Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1961 The Velvets – Tonight (Could Be The Night)

Talk about oldies inevitably leads to talk about doo-wop songs. While most people associate the genre with the fifties, doo-wop songs actually peaked in the early sixties. The phrase itself has a much older beginning.

The Delta Rhythm Boys recorded the single Just A Sittin’ And A Rockin’ in 1945. You can hear background singers on the song singing, “Doot doot doo wop.”

The Turbans sang a much more noticeable,”Doo wop,” on their 1955 hit, When You Dance.

The Five Satins made usage of the phrase in 1956 over the saxophone solo on their recording of In The Still Of The Night.

Despite the increasing usage of the phrase in these and many other songs, and the growth of the doo-wop genre, the phrase didn’t get applied to that brand of music in writing until 1961. That same year, the Velvets sang those magic words in Tonight (Could Be The Night).

Virgil Johnson had worked as a disk jockey in Lubbock, Texas, before teaching high school English in Odessa, Texas. He and four of his eighth-grade students formed the singing group the Velvets in 1960. Their singing impressed Roy Orbison, who helped the group get a recording contract with Monument Records in Nashville. Their first single was a cover of the 1949 Frankie Laine song That Lucky Old Sun, but their record failed to chart.

Their second single did much better. Virgil wrote the lyrics for Tonight (Could Be The Night). That single reached #26 on the Hot 100 in 1961. Roy wrote their next single, Laugh, but the record spent one week at #90 and got no higher.

The group disbanded and returned to school. Virgil continued teaching and eventually became a principal. Later in life, he also appeared on the oldies circuit, singing the group’s beloved hit.

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-velvets-mn0000575139/biography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Velvets
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonight_(Could_Be_the_Night)

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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1960 Harold Dorman – Mountain Of Love

Singer/songwriter Harold Dorman finished his military career in 1955 and began working on a music career. He recorded sessions for Sun Records in 1957, but the resulting songs remain unreleased.

Billy Lee Riley and guitarist Roland Janes, two other ex-Sun recording artists, had started their own record label. They named their record label Rita Records, and they signed Harold to a recording contract in 1959. Several more ex-Sun producers had opened the Hi Records recording studio in Memphis, and Harold recorded five songs in their studio. Rita Records chose one song Harold had written for his first single, Mountain Of Love.

Rita Records released the single with the serial number 1003 in December, 1959. I haven’t had any luck finding a copy of the initial recording. After the record began selling well in Georgia, the record label went back into the studio and added strings to the recording. They released a new version of the single with a new label, 1003-A, in 1960. That version became a hit, sitting on the Hot 100 for 19 weeks and peaking at #21.

Harold never reached the Hot 100 again. Unless he sold off his ownership of the song, he made a great deal in later years when the song a series of other artists recorded the song.

Johnny Rivers recorded two live albums in early 1964. The two albums produced the hit records Memphis and Maybellene. Later that year he recorded his first studio album, In Action. The first single from the album was his cover of Mountain Of Love. Johnny used members of the Wrecking Crew to assist with the recording. Johnny’s version did even better than Harold’s and reached #9 on the Hot 100.

Ronnie Dove recorded his version of Mountain Of Love on an album in 1966. The song was not released as a single until it was used as the B-side of a single in 1968. Disk jockeys turned the single over and gave Ronnie’s version of the song enough airplay to generate sales and help the single reach #67 in 1968. The only Hot 100 chart action Ronnie got after that was two singles that peaked in the nineties later that year (although they both made the top forty on the Adult Contemporary chart).

Perhaps the most successful version of Mountain Of Love came from a Country cover by Charley Pride. His single reached #1 on the US Country chart in 1982. Charlie followed that success with five more #1 and #2 singles and seven more years of minor hits.

Other artists who have recorded Mountain Of Love include the Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen.

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/harold-kenneth-dorman-mn0000559823
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_of_Love
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Dorman

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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1959 Preston Epps – Bongo Rock

Preston Epps began playing the drums in the early fifties. His first taste of the big time probably came when he played percussion on the Penguins’ 1955 recording of Earth Angel. While he could have continued as a drummer, he switched to playing Calypso music on the bongo drums.

Preston became proficient on the bongos, and wa soon touring with such artists as Ray Charles, Jackie Wilson, Little Richard, Johnny Otis, and Sam Cooke. He even played the bongos in the film Calypso Heat Wave in 1957 and headlined in Las Vegas.

Art Laboe began his career as a disc jockey in California in the forties and may have been the first disk jockey to take live requests for dedications on the air. He started Original Sound Records, his own record label, in 1959. When he heard Preston perform a fifteen minute solo on the bongo drums, Art invited him to record a single (but insisted on a much shorter version of the solo). Art and Preston got credit as the co-writers of Bongo Rock. The single reached #14 on the Hot 100 in 1959, making it the first hit single on Art’s new record label.

