1961 The Tokens – Tonight I Fell In Love

1961 The Tokens – Tonight I Fell In Love 

The Linc-Tones were a quartet that formed in 1955. The group consisted of Neil Sedaka, Hank Medress, Eddie Rabkin, and Cynthia Zolotin. The next year, Eddie was replaced by Jay Siegel and the group recorded and released their first album on Guest Star Records. Neil wrote While I Dream and sang lead on the song, which was credited to Neil Sedaka and the Tokens. The single didn’t chart nationally.

In 1957, Cynthia left the group and Neil left to pursue a very, very successful solo career. Jay took over lead vocals. Hank and Jay released Picture in My Wallet using the group name Darrell & the Oxfords. They recruited brothers Phil and Mitch Margo in 1960 and went back to using The Tokens as their name.

The group wrote and recorded Tonight I Fell In Love for Warwick Records. The single peaked at #15 on the Hot 100 in 1961 and sold over a million copies.

The sales, airplay, and publicity from performing on American Bandstand helped the group record The Lion Sleeps Tonight for RCA Records in 1962. That single topped the Hot 100 and, thanks in part to Disney, the song continues to be familiar to almost everybody.

The group formed their own record company (B.T. Puppy Records) in 1963 and began producing records for other artists. Some of their notable singles include He’s So Fine by the Chiffons, Denise by Randy & the Rainbows, See You In September and other singles by the Happenings, and Candida, Knock Three Times, and Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree by Tony Orlando and Dawn.

The Tokens released a string of singles throughout the sixties, but only two others even reached the top forty on the Hot 100, I Hear Trumpets Blow in 1966 and Portrait Of My Love in 1967

The group eventually split in two, and there have been two sets of Tokens performing live for decades, Jay Siegel’s Tokens and The Margo Brothers’ Tokens.


1960 Dorsey Burnette – (There Was A) Tall Oak Tree

1960 Dorsey Burnette – (There Was A) Tall Oak Tree

Dorsey Burnett and his brother Johnny were born in the early thirties and grew up in Memphis. They each learned to play guitar and also shared an interest in boxing. Each of them won a local Golden Gloves championship. They became friends with another young boxer, Paul Burlison.

After high school, Paul joined the army and Dorsey briefly pursued a career as a professional boxer before working other odd jobs. Johnny and Dorsey both worked on steamboats and would spend their spare time writing songs and playing their guitars.

By 1953, Paul got out of the army, and the three young men formed their own musical group. In 1956 they moved to New York City and began performing as the Rock And Roll Trio. Three wins on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour got them a contract with Coral Records, a few television appearances, and the chance to work on a Summer tour headlined by Carl Perkins and Gene Vincent.

The trio released a few records that failed to chart. After a fight with his brother, Dorsey quit the group and another bass player took his place in the group. They had a few more failed singles, and the group disbanded completely in 1957.

The brothers decided to get Ricky Nelson to record some of the songs they had written. They simply sat on Ricky’s doorstep until he agreed to listen to some of their music. The brothers impressed Ricky enough that he later recorded several of their songs, including Believe What You Say and It’s Late.

The brothers released several rockabilly singles between 1958 and 1960 with little to show for their efforts.

Dorsey also wrote the song Tall Oak Tree and offered to let Ricky record it, but when Ricky turned it down, Dorsey recorded the song himself. The single reached #23 on the Hot 100 in 1960.

Dorsey co-wrote Hey Little One, and that single reached #48 on the chart later that year.

Glen Campbell covered the song in 1967 and did about the same on the pop chart, reaching #54 on the Hot 100. Fortunately, Glen’s version also reached #20 on the Easy Listening chart and #13 on the Country chart.

Dorsey released several more singles in the next year, but none of them even reached the Hot 100. Meanwhile, his brother Johnny had four top twenty singles in 1960 and 1961. Johnny died in a boating accident in 1964, and Dorsey’s career faded quickly.

In the early seventies, Dorsey became a born-again Christian and returned to singing Country music. He recorded albums and singles through the end of the seventies and racked up four top forty Country singles during that time. He died from a heart attack in 1979 at the age of only 46.

