A special page dedicated to South Africa's first lady of soul by Bas Möllenkramer
NEWS: Noted South African music collector Tertius Louw recently visited Una Valli and was given a number of images which we proudly publish here. We thank Una Valli for the images and for giving us permission to share them on this website. Thanks for the great music, Una!
|Early Valiants publicity photo.|
|Una Valli and her then husband Doug Smith|
|Newspaper advert (note missspelling)|
|Una and her band City Limits|
|Una with the Dominos|
|Una with the Holy Black|
|Una with the Dominos|
|CBS Records promo sheet|
|Successor album to Soul Meeting (shame it never happend!)|
|A side: Dreamboat
B side: My Dream (on stock issue)
label & number: Troubadour TRS-E-9007
Note: Sampler - not for sale.
|A side: On My Birthday
B side: Hey Lover
label & number: CBS SSC 462
|A side: Do-Wah-Diddy
B side: I Know (You Don't Love Me Anymore)
label & number: CBS SSC 463
|A side: Just So Bobby Can See
B side: Really Gonna Shake
label & number: CBS SSC 488
|A side: Maybe I Know
B side: Here He Comes Now
label & number: CBS SSC 504
|A side: There Goes The Boy I Love
B side: Let It Happen To Me
label & number: CBS SSC 565
Note: with the Valiants
|A side: Send It
With A Kiss
B side: Red Letter Day
label & number: CBS SSC 622
Note: with the Valiants
|A side: Here I Stand
B side: Love Is You Love Is Me
label & number: CBS SSC 668
Note: with the Valiants
|A side: I'll Come Running Over
B side: Not In This World
label & number: Philips SSP 928
|A side: Why Don't I Run Away From
B side: Try To Understand
label & number: Philips SSP 940
Note: produced by Grahame Beggs
|Title: Teenage Sensation
label & number: CBS ALD 6758
Notes: Arranged and Conducted by Dan Hill. Sleeve Notes: Teenage Sensation is the title of this LP and describes but perfectly the young lady who is responsible for the twelve tremendous tracks on this platter. Una Valli is just fourteen years old. Now take a look at the front of this disc - what do you see? That's right, a sensational teenager. This young lady looks like a dream and she has a voice to match. What a wonderful combination!!! When I was aksed to write the cover notes on this disc, I was knocked out because for one thing, Una goes to my old school. Forest High, and this is the only time I have ever wished that I was back at school. Una has the kind of voice and style that makes you sit up and take note of what is going on, and she has the most remarkable mature sound that I have ever heard from a fourteen year old singer. You and I have all heard the teeny voices that most of the young girl singers have, you know they do nothing, but Una can belt out a song in a big way, and yet, she has the talent to sing a tender number with a great warmth and sincerity. One of the moste remarkable things about Una is that she first came to the attention of CBS records when she was only twelve, and though they were very impressed they wisely waited a while until developed the beautiful quality that is has today. This is Una's first LP and it says volumes for the South African recording ability of the people concerned with this disc. The backing on all the tracks is the work of Dan Hill, the man who is responsible for so many of the musical arrangements on disc today, and here he endorses his reputation of being the best M.D. in South Africa.
Now listen to Una singing "Do-Wah-Diddy" and, by the way, she recorded this title long before anyone else in tghe world. Take note of the way she swings. Now play "Too Young" notice how well she treats this lovely old standard, with all the charm of a singer with far more experience. Play any track on this great LP and you will be amazed as I was when I first heard her. I really did not believe she was only fourteen until her mother showed me her birth certificate. Don't get the idea that I don't believe things people tell me, it's just that I've been in show biz a long time and have never, anywhere in the world, come across talent with such potential at such a tender age. Dan Hill, her musical director, says that Una is the easiest singer to record. She just walks into the studio, the band starts to play and Una sings. That's all - no tantrums, no retakes, no fuss. In the words of Dan Hill "If all the singers I record were as easy to work with as Una, my life would be made a lot easier". Una made a big impression on thousands of people when she featured with Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. I know, I was compere of that show and Una's reception was just fantastic. She also makes her film debut in a beat film called "Shakin' Up Africa" and all the reports I have heard say she comes over on the screen in a big way. I have listened to this LP very carefully and I think that the title very aptly sums up my opinion of Una Valli.....A Teenage Sensation. Peter Lotis.
|Title: Dan Hill At The Grove
featuring Dana Valery and introducing Una Valli
label & number: CBS
date: 1964 ?
Una Valli sings on the following tracks:
Notes: The liner notes only mention Una Valli briefly: On this record as well as Dana Valery, you'll hear Dan's new vocalist - Una Valli. Una is only 14 years oldbut has all the talent that made Dana Valery famous. This girl is really going to go places from now on!
||Title: Soul Meeting!!
