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.
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.
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 songYellow 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 singleYou 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.
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 singleThe 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.
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.
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.
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 singleSunshine 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.
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 songConquistador, 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.
Albert Leornes Greene was born into an Arkansas family that included nine other brothers and sisters. When he was ten, he joined the other young men in the family and began singing as a member of The Greene Brothers. His family moved to Michigan a few years later. When Al got caught listening to secular music by Jackie Wilson, Al’s religious father kicked him out of the house. He lived on the streets and then with a prostitute and became all too familiar with drugs.
Al formed a group while still in high school, Al Greene & the Creations. Two of the other members of the group formed their own record label. The group got renamed, and in 1967, Al Greene and the Soul Mates recorded Back Up Train, which turned into a surprise hit. The single reached #5 on the R&B chart and peaked at #41 on the Hot 100. None of the other records they recorded for the label repeated that success.
Willie Mitchell began his career as a trumpet player and became a bandleader and record producer based in Memphis. He took over the Hi Records label and hired Al to sing in a show in Texas in 1969. The performance convinced him to sign Al to a contract and begin training him to sing better. He also got Al to remove the last ‘e’ from his name, leaving his name as Al Green.
Al and Willie produced a cover of the Temptations hit I Can’t Get Next To You. His single reached #11 on the R&B chart but only got to #60 on the Hot 100 in 1970.
Al had written another song, Tired Of Being Alone, that was intended for his first solo album in 1969, but he and Willie decided that something had gone wrong when it was recorded and it was left off that album. Willie produced a second version of the song in 1971 that they were both satisfied with. The final single reached #11 on the Hot 100 and #7 on the R&B chart that year and sold over a million copies.
Al’s next single was the chart-topping Lets Stay Together, after which his career took off. By the time his hit singles slowed up in 1977, Al had already recorded six more singles that reached the top ten on the Hot 100 and five more records that topped the R&B chart.
Al became a minister and began only recording gospel music. That change paid off in a big way: he won eight Grammy awards for Gospel recordings.
Al recorded a secular record again when he cut a duet with Annie Lennox in 1988, Put A Little Love In Your Heart. The single reached the top ten on the Hot 100 and #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart, but completely missed the R&B chart. He continued recording secular music again, although his remaining singles only reached the R&B chart.
Al has been nominated for 21 Grammy Awards and has collected 11 wins. They inducted him into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1995.
Eugene Drake Dixon was born in Chicago in 1937. In 1957 he began singing as a member of the Dukays, and he quickly became their lead singer. He left the group when the draft took him into the military but rejoined as soon as he returned to civilian life. The Dukays released the singleThe Girl’s A Devil on Nat Records in 1961 and the record reached #64 on the Hot 100.
That success resulted in a recording session that produced four more songs. Nite Owl did nearly as well as their last single, reaching #73 in 1962. At the same time, Eugene took another one of the songs to Vee Jay Records and they released Duke Of Earl as a single, crediting Gene Chandler as the singer rather than listing the group. The record hit the top of both the Hot 100 and the R&B chart.
Gene bought a cape, a monocle, and a top hat and began appearing as the Duke Of Earl. He appeared in the film Don’t Knock The Twist singing his big hit in his full costume. He released his next single as The Duke Of Earl instead of using his stage name again, but after that single stalled at #91 on the Hot 100, he returned to using Gene Chandler.
Gene had just two more top forty singles on the Hot 100 in the next seven years: the singleJust Be True reached #19 in 1964
Meanwhile, the singleNothing Can Stop Me reached #18 in 1965. During that time period, he placed more than a dozen singles into the R&B top forty, including four that reached the top five.
Gene moved into producing music rather than just singing on records and in concerts, and in 1969 he produced Backfield In Motion for Mel and Tim. The single reached the top ten, and Gene also produced the rest of their first album, including the song Groovy Situation.
When Mel and Tim’s did not release their version of Groovy Situation as a single, Gene recorded and released his own version in 1970.
Gene’s very similar single peaked at #12 on the Hot 100 and #8 on the R&B chart and became Gene’s last top forty single on the pop charts.
He had another seven top forty singles on the R&B chart before his string of charting releases ran out in 1986.
They used Duke Of Earl on the soundtrack of Hairspray in 1988 and Groovy Situation found a new home in Anchorman: Music from the Motion Picture. Duke Of Earl was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
The city of Chicago reflected Gene’s music and his civic and charitable efforts in the city by naming a street after him in 2016.