1961 Damita Jo – I’ll Be There

1961 Damita Jo – I’ll Be There

Answer songs have been around since the twenties. Perhaps the most famous answer song is one that doesn’t appear to be an answer song at all.

Woody Guthrie became tired of hearing Kate Smith sing God Bless America, and in early 1940 he wrote a song he initially titled God Blessed America. The first line was very familiar: “This land is your land, and this land is my land.” The last line of the first verse ended with “God blessed America for me.”

Woody didn’t do much with the song for four years, but in 1944 he rewrote it. The last line of each verse became “This land was made for you and me,” and the song became This Land. The song became a standard for folksingers.

An example from the rock era came about after Neil Sedaka had a top ten hit with Oh! Carol in 1959 and Carole King responded by recording Oh, Neil.

Many answer songs were sung by a woman answering a song sung by a man. The two most successful singles by Damita Jo were each answer songs to two songs originally sung by Ben E. King.

Damita Jo DeBlanc sang lead vocals for Steve Gibson and the Red Caps, and they released singles on RCA Victor Records beginning in 1952. She and Steve became married, but they divorced and she left the group in 1959.

Ben sang lead for the Drifters on the song Save The Last Dance For Me. The single topped the Hot 100 in October 1960. Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote the song. Polio had placed Doc in a wheelchair, and he was inspired to write the song after watching his wife dancing with other men at their wedding reception. The answer song I’ll Save The Last Dance For You clearly uses the same music with some slightly different lyrics. Damita Jo had released two other singles that failed to get her solo career moving, but her single release of I’ll Save The Last Dance For You peaked at #22 on the Hot 100 in December.

Damita Jo’s next two singles did not do well.

Ben left the Drifters. He worked with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the producers of Save The Last Dance For Me, and the three wrote Stand By Me. The single topped the R&B chart and reached the top ten on the Hot 100 in 1961.

New lyrics were written, and the answer song became I’ll Be There rather than I’ll Stand By You. Damita Jo’s single did even better than her first answer song, reaching #12 on the Hot 100 in 1961. Although the song’s title is the same as songs by The Jackson Five, Mariah Carey, and The Escape Club, it’s completely different from those songs.

Damita Jo’s next single was a cover version of a song that was a top ten record for three artists in 1944. The Andrews Sisters sang the song in the film Her Lucky Night in 1945. Damita Jo’s version of Dance With A Dolly (With A Hole In Her Stocking) didn’t reach the Hot 100 in the US, but the record reached number 3 in Sweden. Her two answer songs were also top three records in Sweden.

Damita Jo never got near the top forty again. She became a jazz performer and recorded ten albums in the sixties. She died from a respiratory illness in 1998.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damita_Jo_DeBlanc
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_Land_Is_Your_Land
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Save_the_Last_Dance_for_Me
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand_by_Me_(Ben_E._King_song)

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1961 Chuck Jackson – I Don’t Want To Cry

1961 Chuck Jackson – I Don’t Want To Cry 

Singer Chuck Jackson joined the Del-Vikings in the mid-fifties and sang with the group until he left to pursue a solo career in 1959. Luther Dixon caught Chuck’s performance as the opening act for Jackie Wilson at The Apollo Theater. That led to a contract with Wand Records, a subsidiary of Scepter Records.

Chuck co-wrote a song with Luther that became his first successful single. I Don’t Want To Cry peaked at only #36 on the Hot 100 in 1961 but reached the top five of the R&B chart.

In 1962, Chuck recorded a song written by Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard, Any Day Now. His single reached #23 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart. Burt even introduced Chuck and pretended to play the organ on a television special.

 

Chuck’s 1962 album also included I Keep Forgetting, a song written by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, and Gilbert Garfield. Chuck’s single peaked at only #55 on the Hot 100, but the song took on a life of its own.

The Checkmates, Ltd. covered the song in 1970, but their single failed to reach the charts. 

Michael McDonald co-wrote I Keep Forgetting (Every Time You’re Near) with Ed Sanford of the Sanford-Townsend Band. Michael’s single reached #4 on the Hot 100 in 1982. Despite the identical title, the song was very different from Chuck’s single. Because some lyrics were close enough to Chuck’s original song, Leiber and Stoller were eventually given co-writing credit.

David Bowie also recorded an actual cover of Chuck’s song on an album in 1984 that did not get released as a single.

Chuck continued recording songs that reached the R&B chart top forty through the mid-seventies. He continued recording albums well into the nineties.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Jackson
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Keep_Forgettin%27

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1960 Fleetwoods – Runaround

1960 Fleetwoods – Runaround

Gary Troxel, Gretchen Christopher, and Barbara Ellis met while in high school in Olympia, Washington. Gretchen and Barbara began singing together, and Gary joined them, just playing the trumpet. Gary began writing his own songs, and those impressed the young women enough that he abandoned the trumpet and joined them on vocals.

