BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Hello Stranger”


Kip had a great suggestion for a Battle of the Bands, and I was going to use it this week, but then thought of another song that had exciting possibilities, and decided on that one instead. I’ll use Kip’s suggestion next time around.

Barbara Lewis wrote and recorded the song “Hello Stranger” in 1963. It was inspired, according to Wikipedia, by working with her father in Detroit nightclubs, when people would say to him, “hello, stranger, it’s been a long time.” She recorded it at Chess Studios in Chicago, and her producer, Ann Arbor DJ Ollie McLaughlin, hired the Dells to do backup vocals and Riley Hampton, Etta James’s arranger, to write the arrangement. Atlantic Records was hesitant to release it as a single until Ruby & The Romantics had a hit with “Our Day Will Come,” a song with a similar groove. It entered the charts in April 1963, and it spent five weeks in the Top Ten starting in June. Here is Barbara’s original, which is not one of the contestants this week.

There have been several covers, including one by Queen Latifah, who recorded it for her The Dana Owens Album, as well as our two contestants for today.

CONTESTANT #1: The Capitols Ollie McLaughlin also discovered The Capitols when they were playing at a dance with Barbara Lewis in 1963. They recorded one song for him, then went their separate ways until 1966, when they recorded “Cool Jerk,” their one hit, which went as high as #7. McLaughlin convinced them to record “Hello Stranger” as the B side of that record.

CONTESTANT #2: Yvonne Elliman I first heard of Hawai’i-born Yvonne Elliman in 1969, when she sang the role of Mary Magdalene on the original cast album of Jesus Christ Superstar and had a Top 40 hit with “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.” She had a number of hits in the Seventies, including “Hello Stranger” in 1977. It charted at #15 on the Hot 100, #1 on the Adult Contemporary, and #57 on the R&B charts that year.

So, you’ve heard the contestants. Now it’s time to vote. Which version did you like better, that of The Capitols or of Yvonne Elliman? Please cast your vote in the comments below and, if you’re so inclined, tell us why you chose that one over the other. I’ll announce the winner next Friday, July 22, so be sure and vote. Then, how about visiting the blogs of other Battle of the Band-itos and seeing what they have going?

Tossing It Out
StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands *
Your Daily Dose
Mike’s Ramblings
Curious as a Cathy
DC Relief – Battle of the Bands
Evil Pop Tart
Book Lover
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Shady Dell Music & Memories
Debbie D. at The Doglady’s Den
Angels Bark
Jingle Jangle Jungle
Janie Junebug Righting and Editing
Cherdo on the Flipside
Holli’s Hoots ‘n’ Hollers
J. A. Scott
Quiet Laughter

* Check Stephen’s blog for further updates to this list!

The lines are now open. Best of luck to our contestants!

Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

11 thoughts on “BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Hello Stranger””

  1. I think the Capitols really captured the essence of this song. I like what Yvonne did with it, but it wasn’t enough to capture my vote. The Capitols did a great job, please give them my vote.


  2. This is a tough one John. I like both versions. The first thing I thought about was how odd it is that the Capitols didn’t have more hits. I like their sound. And I thought I’d be voting for them for sure. I love their Cool Jerk album cover too! 🙂
    But then I heard Yvonne Ellimen and her sound was fabulous. I wanted to crank it up real loud.
    I’ll give my vote to Yvonne, though it kinda pains me to go against the Capitols…

    Michele at Angels Bark


  3. Great BOTB, John. I love the song.

    At first, I thought maybe I’d never heard of The Capitols, but then when you mentioned their hit ‘Cool Jerk’, — well, OF COURSE I’d heard them before.

    One thing I like about Yvonne Elliman is that she’s one person who claims to have been born in Hawaii and REALLY WAS born in Hawaii!

    Another thing I like about Yvonne is that she has such a lovely voice. Her voice is SO LOVELY that I really hate having to vote against her. But that cover by THE CAPITOLS — wow!! — it perfectly represents that classic early Soul / R&B sound. Reminds me of listening to K-Earth 101 in Los Angeles back in the early to mid-1970s. Fantastic! Thanks for the trip down Amnesia Lane!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    ‘Loyal American Underground’


  4. I think the Capitols did a really good job with this one, but I found myself singing along with Yvonne Elliman, Simply based on that, I’m going to have to give my vote to Yvonne. Excellent battle – nothing Strange here 😉

    Jingle Jangle Jungle


  5. I’ve always liked that Barbara Lewis version of the song. The Capitols do a nice job, but somehow Yvonne just sounded better to me after a 13 hour day of driving and being dead beat. Yeah, give my vote to Yvonne Elliman.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


  6. John, I remember we use to say “Hello Stranger” when we hadn’t seen someone in a long time. I do remember this song, but not sure of the artist, though. I like both The Capitals and Yvonne Elliman. Normally I prefer male vocals, but Yvonne has a soft breathy sound that I like so she gets my vote. Great fun battle, my friend!


  7. I prefer The Capitals over Yvonne because they were more uplifting if that’s the right way to say it. Yvonne’s was nice but it didn’t do anything for me so The Capitals get my vote


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