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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1979 Sniff ‘n’ The Tears – Driver’s Seat

1979 Sniff ‘n’ The Tears – Driver’s Seat

Paul Roberts was the singer and songwriter for the first version of Sniff ‘n’ The Tears in England in the early seventies. The band couldn’t find a recording contract, so Paul ended the band and moved to France. He recorded a few demos in France in 1975. Drummer Luigi Salvoni heard the demos and convinced Paul to reform the group and record an album for Chiswick Records. Paul wrote all the songs and Luigi produced the album, which was completed in 1978.

The first single off the album gave the group their only chart hit. Driver’s Seat reached #15 on the US Hot 100 in 1979.

The single only got up to #42 in the UK despite an appearance on Top of the Pops because their record label did not have a working distribution agreement when the group began promoting the record. The record also reached #8 in the Netherlands.

The group released a second album in 1980. Everybody left the group except Paul after the album failed to produce a charting single. Paul recruited guitar player Les Davidson and three more musicians and recorded two more hitless albums. The group fell apart in 1983.

Paul released two albums as a solo act, but neither one sold well.

In 1991, a European advertising campaign for Pioneer music used Driver’s Seat as the principal soundtrack for the thirty-second commercial. The 12-inch remix single shot up to the top of the charts in the Netherlands and led Paul to reform Sniff ‘n’ the Tears with Les and three new group members.

Driver’s Seat keeps showing up periodically, including the soundtrack of the 1997 film Boogie Nights and a 2012 episode of The Walking Dead. Between 1992 and 2017, the band recorded four more albums.


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1978 Crystal Gayle – Talking In Your Sleep

1978 Crystal Gayle – Talking In Your Sleep

Crystal Gayle’s older sister was Country music legend Loretta Lynn, which no doubt helped her enter a career in music. Crystal was born in 1951, and by the mid-sixties, she was routinely singing backup vocals for Loretta and others in Nashville.

Decca Records signed Crystal to a recording contract in 1970, and she immediately had a top 30 Country hit. A few more singles followed, but she wasn’t consistently hitting the charts.

Crystal signed with United Artists Records and began working with producer Allen Reynolds in 1974. Allen moved Crystal to a softer, less Country sound that would be more attractive to Easy Listening stations. Allen wrote and produced Wrong Road Again, and the result was Crystal’s first top ten Country single.

She had her first number one Country single in 1976 with I’ll Get Over You. That record also crossed over to the pop chart, but only got up to #71. It even touched the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart, where it peaked at #40.

In 1977, she cut the biggest record of her career, Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue. The single hit the top of the Country chart, reached #2 on the Hot 100, and made it up to #4 on the AC chart. The recording won her a Grammy award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female.

Her next two singles each topped the Country chart and reached #3 on the AC chart, but only the second got into the Hot 100. Her single of Talking In Your Sleep reached #18 on the Hot 100 in 1978.

While a few more of Crystal’s solo singles did well on the AC chart in the mid-eighties, she never again got any higher than #83 on the Hot 100. By the time she stopped reaching the Country chart (1992), she had racked up 16 number one Country singles and more than two dozen top forty Country singles.


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1977 The Captain And Tennille – Can’t Stop Dancing

1977 The Captain And Tennille – Can’t Stop Dancing

Toni Tennille was born in Alabama, where her mother hosted a daily local television show. She studied classical piano and singing at Auburn University for two years. In 1959, her family moved to California, where she worked several different jobs not related to music. Toni married drummer Kenneth Shearer in 1962 (they divorced in 1972). She joined a theater company in the late sixties.

Daryl Dragon’s father was a conductor, composer, and arranger of music and his godfather was Danny Thomas. Daryl was a member of Charles Wright and the Wright Sounds beginning in 1962.

In 1967, a studio group had a #25 hit with the song Yellow Balloon. The record label put together a touring group that included Don Grady from My Three Sons, and Daryl also joined the group. He also began playing keyboards for the Beach Boys in 1967, and Mike Love gave him the nickname “Captain Keyboard.” Daryl started wearing a captain’s hat in performances to reflect that nickname.

In 1971, Toni wrote the music for the rock musical play Mother Earth, which eventually moved to Broadway. She met Daryl when he auditioned for the play.

Daryl worked as one of the studio musicians on the Beach Boys album Surf’s Up in 1971. The next year he co-wrote a song and scored and played keyboards on songs on their Carl and the Passions – “So Tough” album.

In 1972, Daryl introduced Toni to the Beach Boys, and they both joined the backup band for a Beach Boys tour. She sang backup vocals and played the electric piano while Daryl played keyboards. When the tour ended, the two began appearing and recording their own records as the Captain and Tennille.

