Summer Song Favorites: Aaron Neville On 'Ting-A-Ling' NPR's Melissa Block has been asking musicians about songs that conjure up memories of summer. For legendary New Orleans singer Aaron Neville, that song is "Ting-a-Ling," by the rhythm-and-blues group The Clovers.

Summer Song Favorites: 'Ting-A-Ling'

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From time to time this summer, we're asking people to tell us about their favorite summer song, a song that's linked in their mind with a memory from summer. And today, I'm very happy to be joined by the great singer from New Orleans, Aaron Neville. Welcome to the program, Mr. Neville.

Mr. AARON NEVILLE (Singer): Thanks. It's nice to be here.

BLOCK: And what song has been going around in your mind?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NEVILLE: Well, I had to think about a summer when I was a kid. I was maybe about 11 years old or something like that. And my brother Art, who was my first inspiration to sing, he was the singer of the family, and he worked at a record shop, and he would bring records home. And back in those days we were, like, sitting on the park bench singing harmony, at least they were, anyway - to, like, the doo-woppers.

(Soundbite of song, "Ting-A-Ling")

Mr. NEVILLE: And one of our favorite groups was The Clovers. I didn't know anything about love or nothing like that. You know, I was still a little boy.

BLOCK: A little young for that.

Mr. NEVILLE: Yeah. But this song was cool, you know, "Ting-A-Ling" by The Clovers.

(Soundbite of song, "Ting-A-Ling")

THE CLOVERS (Doo-wop Group): (Singing) Somebody said are you blowing your top? Well, I'm just a poor, young boy, and these girls about to drive me wild.

BLOCK: And you'd be sitting on the bench in the park.

Mr. NEVILLE: Yup, right.

BLOCK: And singing along?

Mr. NEVILLE: Yeah. They'd run me away, you know, but I'd come back until they let me sing with them.

BLOCK: Your older brothers would be saying, get out of here, Aaron?

Mr. NEVILLE: Yeah. Well, my brother Art, he had a doo-wop group, you know, and they would sit on the - and this guy named Isaca Garden(ph), one of the singers, he used to call me Kevin for some reason. He said, come here, Kevin, you hit this note. And he started to let me come sing with him, and he showed me how to harmonize and all.

(Soundbite of song, "Ting-A-Ling")

THE CLOVERS: (Singing) The way they laugh, the way they sing.

BLOCK: Now, does this make you want to sing?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NEVILLE: (Singing) Ting-A-Ling, the way they laugh, the way they sing. It made my heart go ting-a-ling.


BLOCK: Oh, I have chills.

(Soundbite of song, "Ting-A-Ling")

THE CLOVERS: (Singing) It makes my heart go ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling.

BLOCK: This would be a park in New Orleans.

Mr. NEVILLE: Yeah. We grew up in the Calliope housing project, and we'd sit on the - there's like a big oval park where we'd play and ride bicycles and skate, whatever, you know. And so they started letting me sing on a lot of stuff and it's history from then.

And that was the thing. You know, like, for me, I don't care what else was happening in the world as long as I could sing along with these doo-wop guys, whatever, you know, the cowboys or the gospel. It was like medicine to me, you know, it made everything all right.

BLOCK: Those might have been some hard times, tough times in the projects.

Mr. NEVILLE: Not really. No, it wasn't because, I mean, you know, if we were poor, we didn't know it. You know, our parents made sure we had enough to eat and had clothes to wear. And even if they weren't (unintelligible), they were cool, you know? You never miss what you never had. So, you know - and everybody in the project was the same. You know, if we had to put a pasteboard in our shoe, it was cool, you know, it was something hip.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, "Ting-A-Ling")

THE CLOVERS: (Singing) Well, I'm young and I'm freeā€¦

Mr. NEVILLE: (Singing) And it's a real fine way to be. Well, I'm young and I'm free and it's a real fine way to be. Well, I'm young and I'm free and it's a real fine way to be with a fine young thing to give her love to me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Wow, that's great. Aaron Neville, thank you so much.

Mr. NEVILLE: Thank you.

BLOCK: Aaron Neville says he's working on a doo-wop CD, and he figures "Ting-A-Ling" by The Clovers from the summer of 1952 will have to be on it.

By the way, "Ting-A-Ling" was The Clovers' last number one hit on the R&B chart. We asked the only surviving original member of the group, bass man Harold Winley, for a little history of that tune. He told us it was penned by a songwriter who wrote many of The Clovers' hits under the name of Nugetre. That's N-U-G-E-T-R-E, and it just happens to be Ertegun spelled backwards, as in Ahmet Ertegun, the son of the Turkish ambassador to the United States who co-founded Atlantic Records and later would write Aaron Neville's favorite summer song.

(Soundbite of song, "Ting-A-Ling")

THE CLOVERS: (Singing) Well, I'm just a poor, young boy, and these girls are about to drive me wild.


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