1969 Moms Mabley – Abraham, Martin, and John

1969 Moms Mabley – Abraham, Martin, and John 

A series of deaths in the late 1960s ending with the death of Robert Kennedy led Dick Holler to write a song: Abraham, Martin, And John. His song has been recorded by a large number of musicians, beginning with former teen idol Dion in 1968. His single peaked at #4 on the Hot 100 and #32 on the R&B chart.

 

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles recorded a version of the song in 1969 that peaked at #33 on the Hot 100 and #16 on the R&B chart.

Marvin Gaye also recorded the song with an arrangement by Norman Whitfield. His version only got released as an album cut in the US, but a single version released in the UK reached #9 in 1969.

One other version of the song still holds a record: in 1969, Moms Mabley became the oldest living performer to reach the Top Forty on the Hot 100. 

Moms performed in vaudeville shows beginning in 1908, recorded comedy albums, and appeared on radio and television shows later in the century. She was primarily known as a comic, but late in her career, she began adding music. She was 75 years old when her version of Abraham, Martin, And John reached #35 on the Hot 100 and #18 on the R&B chart. I still remember playing her poignant record on the air in Nashville.

Moms died from heart failure in 1975.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moms_Mabley
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham,_Martin_and_John

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1968 Henson Cargill – Skip A Rope

1968 Henson Cargill – Skip A Rope 

Henson Cargill was born in Oklahoma City in 1941. He briefly attended college and later worked full time as a court clerk, a private detective, and finally a deputy sheriff. Henson began singing with a local group backing him up and toured primarily in the West.

On a trip to Nashville, He recorded Skip A Rope, a song written by Jack Moran and Glenn Douglas Tubb. The Jordanaires provided background vocals.

The song commented on things said by kids while they were playing. The lyrics of the song were controversial for the time, pointing to the parents as being the blame for verbal spousal abuse, tax evasion, and racism. 

Monument Records released the single in late 1967 and it became Henson’s most successful record, topping the Country charts for five weeks in 1968. It also reached #25 on the Hot 100.

Henson had a few more hits on the Country charts over the next dozen years but never reached the pop charts again. After Have A Good Day only reached #67 on the Country charts, he retired from touring and opened his own nightclub in Oklahoma.

Henson died at during surgery at the age of 66 in 2007.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henson_Cargill
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skip_a_Rope

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1967 Easybeats – Friday On My Mind

1967 Easybeats – Friday On My Mind 

Five European families that immigrated to Australia in the mid-sixties were housed in the Villawood Migrant Hostel. Five teenagers from those families soon formed their own band, calling themselves The Easybeats. 

The band signed with Albert Productions and began recording for EMI’s Parlophone label. Members of the band wrote almost all of their music.

Their first single reached #33 on the Australian charts in 1965 and seven of the band’s next eight singles all reached the top ten. When Sorry topped the charts, the band moved to London and began recording there.

Members Harry Vanda and George Young wrote Friday On My Mind. The song became the band’s second chart-topping single in Australia. The single also reached the top ten in the UK and #16 on the Hot 100 in the US.

Although the band had another half-dozen top forty singles in Australia, they only reached the US chart with one other record: St. Louis reached #21 in Australia and spent a single week at #100 on the Hot 100 in 1969.

 

The Easybeats could not score another hit after that, and financial difficulties and poor audience receptions led to the end of the band by 1969.

Harry and George returned to Australia and continued to work together as songwriters and producers. Two of George’s younger brothers became members of AC/DC, and Harry and George produced six albums for that band. They also wrote and produced Love Is In The Air for John Paul Young.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Easybeats
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Easybeats_discography#Singles
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_on_My_Mind

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1966 The Innocence – There’s Got To Be A Word

1966 The Innocence – There’s Got To Be A Word 

The death of Red Bird Records ended the career of the Trade Winds. They immediately signed with Kama Sutra Records and rebranded themselves as The Innocence. They recorded an eponymous album in late 1966.

While the Trade Winds album had been almost exclusively songs co-written by two members of the group (Peter Anders and Vini Poncia), their new album included a cover of Do You Believe In Magic (the Lovin’ Spoonful was also on Kama Sutra) and several songs written by Don Ciccone. Don had been the primary songwriter and the driving force for The Critters, and the first charting single from the album was a cover of Don’s There’s Got To Be A Word. The record reached the Hot 100 the last weeks of 1966 and peaked at #34 in early 1967. 

