"Tell Laura I Love Her", a teenage tragedy song written by Jeff Barry and Ben Raleigh, was an American Top Ten popular music hit for singer Ray Peterson in 1960 on RCA Victor Records, reaching #7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Later that same year, the song was recorded and released by Ricky Valance in the United Kingdom, where it went all the way to the #1 spot in the UK Singles Chart. "Tell Laura I Love Her" has been a hit in 14 countries, and has sold over seven million copies.
"Tell Laura I Love Her" is the tragic story of a teenage boy named Tommy who is desperately in love with a girl named Laura. Although they are only teenagers, he wants to marry her, so he enters a stock car race, hoping to win, and use the prize money to buy Laura a wedding ring. The second verse tells how the boy's car overturned and burst into flames—though no-one knows how it happened. Tommy is fatally injured and his last words are "Tell Laura I love her... My love for her will never die." In the final verse, Laura prays inside the chapel, where she can still hear Tommy's voice intoning the title one more time, before it fades out.
The lyrics of "Tell Laura I Love Her" originally concerned a rodeo, not an automobile race, as composer Jeff Barry was an aficionado of cowboy culture. However, at RCA's instigation Barry rewrote the song, in order to more closely resemble the #1 hit "Teen Angel". The personnel on the original recording included Al Chernet, Charles Macy and Sebastian Mure on guitar, Lloyd Trotman on bass, Andrew Ackers on organ, Bob Burns on sax and Bunny Shawker on drums.
Decca Records in England decided not to release Ray Peterson's 1960 recording on the grounds that it was "too tasteless and vulgar," and destroyed about twenty thousand copies that had already been pressed. A cover version by Ricky Valance, released by EMI on the Columbia label, was No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks.
In 1962, Smash Records released an album, The Tale of Patches by Dickey Lee, that included Lee's version of "Tell Laura I Love Her". Another version of the song was recorded by J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers for their album, Last Kiss, which was released on the Josie Records label in 1964. The song was also recorded by singer Ricky Nelson.
John Leyton attended a singing audition with producer Joe Meek and subsequently recorded the song, which was released on the Top Rank label. At that time, however, Top Rank was undergoing a takeover by EMI, which had already released Ricky Valance's version of the same song. The John Leyton recording was withdrawn from sale.
A decade later, Johnny T. Angel's recording on Bell Records peaked at #94 on June 8, 1974 (US).
Tell Laura was one of 50s revival group Sha Na Na's most popular and beloved numbers, both in concert and on record, with lead vocals by group tenor Johnny Contardo.
The Swedish band the Boppers also released a version on their album Number 1 (1978).
German rock band Rudolf Rock & die Schocker sang their version "Sag' Laura, ich liebe sie".
Mexican artist César Costa recorded a version in Spanish titled "La Historia de Tommy".
Italian artist Michele recorded a version in italian titled "Dite a Laura che l'amo" (1966)
The story of the song was adapted for stage and turned into Tell Laura I Love Her (The Musical) in 2007 by Richard C Hague.
Later on an album named The Answer To Everything - Girl Answer Songs Of The '60'S , an answer song, "Tell Tommy I Miss Him," was performed by Marilyn Michaels. It was originally released by RCA Victor Records on a single as catalog number 47-7771. In 1961, country singer Skeeter Davis released the same song on her album Here's The Answer.
The British singer, Laura Lee with Orchestra directed by Johnny Keating, also recorded a version. It was released by Triumph Records on a single in the UK as catalog number RGM 1030 in August 1960.