march 2011


‘A Girl Singer Who Makes A Pop Song Pop’

Celebrating An American Icon’s 70th Birthday

Before movies, there was music; once in movies, there was more music: a video tribute to Ann-Margret, Songstress

Born Ann-Margret Olsson in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 28, 1941, emigrated to the U.S. with her parents in 1946, became a naturalized citizen in 1949, the same year she started studying dance at the Marjorie Young School of Dance. She began appearing on television amateur talent shows while in her teens, making one of her first national appearances as a 16-year-old on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour. After graduating from high school in Winnetka, IL, she attended Northwestern University, where she sang with an all-female vocal group, The Suttletones, which became popular enough to land a booking in Las Vegas. That date fell through, but through the auspices of a well-connected agent, the Suttletones played clubs in Newport Beach and Reno, and finally were booked at The Dunes in Las Vegas, on a bill headlined by Tony Bennett and Al Hirt. She was spotted and signed as a solo artist to RCA Records in 1964, the year her first album, And Here She Is: Ann-Margret, was released. Recorded in Nashville, it featured Chet Atkins on guitar, Floyd Cramer on piano, the Jordanaires and Anita Kerr Singers as background vocalists; George Burns wrote the liner notes. She recorded for RCA through 1966. In 1969 she entered into a strange collaboration with Lee Hazlewood, The Cowboy & The Lady, which featured straight country, R&B (“The Dark End of The Street”) and raucous psychedelia (“You Turn My Head Around”), with The Lady carrying the burden of vocal responsibilities, given The Cowboy’s spotty, sometimes off-key performance. She didn’t record again until 1979, and not again after that until 2001’s return to Nashville with God Is Love: The Gospel Sessions, which earned a Grammy, followed in 2004 by Ann-Margret’s Christmas Carol Collection. She won a Grammy as Best New Artist in 1962; a Grammy in 2001 for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album; and a GMA Dove Award in 2002 for Best Country Album. Let her entertain us.


A snippet of 16-year-old Ann-Margret singing ‘Them There Eyes’ on The Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour (1957)

‘Lost Love,’ 16-year-old Ann-Margret’s first single off her debut album, And Here She Is: Ann-Margret, with Chet Atkins on guitar, Floyd Cramer on piano, the Jordanaires and Anita Kerr Singers as background vocalists; George Burns, with whom Ann-Margret had appeared in a holiday show in Las Vegas, wrote the liner notes. The song was written by Johnny Otis. (1961). ‘The album offered something for every taste: big-band numbers, standards and the bouncy pop single, ‘I Just Don’t Understand,’ which soared up the charts and inspired TIME magazine to call me a record industry rarity--‘a girl singer who can really make a pop song pop,’ Ann-Margret wrote in her 1994 autobiography, My Story. ‘I couldn’t believe it. I had been singing like that since I was a little girl.’ Ann-Margret won a Grammy as Best New Artist in 1962.

Ann-Margret in her 1961 debut on The Jack Benny Show, ‘I Ain’t Got Nobody’

Ann-Margret, ‘Have a Good Time,’ from her 1961 debut, on The Jack Benny Show

Ann-Margret, ’13 Men,’ from her 1962 album, The Vivacious One

Ann-Margret sings the title song from Bye Bye Birdie, directed by George Sidney (1963)

‘A Lot of Livin’ To Do,’ Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

‘How Lovely To Be a Woman,’ from Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

Ann-Margret as the voice of Ann-Margrock on The Flintstones

Never better: Ann-Margret and Elvis, ‘The Lady Loves Me,’ Viva Las Vegas (1964)

Ann-Margret, ‘Next Time,’ from Jean Negulesco’s The Pleasure Seekers (1964)

Ann-Margret and Al Hirt, ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside,’ from their 1964 duet album, Beauty and The Beard.

Ann-Margret goes country with Lee Hazlewood on their duet album, The Cowboy & The Lady: ‘Am I That Easy To Forget’ (1969)

Ann-Margret & Lee Hazlewood, ‘You Turn My Head Around’ (The Cowboy & The Lady, 1969)

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