All the US Record companies including RCA Victor promoted their artists overseas in order to take advantage of the popularity of US artists in countries such as the UK. Over half the popular music broadcast by the BBC in the UK during the 1950s and early 1960s was by US artists despite the pressure from bodies such as the Songwriters’ Guild to reduce this. There was no barrier from language in the UK either. In the German market, the largest in Europe, where a domestic hit single could achieve a 1,000,000 sales, English language records struggled to sell with only 100 000 or so for a hit by a leading American artist. To access these markets required a more effective distribution and promotion strategy.
RCA had taken steps in 1957 to improve their global distribution. Russell Sanjek (1988) reports:
“During visits there (the UK) and to RCA plants on the Continent, they completed a reciprocal distribution agreement with Sir Edward Lewis, of British Decca, effective in 1957, when Victor’s fifty year liaison with EMI-HMV terminated. Lewis intended to maintain his London label in America, but he gave RCA access to its concert-music artists, of whom there were enough for both. Similar distribution arrangements were made simultaneously with Telefunken, to inaugurate Teldec Records in West Germany, and Musikvertrieb of Switzerland, thus providing the RCA Victor logo world-wide visibility for the first time. Contracts already existed with other independent European record makers and distributors. Victor of Japan, formerly owned jointly with RCA, handled all distribution in the Far East.”
So by 1963 all the elements were in place for RCA artists to have success in European markets. Trips could be arranged at relatively short notice and gain media exposure, such as appearances on popular TV programmes. For example, in the UK , the US visitors added variety to shows otherwise dominated by local artists, and were a popular addition. Moreover, the arrangement with Decca allowed RCA to gain access to the very influential commercial broadcaster, Radio Luxembourg. In the UK, for example, the only access to pop music was the Light programme of the BBC. In contrast, Radio Luxembourg’s output was entirely pop and geared towards the teenage market. Decca ‘sponsored’ programmes on Radio Luxembourg and provided a weekly list of the releases they wished played - Decca and Decca partners’ records obviously!
Peggy’s UK exposure prior to the August visit
The UK tour was mainly intended to promote Hello Heartache, Goodbye Love. Peggy was largely unknown in the UK. Reviews of the popular (Pop Weekly, Record Mirror, Melody Maker) and specialist (Record Retailer) music press demonstrate this. Through advertising and local record releases, RCA Victor increased interest in Peggy during Summer 1963 following the international success of I Will Follow Him.
The first reference to Peggy in the British press is in the specialist journal Record Retailer - aimed at owners of record shops:
4th April RCA decide to release I Will Follow Him in the UK (RCA 1338) and Decca include this on their Radio Luxembourg play list. (Record Retailer)
11th & 18th April I Will Follow Him listed in an RCA advert in Record Retailer under the Heading “RECORDS YOU MUST STOCK”.
4th May “Little Peggy March who fairly tore up the American charts with I Will Follow Him” - with the first photo of Peggy (Pop Weekly). Record Mirror contains an advert, with a photo, for RCA 1338 I Will Follow Him.
11th May “Now Little Peggy March has a number one hit, she’s not so sure about keeping on with her full-time studying at high school” (Pop Weekly - under AMERICAN Lettergram). Record Mirror contains an advert for RCA 1338 I Will Follow Him.
18th May “At 15, Little Peggy March tops the charts here. And she’s got at least four years’ schooling ahead of her.” (Pop Weekly - under AMERICAN Lettergram). Record Mirror contains an advert for RCA 1338 I Will Follow Him.
8th June “Little Peggy March follow-up I Wish I Were a Princess, a multi-tracked teenbeat offering just as good as her I Will Follow Him (Pop Weekly - under AMERICAN Lettergram)
20th June Record Retailer reports that Wish I Were a Princess is on the Decca sponsored Radio Luxembourg play list for next week and releases week ending 28th June as RCA1350.
6th July Record Mirror (p. 6) has an article with a photo of Peggy and the caption “Little Peggy March leads the field (a point ranking system of the top 50 discs for the first six months of 1963) I Will Follow Him has a score of 535 points just ahead of The End Of The World by Skeeter Davis with 532 points. Record Mirror also contains an advert for RCA 1350 I Wish I Were a Princess
The 1963 Visit (22nd - 31st August)
Peggy undertakes a 10 day tour of the UK to promote Hello Heartache, Goodbye Love. RCA and Decca manage to get Peggy on the three popular weekly music shows broadcast in the UK:
23rd August appears on TV show Ready, Set Go (Episode 3 of series 1) Peggy is a guest along with The Rolling Stones, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan (The Rolling Stones are not listed in the TV Times - perhaps they were a late addition). The TV Times listing says that this show was hosted by Keith Fordyce and David Gill and that viewers could ‘listen to hit discs, see a scene from a recent movie, dance with the teenagers in the studio, find out what’s swinging this weekend’.
