Yesteryear: From Tulsa to Luton, Gene Pitney at the Ritz

Gene Pitney at the Ritz, Luton, in 1966

Gene Pitney at the Ritz, Luton, in 1966

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According to one of his many hits, American singer Gene Pitney was only Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa.

But even though it was nearly 50 years ago when he came to Luton, Pitney could probably have got here quicker than that.

Our picture shows the star signing autographs for adoring fans when he performed in the town in February 1966.

Pitney enjoyed success as a recording artist on both sides of the Atlantic in the mid 1960s and he appeared at the Ritz in Gordon Street during a UK tour.

He had 11 Top Ten hits in this country including I’m Gonna Be Strong, Looking Through The Eyes Of Love, Backstage, Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart and the aforementioned Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa, which had reached Number Five in the charts in 1963.

Pitney was also a songwriter and musician, playing the guitar, piano and drums.He wrote the early 1960s hits Rubber Ball, recorded by Bobby Vee, He’s A Rebel by the Crystals and Hello Mary Lou by Ricky Nelson.

He maintained a good career in Britain in the 1970s and his last hit came in 1989, after an absence of 15 years, when he and Soft Cell singer Marc Almond recorded a duet version of Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart. Pitney was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002.

He was still touring when his manager found him dead on April 5 2006 in a Hilton Hotel room in Cardiff. Pitney, who was 66, had suffered a heart attack.

Yesteryear would love to trace the three young ladies in our picture. If you know their whereabouts, please get in touch.