Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 10/31/2019

Everybody knows who Paul Simon is, and we can all probably even name and sing along with some of his records. Granted, a lot of his success was writing songs and singing along with Art Garfunkel, but Paul had a number of successful singles himself.

But the radio ignores a lot of his singles. Paul released at least 27 singles that failed to make it to the Hot 100 and a half-dozen more that didn’t make it to the top forty. And exactly two singles that made it to #40, but no higher.

His fourth album, Still Crazy After All These Years was released in 1975 and won Grammy awards in 1976 for Album of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. It even spawned the chart-topping single 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Unfortunately, one single from the album failed to chart and a second single only reached #23 in 1975.

Perhaps the surprise from the album was the poor performance of the title song. Still Crazy After All These Years was released as the third single from the album and while it did reach #40 in 1976, it failed to get any higher. Maybe the problem was releasing a slow ballad at a time when Disco was starting to boil. Maybe we’re measuring the record incorrectly by ignoring its climb to the top five on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Maybe it just needed a video, and it was too soon for MTV or even PopClips.

Fortunately, we did get a video of sorts. The week before Thanksgiving in 1976 Paul appeared as the host of Saturday Night Live and started the show with the song. There was just one problem…he was dressed in a turkey suit. Now that’s a video for the ages!

Oh, almost forgot – the other single that only got to number 40 was One Trick Pony, the 1980 title song from a movie about a musician who is trying to save a dying career. It was six years before Paul reached the top forty again after that movie, and that success came about mostly because it had a video which featured Chevy Chase.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Simon
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Simon_discography

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 10/30/2019

A number of Americans who were subject to the draft during the Vietnam War evaded it by moving to Canada. One of the most prominent draft evaders was Jesse Winchester. He was not pleased when his draft notice arrived, and in 1967 he moved to Quebec. Once there, he initially joined a local band. After a while, he began singing and writing songs and appearing as a solo act. Canadian Robbie Robertson (who later formed The Band) caught Jesse’s act and began working with him on Jesse’s first album in 1970. Several more albums followed. While Jesse got airplay in Canada, since he was unable to tour in the US his records failed to cross the border.

Russell Smith, Jeff Davis, Butch McDade were members of Fatback, a rock group that was formed in Knoxville in the late sixties.

When Jesse decided to expand to a band, he recruited David McDade and Jeff Davis and created Jesse Winchester and the Rhythm Aces. Somehow Jesse decided to record two of the songs that Russell had written on his next album, and Russell moved to Canada to help out. He ended up joining the Rhythm Aces and touring with Jesse for a brief period. One of the songs on Jesse’s album was written by Russell, Third Rate Romance.

Engineer and producer Barry Burton convinced Russell, David, and Butch to move to Memphis and recruited Billy Earheart III and James Hooker and a new group was born in 1972: The Amazing Rhythm Aces. It’s pretty clear how they came up with the name.

It took until 1974 for the group to complete and release their first album, Stacked Deck. The first single from the album was a new version of Third Rate Romance. The group’s Canadian roots seemed to help; the record reached number one on the Candian chart and also topped the Canadian Country chart. The single also hit #11 on the US Country chart and, more amazingly, got as high as #14 on the Hot 100 in 1975. Two more singles did well on the US Country chart, but their crossover to pop was over after just one hit.

The group won a Grammy award in 1976 for BEST COUNTRY VOCAL PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP for The End Is Not In Sight (The Cowboy Tune).

Barry left the group in 1977 and was replaced by Duncan Cameron. After future success as a group seemed unlikely, the group completely disbanded by 1978.

Russell released a few solo records, but his real success came as a songwriter. He eventually wrote four number one Country singles for four different artists.

Barry continued producing other groups and doing session work as a guitar player.

Billy joined Hank Williams Jr.’s band, Cameron became a member of Sawyer Brown, and James became the leader of The Blue Moon Orchestra, Nanci Griffith’s backup band.

Sammy Kershaw covered Third Rate Romance in 1994 and his version reached #2 on the Country chart and #66 on the Hot 100. The video for his single put a slightly different spin on the ending.

Perhaps inspired by Sammy’s success, some members of the Amazing Rhythm Aces reformed the group in 1994 and continued recording new music through 2007.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Winchester
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell_Smith_(singer)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Rhythm_Aces
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Rate_Romance

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 10/29/2019

Vocalists Donald McPherson, Luther Simmons, Jr., and Tony Silvester formed The Poets in Harlem in 1964. They recorded on the Red Bird label, but after a few singles failed to chart the group changed their name to The Insiders.

The Insiders had no luck with singles either. In 1968 one of them looked at the label of a Coca-Cola bottle and used the words “Main Ingredient” to rename the group yet again. It took until 1970, but the group finally reached the R&B top forty with a handful of their singles. While five of the singles also reached the Hot 100, none of them got any higher than #49.

Don died unexpectedly in 1972 and was replaced with a new lead singer, Cuba Gooding, Sr. And yes, he was the father of actor Cuba Gooding, Jr.

