Sammy Salvo – Salvatore Anthony “Sammy” Anselmo was born in Birmingham on May 18, 1933. He started out in his teens singing country music songs. After serving 2 years in the army, Sammy met Joe Rumore and recorded some commercials for Joe. In 1957, he recorded two songs he had written in Joe’s basement studio. He took the name Sammy Salvo. The songs were put on a 45 on the local Mark V label. Rumore sent Sammy to Nashville to meet Chet Atkins. Atkins liked him, but said he was too busy to break in new artists at that time. Meanwhile, the demo record had done quite well in Birmingham and in Houston where Sammy’s brother, George, had taken it. Because of this, Atkins brought Sammy back to Nashville and immediately signed him to an RCA contract.

In his first recording session, the song that was planned was pushed aside, because Sammy had heard the Crescendos “Oh Julie,” not knowing the song had actually been released. He liked the song, so he recorded it with “Say Yeah” as the B-side. The Crescendos’ version went to #5 and Sammy’s went to #23. Radio stations were actually playing the B-side more because it was a good song and the Crescendos ‘Oh Julie’ was doing well. “Oh Julie” would be Sammy’s only Hot 100 chart song.

Sammy’s career took off and he was on the brink of stardom. He even made it to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in Philadelphia on April 16, 1958. The song he performed was “She Takes Sunbaths,” a song he wrote similar to “Short Shorts” by the Royal Teens. Many more records on the RCA label would follow. The best musicians in Nashville backed him up. Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer, Boots Randolph, Hank Garland, The Anita Kerr Singers and the Jordanaires, among others played or sang on his records.

As good as Sammy’s singing and records were, RCA just didn’t promote him very well because they were focusing all their energy on another RCA artist, who had recently been signed. Some guy named Elvis Presley, whose contract had been purchased from Sam Phillips at Sun Records. I think we all know how that association turned out.

After his RCA contract ran out, Sammy changed labels, two or three times, including Imperial, Dot and Hickory. Great songs were still being released, but nothing was taking off. Sammy jokes about it by saying most artists start low and work their way up, he started high and worked his way down.

Without continued success, Sammy left the music business and opened a retail meat business in Birmingham with his brother, George, which they ran for decades. Sammy still performed occasionally in small events, but the last time he performed on stage was at a local artist reunion in 1983. He loved his time in the music business and wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Sammy died on February 7, 2020 at the age of 86. He was one of ARCA’s very first Honorary Members in 1983.

Oh Julie – Sammy Salvo

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