1966 Tommy McLain – Sweet Dreams

1966 Tommy McLain – Sweet Dreams 

Country star Don Gibson wrote the song Sweet Dreams and recorded it in 1955. While his single reached #9 on the Country charts in early 1956, Faron Young recorded a cover version in 1960 that went to #2 on the Country charts.

Don recorded a new single in 1960 which performed slightly better, reaching #6 on the Country chart.

Patsy Cline recorded the most recognized version of the song in 1963, just a few weeks before her untimely death in a plane crash. They turned her recording into a single that made it to #5 on the Country chart. It also crossed over to other radio formats and reached #15 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #44 on the Hot 100.

The most successful single to reach the Hot 100 came from Tommy McLain. Tommy grew up in Louisiana and became a swamp pop musician, singing and playing keyboards, drums, fiddles, and bass guitar. He began recording in the mid-sixties and released his own version of Sweet Dreams in 1966. 

The single made it to #15 on the Hot 100, qualifying Tommy as a one-hit-wonder.

 

Tommy toured as part of Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars on the strength of his hit and later worked as a disc jockey in Louisiana.

He still performs with his Mule Train Band.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_McLain
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Dreams_(Don_Gibson_song)

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1965 Cannibal and the Headhunters – Land Of 1000 Dances

1965 Cannibal and the Headhunters – Land Of 1000 Dances 

Chris Kenner was a singer/songwriter who began recording music in the New Orleans area in 1955. Like many other musicians in the New Orleans area, Chris began working with pianist/arranger Allen Toussaint. The pair wrote I Like It Like That and Chris reached #2 on the Hot 100 in 1961 with his single.

It was difficult for Chris to follow up on that success. In 1963, he wrote and recorded Land Of 1000 Dances. His single stalled at #77 on the Hot 100.

Unlike all the versions of the song that followed, only the album version of the song by Chris included the words “Land of 1000 Dances” in the lyrics. Even his single had the first twenty seconds of the recording cut off.

Four Mexican-American singers from East Los Angeles began singing together as Cannibal and the Headhunters. Frankie Garcia used the moniker “Cannibal” and was joined by backup singers Bobby Jaramillo, Joe Jaramillo, and Richard Lopez. While they included some spoken words similar to those at the start of Chris’ version, they did not use the title of the song in their recording. Instead, the group added na-na-na-na-na to the front of the song. 

The single version again omitted the spoken words from the beginning of their album version.

The group’s record peaked at #30 on the Hot 100 in 1965. They performed as a warm-up act at a Rolling Stones concert in May 1965 in Birmingham, Alabama. Paul McCartney then surprised the group by requesting they join the Beatles on their US tour at shows at Shea Stadium in August.

Even with those performances behind them, the group never reached the charts again. 

By 1967, Frankie had replaced the backup singers with new group members. Robert Zapata joined the group in 1969, and in 1988 he took over as the new Cannibal when Frankie left.

The most successful version of Land of 1000 Dances came from Wilson Pickett. He had just begun recording at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. His single from those sessions topped the R&B chart and reached #6 on the Hot 100 in 1966.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_of_a_Thousand_Dances
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannibal_%26_the_Headhunters
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Kenner

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1964 Brenda Holloway – Every Little Bit Hurts

1964 Brenda Holloway – Every Little Bit Hurts 

Brenda Holloway was born in 1946 in a small town between Los Angeles and San Francisco. In 1951, her family moved to Los Angeles. Brenda started taking lessons in violin, flute, and piano, and also sang in her church choir. By the time she was 14 years old, Brenda began singing background vocals on demos and for live performances by R&B groups.

Brenda recorded her first solo records for a small record label in 1962. While neither record performed well, the second singleEvery Little Bit Hurts, became important to Brenda’s careeer.

Brenda re-recorded the single for Motown. The vocals on the new recording were almost the same, but Motown added a layer of strings to the song. The single peaked at #13 on the Hot 100 in 1964.

Brenda appeared on American Bandstand and joined Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars (which also included a then-unknown Motown group, The Supremes).

