Jesse Lorenzo Belvin
(December 15, 1932 – February 6, 1960)
Belvin was born in San Antonio Texas, but had moved with his family to Los Angeles by 1937. When he was 18 years old he joined saxophonist Big Jay McNeely's backing vocal quartet, Three Dots and a Dash, and was featured prominently on their record releases.
Specialty Records signed Jesse in 1952 where his fourth record, "Dream Girl", credited to Jesse & Marvin and featuring Marvin Phillips on saxophone, reached #2 on the R&B charts in 1953.
Even after he was drafted into the army Jesse continued writing songs—HIT SONGS! His composition "Earth Angel" was recorded by The Penguins, and became one of the first R&B singles to cross over onto the pop charts, selling a million copies in through 1954 and 1955.
Although he was on contract to Modern Records by this time, he continued to sing for other labels under different names. His biggest hit for Modern was "Goodnight My Love", which he co-wrote. The song reached #7 on the R&B chart.
The piano on the “Goodnight My Love” session was reportedly played by the 11 year old Barry White. The song became the closing theme to Alan Freed's rock and roll radio shows.
Belvin’s other recordings for Modern were less successful, and in 1958 he recorded on Dot Records with a group, The Shields, who included lead singer Frankie Ervin and guitarist Johnny "Guitar" Watson. Their record, "You Cheated", reached #15 on the US pop chart and #11 on the R&B chart. (Wikipedia)
Inspired by his wife and manager Jo Ann to develop his style, he signed to RCA Records in 1959, and immediately had a Top 40 hit with "Guess Who" a song written by Jo Ann…
He also recorded an album, Just Jesse Belvin, developing a more mature and sophisticated sound on ballads.
His style was influenced by Nat "King" Cole and Billy Eckstine, and became a model for Sam Cooke and others. He acquired the nickname "Mr. Easy", and the record company began moulding him as a potential crossover star for white audiences. (Wikipedia)
On the evening of February 6, 1960, shortly after finishing a performance in Little Rock on a bill with Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Marv Johnson, 27 year old Jesse Belvin and his wife Jo Ann were killed in a head-on collision at Hope, Arkansas.
The concert had been the first ever played before an integrated audience in the history of Little Rock, and had been stopped twice by interruptions with racial epithets from whites in the audience, and their urging the white teenagers in attendance to leave...
Due to the fact that there had been several death threats on Belvin prior to the concert, there was speculation the car had been tampered with prior to the accident—Nothing was ever proven one way or the other…
R.I.P. JESSE AND JO ANN BELVIN