Alright, so Mel Carter wasn’t exactly the embodiment of the gritty soul sound we came to expect from singers like Otis Redding or James Carr. Although Carter’s was a more pop-oriented sound, it’s all part of the of the big stew that is the music we love.
Carter came from Cincinnati and was already singing at the age of four, when his grandmother held him up so that he could sing into the microphone in the recording booth at a penny arcade. Carter’s career really began however when he was signed by Quincy Jones to record for Mercury Records. His work for the label might not have yielded any hits, but it did get the attention of prominent figures in the music industry.
One of the people who was impressed by Carter’s early efforts was Sam Cooke, who signed Carter to Derby Records. It was there that he had his first hit in 1962 with a song called “When A Boy Falls In Love.” Carter was only 19 years-old, and the best was yet to come.
Three years later Carter was recording for Imperial Records, and it was there that he had the hit that made him a household name. “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” was written in 1952 by Harry Noble. Karen Chandler released the original version that year on Coral Records. It was a sizable hit for her, peaking at #7 on the Billboard chart. The song was also recorded by Connie Francis in 1959.
There is no doubt however that “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” is most associated with Mel Carter. It was released in 1965 and shot up to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Easy Listening chart. The record sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold record. “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” would later be covered by Shirley Bassey (1969), Johnny Mathis (1977), and Gloria Estefan, who had a European and Australian hit with it in 1994. It was also referenced by the 1995 U2 song “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.”
Carter would go on to have more hits with songs like “Band of Gold,” and “(All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings,” but he would never again approach the lofty heights he had scaled with “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me.” While he continued singing in venues all over the world, Carter expanded his career to include acting, which led to appearances on tv shows like Quincy, Sanford and Son, Marcus Welby, Magnum, PI.
Mel Carter had a bigger impact on the Easy Listening chart than he ever did on the R&B chart. Still, by virtue of one immortal single that can still be heard on the radio on a regular basis (and you know you never turn it off when it comes on), he insured that he will not soon be forgotten.