The Donna Reed Show was one of the top television shows during the early Sixties. It was on the air for eight years between 1958 and 1966. This was your typical sitcom of the perfect family where the mother always wore a dress and looked perfect in every episode. But, that was the Sixties. One of the stars of the show was Shelley Fabares who played the daughter, Mary. As a side note, Paul Petersen played her brother, Jeff, and Petersen had a number six hit of his own called “My Dad.”
Shelley was born in 1944 in Santa Monica, California, the niece of actress Nanette Fabray. Nanette had changed the spelling of the family name to be more commercial, but Shelley liked her name and, so, stayed with the original spelling. Shelley was an actress more than than she was a singer. She only had two hits, “Johnny Angel” and a followup called “Johnny Loves Me” which reached 21 on the pop chart. In the first song, she is pining for the boy and in the second, she wins him. That was the extent of her singing success. Actually, Shelley did not want to sing the song at all. She was not a singer, but the producers of The Donna Reed Show wanted to include a song in the show from each child, so Shelley and Paul each recorded records. I wonder if they weren’t thinking back to the Ozzie and Harriet Show in the Fifties when Rick Nelson would make it a regular part of the show to sing one of his songs.
Listening to “Johnny Angel” and I feel that Shelley Fabares is, indeed, a singer. I think she does very well on the song. But, alas, we don’t get much more from her after this initial success. Later after leaving the show, she did record a couple albums, but nothing was as successful as “Johnny Angel.” Shelley went on to star in many different movies and television shows. She co-starred in three of Elvis Presley’s movies during the late Sixties.
“Johnny Angel” was written by Lyn Duddy and Lee Pockriss and was recorded by two other singers before Shelley got it, but neither of those were successful. The musicians playing on the song include the great Glen Campbell, before anyone knew his name. Also, the backup singers, a group called the Blossoms, included Darlene Love who would later in 1962 sing the number one “He’s a Rebel.”
Shelley Fabares is still alive and well. She is 73 years old. In 1984, she married her second husband, Mike Farrell of M*A*S*H fame. In 2000, she had some health problems and received a liver transplant.
“Johnny Angel” entered the pop chart on March 17, 1962, hit number one on April 7 and stayed there for two weeks. It spent a total of fifteen weeks on the charts.
This video looks like it was taken directly from The Donna Reed Show.