Gene McDaniels started singing professionally in the late 1950s. He recorded a pair of jazz-infused albums for Liberty Records in 1960, but not much came from them.
For his third album in 1961, Gene was produced by Snuff Garrett. The result was a more pop-friendly album that included the million-selling single A Hundred Pounds Of Clay. His follow-up single (A Tear) didn’t fare too well, only getting up to #31. In the next year, he had two more top ten singles with Tower of Strength and Chip Chip.
The only bright spot after that came with the release of Point of No Return in 1962. The record stuck around on the charts for ten weeks but only made it up to #21. He performed the single on Hollywood a Go Go, but the Gazzarri Dancers might have been too much of a distraction for most viewers.
After his singing career faded in the sixties, Gene concentrated more on writing. His successes in that field included the jazz composition Compared to What which was a very minor hit by Les McCann and Eddie Harris. His biggest writing success was the number one record Feel Like Making Love by Roberta Flack.
Most people can name groups that were affiliated with the recordings that came to be grouped together as Philly Soul. Naming the producers of the records is more of a challenge. Maybe you can’t name the connection for the Delfonics, the Stylistics, and the Spinners, but Thom (Tommy) Bell was the producer responsible for all three groups. From late 1971 until the end of 1974 he produced the Stylistics and helped them create a series of hit records. While the records did better on the R&B charts, they still managed ten top forty records including five top ten hits in the span of barely three years.
Their last hit record in 1973 was Rock and Roll Baby, which got as high as #14. The group was even lucky enough to lip sync and dance to the song on Soul Train.
Their next single, You Make Me Feel Brand New, was their most successful record, which peaked at #2. After that success, Thom stopped producing the group. Hugo & Luigi produced Let’s Put It All Together, which went to #18 in the Summer of 1974.
After that Summer, the group went through numerous producers and lineup changes, but they never again hit the Pop top forty.
Russell Thompkins, Jr., the original lead singer left the group in 2000 and founded the New Stylistics in 2004, giving fans multiple choices for hearing the old tunes live.
Michael Penn released his first solo album, March, in 1989 and had a hit with his first single from the album. He performed the song live on the Letterman show that year, but No Myth didn’t chart until early in 1990. The record got as high as #13 on the Hot 100 but did better on the Modern Rock/Alternative Rock charts, getting up to number four. He placed four more singles into the top 20 Modern Rock chart in 1990 and 1992 but never again got near the top forty on the pop charts.
His career became much more successful when he turned his talents to scoring movies and television shows. He was responsible for the scoring of at least a dozen films and is still scoring television shows that are being produced this season.
The performance on the Letterman show is still available, as is the video that got a lot of airtime on MTV.
Michael has two relatives that deserve a mention. His brother is Sean Penn, the actor, and since 1997 he has been married to Aimee Mann (the blond who sang lead and stood up in protest in the ‘Til Tuesday video for Voices Carry).
How is it that somebody who had 11 top forty records in 25 months gets almost no airplay anymore? Such is the fate of Ronnie Dove. From 1964 to 1966, in spite of the British Invasion, Ronnie consistently got records on the charts. None of them got any higher than #14, and after 1966 he never got into the top forty again (although he continued recording into the late eighties).
Earlier this year, Amazon used part of Happy Summer Days in an ad; fortunately, we can still listen to the single version without the ad.
Following up on yesterday’s forgotten oldie, I’ll take It’s a small world for $1,000, please Alex.
The answer is songs Neil Diamond produced for Ronnie Dove.
Hmm. The question might be, “What are My Babe and Back From Baltimore?”
In 1967, after Neil had a few hits of his own but before his career took off at his new record company, he wrote and produced at least three tracks for Ronnie Dove. Neil also played guitar and sang some backup vocals as well. The recordings failed to get much traction and came near the end of Ronnie’s charting successes.
We can still watch the dancers on American Bandstand dancing to My Babe while the song was working its way back up to #50.
Back From Baltimore sounds a lot more like a Neil Diamond composition, but wound up as the B side of a record that only got up to #87.
Neil Diamond probably paid more dues than almost anybody on his way to his major successes in the seventies. Singles he recorded as part of a duo and as a single artist failed to find the charts in 1962 and 1963, and he spent the next few years writing and selling songs for very little money. Things changed when Jay and the Americans recorded his composition Sunday and Me and the record got up to #18 in late 1965. On the strength of that success, Bang Records signed Neil to a contract and began releasing singles in 1966.
His first release for Bang was Solitary Man, which only got up to #55 in its first release in 1966 (it did better four years later when it was re-released). Cherry, Cherry improved on that, getting into the top ten that Summer. His next single, I Got the Feelin’ (Oh No No) did not fare as well but did get up to #16 late in the year. After that, the Monkees recorded a few of Neil’s songs, and money probably ceased to be an issue. Neil moved to Uni Records in 1969, and his career took off, with another eleven top ten hits, three of which topped the charts.
There are videos for the single version of I Got the Feelin’ as well as a live version that has the Everly Brothers singing backup has survived, although that video isn’t of the highest quality.
In 1967 I gladly parted with 95 cents to buy a copy of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s first hit single, Buy For Me The Rain. I guess not very many other listeners bought the record as it got up to #45 on the charts.
The group was lucky enough to cover Jerry Jeff Walker’s 1968 single of Mr. Bojangles and carry it up to the top ten in 1970.
Their next success on the charts didn’t even have their name on it! In 1979 the group backed up Steve Martin on his million-selling single recording of King Tut, although they were credited as the Toot Uncommons.
The group had some personnel changes and shortened their name to the Dirt Band and switched their sound from country rock to a more pop sound.
In early 1980 they recorded An American Dream. The song featured backup vocals by Linda Ronstadt and climbed up to #13. Later that year the group teamed up with Nicolette Larson and reached #25 with Make a Little Magic. The group struggled after that, failing to reach the top forty again.
The album and the single version of Make a Little Magic were nearly four minutes long, but a live version could often run closer to three minutes.
If you bring up a song called Walk On The Wild Side, most people probably think you’re talking about Lou Reed’s record from 1973. That record is instantly recognizable, but younger listeners may think we’re talking about the record from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch that rapped over an instrumental loop from Lou’s record.
No, today we’re looking for a record that had nothing in common with those two releases except for the title. The song started life in 1962 as a vocal sung by Brook Benton over the credits of the film Walk on the Wild Side. The song won an Oscar, but Brook’s recording barely missed the top forty.
The Jimmy Smith trio recorded a jazz version of the song later that year that got enough airplay and sales to reach #21. The album version of the song was nearly six minutes long, but it was cut in half and spread out over the two sides of the single release. Jimmy Smith was a jazz musician who played the organ and, ironically, the hit single was cut off before his solo began (although it was included on the flip side of the record).
The trio’s version of the song was also used in the soundtracks of the films The Color of Money in 1986 and Casino in 1995.
A live version features just the group rather than the Oliver Nelson big band that was featured on the first half of the single.