(collaboration with Una Valli and the Peanut Butter Conspiracy) (mono edition)
(see review below)
label & number: Rave RMG 1233
date: April 1968
A Grahame Beggs production. Cover photo: L'Atelier.
There is a sleeve note on this record, as follows:
|Title: Soul Meeting!!
(collaboration with Una Valli and the Peanut Butter Conspiracy) (mono UK edition)
label & number: Page One FOR 019
date: April 1968
|Title: Love Power
By: Wanda Arletti
label & number: NEMS 301
date: May 1969
Note: Una Valli provided backing vocals together with Stevie von Kerken and Judy Page.
Producer: Art Heatlie.
Review of the "Soul Meeting!!" LP by South Africas first lady of soul, Una Valli
with the Flames and the Peanut Butter Conspiracy
a Grahame Beggs production
released in South Africa April 1968 in mono on Rave RMG 1233
released in the UK 1968 in mono on Page One FOR 019
the existence of a stereo version is uncertain, but possible since contemporary albums by the Flames were available in stereo
this review is based on the mono LP
Satisfaction (Jagger / Richard) 2.22 the Flames
For covering this Jagger Richard classic Una Valli turned not to the Rolling Stones version but was inspired instead by Aretha Franklin's blistering homage. This is a stunning album opener, giving Una Valli the full width and breadth to let it all go. She swoops and hollers with feeling and precision. The Flames, augmented by a rich brass section, provide an unstoppable surging backing track, perfectly punctuating Una Valli 's goosebump vocals. Una Valli must have been a heart-stopping sight, performing this song at concerts or in night-clubs. Although buried way down in this richly produced reverberant mix, the words "rhythm guitar" don't do justice to Steve Fataar's rhythmic stabbing chordal accompaniment. There's a lot going on in there. In short a killer track
Tell Mama (Carter) 2.20 the Flames
This was a mid-career classic for the underrated Etta James, the American soul singer equally at home with roaring funk and delicate crooners. Again Una Valli does this song ample justice, preferring to rely on her own rich inflections instead of attempting a straight replica. Producer Grahame Beggs uses a trick which this album shares with many other classics; opening with not one but two power tracks. Just think of Led Zeppelin 4. Again the backing is perfect, with great drumming from Ricky Fataar, who recently backed another great lady singer Bonnie Raitt. And when Una Valli sings "I want you to tell mama what you need" the message is brought forcibly home.
I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You (Shannon) 3.36 the Peanut Butter Conspiracy
This soul waltz, in which Una Valli is backed by the Peanut Butter Conspiracy (of the SA variety), gives her space to slow down and hit the occasional high note. A fine tune, sung from the heart.
Reach Out I'll Be There (E. & B. Holland / Dozier) 3.12 the Flames
More Motown soul power, featuring a backup girl chorus. This time Una Valli 's voice is way down in the mix. The accent here seems to be on the backing band, the Flames. Their performance is flawless, but it's hard to hear Una Valli through the thunder. Liberal reverberation completes the atmosphere.
Yesterday (Lennon / McCartney) 3.13 the Peanut Butter Conspiracy
Staying far away from Paul McCartney's own interpretation, Una Valli treats this song as if it came out of Detroit. She is backed by organ, harpsichord and band, in an challengingly different arrangement.
You Are My Sunshine (Davis / Mitchell) 2.34 the Flames
Another huge thumping soul monster, with a gorgeous rich production, great brass and stunning accompaniment from the Flames. Una Valli romps through the song with deft self-assuredness.
Respect (Redding) 2.28 the Peanut Butter Conspiracy
A straight homage to Una Valli 's obvious idol Aretha Franklin, who herself took this Otis Redding tune to new heights. Yet she still manages to let us know this is Una Valli singing.
Nowhere to Run (E. & B. Holland / Dozier) 3.03 the Peanut Butter Conspiracy
This album filler lacks the punch of the rest of this album. It has trouble getting off the ground and Una Valli ' singing stays in the middle register. Without the ear-splitting sweeps the vocals are lackluster. Next take?
My Guy (Robinson / White) 3.22 the Peanut Butter Conspiracy
Mary Wells is the original singer of this Motown hit. The demanding melody is given soulful treatment, and gently driven along by the usual superb brass arrangements. Una Valli seems to be straining at the leash just after the song modulates half a tone upwards. But she just manages to keep it at ballad level.
Take Me For A Little While (Martin) 2.36 the Flames
A medium soul ballad with Una Valli 's voice up front, towering over the now familiar brass power.
Stop Thief (Hayes / Porter / Shamwell) 2.25 the Flames
A piano signals the backing of the PBC on this rolling ballad. "You stole my heart" smokes Una Valli with conviction. An understated performance revealing a long singing experience at the age of only about 18.
Yum Yum (Frazier) 2.38 the Peanut Butter Conspiracy
This track was featured on compilation albums. The introductory "Uh", over the tack-piano backing is only just rescued from getting corny. The wah-wah solo is right on the edge. Una Valli again stretches out to her highest register. A good track although one might have hoped for a more ferocious tune with which to close the album.
