In 1948, Teresa Brewer was making her
mark in New York, but still lacked a good agent who could help her turn her ample talent
into stardom. The break Teresa Brewer was hoping for occurred one night while she
was singing at the Sawdust Trail, a small night club just off of Times Square. To drum up
business, the club manager would often place a portable speaker next to the open door and,
during the floor show, turn up the volume as much as the law would allow. On one
such night, agent Ritchie Lisella heard the sounds of Teresa Brewer on the sidewalk
speaker and continued inside for a closer look and listen. By the time Lisella left
the club that night, he and Teresa had signed a contract - Teresa had an agent, and
Lisella had signed the woman who was to become one of the hottest new voices in recording.
And the next stage of success was recordings. Teresa
was soon signed with London Records, a fledgling label from England attempting to enter
the American music market. After the release of three singles that went virtually
unnoticed, Teresa recorded Copenhagen in late 1949 with the Dixieland All Stars.
London considered the flip side a throw-away song - a song titled Music Music Music,
by Stephen Weiss and Bernie Baum. Music eventually went gold, selling over a
million copies - and, of course, became Teresa's signature title.
Following the success of Music Music Music, London Records released
another catchy, novelty-type song called Choo'n Gum (1950) which also made the
Top 20 list. With the release of Molasses, Molasses, Teresa was cast into a
brassy, bouncy, up-beat image, even though at the time she preferred Dixieland jazz,
blues, and ballads.
Teresa turned twenty
and joined the Coral Records roster of artists in 1951. By this time she had also
married Bill Monahan and given birth to her first daughter, Kathleen. Teresa still
didn't read music - when it came time to record, a demo of the cut was delivered to her so
that she could listen to it and learn it. It was a system that would be proven by a
successful string of hits under the Coral label during the 1950s. It was also while
recording for Coral -- a subsidiary of Decca Records - that Teresa met and worked with a
young artists and repertoire (A&R) man by the name of Bob Thiele, a man who would
remain an important influence in her life.
Teresa's third release for Coral was her first hit for the
label, Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now (1952). Gonna Get Along would
later become a hit for Patience and Prudence in 1956 and for Skeeter Davis in 1964 as
well. Another Top 20 hit, You'll Never Get Away with Don Cornell, followed.
Then, in 1952, Teresa Brewer's biggest selling record of all time, Till I Waltz
Again With You, was produced by Bob Thiele and released on Coral.
Teresa Brewer's popularity soared, and
she continued to ride a wave of success in 1953. Till I Waltz Again With You went
gold and became the year's biggest-selling record. Teresa's looks, singing talent,
and popularity made her an easy winner when Paramount Pictures conducted a poll to select
the country's most popular female singer to cast in their 3D Technicolor movie, Those
Redheads from Seattle. Brewer screen tested and landed one of the title roles.
Variety's review said, "Teresa Brewer comes over the screen like a million
bucks," and Paramount eventually offered her a seven-year contract. However, in
consideration of the demands of her family life, she declined the offer. She chose
instead to stay on the east coast living in New Rochelle, about a half hour drive from New
York City, where she continued to record and make television appearances while attending
to needs of her growing family.
In the summer of 1953, Teresa Brewer
and Mel Torme co-starred on network television in the well-received series "Summertime
USA". It aired Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7:45 pm. Critics, fans
and fellow celebrities praised the pairing of Brewer and Torme. Bing Crosby,
observing her that Teresa's big voice was disproportionate to her diminutive size, dubbed
her the "Sophie Tucker of the Girl Scouts."
The record hits kept coming in 1953 too, including Dancin'
with Someone, Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall, and another gold record, Ricochet.
Teresa was consistently on the charts during the following years with
Baby, Baby, Baby (from Those Redheads from Seattle), Bell Bottom
Blues, Our Heartbreaking Waltz -- written by Till I Waltz Again With You
composer Sidney Prosen, Skinnie Minnie, and more. Her crisp and powerful
voice prompted one critic to call her a "stick of vocal dynamite." Teresa
was rated as the favorite female vocalist for two consecutive years in 1955 and
1956. During these years, Teresa was also headlining in prestigious supper clubs
throughout the country -- the Versailles in Manhattan, Ciro's in Hollywood, The Coconut
Grove, Chicago's Palmer House, Blinstrub's in Boston, and many others. Teresa's
performances broke house records at the Latin Quarter in New York and at the Sahara Hotel
in Las Vegas.
In the mid-1950s, Teresa began to
branch out by recording different types of material. Some releases were introduced
by rhythm and blues artists - songs like Pledging My Love, Tweedlee Dee and Rock
Love. S he also covered country songs with success - songs like Jilted and I
Gotta Go Get My Baby. Some years after the release of the original country
version, Teresa recorded Let Me Go Lover, which was to become another of her
By 1956, Teresa had added daughters
Susan and Megan to the family -- three children under the age of six. To meet the needs of
the family, Teresa cut back further on her personal appearances. Instead, she opted
to appear on television, finding that the schedule -- a day spent rehearsing plus the
actual air date performance -- meshed well with her lifestyle. At the same time she
continued her recording. By her own estimate, Teresa was spending only six to eight
weeks a year away from home. Her professional schedule consisted of 2-3 weeks of
television appearances, 3 weeks of club appearances, and a week or two in the recording
studio for Coral. When Teresa was on the road for club appearances, she avoided one
night performances and preferred longer runs at venues like the Las Vegas showrooms so
that her family could travel with her and settle in for a longer stay.
In 1956, Teresa released A Tear Fell,
with Fats Domino's Bo Weevil on the flip side. The two sides vied with one
another in a race up the charts. The follow-up release to the twin smash single was A
Sweet Old Fashioned Girl. In the summer of 1956, Teresa co-wrote I
Love Mickey, honoring baseball great Mickey Mantle - and Mantle actually appears with
Teresa on the recording. This single is now one of the most collectible of all her
recordings. Mutual Admiration Society (backed by Crazy with Love) was
another big hit for Brewer in 1956. Teresa continued to guest-star on many
television shows during the late 1950s. She also guest-hosted several of the leading
variety shows - including those of Ed Sullivan, Perry Como, and Arthur Godfrey. Hits
for 1957 included a pop version of the country song Teardrops in My Heart and
covers of Empty Arms and You Send Me.
However, the end of the 1950s also
marked the end of the heyday of Teresa Brewer's mega-hit records. After the end of the
decade, her songs continued to make the charts, but not as consistently or as
successfully. In 1959, The One Rose and Heavenly Lover sold well,
but were not the overwhelming hits Teresa had previously produced.
Teresa continued to be in strong demand for personal
appearances and television. After appearing on his show nearly 40 times, Teresa was
invited by Ed Sullivan to be guest hostess for a special show saluting the US armed
forces. Peace of Mind and renditions of the country hits Anymore
and Have You Ever Been Lonely were chart-makers for Teresa in 1960. In 1961,
Milord, Teresa's English version of French chanteuse Edith Piaf's best known
song, was the last song by Teresa to make the pop charts.