The three performed songs they wrote themselves in their appearances. The song Come Softly to Me impressed Dolphin Records, and the company released it as a single. The record rose to the top of the Hot 100 and reached #5 on the R&B chart in 1959. The group didn’t make any changes after scoring their first hit record, but Dolphin changed their name to Dolton Records.

The trio also wrote their second single, but Graduation’s Here barely reached the top forty. DeWayne Blackwell wrote the group’s third single, and Mr. Blue took the group to the top of the charts for a second time in 1959.

Gary had joined the Naval Reserve in 1956, and near the end of 1959, they called him up to active duty. Vic Dana replaced Gary and took over singing chores for live appearances, but did not record any songs with the group.

Two more of the group’s songs reached the top forty in 1960. Outside My Window faded after peaking at #28. They had a slightly bigger hit with Runaround, which reached #23.

The Thomas Wayne single Tragedy peaked at #5 in 1959. The Fleetwoods had one last top ten single in 1961 when they released a cover of the song.

The group also released (He’s) The Great Imposter in 1961. Although the single only reached #30 on the Hot 100, it may turn out to be more familiar to many listeners than their other songs thanks to the use of their song in the film American Graffiti.

Singles by The Fleetwoods continued to come out through early 1965. After the start of the British Invasion, it became much more difficult to get airplay for their style of music, and the group disbanded.

Gary officially resigned from the group in 1983 and left Gretchen with ownership of the group name. She recruited new members for the Fleetwoods and has managed the group since then. Gary and Gretchen regrouped and toured briefly with Cheryl Huggins replacing Barbara in 1990 when Rhino Records released The Best Of The Fleetwoods. The group maintains a website at https://thefleetwoods.com/

DeWayne Blackwell continued writing songs for an assortment of artists. He most notably wrote the hit single Friends in Low Places, which was a hit for Garth Brooks in 1990.

Vic Dana pursued a solo career beginning in 1961 and had a top ten hit with the single Red Roses For A Blue Lady in 1965. While he only had one other top forty single on the Hot 100, he scored 15 top forty singles on the Adult Contemporary chart.

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-fleetwoods-mn0000761706/biography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fleetwoods

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1959 The Mark IV – I Got A Wife

1959 The Mark IV – I Got A Wife

Michael McCarth, Leon McGeary, Bob Peterson, and William (Bill) Thomas were members of The Rhythm Makers, a quintet formed in Chicago in the fifties. The group changed its name to the Mark V, and then to the Mark IV when the unnamed fifth member left the group. They appear to have been primarily a doo-wop vocal group.

The first single recorded by the group that charted was Make With The Shake. Drummer Eddie Mascari and pianist Erwin “Dutch” Wenzlaff wrote the song, which peaked at #69 on the Hot 100 in 1958.

While the lower reaches of the Hot 100 normally aren’t very helpful, in this case it was enough to get them an appearance on American Bandstand. That got them noticed by Mercury Records, who signed the group to a recording contract.

Their only other appearance on the Hot 100 came from another novelty record written by Eddie and Dutch. The Mark IV’s single release of I Got A Wife made it up to #24 on the Hot 100 in 1959. A few random artists covered the song as a polka number.

The group recorded a few more singles that failed to chart, and their contract with Mercury ended. One of the members left the group, but they continued performing as The Mark IV Trio into the eighties.

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

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1958 Ricky Nelson – Waitin’ In School

1958 Ricky Nelson – Waitin’ In School

Ricky Nelson was the son of a singer and a bandleader. His parents, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, began broadcasting their own radio show in 1944. The show featured light comedy about family life. Professional child actors initially played the parts of Ricky and his brother David. The boys began reading their own parts in 1949 when they were 8 and 12 years old.

The family starred in the film Here Come the Nelsons in 1952, and the success of the film led them to replace their radio show with a half hour television show on ABC. The show was one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, running through 1966.

Sixteen-year-old Ricky wanted to impress his girlfriend. She was a fan of Elvis, and Ricky boasted to her that he would also be recording records. The first two songs he recorded became a two-sided hit on Verve Records. Ozzie added lip-synced performances by Ricky to the end of one or two shows each month and that helped turn him into a teen idol.

A Teenager’s Romance and a cover of the Fats Domino record I’m Walking reached #2 and #4 on the pop charts in early 1957. After another single, Ozzie negotiated a better contract and moved Ricky to Imperial Records. His first single for Imperial also became a two-sided hit, with Be-Bop Baby reaching #3 on the chart in 1957.

Ricky’s first hit single in 1958 featured Stood Up as the a-side. The song reached #2 on the charts, held off of the top spot by Danny and the Juniors’ hit At The Hop.

