YEARS AGO

 

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 Oh Boy (The Mood I’m In) (T Romeo) – Diana Trask 1975

 

Throughout the first season of Sing Along with Mitch on NBC in 1961 Di Trask became a familiar face on American television, she was featured in articles in both Time and Life magazines and released two pop-oriented albums, Diana Trask (’61) and Diana Trask on TV (’62) but neither charted here and were minor hits in the US. She continued to work outside her TV network commitments appearing with Jack Benny on his show at Harrah’s Casino, Lake Tahoe, as well as guesting with Tony Bennett and Mel Torme, but she had met her future husband, and this would seriously sidetrack her singing career in the future.

 

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Thom Ewen was an Irish-American divorcee with two children and an existing heart condition, when he and Diana Trask married in Warburton (Vic) in January 1962, he was 33 and she was 21, her parents were dubious, but before that year was over Diana would have delivered their first child, a son, and a second son would arrive soon thereafter.

Her American management team were furious at her actions which had not been planned and had upset the scheduling of her future engagements. Mitch Miller had already decided to sack her because she had dared to ask for a pay rise after the first series of the show and because the relationship between his two female lead singers on Sing Along with Mitch, Diana and Leslie Uggams was frosty. Her sudden marriage and pregnancies, and the cancellation of her NBC contract, effectively put her American showbiz career on hold.

 

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She returned to Australia in 1964, Thom was her new manager, she quickly picked up professional work, appearing on In Melbourne Tonight and ultimately landing her own show on GTV9, the Di Trask Show which ran for thirteen weeks, it was a moderate hit here, but very popular overseas, she returned to the US in 1967, settled in Nashville, and began to re-invent herself as a country singer in the heart of the Grand Ole Opry community.

Her debut country chart entry was a cover of Roger Miller’s Lock, Stock and Teardrops, which climbed to #33 on the Billboard Country charts in 1968, she followed up with a Joe Tex song Hold On to What You Gotwhich earned Diana the title of “Miss Country Soul”, she toured the country music  venues relentlessly, seeking that big hit that would convince her fellow country artists that she was the real deal, and not just a pop crossover careerist on the make from Australia. She took out American citizenship and received the predictable howls of protest from the media back in Australia, Helen Reddy would endure the same treatment in the future.

By now Diana was guesting on the Johnny Cash TV Show, performing regularly as a member of the Roy Clark Show in casinos and supporting such lounge acts on the strip as Danny Thomas and Glenn Campbell.

Her album From the Heart was a #32 country hit in 1969 in the US, as was It’s A Man’s World which climbed to #25 in 1974, she was nominated for a Country Grammy award for Best Female vocalist in 1968 but lost out to Tammy Wynette.

 

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In the intervening years Diana would take eighteen songs into the US country charts, but she desperately wanted a country/pop crossover hit song and believed that she had found one in 1975 with the Tony Romeo song Oh Boy (The Mood I’m In).

Diana went into the ABC-Dot Records studio in Nashville to record Oh Boy with producer Jim Fogleson, who was the Head of A&R at Dot Records and a country music producer/arranger of considerable repute. The song is anchored on a sustained pedal steel guitar refrain and a catchy chorus, male backing singers accentuate the emotional content of the song which charts the anguish of marital breakup and the wife’s fruitless search for her husband and father of their child. Oh Boy was not surprisingly country-influenced and is completely different from the Buddy Holly song of the same name.

Tony Romeo was a US music journeyman, whose biggest hit had been five years earlier when the Partridge Family took his I Think I Love You to #1 in the States, and he also had success with Indian Lake (Cowsills) and I’m Gonna Make You Mine (Lou Christie).

A string arrangement by Bill McElhiney beautifully underscored the warm enveloping soprano voice of Diana and Harold Bradley brought the whole musical arrangement together in a convincing production that should have been a big hit on both the pop and country charts internationally.

 

But when the song needed the full marketing support of the label, ABC-Dot was being sold to another company, and Oh Boy would be a casualty of the corporate realignment of the business.

Trask’s highest rating record in the USA was Lean It All on Me which hit #13 in 1974 but her biggest hit locally was Oh Boy which was a #10 hit here in 1975.

The song was given more of a pop treatment in 1977 by the British quartet Brotherhood of Man, who had won the Eurovision Song Contest the previous year and followed up with Oh Boy which charted #8 in the UK and top ten in several other European countries.

One of Diana’s last chart appearances in Australia was an album of C&W songs with Allison Durbin entitled Nothing But the Very Best in 1982, and in 1985 the girl from Warburton would be the featured singer at the 1985 AFL Grand Final, the first female singer so honored, when she performed Waltzing Matilda in front of 100,000 adoring hometown fans.

 

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