogue's version, but the renewed interest in "The Loco-Motion" brought her back to live performing, under the solid management of Gary Cape. In 1989 she released a new album on the small Malibu label, featuring a contemporary techno sound. In the 1990s she toured the world again on oldies shows that featured other artists of her era, like Bobby Vee and Brian Hyland. She continued performing until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in October 2001 and died eighteen months later at Lenoir Memorial Hospital in Kinston, North Carolina, aged only 59.
More info : http://www.answers.com/topic/little-eva
Discography : http://www.soulfulkindamusic.net/littleeva.htm
Acknowledgements : John Clemente, Fred Bronson, Ken Emerson, Wikipedia.
Dik, July 2012
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