1959 Tommy Facenda – High School U.S.A.
Gene Vincent helped Rockabilly gain traction, beginning in 1956 with his hit Be-Bop-a-Lula. His backing musicians were called the Blue Caps. In 1957, singer/guitarist Tommy Facenda joined the Blue Caps, primarily singing backup vocals. He and member Paul Peek also specialized in hand-clapping routines during live shows.
By 1958, Tommy had left the Blue Caps to pursue a solo career. After his first single failed, he moved to New York City and met Frank Guida. Frank had the idea of making a single that would have different regional versions, and convinced Tommy to do the vocals for the records.
The song was High School U.S.A. They recorded twenty-eight different versions of the song, with each one listing a series of high schools that were in or near the same city: Virginia, New York, Chicago, Nashville, San Francisco, etc.
They also recorded one version with generic high school names to sell outside of the specific cities they had targeted.
The various versions were all combined into a single total for ranking purposes on the charts. The single peaked at #28 nationally, but did much better (or much worse!) in various areas.
Tommy wrote his own follow-up single in 1960, but it did not chart. He joined the military in 1962 and became a firefighter when he left the service.
The Blue Caps reformed, and Tommy toured with them beginning in 1982.
Frank discovered Gary U.S. Bonds and wrote several hit records for him as well.
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