The b-side, Waitin’ In School, gave Ricky his third double-sided hit when it peaked at #18 on the Hot 100. Johnny and Dorsey Burnette wrote the song, resulting in one of Ricky’s strongest rockabilly recordings.

Ricky landed at least seven singles in the top forty in 1958, and another five the next year. Most people know he changed his name to Rick Nelson when he turned 21 in 1961. It may surprise you to learn that he returned to using Ricky when he began a comeback tour in 1985. Later that year, Ricky was killed in a plane crash.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricky_Nelson
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricky_Nelson_discography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waitin%27_in_School

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1958 Jerry Wallace – How The Time Flies

1958 Jerry Wallace – How The Time Flies

Jerry Wallace was born in Missouri in 1928. He moved to California and served in the Navy. When he mustered out, he pursued a career as a singer beginning in the early fifties. He released at least ten singles that failed to chart before signing with Gene Autry’s Champion Records in 1957. His first three singles for the company did not fare any better, but his fourth single finally delivered success. How The Time Flies peaked at #11 on the Hot 100 in 1958.

Jerry recorded four albums while under contract with Challenge Records. His most successful single for the label came in 1959. Primrose Lane sold over a million copies and reached #8 on the Hot 100.

Jerry had what appeared to be his last pop hit in 1964 with In The Misty Moonlight. The single peaked at #19, which earned him an appearance on American Bandstand.

Beginning in 1965, Jerry’s music aimed more directly at the Country market. He spent a few years releasing records that bounced in or near the Country top forty before he scored a number one Country hit in 1972 with If You Leave Me Tonight I’ll Cry. The record even got some play on pop stations and briefly reached #38 on the Hot 100. They even used the song in an episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery television show.

By 1980, Jerry had reached the top forty on the Country charts over a dozen times. He appeared to sing in public a few times after that, but no longer pursued a music career full time.

Jerry died from congestive heart failure in 2008 at age 79.

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/jerry-wallace-mn0000337717/biography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Wallace

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1957 Billy Ward and his Dominoes – Deep Purple

1957 Billy Ward and his Dominoes – Deep Purple 

Billy Ward grew up in Philadelphia, playing piano and composing music for it. After serving in the Coast Guard Artillery Choir, he studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. He began writing songs with talent agent Rose Marks. The pair created a business that owned their own group. The group was initially named the Ques and changed their name to the Dominoes when they signed with Federal Records. The group included lead singer Clyde McPhatter. Their recordings began charting on the R&B chart in 1951. The single Sixty Minute Man, which featured lead vocals by bass singer Bill Brown, topped the R&B chart and reached #17 on the pop chart. The group successfully toured on the strength of their recordings.

Unhappy with his poor salary from the group, Clyde McPhatter left to form the Drifters in 1953. Jackie Wilson took over the lead vocal chores, and he left the group to pursue a solo career in 1957. His replacement was Gene Mumford, a former lead singer for the Larks. The group then began recording for Liberty Records. They had a hit with a remake of the classic song Star Dust, which peaked at #12 on the Hot 100. The single became the only record by the group to sell over a million copies.

A few months later, the group released another doo-wop cover of a classic song. Peter DeRose wrote Deep Purple as a piece for the piano in 1933. Mitchell Parish wrote lyrics for the song and published them in 1938. Larry Clinton and His Orchestra released a single with vocals by Bea Wain the next year that remained at number one on the charts for nine weeks. Several other artists (including Bing Crosby) charted with the song that year as well.

The version by Billy Ward and his Dominoes peaked at #18 on the Hot 100 in 1957. While the group continued recording singles as late as 1965, they never again reached the top forty of the Hot 100.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Ward_and_his_Dominoes
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Purple_(song)

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1980 Andy Gibb and Olivia Newton John – I Can’t Help It

1980 Andy Gibb and Olivia Newton John – I Can’t Help It 

Andy Gibb had three notable older brothers: Barry, Robin, and Maurice, the core of the Bee Gees. He grew up following his family between England and Australia and witnessed the success of the Bee Gees first hand.

Andy formed his own group in 1974. At Barry’s insistence that it would help his career, Andy moved to Australia for a few years. While there, he recorded a few songs and even reached the charts with a single. 

The strength of Andy’s demo tapes got him signed to a record contract with RSO Records in 1976. Andy moved to Miami to work on his first album with his brothers. Barry wrote I Just Want to Be Your Everything and Andy’s recording reached #1 on the Hot 100 in 1977. Two more chart-topping singles and three top ten records followed during the next two years. During that time, his brothers did their best to help him combat his growing dependancy on drugs and alcohol.

