Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/07/2019

Marv Johnson was born in Detroit and began singing and playing piano in a doo-wop group in the mid-fifties. Berry Gordy was putting together Tamla, his own record label. He heard Marv perform at a carnival and worked with him to record a few songs. The first record that Tamla Records released was Come To Me, a song that the two men wrote together.

The local response to the record was positive, but Tamla did not yet have a way to distribute records nationally. The single was eventually released by United Artists and reached #30 on the Hot 100 and a respectable #6 on the R&B chart. After that success, United Artists signed Marv to a recording contract.

Marv didn’t exactly break ties with Tamla, and his next eight singles were written or co-written by Berry. His second single did not do as well as the first, but after that, he had two records in 1960 that made the top ten on the Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart: You’ve Got What It Takes and I Love The Way You Love.

His last release in 1960 was Move Two Mountains, which turned out to be his last visit to the top forty on the Hot 100. While that record only reached #20 on the pop chart and #12 on the R&B chart, it still managed to sell over a million copies and earn a gold record.

Two more singles dented the charts in 1961, after which his failure to stay on the charts led United Artists to drop him. In 1965 he signed with his old friends from Tamla Records who had grown their small label into Motown Records. His records were released on the Gordy label at first, and later on Tamla Motown.

Marv continued recording and releasing records for Motown through the end of the sixties. In 1969, I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose surprised everybody when the single reached the top ten in the UK. The re-release of a three-year-old backlist song reached #25 in the UK, and then Marv’s charting days were over. He kept writing songs and working on sales and promotions for Motown through the seventies. He also recorded an album that was released in the UK  in the late eighties.

Marv died from a stroke in 1993.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/06/2019

Rockabilly singer Mack Vickery recorded songs for Sun Records in 1957 but left Memphis and moved back to Ohio when Sun decided not to release any of his material.

Meanwhile, saxophone player Johnny Paris formed the instrumental group the Orbits in Ohio. The Orbits played as Mack’s backup band but moved to Detroit in hopes of finding another singer to back up. Instead, the group wound up signing with Warwick Records and recorded the song Crossfire. The recording was done in a movie theater in Dearborn, Michigan, giving the single an appealing echo. The single was released in 1959 and got up to #23 on the Hot 100.

Later that year the group recorded a rocking version of Red River Valley entitled Red River Rock that got to #5 in the US and #3 in the UK.

One more release in 1959 got onto the charts. The group recorded their version of the military tune Reville and Reville Rock reached #25.

One last hit came in the US in 1960 when they recorded their version of Jimmy Crack Corn (The Blue Tail Fly) was released as Beatnik Fly and climbed to #15.

The group followed that single with Revival, their instrumental interpretation of When The Saints Go Marching In. The record only reached #97 in the US, but in the UK disc jockeys turned the record over and played Rockin’ Goose. Somehow that side reached #3 on the UK charts!

Johnny was the only permanent member of the group, whose members list appears to total more than 300 different musicians over time. They continued touring, and thanks to hits like Rockin’ Goose (well, and maybe the other hits as well) the group built up a following in Europe. In 1962, Johnny and the Hurricanes played in Hamburg, Germany, at the Star-Club. While that may not sound important, their warm-up act was The Silver Beetles…who later changed their name to The Beatles and moved on to fame and fortune.

Johnny and the Hurricanes continued recording until 1987 and touring until Johnny’s death in 2006.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/05/2019

At one point, the US had a national speed limit established that was only 35 miles per hour. That happened during World War II and lasted from 1942 to 1945 and was implemented to conserve gas and extend the life of rubber tires. To help reinforce the reason for the speed limit, it was referred to as The Victory Speed Limit. After that expired, states were more or less free to set their own speed limits.

The next time a national speed limit was put in place as a result of the oil crisis that began in 1973. That speed limit did have a nickname but it reduced the common 75 mph speed limits to 55 mpg. That limit endured until 1995.

Sammy Hagar has probably been a guitar player and a vocalist for over a dozen different groups beginning as a teenager in the Fabulous Castilles when he was only 14 years old. He was half of the duo Samson & Hagar when they recorded a single with the Peppermint Trolley Company (Baby You Come Rolling Cross My Mind) as a back-up band.

Sammy joined the group Montrose for a pair of albums in 1973, after which he began a solo career. He managed a dozen top ten Mainstream Rock singles by 2001.

He had his own reaction to the national speed limit: I Can’t Drive 55. He was stopped by a cop at 2 am on an empty road who gave him a ticket for going 62 mph:

And he said, ‘We give tickets around here for over-60.’ and I said, ‘I can’t drive 55.’ I grabbed a paper and a pen, and I swear the guy was writing the ticket and I was writing the lyrics.

