Joanie Sommers

American singer
Jerry Steiner
(m. 1961; died 1972)
Musical artist

Joanie Sommers (born Joan Drost, February 24, 1941)[1] is an American singer and actress with a career concentrating on jazz, standards and popular material and show-business credits. Once billed as "The Voice of the Sixties", and associated with top-notch arrangers, songwriters and producers, Sommers' popular reputation became closely tied to her biggest, yet most uncharacteristic, hit song, "Johnny Get Angry".[2]


Born in Buffalo, New York, United States,[1] Sommers began singing in church to deal with "a difficult childhood". In 1951, aged 10, she appeared on a Buffalo television program singing Hank Williams' "Your Cheating Heart", winning an amateur talent contest. Throughout her youth, she lived with her father and 2 brothers in North Tonawanda, New York and attended school there until age 14.

In 1955, her family relocated to Venice, California,[1] where she won honors as a vocalist with her high school band at Venice High, and did so again at Santa Monica City College.[citation needed]

Her break came after a friend took her to the Deauville Country Club (now Braemar Country Club) in Santa Monica, where she sang with Tommy Oliver's band. He arranged for a demo record to be cut and presented it to Warner Brothers, whereupon Sommers was signed to the label.[3][4]

Warner initially used her vocal talents singing "Am I Blue" on a 1959 Warner specialty record, Behind Closed Doors at a Recording Session,[5] and on one side of the spoken-word single "Kookie's Love Song" with Edd Byrnes.[6] The pairing with Byrnes led to a small role in 77 Sunset Strip, the private detective television series featuring Byrnes in the role of Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson III.[1] In addition, she sang on Byrnes' "I Don't Dig You" and "Hot Rod Rock" which appeared on one of his albums.[7]

Concurrently, Oliver supported Sommers by starring her in his orchestra engagements at California venues Hollywood Palladium and The Chalet at Lake Arrowhead.[8]

Her 1960 debut single "One Boy" (from the musical Bye Bye Birdie) charted for three months, peaking at number 54 on the Billboard Top 100. Both "One Boy" and the flip side "I'll Never Be Free" were Billboard Spotlight Winners. A subsequent touring schedule included venues such as New York's Left Bank Club, Hollywood's Crescendo, Freddie's in Minneapolis, and The Cloister in Chicago, and appearances on the Jack Paar Show and Bobby Darin Special.[9][10]

In early 1960, Warner released Sommers' first LP, Positively the Most,[11] which did not include the "One Boy" hit single. Later that year, Warner released the single "Ruby-Duby-Du", featuring a vocal version of the Tobin Mathews & Co. instrumental from the motion picture Key Witness.[12] The record did not chart.

In 1962, Sommers' single "Johnny Get Angry", released on Warner Bros. Records, reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was held from the top of the charts by such hit songs as "Roses Are Red (My Love)" by Bobby Vinton, "I Can't Stop Loving You" by Ray Charles, and "Sealed With A Kiss" by Brian Hyland. Sommers' song "When the Boys Get Together" charted at number 94 later the same year.[13]

In a 2001 interview, Sommers commented on the legacy of her greatest hit: "Twenty albums with some of the greatest names in jazz and I'm eternally linked to 'Johnny Get Angry'".[14]

Her 1965 track, "Don't Pity Me" was a Northern soul hit in the UK, often featured on Northern soul top lists.[15] The single record routinely changes hands among collectors at over $500 a copy.[16] The flip side, "My Block", was written by Jimmy Radcliffe, Bert Berns and Carl Spencer. It had previously been recorded by Clyde McPhatter on his Songs Of the Big City album and by The Chiffons, recording as The Four Pennies, on Rust Records.[citation needed]

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Sommers appeared on television as a singer and game show contestant, including shows such as Everybody's Talking, Hollywood Squares, You Don't Say, and The Match Game, as well as a performer on Dick Clark's Where the Action Is, Hullabaloo, and other variety shows.[17] In 1966 she starred opposite Ricky Nelson in the Burt Bacharach and Hal David television musical On the Flip Side which was made the anthology series ABC Stage 67.[18]

In 1963, she appeared on the January 22 segment of The Jack Benny Program, where she sang "I'll Never Stop Loving You"; another guest was actor Peter Lorre.[19]

Her acting credits include Everything's Ducky (1961) opposite Mickey Rooney, and Jack Arnold's The Lively Set (1964), in which she sang "If You Love Him."[20][21] In the last episode of The Wild Wild West, titled The Night of the Tycoons (April 11, 1969), she sang "Dreams, Dreams of a Lady's Love."[22]

