Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/18/2019

1970 Ernie – Rubber Duckie

While still in high school, Jim Henson began working for a local television show, The Junior Morning Show. Puppets were commonplace on television in the fifties and Jim created puppets for the show. He attended the  University of Maryland, College Park, and took a course in puppetry. While in college, he developed Sam And Friends, a five-minute puppet show that ran from 1954 to 1961. One of the puppets on that show was a now-familiar-looking frog. He began making commercials using his puppets, the most successful of which were some coffee commercials.

Jim moved to New York City in 1963 and recruited Frank Oz and established Muppets, Inc. He developed Rolf, the piano-playing dog, who appeared regularly on the Jimmy Dean television show. Sesame Street began in 1969, with Jim performing as Kermit and Ernie and Frank performing as Cookie Monster and Bert (and many, many more Muppets as well as Miss Piggy, who never appeared on Sesame Street). The show involved a large number of extremely talented people, including writer Jeff Moss and music composer Joe Raposo.

A popular sketch with Ernie had him singing Rubber Duckie in the bathtub. The song was written by Jeff and Joe and first used on the show in February 1970. The song was successful enough that a 45 single was released. Everybody was surprised when the record began getting airplay on radio and the single quick hit the charts, peaking at #16 in September.

Rock station WKDA-FM in Nashville had a daily event where two new songs were played and listeners could vote for the song they wanted to keep hearing. The winner would return the next day to face a new challenger. Somebody put Rubber Duckie on as a joke, and the song easily began a winning streak that was finally stopped by Lola by the Kinks. Would that we could have vanquished Baby Shark that easily!

Rubber Duckie was Ernie’s only visit to the charts.

A number of people have recorded Rubber Duckie, but no doubt the most unusual performance was also on Sesame Street: Little Richard brought along a rubber duckie and a piano and a tub and other props and reproduced the entire sketch.


Lost or Forgotten Oldies articles have been collected in my book. Over half the book is new material! The ebook makes it easy to reach the videos (just like my blog!) but the paperback and audiobook also tell you how to reach a file that contains all the links.

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/17/2019

1969 Flirtations – Nothing But A Heartache

The Gypsies was a soul vocal group formed in 1962 in New York City by three sisters from South Carolina (Ernestine Pearce, Shirley Pearce, and Betty Pearce) and their friend Lestine Johnson. Their first single, Hey There, Hey There, was released in 1964 but had little impact. Their next single, Jerk It, was a song written by J. J. Jackson (who later had a hit with It’s Alright). Jerk It reached #33 on the R&B charts but did not get on the pop charts. Lestine Johnson left and was replaced by Viola Billups.

Two more non-performing singles followed, after which the group changed their name to the Flirtations and changed record labels twice more. Betty Pearce decided to leave the group, and the others continued on as a trio.

With so little success in the US, they decided to move to England and signed with the Parrot label. They toured Europe with labelmate Tom Jones and released a single that reached #25 in the Netherlands in 1968.

In late 1968 they moved to Deram Records and released a single that once again had little success, perhaps because the B-side of the record was Christmas Time Is Here Again and disk jockeys were confused on which side to play. The record was re-released in early 1969, and this time Nothing But A Heartache got enough airplay to give the group their only US top forty single. The record reached #34 in the US but did much better than that in some markets in the US. They even returned to Germany and performed the hit record on the Beat Club television show.

In 1972, Viola left the group and pursued a solo career using the name Pearly Gates. She was replaced by several other singers for short periods of time.

The Flirtations released a few more singles over the next decade without much notice in the US. In 1989 the sisters reunited with Viola and recorded a record that was a top ten record in South Africa.

One last singleRoulette, followed in 2009, and they recorded a collection of covers of songs that were hits for other girl groups in their last album, Girls, in 2015.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/12/2019

1957 Johnny Mathis – Wonderful, Wonderful

Johnny Mathis was born in Texas but grew up in San Francisco after his family moved there. He not only demonstrated great talent as a singer at a young age he also was one of his school’s top athletes. He specialized in track and field events, especially the high jump and hurdles, but also played on the school basketball team with his classmate, Bill Russell.

In 1956, Johnny was invited to try out for the US Olympic team in preparation for the upcoming Olympics in Australia. At the same time, Columbia Records asked him to come to New York to record a few songs. Johnny faced having to choose one or the other and he took his father’s advice and headed East.

The recording sessions in New York produced his first album, Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song. The album was primarily jazz recordings and sales were not what Columbia was hoping for. Johnny continued singing in nightclubs in the New York City area while work began on his second album. Mitch Miller was his producer for the album, and he recruited Ray Conniff as the arranger and conductor. The first song that was recorded and released as a single was Wonderful, Wonderful. It was Johnny’s first single release and peaked at #14 in 1957.

Appearances on numerous television shows helped build Johnny’s audience. His next three singles in 1957 all reached the top ten, and Chances Are made it all the way to number one. His next seven singles all reached the top 25. Columbia took his recordings and packaged two albums, Johnny’s Greatest Hits and More Johnny’s Greatest Hits. His first greatest hits album stayed on the Billboard top 200 Album chart for nine and a half years, setting a record that would not be eclipsed until Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon reached a longer streak in 1983.

Johnny recorded albums and singles for decades, with many singles doing well on the Hot 100, Adult Contemporary, and/or R&B charts. His recordings of Christmas songs were almost an entire career on their own, and many of them return to airplay every year.

His last record to reach one of the top forties that wasn’t a Christmas tune was a 1988 remake of Little Anthony and the Imperials hit single from 1964, I’m On The Outside (Looking In).

In 1963, the Tymes released their first singleSo Much In Love. The song used snapping fingers as a rhythm instrument and the sweet tune reached the top of the charts. They followed that record with a remake of Johnny’s Wonderful, Wonderful that used a nearly identical background to their first single, including the snapping fingers. Their version was even more successful than Johnny’s, reaching #7 on the Hot 100.

The October 11, 1996 episode of the X-Files (Home) wanted to use Johnny’s recording of Wonderful, Wonderful as background music. Johnny was not comfortable with the content of that episode and refused permission to use his version. They used a sound-alike singer’s voice instead.


This article is now included in LOST OR FORGOTTEN OLDIES VOLUME 2: Hit Records From 1955 To 1989 That The Radio Seldom Plays