I’m betting you’ve never heard the names Antonino and Carol Vincinette LoTempio. I’m also betting, if you are of a certain age, that you’ve heard of them under two very different names. And, of course, you’ve heard them sing.
They are publicly known as Nino Tempo and April Stevens, a brother and sister singing act from Niagara Falls, NY, now 85 and 91 years old, respectively; they have a firm place in this history of 1960’s pop/rock music.
Most notably, if you were alive and old enough to remember the notorious date of November 22, 1963, the song that may have been interrupeted on your radio with the somber news that JFK had been shot, was Nino and April’s rendition of Deep Purple. I centainly remember that day–I was in 8th grade, and I certainly remember the song.
It was number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 that infamous week in 1963. We’d hardly call it rock today, but it went on to win a Grammy for “Best Rock and Roll Recording of the Year.” And we certainly wouldn’t call April’s spoken lyrics, under Tempo’s singing, “rap.” Apparently, that effect was an accident. In an early warmup session in the recording studio, Tempo forgot the lyrics and Stevens jokingly whispered them to him. The producer liked the effect and insisted on including it in the final release version, much to the consternation of Tempo who didn’t like somebody speaking over his singing.
Need some more trivia? I don’t know how Stevens felt–and maybe still feels today–about her brother briefly dating a budding singer named Cherilyn Sarkisian. But Cherilyn would later meet and marry one Salvatore Bono. So maybe, just maybe, Nino and April were the inspiration for Sony and Cher.
While the duo would go on to have a few modest hits, nothing ever came close to the success of Deep Purple. It’s timing, on top of Kennedy’s demise, may have signaled the end of an era for America’s pop charts. Less than three months later, Beatlemania struck the USA.