The Swedish Siren

A-M & Elvis

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RCA Victor's Kitten With A Whip.

There are certain entertainers who epitomize an era. One such entertainer is Ann-Margret. The image of her gyrating figure- dressed in a turtleneck sweater and black body stocking, with her flaming mane lashing the air- brings memories of the 1960s surging back. Her look was borrowed from 1940s sex goddess Rita Hayworth, and her stage persona probably inspired by Sammy Davis Jr., the hippest of '50s hipsters. However, the way she attacked a dance rhythm was all sixties, and all her own! Of all the sixties starlets in Hollywood, this ravishing redhead had the twistin'est torso, the bouncin'est breasts, and the wigglin'est Watusi around. She was the personification of the mad, mod "go-go" girl and Sweden's most titillating export . . . a buxom ball of fire.

Born in 1941 in Stockholm, Ann-Margret spent her early years in a rustic Swedish hamlet known as Valsjobyn. At age five, A-M and her mother Anna sailed for New York. Once ashore, they reunited with her father, Gustav Olsson who was ready to make a home for his family in the United States. Eventually they settled in Wilmette, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Daddy's little girl was unable to speak English at first, but that situation changed quickly; only a year after her arrival in America, she was winning spelling bees at school. Even so, Anna Olsson sensed that her daughter was painfully shy. To prevent her from withdrawing into a shell, Mrs. Olsson enrolled the child in dance classes. Ann-Margret's quiet reserve vanished the minute she stepped in front of an audience. She excelled at dancing and as she grew into her teens, aptitudes for singing and acting also emerged. A different side of her personality was revealed on stage; both a tigress and a pussycat seemed to share a living space inside her body! As that body grew more lithesome and curvaceous, Miss Ann-MEOW learned how to use it to her best advantage. With her ripe bosom heaving provocatively, and her creamy thighs peeking out from under a chartreuse sarong, she started a "Heat Wave" at a high school talent show by making her "seat wave!" Her raw sexuality outraged some parents, but most audiences loved it when Ann-Margret played the bad girl. A few years later, so would movie directors; they'd delight in casting her as oversexed nightclub singers, saucy saloon girls, adulterous wives and the like. After high school, A-M joined a jazz combo called The Suttletones, and performed at various venues in Las Vegas and southern California. However, it was her appearance in George Burns' Christmas Stage Show of 1960 that paved the way for both a recording contract and a movie deal.

Ann-Margret's bold and booty-licious style of dancing led to her being dubbed "the female Elvis." Indeed, her Swedish snake hips could match Presley's pelvis move for move. It was almost inevitable that she and Elvis would appear onscreen together (in 1964's Viva Las Vegas), and perhaps, too, that they would cut discs for the same record company. In January of 1961, the RCA Victor label tapped A-M to succeed their resident sex kitten chanteuse, Eartha Kitt. Her succession of producers (including Elvis' A & R men Steve Sholes and Chet Atkins) never quite knew what to do with her. Her RCA catalog ricochets between jazzy nightclub fare, blues ballads, country popcorn balls, rock candy nuggets, and full-throttle production numbers from her movie musicals. Ann-Margret's similarities to Elvis didn't include comparable success on vinyl, but recent increased collector interest has swelled the value of her early sides into hundreds of dollars. Not unlike the oh-so-feline Miss Kitt, Ann-Margret doesn't exactly sing. She purrs, or snarls, with the barest hint of a continental accent. She is often called "the Kitten with a Whip"- a reference to one of her '60s starring vehicles. It turns out that her "whip" is a wicked cat-o'nine-tails that consists of treble clefs, notes and bars . . . and when she cracks it, honey, those black dots go flyin' every which way!

Most of Ann-Margret's recording sessions would take place at RCA's Sunset Boulevard Studios in Hollywood. She first stepped into the studio on February 9, 1961, and recorded "Lost Love," a sultry rock ballad written by conductor HB Barnum and R&B star, Johnny Otis. It missed the charts though, despite being coupled with a frenetic Ray Charles-type arrangement of "I Ain't Got Nobody." On February 27, Miss Ann-MEOW returned to the mike for the first of three consecutive studio dates with arranger Marty Paich. These sessions gave birth to the singer's debut album, And Here She Is, a subdued effort in which her sexy voice rarely rises above a purr. Still, when she begs "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home?" you wonder why the jerk ever went away . . .

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