1964 The Devotions – Rip Van Winkle
Washington Irving wrote the story of Rip Van Winkle in 1918. Rip was a man who fell asleep for twenty years and woke up to find the world had changed. The hit single with that name didn’t sleep quite that long, but for three years it simply did not succeed. Inspired by the story, William Best and Derek Watson wrote the song Rip Van Winkle.
The Devotions were a doo-wop group from Astoria, New York. In 1960, their manager arranged for them to audition for Bernie Zimming, the owner of Delta Records. When Bernie was not impressed with the group’s songs, they quickly wrote and sang Rip Van Winkle for him. Bernie liked the idea of that song enough to get the group a chance to record the song, and the single was first released in 1961 by Delta Records. Sales did not come pouring in, although the novelty record grew a popular following in the Times Square area thanks to a store that even paid to promote the record on local radio stations. Thinking it was a potential hit record, Roulette Records bought all rights to the record and released it a second time in 1962. Simply changing record labels was not emough to turn the record into a hit, and the group disbanded.
Roulette had slowly built up a collection of old singles, and in 1963 they began putting out a series of albums they called Golden Goodies. Volume one contained several singles from groups that had hit records in the past, but none of the records on the album actually reached the top 100. Picky customers probably were more interested in volume two, which contained three top ten records. Roulette also included a few singles by artists they had featured on the first album, but this time they used singles that actually reached the charts. That format turned out to be more popular, and at least 18 more Golden Goodies albums followed.
The last song on side one of volume one was Rip Van Winkle. I’m fairly certain I have a copy of that album in a box somewhere in my garage.
Porky Chadwick, a disc jockey in Pittsburgh, was fascinated by Rip Van Winkle on that album and began playing it. Requests to hear the record again came flooding in, and Roulette met that demand by releasing the single by the Devotions yet a third time in 1964. It’s claimed that the record sold 15,000 copies in Pittsburgh alone in the first week of release, and this time the Devotions had a hit – the record made it up to #36 on the Hot 100 on the charts at a time when the British Invasion had all but shut down doo-wop music on the radio.
The Devotions never charted another single.
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