Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1975 Pure Prairie League – Amie

Craig Fuller began singing in a group in Ohio in 1969. The 1939 Errol Flynn film Dodge City had a women’s temperance group named the Pure Prairie League, and the band took that name for itself.

The group performed country-rock music. They secured a record deal with RCA Records in 1970. Their first album did not sell well.

Their second album was Bustin’ Out. Craig wrote most of the songs on the album, played guitar, and sang lead. In addition, guitarist Mick Ronson worked on their album in between his projects with David Bowie. Mick did some guitar work, some backup vocals, and arranged the strings.

The group released the album in 1972. Sales were slow, and the record failed to chart, so RCA dropped the group.

Craig was arrested for draft evasion. The government prosecuted his case, and he claimed conscientious objector status. He was briefly imprisoned and then sentenced to work for two years at a hospital. His troubles with the government left him unable to continue with the band. Michael Reilly joined the group as their new lead vocalist and bass player. The group continued touring, mostly in the Midwest.

Because of their touring, by late 1974 college radio stations and album-oriented rock stations in the Midwest began playing songs from Bustin’ Out. The most notable cuts finding airplay were two songs that were back-to-back on the album that featured intertwined lyrics: Falling In and Out of Love and Amie. The pair of songs ran about six and a half minutes, which was much too long for AM radio. RCA resigned the band and edited down a single version of Amie that was only two minutes and thirty-seven seconds and released it. The result was a record that reached #27 on the Hot 100 and #20 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

The band released five more albums that each sold a modest number of records.

The band lost its last original member in 1978, and several other members also left to form their own band. The band held auditions to recruit new members. One man who auditioned had played in the bluegrass band Mountain Smoke, a group that had opened for Pure Prairie League before they had any success. They hired him as their new lead singer, and he remained with the group for three albums. After that, Vince Gill departed for a successful solo career that didn’t really take off until the nineties. While he was with the group, they reached the top ten on the Hot 100 one time and had a few more top forty singles.

The band released a few more albums after Vince left, but by the early eighties, they existed solely as a touring group.

The band completely disbanded for a decade beginning in 1988. Craig and Michael recruited a few old members and several new members, and the group began touring again on a more permanent basis. Time and deaths have resulted in more changes in the group’s membership. They maintain a website at https://pureprairieleague.com/

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/pure-prairie-league-mn0000371879/biography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_Prairie_League

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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1974 Rick Derringer – Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo

Guitarist and singer Richard Zehringer, his brother Randy on drums, and bass player Dennis Kelly formed the Rick Z Combo in Union City, Indiana in 1962. The group renamed itself Rick and the Raiders. Dennis left the group to go to college and Randy Jo Hobbs replaced him. Sean Michaels on saxophone and Ronnie Brandon on keyboards were added to the group, and it was renamed the McCoys. Rick also changed his name to Rick Derringer.

Rick was only 17 when the McCoys recorded Hang On Sloopy and started their recording career with a number one record. They followed that up with a cover of Little Willie John’s song Fever (you’re more likely to recognize Peggy Lee’s version of the song) and again reached into the top ten.

The group had one more song in the top thirty in 1966, after which they spent another three years recording songs nobody ever heard.

In 1970, Johnny Winter recruited Rick, Randy, and Randy Jo to join his band and named it Johnny Winter and the McCoys. The name didn’t last very long: it was quickly changed to Johnny Winter And. Their first album included a song written by Rick, Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo. A live album followed, but Johnny’s heroin addiction tore the group apart.

Rick joined a group formed by Johnny’s brother, Edgar Winter’s White Trash. He played on their next album and played guitar, sang, and produced the album They Only Come Out At Night for the renamed Edgar Winter Group. That 1973 album contained the chart-topping instrumental, Frankenstein.

Rick released his own solo album in late 1973. In early 1974, his version of Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo was released. The single reached #23 and gave Rick his only top forty solo hit. The record probably doesn’t see much airplay any more thanks to a very offensive line at 2:37 into the record, but at the time nobody seemed to care. The song was used in the film Dazed And Confused in 1993.

Several more solo albums came and went, but Rick’s guitar work and abilities in the production room did not go unnoticed.

