One of the most unlikely of pop stars was Shelley Fabares, who parlayed her role on The Donna Reed Show into a #1 record!
Shelley had been acting since she was 3 and made her first television appearance at age 10. Four years later she was tapped to play Mary Stone, Donna Reed’s daughter on the long-running sitcom. Producers of the show noticed the success Ricky Nelson of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was having on the record charts. What they didn’t notice was that Ricky had genuine musical talent, with a big band leader for a father and a singer for mother.
Ms. Fabares and her TV-sibling, Paul Petersen, were quickly rushed into a recording studio. Petersen went enthusiastically, even continuing to record for Motown (!) after The Donna Reed Show ended. Shelley was much more reluctant. She felt she couldn’t sing, but the show’s producers gave her a choice: record or be replaced as Donna’s daughter. So, Shelley recorded.
The initial result was a #1 record in 1962 that surprised everyone – “Johnny Angel.” The success led to Shelley releasing an album, “Shelley!” that also sold well. Later the same year, she released a second album, “The Things We Did Last Summer,” which included two more songs that had chart success: “Johnny Loves me” and the title track for the LP.
Just one year later, Shelley left the show in search of other acting opportunities. She co-starred in not one, but 3 Elvis Presley movies (Girl Happy, Spinout and Clambake) and one Beach Party knock-off, Ride the Wild Surf.
She is also known for playing Craig Nelson’s girlfriend/wife on the long-running Coach. She has been married to Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H) since 1984.
While she never returned to the recording studio, “Johnny Angel” has become one of the best-remembered songs from that era and her albums are still available on CD and digital download.