1959 Fabian – This Friendly World

1959 Fabian – This Friendly World 

Fabiano Anthony Forte grew up in Philadelphia, the son of a police officer. Chancellor Records signed him to a recording contract when he was only 14 years old, solely on the strength of his looks. They gave him a haircut and some clothes and abbreviated his name to Fabian and had him start recording singles. Nobody has accused Fabian of being a great singer, and he later testified in court that the record company electronically changed his voice on his records to make them sound better.

Fabian’s first two singles didn’t chart, but he got some help when Dick Clark let him appear on American Bandstand. The third made the national top forty and the next two (Turn Me Loose and Tiger) each reached the top ten in 1959.

On the strength of his looks and the hit records, 20th Century-Fox signed Fabian to a long-term acting contract. Their hope was a repeat of the success they had seen with Elvis and Pat Boone. They gave him the lead role in the film Hound Dog Man and put four of his recordings into the film. The title song played over the opening credits and put him back into the top ten.

 

 

The B-side of the single also charted on its own. This Friendly World peaked at #12 on the Hot 100 in 1959.

Fabian reached the top forty one more time with both sides of the same single, and then never reached the Hot 100 again. Fortunately, this mostly happened because he chose to concentrate on his acting career.

He appeared in several dozen films and an endless string of television shows over the next forty years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabian_Forte
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hound-Dog_Man#Songs

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1960 Johnny Burnett – Dreamin’

1960 Johnny Burnett – Dreamin’ 

Johnny Burnett grew up in government housing in Memphis, near to where Elvis lived. He and his brother Dorsey were briefly amateur boxers and then worked on barges on the Mississippi river. They began playing in clubs in Memphis and became The Rhythm Rangers when Paul Burlison joined them.

The three moved to New York in 1956 and competed and won on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour three times. They renamed themselves the Rock and Roll Trio and began recording and making appearances on television. None of their records generated any money, and they had to appear in clubs in one night stands. Dorsey left the group in late 1956 and the group disbanded complete the next year.

Dorsey and Johnny moved to California and convinced Ricky Nelson to record three songs they wrote in 1958: Believe What You Say, It’s Late, and Waitin’ in School. They recorded some instrumentals themselves, but couldn’t get much traction.

Johnny signed a solo recording contract with Freedom Records late that year and began recording singles he had written. None of them charted.

Liberty Records shut down the Freedom record label and moved Johnny to their main label. Snuff Garrett became Johnny’s new producer. The first two singles they worked on together only did well regionally.

Their third single, Dreamin’, became Johnny’s first national hit. Ted Ellis and Barry De Vorzon wrote the song and Snuff produced Johnny’s recording. The single peaked at #11 on the Hot 100 in the US and reached #5 in the UK in 1960.

 

Johnny received a gold record when sales of the single reached one million copies.

Johnny scored three more top forty singles by the end of 1961, but never even reached the Hot 100 again after that. Six different record labels released his records over the next three years, but none helped him find another hit.

Tragically, Johnny died in a boating accident in 1964. He was only thirty years old.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Burnette
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamin%27_(Johnny_Burnette_song)

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1973 Cheech & Chong – Basketball Jones Featuring Tyrone Shoelaces

1973 Cheech & Chong – Basketball Jones Featuring Tyrone Shoelaces 

Perhaps the most well-known stoner comedy act came about when Cheech Marin moved to Canada to avoid the US military draft in the late 1960s. Once he arrived, he met Canadian Tommy Chong, and the two began working together as a comedy act.

The pair started out doing standup routines. They recorded some of them, and their 1971 first album contained the infamous Dave’s Not Here sketch.

That Winter they followed up with a Christmas single, Santa Claus and His Old Lady. The single reached #3 on the Billboard Christmas chart and gained them a lot of airplay on stations that were not willing to play their other material.

Their second album in 1972 did not generate any hit singles when it came out in 1972.

Their third album included the song Basketball Jones Featuring Tyrone Shoelaces. The song was a parody of a recent top forty single by The Brighter Side of Darkness, Love Jones. The recording used an impressive lineup of musicians who were coincidentally working in the same recording studio and simply joined in on the recording: George Harrison, Nicky Hopkins, Jim Keltner, Carole King, Billy Preston, Tom Scott, and Klaus Voormann. In addition, Mama Michelle from the Mamas and Papas and the Blossoms provided vocals as the cheerleaders on the record. The single peaked at #15 on the Hot 100 in 1973.