Rick played on four of Todd Rundgren’s albums, several Steely Dan songs, a few songs written and produced by Jim Steinman, and a few songs by Meatloaf. He produced two albums for the World Wrestling Federation. He also produced six albums for Weird Al and won two Grammy awards for doing so.

He toured as part of Ringo Starr’s band three times and also went on the HippieFest tour with  Vanilla Fudge, Mitch Ryder, and Badfinger in 2018.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Derringer
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_McCoys
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Winter
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Winter

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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1973 Tower of Power – So Very Hard To Go

A pair of saxophone players met in California in 1968 and started their own group. Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka recruited members of a group they named The Motowns and began playing soul-related music with a heavy horn section. The group felt that In order to play at the Fillmore in San Francisco they would have to change their name, and by 1970 they called themselves Tower of Power. They also recorded their first album that year.

The group’s first single failed to chart, but in 1972 they reached #29 on the Hot 100 with the single You’re Still A Young Man. Their next single failed to reach the top forty.

In 1973 they released their most successful single, So Very Hard To GoThe single peaked at #17 on the Hot 100 and #11 on the R&B chart. While it’s not a surprise that the group appeared on Soul Train, I was surprised to find out they were allowed to perform their hit live.

The group released new albums every year in the rest of the seventies and even recorded an album of disco music that their record label wanted. After that failed to produce any hits, albums became less frequent. Their most recent album was released in 2018.

The list of artists who have used the Tower Of Power horn section to back them up on recordings includes Santana, Aerosmith, Elton John, Huey Lewis, Otis Redding, The Monkees, Heart, Rod Stewart, and Paula Abdul.

Personnel changes have been constant for a long time, with over 60 musicians coming and going through the years. Original members Emilio Castillo, Stephen “Doc” Kupka and David Garibaldi are still active members of the band. The group continues to tour and still has its own website at https://towerofpower.com/.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Power

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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1972 Arlo Guthrie – City Of New Orleans

Arlo Guthrie was born in Brooklyn and moved to Massachusetts to finish high school and attend college. His father was folksinger Woody Guthrie, so it surprised nobody that Arlo began singing and playing guitar.

Local police arrested Arlo on a fateful Thanksgiving in 1965 when he set out to dump some garbage in the local landfill. The landfill was closed for the holiday, and he ran afoul of the law when he dumped a half-ton of garbage on somebody’s private property.

The transgression led to an arrest and conviction and later helped him elude the draft. He recorded an eighteen-minute song about the event. Alice’s Restaurant Massacree came out in 1967 and was an overnight sensation thanks to its anti-draft theme. In 1969 he also starred in a movie based on the song and sang on the soundtrack. If you’ve never heard the song you have missed a very entertaining performance that reveals a lot about society in the late sixties.

Arlo began performing live in increasingly larger and more prestigious venues. He recorded three more albums that were primarily folk songs, but the albums were ignored by radio.

Steve Goodman grew up in Chicago and played in a rock cover band in college. He abandoned college and moved to New York and began performing folk songs at a cafe. His health became a challenge, so he returned to Chicago and soon learned that he had leukemia. He remained in Chicago and built up a following by playing regularly at a local coffee house. He supported himself by also singing advertising jingles.

Steve became friends with John Prine and the two of them co-wrote You Never Even Called Me by My Name, one of the songs Steve later included on his first album.

Steve was the opening act for Kris Kristofferson at a club in 1971. Kris was impressed enough to introduce Steve to Paul Anka, and Paul took Steve to New York to record some demo songs. Buddah Records signed Steve to a recording contract after hearing the demo tapes and released his first album.

Steve recognized Arlo at a Chicago bar and asked him to sit while he played a song. Arlo agreed on the condition that Steve buy him a beer, and Steve played a song he had written and recently recorded: City Of New Orleans. Arlo recognized a good song when he heard one, and soon after recorded and released the single himself. Arlo’s version was decidedly more like a folk song and turned out to be Arlo’s second and final visit to the Hot 100 when it reached #18 in the late fall of 1972.

Arlo continued performing and recording new albums through 2014. He followed in his father’s footsteps and wrote protest songs and often performed with Pete Seeger.

Steve later had some surprising success with songs he had written when they landed on the US Country chart. David Allen Coe covered You Never Even Called Me by My Name in 1974. He prodded Steve to write an extra verse and make it the perfect Country song and it peaked at #8.

