In mid-December 1960, “Angel Baby” by National City-based Rosie & the Originals hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the charts for 12 weeks. Singer Rosie Hamlin wrote the lyrics while a 14-year-old student at Mission Bay High School. Hamlin was 15 when the band self-recorded the song at a San Marcos facility. “It was actually an old airplane hangar,” recalls Hamlin on her website. “The owner had airplane parts all over the place…he had a corner set up with recording equipment.”
“We took one of our 45s to Kresge’s department store in San Diego,” Hamlin recalls. “They had listening booths in their music section where you could preview records…we asked the manager to play our record, and see if he could sell it in his store.” A rep from Highland Records was in the store that day and the label soon signed the group and released the single.
However, Highland insisted that bandmember David Ponci get songwriting credit, since he was the oldest member. “I do not own the rights to the song,” says Hamlin, “but I did obtain the copyright in 1961. Now, I do get the B.M.I. [payouts] and part of the publishing.” This concession took over 20 years of lawsuits to obtain. “[I] got burned, like so many of our peers in those days,” says Hamlin.
Oddly, when "Angel Baby" was recorded for Highland, the band hadn't planned a b-side, so a new number called "Give Me Love" was recorded without Hamlin, featuring Bluford D. Wade on vocals. The b-side was still credited to Rosie & the Originals, with David Ponci as songwriter.
John Lennon cited Hamlin as one of his favorite singers in a 1969 Life magazine interview. He recorded “Angel Baby” in 1973 for an aborted album of classic cover tunes, although the track didn’t appear until his 1986 album Menlove Avenue (it also appeared on a posthumous Lennon box set).
By the turn of the 21st century, Hamlin was living in New Mexico, no longer making public appearances due to her ongoing battle with fibromyalgia.
Ocean Beach guitarist John Tafolla went on to join the Insights, who performed at the 1966 opening celebration of the OB Pier, as well as playing with the Mustangs (who opened for Tina Turner).
Rosie Hamlin passed away March 30, 2017 at the age of 71.