The group’s first single with Cuba singing lead was Everybody Plays The Fool, which promptly jumped to #3 and sold over a million copies. The group struggled to recapture the success of that single, and it was 1974 before they even reached the top forty again.

Ronnie Dyson grew up in Brooklyn and appeared in the Broadway production of Hair when he was only 18. In 1970, his recording of (If You Let Me Make Love to You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You? was a top ten single. He released several singles after that, none of which reached higher than #28. In 1973 he released Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely, but his version only got as high as #60 on the pop charts, although it did get up to #29 on the R&B charts.

The Main Ingredient covered Ronnie’s single a year later, and in 1974 their version of Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely reached the top ten (but barely missed reaching the top 100 records of the year). They even appeared on Soul Train with their new single. Two more singles after that reached the R&B top ten by 1975, but the group never had any success on the Hot 100 again.

The group split up, tried solo careers, reunited a few times, and even changed lead singers a time or two, but nothing they did ever seemed to work.

You can now get the audiobook for my latest book, Lost or Forgotten Oldies Volume 1.

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 10/28/2019

Bette Midler was born in Hawaii and lived there until 1965. She majored in drama in college without even coming close to completing a degree and fled to the bright lights of the stages in New York City.

She appeared in several plays over the next few years. Her last feature role was in the Broadway production of Fiddler On The Roof.

In the Summer of 1970, Bette began singing at a gay bathhouse in the Ansonia Hotel. Bette saw Barry Manilow performing and immediately talked him into playing piano for her. Barry had already produced albums for a few artists, and in 1972 he produced Bette’s first album, The Divine Miss M.

A quick trip in the Wayback machine will take us to 1958 so we can spy on Bobby Freeman. Bobby had been in a few groups that fell apart and was faced with embarking on a solo career. A local disk jockey convinced Bobby to record a few songs he had written, and one of the demos was Do You Want To Dance. Jubilee Records signed Bobby to a recording contract at the age of only 17. The record company dubbed a few more instruments over the top of Bobby’s demo and released a single that catapulted to number five on the pop charts and number two on the R&B charts. He managed another number five-hit, but that was six years later.

In 1961, Del Shannon’s career got jump-started with Runaway and Hats Off To Larry. Although Del had a string of top ten hits in the UK, he had difficulty connecting to the US audience again. In 1964 he recorded his version of Do You Want To Dance. The single missed the UK charts completely, and just barely reached the top forty in the US where it peaked at #43. His next single, Keep Searching, reached the top ten just about everywhere.

The Beach Boys recorded hits that were primarily written by Brian Wilson. In 1964 they fired their father from managing the group and Brian changed his focus from surf music to more mainstream pop. He also began using marijuana. The first song on The Beach Boys Today was a cover of the Bobby Freeman single, now listed as Do You Wanna Dance. The record reached #12, making it their highest-charting single that featured Dennis Wilson singing lead.

The Mamas and Papas had drama that makes the later romantic challenges of Fleetwood Mac look tame by comparison. After their fourth album came out and it appeared that Mama Cass was leaving the group for a solo career, their record company went back to their very first album and released Do You Wanna To Dance as a single. Everybody already had copies of that album, so maybe that kept the single from getting any higher than #76 in 1968.

And that brings us back to Bette. The first single from her first album was her properly titled version of Do You Want To Dance. The single peaked at #17 in 1973. The second single from the album was her top ten version of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and she continued to chart singles into the nineties.

Many other artists covered Bobby’s hit, but there was one last version of the song that reached the Hot 100: The Ramones. Their last visit to the Hot 100 came in 1978 when their version of Do You Wanna Dance spent five whole weeks rumbling around before it reached number 86 for a week in May 1978. Their version sounded a lot like Del’s single played at 78 rpm.

You can now get the audiobook for my latest book, Lost or Forgotten Oldies Volume 1.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bette_Midler
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Freeman
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Del_Shannon
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_You_Want_to_Dance

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 10/27/2019

In 1966, a blues band that specialized in instrumentals of Latin-infused music was formed in San Francisco. They played gigs part-time while their leader worked as a dishwasher at Tick-Tock’s Drive-In.

Music promoter Chet Helms was managing Big Brother and the Holding Company and promoting music in San Francisco during the Summer Of Love. The blues group auditioned for him in 1967, but that did not go well; Chet suggested that there was no market for their music and told the band’s leader that he should keep his day job.

Fortunately for us, guitar player Carlos Santana ignored that advice and kept on playing music. Bill Graham was a music promoter who been working with Chet since Bill had moved to San Francisco in 1964 and he saw more potential in the group than Chet saw. He signed up to manage the Santana Blues Band and got them a record contract with Columbia Records. They began simply using Santana as the group’s name. Bill also began running the Fillmore Auditorium.

In 1969, Bill was asked to help organize Woodstock and agreed to do so, but only if Santana was added to the bill. The group played a forty-five-minute set at Woodstock in August 1969, and Santana’s first album was released that month as well. Their initial singleJingo, barely touched the charts. No doubt helped out by their live performance of the song at Woodstock, their second single, Evil Ways, reached the top ten on the Hot 100. Two more hit singles followed from Abraxas, their second album. The album quickly hit the top of the album charts in 1970.