Preston released a series of bongo-related singles, but the only other single to reach the Hot 100 was Bongo Bongo Bongo, which peaked at #78 in late 1959.

Later in 1959, Art began releasing a series of albums called Oldies But Goodies, starting with volume 1 and going through at least volume 15. The album covers bravely promised “Original Artists Original Recordings,” and many of the songs were in stereo. Art sucessfully trademarked the term “Oldies but goodies.”

The song, Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me Of You) by Little Caesar and the Romans, came out two years later in 1961, not in the fifties!

Preston continued performing until his death in 2019.

Art is still spinning oldies on the air.

https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/obituary/8512849/bongo-rock-percussionist-preston-epps-dies-88
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preston_Epps
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Laboe

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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1958 Dean Martin – Volare

For some reason, Europeans love having song competitions where artists perform new songs and compete for prizes. In the US, a song typically gets recorded and released and competes for sales. One such competition in Italy was the Sanremo Music Festival. The festival was first held in 1951, and it is still held annually.

Domenico Modugno was an Italian who began acting in films in the mid-fifties. He also wrote and sang music, and in 1957, a song he had written came in second in the festival. He and  Franco Migliacci then co-wrote the song Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu for the 1958 fesival. Domenico and fellow actor and singer Johnny Dorelli presented the song in the January 1958 festival and won first prize. As a result, the song was Italy’s representative in the Eurovision Song Contest in March, where it came in third.

Domenico quickly recorded the song, and the multiple versions of the song went on to sell over 22 million copies. Despite the lyrics being entirely in Italian, the single version reached the charts in the US in August and hit #1 on the US Hot 100 two weeks later. The single also won two Grammy awards in the US.

Another Italian also recorded the song: Dean Martin. Dean had already had a top ten hit earlier in 1958 when his single Return To Me reached #4. While the song was mostly in English, he did sing a few lines in Italian. His version of Domenico’s song used English lyrics written by Mitchell Parish for the first and last verses with the original Italian lyrics in the middle of the song. Dean’s record company released his version in August as Volare, and the single peaked at #12 a month later.

Domenico competed in the 1959 festival and won for the second consecutive year. His song that year was Piove. The single spent one week at #97 on the US Hot 100 and then disappeared. It was Dominico’s last appearance on the US chart.

Dean Martin’s singing career also seemed to dissolve after his hit with Volare. It was six years before he reached the top forty again, but Everybody Loves Somebody hit number one in 1964 in spite of the British Invasion.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domenico_Modugno
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volare_(song)

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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1957 Will Glahé – Liechtensteiner Polka

Polka music and dancing originated in the 1800s in Bohemia, which is now part of the Czech Republic. Americans became aware of polka music thanks in no small part to the Beer Barrel-Polka.  Jaromír Vejvoda wrote the song in 1927. Accordion player Will Glahé and his Glahé Musette Orchestra had a hit with their version of the song in 1936 in Germany entitled Rosamunde. The American release of the single in 1939 used the title Beer Barrel-Polka. It sold over a million copies and reached the top of the Hit Parade.

That same year, the Andrews Sisters recorded a version of the song that included English lyrics written by Lew Brown and Wladimir Timm. The chorus caused many people to assume the title of the song was “Roll Out The Barrel.”

Will became known as the polka king, and many other artists released polka music through the forties. Arthur Godfrey’s biggest-selling single was 1947’s Too Fat Polka, a song that he later insisted he hated.

Will’s second-biggest single in the forties came in 1948 with the release of You Can’t Be True, which reached #17 in the US. The song featured English lyrics and wasn’t a polka number.

Will’s next return to the US charts came in 1957 with the release of the single, Liechtensteiner Polka. Instead of an instrumental, they recorded the song using its original foreign lyrics. He had only one more single that reached the Hot 100 when Sweet Elizabeth spent one week at #91 in 1958. Dozens of albums followed through at least 1987. Will died in 1989.

We hear little polka music lately, but Weird Al often puts polka medleys on his albums that combine multiple recent hits with his polka stylings. His 2011 album included the polka medley Polka Face. The song contained a partial cover of the 1957 polka song and partial covers of Poker Face, Womanizer, I Kissed A Girl, and many more recent hits from that year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Glah%C3%A9
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_%22Weird_Al%22_Yankovic_polka_medleys

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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1956 The Blue Stars – Lullabye Of Birdland

My blog usually researches records from 1955 to 1989, and in 1956 we have a first: the first Foreign Language record in the top forty. That only happened because there weren’t any in 1955, but after finding Lullabye Of Birdland in 1956 I started looking for Foreign Langage records., and I’ll get around to listing all of them eventually:

1955 to 1959 there were eight, including one #1 record.
1960 to 1969 there were seven, but two of them hit #1 in 1963.
1970 to 1979 there were only three.
1980 to 1989 there was one that hit #1 and one that hit #2.
1990 to 1999 there was one at #1 and one at #5.
2000 to 2005 there were only three.

