Please Don't Talk to the Lifeguard
Songwriters Sylvia Dee and George Goehring, she of "Too Young" (Nat Cole) notoriety and he of "Lipstick on Your Collar" (Connie Francis) fame, collaborated on a 1961 ditty about a typical American girl crushin' on her local beachfront lifeguard, a heartthrob according to the media image of the early-'60s (the barber-shop-mustachioed, full-suited silent-movie-esque protector of swimmers from decades long past had been replaced by younger hunks wearing tighter trunks). In the original 1961 version of Sylvia and George's "Please Don't Talk to the Lifeguard" on Epic Records, statuesque brunette Andrea Carroll obsessed about just such a guy on a sand-supported pedestal: 'how...can...I get to show him...that...I am so much in love with him?,' her vocal delivery purposely stilted, creating a heightened level of nervous anticipation. The disc did little to advance the singer's popularity, but two years later a quicker-paced version of the song became a hit for another Carol (first name this time), yet few realized that fact since the singer went by her middle name.
Petite blonde Carol Diane Ray grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina, about 20 miles west of Charlotte. By the time she graduated from Ashley High in 1963 she'd been performing around town at dance hops and private parties, sometimes with local band The Continentals. In July she entered a talent competition in Charlotte, winning a unanimous first place vote over more than one hundred other entrants. Mercury Records A&R head Shelby Singleton was on the judging panel and offered her a contract on the spot. In short order the 17-year-old was in Mercury's Nashville studios making her first recordings. "Please Don't Talk to the Lifeguard," produced by Jerry Kennedy (who usually worked in Mercury's country division), came out of that session, the tempo a tad faster than Andrea Carroll's original, clocking in at an economical 1:42. Andrea, by the way, finally appeared on the charts in July with "It Hurts to Be Sixteen" on the Bigtop label, soon finding herself competing with Diane Ray (sans first name), who debuted two weeks later and ultimately climbed higher with a remake of Andrea's two-year-old "Please Don't Talk" song.
When Diane's single was released, Gastonia radio station WLTC played the song every ten minutes throughout an entire day; rival station WGAS also put the record in heavy rotation. Diane was offered a chance to do a daily radio show on WLTC; for several months she had a weekday slot from 3:05 to 4PM, a unique distinction considering there were very few female radio hosts to be found anywhere. Father Bill Ray acted as her manager and kept a tight rein on the proceedings. In September, Diane's brisk take on the dilemma a girl faces when she carries a torch for a "hands-off" lifeguard hit the national top 40. Summer ended and a new single was unleashed, the Shelby-produced "Where is the Boy" ('...is he waiting for me somewhere in a far-off land?...is he just around the corner walkin' down the street?...who is gonna love me?'). Written by Ben Raleigh and Mark Barkan (who penned "She's a Fool" and other hits for Lesley Gore), it seemed to have the right elements to be a teen-angst smash along the lines of the gold records Gore had been accumulating since spring. But a smattering of airplay in a few scattered cities failed to help it reach the charts.
Autumn turned to winter and Diane sang about building a "Snow Man" to take the place of a cheating former boyfriend; the single was promoted during the holiday season, though it had nothing to do with Christmas. She'd done enough material for an album, so Mercury released The Exciting Years, which included one final single in early 1964, a remake of the mid-'50s tune by Art Crafer and Jimmy Nebb, "No Arms Can Ever Hold You." Diane had one exciting year, at least, before her life in Gastonia took a different, less glamorous, turn. As her recording career was wrapping up, movie houses from coast to coast were screening Fun in Acapulco starring Elvis Presley, whose character in the film fit the image, perhaps, of the ideal 1960s lifeguard, just the kind of guy a lovestruck young lady might go to dangerous extremes over, as evidenced in the lyrics of Diane Ray's one hit song: '...guess I'll swim way out into the sea...and then I'll meet him when he rescues me!'