All of my life, I have believed that Little Eva was “discovered” while she was babysitting for Carole King and Gerry Goffin. She was vacuuming the floor and singing and they heard her and said “We’re going to make you a star.” Well, it didn’t quite happen that way.
Goffin and King did write “The Loco-Motion,” and they had heard Eva sing while working for the two as a babysitter. But they not write the song for Eva. They only asked her to record the demo of the song. They then offered it to Dee Dee Sharp who had just had a big hit with “Mashed Potato Time” (not a number one; it just missed it by peaking at number two.) Sharp turned down the song and so someone said, “Hey, the girl singing on the demo is pretty good, why not just let her release the record.” And so Little Eva was a recording star.
Little Eva was born Eva Narcissus Boyd in 1943 in Belhaven, North Carolina, but when she was young, her family moved to the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York. She was actually called Little Eva by her family while growing up. There is talk that she is named after a character in the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but that’s not true. She’s actually named after her aunt. Both were named Eva and so as not to confuse the two, our Eva was called Little Eva. When she was a teenager, she got together with two friends and they made some extra money as background singers for some of the biggest names in the music industry. They sang behind Neil Sedaka, Tony Orlando and Mel Torme, among others. It was during one of these sessions that Goffin and King heard her and thought she would be good for the demo.
After deciding that Eva would record “The Loco-Motion,” they went to the studio and recorded the final version. Carole King sings background on the song and so do the friends Eva sang with prior to getting her big break. The weird thing is, that, before the record, there never was a dance called “The Loco-Motion.” It sprang into existence after the record came out. The record was such a big hit, that the kids had to make up a dance to match the song and they did.
“The Loco-Motion” debuted on the pop chart on July 21, 1962 and remained at number one for just one week. Little Eva did have three other hits before disappearing, but none of them were number one. The best she did after “The Loco-Motion” was number twelve with “Take Your Hands Off My Baby.”
“The Loco-Motion” was later recorded by Grand Funk who also hit number one in 1974. Then in 1988, Australian singer, Kylie Minogue hit number three with the song. So, “The Loco-Motion” has a rich heritage.