Ruth Lee Jones was born in Alabama but grew up primarily in Chicago. Like many singers of her time, she was actively singing in gospel groups. Ruth also played the piano and started singing in clubs while still a teenager. While appearing at the same club as Billie Holiday, Ruth began using the stage name Dinah Washington.
In 1944 she recorded her first singles and two of them made the top ten on the R&B charts. Blow Top Blues was recorded with Lionel Hampton in 1946 and crossed over to the pop charts as well. Dinah had another 30 top ten R&B hits over the next twenty years, two more of which also reached #22 and #23 on the Hot 100.
A song written by a Mexican musician was rewritten with English lyrics in 1934 and covered by Dinah in 1959. What a Diff’rence a Day Makes reached #4 on the Hot 100 and was the start of a string of hit records. She recorded two duets with Brook Benton that got into the top ten as well.
September In The Rain was first recorded in 1937 when three different versions charted. The song had a second life in 1948-1949 when two more versions charted. Dinah covered the song in late 1961 and her version reached #23 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the R&B chart.
And for the first time in her career, Dinah’s recording charted in the UK, where it reached #35. That may sound unimportant, but a quartet that was auditioning for a contract with Decca Records played the song at their audition in 1962.
Somebody at Decca was asleep at the switch, and they failed to sign the Beatles. Maybe it was because Ringo wasn’t in the group yet.
Dinah only made the UK charts once more. She died in 1962 from taking a combination of secobarbital and amobarbital, but her music lived on. In 1952 she recorded Mad About The Boy. That recording was used for a Levi’s Jeans commercial and was subsequently released as a single and reached #41 in the UK in 1992, about forty years after it was recorded!
Clyde McPhatter was born in North Carolina in the early thirties and spent a lot of time growing up in New Jersey and New York City. He formed and sang in a gospel group, the Mount Lebanon Singers. His career as a singer really kicked into gear when he won the Apollo Talent Contest on Amateur Night. He was signed as a member of Billy Ward and the Dominoes in 1950. He sang with the group for three years. During that time they had about a dozen top ten R&B hit records, including several records that reached the top of the chart.
Dissatisfied with the poor pay and credit he was receiving, Clyde told Billy that he was planning to leave the group. Clyde helped select and train his replacement: future star Jackie Wilson.
Atlantic Records signed Clyde and insisted that he form his own group to sing with. He put together the Drifters. The first group of Drifters did not meet Atlantic’s expectations, so Clyde replaced them (mostly with members of his Mount Lebanon Singers). Several records were released as Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, including five top-five R&B records that followed in close succession between 1953 and 1956. He was drafted into the army and later left the group to start a solo career. In perhaps the worst decision of his career, he sold his part ownership of the Drifters for $100 before the group became a monster success in the late fifties and early sixties.
In 1957, Clyde finally released a solo record that found an audience. Without Love not only got as high as #4 on the R&B charts, but it also reached #19 on the Hot 100. While you may not be familiar with Clyde’s version of the song, Tom Jones released a more successful version that hit #5 in the charts in 1970.
Clyde continued to record hit records through 1962, after which demand for his style of music began to fade. He died from complications of alcohol dependency in 1972. He did not live to see himself inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not once, but twice.
A group of students at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, started playing together in the basement of their dorm in 1966. One of them read REO Speed Wagon on a blackboard in one of their classes, and the group latched onto the name R.E.O. Speedwagon. Over time the periods were dropped, but they still pronounced each letter separately.
The group started getting jobs where they actually got paid for performances in bars and clubs. They built up a following, and in spite of almost constant personnel changes the group finally got a record deal with Epic Records. Their first album was released in 1971. In early 1972 their lead vocalist left the group and was replaced by Kevin Cronin. Kevin left after the group’s second album was recorded, but he returned to the fold in 1976.
It was their ninth album that finally began producing the hits the group was working towards. Hi Infidelity included the chart-topping Keep On Loving You and also crossed the group over to the Mainstream Rock charts as well.
Ten more top forty records came along, including another number one hit (Can’t Fight This Feeling). Sold out concert tours and top ten albums continued through most of the eighties. Their hit single in 1987 was In My Dreams, which reached ##19. That was followed by their last top forty single in 1988 when Here With Me got up to #20.
Although Epic dropped the group as a result of decreasing chart success, the label began releasing a series of compilation albums. No fewer than a dozen have appeared since 1996.
The group has restructured its members a lot. It continues to tour successfully as a nostalgia group, often touring with other reconstructed bands from the past like Styx and Chicago.
Singer Cy Curnin and drummer Adam Woods met in college and started performing together in the London area as the Portraits. They ran an ad to recruit a few more musicians and released two singles in 1979 and 1980.
After swapping out their guitarist, they changed the name of the group to the Fix and released another single in 1981.
