This Day In History: August 25

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Just as pop stardom most often depends on possessing abundant talent and a great capacity for hard work, it also can require being in the right place at the right time. This was certainly true for the diminutive, 17-year-old singer named Eva Narcissus Boyd, who scored her first and only #1 hit on August 25, 1962 with “The Loco-Motion.”

Eva Boyd was newly arrived in New York City from her native North Carolina and looking for work when a neighbor in Brooklyn pointed her toward the job that would end up changing her life: working as a nanny for a young, professional Manhattan couple. It just so happened that the couple looking for a new babysitter were Gerry Goffin and Carole King, future members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame then working for the legendary Don Kirshner as salaried songwriters at Aldon Music. In the early 1960s, Goffin and King were busy cranking out tunes they hoped would be hits for the likes of Bobby Vee and the Shirelles. When it came time to cut a demo of a brand-new song they’d written about a nonexistent dance craze, Gerry and Carole decided to reward Eva’s hard work running their household and caring for their infant daughter by letting her pick up a few bucks for recording the demo vocals. It turned out to be the biggest tip ever given in the history of the American childcare industry.

As fate would have it, “The Loco-Motion” was turned down by the singer Goffin and King had in mind when they wrote it: Dee Dee Sharp of “Mashed Potato Time” fame. When Aldon boss Don Kirshner heard the demo version of the song with Eva’s vocals, he pronounced it a hit in as-is condition and made it the very first release on his new label, Dimension. Soon enough, the song that opens with the lyric “Everybody’s doo-oo-in’ a brand-new dance now…” was climbing the pop charts and spawning a short-lived dance craze based on the truly brand-new dance Little Eva made up herself to fit the song.

While “The Loco-Motion” would make a second trip to #1 thanks to an unlikely cover by 1970s rockers Grand Funk, it was the only smash hit in the short singing career of Little Eva. She died in 2003.