24th August appears on the TV show Jukebox Jury hosted by David Jacobs and with Tom Courtenay and Peter Noble as fellow panelists. The records Peggy was required to judge were:
The Dreamer - Neil Sedaka judged to be a HIT
Judy’s Turn to Cry - Lesley Gore judged to be a HIT
She Loves You - Beatles - judged to be a HIT - Peggy hated the song because of the repetitive "Yeah, yeah, yeah" but actually told the audience that she loved it and predicted that it would become a huge hit in the US.
Doodlin Song - Peggy Lee - judged to be a MISS
You Must Be Joking - Wee Willie Harris judged to be a HIT
Wait ‘till my Bobby Gets Home - Darlene Love - judged to be a MISS
Frankie and Johnny - Sam Cooke judged to be a HIT
Summertime, Summertime - The Fortunes - judgement missing!
24th August Record Mirror (p.9) reviews Hello Heartache, Goodbye Love.
“From the girl who has had two big US hits but none here, comes this strong beat-ballad with Peggy on very good vocal form. She sings well on the number which moves along at a medium tempo with a lot of good backing work and altogether it’s a good disc. But we doubt commercial appeal as her others didn’t make it. A pity, because this is probably her best yet. Teen number on the flip about the girl who likes opposite sex just a little too much. But nonetheless it’s a goodly number with Peggy on top of her vocal form. And of course it’s really only ONE boy she likes. As if we didn’t know. 4 stars”. Note 4 stars was the highest rating award by Record Mirror.
31st August appears on Thank Your Lucky Stars (Episode 10 of series 4). This episode is hosted by Pete Murray and alongside Peggy are Jet Harris & Tony Meehan, Carol Deene, Ronnie Hilton, Jimmy Justice, Jonny Sandon and the Remo Four, The Overlanders , Elaine & Derek, and The Redcaps. The TV TImes reports “A panel of teenagers and disc jockey Carol Deene comment on the latest releases in Spin-a-Disc’ Records featured were:
Shout - The Redcaps,
You’re gonna need my loving - Jimmy Justice,
Steepin Stones - Elaine and Derek,
Summer Skies and Golden Sands - The Overlanders,
Hello Heartache, Goodbye Love - Little Peggy March,
Yes - Johnny Sandon and the Remo Four,
Applejack - Jet Harris and Tony Meehan,
Bad to Me - Billy J. Kramer,
Wishing - Buddy Holly, and,
Surfin Hootennany - Al Casey
31st August Melody Maker (p.2) reports in the ‘thats’s show biz!’ Column under the heading “Following Peggy”
“Stars, especially young fans, are often fans at heart. Little Peggy March - the 15-year-old American who made the big time with “I Will Follow Him” - was thrilled when Pat Boone and his wife Shirley came over to her table at (a?) London May Fair Hotel, on Tuesday, to congratulate her on her “Ready, steady, go! TV spot.Peggy, who has been singing since she was five, says her hit disc has interrupted two things in her life - boyfriends and a leading part in a school play.”
Post 1963 visit coverage
7th September “LPM could prove big hit here” (Pop Weekly - under Pop Shop Talk)
14th September “LPM creating good impressions with TV and radio companies” (Pop Weekly - under Pop Shop Talk)
5th October “LPM knocking up terrific sales” (Pop Weekly - under Pop Shop Talk)
The 1964 Visit (November 1964)
14th November appears on Thank Your Lucky Stars (Episode 7 of series 7). This episode is hosted by Brian Matthews and alongside Peggy are The Beach Boys, The Foremost, Eden Kane, Martha and the Vandellas, Adam Faith and Van Morrison.
The 1969 Visit (1st April - ?)
Another attempt to break into the UK market.
The 2006 - 2007 Visits(incomplete)
Peggy make three visits that are all connected with Darren Harvey.
18th Feb 2006 attends Darren's civil partnership and stays at Rowton Castle, Shrewsbury. Peggy isn't given the haunted room much to her dismay but does get a room with a drafty window. Peggy recollects that it was very beautiful but cold.
21st Feb article in the Wolverhampton Express and Star
22nd May Article in the Wolverhampton Express and Star (below)
30th May opens the Avondale Project, Tettenhall Road, Wolverhampton. This hostel provides short term accommodation for the homeless. Article below from the 1st June edition of the Wolverhampton Chronicle.
14th December 2007 Appears at Essington Northern Soul Club in the West Midlands, UK. She sang If You Loved Me and Watch What You Do With My Baby. Show organiser Max Millward presents Peggy with a gold disc award in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of If You Loved Me being played at Wigan Casino.
18th December 2007 article in the Wolverhampton Express and Star