It didn’t take long to create a video of Sammy frustrated in his attempts to drive his corvette at a “reasonable” speed that all of us could relate to. Some quick airplay on MTV and Sammy had a hit record in 1984 that peaked at #26 on the Hot 100 and #9 on the Mainstream Rock Chart.

The cop probably wishes he had kept that ticket instead of turning it in.

About a year later, David Lee Roth was booted from Van Halen. Eddie Van Halen appears to have tried to recruit Patty Smyth and Daryl Hall as replacements, but when neither of them joined up Sammy was able to join the group. He remained a member of Van Halen for about a decade and then again in 2003 for another three years.

Sammy has played in numerous groups and is currently a member of the supergroup The Circle.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/04/2019

William Royce Scaggs was born in Ohio and also lived briefly in Oklahoma before his family finally settled near Dallas. He attended a private school where one of his friends gave him the nickname Boz. Steve Miller was one class ahead of him and taught Boz a few chords so he could join Steve’s band in the late fifties.

Steve graduated and left Texas to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he started up a new band, The Ardels. Two years later, Steve left school and relocated to Chicago. By then, Boz had graduated from high school and he moved to Chicago and joined Steve’s band there.

Steve moved to California and started a blues band while Boz travelled to London and Sweden. Boz recorded his first solo album in 1965 but nothing much happened as a result. In 1968, Boz moved to San Francisco to join the Steve Miller Band and played with them while they recorded their first two albums. Those albums didn’t garner much attention although the single Living In The USA managed some airplay and reached #94 on the Hot 100.

Boz signed a contract with Atlantic Records and recorded his second solo album. In spite of being recorded with backing from the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and guitarist Duane Allman, the album failed to meet expectations and Boz moved on to Columbia Records. Boz released four more albums on Columbia between 1971 and 1974, but success continued to elude him.

In 1976 Boz recorded his break-through album, Silk Degrees, with the help of the studio musicians who eventually formed the group Toto. Four hit singles came from that album.

His next two albums did not do as well although he did rack up four top twenty singles in 1980. The first two came from the album Middle Man while the fourth came from a greatest hits album that was released near the end of the year.

The surprise hit in 1980 came when one of his songs was used in the soundtrack of Urban Cowboy. No less than ten hit singles were on the soundtrack album, which helped start the acceptance of pop-country in the early eighties. The only non-country single from the album was Look What You’ve Done To Me. The song was co-written by with David Foster, and while it was not on the Middle Man album, Boz was able to include it on his greatest hits album.

Boz took a long vacation after 1981 and did not record any new music until 1988. He recorded ten more albums and is currently touring in support of his 2019 album, Out of the Blues.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/03/2019

It wasn’t as memorable as the British Invasion that was led by the Beatles in the sixties, but music critics seem to think that the Second British Invasion of the US in the early 1980s was important. Singer Joe Jackson and his band arrived a tad earlier than that but stuck around to enjoy their biggest success a few years later.

Joe was a member of a few bands before deciding to pursue a solo career in 1976. He initially used his real first name (David) but changed his stage name it to Joe. He took the name from the Piano Joe persona used by Snoopy in the Peanuts comic strip.

He saved up his money and cut a demo record that led to a contract with A&M Records in 1978. He recruited some other musicians to form a back-up band and recorded his first album in 1979. The album had a jazz feeling to it and fit into the New Wave movement that was just beginning in England. The first single from the album was Is She Really Going Out With Him, but the single initially failed to chart. His next two singles also were a disappointment.

The emergence of similar New Wave bands helped make that style of music more popular, and later in 1979,  Is She Really Going Out With Him was rereleased. The second time the single reached the charts in the UK and even managed to reach #21 on the Hot 100 in the US.

Joe’s group recorded a few more albums and eventually fell apart in 1981. Joe began producing albums for other groups and also began recording solo albums. His biggest success came when the single Steppin’ Out reached #4 in the US and #6 in the UK in 1982.

Sugar Ray recorded two top ten hits in 1999, after which their career slowly faded. Before the limelight was completely turned off they released a cover version of Is She Really Going Out With Him? in 2003. The record didn’t reach the normal charts but did manage to reach #19 on the US Adult Top 40 chart. I didn’t even know about that chart, which appears to be based solely on radio airplay on Adult radio stations and is completely separate from the Adult Contemporary chart.

