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Brenda Lee: “Boys Scare Me Most Of All”

Brenda Lee sat silently as she listened to her mother and to Dub Albritten—he was her manager—discuss her. Dub was saying, “She’s a regular tomboy. Just now when I was driving her home from the recording session, she leaned out the car window and hollered to a girlfriend halfway down the block. She’s really got to learn to be just a little more feminine.”

Brenda’s mother spoke quietly, as if she’d been living with the problem so long she couldn’t get very excited. “Just wait a year or so and you won’t recognize her. Pretty soon she’ll have so much femininity that we’ll be wishing for the old Brenda. She’ll be sixteen in December—that’s when there’ll be a change,” her mother added, almost as though she were hoping for some miracle.

The discussion ended when her mother and Dub went into the kitchen. Brenda grimaced, leaned forward and whispered, “I can’t stand all of this,” and with her hand she indicated the pretty blue dressy formal and high-heeled shoes that were on the living room table.

“If I had my way, I’d be in slim-jims nearly all of the time,” she said and paused and took a deep breath. “You know, I’m not sure that I want to be sixteen. I’ve seen those older teenagers moping over Sinatra records. And talking about boys and dates and things like that. That’s fun? Give me Jimmy Clanton and Fats Domino anytime.

“Pretty soon they’ll be telling me I’m allowed to date and people will be asking me, ‘Have you got a steady, Brenda?’

“That’s living? I mean hanging around a telephone, hoping he’ll call when you could be out bowling or swimming? I mean boys are fun at parties—you can’t dance without them—but who wants to be tied down! And to tell you the truth, boys scare me most of all.”

Her mother and Dub came back into the living room, both looking serious.

“You know what I need?” she says. “A kind of Emily Post genie who would talk softly to me and remind me, ‘Remember, Brenda, be a lady, be a lady, be a lady.’ Boy, would Mommie and Dub be ever happy.”

Poor Dub, she really gave him cause for anxiety. During the summer when she was starring at the state fair, every night after her performance, she’d rush backstage to the dressing room and change into her slim-jims because the boys in the band—they were all teenagers, too—were already free and waiting to take her on the roller coaster. Dub always gave his permission. But one night she heard a knock on the door.

“Brenda, hurry,” Dub shouted. “The Governor’s outside and he’s waiting to meet you.” And just before shutting the door he said, “And don’t forget—your white gloves.”

In three minutes flat, she rushed out of that room, down the steps to where the Governor was waiting.

“Please to meet you,” she had said, shaking her white-gloved hand with the Governor’s. And then she saw Dub’s face. She didn’t know what the matter was.

When the Governor left, she asked: “What’s up, Dub? What’d I do?”

“Now, Brenda,” he said patiently, “don’t get discouraged. But do you think slim-jims and white gloves go well together to meet the Governor?”

“But you said to hurry up,” she explained.

“But I didn’t know you’d changed from your costume . . .” Dub began, and she could tell he just thought it was too late to go into it much further.

“I’m sorry, Dub,” she apologized. “I promise. . . . I’ll try harder to be a lady.”

“I really knew better,” she explains. “I’m not really stupid, but I was in such a rush about the roller coaster. . . .” And then she adds appreciatively, “But Dub’s a good sport about me. . . .

“He even went to some of our football games to watch me.”

Last year she was a cheerleader. At one of the games her school team was one point behind and was in a scoring position with one minute to go. Suddenly, there was a commotion on the field and, a few minutes later, a stretcher was being rushed out. Everyone in the stadium craned their necks to see what player was hurt. When, finally, the crowd around “the body” moved away . . . “Who was being carried out?” says Dub. “Brenda.”

“I guess it all looked kind of funny,” Brenda laughs. “But that wasn’t all. When Dub saw who it was he rushed right out onto the field and he got so anxious he followed right after me and didn’t even watch where he was going.

“Suddenly, some women began to scream at him. Poor Dub was in the women’s rest room!

“I guess it sounds kind of foolish to get that worked up over a game. Football games and my grades in school—they’re the two things I get most excited about. No matter what happens to me as a singer, I want to go to college. For a long time I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to help people, but now when we go on tour, and I go to hospitals to meet patients I get a feeling all funny and break up when I see the bandages and all the hurt . . . so I don’t know. But no matter, I want to go to college—and so I need good marks.”

“Good marks are more important than her career,” Dub says.

One afternoon he’d called Brenda up and said, “I’ve got good news, Brenda. I think we’ve got a big hit again—with ‘I’m Sorry.’ Listen to this. Your record’s made the charts of Billboard and Cashbox.”

“Oh, Dub,’ Brenda answered breathlessly. “I’m so glad you called. Guess what? I got an A in my History exam.”