Willie Nelson covered City Of New Orleans in 1984 and his very Country version reached #1 on the Country chart and #30 on the Adult Contemporary Chart. That single also won Steve the Grammy Award for Best Country song of 1984.

Steve died in 1984 but won a second Grammy in 1987 for Best Folk Album for an album that was released a few years later.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arlo_Guthrie
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Goodman

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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1971 Delaney & Bonnie – Never Ending Song Of Love

Delaney Bramlett grew up in Mississippi and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career in 1959. He became the rhythm guitar player in the Shindig house band from 1964 to 1966. He became friends with a keyboard player in the band – Leon Russell.

Bonnie O’Farrell was born in Illinois near St. Louis. She began singing in clubs at the age of 15 and briefly sang with Ike and Tina Turner, making her the first white Ikette. She moved to California to escape an unfortunate family situation and met Delaney in 1967 and they were married a week later.

Delaney and Bonnie recruited many of the musicians they had played with and recorded their first album. The album was named Home and the band was billed as Delany and Bonnie and Friends. Some of the friends included Leon Russell, Booker T., Isaac Hayes, and Carl Radle.

Their second album added new friends, including Rita Coolidge and Jim Keltner. Eric Clapton was impressed by their second album and recruited the band as the warm-up act for the 1969 Blind Faith tour. While on the tour, Bonnie & Delaney recorded a live album with some help from the usual suspects as well as Eric, George Harrison, and Dave Mason.

Their fifth album got additional support from Duane Allman, John Hartford, and Joe Cocker and finally supplied them with a hit singleNever Ending Song Of Love reached #13 on the Hot 100 in 1971.

Dave Mason recorded his first solo album and released Only You Know And I Know as a single in 1970 but it peaked at only #42. Delaney & Bonnie covered the song and released it as a single in 1971. Their version reached #20 and provided them with their only other top forty record. They did, however, write significant hit records for other artists, including Superstar by the Carpenters and Let It Rain by Eric Clapton.

Cocaine use helped fuel fights between Delaney and Bonnie and led to their divorce in 1972.

The members of the various groups of friends went on to form large parts of first Derek and the Dominoes and later the Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

The Bramlett’s daughter, Bekka, became a successful singer and sang on a huge number of recordings. She was also a member of Fleetwood Mac from 1993-1995 and sang lead and backup vocals on songs on their Time album.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delaney_%26_Bonnie
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bekka_Bramlett
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonnie_Bramlett

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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1966 Brenda Lee – Coming On Strong

Brenda Lee had a powerful voice at a very young age and began singing on the radio when she was only six years old. Brenda began recording singles in 1956, including two novelty Christmas songs. She became known as Little Miss Dynamite the next year after the release of her second charting single: Dynamite.

In 1959 she recorded the top five single Sweet Nothings and that began a stretch of 47 charting singles over the next decade. Hits became more scarce after the British Invasion in 1964, and her last two visits to the top forty came in 1966 and 1967.

Her third single in 1966 barely missed the top ten when Coming On Strong peaked at #11 on the Hot 100 in December. Brenda reached #37 in 1967, but even I have no memory of Ride, Ride, Ride.

Her last successful record on the Adult Contemporary chart came in 1968 with her single release of Johnny One Time. The single finished its run at #3 on the AC chart, missed the Hot 100 top forty by just one notch, and, as with all her releases in the sixties, was ignored by Country stations.

Her last new entry into the Hot 100 came in 1973 when Nobody Wins reached #70. The good news for Brenda was the way the song relaunched her career by reaching #5 on the Country chart. Five more consecutive top ten Country records followed, and she continued to hit that chart with more singles through 1985.

Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree was released in 1958 and routinely reached #2 or #3 on the Billboard Holiday Chart. The reality of streaming has affected the Hot 100 chart more and more and the recognition of streaming caused a handful of old Christmas songs to reach the top forty in 2018. Mariah Carey led the Christmas song charge in 2019 when All I Want For Christmas Is You topped the regular Hot 100 chart for the first time. Brenda’s top Christmas single reached #21 on the Hot 100 in 2018 and incredibly reached #2 in 2019.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenda_Lee
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenda_Lee_discography#Singles