Barbara Lewis – Hello Stranger



Hello Stranger” was a 1963 hit single by Barbara Lewis, which spent two weeks at number one on the R&B singles chart in Billboard, crossing over to #3 Pop.[1]

Original version

“Hello Stranger” was written by Barbara Lewis herself, who was originally inspired to write a song with that title while working gigs in Detroit with her musician father: “I would make the circuit with my dad and people would yell out: ‘Hey stranger, hello stranger, it’s been a long time’”. The song is notable because its title comprises the first two words of the lyrics but is never at any point repeated throughout the rest of the song.

Lewis recorded “Hello Stranger” at Chess Studios in Chicago in January 1963. The track’s producer Ollie McLaughlin recruited the Dells to provide the background vocals. The arrangement by Riley Hampton – then working with Etta James – featured a signature organ riff provided by keyboardist John Young. The track was completed after thirteen takes. Lewis would recall that, on hearing the playback of the finished track, Dells member Chuck Barksdale “kept jumping up and down and saying, ‘It’s a hit, it’s a hit.’…I didn’t really know. It was all new to me.” [1]

McLaughlin flew to New York City to pitch “Hello Stranger” to Atlantic Records, who had picked up Lewis’ previous two singles for national release. Atlantic optioned “Hello Stranger” but then had second thoughts on the viability of releasing such an unusual track. The ascendancy of “Our Day Will Come” by Ruby & the Romantics to the top of the Pop and R&B charts in March 1963 motivated Atlantic to release “Hello Stranger” that month;[2] Entering the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1963, the track took another month to reach the Top 40. Impelled by its #1 status in St Louis MO, it entered the Billboard Top Ten that June for a five week stay. Wiki