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Debbie Dean

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Debbie Dean had a long career, but only a small amount of success. She was born Reba Jeanette Smith February 1, 1928, in Corbin, KY, a quaint town of just under 10,000 people located on I-75 between Lexington, KY, and Knoxville, TN. She recorded as Penny Smith, Debra Dion, and as Debbie Stevens for ABC Paramount (1959) and Roulette Records.

In 1960, Berry Gordy made her the first white artist signed to any of his fledgling labels. The blond-reddish-haired singer debuted as Debbie Dean with “Itty Bitty Pity Love” b/w “But I’m Afraid” (August 25, 1961), but it never had a chance, Motown pulled it in favor of an answer to the Miracles’ “Shop Around” entitled “Don’t Let Him Shop Around” a month later, September 25, 1961. Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy, and Gordy’s sister Loucye Wakefield wrote the ditty that sunk without a trace. A third single, “Everybody’s Talking About Me” b/w “I Cried All Night” March 11, 1962, crashed as well, and Motown, who were changing their image to the Sound of Young America, cooled on Dean (who was 34 at the time).

Dean migrated to California where she attempted to further her career. The — many say — stereotypical blonde frequented the clubs and entered talent shows and showcases and dabbled in acting. Nobody knew she was an ex-Motown artist and assumed she was just a singer who needed a break.

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