Rosie and the Originals came from San Diego in the early 60's with one giant hit that became a rock-and-roll classic. Not bad for a song written and recorded by a 15-year-old girl.
Rosalie "Rosie" Méndez Hamlin was born in 1945, in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The family moved to Anchorage, Alaska where Rosie started school, then to San Diego when she was 11 years old. She began experimenting with playing the piano and writing songs before she was in her teens. At 14 Rosie wrote a poem about a boy that she liked at the time. She sat at a piano and learned four cords, and set her poem to music, using a four-chord progression. The result was her song Angel Baby. Rosie decided to form a band, and through a contact with an old babysitter, formed a group with some older guys that practiced in Rosie's garage. At this time the group consisted of Alfred Barrett on saxophone, Noah Tafolla on lead guitar, David Ponci on rhythm guitar, Tony Gomez on bass, and Carl von Goodat on drums.
The group got a few jobs and wanted to make a recording, but had little luck finding a place to record music anywhere in the San Diego area. An airplane mechanic in San Marcos, about thirty miles north of San Diego, had dedicated part of his airplane hanger to setting up a crude recording studio. The group went there one day in late 1960, when Rosie was 15, minus Barrett who had other plans that day. The group improvised on sax, with no experienced sax player. Rosie, a sophomore at Mission Bay High School in San Diego at the time, carried the vocal very well but there were some minor mistakes by some of the musicians as well as sub-standard recording equipment. The group pressed one copy of the record. They tried to get it played on the radio, with no luck. Finally they persuaded a department store manager to play it at the store. Teens who heard it had a very favorable reaction, and a distributor for fledgling Highland Records who heard it in the store passed the group's name on to Highland, where it was well received. Before issuing it as Highland 1011 songwriting credits were taken from Rosie Hamlin and given to David Ponci, because he was the oldest member of the group. This disappointed Rosie Hamlin and led to some disagreement; eventually the Originals disbanded. It would be decades before Rosie or any of the band members would see any money for their recording.
Angel Baby began to climb the pop and R&B charts less than a month after it was first recorded. Rosie followed up with recordings of Angel From Above and We'll Have A Chance, to little avail. One prominent artist, Jackie Wilson, was a big fan of Angel Baby and contacted Rosie (the two would remain friends for many years). Wilson gave Rosie's career a boost by putting her in contact with his manager, Nat Taranpol, who secured a recording contract for Rosie with another label. In late 1960 and early 1961 Angel Baby became a mega-hit, rising to number 5 on the pop chart. Rosie recorded some songs with the Brunswick label including one she had written, Lonely Blue Nights, with excellent musical accompaniment. This and a couple of other singles she recorded did not sell and Brunswick dropped Rosie from their artist list.
Rosie married Taranpol and they had two children, but it lasted lesss than four years. She left the music business in 1963 to spend time with her children, returning from time to time in the late 60's, the 70's and the 80's. She taught art in Colorado for a few years in the late 70's and early 80's. In the 90's and 2000's Rosie became more involved with her recording career. Along the way she re-married. Today Rosie is the mother of three and resides in Los Lunas, New Mexico.
The omission of Rosie's name as the songwriter on her huge hit resulted in her pursuing royalties for decades, and in the 90's she finally had royalties and the rights to her song restored to her, and finally made a profit from it. John Lennon referred to Rosie as one of his favorite singers. Angel Baby, orignally recorded in an airplane hanger by a talented teenager, is a solid hit from the early days of rock-and-roll.
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