Sam Fletcher – 1967 – The Look of Love – The Sound of Soul
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With a voice that shone with class and sophistication, vocalist Sam Fletcher was known as “The Man With The Golden Voice” to his many fans – the biggest of which included Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin and Nancy Wilson, to name a few. Fletcher rose to fame after a series of 1960’s television appearances and now legendary nightclub engagements that ignited L.A.’s live jazz scene. His classic 1967 album, “The Look Of Love – The Sound Of Soul“, a collection of standards and pop tunes that showcased his impeccable phrasing and rich tone, should have propelled Fletcher to international stardom, but a highly publicized heroin bust in the late 1960’s burst the bubble of his squeaky clean image and severely hampered his impending mainstream success. Although he eventually cleaned up his act, he unfortunately lost the momentum that surely would have made him an international success. His full length LPs are now highly valued collector’s items and rumors abound of a film project based on his life. After many years of languishing in obscurity, his classic 1967 recording finally makes its debut in the digital domain.
A1 Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream 2.24
A2 What’ll Do 2.44
A3 Please Send Me Someone To Love 3.37
A4 Theme From “Hotel” 3.04
A5 Watch What Happens 2.13
B1 God Only Knows 2.49
B2 I Believe In You 3.07
B3 The Look Of Love 3.21
B4 Release Me 2.55
B5 You’d Better Come Home 2.19
He was called ” The Man With The Golden Voice”. His biggest fans include some of history’s greatest vocalists – Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin and Nancy Wilson- to name a few. He was known for his good looks, impeccable showmanship and a voice that reduced listeners to tears. Sam Fletcher skyrocketed to fame after a series of ground-breaking 1960’s television appearances and nightclub engagements …that ignited L.A.’s legendary live jazz scene. Southern California’s affluent African-American celebrities and professionals followed him to legendary rooms like The Memory Lane, The Pied Piper, The Casbah and Page 4. He reigned over the so-called” Mink Coat crowd”-L.A.’s well- heeled, martini-swilling Black glitteratti during America’s period of social upheaval. He was a glamorous figure who carried himself with class and style. He was the country boy who made good. Today, some people call Sam’s story “a great American tragedy” because of his public battle with addiction and eventual fade into obscurity. His most devoted fans, however, hold cherished memories of an exquisite talent and a shining star who brightened their life with beautiful music.
Sam was born Ira Levi Fletcher in rural Tennessee to a fiery pentecostal preacher and his young wife. His early years were spent travelling throughout the South singing for the founders of The Church Of God In Christ. The upstart religion gained converts at tent meetings and outdoor revivals where pint-sized Sam would mesmerize the crowd with his stirring vocals. Legend has it that some women were so moved they would leave their entire purses at the altar. After earning a college degree, Sam was called to serve his country in the Korean War. While stationed in Germany, he played in the USO Jazz Band where friends and musical cohorts encouraged him to pursue a career in popular music- a decision opposed by his family and church leaders. Nevertheless, he spent a large part of the 1950’s recording singles for a series of legendary labels. He enjoyed regional success with 45’s on Metro,Cub, Tollie and Vault records.A contract with Black-owned Vee Jay records- the label credited with bringingthe Beatles to the US- brought him more national exposure. After moving to NYC and marrying a local beauty, Sharon Lee, Sam began to make a name for himself in Manhattan’s swank supper clubs and jazz posts.He even performed in an Off-Bway production of “The Amen Corner” with Olga James (“Carmen Jones”). He soon caught the attention of influential manager Lee Magid (Della Reese, OC Smith) and was signed to RCA Records. RCA paired him with the famed production duo, Hugo & Luigi for his first LP.
When pop icon Dinah Shore heard Sam’s hit “Tall Hope” she imediately fell in love with his voice and sought him out for her 1963 NBC variety show. “The Best is Yet To Come” was a season-ending special that showcased the year’s brightest talents. Sam was featured with Broadway’s Georgia Brown, the Chad Mitchell trio and Barbra Streisand (her famous tv debut). Surprisingly, there were few protests to the publicity photos and magazine covers that had Sam surrounded by three caucasian women (Shore, Brown and Streisand). Appearances on American Bandstand and other televison shows followed. Sam’s good looks and confident stage manner made him a variety show favorite.Famed gossip columnist Walter Winchell mentioned Sam in his column and offers came in from Las Vegas and Atlantic City. He became a popular opening act for mainstream stars like Phyllis Diller, Mitzi Gaynor, Cannonball Adderly and Barbara McNair.
Prior to the release of Sam’s classic LP. ‘I Believe In You“, the record company moved the family to Los Angeles. His neighbors included Ray Charles and Ike &Tina Turner. Sam and his glamorous wife instantly became “celebrities among celebrities”. Crowds flocked to see the man people were calling ” the next Nat Cole” and the black press raved about the city’s new cabaret star. His second Lp “The look Of Love” was a collection of standards and pop tunes that once again showcased his top-notch vocals. During this time, Sam was also a frequent guest on Della Reese’s syndicated show and Dinah Shore’s talk show. With a growing family, he was also enjoying a squeaky- clean image that appealled to both Black and White America. When the news broke in the late 1960’s that he was found with heroin on an international flight , fans were shocked and saddened. In spite of being groomed for mainstream success, Sam fell into the sterotype of the addicted jazz musician.
The early seventies found Sam Fletcher doing occasional TV shows and gigs at local venues that once featured his name in bright lights. Disco music replaced Soul and L.A.’s glamorous rooms quickly faded from popularity. During this period, his most high-profile gigs were performing at heavywight champ Muhammad Ali’s wedding and appearing in a BET documentary about jazz performers. He also rediscovered his love for education and began teaching for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He found a second and fulfilling life as a popular middle and high school teacher. When a mugging left him injured in the early eighties, a benefit was thrown for him that featured O.C. Smith, Reynaldo Ray, Maxine Weldon and the great Esther Philips.
Sam Fletcher passed away in 1984 after a brief illness. The Los Angeles service was attended by stunned friends and fans including Della Reese and Lou Rawls. He was buried in his hometown of Memphis, Tenn with full military honors. Sam left behind a legacy of music and a performing that recalled a bygone era of class and sophistication. His fans still marvel at the memory of an artist who approached greatness and made “everyone in the room” feel glamorous. After his death, an old Tollie single, “I’d Think It Over” took hold of London and helped ignite the city’s Northern Soul scene. The song was eventually used in a national AXA Insurance comercial and continues to be one of Ebay’s most sought-after 45’s. His full-length lp’s are now valuable collector’s items and there are ongoing reports about a film project based on his life. His spirit also lives in the talented offspring who have inherited his impeccable phrasing and rich tone. His childen include Inspirational/R&B diva Gina Fletcher, Dance music artist Ira Levi and legendary hip-hop vocalist Nanci Fletcher- famous for her work with Rap music biggest artists