Dorsey’s son Billy became a member of Fleetwood Mac for six years, beginning in 1987.

Dorsey’s nephew Rocky Burnette had a top ten hit with Toein’ The Line in 1980.


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1959 The Falcons – You’re So Fine

Eddie Floyd and several other singers formed the Falcons in the Detroit area in 1955. Robert West managed the group and produced several of their singles. After a few years of non-progress, the personnel changed a great deal in 1957. Eddie was still a member, but the new lineup featured Joe Stubbs as the lead singer. Joe had been the lead singer for the Contours, his brother was Levi Stubbs, the lead singer for the Four Tops, and Jackie Wilson was their cousin.

Other members of the new lineup included Mack Rice, Lance Finney, and Willie Schofield. Robert Ward had moved from Dayton to Detroit and formed the Ohio Untouchables, who became the backing band for the Falcons.

Lance and Willie wrote You’re So Fine with Bob West and the Falcons recorded the song in 1959. The single did well, reaching #17 on the Hot 100 that year. Joe left the group the next year, and Wilson Pickett joined the group as their new lead singer.

In 1963, the group disbanded and Robert formed a new version of the Falcons using lead singer Sonny Monroe and a few other members of the Fabulous Playboys. The new Falcons had no success at all and eventually also disbanded.

In 1969, the Motown songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland wanted to start their own record label because they were fighting with Motown over royalties. They put together a group that featured former Falcons Joe and Sonny. The group initially went by the name Aged In Soul, but on the later pressings of their first single, they lengthened the name to 100 Proof (Aged In Soul). That first single barely reached #94 on the Hot 100, but their second single was Somebody’s Been Sleeping In My Bed. That single peaked at #8 on the Hot 100 in December 1970 and sold over a million copies.

The group’s first album also included the song She’s Not Just Another Woman, and some radio stations began playing that song as an album cut. The label wanted to release the song as a single but worried about hurting sales of Somebody’s Been Sleeping In My Bed. They released the song as a single but listed the artist as The 8th Day on the label. That single reached #11 in early 1971.

While the label’s shenanigans may have succeeded in creating a second hit, they may have doomed the group. The follow-up single You’ve Got to Crawl (Before You Walk) by The 8th Day only reached #28 on the Hot 100, while One Man’s Leftovers (Is Another Man’s Feast) by 100 Proof (Aged In Soul) got no higher than #96. Instead of having one group with three hits, they ended up with two groups that looked like one-hit-wonders. The label formed a second group to tour as The 8th Day, but even that failed to click. The groups quickly fell apart.

Joe stopped recording for nearly twenty years before writing a few successful songs and recording two albums in the early nineties. He died in 1998.

Wilson Pickett had a successful career as a singer and songwriter and died in 2006.

Eddie Floyd continued writing and recording singles and albums as recently as 2016.

Sir Mack Rice wrote Mustang Sally and co-wrote Respect Yourself and dozens of other hits. He died in 2016.

Robert Ward and the Ohio Untouchables eventually morphed into the Ohio Players. Robert died in 2008.


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1958 Johnny Cash – Ballad Of A Teenage Queen

1958 Johnny Cash – Ballad Of A Teenage Queen

Johnny Cash grew up in Arkansas during the Great Depression. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1950 and worked as a Morse Code operator listening in on Russian transmissions. When he got out of the military, he moved to Memphis. He found work selling appliances while he played guitar and sang with the Tennessee Two: guitar player Luther Perkins and bass player Marshall Grant.

Johnny signed with Sun Records and began recording for Sun in 1955. He had two records reach the Country top forty the first year. So Doggone Lonely reached the top five on the chart and came with Johnny’s studio recording of¬†Folsom Prison Blues on the B-side.

Johnny got his first number one record on the Country chart in 1956 when he wrote and recorded I Walk The Line. The single also reached the Hot 100, where it peaked at #17. Another number one and two more top ten Country singles followed, but it was 1958 before Johnny had much of a presence on the pop chart again.

