Early life and acting career
Carol Douglas was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. She is the daughter of Minnie Newsome, a jazz performer who has been cited as the inspiration for the Cab Calloway classic "Minnie the Moocher"; Douglas' father was a mortician. Sam Cooke was Douglas' cousin. At the age of 10 Douglas was a contestant and winner on the game show Name That Tune
and says "Ebony
followed my career for the next three years".She attended the Willard May School for professional children and afterwards the Quintanos High School for young professionals alongside Gregory Hines, Bernadette Peters, Carol Lynley and Patty Duke. While in high school Douglas sang in a female trio named April May & June, who were signed as a management client by Little Anthony and the Imperials. She made a one-off recording in 1963 for RCA Victor, cutting the single "I Don't Mind (Being Your Fool)" under the name Carolyn Cooke: becoming pregnant with her first son at age 15 ended RCA's interest in promoting her.Douglas also cut several jingles for TV commercials - "[I\] used to do voiceovers for Ideal Toys and General Mills with Bernadette Peters" - but recalls: "I never thought I would be a singer", and for most of the 1960s Douglas pursued an acting career, appearing in an episode of her classmate's The Patty Duke Show
but mostly acting in theatrical productions beginning with One Tuesday Morning
starring Clarice Taylor. Later Douglas understudied Jonelle Allen in the off-Broadway production of The Life of Mary McCloud Bethune
and co-starred with James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson in the play Moon on a Rainbow Shawl
.She married "high school sweetheart" Ken Douglas in the mid-1960s and resumed her musical career in the early 1970s touring nationally on the oldies circuit in a lineup of the Chantels featuring original frontwoman Arlene Smith: with these Chantels, Douglas cut the single "Some Tears Fall Dry" for Capitol.
In 1974, Douglas was recruited by Midland International Records via an ad in Showbiz
magazine: label vice president/record producer Eddie O'Loughlin had heard the UK hit single "Doctor's Orders" by Sunny and was seeking a female vocalist to cut the track for the U.S. market. Douglas' audition led to a five-year contract and her version of "Doctor's Orders", became a hit reaching #2 on Billboard
magazine's Disco chart, #9 R&B and #11 on the Billboard Hot 100: the single also reached #4 in France.Although O'Loughlin was credited as "Doctor's Orders" producer the production had in fact been by Meco Monardo who was also responsible for Gloria Gaynor's "Never Can Say Goodbye" which had ascended the Pop charts at around the same time as "Doctor's Orders": claims have been made for each single to be the hit that broke disco into the Top 40. She made her album debut in 1975 with The Carol Douglas Album
followed in 1976 by Midnight Love Affair
and in 1977 by Full Bloom
. Monardo's especial expertise was missing in the production of Douglas' post-"Doctor's Orders" tracks which maintained her as a popular club presence with negligible mainstream popularity: the follow-up single to "Doctor's Orders": "A Hurricane is Coming Tonite", became Douglas' only other Hot 100 entry peaking at #81 in April 1975. Douglas hit #1 on the Disco charts with her "Midnight Love Affair" single: the song did appear on the Top 100 chart in Cash Box
magazine but only via a cover by Tony Orlando and Dawn which reached #94. (In France, Douglas' version reached #82.)Douglas' other recordings included "Headline News" - a minor Edwin Starr hit from 1966 written by "Doctor's Orders" co-writer Roger Greenaway remade by the latter track's originator Sunny -, and in the tradition of "Doctor's Orders" Douglas cut discofied covers of several songs which were current or recent hits in the UK including ABBA's "Dancing Queen", "I Wanna Stay With You" by Gallagher and Lyle and "So You Win Again" by Hot Chocolate. In 1977 she recorded the single "You Make Me Feel The Music" for the soundtrack to the film Haunted
.Douglas would recall: "I always wanted to do a funky black album, but the label wouldn’t allow it. This is how I lost out on R&B/Disco hits like: “Shame" (Evelyn King hit song), “I'm Caught Up (In A One Night Love Affair)” (Jocelyn Brown, of Inner Life) and “I Specialize in Love” (Sharon Brown disco and pop hit, US and UK)."So You Win Again" was arranged by Michael Zager whose presence on Douglas' 1978 album release Burnin'
resulted in a critical (if not commercial) upswing. Burnin'
also featured Douglas' version of the Bee Gees' "Night Fever" - not a Zager arrangement - which became Douglas' only entry in the UK Singles Chart at #66.Douglas' 1979 album Come Into My Life
was an obvious bid to re-charge her club popularity: only six tracks long with production by Greg Carmichael who had enjoyed several disco hits with studio groups, but the single "I Got The Answer" was only a mild club success. Although she did not appear in the disco themed movie Saturday Night Fever, Douglas was enough of a disco star that her name appears on the marquee of the disco featured in the movie. In 1981, Douglas' cover of the Three Degrees' "My Simple Heart" was released on 20th Century Records as by then the Midland International (aka Midsong) was defunct. "My Simple Heart" was also Douglas' debut on Carrere Records based in Paris where Douglas lived for a time: in the early 1980s Carrère handled Douglas' European releases while in the US Douglas was signed to O'Loughlin's Next Plateau label. Her last album to date 'I Got Your Body', renamed 'Love Zone' in the US and Canada, was released in 1983 including her latest four 12" singles from 1981 to 1983: "My Simple Heart", "You're Not So Hot", "I Got Your Body" and "Got Ya Where I Want Ya". The cut "You're Not So Hot" reached #71 in France (1982).
The retro-boom of the 1990s put Douglas back on the road touring and making personal appearances at a number of special events including the Martin Luther King Concert Series
, Beatstock '97
, Saturday Night Fever 20th Anniversary Reunion
and the Dance Music Hall of Fame ceremony. In 2003, she returned to the recording studio when she was invited to sing backing vocals on Wanda Dee's Goddess Is Here!
CD. During this period, she also re-recorded a number of her hits, which were also released.Douglas is not to be confused with (and is also not related to) Carl Douglas, a fellow pop one-hit wonder whose famous single, "Kung Fu Fighting", was in the Billboard
Hot 100 at about the same time as Carol Douglas's "Doctor's Orders".
The People's Court
Douglas made an appearance on The People's Court
(with Judge Marilyn Milian) in 2003 as the plaintiff in a case involving herself and fellow disco diva Sharon Brown. After the ruling, Brown stated that Douglas decision to take her to court was a publicity stunt, to get some free TV air time. In addition to awarding Douglas some (not all) of the money she was requesting, Milian had Douglas sing a brief snippet of "Doctor's Orders", as well as having Brown sing a snippet of her 1982 song "I Specialize in Love".