The long New England winter is apparently over. Actually, it wasn’t a bad one at all and despite the fact that spring doesn’t officially arrive until this weekend, we have been enjoying some nice sunny weather here in Rhode Island this week. The birds are beginning to sing, the bees are starting to buzz, and thoughts turn to … Jewel Akens.
Akens was born in Houston in 1933. Early in his singing career, he was with groups like the Medallions, who recorded for Dootone Records, and the Four Dots, who made records for a label called Freedom. In 1960 he teamed up with Eddie Daniels, and the duo known, appropriately, as Jewel and Eddie, recorded for Silver Records.
It was as a solo artist that Akens found his greatest success, however. In 1965 his recording of “The Birds and the Bees” for Era Records shot up the Billboard Hot 100 chart to #3, and the Cashbox chart to #2. It was a million seller and a gold record winner. Jewel Akens had finally made the big-time, or so it must have seemed at the time.
I remember walking on the boardwalk in Atlantic City that summer. “The Birds and the Bees” could be heard everywhere. It was a song that appealed to everyone.
Once you have a hit record the follow-up becomes key. It goes a long way toward determining if an artist is going to be a true star, or merely a one-hit wonder. Sadly, the latter was the case for Akens. His follow-up single was something called “Georgie Porgie,” and when it only managed to reach #68 it marked the end of Akens brief ascent to stardom.
That’s not to say that Akens gave and went home. He kept on singing, doing live shows in which he often paid tribute to Sam Cooke, who he considered a mentor. Akens also fronted one of the many groups calling themselves the Coasters, despite the absence of any original Coaster. The success of “The Birds and the Bees” even earned Akens a slot on tour with the Monkees in the late ’60s.
By the middle of the 1970s, Akens was ready to call it a day. But that still wasn’t quite the end of the story. In 2005 he reassembled the Four Dots, albeit with new members, and they played shows for five years.
Jewel Akens died in 2013 as a result of surgical complications. He was a one-hit wonder in the truest sense of the word, but in light of the fact that the vast majority of artists never have a hit record, it’s really not such a bad designation, especially when your one hit is joyous, and indelible record.