Rosie and the Originals were an American 1960s group best known for their single, “Angel Baby.” Fronted by lead singer Rosie Hamlin, the group produced two singles (including “Angel Baby”) for Highland Records and, like many other artists of the era, ended up in protracted legal battles with their record label over royalties and credits.
Rosalie “Rosie” Méndez Hamlin was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon, on July 21, 1945, to a Mexican mother and an Anglo-American father. She spent part of her childhood between Anchorage, Alaska and California, before her family moved to National City, California. She started singing with a band at thirteen. She wrote the lyrics for “Angel Baby” as a poem for “my very first boyfriend” when she was 14 years old, still attending Mission Bay High School in San Diego, California. When she was 15, she and some friends rented the only recording studio they could find within 100 miles of San Diego located in San Marcos, California, to record the song. The studio was owned by an airplane mechanic who had taken part of his hangar to make it.
The resulting record had a very simplistic sound, and, in fact, was eventually slightly damaged from excessive playing, so the group was unable to find a record label to distribute it. Finally, after taking the master to a department store, they convinced a manager to play it in the listening booth of the store’s music department. The song received positive reactions from teenage listeners, and a scout from Highland Records offered the group a recording contract, under the condition that the company take possession of the master recording, and that David Ponce be named as the author of the song, as he was the eldest member of the group.
“Angel Baby” made its radio debut in December 1960, before the group had even received their contract. When the contract finally came, Hamlin found that she was ineligible to collect record royalties from the song because she was not listed as the songwriter. This led to the group’s break-up, and although Hamlin secured the copyright to her music in 1961, decades of battles over royalties followed.
In 1961, “Angel Baby” was also released in Canada on the Zirkon label and in Australia and England on London Records. The British release slightly edited the intro.