The next charting single from the album was pretty unexpected: it was a cover of Mairzy Doats. The Merry Macs reached the top of the charts with the song in 1944, and lots of other covers followed that year. 

Sadly, the version by the Innocence stalled at #75 and the band’s career stalled as well.

 

Peter and Vini recorded and released an album as Anders & Poncia, but it appears nobody noticed it.

Vini had a successful career as a producer and songwriter. He co-wrote some songs with Ringo and produced some of his albums. He also co-wrote I Was Made for Lovin’ You for Kiss and produced one of their albums. Other artists he wrote songs for include Jackie DeShannon, Tommy James, and Martha Reeves, and he co-wrote You Make Me Feel Like Dancing with Leo Sayer.

Peter became an EMT for Universal Ambulance in Rhode Island. He died in 2016.

Back when radio was more important to promoting hit records than television or the Internet, it was common for groups to have regional hits that remain unknown in much of the county. Perhaps that explains why I instantly recall all four of the hits by the Trade Winds and the Innocence while most people outside of the Northeast US have never heard any of them.

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

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1965 The Trade Winds – New York’s A Lonely Town

1965 The Trade Winds – New York’s A Lonely Town 

 Peter Anders and Vini Poncia, two musicians from Rhode Island, decided to form their own doo-wop group in the late fifties. The pair added Norman Marzano (and possibly two other friends) and created the Videls. Peter and Vini wrote the song Mister Lonely, which reached #73 on the Hot 100 in 1960.

The band released a few more singles, but disbanded when none of their other records charted.

The pair then went to work writing songs for Phil Spector. Their most successful hit with Phil was the single (The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up by the Ronettes, which reached #39 on the Hot 100 in 1963.

Back in the studio themselves, they wrote and recorded New York’s A Lonely Town. They released the single on Red Bird Records using a new name, The Trade Winds. The record peaked at #32 in 1965. 

Red Bird Records went out of business in 1966, and the group moved to Kama Sutra Records. Their follow-up singleMind Excursion, was a psychedelic record that only reached #51 on the Hot 100.

The group then changed their name and reached the charts again; we’ll look at that tomorrow!

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-tradewinds-mn0000920299/biography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trade_Winds

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1964 Gloria Lynne – I Wish You Love

1964 Gloria Lynne – I Wish You Love 

 Gloria Wilson grew up in Harlem and began singing in her local African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church Choir. She was only fifteen years old when she performed at the Apollo Theater and won first prize in their amateur contest.

She began appearing in shows and recorded at least ten singles, beginning in 1961. As was all too commonplace for young singers in that era, she got very little money for all her hard work.

Léo Chauliac and Charles Trenet wrote the music and Charles wrote the lyrics for the popular French song Que reste-t-il de nos amours in the early forties. Albert Askew Beach wrote new lyrics in English, and Bing Crosby performed the song on his radio show in 1956.

You are most likely to recognize the song by its first line: “I wish you bluebirds, in the Spring.”

Keely Smith recorded I Wish You Love as the title song for her first solo album in 1957 and received a nomination for a Grammy award.

Gloria recorded the song and in 1964, her single peaked at #28 on the Hot 100. It also reached the top five on the Cashbox R&B chart (Billboard did not publish an R&B chart for a few years in the sixties).

The song eventually became a standard and a who’s who of jazz singers still continues to record it.

Unfortunately, Gloria never reached the top forty again, and even stopped recording and performing for a long time after the British Invasion in the mid-sixties. She returned to performing regularly in the early eighties and regained an audience. 

Her accomplishments in jazz slowly became more prominent, and she received the International Women of Jazz Award in 1996 and a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1997.

Gloria died at the age of 83 after a heart attack in 2013.

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/gloria-lynne-mn0000664883/biography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_Lynne
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Que_reste-t-il_de_nos_amours_%3F

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1963 Boots Randolph – Yakety Sax

1963 Boots Randolph – Yakety Sax 

Homer Louis “Boots” Randolph III grew up in Kentucky and attended high school in Evansville, Indiana. His family had a band, and he began playing ukulele and trombone in the band at a young age. He switched to the saxophone after his father brought one home.

