Born Whaley Thomas Cartey, 18 January 1937, Atlanta, Georgia
The recently deceased Ric Cartey made some good rockabilly recordings, but first and foremost he will be remembered as the co-writer of "Young Love". Few songs have charted in so many different versions. Alongside the chart-topping renditions of Sonny James and Tab Hunter, there were hit versions by The Crew Cuts (# 17, 1957), Lesley Gore (# 50, 1966), Connie Smith & Nat Stuckey (# 20 country, 1969), Donny Osmond (# 25, 1973) and Ray Stevens (# 93, 1976).
Ric Cartey was a protégé of the Atlanta-based music publisher and record producer Bill Lowery, who launched the Stars label in 1956 with Cartey (and his group the Jiv-A-Tones) as his principal artist. Ric's debut single, "Ooh-Ee", was reviewed in the C&W section of Billboard (November 24, 1956) and scored a 90, a rating rarely given. "A unique listening experience", wrote the reviewer. Hidden on the backside of this rockabilly number was a ballad in a completely different style, "Young Love", which Cartey had written together with his girl friend, Carole Joyner. Bill Lowery tried to find a national distributor for "Ooh-Ee"and approached Ken Nelson at Capitol. Nelson politely declined, but he sensed something special about the B-side and offered to play "Young Love" to Sonny James when he came to Nashville. James wasn't sure about the song, but Nelson told him to prepare a new arrangement. Sonny retooled the ballad, removing extraneous chord changes and adding stylistic touches that compensated for lines that weren't long enough to fit the melody. He invested a lot of time reworking "Young Love", even if was only intended as a B-side to "You're the Reason I'm In Love". Sonny always considered "Young Love" as country as anything (it was # 1 for nine weeks on the country charts), but it grabbed the pop market as well. Sonny's version spent one week at # 1 ("Most played by jockeys" section only), before it was supplanted by a note-for-note copy by actor Tab Hunter on the Dot label, which spent six weeks at the top of the Billboard charts in February-March of 1957. Steve Sholes at RCA bought Cartey's contract and reissued "Young Love" in a belated (but vain) attempt to capture a piece of the action. Next released (RCA 6828) was "Heart Throb", also bought from (and produced by) Lowery, who in turn had bought the publishing rights for the song from its writer, Tommy Spurlin from Miami, whose original version of "Heart Throb" (recorded in 1956) remained unissued until 1979. Jerry Reed, who had also written "Ooh-Ee", polished the lyrics of "Heart Throb", in return for a co-writing credit. This didn't sell either for Cartey, nor did his next two singles for RCA, "Born To Love One Woman" and "Mellow Down Easy, both produced by Chet Atkins in Nashville. Rockabilly was already going out of fashion in 1957. By the end of the year, Cartey was back in Atlanta, recording for a new Lowery label, NRC. "Scratchin' On My Screen" was perhaps his finest record, with great guitar work by Jerry Reed and Joe South. The song, written by Cartey, was loosely based on the old country blues "Diggin' My Potatoes". Around this time, Cartey's band, the Jiv-A-Tones, had modest success with "Flirty Gerty", first recorded for Lowery's Fox label in early 1958 and then picked up by Felsted. The lead vocalist on this track is Dean Stevens.
Cartey had further releases on ABC-Paramount and El-Rico, but his career as a singer never took off. He continued his association with Bill Lowery, eventually assuming ownership of Lowery's talent agency. Until the early 1990s, Cartey remained in Atlanta, then moved to Florida, maintaining a leisurely lifestyle made possible by wisely investing his earnings from "Young Love". He died of natural causes on August 5, 2009, aged 72.
- Acknowledgements : Jay Orr, Rob Finnis, Dave Samuelson.
Cartey's original version of "Young Love" has been included as a bonus track on the Sonny James CD "Sonny Rocks" (Bear Family BCD 16679).
"Scratchin' On My Screen" has been reissued by Ace (UK) on two different compilations : "Rockin' From Coast To Coast, Vol. 2" (Ace 715, 1999) and "The Rockin' South" (Ace 1153, 2007).
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