‘Baby Face,’ written by Harry Akst and Benny Davis, really is a song with history. Dating back decades before the pop era, it went on to have a big part to play in the career of Little Richard, among others. Then it became a US chart entry on this date 52 years ago, September 29, 1962, for the one and only Bobby Darin.
The song was first a hit, for Jan Garber, in 1926, ten years before Darin was born. It was featured in an Our Gang comedy short in 1937, a Tom & Jerry cartoon in 1943, and then reached a new generation in 1948 via Art Mooney’s version, when Bobby was just 12. Having made its mark post-World War I, on audiences during World War II and again afterwards, it became part of the rock ‘n’ roll craze, when Little Richard rocked it up in 1958.
That version would only reach No. 41 on the US pop chart, but you might be surprised to know that in the UK, it’s the highest-charting single Richard ever had — yes, higher than ‘Good Golly Miss Molly,’ ‘Tutti Frutti,’ ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ or anything else. It reached No. 2 there and was only held off the top in January and February 1959 by Elvis Presley’s double-sided ‘I Got Stung’ and ‘One Night.’
Bobby Darin’s version was released when he was 26 years old, just as he was leaving the Atco label for a new deal with Capitol. It didn't make the UK chart, but it debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 84 this week in 1962, as the Four Seasons had America’s favourite single with ‘Sherry.’ Darin was coming off a big No. 3 US hit with ‘Things,’ but ‘Baby Face’ didn’t become one of his biggest hits, peaking at No. 42 at the end of October (by which time, Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett had US fans under his ghoulish spell with ‘Monster Mash’).
Bobby Vee was another artist to record the much-travelled song, and then it proved its incredible versatility by becoming a disco crossover hit. A 1976 version by the American studio dance act Wing and a Prayer Fife & Drum Corps reached No. 14 in the US and No. 12 in the UK with a club-friendly version. Audiences just keep falling for that cutest little baby face.