Santata III came out in 1971 and followed its predecessor up to the top of the charts. The first single from the album was Everybody’s Everything, which peaked at #12.  Their second single from the album did not perform as well: No One To Depend On barely got into the top forty and peaked at #36 in 1972.

Carlos replaced several of the group’s members with new musicians and began to focus on jazz fusion for the next few albums. While the group’s albums continued to sell well, there were no more top forty singles for the next five years.

The group’s biggest success came in 1999 with the release of the album Supernatural. The album contained the single Smooth. The single featured vocals by Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty and sat in the number one spot for twelve weeks. The band still continues to tour and record music.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santana_(band)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santana_discography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Graham_(promoter)

My newest book is on sale for just 99 cents! Buy it now, before the price goes back up!

 

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 10/26/2019

When I was on the radio in 1968 I got to snoop through the new albums that arrived at the radio station and listen to them. One very nice surprise with that process was the first album from a Philidelphia hard rock group that called itself Nazz after a song by the Yardbirds. The initial single from the group was Open My Eyes, which made use of phasing. The writer and guitar player on the single was Todd Rundgren, who also wrote the B-side of the single, Hello, It’s Me.

Nazz recorded two albums and parts of a third album before Todd and the group parted ways in 1969. The remaining members finished the third album, after which Nazz was no more. Todd, fortunately, went on to a long-lasting career. Todd was unhappy with the production of the Nazz albums and proceeded to learn all he could about engineering and producing albums.

Todd recruited Soupy Sales’ two sons (Hunt and Tony) to play drums and bass and overdubbed vocals and guitars and recorded Runt, his first solo album (you can debate whether Runt was the name of the album or the name of a trio). In 1970 the first single from the album was We Gotta Get You A Woman. The single reached #20 on the Hot 100 in early 1971.

Todd released four more singles before his remake of Hello, It’s Me was peaked at #5 in 1972.

Todd produced or engineered albums and singles for an endless line of bands and recorded both solo albums and albums for Utopia, a group he formed in 1973. He also performed as a guitar player for three of Ringo Starr’s tours.

In a strange twist of fate, the song he may be most famous for is Bang The Drum All Day. While the record only reached #63 in 1973, it is used a great deal at live sporting events (especially by the Green Bay Packers).

Todd is also part of an upcoming 2019 tour commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles White album. The assortment of musicians reproducing the album in concert and performing a few of their own songs includes Todd, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees, Christopher Cross, Jason Scheff from Chicago, and Joey Molland from Badfinger.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd_Rundgren
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd_Rundgren_discography

Todd Rundgren, Micky Dolenz, Christopher Cross team for Beatles’ White Album 50th anniversary tour

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 10/25/2019

Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk was born to parents with widely different ethnic backgrounds: a Ukranian father and an Italian mother. It seems pretty clear that using the stage name Melanie made it easier when it was time to announce her.

Melanie’s mother was a jazz singer and no doubt helped push Melanie into public singing: Melanie sang on a radio show at age four. While still in college, she began singing in clubs in Greenwich Village and that quickly led to a recording contract. In 1969 she recorded wrote and recorded Beautiful People. She also recorded Bobo’s Party, which reached #12 in France did not reach any other charts. Beautiful People was re-released in 1970 and became a top ten record in the Netherlands.

Woodstock provided the breakthrough Melanie had worked towards. She performed at Woodstock, and the reaction of the crowd inspired her to write Lay Down (Candles In The Rain). The Edwin Hawkins Singers provided backup vocals for her and the single reached #6 on the Hot 100, number one in two other countries, and top five in several more. Her next single did not fare as well. Later in the year, she released a cover version of the Rolling Stones record Ruby Tuesday that reached the top ten in the UK. The B-side of that record was What Have They Done to My Song Ma.

The Seekers were an Australian group that had a series of hit records in the middle sixties (their most popular single was probably Georgie Girl). The group fell apart when the female lead singer left the group in 1968. Keith Potger recruited several new members and formed the New Seekers in 1969. Their first record went unnoticed, but beginning in 1970 they released three consecutive singles that were written by Melanie.

The first single was a cover of Melanie’s B-side which was retitled Look What They’ve Done To My Song Ma. The single was a top-five record in several countries and reached #14 in the US. After that success, they covered Beautiful People (#11 on the Adult Contemporary chart) and Nickel Song (#13 on the AC chart).

Near the end of 1971 the New Seekers recorded a version of a Coca-Cola commercial and had a huge hit with I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing. You may recognize the song from a pivotal commercial on the final episode of Mad Men: I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke.

Melanie’s career was hardly over. In 1971 she recorded the chart-topping single Brand New Key. Several more top forty singles followed as well as over forty albums.

Perhaps her most unusual recording came when Miley Cyrus invited Melanie to sing with her on stage and they performed an all-new version of Look What They’ve Done To My Song. Only fair to warn you that Melanie couldn’t resist breaking into French on her verse.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanie_(singer)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Seekers