Shelby Singleton Biography
Singleton joined the Marine Corps, and after his military discharge was hired by Mercury Records to do promotional work, based in Shreveport, Louisiana. He rose in the company to become a record producer and executive in Mercury’s Nashville office. In 1960, he achieved his first hit single, Brook Benton‘s recording of “The Boll Weevil Song“, which became a #2 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the following year. Singleton spent nine years at Mercury and its sister label, Smash Records, during which he was involved in producing many hit records, including Leroy Van Dyke‘s “Walk On By“; “Ahab the Arab” by Ray Stevens; and “Wooden Heart” by Joe Dowell. Singleton also acted as producer for such artists as Jerry Lee Lewis, Roger Miller, Charlie Rich, Dave Dudley, and Brook Benton.
In 1962, Singleton bought the master recording of “Hey Paula” by Jill and Ray, originally released on LeCam Records. He changed their names to Paul & Paula and issued the song on Mercury’s sister label, Philips Records. The song spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1966, Singleton resigned from Mercury and formed several music labels, including SSS International and Plantation Records. He achieved his first #1 hit in 1968 with Jeannie C. Riley‘s “Harper Valley PTA“. The following year, Singleton purchased Sun Records and its rock and roll catalog from Sam Phillips. Singleton was also on the nominating committee of the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
Singleton was known to find talent in all parts of the country. For example, The Flatlanders were brought to his attention by freelance producer Royce Clark. In 1972 the Flatlanders traveled from Lubbock to Nashville to record with Clark for Singleton’s Plantation label. Singleton and Clark worked closely together in later years, finding and recording undiscovered talent which Clark produced for Singleton’s Plantation label, such as Ron Daisley and The County Fair from Long Island, New York.