Carlene

Album: Phil Vassar (1999)
Charted: 45
  • On his debut single, Phil Vassar visits his old high school and runs into Carlene, the former "whiz kid in the horn-rimmed glasses" who grew up to be a stunning fashion model. They cruise around in her sports car and he fills her in on his life as an up-and-coming country singer. By the end, they decide to go on a date. Vassar told Songfacts the song was inspired by Cindy Crawford's rise to fame and an actual girl from his class who had a geek-to-chic transformation.

    "The valedictorian of my class was Janice Roque, and I kept thinking about Janice. I'd seen her not long after I got a record deal, and I wrote the song after I was thinking, man, she looked so good. She was this little geeky girl, but she was such a pretty girl, so she's a pretty lady," he explained. "Then I was watching this thing about Cindy Crawford on TV and, of course, it happened that she was valedictorian of her class and she had these little glasses on and I was like, can you imagine she becomes Cindy Crawford, supermodel? So, I thought that was a funny story. Of course, I was a football player and a C student poster child, so it was definitely a stretch that I put us together in the song.

    It was really, really fun. I actually got to meet Cindy because of that song. She knew it was about her, and her husband Randy had heard about it and we got to meet. It was really great."
  • Vassar had trouble pinning down the right name for his hot classmate until his co-writer, Charlie Black, suggested Carlene: "I kept coming up with these names and we were talking about how we've got to find the right name: Oo-la-la-la-la-la lookin' good Janice or Francine. And he went, 'Well, I dated this girl Carlene in high school,' and I went, 'Carlene! That's perfect!' And it sings perfectly."

    Vassar found out that fans also loved the name: "It's funny because I meet a lot of people now that say, 'Here's my daughter, Carlene' - they named her after the song. Isn't that neat?"
  • Vassar got to meet Cindy Crawford after the supermodel found out she inspired the song.
  • Before he recorded his debut album, Vassar was already an accomplished songwriter, penning hits for Jo Dee Messina ("Bye Bye"), Tim McGraw ("My Next Thirty Years") and Collin Raye ("Little Red Rodeo"), among others. But when this single was released, it was the first time he heard his own voice on the radio. It was a big wake-up call - literally. "I was doing a hometown visit to Lynchburg, Virginia, where I grew up, and I was going on a radio show that morning," he recalled. "My alarm went off and woke me up and 'Carlene' was playing. It was like 5 o'clock in the morning. It was still dark, and I thought I was dreaming but I wasn't."
  • Collin Raye sings backing vocals on this.

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Laura NyroSongwriting Legends In Their Own Words

Laura Nyro talks about her complex, emotionally rich songwriting and how she supports women's culture through her art.

LecraeSongwriter Interviews

The Christian rapper talks about where his trip to Haiti and his history of addiction fit into his songs.

Mike Scott of The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues"They're Playing My Song

Armed with a childhood spent devouring books, Mike Scott's heart was stolen by the punk rock scene of 1977. Not surprisingly, he would go on to become the most literate of rockers.

Petula ClarkSongwriter Interviews

Petula talks about her hits "Downtown" and "Don't Sleep In The Subway," and explains her Michael Jackson connection.

Angelo Moore of FishboneSongwriter Interviews

Fishbone has always enjoyed much more acclaim than popularity - Angelo might know why.

Music Video Director David HoganSong Writing

David talks about videos he made for Prince, Alabama, Big & Rich, Sheryl Crow, DMB, Melissa Etheridge and Sisters of Mercy.