Jack Clement grew up in Memphis and played steel guitar in bands. He then began pursuing a career in music after a stint in the Marines. Sam Phillips hired Jack as an engineer and producer at Sun Records. Jack discovered Jerry Lee Lewis and produced¬†Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Goin’ On. In 1958, Jack wrote the song Ballad Of A Teenage Queen. He and Sam produced Johnny’s recording of the single with Johnny backed up by the Tennessee Two. The single reached #1 on the Country chart and peaked at #14 on the Hot 100.

In 1987, Johnny recorded a new version of Ballad Of A Teenage Queen with Rosanne Cash and The Everly Brothers singing backup vocals. They released the single in 1989 but it only reached #45 on the Country chart.


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1957 Harry Belafonte – Jamaica Farewell

1957 Harry Belafonte – Jamaica Farewell

Harry Belafonte’s parents were both from Jamaica, although Harry was born in Harlem. When he was five years old, Harry went to Jamaica to live with one of his grandmothers. He moved back to New York City to attend high school. He became close friends with Sidney Poitier and began taking acting lessons.

To pay for his acting lessons, Harry began singing at clubs. He signed a contract with RCA Records and had his first big hit in 1953 with Matilda, a calypso song that dated back to the thirties.

Harry appeared in a play on Broadway and won a Tony award for Best Supporting Actor in 1954. He also recorded his first album in 1954, Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites. 

Harry worked with Calypso singer/songwriter Irving Burgie to record his next album, Calypso, in 1956. Irving took credit for writing the first single from the album, Jamaica Farewell, although Harry and others claim he put the song together from several older folksongs. The Kingston Trio specialized in Calypso music for a brief time and took their group’s name from the mention of Kingston, Jamaica, in Harry’s record.

Harry’s well-known Christmas song, Mary’s Boy Child, also began to chart in late 1956, eventually peaking at #12.

Harry’s version of Jamaica Farewell peaked at #14 on January 12, 1957, the same week his next song reached the charts for the first time. That single, Banana Boat (Day-O), took about a month to reach #5 on the Hot 100.

The Calypso album was the first LP to sell over a million copies, and it remained on the album chart for several years. Unfortunately, Harry never reached the Hot 100 again after 1957.

While Harry never again charted with any of his singles, he recorded at least 37 albums during his career. Credits on his 1962 album, Midnight Special, included a young harmonica player: Bob Dylan.

In addition to his recording career, Harry continued to act in films and on television.

Harry was also prominent in the Civil Rights movements in the sixties and worked closely with Martin Luther King. In 2016, he endorsed Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Presidential primary.


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1956 The Teen Queens – Eddie My Love

1956 The Teen Queens – Eddie My Love

Maxwell Davis was a saxophone player in the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in the late thirties, playing mostly jazz. He began working in rhythm and blues in Los Angeles in the mid-forties, initially playing and later arranging. In 1955, Modern Records hired him as their main bandleader for Modern Records and served as their music director and producer for many of the company’s recordings.

Aaron Collins was a member of the Cadets, who recorded their first single on Modern Records in 1955. Aaron Collins sang lead on Don’t Be Angry, which reached #2 on the R&B chart.

Saul Bihari, one of the co-founders of Modern Records, used the pseudonym Sam Ling and co-wrote Eddie My Love with Maxwell and Aaron. Aaron’s sisters, Betty Collins and Rosie Collins, recorded the song as the Teen Queens.

On March 3, 1956, the single by the Teen Queens landed on the charts. Their version peaked at #14 on the last chart in March.

The Chordettes were a quartet that formed in Wisconsin in 1947. The group won on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts radio show in 1949 and began singing on his shows regularly. In 1954, the group recorded the number one hit, Mr. Sandman. They had not made it to the top forty again until they covered Eddie My Love in 1956. Their single reached the Hot 100 on March 10. Their single also peaked at #14 in the March 31 chart.

The Fontane Sisters moved from Havana to New York in the late forties and began recording hits almost immediately. They released Hearts Of Stone in 1954, and their single topped the charts. They had five more top forty singles in 1955 (including one Christmas single) and also covered Eddie My Love in early 1956. Their single reached the Hot 100 on March 10. Their version did slightly better than the others and stayed on the chart longer. It reached #11 on the April 21 chart.