In a parallel career track of commercial vocal work, Sommers sang the jingles "Now It's Pepsi, For Those Who Think Young" (to the tune of Makin' Whoopee) and "Come Alive! You're in the Pepsi Generation" in radio and TV commercials. She came to be referred to as "The Pepsi Girl".[23][24] Years later she sang the jingle "Now You See It, Now You Don't" for the sugar-free companion product, Diet Pepsi.[14]

Sommers' voice work for animated films includes The Peppermint Choo Choo, which was scrubbed, although the music was released; Rankin/Bass' The Mouse on the Mayflower as Priscilla Mullins (1968); and B.C.: The First Thanksgiving (1973) in dual roles as the Fat Broad and the Cute Chick.[25]

In the early 1970s, Sommers withdrew from show business to focus on family life.[1] She began making public appearances again during the 1980s, including two on Santa Monica radio station KCRW's satirical program, The Cool & the Crazy, hosted by Art Fraud (Ronn Spencer) and Vic Tripp (Gene Sculatti).[citation needed]

In 2001, Sommers sang two songs on Abe Most's Camard album, I Love You Much Too Much. She performed the title track and "Bei Mir Bist du Schoen." She sang a chorus in Yiddish on both tracks.[citation needed]

In 2004 the Japan-only album release, Johnny Got Angry, consisted of all original tunes written by Sommers' friend and voice actor, Will Ryan.[26]

Personal life

Sommers was married to theatrical agent Jerry Steiner from 1961 until his sudden death in 1972. Their three children are Carolyn, Nancy and Jason.[27]

Singles discography

Release date Titles
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Record label Chart positions Album
Billboard Hot 100
Billboard AC
1959 "Kookie's Love Song"
With Edd Byrnes & The Mary Kaye Trio
b/w Sing-along version by Edd Byrnes
Warner Bros. 5114 Non-album tracks
1960 "One Boy"
b/w "I'll Never Be Free" (Non-album track)
Warner Bros. 5157 54 Johnny Get Angry
"Be My Love"
b/w "Why Don't You Do Right (Get Me Some Money Too)"
Warner Bros. 5177 Non-album tracks
b/w "Bob White (Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight?)"
Warner Bros. 5183
1961 "I Don't Want To Walk Without You"
b/w "Seems Like Long, Long Ago"
Warner Bros. 5201 Johnny Get Angry
"The Piano Boy"
b/w "Serenade Of The Bells" (Non-album track)
Warner Bros. 5226
"Makin' Whoopee"
b/w "What's Wrong With Me"
Warner Bros. 5241 Non-album tracks
1962 "Johnny Get Angry"
b/w "Theme from A Summer Place"
Warner Bros. 5275 7 Johnny Get Angry
"When The Boys Get Together"
b/w "Passing Strangers"
Warner Bros. 5308 94 Non-album tracks
"Goodbye Joey"
b/w "Bobby's Hobbies"
Warner Bros. 5324
1963 "Since Randy Moved Away"
b/w "Memories, Memories" (Non-album track)
Warner Bros. 5339 Johnny Get Angry
"A Little Bit Of Everything"
b/w "Henny Penny"
Warner Bros. 5350 Non-album tracks
"One Boy"
b/w "June Is Bustin' Out All Over"
Warner Bros. 5361 Johnny Get Angry
"Little Girl Bad"
b/w "Wishing Well"
Warner Bros. 5374 132 Non-album tracks
"Big Man"
b/w "Goodbye Summer"
Warner Bros. 5390
1964 "I'd Be So Good For You"
b/w "I'm Gonna Know He's Mine"
Warner Bros. 5437
"If You Love Him"
b/w "I Think I'm Gonna Cry Now"
Warner Bros. 5454
1965 "Don't Pity Me"
b/w "My Block"
Warner Bros. 5629
1966 "Never Throw Your Dreams Away"
b/w "You've Got Possibilities"
Columbia 43567
b/w "You Take What Comes Along" (from Come Alive!)
Columbia 43731 9
"It Doesn't Matter Anymore"
b/w "Take A Broken Heart"
Columbia 43950
1967 "Trains and Boats and Planes"
b/w "Yesterday's Morning"
Capitol 5936
1968 "Talk Until Daylight"
b/w "The Great Divide"
Warner Bros. 7251 29
1969 "Little Girl From Greenwood, Georgia"
b/w "Step Inside Love"
Happy Tiger 522
1970 "The Sunshine After The Rain"
b/w "Tell Him"
Happy Tiger 537
1978 "The Peppermint Choo Choo"
b/w "The Peppermint Engineer"[28]
Peppermint Choo Choo 302
ABC 12323

