A never-before-heard album by legendary rock-and-roller Dion DiMucci will see the light of day on May 12 when Norton Records releases Kickin’ Child: The Lost Album 1965. Billboard reports that Kickin’ Child dates back to Dion’s tenure at Columbia Records, featuring 15 songs recorded with his group The Wanderers over sessions between spring and fall of 1965.
Dion DiMucci was just 20 years old but already a chart veteran when he went solo at the dawn of the 1960s. Immortal hits like “I Wonder Why” and “A Teenager in Love” had been recorded with his friends The Belmonts, but when Carlo Mastrangelo, Angelo D’Aleo and Fred Milano wanted to emphasize doo-wop harmonies and Dion wanted to rock and roll, Dion and the Belmonts split. How would the Italian kid from the Bronx follow that amazing first act? The answer was “Runaround Sue,” and the chart-topping record established Dion as a bona fide solo superstar. More hits followed at his home of Laurie Records, including “Lonely Teenager” and another all-time classic, “The Wanderer,” but it wasn’t long before the siren song of a major label came calling. Dion signed to Columbia in fall 1962 as the label’s first true rock-and-roll star.
Columbia still wasn’t fully in the rock-and-roll business; hence, producer Robert Mersey (best known today for his work with Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis and other top “adult” artists on the Columbia roster) initially tried to steer him towards “legit” material. But Dion persuaded the label to let him follow his instincts, resulting in major hits produced by Mersey including “Ruby Baby,” “Donna the Prima Donna,” and the Goffin and King-penned “This Little Girl.” A fateful meeting with Mersey’s Columbia colleague John Hammond led Dion to more fully discover the blues – a strain which had already existed in his Bronx-honed melodies. By 1964, the form had become the singer’s favored means of expression, and he began covering Sonny Boy Williamson and Willie Dixon.
Kickin’ Child comprises folk-rock-oriented material recorded with producer Tom Wilson (Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel) and its 15 tracks encompass ten original songs and five covers. Of the original songs, two were written with Carlo Mastrangelo, the Wanderers drummer who had founded The Belmonts with Dion. (Lead guitarist John Falbo and bassist Pete Falsciglia rounded out The Wanderers.) One original was written with session saxophonist Buddy Lucas, who had played sax on “The Wanderer” and other Laurie records for Dion. Three Bob Dylan songs – “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” “Farewell” and “Baby I’m in the Mood for You” – are featured among the covers, as are tunes by Mort Shuman (co-writer with Doc Pomus of “A Teenager in Love”) and Tom Paxton. “Farewell” and “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” were first released by Columbia on Dion’s 1969 album of outtakes, Wonder Where I’m Bound. “Baby I’m in the Mood for You” surfaced on the 1991 Legacy compilation Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings 1962-1965. Tom Paxton’s “I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound” was adorned with additional orchestration for its release on the 1969 LP, while the original mix to be heard on Kickin’ Child appeared on subsequent compilations.
Title track “Kickin’ Child,” a co-write with Buddy Lucas, was issued in May 1965 as a single. “Now,” co-written with Mastrangelo, featured Dion’s friend Al Kooper – fresh off his now-legendary work with Dylan – in the band. “My Love,” “Wake Up Baby” and “Knowing I Won’t Go Back There” are three of Dion’s original songs. “Now” and “Knowing I Won’t Go Back There” were issued on Wonder Where I’m Bound. Three more singles (six sides) from the Wilson sessions were also released by Columbia in 1965-1966, and these songs are all included on the complete album as are further outtakes which premiered on 1997’s The Road I’m On: A Retrospective.
It wasn’t long before Dion struggled with addiction and a changing pop music landscape. He also grew frustrated with Columbia. After a one-off reunion in the mid-sixties with The Belmonts, he re-signed to Laurie and captured the zeitgeist in 1968 with his moving rendition of “Abraham, Martin and John.” A tribute to fallen heroes, “Abraham, Martin and John” made No. 4 on the U.S. pop chart and earned Dion a gold record. He moved to the Warner Bros. label in 1969, the same year Columbia trawled its vaults in the wake of the success of “Abraham.”
Legacy’s Rob Santos confirmed to Billboard that a box set of Dion’s complete Columbia recordings may be released down the road, though no timetable is currently set. In the meantime, Norton’s May 12 release of Kickin’ Child, to feature liner notes by Scott Kempner, marks the first full release of the material intended for the album in 1965. No tracks are wholly previously unreleased, although it’s unclear as to whether any variations may be present in mix or take, etc. Watch this space for more information on this exciting title from a true rock-and-roll hero.
- Kickin’ Child
- My Love
- I Can’t Help Wonder Where I’m Bound
- Wake Up Baby
- Time in My Heart for You
- Tomorrow Won’t Bring the Rain
- Baby I’m in the Mood for You
- Two Ton Feather
- Knowing I Won’t Go Back There
- All I Want to Do is Live My Life
- You Move Me Babe
- It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
- So Much Younger
Track 1 from Columbia single 4-43293-A, 1965
Tracks 2, 10, 11 & 14 and alternate mix of Track 4 issued on Wonder Where I’m Bound, Columbia LP CS 9773, 1969
Tracks 3 & 12 issued on The Road I’m On: A Retrospective, Columbia/Legacy 64889, 1997
Tracks 5-6 from Columbia single 4-43483, 1966
Tracks 7 & 13 from Columbia single 4-43423, 1965
Track 8 issued on Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings 1962-1965, Columbia/Legacy CGK 46972, 1991
Tracks 9 & 15 from Columbia single 4-43692, 1966