Soul Meeting is a triumphant album. It was a stroke of genius by Grahame Beggs to team up the girl-wonder with South Africas greatest soul bands. The song selection is exemplary, taking a cross section from both the Motown and Atlantic soul hits of the era, and introducing Una Vallis special fire. The original Rave records catalog number for Soul Meeting fits exactly between the two classic contemporary Flames albums Burning Soul and Soulfire, both of which were available in stereo in South Africa. It therefore seems likely that a stereo version of Soul Meeting ought to exist. The UK Page One catalogue suggests the contrary, regrettably omitting a stereo Soul Meeting, on the rear sleeve of a sampler album. Please help me out firstname.lastname@example.org if you know anything more about this. The sleeve photos for Soul Meeting show Una Valli with a cute sixties hairdo. The South African edition front-sleeve features a brown enhanced photo of Una Valli, taken from the front. The rear photo is taken from the side and shows Una Valli caressing a microphone with both hands (!). The UK edition of this album reverses these two images. The UK Page One label mono compilation album entitled A Little Bit Of Soul features British acts the Chants and Pic & Bill. Additionally it has two tracks by the Flames and three by Una Valli. These are Take Me For A Little While, Satisfaction and Yum Yum.
The following article is taken from the March 1965 issue of South Africa's Debonair magazine:
The popular new 15 – year –old vocalist started singing in talent contests at the age of 12. Now she sings with Dan Hill’s band and cut her first complete album record last year. Ulna made her professional debut singing with the Hustlers. She has also sung with The Bats and The Valiants. Her records rose to popularity with a cover of the Manfred Mann single “Do-wa-diddy.”
Her hobbies are dancing, swimming, and drawing. The first film she has appeared in is “Africa Shakes”. She’s so grown up at 15. You’d hardly think she’s still at school. She looks like a sophisticated young woman, and is so casual and at ease singing before a band to a huge audience of fans.
Una Valli has to look her best to work with experienced professionals and sing before an audience of critical grown-ups. That’s why she uses sophisticated French make-up. Nothing but the very best will do, and that means STENDAHL cosmetics imported direct from Paris. “ These Stendahl cosmeticts are specially made for youthful complexions” says Una. “ No young girl wants to look heavily made-up, that is why I use them in preference to others. They feel cool and clean and their range of colours is fantastic, but most important of all they’re good for the skin.”
When we interviewed her after the evening’s performance, Una emphasized the attractive appearance and texture of the cosmetics and showed us how easily and smoothly they could be applied. “ Take Stendahl’s lipsticks for instance” Una said. “ They’re first-rate quality, they last and have that certain French glittering texture which I adore. That’s why I keep all five colours, plus their special white lipstick to blend different colours for different effects- what more could anyone ask for?”
We certainly got the message- Una knows the art of success, not only in her profession, but in her private life too. In her home at Forrest Hill she relaxes after school by playing the radio or listening to one of her favourite Beatles records. When she’s heard a song just once she knows whether it will ever be her own special song. After listening to it a couple of times, she knows it off by heart and if there are any words that don’t suit her, she changes them. By the time she’s sung it a half a dozen times it has become something very special.
Una is 5ft. 41/2 in. tall and are still growing. Her favourite foods are spaghetti bolognaise and curry and rice She likes dancing and swimming and when it comes to school work her favourite subject is science. Una has no “steady”. “I’m much too busy”, she says . Nor has she any long-range plans for marriage. She wants to go on singing for a long time yet.
Her favourite song is “Quanda Caliente el Sol”. Among her most popular songs are “ Is it True?” , “ Baby Love” and “ Leader of the Pack”.
The fabulous book entitled 'History of Contemporary Music of South Africa', written by Garth Chilvers and Tom Jasiukowicz, and published by Toga Publishing in 1994, has this to say about Una Valli:
--- quote begins ---
Soul singer discovered in 1963 when announcer John Walker saw her perform and invited her to sing on the Springbok radio show "Stars Of Tomorrow". Went on to become the most powerful soul singer in the country.
My Dream (1963) Troubadour...backed by the Tempos
There Goes The Boy I Love With Mary (1963) CBS...backed by the Valiants (the Jo'burg band led by Vic Dene)
Just So Bobby Can Sing (1964) CBS
Send It With A Kiss (1966) CBS
Love Is You, Love Is Me (1966) CBS
I'll Come Running Over (1966) Philips
Why Don't I Run Away From You (1967) Philips
Teenage Sensation (1964) CBS
Soul Meeting (1968) Rave..recorded with the Flames and the Peanut Butter Conspiracy
Sang with the Hustlers and the Dominoes.
--- quote ends ---
Please also visit the wonderful website for all South African music: