Born Thomas Edwards, 17 February 1922, Richmond, Virginia Died 22 October 1969, Henrico County, Virginia

Singer (R&B, pop, jazz), songwriter, pianist.

Trivia question : Which US vice president wrote a number one hit? The answer is : Charles Gates Dawes (1865-1951), who served as vice president in the second Calvin Coolidge administration (1925-1929). In 1912 Dawes wrote the music for a tune he called "Melody in A Major". Lyrics were added in 1951 by Carl Sigman and the result was "It's All in the Game", a song recorded that year by Sammy Kaye, Dinah Shore, Carmen Cavallaro and Tommy Edwards. The latter was the biggest hit version, peaking at # 18 on Billboard's pop charts. Edwards rerecorded the song in 1958, in a new "beat ballad" arrangement by Leroy Holmes. This time it went to the top of the charts where it stayed for six weeks. "It's All in the Game" was also a # 1 in the UK, for three weeks, and # 1 on the R&B charts. Many artists have recorded the song and it made the Top 30 again in 1964 (by Cliff Richard, both UK and US) and 1970 (The Four Tops).

Tommy Edwards worked in show business from the age of nine. After landing his own radio show in Richmond as a singer and piano player in the 1940s, Edwards scored his first national success by co-writing "That Chick's Too Young To Fry", which Louis Jordan took to # 3 on the R&B charts in 1946. He moved to New York City in 1949, where he recorded unsuccessfully for the Top and National labels and cut demos of songs written by both himself and others. A demo of his own "All Over Again" won him an MGM recording contract in 1951 ; the song would become his only R&B hit (# 10) from the early fifties. Prior to that, his third MGM single, "The Morningside of the Mountain", gave him his first pop hit (# 24), soon followed by "It's All in the Game". The next year, 1952, brought him further pop success with covers of "Please Mr. Sun" (Johnnie Ray, # 22) and "You Win Again" (Hank Williams, # 13), but Edwards found it difficult to maintain momentum and by 1958, after six years without a hit, MGM was ready to drop him from the roster. With one session left to record under his MGM contract, Edwards was asked by label executive Morty Craft to re-cut "It's All in the Game" in stereo. The rest is history. The huge success of the single meant he could repay all the loans that had kept him going in the hard times in the mid- 1950s, when he was reduced to playing piano in cocktail lounges to make ends meet. By 1971, "It's All in the Game" had sold 3,500,000 copies. Its flip, "Please Love Me Forever", charted in its own right (# 61) and was later a # 7 hit for Bobby Vinton (1967).

MGM resigned him for five years and Tommy reworked a couple of his 1951-52 recordings in the same rockaballad style as "It's All in the Game" : first "Love Is All We Need" (# 15, 1958), then "Please Mr. Sun"/"Morning Side of the Mountain" on one single (# 11 and # 27, 1959). Next he started reviving other singers' hits, like "My Melancholy Baby", "Don't Fence Me In" and "I Really Don't Want To Know", all in 1959-60. Eight more chart entries were the result, the last one titled "It's Not the End of Everything". But in chart terms, it was. The 1958-60 recordings still sound good to me, with strong, smooth vocals and very commercial production by Harry Myerson (cling-cling-cling piano, choruses, strings).

Edwards continued to record many country songs (years before Ray Charles), tried albums of Hawaiian songs and experimental string-oriented sounds, but nothing could reverse his downward career spiral. His last recording contract was with Musicor Records. He died after suffering a brain aneurysm on October 22, 1969, at the young age of 47. His star had faded so much that there were no major obituaries in the US press or even Billboard.

More info :

Acknowledgements : Fred Bronson, Phil Davies, Billboard book of number one hits.

CD : It's All in the Game : The Complete Hits Of Tommy Edwards (Eric). 20 tracks, almost all from 1958-60. Released 1994. Annotated by Fred Bronson.

It's All in the Game (1951) :
It's All in the Game (1958) :
Please Mr Sun :
Morning Side of the Mountain :
Love Is All We Need :


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