Her single proved popular with other artists who recorded their own versions of the song. The Spencer Davis Group reached the Canadian top ten and peaked at #41 in the UK with their single.

The most surprising cover came from The Clash.

Motown had Brenda record a few songs that they had planned for Mary Wells. Smokey Robinson wrote When I’m Gone, and Brenda’s single went to #25 on the Hot 100 and #12 on the R&B chart in 1965.

Mary Wells had been one of the opening acts for the previous Beatles tour of the US, and they invited Brenda as one of the acts for the Beatles 1965 tour.

Friction grew between Brenda and Motown. Some of the Motown employees felt that Brenda did not fit in well, and Brenda began to feel like she was being given hand-me-down songs to record.

In 1967, Motown finally issued a single that Brenda had co-written herself, but her single only reached #39 on the Hot 100. Radio overlooked the song, but it became a #2 hit for Blood, Sweat, And Tears in 1969: You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.

Motown failed to pay Brenda proper royalties for the cover of her song. It took a lawsuit to get them to correct their mistake.

Brenda retired from the music industry in 1968 but later began recording again. While Brenda recorded a handful of records for other labels, she never reached the charts again. She continued to make public appearances and provided background vocals for other artists as recently as 2011.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenda_Holloway
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Every_Little_Bit_Hurts

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1963 Jack Nitzsche – The Lonely Surfer

1963 Jack Nitzsche – The Lonely Surfer 

Bernard Nitzsche grew up on a farm in Michigan. After high school, he moved to Hollywood and attended the Westlake College of Music. In 1957, he began working for Sonny Bono of Sonny and Cher at Specialty Records. His initial job at the label had him working as a copyist (they took the notes written by other musicians and turned them into actual musical manuscripts).

He began using the name Jack and began writing songs himself. While working with Sonny, he wrote Bongo Bongo Bongo, which became a minor hit for Preston Epps in 1960 (you can read about Preston’s career in my blog:

https://whatwasleftin.blog/2020/03/29/lost-or-forgotten-oldie-of-the-day-1959/ 

Jack left Specialty to work at Capitol Records and then Original Sound Records and began finding work as an arranger. In the early sixties, he went to work for Phil Spector doing arrangements for many of his records, including work on the Wall of Sound.

In the early sixties, Surf Music gained strength as a growing genre. It began as instrumental music that was first popularized by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones with their 1961 single Let’s Go Trippin’.

Gene Pitney wrote He’s A Rebel and offered the song to the Shirelles in 1962. When they turned down the song, he offered it to Vicki Carr. Phil wanted to release the song before Vicki did. He had Jack arrange the song for the Blossoms (with Darlene Love on lead vocals) and produced and released the record crediting The Crystals. 

Jack tried his hand at creating his own Surf Music record. He wrote and recorded the song The Lonely Surfer on Reprise Records. The single reached the top forty on the Hot 100 in 1963. 

Jack’s follow-up, Rumble, stalled at #91, and he never reached the singles chart again. 

He did, however, have a long and successful career in the music field. He worked in the Wrecking Crew, played keyboards for the Rolling Stones (and arranged their choral backing on You Can’t Always Get What You Want), and worked with Neil Young. 

He later concentrated on creating soundtrack music for films. He and his second wife, Buffy Saint Marie, won an Academy Award when they co-wrote Up Where We Belong for the film An Officer and a Gentleman

Jack had a stroke in 1998 and a recurring bronchial infection led to his death from cardiac arrest two years later.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surf_music
https://www.allmusic.com/artist/jack-nitzsche-mn0000101776/biography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He%27s_a_Rebel
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Nitzsche

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1962 Ronnie & the Hi-Lites – I Wish That We Were Married

1962 Ronnie & the Hi-Lites – I Wish That We Were Married 

In 1960, five singers formed a group calling themselves The Cascades in the New Jersey area. 12-year-old Ronnie Goodson became their lead singer. 

