Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 08/31/2019

In the 1970s, J. Fred Knobloch was a member of Let’s Eat, a rock band. After the group fell apart he began work on music that had a more pop-country feel.

Susan Anton began competing in beauty contests in the sixties and spent most of the seventies in high demand as a model. She appeared in television commercials as well and eventually started showing up on talk shows. In 1978 she and Mel Tillis had their own short-lived Summer television show. She hosted her own variety show, and probably sang on that as well.

In 1980 Fred released his first successful singleWhy Not Me, which he co-wrote. The record topped the Adult Contemporary chart, got as high as #18 on the Hot 100, and also crossed over to the Country charts and peaked at #30. His follow-up single missed the Hot 100 and only got as high as #53 on the Country chart.

Fred and Susan met and recorded a duet together, Killing Time.  The song came out in late 1980 and reached #28 on the Hot 100 but was a top ten record on the Country chart and even top five on the Adult Contemporary chart. They appeared together on American Bandstand in early 1981 to lip-sync the song and explain how they came to record it during an interview with Dick Clark.

Fred had one more top ten Country song but never reached the Hot 100 again. In 1986 he joined with Thom Schuyler and Paul Overstreet to form S-K-O. The group had a number one hit and two more top forty country hits before Craig Bickhardt replaced Paul and they became S-K-B. The new group had another three Country hits before the group completely disbanded. in 1989

Susan appeared as a guest star in an endless series of television shows. Most recently she showed up in Sharknado: The 4th Awakens.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 08/30/2019

Jacques Morali was a French record producer who abandoned Paris and moved to Philadelphia when his forays into dance music were not as successful as he wanted. He wanted to create a dance/disco tune with three “larger than life” divas and recruited Cheryl Jacks, Cassandra Wooten, and Gwendolyn Oliver. Record producer Richie Rome was working with the group, and the group got their name by adding a ‘t’ to his first name: The Ritchie Family. They clearly were not an actual family act.

The group’s first single in 1975 was a remake of an old Carmen Miranda tune, Brazil, which topped the dance charts and nearly made it into the top ten on the pop side. Several dance hits followed from that album.

Their second album came out in 1976 and the lead single from the album was The Best Disco In Town. The song was a straight disco tune that was a patchwork of lines and music from other R&B and disco hits. I lost count of how many other songs that record copied.

As might be expected for a group formed by a third party, there was a lot of turnover through the years. In 1978 all three of the original members of the group were replaced by Jacqui Smith-Lee, Theodosia ‘Dodie’ Draher, and Ednah Holt. Cassandra and Cheryl went on to sing backup vocals on John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album.

In 1979, Vera Brown replaced Ednah, and in 1982 Linda James replaced Dodie as well. The group appeared to have disbanded completely by 1984.

The Ritchie Family never got near the Hot 100 again, but continued to have top forty singles for quite a while. In 2016 a reformed group even reached #40 on the dance charts again.

Morali went on to create at least 65 albums for various acts, but will no doubt be remembered mostly for the other group he formed: The Village People. The film Can’t Stop The Music featured both The Village People and The Ritchie Family. The movie was such a disaster that it almost completely ended the careers of anybody connected to it.

Recently two of the original members reformed the group with yet another new member. The most recent lineup is Cheryl Mason-Dorman, Cassandra Wooten and Renée Guillory-Wearing. The disco divas in that group are again making public appearances.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 08/29/2019

In 1968 the Beatles held a news conference to announce the formation of their own record label. One of the questions that came up asked John to name a favorite American group. John’s response was a complete surprise to everybody: “Nilsson.”

Harry Nilsson was born in Brooklyn but spent most of his youth in the LA area. He tried performing as part of a duo, but his first big breaks in the music industry came from songwriting. His first album was released in 1966 with little results, but other artists began covering some of his songs.

Harry’s second album was completed and released in 1967. One of the songs on the album was Cuddly Toy, which was quickly covered by the Monkees and used on their show and included on their fourth album.

None of the other songs caught much attention, and the album sold poorly, but critics and other people in the music biz loved it. Derek Taylor was the press officer for the Beatles, and he bought copies of Pandemonium Shadow Show and gave copies to the Beatles. John was impressed enough that he called Harry and they soon became friends.

Perhaps some of the attention was the result of You Can’t Do That, one of the songs on the album. While running through most of the Beatles’ song, Harry overdubbed countless background vocals with bits and pieces of 20 of the group’s songs.

Harry’s third album (Ariel Ballet) finally got him his first charted record. The first single from the album was One, which became a huge hit for Three Dog Night several years later. While he wrote all the other songs on the album, the next single (Everybody’s Talkin’) was written by Fred Neil. When the single came out in 1968 it came close to the Hot 100 but didn’t quite reach it. The song was used on the soundtrack of the film Midnight Cowboy and sales of the single exploded and the record reached #6.

The theme song to the television show The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father was recorded for Ariel Ballet but was left off the album and never got released as a single.

Several interesting albums followed (usually marked by the word “Schmilsson” in the title) as did numerous hit records.

His second-to-last top forty single was Spaceman in 1972. His last chart record only made it up to #39 in 1974, so odds are you never heard Daybreak.

A heart attack took Harry from us in 1993.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 08/28/2019

Five high school students in a small town in Illinois formed one of the earliest vocal groups in 1952. They initially called themselves the El-Rays and changed their name to the Dells when they began recording in 1954. The original line-up included Marvin Junior, Verne Allison, Johnny Funches, Chuck Barksdale, and Mickey and Lucius McGill.