His father and grandfather shared his first name, and he somehow acquired the nickname “Boots.” He served in the United States Army Band after the end of World War II and played in various bands before moving to Nashville in the late fifties.

Boots became a member of the Nashville A-Team, a group of session musicians and singers based in Nashville that rivaled the Wrecking Crew. For over two decades, he and the other members appeared on countless recordings.

The 1958 hit song Yakety Yak by the Coasters featured a saxophone solo by King Curtis that is still familiar more than half a century later.

Boots Randolph and Spider Rich wrote Yakety Sax, an instrumental song that was a mild parody of the solo. Boots recorded and released the first version of the song in 1958 using the name Randy Randolph. The record didn’t chart, and a few years later, he released the same recording on an album using his own name. Still, nobody paid it much attention.

Monument Records was also based in Nashville, and in 1963, Boots recorded a new version of Yakety Sax for the label. They released it as a single, and the record reached #35 on the Hot 100. It would be his only visit to the top forty as a solo performer.

That might have been the end of the song, but in 1969, the Benny Hill Show began using it as their closing theme song. It also backed up countless closing chase scenes on the show, and, as a result, it is instantly recognizable to modern viewers. 

Ronnie Aldrich recorded a new version of the song with a saxophone solo by Peter Hughes that was used on the show beginning in 1983.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boots_Randolph
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakety_Sax

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1962 Arthur Alexander – You Better Move On

1962 Arthur Alexander – You Better Move On

The small town of Sheffield, Alabama, was the birthplace of singer/songwriter Arthur Alexander. His first recording for Judd Records failed to chart in 1960.

In 1962, Arthur did better with another song he wrote: You Better Move On. He recorded the song at the FAME Studios in Florence, Alabama. The success of his single allowed the studio to move to Muscle Shoals and become the home studio for numerous future hits.

Prior to recording their first album, the Rolling Stones covered the song as the lead single on their first EP in 1964.

Another struggling British band covered another one of Arthur’s songs, Anna (Go To Him). The Beatles routinely played the song in their live shows and included it on their first album in 1963.

Steve Alaimo (who later hosted Where The Action Is) released another song written by Arthur, Every Day I Have To Cry. Arthur did not record the song himself for more than a decade. Steve’s single did well in some regions of the US, but peaked at #46 on the Hot 100 in 1963.

Despite all the recordings of his songs by other artists, Arthur never again reached the top forty, and by 1965, Dot Records had dropped him.

He recorded for several other record labels before landing with Buddah Records in 1975. Arthur finally recorded and released his own version of Every Day I Have To Cry for the label in 1975, but his single only reached #45 on the Hot 100.

Arthur signed new recording and publishing contracts in 1993, but he suffered a heart attack and died a few weeks later.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Alexander
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Better_Move_On_(song)

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1961 Kokomo – Asia Minor

1961 Kokomo – Asia Minor

Jimmy Wisner grew up in Philadelphia and embarked on a career as a musician playing piano in a jazz group. He started in the late fifties, The Jimmy Wisner Trio. In addition to playing backup music for other musicians who travelled through the area, he also recorded a few jazz albums.

In 1961, he decided to record a rock and roll version of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor. When asked what key to play in, he replied “Asia Minor,” which led to the title of the recording. He had purchased a piano for $50 and put shellac on the hammers to give it a distinctive sound.

Ten different record labels turned down the song, so Jimmy finally had to release the record on his own small record label, Future Records. Fearing the recording might alienate his jazz fans, Jimmy released the record using the fake group name of Kokomo.

The instrumental did fairly well in the US, where it reached #8 on the Hot 100 in 1961.

He unfortunately ran into a problem in the UK. The BBC, which controlled the radio broadcasts, banned any record that seemed to parody classical music. Denied any airplay, his single only reached #35 on the UK chart.

Further efforts to fuse classical and modern music failed to produce any further hits, so Jimmy turned to producing and composing music for films and television. He also wrote Don’t Throw Your Love Away, a single that took the Searchers to #1 in the UK and #16 in the US.

He later produced and/or arranged music for a varied list of artists that included Tony Bennett, the Cowsills, Tommy James, Randy & the Rainbows, Al Kooper, Neil Sedaka, Spanky and Our Gang, and many, many more.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Wisner
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asia_Minor_(instrumental)

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