Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/15/2019

Brenda Payton, Eddie L. Jackson, Maurice Coates, and Jerry Jones formed Brenda and the Tabulations in Philidelphia in 1966. They began recording for the Dionn record label the next year. Their first single was Dry Your Eyes, a song that sounded like a throwback to the doo-wop sounds of the early sixties that reminds me a lot of It’s Gonna Take A Miracle by the Royalettes. The record reached #20 on the Hot 100 but got as high as #2 on the R&B chart.

The group had five more top forty singles on the R&B chart in the next four years, but none of them reached any higher than #50 on the Hot 100.

The group’s manager was songwriter and producer Gilda C. Woods. She created the Top & Bottom Record label as a subsidiary of the Jamie record label and started producing Brenda and the Tabulations on her new label.

By 1970 the group had all but disbanded as the male singers had all left the group. They were replaced by two female singers, Pat Mercer and Deborah Martin. The new group signed began working with Van McCoy and recorded a song he had co-written, Right On The Tip Of My Tongue. The song had a solid Philidelphia sound and reached #23 on the Hot 100 and the top ten on the R&B chart.

The group’s next single barely reached #14 on the R&B chart and they had one more top forty single on the R&B chart, but never got into the Hot 100 again after that.

The singer and studio musicians who gave us the Ohio Express and other bubblegum hits in the late sixties recorded the novelty record Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me) in 1974. The song lists artists, songs, and disk jockeys from the early rock era, and just past the one minute mark, one of the groups mentioned is Brenda and the Tabulations.

Brenda died in 1992.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/14/2019

While a lot of groups had their careers ended when the Beatles led the British Invasion of the US airwaves, the Beach Boys actually did better. Brian Wilson had mastered recording techniques and was busy inventing new ones and the group’s albums were becoming progressively more complex.

The Beatles and the Beach Boys didn’t exactly have a rivalry going on, but the two groups pushed each other to improve. The Beach Boys Today! pushed Rubber Soul which was followed by Pet Sounds which informed Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band which was nearly eclipsed by Good Vibrations. In the span of barely a year and a half the concept of what an album could be changed completely.

The Beach Boys had four top-three singles between April 1965 and April 1966, but stuck in the middle was a record that barely managed to reach #20 the first week of 1966. It’s not that the single wasn’t very good; John Lennon praised the record when it came out:

This is the greatest! Turn it up, turn it right up. It’s GOT to be a hit. It’s the greatest record I’ve heard for weeks. It’s fantastic.

The song was She’s Not The Little Girl I Once Knew. It was recorded as a single release while Brian was in the middle of recording Pet Sounds, one of the most influential albums of all time. The single might have a lot in common with the songs that eventually made up Pet Sounds, but apparently, Brian didn’t see it as a part of that project.

Brian was permanently deaf in one ear after his father hit it, so it wasn’t too surprising that Brian tended to mix music into mono releases rather than stereo. Brian carelessly (or deliberately) recorded over some of the pieces that he used to put together the final mix of the single, In 2001 somebody managed to remix some of the pieces that survived with the final mono mix to produce something close to real stereo for a compilation album. All the pieces of Pet Sounds (and a lot of extra pieces) survived and we also got a stereo mix of that album.

The failure of She’s Not The Little Girl I Once Knew to get any higher can probably be laid at the turntables of the disk jockeys of the time. Particularly on AM radio stations, there was something that disk jockeys were taught to avoid at all costs: dead air. The fear was that listeners who were listening to a station that went silent, or who were turning on the station and not finding music, would simply turn the dial or hit a car radio button and switch to another station…and there are two sections of the single where there is dead air for two to three seconds! A lot of radio station music directors probably wouldn’t even put the record in the control rooms for fear of losing listeners.

On top of that, the song wasn’t on any of the three albums the Beach Boys released in 1965 and 1966, so a lot of people never even heard the record. Their loss; it really is a great recording.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/13/2019

Hard Day’s Night was the first Beatles film, and within just a few weeks of the film’s release, their record company released six of the seven new songs from the album on three singles. While the title song may have hit number one, the other singles struggled on the charts, stalling at #12 and #25.

Their second film was Help! and the single releases were done differently. One single was released three months before the film and hit number one. Next, the title song came out a week or two before the film and also hit the top of the charts. Since the other new songs on the soundtrack album were not released as singles, there was a chance for somebody else to grab one of the songs.

