Mark Dinning & “Teen Angel” – 1960
Mark was the beneficiary of obtaining “Teen Angel” via his sister Jean Surrey, who in her professional life was a member of the singing trio “The Dinning Sisters” and and Mark’s older sister. Jean presented the song to Mark during a family dinner and the brother/sister on the same evening, set up a recorder and taped a demo of the song. Mark had recently signed with MGM records via Nashville publisher Wesley Rose. Rose had pitched Mark Dinning to Columbia record executive Mitch Miller but Miller, as he was prone to do with youth, turned him away having recently signed Johnny Mathis.
So MGM became the winner in the deal with “Teen Angel” rising to the number one position on the Billboard Charts on February 8th, 1960 where it reigned for two weeks. The song reached to top in spite of several radio stations refusing to give it any air-play due to it’s morose theme (not much insight there with many ‘death’ songs soon to come down the pike).
Jean Surrey (Dinning)
On the record label Jean Surrey is usually credited for composing along with her then husband “Red” Surrey. In fact, the couple had entered into a general agreement that any song that was composed by either writer would share credits with the other spouse. Jean has stated that she and she alone was the composer on the big hit. This agreement was later amicably dissolved upon their separation, leaving Jean with future royalties which she doubted would be significant – that is until the song was featured in a motion picture in 1973 “American Graffiti” once again sparking interest and some additional income. The Surrey’s didn’t really have anything additional of any magnitude – especially in the way of “Teen Angel. Jean’s sister Ginger – a member of the group – was her twin. A fourth Dinning sister – Marvis Geraldine Dinning sang orchestra leader Wally Stoefler in the 1930’s and into the 1950’s but was not a member of her sister’s act.
The Dinning Sisters had a brief run on the pop charts, but did land in the Top 20 on four occasions in the late 1940’s. Their biggest hit record was “Buttons and Bows” which reached number 5 in late 1948.
Mark’s career would never again approach the success of “Teen Angel”. He would only enter the charts three additional times, with “A Star is Born (A Love Has Died) being his next best effort reaching only number 68 in 1959. My favorite was sort of silly, “Top Forty, News, Weather and Sports” in early 1961 – a song composed by prolific hit writer John D. Loudermilk ( Mark released several singles for MGM prior to “Teen Angel” starting in 1957 with no success.
Mark Dinning passed away at an early age 52 from a heart attack in 1986. He had struggled with an alcohol addiction during his life and this proved to hold back his musical success. Sister Jean passed away in 2011 in her late 80’s.