Kane County History: Jackie DeShannon 'Put a Little Love' in Batavia

Kane County History: Jackie DeShannon ‘Put a Little Love’ in Batavia

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was contributed by Jennifer Putzier, director of the Batavia Depot Museum.

Batavia High School yearbook photos.

The talented singer and songwriter Jackie DeShannon, best known for such hits as “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and “Bette Davis Eyes”, once called Batavia home.

Jackie DeShannon was born Sharon Lee Myers on Aug. 21, 1941, in the tiny town of Hazel, KY. Her parents, James and Sandra Myers (nee LaMonte), were musically inclined — they both played guitar, her father played harmonica, and her mother sang. There was always music in the home.

Jackie began her musical training as early as age 2.

Farm life was tough for the Myers in the early 1950s, and the family moved to Aurora, where Sandra was originally from. After only a short stay, they moved north to Batavia in 1953.

James relied on his skills as a barber to support the family, working at both the W. G. Larsen Barber shop in Batavia and the Bobbette Shop in Geneva.

Jackie continued to develop her talents in Batavia, singing in church and even appearing on local radio and television. As early as eighth grade, she hosted her own Saturday morning radio show on Aurora station WMRO called “Breakfast Melodies.”

In May 1955, the Batavia Herald said of Jackie: “Though only 13, the youngster can boast almost 11 years of voice training and experience and in the past she has toured most of the south making personal appearances. Also she has sung on the radio with a rhythm band for two years and has appeared on television three times.”

Jackie attended Batavia High School from 1955 to 1957, but left before her expected graduation date of 1959 to pursue her music career. Her family remained in Batavia until 1964, when they moved to Hollywood.

It was the record label that changed her name for the stage; after experimenting with “Sherry Lee”, “Sharon Lee” “Jackie Dee,” they finally settled on “Jackie DeShannon.”

When asked why, Jackie recalled in a 2003 interview. “In the beginning when I was making records, radio stations were not playing records by girls. It was suggested I choose a name that could be a boy or a girl. So there you have it!”

Jackie DeShannon is considered to be one of the first successful female singer-songwriters in rock ‘n’ roll, paving the way for others that came after her. In 1964, she both opened for the Beatles’ North American Tour and starred in the film “Surf Party.”

In 1969, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart”, written and performed by Jackie, made it to No. 4 on the U.S. charts. In 1981, “Bette Davis Eyes” which Jackie had co-written with Donna Weiss, became a worldwide hit as sung by Kim Carnes and earned Jackie a Grammy the next year.

Today, Jackie continues to write and produce music, and is a correspondent on the weekly radio show “Breakfast with the Beatles.”

About the Batavia Depot Museum

The Batavia Depot Museum opened in 1975 as a partnership between the Batavia Park District and the Batavia Historical Society. The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Depot was the first of its kind built in 1854, and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inside, the city’s past comes alive through exhibits detailing the history of rail transportation, manufacture of windmills, agriculture, banking, commerce and a brief stay by Mary Todd Lincoln at Bellevue Place. Open seasonally, March through November. Summer hours started June 1 and are 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Read The Kane County History Series!