Album discography

  • 1960: Positively the Most! Warner Bros. W1346
  • 1961: The "Voice" of the 60's Warner Bros. W1412
  • 1962: Look Out! It's Joanie Sommers (with Bobby Troup and Shelly Manne)
  • 1962: For Those Who Think Young Warner Bros. W1436
  • 1962: Johnny Get Angry Warner Bros. W1470
  • 1962: Let's Talk About Love Warner Bros W1474
  • 1963: Sommers' Seasons Warner Bros. WS1504
  • 1964: Softly, the Brazilian Sound Warner Bros. WS1575
  • 1965: Come Alive! Columbia CS 9295
  • 1966: On The Flip Side – Original Cast Album (w/ Rick Nelson, cuts 2, 4 and 8) Decca 4824
  • 1982: Dream Discovery Records DS-887
  • 1988: Tangerine HiBrite PCB-203
  • 1992: A Fine Romance HiBrite HTCP-10
  • 1995: Hits and Rareties Marginal MAR-001
  • 2000: Here, There and Everywhere! Absord ABCJ 313
  • 2000: Johnny Got Angry Absord ABCJ 314
  • 2001: "I Love You Much Too Much" Camard (not numbered)
  • 2005: Sings Bossa Nova Absord ABCJ 339
  • 2011: Complete Warner Bros. Singles Real Gone Music
  • 2013: Come Alive The Complete Columbia Recordings Real Gone Music


  1. ^ a b c d e "Joanie Sommers Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  2. ^ "Jazz Columns: Joanie Sommers: Her Generation – By Christopher Loudon — Jazz Articles". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  3. ^ "New Faces: Sommers Is Icumen On". 1961-12-15. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  4. ^ Billboard, July 11, 1960, p. 34
  5. ^ Billboard, December 7, 1959, p. 40
  6. ^ Billboard, October 19, 1959, p. 45
  7. ^ Seida, Linda (1941-02-24). "Joanie Sommers". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  8. ^ Warner Bros. W1474 album Let's Talk About Love liner notes.
  9. ^ Billboard, May 30, 1960, p. 28
  10. ^ Warner Bros. W1412 album The "Voice" of the 60's, liner notes
  11. ^ Billboard February 22, 1960, p. 34
  12. ^ Billboard, November 14, 1960, p. 17
  13. ^ "Joanie Sommers Songs (Top Songs / Chart Singles Discography)". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  14. ^ a b " Ryan...Nine And A Half Questions with Joanie Sommers". Retrieved 2017-09-13.
  15. ^ " Parker...Northern Soul 500". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  16. ^ "Vinyl records LP price guide – record collector". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  17. ^ "Most Popular Movies and TV Shows With Joanie Sommers". IMDb.
  18. ^ Joan Baxter (2020). "On the Flip Side". Television Musicals: Plots, Critiques, Casts and Credits for 222 Shows Written for and Presented on Television, 1944-1996. McFarland & Company. ISBN 9781476641898.
  19. ^ "Jack Benny Show". No. Season 13 (1962-1963). January 22, 1963.
  20. ^ "Joanie Sommers". IMDb.
  21. ^ American Film Institute Catalog: Feature Films 1961–1970, page 621 (University of California Press, 1997). ISBN 0-520-20970-2
  22. ^ ""The Wild Wild West" The Night of the Tycoons (TV Episode 1969)".
  23. ^ "Joanie Sommers". 1941-02-24. Archived from the original on 2012-03-18. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  24. ^ Sponsor, Volume 18, Part 3, page 19, article "Pepsi Sponsors All-Out Campaign" (Sponsor Publications, 1964).
  25. ^ "Nine And A Half Questions with Joanie Sommers | AWN | Animation World Network". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  26. ^ "Johnny Got Angry". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  27. ^ Columbia CS 9295 album Come Alive! liner notes
  28. ^ "Joanie Sommers". 1941-02-24. Retrieved 2012-03-27.

External links

  • "Sommers Is Icumen On" From the Dec. 15, 1961 issue of TIME magazine
  • Jazz Times article 08/09/10 C. Loudon
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