The group signed with MCA records but only after changing their name to the Fixx; the record company was unhappy with a name that sounded like a drug dose. The group finally recorded their first album in 1982. Two singles were released from Shuttered Room, but neither one was very successful except on the US Mainstream Rock chart. The music on the album clearly helped identify them as part of the British New Wave movement in the early eighties.
Their third album, Reach the Beach, was released in 1983. The first single from the album was Saved By Zero. Cy explained that the song was a reflection on a Buddhist mantra and how great it is to reach a state where you have cleared your mind (and return to zero). The song finally broke the group into Hot 100, reaching #20. It also returned them to the top ten on the Mainstream Rock chart.
An extended version of the song that was about a minute longer was released on an album that came out in 2003.
The next single from that album was their biggest hit. One Thing Leads To Another reached #4 on the Hot 100.
The group continued to release new albums as recently as 2012 and continues to tour.
Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr joined a series of bands together beginning in the late sixties. They eventually performed as a duo in a coffee house in Boston. Over time, they were joined by Greg Hawkes, David Robinson, and Elliot Easton. David named the quintet The Cars. Ric played rhythm guitar and wrote almost all of their songs.
The group developed the material for their first album while touring in the New England area. By 1977 they had signed with Elektra Records and recorded their first album. Benjamin sang lead on their first single, Just What I Needed. The record peaked at #27 in 1978. Their second single, My Best Friend’s Girl, featured Ric on lead vocals. and only managed to get up to #35. The group actually shot a video where they performed the song live.
Good Times Roll missed the top forty in 1979. The group subsequently recorded their second album and released Lets Go. That record did better, finally reaching the top twenty later that year.
None of their singles after that reached the charts until 1982 when Shake It Up reached number four and number two on the Mainstream Rock chart. That song broke them through to a series of hits, including three records that topped the Mainstream Rock chart.
The group disbanded in 1988 and several of them attempted solo careers. Benjamin died from cancer in 2000.
Greg and Elliot teamed up with Todd Rundgren and formed the New Cars in 2005. The group was active for about two years before it ended.
In 2010, the surviving members of The Cars reunited and recorded a new album and even toured briefly the next year.
The Cars were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2018. The remaining members of the group reunited for what became their final performance together.
Ric died in September 2019.
Jim and Dash were born in Texas and played with a group called Dean Beard and the Crew Cats in the fifties. In 1959, they moved to California and joined the Champs. That group had already had several hit records in 1958, including Tequila. While the two were not a part of the early hits, it is likely they were playing on the sequel single, Too Much Tequila in 1960.
Glen Campbell also joined the Champs, and in 1963 he and Jim and Dash formed the group Glen Campbell and the GCs. They played at a local club in Van Nuys while Glen tried to get a solo career going. A few years later Glen briefly joined the Beach Boys and Jim and Dash eventually joined the Dawnbreakers.
After the Dawnbreakers split apart in the late sixties, Jim and Dash decided to make a go of it as a duo using their last names: Seals and Crofts. They released two albums but no hit records resulted.
In 1971 they switched to the Warner Brothers record label in 1971, and their next album finally brought them success. Summer Breeze reached #6 in 1972 and a few more top twenty singles followed the next year.
The group released the single Unborn Child in 1974. The pro-life message of the song made it difficult for them to get airplay on many stations, and their career stalled. Their follow-up single, King Of Nothing, couldn’t get any higher than #60, perhaps in part because stations were still punishing them for Unborn Child.
The next year they released the album I’ll Play For You and it had to be a relief when the title track got up to #18 and also reached #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
The duo continued to have success on the charts for three more years and continued recording albums until 1980 when Warner Brothers dropped them. They split up for several years but reunited to tour off and on after that. Their last album was released in 2004.
General Johnson was singing in his church choir at the age of six and was even part of a group named the Humdingers who were recorded when he was only twelve. The group evolved over the next decade and changed their name to the Showmen. In 1961 the group released It Will Stand with General singing lead. The record reached #61 when it was first released and reached #80 when the record was reissued in 1965. They also recorded 39-21-46 Shape. The songs both hung around long enough to become core records for the Carolina Beach Music genre.
General left the group to pursue a solo career but failed to make much progress. The Motown record producers Holland, Dozier, and Holland left Motown in 1967 to form their own record label. They encouraged General to form a group with three other singers and the result was The Chairmen of the Board. General once again was the lead singer.
Their single Give Me Just A Little More Time sold a million copies and reached #3 in 1970. Two more singles touched each reached #38 that year and got inside the top twenty on the R&B charts.
Their final top forty record on the Hot 100 came with the release of Pay To The Piper in 1971. General co-wrote that single and once again sang lead.
A few more singles reached the top forty of the R&B chart. By 1976 the group had broken up and General was again chasing a solo career. He reformed the Chairmen of the Board in 1978 with original member Danny Woods and a slowly rotating group of other members. They formed Surfside Records and recorded and performed music aimed once again at the Carolina Beach Music market.
General died from lung cancer in 2010 and Danny died in 2018 but new members have joined the group to keep it active.