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Paul Petersen

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Prior to launching a singing career, Paul Petersen was a successful child actor, beginning his show business career as a Mouseketeer at the age of ten and then landing the role of teenager Jeff Stone on The Donna Reed Show in the late '50s. Petersen's fame heading into the early '60s was such that he began to receive various recording offers, some of which were worked into scenes on the television show. His debut single, a novelty song in the teen idol style called "She Can't Find Her Keys," was featured on the show and subsequently became a hit, reaching number 19 on Billboard's Hot 100. His follow-up single, sung with Donna Reed Show co-star Shelley Fabares, was another lighthearted affair called "What Did They Do Before Rock 'n' Roll," and both were included on his 1962 debut album, Lollipops and Roses on Colpix Records. The album also featured a song from famed Brill Building writing team Carole King and Gerry Goffin called "Keep Your Love Locked." Petersen's next LP, Teenage Triangle, would be a joint album with Fabares and another pop idol named James Darren, who guested a few times on The Donna Reed Show. Released in the spring of 1963, the album fared well, netting each of its young stars a couple of Top 40 hits. That same year he released the sentimental single "My Dad," which was also featured on the program, with Petersen singing the track to his onscreen father, played by Carl Betz. Following the My Dad album, he rejoined Fabares and Darren for 1964's More Teenage Triangle, then spent the remainder of the '60s focusing largely on his acting while delivering occasional singles to the Motown and Tamla labels. By the 1970s, Petersen had transitioned out of show business and begun a second career as an adventure novelist. He also became an outspoken advocate for the rights of child actors, and in 1990 founded the support group A Minor Consideration, which fought for better working conditions and helped aging child stars transition into new careers. ~ Timothy Monger

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September 23, 1945 in Glendale, CA

Years Active:

'50s, '60s