Roses are red, my love.
Violets are blue.
Sugar is sweet, my love.
But not as sweet as you.
An International Hit, Chart-topper
Composed by Al Byron and Paul Evans, “Roses Are Red (My Love)” was recorded by Bobby Vinton and was his first hit. The song was released in April 1962.
Vinton found the song in a reject pile at Epic Records. He first recorded it as an R&B number but was allowed to re-record it in a slower more dramatic arrangement, with strings and a vocal choir added.
It reached No. 1 in Australia, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, and the United States, and was a major hit in many other countries as well.
The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on July 14, 1962, and remained there for four weeks. The single was also the first number-one hit for Epic Records.
Billboard ranked the record No. 4 in their year-end ranking “Top 100 Singles of 1962.” Additionally, they ranked it no. 36 in their year-end ranking of the top Rhythm and Blues records of 1962. The song was also ranked no. 17 on Cash Box‘s “Top 100 Chart Hits of 1962“
Behind the song: A melody written in 3 minutes
Paul Evans, who had novelty hits as a singer with Seven Little Girls and Happy-Go-Lucky Me, wrote the music for this song.
In an interview, he said,
“Sometimes you write a song, and you write it for months, until you say to yourself, ‘I’ve got the world’s first perfect song.’ And nobody likes it. I was at a recording session doing some of my own material, doing some demonstration records for some new songs, and Al Byron, the lyricist in this case, came into the session and said he’d like to show me a lyric.”
“And Al handed me the lyric and I put it on the piano, and it was the lyric as you hear it on the Bobby Vinton record, word for word. I started to write the melody, I wrote it in 3 minutes. Wrote the melody just as you hear it, I turned around laughing. I thought this was funny to write a song in 3 minutes. Al looked at me and said, ‘That’s very good. It’s exactly what I had in mind.’ I tried for weeks after that to make changes, because I didn’t believe it. I mean, you can’t write a hit song in 3 minutes, but that’s what happened: my biggest song – 3 minutes.”
“The music business is a strange business, because nobody knows. I think the people who do the best just have a feel for the music. Donnie Kirshner was a guy, no musical sound, I don’t think he was a talented music guy at all, but he knew a hit record when he heard it, and he treated his writers terrifically. He was always there for them.”
Bobby Vinton and the song: From trash to cash
Vinton was signed by CBS (Epic) Records in 1960 as a bandleader. Two years and two failed LPs later, he was called to a meeting with label executives who wanted to drop him from Epic Records.
In the meeting, Vinton pointed out that his contract called for him to record and release two more songs. The executives quickly exited the meeting room to confer with the label’s lawyers – who were attending – and consider the situation. While everybody but the bandleader was out of the room, Vinton listened to the rejected demo records and found a recording that stopped him cold: “Roses Are Red (My Love).”
After the executives returned to the meeting, Vinton persuaded them to allow him to sing on the next, and in their eyes final, single – the song that he found literally on the trash heap.
When he first recorded this, Vinton didn’t like the results because it was the wrong tempo, so he tried again. Released and hit no. 1 in the US, the second version was successful enough to earn him a new recording contract, this time as a solo recording act.
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Bobby Vinton, Roses Are Red (My Love)