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- Posted on Oct 12th 2009 4:30PM by John D. Luerssen
After a stint in the Marine Corps, Singleton got his start in the music business working in the promotions department of Mercury Records' Shreveport Branch and eventually rose to the ranks of a producer and A&R executive. He had had his major first success when he put unknown singer Jeannie C. Riley into the vocal booth for what became the 1968 country and pop chart-topper 'Harper Valley P.T.A.'
Singleton took his profits from that smash and bought the rights to the Sun Records name and the thousands of master recordings Phillips made with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and many others. In the 1970s, Singleton wisely reissued many of the label's recordings, rekindling interest in the influential early rock 'n' roll artists that were part of its stable.
In advance of acquiring Sun Records, Singleton had signed one of its flagship artists, Jerry Lee Lewis, in 1963 when his career had stalled. Singleton and his longtime collaborator Jerry Kennedy helped reignite Lewis' career and kept him on the Country singles charts through the late '60s and early '70s.
"He was one of the best all-around record men I've ever been in touch with," Kennedy told the Los Angeles Times last Friday. "He did so much and did it so well: promotion, marketing, production. He was even involved in publishing and merchandising. He did it all."
Singleton is survived by his fourth wife, Mary, four children, several grandchildren and his younger brother John, who worked with Shelby at Sun.