Enter the Silke. The group was formed in 1964 by four students at Hull University: Sylvia Tatler, Mike Ramsden, Ivor Aylesbury, and Kevin Cunningham. They were primarily a folk music group and named their group after an old British folk song, “The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry.” In early 1965 they were signed by Brian Epstein (the manager for the Beatles). They released their first album in the UK, The Silkie Sing The Songs Of Bob Dylan. Their first single was Blood Red River which attracted only a small amount of local attention.

In August, just after the film’s release, John Lennon produced the group’s cover version of You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.  That was one of the songs from Help! that was not released as a single by the Beatles.  They were also assisted by Paul on guitar and George on the tambourine. The single peaked at #10 on the Hot 100 late in the year (but barely missed being one of the top 100 records of the year).

A new album was created for the group that contained their first two singles and seven of the songs from their first album. The reconstituted album had their single as side one song one and the album was simply named You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.

The group had been booked to tour the US and appear on several television shows in late 1965, but all of that got canceled when they were unable to obtain the required visas and work permits. That cancellation was followed by poor sales for their album and several non-charting singles the next year, and the group’s future began to look cloudy.

Ivor and Kevin let the group in 1966. Mike and Sylvia got married that year and continued performing as The Silke for at least 35 years.

Mike died in 2004 and Sylvia succumbed to cancer in 2018.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/12/2019

Johnny Mathis was born in Texas but grew up in San Francisco after his family moved there. He not only demonstrated great talent as a singer at a young age he also was one of his school’s top athletes. He specialized in track and field events, especially the high jump and hurdles, but also played on the school basketball team with his classmate, Bill Russell.

In 1956, Johnny was invited to try out for the US Olympic team in preparation for the upcoming Olympics in Australia. At the same time, Columbia Records asked him to come to New York to record a few songs. Johnny was faced with having to choose one or the other and took his father’s advice and headed East.

The recording sessions in New York produced his first album, Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song. The album was primarily jazz recordings and sales were not what Columbia was hoping for. Johnny continued singing in nightclubs in the New York City area while work began on his second album. Mitch Miller was his producer for the album and he recruited Ray Conniff as the arranger and conductor. The first song that was recorded and released as a single was Wonderful, Wonderful. It was Johnny’s first single release and peaked at #14 in 1957.

Appearances on numerous television shows helped build Johnny’s audience. His next three singles in 1957 all reached the top ten, and Chances Are made it all the way to number one. His next seven singles all reached the top 25. Columbia took his recordings packaged two albums, Johnny’s Greatest Hits and More Johnny’s Greatest Hits. His first greatest hits album stayed on the Billboard top 200 Album chart for nine and a half years, setting a record that would not be eclipsed until Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon reached a longer streak in 1983.

Johnny recorded albums and singles for decades, with many singles doing well on the Hot 100, Adult Contemporary, and/or R&B charts. His recordings of Christmas songs were almost an entire career on their own, and many of them return to airplay every year.

His last record to reach one of the top forties that wasn’t a Christmas tune was a 1988 remake of Little Anthony and the Imperials hit single from 1964, I’m On The Outside (Looking In).

In 1963, the Tymes released their first single, So Much In Love. The song used snapping fingers as a rhythm instrument and the sweet tune reached the top of the charts. They followed that record with a remake of Johnny’s Wonderful, Wonderful that used a nearly identical background to their first single, including the snapping fingers. Their version was even more successful than Johnny’s, reaching #7 on the Hot 100.

The October 11, 1996 episode of the X-Files (Home) wanted to use Johnny’s recording of Wonderful, Wonderful as background music. Johnny was not comfortable with the content of that episode and refused permission to use his version. A sound-alike singer’s voice was used instead.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/11/2019

Clarence Collins formed the doo-wop group The Chesters in New York City in 1957. A few members came and went over the next year, with the most important change being the addition of Little Anthony Gourdine as the lead singer. Ernest Wright, Glouster “Nate” Rogers, and Tracey Lord rounded out the group when they began recording.

The record was initially credited to The Imperials but the label was quickly changed to Little Anthony And The Imperials (and their first album was listed as The Imperials Featuring Little Anthony).

The group struggled to follow-up their success; it took another six singles before they reached the top forty on the Hot 100 again in 1960. Little Anthony left the group in 1961 and Sammy Strain replaced Nate and Tracey in the group and the Imperials seemed to be finished.