In 1980, Andy recorded a duet with Olivia Newton John. Barry wrote and co-produced I Can’t Help It, and the single reached #12 on the Hot 100 and #8 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Andy’s next single, Time Is Time, only got to #15 later in 1980, and the following single spent only a single week at #40 on the Hot 100.

Andy joined Marilyn McCoo as the co-host of the Solid Gold television show beginning in 1981. He also began appearing in musical plays on Broadway and in Los Angeles. 

Andy began dating Victoria Principal, and his last charting record was a duet they recorded. He came up with the idea of a releasing a duet after hearing Victoria singing in the shower. Their remake of the Everly Brothers hit All I Have To Do Is Dream peaked at only #51 in 1981.

Shortly after the single was released, Victoria gave Andy a choice: stop using drugs or lose her permanently. We can only dream of what might have happened if he had made a different choice.

Andy’s repeated abuses of cocaine and alcohol resulted in an absentee rate that led Solid Gold to drop him from the show. He also lost his chance to continue in the plays. He fought his addictions and went through rehab multiple times during his career.

After another rehab stay, he successfully began doing some short-term engagements in Las Vegas from 1984 to 1986. A stay at the Betty Ford clinic seemed to help him finally get clean by 1987. He was about to record a new album in 1988, but in March he began having chest pains. They admitted him to a hospital in England. His heart had been so weakened by years of cocaine usage that it simply gave out within days, and Andy died.

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

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1979 Eddie Rabbitt – Suspicions

1979 Eddie Rabbitt – Suspicions 

Eddie Rabbitt grew up in Orange County, New Jersey, an unusual place to start out as a Country singer and songwriter. His father worked at an oil refinery but played fiddle and accordion in local clubs. Eddie learned to play guitar and dropped out of school and began singing in clubs when he was only 16 years old.

Eddie began working as a mental hospital attendant while performing part-time until he won a talent contest. He won the chance to do a one hour radio show, and that led to a recording contract with 20th Century Records. The company released two singles in 1964. When they were not successful, Eddie moved to Nashville and began working part time as a songwriter. Everything changed when Elvis recorded one of Eddie’s compositions, Kentucky Rain. Elvis recorded two more song Eddie had written, and as a result, Elektra Records signed Eddie to a recording contract in 1974.

Two of Eddie’s singles nearly reached the Country top ten in 1975. Eddie’s next single topped the Country chart, and a seemingly endless string of hit Country singles followed.

In 1979, Eddie recorded the theme song for the Clint Eastwood film Every Which Way But Loose. They released the song as a single that became his third consecutive chart-topping record on the Country chart. It also reached #30 on the Hot 100 and #26 on the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart.

Eddie’s next single again reached all three charts. Eddie wrote Suspicions with the help of three other co-writers, and the record became his fourth consecutive #1 on the Country chart. It also reached #13 on the Hot 100 and entered the top ten on the AC chart. 

Suspicions was the beginning of a series of crossover records. I Love A Rainy Night topped the  Country chart, the Hot 100, and the AC chart in 1980. Over the next three years, Eddie released seven more chart-topping Country singles. Those releases resulted in two more top five records and three more top forty singles on the Hot 100. He was also successful on the AC chart, where three of the singles peaked at #2 or #3 and two more reached the top ten.

After 1983, Eddie found success almost exclusively on the Country music chart. In his career, Eddie had a total of 17 number one Country singles and 17 more top ten singles. Like many more traditional Country singers, Eddie’s charting days ended in 1990.

Eddie fought with lung cancer beginning in 1997 and died a year later. He was only 56 years old.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Rabbitt
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Rabbitt_discography

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1978 Love & Kisses – Thank God It’s Friday

1978 Love & Kisses – Thank God It’s Friday

Alec R. Costandinos was a French songwriter and producer who co-wrote the disco hit Love in C Minor with artist Cerrone in 1976. The success of that song led to a contract with Barclay Records. He assembled a collection of studio musicians and recorded his first album in 1977. The album was called Love and Kisses, which became the name of his group. The album consisted of two side-length songs. The single I Found Love (Now That I Found You) topped the US Disco chart in 1977, but failed to cross over to the pop charts.

After his second album spawned two more singles that reached the top five on the Disco chart, they hired Alex to create the title song for the film Thank God It’s Friday. The single of that song again put him at the top of the Disco chart, but this time he also reached the pop charts. The single peaked at #22 on the Hot 100 and #23 on the R&B chart in 1978 .

By the time the group’s third album got released in 1979, Disco was not as popular, and no additional albums followed until 1982. When that album failed to find an audience, Alec retreated from the music industry, although he appears to have helped write songs using the pseudonym R. Rupen on works in France. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_%26_Kisses
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thank_God_It%27s_Friday_(Love_%26_Kisses_song)

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