Spector’s first taste of success came as a teenager in 1958 with his vocal trio the Teddy Bears.
Their Spector-produced monster hit ‘To Know Him is to Love Him’ instantly cast him as the new music whiz kid. Could Spector follow up on the promise inherent in the otherworldly sounds of this chart topper? Time proved he could indeed.
But on this, his first foray into the music business, friends Marshall Leib and Annette Kleinbard were along for the ride. Together, the three classmates made up the Teddy Bears – an unusual trio if ever there was one. Petite and beautiful brunette Kleinbard with an almost operatic register was the focal point while the guys harmonized around her in matching, dorky-looking sweaters.
The contrast between Spector and Leib in appearance was especially profound. Spector with his frail, nerdish appearance and receding chin looked like someone a tall, dark and handsome guy like Leib would normally have bullied in school. But music brought them together and the odd combination proved to work wonders.
The Teddy Bears recordings had a hazy, dreamy sound that Paul Payton, a reader of the blog, correctly has termed a ‘Velvet Wall of Sound.’ Perhaps a ‘Velvet Blanket of Sound’ is an even better term. The sound was one of warmth and delicacy, only hinting at the frenetic bombast to come in later years.
And that’s usually where the story about Leib ends in the various overviews of Spector’s career. Typecast as the handsome Teddy Bear who loyally sang his background ‘shoo bi doos’ on recordings, Leib is mostly portrayed as nothing more than a flunky. A guy who just happened to have the looks and a good-enough voice to merit inclusion in Spector’s first musical adventure. And maybe that was indeed the case back in the late 50s. However, Leib soon proved himself to be a great producer in his own right. I can’t claim to know the full extent of Leib’s career in the music business after the break-up of the Teddy Bears. One thing is clear though. Like many other Los Angeles music professionals he readily absorbed the influence of Spector’s Wall of Sound approach and ran with it for a few superb single releases.
Once again, a musician from Spector’s inner circle felt the urge to step out of his shadow and put to use the tricks he’d picked up looking over his shoulder in the studio.
Here are three fabulous Wall of Sound productions courtesy of Marshall Leib.
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Alder Ray – Cause I Love Him (1964) – It’s not often you come across a vocal performance that Darlene Love couldn’t have bettered. In the case with this single though, I’ll claim Alder Ray beat Darlene at her own game! The song is top-notch, the frenzied production stomps along at castanet-breaking speed and Ray really turns in a stellar vocal. Unlike probably most others, I prefer the stereo mix because the Darlene Love-led backing vocals are more prominent.
The Westwoods – I Miss my Surfer Boy Too (1965) – Recorded at Gold Star, where else?, this joint production by Leib and Spector’s favorite arranger Jack Nitszche is an answer record to the ‘transplanted surfer’ themed ‘New York’s a Lonely Town’. A record produced by another pair of would-be Spectors, Pete Anders and Vini Poncia under their Tradewinds guise! Collector Anthony Reichardt labels this Westwoods single a “quazi-Spectoresque meets Surf production” and I can only agree.
Carol Connors – My Baby Looks but He Don’t Touch (1966) – Va-va-voom! Look at that picture sleeve. By 1966, Leib’s old Teddy Bears bandmate Annette Kleinbard was known as Carol Connors, writing songs in the hot rod / surf realm and occasionally recording. ‘My Baby Looks but He Don’t Touch’ is a perfect mix of the breathy Teddy Bears sound and elements of Spector’s later production philosophy.