1961 The Vibrations – Watusi

The Vibrations – Watusi 

A five-man group called the Jayhawks had a minor hit in 1956 with a song one of the member co-wrote, Stranded In The Jungle. Their version only reached #18, while a cover version by the Cadets reached #15 (see Lost Or Forgotten Oldies Volume 3 for details). The Jayhawks had a few lineup changes over the next few years.

Hank Ballard wrote Lets Go Lets Go Lets Go and recorded it with his group, The Midnighters. Their single reached #6 on the Hot 100 and topped the R&B chart in 1960. The Jayhawks recorded a song that used the same melody (without attribution) and released the single Watusi in 1961, changing their name to The Vibrations. Their single only reached #25 in March. It would be another year before the Orlons released Wah-Watusi and the dance caught fire.

The Olympics recorded a song written by Fred Sledge Smith and Clifford Goldsmith, Hully Gully Baby. The record did not fare too well, peaking at only #72 on the Hot 100 in early 1960, but it spawned a dance craze. Songwriters Hidle Brown Barnum and Martin Cooper wrote new lyrics for the song, which the Vibrations recorded and released with yet another band name, the Marathons. Their single of Peanut Butter reached #20 in June 1961.

The Vibrations had one more brush with success in 1964 when they recorded My Girl Sloopy. Their single only reached #26, but a cover version by the McCoys that was renamed Hang On Sloopy topped the Hot 100 in 1965.

The group’s last album was released in Germany in 1973 and included a cover of the Allman Brothers song Midnight Rider

The Vibrations split up and reformed a few times before calling it quits in 1976.

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

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1972 The Faces – Stay With Me

1972 The Faces – Stay With Me 

The Small Faces were a British band that formed in London in 1965. The band had a series of hits in the UK, but their only top forty single in the US was Itchycoo Park. The single peaked at #16 on the Hot 100 in 1967.

Singer/guitar player Steve Marriott left the group at the end of 1968 and joined with Peter Frampton to form Humble Pie.

The Small Faces replaced Steve with not one but two musicians. Vocalist Rod Stewart and guitar player Ronnie Wood were members of the Jeff Beck Group in 1969, and that Summer they worked together on Rod’s first solo album. When Jeff pulled the plug on his group late that year, the two joined the Small Faces, and the band changed their name to The Faces.

Rod’s second solo album produced the monster hit Maggie May in 1970. He and Ronnie continued recording and touring with the Faces, and in 1971 the band’s third album contained their biggest single, Stay With Me. The record made it into the top ten in the UK and peaked at #17 on the Hot 100 in the US.

The Faces essentially disbanded in 1975 when Rod left the group to exclusively concentrate on his solo career and Ronnie replaced Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones.

Steve rejoined the remaining members of the Faces, and for awhile they reformed the Small Faces.

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

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1967 Stevie Wonder – I’m Wondering

1967 Stevie Wonder – I’m Wondering 

In between two records that topped the R&B chart and reached the Top Ten on the Hot 100, Stevie Wonder released a single that was a minor hit but is now commonly overlooked by oldies radio stations.

I Was Made To Love Her reached #2 on the Hot 100 in the Summer of 1967. Stevie co-wrote the song with other songwriters, including Henry Cosby, who also produced the record. 

I’m Wondering came from the same creative team, but the single only made it to #12 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the R&B chart.

Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day was again written by Stevie, Henry, and Sylvia May. The record peaked at #9 in early 1968. For the first time,  Stevie produced a hit single himself. 

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

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1971 Tin Tin – Toast And Marmalade For Tea

1971 Tin Tin – Toast And Marmalade For Tea 

Steve Kipner and Steve Groves, two members of the Australian band The Kinetics, moved to England and formed Tin Tin. The band took its name from the Belgium comic book series.

The band recorded two albums and released nine singles, but the only one that did well in the US was Toast And Marmalade For Tea. The single reached #20 on the Hot 100 in 1971.

The group disbanded in 1973. The two original members went on to become successful songwriters and/or producers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin_Tin_(band)

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1962 Peter, Paul, And Mary – If I Had A Hammer

1962 Peter, Paul, And Mary – If I Had A Hammer 

Peter, Paul, and Mary nudged into the top ten of the Hot 100 in 1962 with their rendition of a song co-written by Pete Seeger about a decade earlier.

Their single release of If I Had A Hammer came from their first album.

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

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1969 Mama Cass – It’s Getting Better

1969 Mama Cass – It’s Getting Better

The Mamas and the Papas had a turbulent few years in the late sixties, breaking up and reuniting. By 1968, it was clear that the group would only be recording to meet contract requirements, and no longer appearing as a group.

Mama Cass was the first member of the group to strike out and attempt a solo career. Her first single was Dream A Little Dream Of Me. The song was released as a single in 1968 and featured on her first album, even though that recording had appeared already on a Mamas and Papas album. The single peaked at #12 on the Hot 100, her best showing on her own. Her second single from the album, California Earthquake failed to even reach the top forty.

Cass used a familiar collection of musicians to create her second album. Steve Barri produced the album, Jimmy Haskell arranged the songs, and members of the Wrecking Crew who had already worked on the Mamas and Papas albums played on the album.

Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil had written the first single from her second album, It’s Getting Better. The song had previously been recorded by a strange collection of artists: The Vogues, Leonard Nimoy, and , the Will-O-Bees. The single only reached #30 on the Hot 100, but reached #13 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The single did well in most parts of the country, but it didn’t get airplay all at once and ended up spending a lot of time bouncing around on the chart without ever getting any higher. The record still sold nearly a half-million copies, almost qualifying for a gold record.

