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Joe Dowell

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Bloomington, Indiana-born pop singer Joe Dowell had, what he calls, his "fourteen-and-a-half-minutes of fame," when his first recording session yielded a number one hit, "Wooden Heart", in 1961. Elvis Presley had included the song, a centuries old German folk tune, on the soundtrack of his film, GI Blues, and it had become a big hit in Europe, but, RCA Victor had failed to release it as a single in the United States. Recorded at the suggestion of country producer Shelby Singleton, Dowell's version, featuring Ray Stevens on organ, became a phenomenal success. The first single to be released on Mercury's Smash subsidiary, "Wooden Heart" reached the top slot on the Billboard charts within ninety days. Although he had a second hit, "Little Red Rented Rowboat", which reached the twenty-third chart position, during the summer of 1963, Dowell was a victim of the music industry's darker side. Although he prided himself on being a "singer-songwriter", he was forced to record inferior material owned by Mercury. Thus, his debut album, Wooden Heart, was a disappointing showcase of forgettable cover tunes. When he rebelled against the practice, Dowell's recording contract was dropped. Playing the guitar and writing songs from the age of thirteen, Dowell made his debut in an amateur talent show in the ninth grade. He was a senior at the University of Illinois when "Wooden Heart" topped the charts. The popularity of Dowell's version of "Wooden Heart" allowed him to remain active as an entertainer. Launching a radio commercial production company, he built an extremely successful career as spokesperson for banks and financial institutions across the United States. Dowell's future plans include re-recording, "Wooden Heart", with an all-star group of guest musicians. German record collector label, Bear Family, is scheduled to release a compilation of all of Dowell's recordings. ~ Craig Harris

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23 January 1940 in Bloomington, IN

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