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April Stevens, 'Teach Me Tiger' & 'Deep Purple' Siren, Then And Now

Music | May 10, 2021

April Stevens as she appeared on the cover of her album 'Teach Me Tiger.' Source: Amazon.com

April Stevens is a pop star of the early '60s whose biggest hit, "Deep Purple," reached #1 on the Billboard chart in 1963. Stevens often worked with her younger brother, Nino Tempo, and also had hits with "I'm In Love Again" and "Teach Me, Tiger," although the latter had some difficulty getting airplay because some radio stations considered it too sexually suggestive. Like other American pop singers of the early '60s, Stevens saw her career take a big hit when The Beatles arrived and dominated the American charts in 1964.

April Stevens Recorded Her First Song In Her Teens

Source: (Pinterest).

April Stevens was born Carol Lo Tempio on April 29, 1929 in Niagara Falls, NY, although some websites claim she was born in 1936. When she was 12, her family moved to Los Angeles, California, where her brother, Antonino Lo Tempio, began to study the clarinet, and then changed to the saxophone. April, who was then still called Carol, was browsing in record stores, and one day, while she was outside Wallach’s Music City, the owner of Laurel Records, Tony Sepe, asked her whether she could sing or not. She said yes, and before long she had changed her name to April and was recording for Laurel Records. Sepe asked her to record a song called “No, No, No, Not That.” At the time she was still in high school, and the song was a bit racy, and under the suggestion that she needed to protect her own name, she chose the first name April because she liked the name; as for the last name, it was the name of someone who worked at the label. While she was still in high school, she went on to record “Don’t Do It” for Society Records, a song which was banned from airplay because of its suggestive lyrics. However, the song did lead her to success in another way, as Henri Rene, of RCA, heard “Don’t Do It” and was drawn to the sound of her vocals, asking her to record with him. In June 1951, he released Cole Porter’s “I’m in Love Again,” with Stevens as the featured vocalist. The song remained on the charts for 15 weeks and peaked at No. 6.

'Teach Me Tiger' Is The Hit That Never Was

Source: (Amazon).

She recorded her follow up, “Give Me a Little Kiss Will Ya, Huh?” which reached No. 10, and then she covered Patti Page’s “And So To Sleep Again,” which hit No. 27. In 1959, she recorded “Teach Me Tiger.” The song’s suggestive lyrics were controversial, so it didn’t receive much airplay, only reaching No. 86 on the Billboard Hot 100. It did reappear though, as it was featured in the 2006 film Blind Dating, the 2011 Flemish film, North Sea Texas, and it recurred on Season 1 of the Russian thriller To The Lake. In 1961, she recorded “Love Kitten,” another suggestive song, which included purring sounds. The song did not hit the national charts, though it did have regional success.

April And Nino Joined Forces

Source: (Songfacts).

By 1961, using the stage name Nino Tempo, April’s younger brother had started to do more L.A. session work with Bobby Darin and Phil Spector. While Nino was working in the sessions with Bobby Darin, Ahmet Ertegun, the Atlantic Records VIP, overheard Nino at the piano, and inquired about him, learning that he was April Stevens’ brother. After hearing the two perform, Ertegun helped them to release “Sweet and Lovely,” their first recording on ATCO. It hit No. 77 on the charts in 1962. Their follow up single “Paradise” only performed moderately well, reaching No. 126.

An Accidental Recording Became A Hit

Source: (Wikipedia).

During the “Paradise” recording session, April had the idea to sing “Deep Purple,” a standard made popular by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra and band vocalist Bea Wain in 1939. As they rehearsed, Nino decided to sing a verse by himself, but he couldn’t remember the words. April began saying them, softly, as a cue. A girl walked in as this was happening, and she really liked the style of April speaking the lyrics, while Nino sang them. They had 14 minutes of studio time remaining, so they recorded it, but Ertegun did not like it, thinking it was the worst thing they had ever done. When it was eventually released it hit #1 in the fall of 1963. It sold over one million copies, was awarded a gold disc, and won the Grammy for Best Rock and Roll Recording in 1963. They continued to cover songs, releasing Nino and April Sing The Great Songs, from which “Whispering” reached #11, and “Stardust” reached No. 32. Because of their recording success, they had a number of television appearances, college concerts, and club dates. 

Trying To Recreate Their Success

With Dick Clark on American Bandstand. Source: (YouTube).

In 1967, Stevens released a double-sided solo single, which had the songs “Wanting You” and “Falling in Love Again.” Then, in 1973, they had a No. 5 hit in the Netherlands with their version of “(Where Do I Begin?) Love Story,” which was a reinterpretation of the theme from Love Story. The song was not a success in the U.S., although it did well in Europe. but their next song, “Who Turns Me On,” released in 1974, flopped. Stevens also released “Sleep Baby Sleep,” a controversial song about a 34 year-old woman hovering over her 21 year-old lover. The song, retitled “Wake Up And Love Me,” was released under her first name only, and made it into the Hot 100 in 1974. 

The Truth About Her Age

Source: (Discogs).

In 1990, April Stevens released Carousel Dreams. Then, in 1999, she and her brother were inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. In 2013, she released her autobiography, Teach Me Tiger. In the autobiography, she admitted to originally falsifying her age, taking years off, and that her actual birth year was 1929, because she and her brother were competing on the charts with acts in their teens and early 20s in the 1960s. 

Yes, There's A Connection To The Band

Deep Purple. Source: (Wikipedia).

She and her brother have a connection to heavy metal music in an indirect way. In 1967, Chris Curtis, the former drummer of Searchers decided to put together a new band, to be called Roundabout. While the band was on a tour of Denmark and Sweden, still under the name of Roundabout, Richie Blackmore, the band’s guitarist, suggested they adopt a new name, and after each band member posted a name suggestion on a board, they decided on Deep Purple, the name of Blackmore’s grandmother’s favorite song; however, keep in mind that April and Nino were not the first to record the song.

Tags: Ladies | Music In The 1960s | Then And Now | April Stevens

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!