After the success of that single, radio stations began playing a single that had been released from their second album and totally ignored by radio, Sister Mary Elephant (SHUDD-UP!). Their record company re-released that single, and it reached #24 on the Hot 100 in late 1973.

The pair’s biggest successes turned out to be the series of films they began producing in 1978.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheech_%26_Chong
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheech_and_Chong_(album)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basketball_Jones_featuring_Tyrone_Shoelaces

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1972 Stylistics – People Make The World Go Round

1972 Stylistics – People Make The World Go Round 

A pair of vocal groups performing in Philadelphia in the mid-sixties gave birth to a new group in 1968. Russell Thompkins Jr., James Smith, and Airrion Love from the Percussions joined with James Dunn and Herb Murrell from the Monarchs to form The Stylistics. The new group recorded You’re a Big Girl Now, a song co-written by their road manager (Marty Bryant). 

The single became a regional success on Sebring Records, and that led to a recording contract with Avco Records. The support from the larger record label helped the record reach #7 on the R&B chart. It only reached #73 on the Hot 100 in 1971.

Avco assigned producer Thom Bell to work with the group. Thom had previously found success with the Delphonics. The unique vocals from Russell impressed Thom, and he focused on songs that featured the singer. Thom co-wrote most of the group’s early hits with Linda Creed and also produced and arranged the songs and conducted the background music.

The band quickly found more success on the R&B chart. They placed a dozen singles in the R&B top ten between 1971 and 1974 and five of them even reached the top ten on the Hot 100.

A total of five songs from their first album charted. They cut down the last single, People Make The World Go Round, to about three and a half minutes for radio airplay.

 

The album version of the song ran over five minutes, and later an even longer version ran closer to six and a half minutes.

People Make The World Go Round peaked at #25 on the Hot 100 in 1972, but reached #6 on the R&B chart.

The first two singles from the band’s second album (I’m Stone in Love with You and Break Up to Make Up) each reached the top ten on the Hot 100 and the top five on the R&B chart.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stylistics
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stylistics_discography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stylistics_discography

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1971 Todd Rundgren – We Gotta Get You A Woman

1971 Todd Rundgren – We Gotta Get You A Woman 

Todd Rundgren grew up in Philadelphia and mostly taught himself to play the guitar. While still in high school, he and his friend Randy Reed formed the band Money with Randy’s younger brother. After graduation, Todd joined the blues band Woody’s Truck Stop. 

Tiring of the blues, Todd and the band’s bass player (Carson Van Osten) left and formed Nazz. Todd worked at songwriting and arranging with the new group. Todd wrote their first singleOpen My Eyes, which came out in 1968.

The B-side of the single, Hello, It’s Me, reached #66 on the Hot 100 in 1969. That was the only single that Nazz got onto the charts. Todd later covered the song on one of his solo albums and that version reached #5 on the Hot 100 in 1973.

Laura Nyro wrote a series of very successful songs that were covered and taken to the charts by other artists (including And When I DieStoney End, and Wedding Bell Blues). Todd was impressed enough that he travelled to California to meet Laura, and she offered to let him work as her music director. Todd’s commitments to Nazz prevented him from taking the job, but he admits that he began writing songs that were more like Laura’s than the hard rockers he had created before.

Todd split from the group and found work as a computer progammer, but moved to New York to work on being a record producer. He started out as an engineer, but rapidly started producing records for other artists.

In 1970, Todd recorded his first solo work. He was assisted by two of Soupy Sales’ sons, 17 year-old Tony on bass and 14 year-old Hunt on drums. He released the album using Runt as both the album title and a fake name for a band. Todd wrote all the songs, sang all the vocals, and played most of the instruments on the album.

The first single from the album was We Gotta Get You A Woman. The record reached #20 on the Hot 100 in 1971.

Runt contained a three-song medley that appears to have been inspired by Laura (the first line even mentions her by name). 

Todd eventually worked as a producer for one of Laura’s later albums, but he quit before she completed the album.

Todd released a few more solo albums and produced some significant albums for other artists, including We’re an American Band for Grand Funk Railroad in 1973. He formed the band Utopia, led the New Cars, and continued releasing solo work over the next few decades.