The Teen Queens recorded additional singles for multiple labels without ever charting again, and the group broke up by 1961.

The Chordettes had seven more top forty singles by 1961, including the #2 hit, Lollipop.

The Fontane Sisters only managed three more top forty singles before they retired in 1961.

The Cadets released their single cover of the Jayhawks hit, Stranded In The Jungle, in 1956, and reached #15 on the Hot 100.


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1982 Steel Breeze – You Don’t Want Me Anymore

Demo tapes are sample versions of songs recorded to either promote a song or a group. Songwriters would hire studio musicians to create a demo tape that they could then send to labels or producers, hoping to get somebody to record their creation. Singers and bands, on the other hand, would record a demo to take around to record labels or producers hoping somebody would give them a shot at a recording contract.

Kim Fowley began working for Alan Freed¬†and¬†Berry Gordy in the late fifties and early sixties. He promoted some records, produced some records, and even wrote some successful songs. He and Gary Paxton recorded Alley Oop and released it as the Hollywood Argyles. He got Paul Revere and the Raiders started by producing their instrumental single, Like Long Hair. He produced the #3 single Popsicles and Icicles by The Murmaids. The list goes on…Along the way, Kim also worked with attorney David Chatfield.

In the early eighties, the Hollywood night club Madam Wongs was about to destroy over 1200 demo tapes that had accumulated in the club. Chrysalis Record executive Tom Trumbo told David he was looking for a group like Journey, and David went to the club and began listening to the demo tapes. He got excited when he heard one of the demo tapes, and he and Kim flew to Sacramento and signed the group Steel Breeze to a record contract. Kim produced the group’s first album. In 1982, they shot a video for MTV for the single You Don’t Want Me Anymore. The single peaked at #16 on the Hot 100 and #9 on the Mainstream Rock chart.

They released Dreaming’ Is Easy as the second single from the album, but it didn’t perform nearly as well. That single only reached #30 on the Hot 100 in 1983 and missed the Mainstream Rock chart. The group’s line-up began changing rapidly.

Kevin Chalfant sang lead vocals for the group 707. They had their biggest hit when the single Mega Force reached #12 on the Mainstream Rock chart in 1982. Steel Breeze recruited Kevin as their new lead singer, and the reorganized group recorded their second album with Kevin in 1984. Kevin left the group in 1985.

Steel Breeze released three more albums without anybody taking much notice.

In 1987, Journey had split up so the members could work on solo projects. Kevin joined up with three members of Journey to record as Storm in 1990. Their single I’ve Got A Lot To Learn About Love reached #26 on the Hot 100 in 1992.

Journey started reforming in 1993. Steve Perry was recording his second solo album, so for a very brief time, Kevin stepped in as their lead singer. In a roundabout way, that demo tape that David found led to a group that sounded like Journey.

And then Steve came back to Journey, and Kevin left and pursued a solo career before singing lead vocals for the Alan Parsons Live Project.

And then Steve left Journey permanently.


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1981 Rick James – Super Freak

1981 Rick James – Super Freak

James Ambrose Johnson Jr. grew up in Buffalo, New York. He played in several bands before joining the US Naval Reserves to avoid the draft. He deserted from the military and moved to Toronto in 1964. He got into a fight and was rescued by Levon Helm and Garth Hudson of Levon and the Hawks (which would later evolve into The Band). He joined them on stage and impressed them enough to get an invitation to join their group, which they renamed The Sailorboys.

Singer Shirley Matthews suggested James begin using the stage name Ricky Matthews, the name of a cousin who had died. His name morphed into Ricky James Matthews and settled into Rick James. The Sailorboys became The Mynah Birds. They even recorded The Mynah Birds Hop for Columbia Records.

Some lineup changes took place, including the addition of future Buffalo Springfield member Bruce Palmer. In 1966, Neil Young joined the group, and they recorded the song I’ve Got You (In My Soul) for Motown Records.

