On April 16, 1977, David Soul’s smash-hit single “Don’t Give Up On Us Baby” reaches the top of the U.S. pop charts. But the story of a tough-but-sensitive TV detective’s journey to crossover success began a full 10 years earlier.
Although the soft-rock style of “Don’t Give Up On Us Baby” was likely to prove irresistible to fans of “lite”-rock groups like Bread or Seals & Crofts, the song’s rise to #1 also owed quite a bit to the celebrity of the man who recorded it. David Soul, to the record-buying public of 1977, was better known as Detective Kenneth “Hutch” Hutchison, the sensitive and soft-spoken television cop who might lecture a drug-dealing Bay City pimp about his unhealthy eating habits while Detective David Starsky was busy beating a confession out of him. It was a plum role that Mr. Soul (née Solberg) had landed after a decade of yeoman’s work on such classic 70s cop shows as Ironside, Cannon, and The Rookies. But long before Starsky & Hutch provided the platform from which he launched his career in pop, David Soul had made another attempt at musical stardom—one of the strangest in pop history.
In 1967, David Soul was an aspiring folk singer with an apparently debilitating problem: his blond and chiseled Scandinavian good looks made it difficult for audiences to focus on his music. And so it was that David Soul became “The Covered Man,” making 25 appearances on The Merv Griffin Show with a guitar in his hands and a black wool ski mask covering his face. No, this was not a comedy act, but it was certainly a brilliant gimmick, and it worked like a charm—until David Soul decided it was safe to doff the ski mask, that is. As it turned out, Griffin and his audience lost all interest in the Covered Man once he become uncovered. Luckily for David Soul, television is an industry that does not discriminate against the beautiful. A talent scout who watched his unmasking on Merv Griffin scooped Soul up and sent him out to California for acting and karate lessons, laying the foundation for the acting success that would allow his musical talent to reemerge some 10 years later and peak on this day in 1977 with a #1 pop single.