Toni and Daryl got married in 1975. They paid to record a song Toni had written, The Way I Want to Touch You. Their single did well in the California area and led to a contract with A&M Records.

The first single A&M released for the group was a cover of a song that Neil Sedaka co-wrote, recorded with musicians from 10 CC, and released as a single in France in 1973: Love Will Keep Us Together. The song failed to chart but his label included it on his 1974 US compilation album, Sedaka’s Back.

The Captain and Tennille version of the single went to number one on the Hot 100 in 1975. They also recorded a Spanish version of the song that peaked at #49 on the Hot 100 that year.

Four more top-five singles followed from their first two albums. They hosted their own television variety show for six months beginning in the 1976 Fall season on ABC. They canceled their contract with ABC the next year so they could concentrate on their music and touring.

Their streak of major hits ended with the release of Can’t Stop Dancing in 1977. That single reached #13 on the Hot 100 and #12 on the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart.

Four more singles failed to even reach the top forty, although they did reach the top ten again in 1978 with their single You Never Done It Like That.

Toni sang backup vocals for an Elton John album in 1974 and for Pink Floyd’s The Wall in 1979.

In 1979 the duo moved to Casablanca Records and recorded a new album, Make Your Move. The first single from the album, Do That to Me One More Time, was written by Toni and produced by Daryl. The single topped the Hot 100 in 1979 and reached #4 on the AC chart. The next two singles only reached into the fifties on the Hot 100.

Although they recorded a second album for Casablanca in 1980, none of their subsequent singles even reached the Hot 100 at all. They recorded another album in 1982 for Wizard Records but nobody seems to have noticed the single they released from the album.

The pair’s last studio album was a Christmas album released in 2007.

For the next twenty years, Toni sometimes appeared in concerts as a solo act while the pair also sometimes appeared as The Captain and Tennille.

Beginning in the Fall of 1980, Toni hosted her own television variety show. She also recorded two solo albums in the eighties and starred in the Broadway tour version of the play Victor/Victoria for about a year in 1998-1999.

Daryl began suffering from a neurological condition that caused severe tremors that prevented him from playing keyboards properly. The illness also appeared to affect his personality, and Toni filed for divorce in 2014. When it later became clear that a lot of Daryl’s problems resulted from incorrect medications, Toni helped him with his recovery treatments. She was with Daryl in the hospital when he died from kidney failure in 2019.


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1976 Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town

1976 Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town

Bass guitarist and vocalist Phil Lynott and drummer Brian Downey met in school in Dublin in the early sixties. The two were in a series of bands, sometimes together and sometimes not. In 1969, they joined up with Eric Bell on guitar and Eric Wrixon on keyboards, and Thin Lizzy was born. The name came from a character in a children’s comic strip. The band was unusual because it included members from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Phil wrote most of the group’s songs when they recorded their first album and also sang lead vocals. Their first single did not chart. Despite disappointing sales, Decca paid to have the group record a second album. Not much came from that album, either.

The band began a tour with Slade and Suzi Quatro in late 1972, and their record label released a single to support the tour. The band had recorded a popular, traditional Irish song, Whiskey in the Jar, but had not put it on either of their albums. Decca chose to release that recording as their single even though the band was not on board with the decision. It turned out to be an excellent move since the record topped the Irish charts, reached the top ten in Germany, and reached #5 in the UK.

Two more singles reached the charts in Ireland but failed to chart anywhere else.

The group released a string of unsuccessful records and went through several lineup changes over the next four years. In 1976 the group recorded the single The Boys Are Back In Town and finally had a record that reached the US chart. The record topped the Irish chart, reached #8 in the UK and Canada, and peaked at #12 on the US Hot 100.

That success allowed the band to tour the US with Aerosmith, Rush, and REO Speedwagon, and they sounded even better live than they did on the recording. They had planned another tour of the US, but it had to be canceled when Phil developed hepatitis.

The band had ten more top forty singles in the UK over the next five years, but seldom reached the US Hot 100 and never reached the US top forty again.

Thin Lizzy disbanded in 1983. Phil pursued a successful solo career but died in 1986 at age 36 as a result of the side effects of his drug dependencies.

The group reformed in 1996 and has continued to tour with a constantly changing roster but has never again recorded any new material.


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1965/1969 Joe Cuba Sextet/Blues Magoos – El Pito/Never Goin’ Back To Georgia

1965/1969 Joe Cuba Sextet/Blues Magoos – El Pito/Never Goin’ Back To Georgia 

In 1964, The Trenchcoats formed in the Bronx. Their name soon switched to The Bloos Magoos and then to the Blues Magoos while they built a name for themselves playing in clubs in and around Greenwich Village.

