The “Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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(Jean Surrey, Red Surrey)

MGM 12845

No. I February 8, 1960



“I was born on August 17, 1933 on a farm near Drury, Oklahoma,” Mark Dinning told Record

E!lchanger’s Bob Kinder. “Patti Page was once a babysitter for my sisters. She got her name

from the Page Milk Company   there.   My singing sisters were once known as the McDerring

Sisters, because   of   the   McCormick-Derring Tractor Company. It’s odd how some of these

people got their show business names.” Mark was born the last in a line of  nine–five girls,

four boys.


His dad and his uncles were either ministers or evangelist singers.   In the early ’40s, three of

his sisters were taken by brother Wade to  the “Barn Dance Show” on radio KFH in Chicago,

Ginger, Jean, and Louise soon dropped their  tractor  moniker  in favor of their surname. As

“The Dinning Sisters,” they became quite popular  with such disks as “My Adobe Hacienda”

(#9, 1947), “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” (#12, 1947), and the Oscar-winning “Buttons

And Bows” (#5, 1948).


Meanwhile, little  Mark milked  cows and won first prize with his turkeys at a local 4-H show.

His father had given him an  electric guitar when he was 17, but this  last of the Dinnings was

determined to stay    with   what    he knew    best, farming. All that      changed, however, once

Mark and his guitar  were  assigned to an isolated military outpost in the Mojave Desert. “I was

in the USO Club in Barstow, California, when I heard my first rock and   roll record, ‘Rock

Around The  Cloc’ Bill Haley & The Comets. I was 21 at the time, and when I got my  discharge

at 23, I decided to make music my career.”


His successful sisters introduced Mark to star-makers like publisher Wesley Rose and Columbia

Records’ Mitch Miller; the latter had just that day signed Johnny Mathis and thereby preoccupied.

By 1957, however, Mark was a recording  artist with MGM–but, for three years, an unsuccessful

one. His sister Jean, and her hubby, Red Surrey, had worked up a song they were sure was just

right for the kid. The idea for “Teen Angel” had come to Jean via a 19 59 magazine article  by a

DJ who argued that not a II teens were  dirty delinquents  According to Dinning, the article read:

“I hear all the people  putting  down the teenagers  of today:  how rough  and tumble they are,

undisciplined, and how they’re all a bunch of little devils.  From my own experience, I happen to

know quite a few teen angels.”  That last phrase stuck with Jean, who awoke  one night from a

nightmare  to scribble  down the  lines    to this classic death dirge.


“I didn’t even think it was going to be a   hit,” Mark recalled.  “They banned it in England because

they considered it ‘too bloody awful.’ It was kind of a silly song, really; a girl going back for the

ring and all that. It was a far-out, left-field teenage folk song that  sold   3,500,000 copies.”


Follow-ups were another  story The next few releases did receive airplay and charted–“A Star Is

Born (A Love Has Died)”  (#68,1960), “The Lovin’  Touch” (#84, 1960), and “Top 40, News,

Weather  And Sports” (#81,1961)–but eventually the   records stopped, and the dust settled

on Mark Dinning’s career.


From 1962 through’l970, Mark moved through the South playing lounges as a solo   act, or in the

company of  his brother Ace.  He began drinking heavily in the late  ’60s.  “The    Beatles really

took us out. It was a blow to my ego and my wallet …   Groups were in and singles were out.”


After appearing in a   club  in Jefferson  City, Missouri   on  March 21,1986, Mark returned home,

where he died of a heart attack.