This candy-coated hit tells a simple story about a young girl in love. She sings:
My boy lollipop You make my heart go giddyup
Millie Small was just 17 when the song was released.
This song was originally an R&B hit in late 1956 for a white American singer named Barbie Gaye - her version is based on a piano rhythm and has a big saxophone solo. Millie Small's rendition has more of a reggae feel and features a harmonica solo.
The original is titled "My Boy Lollypop," making it more obvious that she is singing about a guy, not a piece of candy.
After she recorded a couple of songs for a label in her native Jamaica, Small (while still a teenager) was discovered by The A&R man Robert Blackwell and was brought (along with Ernest Ranglin) to England by him in late 1963 to record this; she was 17 at the time. Blackwell, along with his brother Chris, was a successful music producer who contributed to the development of reggae and ska music and helped reggae obtain international recognition. This song was the first to help his Jamaican label, Island, make millions.
This is one of the best-selling hits with a reggae influence, and depending on your definition of ska, could be considered the first hit in that genre. Ska developed in Jamaica as a hybrid of American R&B and Caribbean music, and Small's producer Chris Blackwell helped bring the sound to England and America with his Island label.
In England, ska was an easier sell because of the large Jamaican population, and artists like Prince Buster and Jimmy Cliff caught on in the '60s. In America, the sound was mostly novelty, and the next hit single in that style was The Israelites by Desmond Dekker & the Aces in 1969. America didn't really warm to ska until the '90s, but in the UK groups like Madness and The Specials were big during the 2 Tone era of the '70s and '80s.
Contrary to legend, the harmonica player was not Rod Stewart but Pete Hogman of The Pete Hogman Blues Band and Hoggie & The Sharpetones. Hogman told us: "The backing for 'My Boy Lollypop' was recorded live in the studio. I played harmonica and Ernest Ranglin played a black Gibson. Several people have claimed to have played the harmonica break but I can promise you it was me, and it was all recorded in London. By the way, Rod Stewart has never claimed to have played that solo, in fact he has said it was me in the Bob Marley life story Catch A Fire."
This was written by Robert Spencer, who was a member of the group The Cadillacs, best known for their 1955 single "Speedo." Morris Levy and Johnny Roberts' names also shows up on the credits. Levy was an industry bigwig who understood the business very well and sometimes used that understanding to claim songwriting credits. Little is known about Roberts, but he does have several other songwriting credits.
"My Boy Lollipop" was a British Invasion hit, coming to America as The Beatles were making waves there. The song was huge in the summer of 1964, and reached #2 on July 4, held out of the top spot by The Beach Boys first #1, "I Get Around."
Jamaican Ernest Ranglin played the guitar on this track. Famous for his session work at Studio One (the "Motown of Jamaica") in Kingston, he soon became one of the primary pioneers of Caribbean music.
Millie Small (she really was small - about 5' 2") managed just one more hit: "Sweet William," which made #40 US and #30 UK in 1964. In the UK, she recorded as "Millie."
In a scene from the 1997 film Spice World, the Spice Girls and two young female fans sing along to Small's version of this song while the Girls take the fans on a boat ride.
Although this song missed the #1 spot on the national charts in both the US and the UK, it managed to reach #1 in Ireland.
Rebecca from LondonMessage for Patricia in Hampshire! I work for a production company and am keen to find memories of Millie Small's performances. Please get in contact as I'd love to chat - firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 14th 1965, Millie Small performed "My Boy Lollipop" on the ABC-TV program 'Shindig!'... Eleven months earlier on May 17th, 1964 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #90; and on June 28th it peaked at #2 (for 1 week) and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100... The week it was at #2 on the Top 100; the #1 record was "I Get Around" by the Beach Boys... The song was originally recorded by Barbie Gaye; it didn't make the national charts but did reached #25 on Alan Freed's Top 25 on N.Y.C.'s WINS radio station in November 1956... R.I.P. Mr. Freed (1921 - 1965), Jimmy O'Neil (Shindig's host, 1940 - 2013), and Ms. Small will celebrate her 68th birthday this coming October 6th.