The song was never released as a single because it sounded more than a little like the single Little Girl by Van Morrison and Them.

The band’s manager stole the group’s advance money, and when the band complained to Motown, the now ex-manager told Motown that Rick was AWOL and wanted by the US military. Rick was subsequently arrested and went to prison for a year.

Neil had met Stephen Stills in 1965 and he and Bruce decided to go looking for him. They pawned the Mynah’s equipment, bought a hearse, and drove to Los Angeles.After a week, they had given up finding him and decided to drive to San Francisco instead. They got stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard. Stephen and Richie Furay were driving the other direction and spotted Neil. They turned around and drove after him until they met up. The net result: Buffalo Springfield.

When Rick got out of prison, he moved to LA and crashed on Stephen’s sofa. He awoke the next morning to find Jim Morrison meditating in the room.

It was a small world back then.

Rick spent the next decade starting and dissolving bands. In 1976, that finally paid off with the formation of the Stone City Band in Buffalo. The group signed with Motown and recorded their first album.

In 1978, Rick recorded his first solo album with the Stone City Band helping with the music. The album sold over two million copies. It contained his first hit single, You And I. The record topped the R&B chart and reached #13 on the Hot 100.

Several more gold records followed. In 1981, Rick released the single Super Freak. The record was just a little too funky for many radio stations, but it topped the Dance Club chart and reached #3 on the R&B chart. The single peaked at #16 on the Hot 100.

Rick’s career peaked and then declined rapidly. His 1989 album was only released in the UK, and in 1990 his label dropped him completely.

His career was reignited that year by MC Hammer when the mega-hit U Can’t Touch This sampled Super Freak. It took a lawsuit, but Rick finally got writing credit for the use of his music.

Rick’s drug use led to complications with the law, leading to imprisonment in the mid-nineties.

Rick struggled with diabetes, suffered at least one major stroke, and a heart attack, and his poor health finally overwhelmed him. He died in 2004.


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1980 Dr. Hook – Better Love Next Time

1980 Dr. Hook – Better Love Next Time

George Cummings, Ray Sawyer, and Billy Francis played together in the band the Chocolate Papers in the early sixties. After the group broke up, George got the other two and a few more musicians together and formed a group in 1968. Ray sported an eyepatch because of an automobile accident and that look inspired George to name the group Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. Dennis Locorriere joined the group as their bass player and eventually became their lead singer. Eight other musicians joined the group over the years.

The group toured for three years without a recording contract. Their big break came in 1971 when they were picked to record several Shel Silverstein songs for the film Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? That turned out to be such a good fit that Shel wrote all the songs for the group’s first album, including the top five single¬†Sylvia’s Mother.

The group is probably best known for a song Shel wrote that showed up on their second album, On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone. Ray sang lead vocals on that single, and it not only reached the top ten but also propelled them onto the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine.

In the next two years, the group charted no single higher than #68. George left the group, and they shortened their name to Dr. Hook and signed with Capitol Records. They released the album Bankrupt in 1975 and subsequently released two singles from the album that failed completely.

Sam Cooke wrote and recorded Only Sixteen in 1959. His single only reached #28 on the Hot 100.

Dr. Hook released their cover of the song as their third single from the album and finally had another hit: the single reached #6 on the Hot 100 in early 1976.

The group had six top ten singles spread out through the seventies and early eighties. Sandwiched in between the million-selling records When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman and Sexy Eyes, the group released Better Love Next Time. That single still did fairly well even though it didn’t sell a million copies. It peaked at #12 in early 1980 and also reached #3 on the Adult Contemporary Chart.

The group’s last visit to the top forty came in 1982 when Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk reached #25. The video for the record is simply too politically incorrect to get much airplay anymore. It’s not clear if they meant the song to be satire or funny or not.

Dennis has ownership of the group name. He licensed Ray to appear as “Ray Sawyer of Dr. Hook” or “Dr. Hook featuring Ray Sawyer” through 2015, after which Ray retired from public performances. Ray died in 2018.

When his health permits, Dennis still leads a Dr. Hook group on tour.


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