Mel Street Biography
Last updated: 10/28/2014 12:31:27 PM
"King Malachi Street was a big, irony-free galoot with a unique gift -- the vocal ability to rip your heart out of your chest and serve it to you on a platter" ------------Chris Dickinson - Editor, The Journal Of Country Music
Mel Street was born King Malachi Street on October 21, 1935(1) near Grundy, Virginia. The coal miner's son would emerge as one of the finest and most promising country singers of the 1970s. Mel began his career in the 1950s on Cecil Suratt's radio show on stations WELC and WBRW in Welch, West Virginia. He then married and spent the next decade raising a family and living in various towns in Ohio working as an electrician on radio transmitter towers. By 1960, the Streets had moved to Niagara Falls, where Mel worked in the auto body business and sang in nightclubs. Later, he moved to Bluefield, West Virginia and opened his own paint and body shop. While living in Bluefield, he performed as a member of the band called the "Swing Kings" on WHIS-TV's Country Jamboree. He then had his very own Saturday evening half-hour show, Country Showcase, on the same station from 1968 to 1972. The owners of a cable television company saw his work and suggested he cut a record on their small upstart Tandem label, so he recorded his four songs in Nashville in 1970. The first single, "House of Pride", was released twice with little success. The third time around it was decided to release the flip side of the record, Mel's own "Borrowed Angel". It got enough airplay to catch the attention of Royal American Records, who by 1972 signed a deal with Mel and catapulted the song all the way to the top ten on the country charts.
His career took off, and he was signed to Metromedia Country, a newly formed record label of the Metromedia conglomerate. Soon, his follow-up "Lovin' on Back Streets" hit the Top Five. Because of his success, and a heavy touring schedule, Mel closed his paint and body shop and moved his family to Nashville. In 1973, Mel had two Top 15 hits and through his affiliation with Metromedia, sang the theme song to the TV western comedy Dusty's Trail. The following year Metromedia left Nashville and he was shifted to GRT Records. Over the next two years, Street continued to make chart appearances and increased his already intense touring schedule. In 1976, he hit the Top Ten again with "I Met a Friend of Yours Today", (more recently recorded by George Strait). Afterward, he signed to a major label, Polydor, and scored a Top 20 hit with "Barbara, Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know" and at Top 10 hit with "If I Had a Cheating Heart" (later a hit for Ricky Lynn Gregg). In 1978 Polydor closed its Nashville division, and he gained a lucrative contract at Mercury Records.
Indeed, by 1978, Mel had been enjoying success in the music industry. Although he hadn't been a top record seller, he had a healthy fan base and considerable income from his shows - and by the latter part of his career he was doing a good many of them. Life on the road is typically not kind to a devoted family man, such as Mel was. As his career progressed and his status elevated, the stress and professional pressures became stronger. His depression, which he appeared to struggle much of his career, became deeper. With his major contract with Mercury it looked as if superstardom was just around the corner- but it was not to be. Mel Street took his own life on October 21, 1978, his forty-third birthday. He had been scheduled that day to record the final couple of tracks for his first album at Mercury, which was due to be released the next month. Upon his death, Mercury released the album, Mel Street, borrowing two tracks from his previous Polydor album to fill the void. A single from the album entered the country charts the very day he died. Its title-"Just Hangin' On"- turned out to be sadly prophetic. George Jones, whom Mel admired very much, was there to sing at his funeral.
Even after his death, Mel made a couple of appearances on the charts. By 1981, Mel Street's Greatest Hits had remarkably sold 400,000 copies. Today his music is still much sought after, over 20 years after he left us. All along the way he has won the respect and admiration of many fans and fellow country artists alike.
If you want to learn more about Mel Street, why not purchase the book Mel Street: A Country Legend Gone - But Not Forgotten?
Note: (1) Mel's birth date is most often shown as October 21, 1933. Some records even indicate 1936. However, his birth certificate indicates 1935 as the year he was born. This date is also given by his family.