From 2006 through 2020 we saw many Spanish songs reaching the charts, especially songs that included both Spanish and English lyrics. The third best-charting single of the rock era in terms of weeks at #1 was Descpacito (assuming you count both pre- and post-Bieber versions).

Margrethe Blossom Dearie performed professionally as Blossom Dearie. Her middle name possibly came about because of some peach blossoms delivered by a neighbor when she was born (or maybe because her brothers brought some blossoms to the house). She began singing in New York City where she was a member of the Blue Flames with the Woody Herman Orchestra and later the Blue Reys with Alvino Rey’s band.

Morris Levy was the owner of the New York jazz club Birdland and wanted a song to use as a theme song on a radio show. He asked George Shearing to write a song for him in 1952, and George claimed he wrote Lullaby of Birdland in about ten minutes.

That same year, Blossom moved to Paris and joined a jazz group, the Blue Stars. Another member of the group was composer Michel Legrand’s sister. Jean Constantin write French lyrics for Lullaby of Birdland and Michel arranged the music for the Blue Stars. The group had a hit in France with the record in 1954. They released the single in the United States and it reached #16 on the US Hot 100 in 1956.

Blossom returned to the US in 1957 and began recording solo albums. While she sang on most of the albums, some of them featured instrumentals on which she played piano.

In 1966, Norma Tanega recorded the hit record Walking My Cat Named Dog, which reached #22 on the Hot 100. In 1970, Blossom recorded a song she co-wrote with Norma, Dusty Springfield.

Blossom received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Recording for Children in 1973 for her album Multiplication Rock, but lost out to Sesame Street Live.

Blossom recorded dozens of albums in the US and England before her death in 2009.

Norma moved to England and lived with Dusty Springfield for five years. Dusty recorded a few songs that Norma wrote for her, usually putting them on the B-sides of her singles.

Michel Legrand composed countless songs and soundtracks and received nominations for 17 Grammy Awards. He won five of them, including wins for best instrumental compositions for Theme From Summer Of ’42 and Brian’s Song.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blossom_Dearie
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lullaby_of_Birdland

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Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1955 The Decastro Sisters – Boom Boom Boomerang

Sisters Peggy, Cherie, and Babette DeCastro were the daughters of a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl from Chicago and Juan Fernandez de Castro, a wealthy plantation owner. They grew up in a mansion in Havana that Fidel Castro seized (the mansion is houses the Chinese embassy). They began singing in clubs in Havana. The trio moved to Miami in 1942 and were soon singing at the Copacabana in New York. They also began performing in Hollywood.

When Disney produced The Song Of The South in 1947, the trio provided many of the animal and bird sounds on the soundtrack, including the chirping in Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. Desi Arnaz popularized the song Babalú in 1946, and he sisters performed the song live on a Bob Hope television special the next year.

The DeCastro Sisters continued to appear on television and in filmed shorts and finally began recording hits in the early fifties.

In 1954, the Abbott Records label recorded the group singing It’s Love. They needed a B-side for the record, and the bass player on the session suggested they cover Teach Me Tonight. Other releases of that song in 1954 had included a single by Jo Stafford that reached #15 on the Hot 100 and a version by Dinah Washington that reached #23 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the R&B chart.

The label released the single and promoted It’s Love without getting much airplay. Bill Randall, a disc Jockey in Cleveland, began playing the B-side and other disc jockeys quickly followed suit. Their version of Teach Me Tonight sold over five million copies and peaked at #2 on the Hot 100.

The group followed that success with several more singles. Their 1955 recording of Boom Boom Boomerang had the best results, reaching #15 on the Hot 100. The deep bass voice on the record is Thurl Ravenscroft, who also was the original voice for Tony the Tiger.

The trio also enjoyed clowning around when they sang, as is evident in the way they sang and made faces while performing their version of Heartbreak Hotel.

Babette retired from the group in 1958 and a cousin, Olgita DeCastro Marino, took her place.

In 1959 the trio appeared at the Sahara in Las Vegas at the debut of Bobby Darin. They suggested that Bobby record Mack The Knife (which became his biggest hit record).

Peggy left the group to pursue a solo career, and Babette briefly rejoined the trio
until Peggy returned. They continued performing until at least 2004.

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

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