Jean Dinning, 86, who wrote the tragic pop song
that became a No. 1 hit for her brother in 1959, died Feb. 22 in Garden Grove, said her daughter, Cynthia Wygal. Dinning had a respiratory illness.
She wrote the song after reading a newspaper article about teenagers making positive contributions that used the phrase "teen angels." Her younger brother, Mark Dinning, recorded the sad ballad, and it was his only major hit. He died of a
at 52 in 1986.
The song is credited with inaugurating an early-1960s cycle of morbid songs about teenage mortality that included Ray Peterson's "Tell Laura I Love Her" and Jan & Dean's "Dead Man's Curve."
One of nine children, she was born Eugenia Dinning on March 29, 1924, in Enid, Okla.
As one of the
— a trio that included her twin, Ginger — she performed from the late 1930s until 1954. The group had a top-10 hit with "Buttons and Bows" in 1948 and appeared on the country music TV show "The National Barn Dance."
A mother of five, Dinning was married and divorced twice. Her third husband, Joel "Red" Beasley, died in 1994.
"She used to call 'Teen Angel' her 'guardian angel,' " her daughter said, "because it supported her through old age."