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Artist: Evie Sands
Writer: Chip Taylor
Label: Cameo-Parkway Records
Juice Newton had a big ‘crossover’ country-pop hit with Angel of the Morning in 1981 but the song has actually been covered by many artists, including Olivia Newton-John. The first person to sing the song, in 1967 was actually a singer named Evie Sands who recorded a number of songs by songwriter/producer Chip Taylor and his writing partners, including Al Gorgoni, only to have them fail and then be covered by other artists to great success. Merrilee Rush, who released her version of Angel of the Morning in 1968 just when Sands’ version was beginning to hit the airwaves in 1968.
Merrilee Rush was not the second person to record the song, however. It was earlier recorded by Billy Davis and Danny Michaels, in 1967. Merrilee Rush recorded her version after being discovered in Nashville while her band, The Turnabouts, was the opening act for Paul Revere and the Raiders. It was intended to be a solo release but credit was given to Merrilee Rush and The Turnabouts. Alas, poor Evie Sands, nicknamed hard-luck Evie by Taylor and Gorgoni, couldn’t catch a break. Her new label, Cameo, decided to close up shop just as the song was starting to make the rounds, only to be eclipsed by Rush’s version, which made it to no. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June of 1968. P.P. Arnold also had a hit with it in 1968.
The song’s writer, Chip Taylor, who also wrote the song Wild Thing (the Troggs), his first big hit, was born James Wesley Voight. He is actually the brother of actor John Voight. His songs have been recorded by a host of famous singers both in the rock and country genre. According to a friend and frequent songwriting partner, Billy Vera, Angel of the Morning was originally intended for Vera’s sister, Kathy.
The most successful version of the song was recorded by country-rock singer Juice Newton in 1981 for her sixth album, Juice. This more country than pop version of the song was a smash hit, reaching no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 22 on the country chart. It also went to no. 1 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, hanging there for three weeks. Newton then went on to be nominated for a Grammy for the recording. The song was also very successful in other countries, including Canada and Australia. Her video for the song was the first country music video ever aired on MTV, first played the same day the network launched in 1981.
The song has also been recorded by Olivia Newton-John, Connie Eaton, Guys ‘n’ Dolls, and Melba Montgomery. Reggae artist Shaggy also recorded a song called Angel in 2001 that relied heavily on samples of the song’s melody. Angel reached no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 2001.
Hard-luck Evie actually did finally get her own piece of the pie starting in 1969 with her new label, A&M. Her recording, Any Way That You Want Me, yet another Chip Taylor song that had been recorded by The American Breed and the Troggs three years earlier, reached the top of the charts in several big cities, and she went on to have a productive, although not a hit-laden career, before moving on to writing and producing. She returned to performing live in the late 1990s after having been rediscovered by fans in the UK. She still writes and performs today.