The band’s first album, Psychedelic Lollypop came out in 1966. By then, the band consisted of Geoff Daking on drums and percussion, Mike Esposito on guitar, Ron Gilbert on bass guitar and vocals, Ralph Scala on keyboards and vocals, and Emil “Peppy” Theilhelm on guitar and vocals.

That was one of the earliest records to include the word “Psychedelic” on the label. While the music seemed more like a garage band than a visit to psychedelic land, their first single, We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet, jumped up to #5 on the Hot 100, becoming the band’s biggest hit. The Mike, Ron, and Ralph shared credit for writing the song.

The band released two more albums and a few singles, but nothing else seemed to click, and by 1968 they disbanded and split into two separate groups.

Three members moved to the West Coast and used studio musicians to record a single before splitting up for good.

Peppy remained as the leader of a new version of the Blues Magoos that signed with ABC Records and recorded a new album, Never Goin’ Back To Georgia. The title song was a cover of a 1965 single by the Joe Cuba Sextet that appears to have been an anti-discrimination song. The mixture of English and Spanish lyrics stood out at the time.

While their single may have stalled, it first attracted a lot of attention in the Manhattan area thanks to its crossover appeal for Latin music enthusiasts. The song featured the sounds of whistles that became a sought-after item in concerts. The band later admitted that none of them had ever actually been to Georgia to begin with; the chant came from the intro to the Cuban song Manteca by Dizzy Gillespie.

Somehow, Peppy found the old song from the Joe Cuba Sextet, El Pito (I’ll Never Go Back to Georgia), and it became the title song from the band’s fourth album. Three more members joined the group briefly; new member Eric Kaz stuck around for their fifth album and later became a very successful songwriter.


There’s no question that the most successful song from the fourth album was the title song. Sadly, after using mostly session musicians for the fifth album, the Blues Magoos completely disbanded.


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1974 Grand Funk – Walk Like A Man

1974 Grand Funk – Walk Like A Man

Mark Farner on guitar and vocals, Don Brewer from Terry Knight and the Pack on drums and vocals, and Mel Schacher from ? and the Mysterians on bass formed a hard-rock group in 1969. Terry became the group’s manager and came up with the name for the band: Grand Funk Railroad.

The group quickly began playing in arenas and their first two albums each went gold. Their first top forty single came in 1970 with the release of Closer To Home (I’m Your Captain). The single was cut down from a ten-minute album version and peaked at #22.

The group added Craig Frost on keyboards for their sixth album and began working with producer Todd Rundgren for their seventh album. Don wrote the title song from that album, We’re An American Band, and it became the band’s first #1 single.

The second single from the album, Walk Like A Man, only reached #19 on the Hot 100 in January 1974. It was not a remake of the Four Seasons hit with that name, but a new song written by Mark and Don. Perhaps that slowed down the success of the record.

Ironically, the lead single from their next album was a remake of a song that Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote for their babysitter, Little Eva. The Loco-Motion gave the group their second #1 hit. In the next year, the group covered two more singles and had hits that reached #3 and #4 while another single that Mark and Don wrote (Shinin’ On) only reached #11.

Their next album came out in 1976 and featured songs the group wrote themselves. They never reached the top forty again.

The original group disbanded in 1976 when Mark left to focus on a solo career. Mark and Don reformed the group without Mel from 1981 to 1983, after which the group disbanded again.

The original trio (plus a keyboard player) reformed in 1996, but after three years, Mark left again. The band went on hiatus until 2000, when Max Carl replaced Mark and the group returned to touring as a five-man band.

Mark formed a group he named Mark Farner’s American Band that performs songs from both Grand Funk’s catalog and other albums Mark has recorded.


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1973 Jethro Tull – Living In The Past

1973 Jethro Tull – Living In The Past

Ian Anderson, Jeffrey Hammond, and John Evan met in grammar school in Northwest England in the late fifties. John began playing the piano and later switched to the organ, while Ian learned to play guitar. They recruited John to play bass, and the trio played in local clubs. Jeffrey left the group to study art, and several guitar players came and went. Mick Abrahams joined as a guitar player, and Mick’s friend Clive Bunker began playing drums for the group.

It was difficult for the group to book return engagements at clubs, and, as a workaround, they began changing their name often. Some names they used included Navy Blue, Ian Henderson’s Bag o’ Nails, and Candy Coloured Rain. One of their book agents listed them as Jethro Tull, the name of an English agricultural pioneer who invented a horse-drawn contraption that planted seeds in straight rows. That name stuck.

The group recorded the single Sunshine Day in 1968, but MGM released the single with the group named Jethro Toe on the label.

Ian was not comfortable playing just rhythm guitar behind Mick’s lead guitar and bought and began playing a flute.

