There are many famous names associated with this song, it’s no wonder it was a hit. The music was written in 1961 by Frank Pourcel (using the name J W Stole) and Paul Mauriat (using the name Del Roma.) The original name of the song was “Chariot” and Petula Clark had recorded it in France under that name. The French version was adapted by Arthur Altman and the English words were written by Norman Gimbel.
Peggy March’s real name is Margaret Battavio and she was born in Lansdale, Pennsylvania in 1948. She started singing when she was two and by the time she was fifteen, she was winning talent contests and drawing the attention of people who could make a difference for her. One day, she sang for a cousin’s wedding and a guy named Russell Smith was there. Smith worked for RCA Records and asked her father if he could introduce her to people at RCA. Dad was not happy about it, but he agreed. Dad thought she was too young and maybe she was. Peggy was 15 years, 1 month and 13 days old when “I Will Follow Him” hit number one. This makes her the youngest female in history to have a number one hit. (She edged out Brenda Lee by about six months.)
Smith and Peggy traveled to RCA Records where producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore took her under their wing. She needed a different stage name than Battavio, so, since she was born in the month of March, she became Peggy March. Hugo and Luigi also noticed that Peggy stood at 4 foot, 10 inches tall, so they thought it would be cute to call her “Little Peggy March.” Peggy hated the name, but she was young and really wanted to break into show business, so she accepted it. When she was eighteen, she removed the “Little” from her name officially.
Fame came with some problems. In California, there is a law known as The Coogan Act (named after Jackie Coogan.) It is designed to protect child actors from their parents stealing all of their money. Peggy was a minor, so her parents didn’t have access to her royalties. Instead, her manager Russell Smith handled her money. Well, after a few years, she learned that he had embezzled all of her money and she was broke, so she fired Smith and hired a new manager, Arnie Harris, whom she later married.
“I Will Follow Him” was Peggy’s only number one hit. She tried to repeat that magic and hit the Top 40 a couple more times in 1963, but nothing came close to “I Will Follow Him.” The song was even bigger in Europe and Asia than it was here in the United States, so Peggy concentrated on performing over there. Most of the rest of her career was spent overseas, traveling in Europe and Japan. Today, she lives in southern California and leads a somewhat normal life.
“I Will Follow Him” debuted on the pop chart on March 6, 1963 and spent three weeks at number one.
This is a horrible video, but it shows her in a live setting which is what I like.