The group began working with producer/arranger Hal Weiss and his wife Marion. They helped the group record a demo of a song Marion had written, I Wish That We Were Married. The record found distribution with Joy Records. Because another group was already using the name “Cascades,” the label changed their name to Ronnie and the Hi-Lites.

The single peaked at #16 on the Hot 100 in 1962. The group became successful enough to appear on American Bandstand.

Ronnie was only 14-years-old when the group recorded the song. His emotional crying in the middle of the song stands out as probably unique among top forty singles.

The group cut at least another half-dozen singles, but never found their way onto the charts again. Ronnie died from a brain tumor in 1980.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronnie_%26_the_Hi-Lites

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1961 Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five

1961 Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five 

Dave Brubeck grew up in California. While his mother taught him to play the piano, he did not intend to be a musician. In college, he initially studied to be a vet, but one of his teachers convinced him to switch majors to music.

Because of his poor eyesight, Dave had difficulty reading music and faked his way through most of his classes. The College of the Pacific nearly expelled him over that deficiency. They allowed him to continue his studies and graduate as long after he promised to never teach piano.

They drafted Dave into the army in 1942 and sent him to the European front. He volunteered to play at a Red Cross show and impressed the brass sufficiently to get transferred to the music corps. While performing in that organization, he met saxophonist Paul Desmond.

After the war, he formed an octet with Paul that played jazz. In 1949, he began recording for music that Fantasy Records started distributing, and his albums began selling well. In 1950, they reduced the group to a trio that expanded into a quartet in 1952. Unhappy with the compensation he received from Fantasy, Dave moved his group to Columbia Records.

After playing in nightclubs for several years, the group went on a tour of Europe and Asia for the U.S. State Department in 1958. The lineup of the quartet came to include a person of color, which led to problems with some concerts and even on television. Dave even canceled a television appearance when he discovered the network intended to keep bass player Eugene Wright out of sight.

After the tour, the quartet recorded a new album in 1959. The music used unusual time signatures. The album, Time Out, became the first jazz album to sell over a million copies.

The move famous song on the album was the five-minute instrumental Take Five. The group recorded a new, shorter version of the song that they released as a single. It reached #25 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart in January 1961.

Take Five is still the highest-selling jazz single in history.

Some additional musicians played and/or recorded with the group and lineup changes occurred from time to time. Perhaps the most unusual lineup lasted from 1972 to 1978: Dave and three of his sons became the quartet. 

An unusual tribute came in 1975 when they named an asteroid in the asteroid belt “Brubeck.”

The quartet disbanded when Dave died from heart failure in 2012 at age 92.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Brubeck#Dave_Brubeck_Quartet
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Take_Five

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1960 Chubby Checker – The Hucklebuck

1960 Chubby Checker – The Hucklebuck

Ernest Evans was born in a small town in South Carolina and primarily grew up in Philadelphia. He sang in harmony groups and even sang at his work in various markets. Henry Colt, the manager of the Fresh Farm Poultry, gave Ernest the nickname Chubby.

Chubby sang at an audition for Dick Clark, and Dick’s wife met Chubby after hearing him sing a song by Fats Domino. She came up with the alliteration and suggested he use a name that stuck: Chubby Checker.

Chubby recorded a cover version of The Twist in 1960 that turned into one of the most popular singles of all time. His next single became a cover of a twenty-year-old dance tune.

Andy Gibson wrote D’Natural Blues for Lucky Millinder, whose band recorded it in the late forties. Paul Williams heard the band play the song live during a practice session for a concert and his band started playing the song in concerts.

When he noticed audience members dancing to the tune with a dance called the Huckle-Buck, he renamed his group Paul Williams and His Hucklebuckers. They released an instrumental called The Huckle-Buck that soon reached the top of the R&B chart.

Several other artists released versions of the song that year, including a vocal version by Frank Sinatra that entered the pop charts and peaked in the top ten.

Chubby recorded a new version of The Hucklebuck in 1960 that followed The Twist without doing nearly as well.

