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One Hit Wonder: Ketty Lester

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Back in 1945, singer Dick Haymes had a hit with a song called “Love Letters,” written by Edward Heyman and music by Victor Young. It was also the title of a movie in the same year starring actress Jennifer Jones. Eighteen years later, it became a top 5 hit on the Billboard Top 40.

Ketty Lester (born Revoyda Frierson in 1934 in Hope, Arkansas) moved to California in the 1950s. She appeared on “You Bet Your Life,” hosted by Groucho Marx, as a contestant and sang on the show. She recorded her first song, “Queen For a Day” on the Everest label. She was later introduced to record producers and songwriters Ed Cobb and Lincoln Mayorga, who were able to get a contract for her with Era Records in Los Angeles.

In 1961, she released two songs. The ‘A’ side was “I’m a Fool to Want You.” But when radio station disc jockeys heard the ‘B’ side, that’s the one they played that made her famous: her version of “Love Letters.” They believed this one would resonate with listeners better than the ‘A’ side and they were right. The song was successful not only on the Top 40 charts but also on the R&B charts (No. 2) and the UK Singles Chart (No. 4). But she was never able to generate another Top 40 hit.

By the 1970s and 1980s, she turned her attention to television and motion pictures. She was originally offered the lead role in the TV show “Julia” starring Diahann Carroll. But she is most remembered for her role as Hester Sue Terhune on NBC’s “Little House on the Prairie” (a show that I had the rights to in syndication at KXTX and KDFI). Her other TV credits include “Days of Our Lives” and “Getting Personal.”

When you hear this song, it really tugs at your heart and emotions. Orchestrated for piano and drums only, Lester sings this song with such emotion that you feel it. Here it is… Ketty Lester with “Love Letters!”

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