While it was not an enormous hit upon release in 1983, Todd’s most enduring work may well turn out to be his solo release of the single Bang the Drum All Day. Countless sports teams, especially football teams celebrating touchdowns, have used the song.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd_Rundgren
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd_Rundgren_discography

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1968 Spanky and Our Gang – Give A Damn

1968 Spanky And Our Gang – Give A Damn 

After rising near the top of the charts with Sunday Will Never Be The Same, Spanky and Our Gang recorded two more albums using Bob Dorough and Stuart Scharf as their new producers. Stuart wrote their second million-selling single, Like To Get To Know You

Bob and Stuart co-wrote their next single, which came from their third album. The title (Give A Damn) probably kept them from getting airplay on a lot of radio stations. In New York, the single reached #25 on WMCA, but failed to even get listed on the charts at WABC. That kind of resistance probably accounts for the record stalling at #43 on the Hot 100 in 1968.

 

The single clocked in at only two minutes and fifty-five seconds, while the album version ran about three and a half minutes. Besides additional instrumental fade-out, the album version included spoken words by somebody lamenting his difficult life. 

The New York Urban Coalition adopted the song as their theme song, and New York City Mayor John Lindsay used it as his campaign song when he successfully ran for re-election.

The band fell apart by 1970. After the group disbanded, Spanky pursued a solo career. She toured as a replacement for Mama Cass in the New Mamas And Papas from 1982 to 1993.

In 2010, Spanky and Nigel Pickering reformed Spanky and Our Gang with some studio musicians and recorded a new album. Back Home Americana included a new live version of Give A Damn that ran over seven minutes.

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

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1970 Linda Ronstadt – Long, Long Time

1970 Linda Ronstadt – Long, Long Time 

Linda Ronstadt grew up on a ranch in Tucson, Arizona. She began singing professionally in the mid-sixties, singing folk and country music. She and her friend, bass-player Bobby Kimmel, formed a folk group with Linda’s older brother and sister.

When Bobby moved to LA, he convinced Linda to join him there. Guitarist Kenny Edwards joined them to create the trio Stone Poneys. The group began playing in local clubs, with Linda appearing in a miniskirt and bare feet. 

The band briefly broke up, but after they reformed, a single performance at the Troubadour led to a three album contract with Capitol Records. Bobby wrote most of the songs on their first two albums, but it was a cover of a song written by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees that led to their biggest hit, Different Drum. The single peaked at #13 in 1967.

 The single got recorded without Bobby or Kenny and the label included the notation “Featuring Linda Ronstadt” after the band’s name. It was increasingly clear that Capitol Records wanted Linda as a solo artist. Even though the single began climbing the charts, Kenny chose to leave the group and pursue a solo career.

Linda and Bobby hired some backup musicians for one final tour, but not even another song written by Mike could put them back on the charts. They chose to disband the Stone Poneys completely. Linda pursued a solo career while Bobby settled in Santa Monica, California, and headed up the concert programs at McCabe’s Guitar Shop.

Linda began work on a solo career, but it took two albums and three years before she reached the charts again. In 1970, she released the single Long, Long Time.

Linda’s record peaked at only #25 on the Hot 100 and #20 on the Adult Contemporary Chart. She still got nominated for the Grammy Award for the Best Contemporary Female Vocalist for her performance on the song; Dionne Warwick took the Grammy that year for her single I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.

It would be a long four years before Linda again reached the top forty on the Hot 100, although she did have a few hits on the Country chart. She began working with Kenny again and created one of her most successful albums, Heart Like A Wheel. The album contained two important singles: I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You) reached #2 on the Country chart in 1974 and You’re No Good topped the Hot 100 in early 1975..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Ronstadt
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Ronstadt_discography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_Poneys
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long,_Long_Time

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1969 The Meters – Cissy Strut

1969 The Meters – Cissy Strut

New Orleans musicians Art Neville on lead vocals and keyboards, Leo Nocentelli on guitar, Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste on drums, and George Porter Jr. on bass formed The Meters in the mid-sixties. The group is commonly credited with being the co-founders of funk music. They were the house band for the Sansu Enterprises record label in New Orleans and worked there as studio musicians for several years.

The band recorded and released their first charting single in 1968. Sophisticated Cissy stalled at #34 on the Hot 100 but reached #7 on the R&B chart.

Their second single did even better. Cissy Strut peaked at #23 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the R&B chart in 1969.