Little Anthony returned to the group in 1963 and the quartet began recording again. They signed a recording contract with the Don Costa Productions label. Some of the group had known record producer Teddy Randazzo since childhood and he produced their version of a song he had written. In 1964, their recording of I’m On The Outside (Looking In) started their comeback by charting up to #15 on the Hot 100 and #8 on the R&B chart. Four more top forty singles followed before their charting days all but ended.

The group reportedly recorded the original version of the theme song for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, but their version was discarded and the movie company attempted to get Frank Sinatra to record the theme song. Frank declined the opportunity and passed that honor along to his daughter, and Nancy Sinatra’s version appears on the soundtrack. Promotional copies of the version by Little Anthony and the Imperials survived.

After additional disappointing releases in the late sixties and early seventies, Ernest left to join the Platters in 1971 and Sammy left in 1972 and eventually joined the O’Jays. Little Anthony went solo again, mostly performing in Oldies shows.

The group reunited in 1992 and has continued to perform with some combination of original and replacement singers ever since.

Little Anthony and the Imperials were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame In 2009.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/10/2019

One-hit wonders are more common than we notice, mostly because we don’t know an artist won’t have another hit until years later. Sometimes having one hit can hide other accomplishments.

Barry De Vorzon is one of those multi-talented artists who seem to dabble in lots of things: singer, songwriter, producer, and manager. He successfully wrote a few rockabilly tunes that reached the charts in the late fifties and early sixties.

In an unusual move, in 1960, he and Billy Sherman formed their own record label, Valiant Records. The label’s very first release was Shelby Flint’s Angel On My Shoulder, which was released in 1960 and rose to #22 early the next year. Distribution for the label was handled by Warner Brothers Records, and after over a hundred singles were released, the label was discontinued and some of its remaining artists simply absorbed by Warner Brothers.

Valiant Records released Rhythm Of the Rain by the Cascades, a record that reached #3 on the Hot 100 in 1963. Barry was the co-writer of the b-side of the record and tried to get the Cascades to record another song he had written. The group was not impressed by I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight, and went on to record a series of failed singles that doomed them to be a one-hit-wonder.

Barry and two of his songwriting friends (Terry Smith and Bodie Chandler) went ahead and recorded I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight, and the single was released on Valiant Records as Barry and the Tamerlanes. The single reached #20 near the end of 1963, and somehow also reached #23 on the R&B chart.

The song that Barry and the Tamerlanes recorded is not at all related to the Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart song, I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight that was a top ten single in 1968.

In 1966 Barry signed the Association to a recording contract and produced their first single, a cover version of the Bob Dylan song One Too Many Mornings. While that single did not reach the charts, the group did get to lip-sync the single on Hollywood A Go-Go. Valiant Records went on to release the first two Association albums, the top ten single Along Comes Mary, and the chart-topping Cherish. The Association was one of the groups that successfully moved to Warner Brothers Records when Valiant Records was absorbed in 1967.

Barry began to compose soundtracks for movies and television and went on to an award-winning career. Some highlights include a Grammy Nomination for Nadia’s Theme, an Academy Award for the soundtrack to Bless The Beasts And The Children, and six Emmy Awards. He also composed the soundtrack to Xanadu, which was a failed film that spawned a very successful soundtrack album.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/09/2019

Irving Lee Dorsey was born in New Orleans and seems to have dropped his first name, preferring to go as Lee. While in elementary school, he was friends with Fats Domino, but his family moved to the West Coast when he was ten.

Lee moved back to Portland after a tour in the Navy during WW II. Lee pursued a light heavyweight boxing career as Kid Chocolate, but hung up his gloves and moved back to New Orleans in 1955. He began living a dual life: running an auto repair shop during the day and singing in clubs at night.  Allen Toussaint began producing records for Lee in 1958, but his initial singles were not successful.

Lee co-wrote the song Ya-Ya after hearing some kids chanting nursery rhymes. Allen produced the record, and in 1961 it reached #7 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart. The record eventually sold over a million copies.

Lee’s next single failed to chart, but after that, he recorded Do-Re-Mi, a song written by blues musician Earl King. The single reached #27 and #22 on the R&B chart in early 1962.

It would be three years before Lee managed to reach the charts again and 1966 before he reached the top ten with Working In The Coal Mine. The song was written by Allen and Lee even got to lip-sync the song on television.

One more single reached the top 25, after which Lee’s singing career ended and he went back to working full-time in his auto repair shop.

Lee continued recording music when he could through 1982 and died from complications of emphysema in 1986.