The group recorded their first album in 1968 and it did fairly well in the UK. Still more members came and went as the group toured. They toured the US in 1969 as a warm-up act for Vanilla Fudge and Led Zeppelin. The other members of the group asked Ian to write them a hit single, and he came up with Living In The Past, which reached #3 in the UK but failed to chart in the US.

The band had two more top ten singles and a few more top forty singles in the UK by 1971. Their only appearance on the US Hot 100 before 1971 was a song from the Aqualung album that only reached #91 (and that missed the UK charts completely).

The group’s music became increasingly more eclectic, switching genres with almost every release. They released the multi-platinum album Aqualung in 1971. While the six-minute title song got a great deal of airplay on FM radio, the best results they could get from a single was a record that only reached #91. Fans and critics tried referring to the album as a concept album, which annoyed Ian since he had not intended that.

For the group’s next album, Ian deliberately attempted to create a concept album. Thick As A Brick was one forty-two minute song split up over two sides of the album. While edits of the song that lasted three minutes and six minutes existed, there were no hit singles to be had from the album. The album gave the group their first number one album in the US in 1972.

The band tried to record a double album, but poor results put an end to that idea. Instead, their record company filled up a double album with some early single tracks, some b-sides, a side of live recordings, and the five songs from a recent EP. They named the album Living In The Past. Their record label re-issued Living In The Past as a single in late 1972. It earned the group their first US hit when it reached #11 on the Hot 100 in early 1973.

The group had one more hit single in the US in 1974 when Bungle In The Jungle from their seventh album reached #12. While they had eight singles reach the top forty on the US Mainstream Rock chart between 1982 and 1991, they never again got near the Hot 100 top forty.

The group underwent endless line-up changes over the years but continued releasing a steady stream of new studio material. Their last studio album came in 2003 with the improbable release of The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. Countless compilation albums and live albums have continued to appear.

In 2011 the band broke into two separate bands, neither of which was Jethro Tull: the Ian Anderson Touring Band and the Martin Barre Band. Ian also released a solo album in 2014.

In November 2019 Ian announced The Prog Years Tour would take place in late 2020 featuring Ian Anderson and the Jethro Tull band.


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1972 Procol Harum – Conquistador

1972 Procol Harum – Conquistador

The members of the British group The Paramounts were playing together in school as early as 1959 and became a recording group by 1965. Gary Brooker sang and played the piano, while Robin Trower played guitar, Chris Copping played bass, and B. J. Wilson played drums. The group had a minor hit in the UK with a cover version of the Coasters’ single, Poison Ivy. The group disbanded in 1966 after being unable to follow-up their single with anything remotely successful.

Gary recruited a new band, which included Matthew Fisher on his Hammond organ, Ray Royer on guitar, and David Knights on bass. The band also included a poet who wrote most of their lyrics, Keith Reid. The group’s manager named the band Procol Harum, a name that came from a pet cat named Procol Harun.

The group used a session drummer and recorded a song they had written, Whiter Shade Of Pale. When the single began to sell well, the group added drummer Bobby Harrison and played a set that opened for Jimi Hendrix. The single reached the top of the UK charts in 1967 and peaked at #5 on the US Hot 100.

The single version of the song had two missing verses that helped explain what the song was actually about. One missing verse was finally revealed in 1994.

The band’s lineup changed again, with former Paramount members Robin and B. J. replacing Ray and Bobby. Later that year, the group recorded their second single, Homberg. While the single did fairly well in the UK, where it reached #6, it got no higher than #34 in the US.

The group’s first album in 1967 also included the studio version of the song Conquistador, although they did not issue that version as a single.

The group’s music became more and more progressive, a change that was perhaps most notable when they included the seventeen-minute song In Held Twas I on their second album. While the group may have been selling albums, they were having trouble charting singles.

Chris rejoined the group in 1970, essentially reforming the Paramounts.

In 1971 the group appeared in concert with The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and released recordings from the show as an album. Conquistador was a live single released from the album that became a hit in the US, peaking at #16 in 1972. It was their last single to reach the Hot 100.

The group appeared on tour in the US through 1973, with a new country-pop group as a warm-up act: the Eagles. After that tour, Robin became disenchanted with the group’s direction and left to form his own group, and constant line-up changes followed until the band’s inevitable break-up in 1977.

The band has reformed and nearly two dozen musicians have been in the group at one time or another. They continued recording both studio and live albums, with the most recent studio album’s release coming in 2017. For the first time, that album did not use Keith as a lyricist. Gary continues to lead the band that is currently touring.


I have collected older articles about Lost or Forgotten Oldies in my books.

I have collected older articles about Lost or Forgotten Oldies in my books.

Please visit my author page on Amazon where I sell my paperbacks, eBooks, and audiobooks. I priced a special eBook at only 99 cents!

You can even read the books for free if you have Kindle Unlimited!