Chubby talked about resenting being pigeonholed as singing dance music after his single peaked at #14. Of course, his next single after The Hucklebuck was Pony Time, which took him back to the top of the Hot 100. He also recorded several more successful dance records, so maybe he got over his reluctance to continue recording dance records.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chubby_Checker
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hucklebuck

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1959 Stonewall Jackson – Waterloo

1959 Stonewall Jackson – Waterloo 

You might think that Stonewall Jackson’s first name was a nickname, but it was actually his legal name at birth. He lived in North Carolina for a few years, but after his father died, his mother moved their family to Southern Georgia. He served in the Navy for four years beginning in 1950 and moved to Nashville to pursue a singing career in 1956.

Stonewall signed with Columbia Records and began releasing singles in 1957. The single Life To Go reached number two on the Country chart the next year, and in 1959 he released his first chart-topping singleWaterloo.

The single also crossed over to the pop charts and reached the top ten on the Hot 100.

Stonewall had three more singles reach the Hot 100 in the next year, but none of them made it into the top forty. After that, he only charted on the Country charts. His singles on the Country chart included another number one record, eight top ten singles, and at least two dozen top forty records.

Stonewall recorded a cover version of Lobo’s Me And You And A Dog Named Boo. That record became his final top forty single on the Country chart when it reached #7 in 1971.

Stonewall periodically performed on the Opry until the early twenty-first century, when the show appeared to have no further need of him. He filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the Opry in 2006.

The lawsuit alleged that Opry general manager Pete Fisher had publicly claimed he wanted to eliminate all gray hair in the Opry (including its audience!) and that Stonewall was too old and too country to appear there anymore. An undisclosed financial settlement was forthcoming. More importantly, Stonewall then returned to performing on the Grand Ole Opry stage again and kept appearing periodically until his death at age 89 in 2021.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_Jackson_(musician)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterloo_(Stonewall_Jackson_song)

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1958 Kirby Stone Four – Baubles, Bangles and Beads

1958 Kirby Stone Four – Baubles, Bangles, and Beads 

 Edward Knoblock wrote the play Kismet in 1911. Charles Lederer and Luther Davis adapted the play into a musical in 1953, in part by adding music based on the works of the Russian composer Alexander Borodin. The play became successful and even won a Tony Award for the Best Musical.

The most popular song in the play became Baubles, Bangles, and Beads. Peggy Lee released a popular single version of the song near the end of 1953 that landed as high as #30 on the pop charts.

Singer Kirby Stone formed the Kirby Stone Four after World War II. The group sang in clubs in the New York City area and began appearing on television shows.

In 1958, the group signed with Columbia Records and released a new version of Baubles, Bangles, and Beads. They recorded a more upbeat version of the song backed by Jimmy Carroll And His Orchestra. The single peaked at #25.

The group’s popularity waned as the sixties wore on. In 1966, the group attempted to move in a pop music direction. They recorded with the Tokens as the United States Double Quartet. New York radio played Life Is Groovy when the single came out, but nobody seemed to notice. After that, Kirby began directing television variety shows.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirby_Stone_Four
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baubles,_Bangles,_%26_Beads

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1957 The Techniques – Hey! Little Girl

1957 The Techniques – Hey! Little Girl 

The word “forgotten” seems to fit more than it usually does for this record. The doo-wop song at least got some airplay in the New York area. You should not confuse the single with the 1964 song Hey! Little Girl by Del Shannon or the 1959 song Hey Little Girl by Dee Clark.

Four singers in a glee club at Georgia Tech University in the mid-fifties formed the singing group The Techniques, a name they took from the university newspaper.  Buddy Funk, Jim Moore, Chuck Poston, and Mike Tierney were also all members of the same fraternity.

Buddy wrote the song Hey Little Girl, which became their first single. Roulette Records issued their song in 1957. The single peaked at #29.

Chuck and Mike joined the military, after which two more singers took their places. The revised group recorded a second single, but it didn’t chart.

https://www.discogs.com/artist/1827823-The-Techniques-2

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