The Mamas and the Papas had appeared on American Bandstand, but Mama Cass appeared on the show for the first time as a solo act to support It’s Getting Better. She released a half-dozen other singles that charted on the Hot 100. Make Your Own Kind Of Music became her third and final single that reached the top forty when it peaked at #36.

Mama Cass died from heart failure in 1974; a later autopsy revealed that her death was not related to the rumor that she choked while eating a sandwich.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_Elliot
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_Getting_Better

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1969 Sly and the Family Stone – Stand!

1969 Sly and the Family Stone – Stand! 

Sylvester Stone worked as a disk jockey in San Mateo, California, beginning in 1964. At the same time, he also produced records for Autumn Records. He co-wrote and produced Bobby Freeman’s hit single C’Mon And Swim, which reached #5 on the Hot 100 in 1964.

Sly Stone had a band called Sly and the Stoners while his brother Freddie had a band named Freddie & the Stone Souls. One of their friends wisely suggested joining the two bands together, and in 1966 that group became the mixed-race band Sly Brothers and Sisters. After just one appearance at a local nightclub, the band changed its name to Sly and the Family Stone, and that name finally stuck.

In 1967, the group reached the top ten with their second single, Dance To The Music, which Sly again wrote and produced. The next year, they topped both the Hot 100 and R&B charts with Everyday People. In 1970, the group scored a #2 hit with Hot Fun In The Summertime and then again topped the charts with Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

Sandwiched in-between those two number one hits, the group released a record that should have done better. The a-side of the single was Stand!, which peaked at #22 on the Hot 100 in 1969. The b-side contained the song I Want To Take You Higher, which got as high as #60. Perhaps the split attention to the two sides of the record kept either side from doing as well as many of their other singles. When they re-released I Want To Take You Higher in 1970, it did a little better by reaching #38. 

The group had mixed results with their singles over the next five years, no doubt partially because of the increased drug usage that followed their financial success. By 1975, the group was no longer a viable band. Sly released some solo work, but it was mostly overlooked. His most recent solo album came out in 2011.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sly_and_the_Family_Stone
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sly_and_the_Family_Stone_discography

1968 Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles

Jerry Jeff Walker spent a night in a drunk tank in New Orleans in 1965. That night, he met a local street performer, and as a result he wrote the song Mr. Bojangles.

The song became his first single on Atco Records in 1968. I was touched by the song when I played it on the radio in Nashville that year and was disappointed when his version of the record only made it up to #77 on the Hot 100.

It took the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to make a hit out of the song. It was the title cut from an album. The single cut out two minutes of spoken word introduction and after that, their version reached the top ten on the Hot 100 in 1971.

The song has been covered by many artists, but none of them quite captured the feeling that Jerry Jeff put into the song.

He continued writing and recording music and performing at live shows through most of his life. Once a year, he hosted a birthday bash in Texas that attracted top Country artists and countless fans.

Jerry Jeff died October 23, 2020, after a three-year battle that started with throat cancer.

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

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1967 Jay & The Techniques – Keep The Ball Rollin’

1967 Jay & The Techniques – Keep The Ball Rollin’ 

Jay Proctor was the lead singer of Jay and the Techniques, a group formed in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in the mid-sixties. The seven member band also had a second singer and five other members on instruments: guitar, bass guitar, drums, saxophone, and trumpet. Jerry Ross produced their records using studio musicians. Future stars Ashford and Simpson provided backup vocals, long before they had their own hit in 1984 with the single Solid.

The group’s very first single on Smash Records, Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie, peaked at #6 on the Hot 100 and #8 on the R&B chart in 1967. Maurice Irby, Jr. wrote the record and Jerry offered to produce the song for Bobby Hebb, who turned it down for being too much like a novelty record. Jerry then produced the record for Jay and the Techniques and their single sold over a million copies, helping their first album get onto the Billboard Top 200 album chart.

They followed that with two more singles that reached the top forty on the Hot 100, but never got onto the R&B top forty charts again. Denny Randell and Sandy Linzer wrote Keep The Ball Rollin’, and the single by Jay and the Techniques reached #14 on the Hot 100 later in 1967. The Philadelphia Eagles put out a special version of the record with a special jacket in 1981 to celebrate the City of Champions Philadelphia Eagles when they won the Super Bowl.

Jay and the Techniques last top forty single came out the next year. Strawberry Shortcake barely reached the top forty in February when it spent a week at #40 followed by a single week at #39.

The group continued to release singles for at least four different labels until they disbanded in 1976.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_%26_the_Techniques
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apples,_Peaches,_Pumpkin_Pie
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_the_Ball_Rollin%27

Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1969 Elvis – If I Can Dream

1969 Elvis – If I Can Dream 

Two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Elvis appeared in a 1968 television show that came to be known as his Comeback Special. It had been three years since Elvis had recorded a single that even came close to the top ten. 

Songwriter Walter Earl Brown was asked to write a song for Elvis to perform at the end of his special. Walter knew how Matin Luther King’s death had affected Elvis, and he wrote a song that included quotes from the civil rights speaker’s speeches. The song was If I Can Dream, and Elvis is reported to have had tears streaming down his face as he finished recording the song prior to the show.

The record peaked at #12 on the Hot 100 in early 1969 and earned Elvis yet another gold record. More importantly, it helped kick-start his singing career again and led to three more top ten singles later that year, including his last #1 record on the Hot 100.

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

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PS – Elvis had another half-dozen number one singles on either the Adult Contemporary chart or the Country chart, but his last Hot 100 chart-topper was Suspicious Minds in 1969.