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Rosie – Certainly An Original

May 31, 2019

If you’re my age or any age for that matter, you probably have heard the song “Angel Baby.” If you have never heard this song, you need to get to a doctor quickly – you may be missing a frontal lobe or two!

Although “Angel Baby” was a 1961 one-hit wonder, its author and singer was an enduring personality for decades. Rosie was the front-woman of the group Rosie and the Originals. The song became a Top 40 hit when Hamlin was only 15 years old. Hamlin’s “Angel Baby” was later covered by several artists, including Linda Ronstadt and John Lennon, who cited Hamlin as one of his favorite singers. She was the first Latina to be honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the first Latina to appear on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in 1961.

At age fifteen, Hamlin and some friends rented the only recording studio they could find within 100 miles of San Diego located in San Marcos, California, to record the song. The studio was owned by an airplane mechanic who had taken part of his hangar to make it. A little aside here: Many musicians, including me, contend that you can hear a car outside this hanger at approximately 1:35 into the song.

After taking the master to a Kresge’s department store in downtown San Diego, they convinced the manager to play it in the listening booth of the store’s music department. The song received rave reactions from teenage listeners, and a scout from Highland Records offered the group a recording contract, under the condition that the company take possession of the master recording, and that David Ponce be named as the author of the song, as he was the eldest member of the group. Hamlin along with her band performed six shows with Jackie Wilson at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater in New York City in late 1960.

Rosalie “Rosie” Hamlin was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon, on July 21, 1945, to Ofelia Juana Méndez and Harry Hamlin. She got her Latina good looks from her mother. She spent part of her childhood between Anchorage, Alaska and California, before her family moved to National City, California. Her father and grandfather were both musicians who had backgrounds in vaudeville, so she grew up in a music oriented household. During her childhood, Hamlin was trained to play piano.

Hamlin began singing with a band at thirteen. She wrote the lyrics for “Angel Baby” as a poem for her first boyfriend when she was 14 years old,  while attending Mission Bay High School in San Diego, California.

“Angel Baby”, which featured Hamlin’s noted soprano vocals, made its radio debut in November 1960, before the group had even received their contract; the track was also played on K-Day Radio by the to be famous disc jockey Alan Freed. When the group formally established a contract, Hamlin found that she was ineligible to collect record royalties from the song because she was not listed as the songwriter. This led to the group’s break-up, and although Hamlin secured the copyright to her music in 1961, decades of battles over royalties followed. “Angel Baby” charted at number 5 on the Billboard Singles Chart. On March 30, 1961, Hamlin appeared with Rosie and the Originals on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, performing “Lonely Blue Nights”, making her the first Latina to appear on the show.

Rosie Hamlin  formally retired from the music industry in 1963 after starting a family with her husband and guitarist, Noah Tafolla. The couple had two children. Joey , and Deborah. Hamlin performed several revival concerts until 2002, before retiring from live performances due to advanced fibromyalgia.

Hamlin died in her sleep of undisclosed causes on March 30, 2017 at her home in New Mexico. 

For so many of us who grew up in the 1960s as teenagers, Rosie Hamlin was just the sweetest, smoking hot little girl that had ever come onto the music scene. As a teen I learned to sing this song in full falsetto and I still sing it occasionally with both a pain in my heart and a tear in my eye. We all miss you Rosie! You certainly were an original.

Here’s the original recording of “Angel Baby:”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bu2dAQ3xb8s

 

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13 Comments
  1. I didn’t know she was a San Diego girl. I used to drive past Mission Bay High School, home of the Bucaneers.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi there, thanks for the follow ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Perfect… !!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the sound of the 60s! Never heard this one… Neither had Pat (my wife) Thanks for sharing… off to drs now. ha ha!

    Liked by 1 person

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