While oldies radio has simply misplaced their copies of Cissy Strut, the song hasn’t been completely forgotten: Rolling Stone ranked Cissy Strut at #158 on their 2021 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The Meters reached the Hot 100 five more times but never reached the top forty again. The Rolling Stones invited the group to open for some of their shows in 1976 and 1977, and the Meters even appeared on the second episode of Saturday Night Live.

By 1980, the group had disbanded. Several members reformed the group in 1989 as The Funky Meters and played together for about a decade. Other groups billed variously as The Original Meters, The Meter Men, and The Meter Experience have kept the group’s music alive into the present day.

George, Ziagboo, and Leo continue to perform as members of the current version of the Meters.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Meters
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cissy_Strut

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1968 Eric Burdon & The Animals – Sky Pilot

1968 Eric Burdon & The Animals – Sky Pilot 

By 1967, only two of the members of the British group The Animals remained, Eric Burdon and drummer Barry Jenkins. They worked together on some songs that were intended for Eric’s solo project. Eric decided to reform the Animals as Eric Burdon and the Animals and recruited Vic Briggs, Danny McCulloch, and John Weider to complete the group.

 While stereo albums had been available for years (usually for a dollar more than mono albums), the record companies only released singles in mono until the late sixties. In February 1968, US record companies began releasing stereo singles. Some of the earliest hit stereo singles released that month included Rice Is Nice by the Lemon Pipers and In Need Of A Friend by the Cowsills.

MGM Records had announced that Sky Pilot by Eric Burdon and the Animals would be their first stereo single before the other stereo singles came out, but its release got delayed a few months. Perhaps the length of that song was to blame: the song ran over seven minutes, and the record company had to split the song between the A and B sides of the record.

Playing just the first three minutes of the song from side A blunted the impact of the song, but playing a seven-minute song was difficult for most AM radio stations. Perhaps that worked against the single, which peaked at only #14 in the US and #40 in the UK.

The record stood out in part thanks to its clear anti-war lyrics during the Viet Nam War. Its extensive use of flanging also made it sound unique.

The record was the last time that the Animals reached the top forty in the US. Danny left the group, and Andy Summers and Zoot Money joined them for their 1968 tour.

The group scheduled shows in Japan, but had to delay some of their appearances while they waited for visas. When they got to Japan, Yakuzas kidnapped their manager and demanded a $25,000 ransom to make up for the revenues lost because of the delays. When they released the manager, the Yakuzas told the band if they didn’t leave Japan by the next day, they would be killed.

The band left immediately and disbanded shortly thereafter. Eric joined War and had a few more hits, Andy joined the Police, John joined Family, and the others pursued solo careers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Animals
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_Pilot_(song)
https://zeegrooves.blogspot.com/2010/04/miracle-of-tape-flanging.html
https://www.bsnpubs.com/stereoproject/stereo1968.html#

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1967 Small Faces- Itchycoo Park

1967 Small Faces – Itchycoo Park

Kenney Jones, Ronnie Lane, Steve Marriott, and Jimmy Winston formed a rock group in 1965. They called themselves the Small Faces because of the small stature of the members. Within a year, Ian McLagan had replaced Jimmy.

The band’s first single immediately jumped onto the UK chart and peaked at #14.

The group had four top ten singles in the UK in 1966. They even reached the top of the chart with one hitAll Or Nothing, but none of the singles reached the US Hot 100 at all.

Steve and Ronnie wrote Itchycoo Park, which became the group’s first single to chart in the US. Engineer George Chkiantz applied flanging to produce an ethereal feel in parts of the recording. While some recordings in the US had used flanging to create a phasing-like sound beginning in the late fifties, that was the first successful British single to apply the technique. The single reached #16 on the Hot 100 and #3 in the UK in 1967.

The group only reached #73 with their next single in the US but still had three more top ten singles in the UK. 

Steve quit the group and walked off in the middle of a concert in 1968 and went on to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. This led to a complete breakdown of the Small Faces.

Three of the members joined forces with four more musicians to form Quiet Melon, but two of the new members wandered off after only four recordings. Fortunately, the other two (Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, who had worked together in Jeff Beck’s group) stayed with the group, which began to appear as The Faces. 

After the Faces disbanded in 1975, three original members (Kenny, Ronnie, and Steve) joined with Ian to reform the Small Faces. The group then re-entered the UK top ten with the re-release of Itchycoo Park

In 2012, they inducted the Small Faces were into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Faces
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Faces_discography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Itchycoo_Park

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