“She got A’s in History, Speech, General Science and English and B’s in all her other subjects as her final marks,” Dub says proudly, and Brenda just smiles. embarrassed, and tries to change the subject.

“You know . . . I’m going to transfer to an Eastern finishing school?” she says in such a way, almost as though, “Roller coasters will be the farthest thing from my mind soon.”

It was suggested that Brenda would make a good actress—she’s had offers to go to Hollywood, but Dub turned them down. One part they wanted her to play was a hillbilly. “I could do that real easy,” Brenda says, “but I want to start off right. Some day I’d like to play parts like Ingrid Bergman—tragic, romantic roles . . .” So for the time she’ll go to the new school, and they’ll try to firm up her soft Southern accent.

“I guess,” she says, “it would be normal to hope that I make a lot of new good friends. I don’t think it will be my fault, though, if I don’t. I know Dub is always complaining that, if anything, I’m too friendly with strangers. But I’ll tell you how I feel. I’ve never met a stranger. I love friends and I love to have their pictures. I collect pocket-size pictures of all my fans. When they ask me for a picture, I ask right back and they’re always nice enough to send me one.”

Sometimes they send a stuffed animal because Brenda collects them. She has more than forty—dogs, cats, crocodiles and all kinds of bunnies and even a dinosaur. “I call the dinosaur GooGoo. I know it sounds silly, and I’m often silly . . . sometimes I get carried away with my own ideas. For my sixteenth birthday, I’d better wish for more understanding.

“Mother says I do need new furniture for my bedroom and maybe this could be part of my birthday surprise. I’ve always wanted a white canopy bed, so I could wake up in the morning feeling like a princess. I know this sounds kind of silly, too, because I never wanted to look like a princess. But I’d like a pretty bed . . . not that I’d want a fancy nightgown or silk pajamas or anything like that. . . .”

She looks down at her shoes and guiltily slips her feet back in them. “I’d like a birthday party,” she says. “I like them where everyone mixes—maybe eight boys and nine girls you like real well. It’s good to have an extra girl so you can gossip. Don’t misunderstand. I like boys, especially when they have a good personality and are lots of fun. I love to dance but the trouble is most boys don’t know how to dance when you get down to it and they don’t want to learn either.

“And it would be real crazy if somehow we were near a big roller coaster—I mean when you go down you feel as if you’re halfway to Hades and when you pull up you feel as if your head is blowing off. I’d like to ride thirty times straight.”

“Her current record,” says Dub, “is twenty rides without getting off.”

“I guess, too, I’d hope for a second television set in the house. My little sister Robin and I never fuss, but with Randall, my brother—he’s ten and he always wants to tag along—well, we’re forever going at it tooth and nail over which TV show we’re going to watch. So it’d be practical, I guess, to wish for another set.

“Or being practical, I might wish for a special shoe closet. That’s about my only passion—shoes and more shoes. I can’t pass a shoe store that I don’t stop for ten minutes to look at all the styles. I wouldn’t think of asking for another pair of shoes for my birthday. With all I have that would be plain greedy, but I wouldn’t mind maybe another formal.

“You know,” she says abruptly, “I can’t see where there’s fun in sophisticated clothes. Who wants to spend half your time counting runs in silk stockings?” And then she adds, “Maybe if I could have just one birthday wish, it would be that I might be fifteen for another year.” But her eye catches the pretty blue formal on the table and she kind of smiles and says, “I guess I have to admit; it is pretty with all that lace and taffeta and I like that kind of waistline . . .” and no matter what Brenda says, you know she’s kind of growing up.

She sits thoughtfully and, suddenly, the smile is gone and her face is serious and a little saa. “I guess,” she says, “if there were just one wish . . . just one . . . I’d wish that there were just a small package for my birthday and in it I found a picture of Daddy. I guess that would give me my biggest thrill—the biggest thrill of my life. Daddy died,” she explains, “when I was eight and there isn’t a single picture of him in the house. Not even a snapshot.”

He was working on a construction job in Georgia. A heavy tool fell and hit him on his head. He picked himself up and stayed on the job. Then, three weeks later, he went into the hospital for the injury and a week later, he passed away.

“I don’t remember too much about Daddy, but I think of him all the time,” she says. “He left enough money to provide for us for quite a while, so I know he always had us on his mind. I keep hoping that someone on Daddy’s side of the family has a picture of him and that they will send it to me. I’d just like to sit down with the picture and tell Daddy of all the wonderful things that have happened since he went away. . . . That’s really what I’d like to do on my birthday. That’s really what I want—not parties, or dresses, or TV sets—just that.”


Hear Brenda’s records on the Decca label.



1 Comment
  • zoritoler imol
    23 Nisan 2023

    I am very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the accidental misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.

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