While the month of April is young, we look back on April Young, Philadelphia’s popular teenage singer, with four mid-‘60s singles on the Columbia label, produced by her future husband Jerry Ross, and we also hear from their daughter Cheri.
By Warren Kurtz
All photos courtesy of Cheri Ross Dorwart
CHERI ROSS DORWART: My mom, Janice Friedman Ross, had a passion for singing. She was signed by the Columbia label in 1964 and recorded eight songs under the stage name of April Young. My father was the record producer and together they made beautiful music. My two favorite songs from my mom are “(Will You Ever Be My) Steady Boyfriend” and “Gonna Make Him My Baby.” I want to cherish my mom’s memory by sharing her music with everyone and I thank Goldmine for doing this.
Flip side: (Will You Ever Be My) Steady Boyfriend
A side: This Time Tomorrow
“This Time Tomorrow” sounds like a song that would fit on the soundtrack for Grease with the key line being, “This time tomorrow, I’ll be with the boy I love.” In Philadelphia, it was April Young who released this Jerry Ross produced single in 1964. That same year in Cleveland, it was recorded as the flip side of “The Doolang” by another teenage singer, Andrea Carroll. Both sides of April’s single were co-written by Jerry Ross, Kenny Gamble, who would become a very well known Philadelphia songwriter, and Joe Renzetti. Its flip side was “(Will You Ever Be My) Steady Boyfriend,” with an up-tempo delivery in a style in line with the Beach Party movie series, where they featured Donna Loren and other singers. It is this flip side versus the A side which has been selected for compilations, in recent years, to offer a sample of April Young’s music to listeners. In 2005, “Steady Boyfriend” was part of the 101 song box set from Rhino named One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds, Lost & Found and in 2016 it was among the two dozen songs on the Ace CD compilation Some Kinda Magic: The Songs of Jerry Ross.
To Be Loved by You / Kiss Your Baby Goodbye – 1964
April Young, in Pennsylvania, was surrounded by other teenage female singers in adjacent states. In addition to Andrea Carroll in Ohio, in New Jersey there was Lesley Gore. In 1964, Lesley was in the national Top 40 five times, more than any other year. On April Young’s second single, “To Be Loved by You,” one can hear the percussive piano and vocal performance on par with what Lesley Gore was delivering at the time with “That’s the Way Boys Are.” April’s flip side, “Kiss Your Baby Goodbye,” also captured teenage relationships heard on Lesley Gore songs with April telling a girl, “Set him free. Sorry if it makes you cry, but kiss your baby goodbye,” as she gets the guy, like Judy did in “It’s My Party,” before it became “Judy’s Turn to Cry.”
Gonna Make Him My Baby / Life – 1965
In 1965, with “Gonna Make Him My Baby,” April’s voice reached the depths of Darlene Love on this “girl group sound” song with backup singers and it recalled the cadence of The Chiffons’ “I Have a Boyfriend.” Its flip side, “Life,” was more dramatic in the year when we also heard The Shangri-Las’ “I Can Never Go Home Anymore.” April sang, “Just before you came along, I was sorry I was born. You gave me the courage to go on.” By the end of the song she pledged, “I’ll always love you for the rest of my life.” Jimmy Wisner’s arrangement on this ¾ time number is powerful.
Run to My Lovin’ Arms / You’re the One – 1965
The power continued to “Run to My Lovin’ Arms,” with a slow and sophisticated delivery from April. The opening melody is reminiscent of Barbara Lewis’ “Make Me Your Baby” from that year. Lenny Welch’s version of this song would peak at No. 96 near the end of the year. Its flip side was “You’re the One,” popularized that year by another Pennsylvania act from the other side of the state, The Vogues, and originally recorded on Petula Clark’s I Know a Place album that year, co-written by her and her producer Tony Hatch. Rather than the familiar guitar sound on The Vogues’ recording, Jerry Ross’ production of April’s version brought in the guitar sounds similar to what we heard on the Jackie DeShannon composition “When You Walk into the Room,” famously covered by The Searchers in the prior year and Lisa Burns in 1978. April’s delivery captured the strength and confidence of Nancy Sinatra.
Jerry Ross and April Young in the studio
In 1969, April Young became Janice Ross, marrying her producer, mentor and biggest fan, Jerry Ross. Janice began focusing on married life and being a mother, giving birth to Ken in 1969 and Cheri in 1972. Janice passed away in 1989, Ken in 2012 and Jerry in 2017.
Janice and Jerry Ross
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.