Danny from Bronx, NyAccording to Wikipedia, the song was originally written as "My Girl Lollypop", and the gender was switched later (but before the song was recorded). If this is true, then the suggestion that the title is a subtle reference to oral sex (an idea which Rush Limbaugh infamously popularized by using a snippet of the song to introduce comments about an openly gay politician) could not be correct.
Claude from London, United KingdomThis is my Dad's favourite song. He has just told me that she is a distant relation of his. And that he would like to meet her (as I would too). My Dad was born in Clarendon too... Is there any way I can contact Millie? Thanks.
Mike from Warren, NjBarbara You say barbie gaye is your aunt and she's still living in NYC. I know her real name which I won't say here and believe I graduated with her in grammar school in Coney Island. Is there a way to contact her to say hello (I have a class graduation photo from 1955 that includes her photo and several of us have been searching for missing classmates). Thanks Mike
Adrian from Johor Bahru, MalaysiaThis song might be an indirect suggestion to oral sex.
Kris from Adelaide, AustraliaRod Stewart played Harmonica on the original demo recording. My boss (Stefan) was the bass player. Both were replaced for the final recording session.
Daevid from Glendale, CaNigel from Isle...say it ain't true------i've thought for years that it was Rod's first ever session gig playing harp on that record.
Mike from Upwell, United KingdomAs the label of the UK Fontana single credits Ernest ranglin with directing the accompaniment, I doubt that theory that the backing track was recorded before he arrived in Britain. Calling Barbie from NY: are you still there? So your aunt is Barbie Gaye? I'm a music researcher and would love to interview her, about 'Lollipop', her single on the Regalia label, and her career.
Geoff from Fountain Hill, PaThe previous comment is completely wrong, and disappointing coming from a fellow Brummie. Embassy records were a cheap ?cover version? label exclusive to Woolworths and issued the Joan Baxter release as a cheap alternative to the real thing (rather like the old Hallmark ?Top Of The Pops? LPs). The backing is a very good take off of the Millie one, though not the same, and Ernest Ranglin really is on the Millie one ? though not the Joan Baxter recording.
Gordon from Birmingham, EnglandThe backing for this song is by Gerry Glenn and his Orchestra (who were little more than a collection of session musicians). Along with the Rod Stewart myth being wrong, so is the Ernest Ranglin on guitar one. The backing track was recorded before Mille and Ernest arrived in England. The song was originally released on the Embassy label with vocals by Jean Baxter and flopped, Chris Blackwell recorded Millie's vocals and replaced Jean's with these and a hit record was born.
Barbara from Brooklyn, Nybarbie gaye sang my boy lolliepop frist, her manager was corky from brooklyn ny, she was young and could of made it big, but she wanted her boy friend to play the drums in her songs and they didn't want him to, thats all i know, i don't really talk to her (my aunt) about it much, but she is fine, living in nyc.
Patricia from Hampshire, EnglandI have been trying to find the video from the Beatles Concert 1963 when Millie sang My Boy Lollipop as I am one of the three young girls behind her in the video. This song always brings back memories of that day. Millie was ahead of her time with this one!
Nigel Foster from Isle Of Wight, EnglandThe legend is wrong! Rod Stewart did not play harmonica on this. It was Pete Hogman who now lives in Ryde on the Isle of Wight and is still gigging with the Pete Hogman Blues Band. And that's official!
Azri from Singapore, Singaporedis is the song that reminds me of me and my brother...i used to call my brother my boy lollipop...the song is one song where u listen it somewats make u happy..
Laura from Snohomish, WaThis song is one of my favorite "Feel Good" songs, and reminds me of my favorite place Hawaii, which is where I lived when this song was on the charts. It makes me feel young again whenever I hear it!
Marcus from New York, NyThis song, sung by millie small, places me back in Asbury Park, New Jersey in the early sixties. It reminds me and captures the moment of simpler times. I shall never forget the song or where I was when I heard it.
Julio from Newark, NjSong originally had hidden sexual meaning, that is very clear if you understand street slang.
Howard from St. Louis Park, MnThis was the song that put Ska on the map. Millie Small did have a minor hit with Sweet William.