Gene & Debbe

Gene & Debbe, also known as Gene Thomas and Debbe Neville (some sources spell it Nevills), were a country-pop duo who enjoyed a short string of successes during 1967 and 1968. Thomas (born December 28, 1938), from Palestine, TX, had enjoyed some modest success on his own with a 1961 hit single called "Sometime," on the Venus and United Artists labels, then disappeared from the charts until two years later when he scored a minor hit with the Bobby Goldsboro/Roy Orbison song "Baby's Gone." By the end of 1963, he'd given up singing, however, and had gone to work as a songwriter for Acuff-Rose publishers, where he spent the next couple of years. In 1965, he crossed paths with Debbe Neville (or Nevills), a big-voiced aspirant who was trying to launch a singing career in Nashville, and he began writing songs that were suited to the two of them. Together, singing softly, they harmonized a bit like the Everly Brothers and each was appealing separately as well. Their combined voices were ideally suited to romantic, country-flavored ballads similar to what Glen Campbell was burning up the charts with in 1967-1968. They were impressive enough to Thomas' bosses at Acuff-Rose to get the pair signed to an imprint of the company's Hickory Records label, TRX Records, which also recorded such acts as the Newbeats. With Don Gant producing and Thomas turning in a string of originals, Gene & Debbe delivered songs such as "Rings of Gold," which recalled Jackie DeShannon's work, and the folk-rockish "Go With Me," which contained a chord sequence and a guitar part reminiscent of "Love Is Strange." The latter single became a minor pop chart entry and their first success, late in 1967. A few months later, in early 1968, the duo scored their biggest hit of with "Playboy," which made number 17 on the pop charts. They later scored a minor chart entry with "Lovin' Season," which marked the end of their successes, in mid-1968. They continued recording together into the following year and released an LP entitled Hear and Now before calling it quits in the second half of 1969. Thomas returned to the life of a staff songwriter while Neville proceeded to try and establish herself as a solo act. ~ Bruce Eder

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