The group’s first chart success came in 1956 with the release of Oh What A Nite. The record did not reach the Hot 100, but got up to #4 on the R&B charts and sold over a million copies. At least a half-dozen singles followed in the next few years, but none of them turned out to be chart material. The group disbanded in 1958 after they suffered injuries in a car accident.

Johnny Carter had been the tenor singer for the Flamingos through the late fifties, a group that recorded a number of hit records, including I Only Have Eyes For You. In 1960 the Dells reformed with Johnny Carter replacing  Johnny Funches. For the next two years, the group sang background vocals for Dinah Washington. They also sang background vocals for Barbara Lewis on Hello Stranger and worked with Quincy Jones to perfect their sound.

The group continuously released singles through the early to mid-sixties. 1968 was the year the group finally connected with the wider public. Their first release that year was There Is, which got up to #20 on the Hot 100. A second single, Wear It On Our Face, just missed the top forty.

The biggest hit of their career came next. The group originally recorded Stay In My Corner in 1965. The original version reached #23 on the R&B charts and missed the Hot 100. They recorded a new version of Stay In My Corner, and this time the record got to #10 on the pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart.

The next single was Always Together. The single reached #18 on the pop charts and managed to get to #3 on the R&B side of the radio.

A fourth single, Does Anybody Know I’m Here was released late in the year and just barely reached #38.

In 1969 the group re-recorded and released Oh, What A Night. Perhaps the correct spelling of “night” helped, since the new version of the song matched the chart success of Stay In My Corner exactly.

The Dells continued to record hits for the R&B charts into the nineties.

The Dells were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004. They toured and appeared on live shows as an intact group until Johnny Carter died of cancer in 2009, after which the remaining four members kept the group alive. By 2012 the group finally disbanded for good.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 08/27/2019

Al Hirt was a superb trumpet player who managed to make playing the instrument sound easy. He grew up in New Orleans and he and his friend Pete Fountain (the clarinet virtuoso) played professionally in the clubs as early at the 1930s. Al played with various bands and orchestras in the forties and fifties before returning to New Orleans and specializing in Dixieland music. He began recording albums for RCA Records in the sixties.

Five singles completely missed the charts in 1961 through 1963.  Al’s first visit to the Hot 100 came with the release of Java the first week of 1964.

Java might have been a number one record in an earlier year, but it had the bad luck to only get up to #4 because of a logjam caused by three Beatles singles that were sitting at number one, two, and three for several weeks in February and March and the Four Season’s recording of Dawn. At least the record did manage to reach the top of the Adult Contemporary charts.

One month later the Beatles filled up all of the top five slots on the Hot 100, and the British Invasion was on.

Cotton Candy was released in April after Java faded from the charts. The single got as high as #15 on the Hot 100 but reached #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Al had one last top forty single later in 1964 when Sugar Lips reached #30. I hardly recognize the tune, perhaps because the British Invasion was out in full force by late 1964 and that’s about all the radio seemed to play. A few more singles got into the top 100 the next year, but he never reached the Hot 100 again after 1965. He did place at least one single per year into the Adult Contemporary top-forty through the end of the sixties, after which only his albums showed any charting action.

Al recorded more than forty albums by the time he recorded his last album in 1996. He died three years later as a result of liver failure at the age of 77.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 08/26/2019

Rod Lauren may be unique among singers with a one-hit-wonder: he also starred in a movie that was spoofed on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Rod grew up near Fresno. In high school, rather than starting out as a singer, he played the trombone. After graduating, he began singing ballads at a nearby club. His backup group was called the Buddies. Rod was signed to RCA Records in 1959 and near the end of the year his first single was released: If I Had A Girl.

Rod promoted the record mostly with television appearances, including singing his hit on the Ed Sullivan Show and Amercian Bandstand. In early 1960 the record peaked at #31. Other singles followed, but none of them reached the charts.

Rod continued singing at clubs in the California and Las Vegas areas to support himself while he worked towards an acting career. A few television appearances got him on his way.

He starred in six films in 1963 and 1964 and appeared in several more in the following years. The only notable film was The Crawling Hand, a low budget horror film that MST3K used in one of their episodes as a background for their jokes.

When his acting career followed his singing career into oblivion, Rod moved to Manilla and married a successful comedy actress in 1979.

The marriage did not have a happy ending. In 2001, his wife was attacked and killed by repeated stabbings. The man arrested for the murder eventually admitted to the killing but claimed that he had been hired by Rod. Rod returned to the US before charges could be placed. While he was arrested in the US, a judge ruled that evidence in Manilla was insufficient and blocked his extradition. It appears that the murderer also admitted to making up the story about Rod hiring him.

All of this took a toll on Rod; in 2007 he killed himself by jumping from a second-floor balcony.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 08/25/2019

Cliffe Stone grew up in California in the Roaring Twenties. His father was a country singer known as Herman the Hermit (no relation to Peter Noone’s group). Cliffe played bass in several orchestras and began playing at an assortment of country-music related clubs in the area. He also did some comedy and even acted as emcee for some engagements.

Captiol Records hired Cliffe as an A&R man in 1946. He discovered and helped start the careers of Tennessee Ernie Ford and Stan Freeburg and many others. He also became involved with television in its infancy and hosted his own weekly show (Hometown Jamboree) from 1949 to 1956.

Cliffe released a half-dozen albums with his band. He had several Country hit singles in the late forties, but his biggest hit was a surprise novelty songThe Popcorn Song helped popularize the phrase, “Too pooped to pop,” with its release in 1955. The record reached #14 in the Summer of 1955. The song was written by Bob Roubian, who also founded the world-famous Crab Cooker restaurant.

Chuck Berry released the record Too Pooped To Pop in 1960 which barely missed the top forty; his record was not related to Cliffe’s song at all.