Gary James' Interview With
April Stevens is one half of the highly successful brother and sister duo Nino Tempo and April Stevens.
In the history of Pop music, few brother and sister acts come to mind; Karen and Richard Carpenter (The Carpenters) and Donny and Marie Osmond to name just two. Nino Tempo and April Stevens were out there singing long before The Carpenters and Donny and Marie.
April Stevens spoke about her Pop music career and the history of Pop music really.
Q - When was the last time you were back home in Niagara Falls?
A - I was there a few months ago.
Q - You left when you were twelve years old?
A - Yes.
Q - So, you've been back many times since then?
A - Oh, of course. I go back every year.
Q - Why did your parents leave Niagara Falls for Los Angeles?
A - They moved to L.A. because they knew that was the area that would offer us the best in the business. Nino was doing movies even at a very young age.
Q - How did Carol Lo Teimpo become April Stevens?
A - Well, one of the first records I made when I was still in high school...no, no, no. I know. I was in Music City looking for some records and Tony Sepe (the owner of Laurel Records) came up to me. He was a very young, good-looking, Italian guy. He said, "You look like a singer and I need a singer!" I looked at him and I just thought he's coming on (to me). But, he said, "No no, I'm not. I have a small company called Laurel Records and have a song called No, No, No, Not That." And he said "I need a singer for that." So, I thought to myself, well, I didn't know if he was kidding of not. I did give him my number and he called me. My mother and I went to the session and he did have a record and indeed I did cut it. It was kind of suggestive; "The moon is much too bright, you're holding me tight, no, no, no, not that." I played it for a few people and they were very excited about it. Les Brown, he was the band leader in those days, heard it and he said "It's good and it probably will cause some talk, but if I were you and the fact that it is suggestive, I would change your name." I thought oh dear. I said, "Why are you saying that?" He said "because you might get stuck with this kind of singing and you want to protect your own name." I was using Carol Tempo at the time. So, I always loved the name April. My Aunt suggested "why not take the name April" and somebody's name was Stevens there, so I said "we'll put April Stevens down, never, never thinking I'd be stuck with that name. I kind of grew to love it.
Q - So Stevens was someone at the record company?
A - Yeah, yeah. Somebody there. Or, I think I gave them a bunch of names. I gave them Stevens, Sterling, a bunch of last names to go with April and said "whatever you decide on." One of the guys name was Stevens. He said "for luck, put down April Stevens." I thought it was just for that record. That's now how it ended up.
Q - Who else was on Laurel Records?
A - Barry White. Tony also discovered Barry White.
Q - That's a famous label.
A - I don't remember it being famous. It was not even an office. It was just two guys, but whether it developed into anything, I don't remember after that.
Q - What happened after Laurel Records?
A - I went to RCA Victor.
Q - How about Society Records?
A - Oh, I recorded for Society Records, yes. RCA Victor had a song called "I'm In Love Again" and I recorded for RCA Victor then. It was a pretty big hit, that and "Give Me A Little Kiss". I was doing very well and I was right in the same area as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney. Then I got a job singing on the road. My Mother was traveling with me. We went to the Shamrock Hotel in Houston, Texas. During that time, I fell in love with someone and quit the business, which was not a very smart move, but I did. So, the career was pretty well over. I would say in the early 60s, Nino and I got together and he was recording, playing saxophone on a Bobby Darin album for Atlantic Records. Ahmet Ertegun was there of course, directing, producing the record. He looked at Nino and said "Did you sing?" Nino said yes. He said, "I thought I heard you. What's going on with you?" Nino said "My sister and I are harmonizing." He said "I'd love to have you come over to the house and listen to some of the ideas we have." So, he did and that's how we got with Atlantic Records.
Q - How'd you find Bobby Darin to be?
A - A very, very nice man. A very talented guy.
Q - After Atlantic Records, you were on A&M Records?
A - Yes we were.
Q - Brother and sister acts are kind of unusual in Pop music aren't they?
A - Yeah. There weren't too many. In doing the standards the way we did in kind of a Rock / Country style was very unusual. We had as you know "Deep Purple", the number one Grammy Award winner and several others after that..."Whispering". We had "Sweet and Lovely" before "Deep Purple". It was kind of a minor hit. "Whispering" did very well. Then we had a couple that didn't do too well. I think, had we gone on, we would've had a little more of a hold, but The Beatles came out shortly after that and that kind of blew a lot of people away.
Q - What happened to you when Beatlemania hit? That was the end of your career?
A - Well, kind of. We didn't have a really great hold. In fact, when we won the Grammy Awards that year, I think it was '64 if I'm not mistaken, it wasn't even on TV at that time. The following year, it went on TV. We didn't have that many hits that we could've had a good foot hold in the business. We of course still worked and still tried, but it just wasn't happening. But, I think had we been able to continue...we just kind of gave up a little. We probably shouldn't have. I realize now we shouldn't have.
Q - Where did you work?
A - We worked throughout Europe. We had a lot of hits in Europe, in Germany, in Italy, Holland, England. We worked at Harrah's in Las Vegas. We worked in Lake Tahoe. We worked quite a bit, but not what we should have done. We didn't have very much luck in picking good managers and your manager is almost as important as you are to get you placed in the right positions. We were a little unlucky. Our taste was not that great in managers.
Q - Did you ever meet Frank Sinatra?
A - I did meet him. He used to call me "Stevie". He was quite a talent. Nino played saxophone in one of his bands. Frank was always very generous. He would come out and say "he's my favorite saxophone player." He was quite a nice guy.
Q - Did you ever meet the Beatles?
A - Nino worked with the Beatles with Phil Spector. I did meet John Lennon. I was so excited I was tripping over myself. I walked towards him at the session and he started to sing. As he walked up to me, he started to sing my harmony part to "Deep Purple". Then I really flipped. (laughs) But, he was a really nice guy too.
Q - Do you and Nino do any road work these days?
A - No. I would like to. He's very close to Bill Medley and Bill from time to time has mentioned just briefly, if he ever put a group together, a group of acts, we probably would at that point. But, when you're out of this business for so long, it's very difficult to get back in, although I'm sure if we really wanted to, they have these shows where they have a lot of those rock 'n roll acts...we haven't pursued it though.
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