Joe has now recorded over twenty albums. His most recent album was Fool, which was released in 2019.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/02/2019

Joseph Brooks was a songwriter with few successful songs. It appears that during the sixties he got rich writing jingles for commercials. In the early seventies, he began writing music for films as well. He expanded to writing and directing as well and in 1977 he produced the film You Light Up My Life. Joseph recorded the title song using jingle singer Kasey Cisyk (Didi Conn lip-synced the song in the film).

Perhaps to avoid paying Kasey more money, Joseph later took the initial instrumental recording of the song and dubbed Debby Boone’s voice into the song. The resulting single sold over five million copies and sat at number one in the Hot 100 for a record ten weeks (it was 1992 before a record sat there longer). The movie was panned, but the sales of the records more than made up for the weak box office.

Joseph began working on a new film, If Ever I See You Again, and wrote a title song for it as well. He cast Shelly Hack as the lead actress and cast himself as the lead actor.

Debbie Boone recorded five more songs for Joseph, including California and If Ever I See You Again. When California was released as her next single, it failed to even reach the top forty. Joseph began looking around for another vocalist to perform the song. Debbie got to put the five songs on an album, but her career ended almost as quickly as it began.

Roberta Flack won two Grammy Awards for Killing Me Softly With His Song and then had another number one single with Feel Like Makin’ Love. In early 1978 she had just had a #2 hit with The Closer I Get To You, a duet she sang with Donnie Hathaway. Joseph set his sights on getting Roberta for the title song of his movie, but she hated the song and refused to record it. He got the president of her record company to put pressure on her, and she eventually agreed to record the song in exchange for a huge amount of money. She also recorded two more songs on the soundtrack. If Ever I See You Again was released as a single and reached #24 later in 1978.

If you pay close attention during the movie, you’ll discover that in the scene where the orchestra is playing If Ever I See You Again there is some sheet music that shows the name of the song is If I Ever See You Again. There’s no telling if the lyrics and title of the song were changed somewhere along the line or if somebody messed up in the creation of those sheets.

The film was a miserable failure, and the poor acting by Joseph (and his directing and his writing) and some of the other inexperienced actors got much of the blame. Various “features” of the film related to Joseph were nominated for a half-dozen Stinkers Bad Movie Awards in 1978 (the Stinkers came out a few years before the Razzies but ceased to exist in 2007).

Roberta Flack may have been correct about not wanting to record the song. She did not have another top forty record for four years and only managed three more hit records in her career.

Kasey Cisyk continued singing jingles and was increasingly successful through the eighties. That’s her voice singing, “You deserve a break today,” for McDonald’s. She also sang on commercials for both Coke and Pepsi, Sears and Penny’s, three automakers, four airlines, and all three television networks.

Shelly Hack admitted that the film was a bomb but managed to get cast as Kate Jackson’s replacement on Charlie’s Angels the next year. She eventually did some acting that earned praise from critics and the public.

Joseph Brooks was involved in several more movies and a play, but his career continued downhill. He suffered a stroke in 2008, was arrested and indicted in 2009 for sexual assault for an alleged 91 counts of rape, and ended his own life in 2011 before trials could begin.


Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 11/01/2019

In the late sixties, a number of musicians were playing in Birmingham, England in various groups. Members of Carl Wayne & the Vikings, the Nightriders and the Mayfair Set moved into a new group that eventually was named The Move. While they recorded one chart-topping single and four other singles that reached the top five in the UK, their music was mostly ignored in the US until their final single came out.

The group went through a large number of line-up changes, and by the end only three members remained: guitarist, singer and songwriter Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne, and drummer Bev Bevan. Roy and Jeff were interested in combining strings and horns playing in a classical style with rock and roll and somehow following up on the experimental music the Beatles had been creating. The trio signed a contract with a new record label in 1970 to produce three albums. The intent was to produce one last album as the Move and then the remaining two albums as the Electric Light Orchestra in 1970.

They recruited additional musicians and worked on the last Move album and the first ELO album over the next two years, and also released one last Move ep with a few songs on it. Their last UK single, California Man, came from that ep and reached #7 in the UK in 1972. When the record was released in the US it was once again ignored, but some disc jockeys turned the single over and played Do Ya. The single managed to reach #93 on the US Hot 100 in 1972.

It took a few years, but in 1975 ELO reached the US top ten with their release of the single Can’t Get It Out Of My Head. By then Roy had left the group and taken several of the band’s new musicians with him to form the group Wizzard, and Jeff became the driving force for ELO.

Todd Rundgren formed the group Utopia with Soupy Sales’ two sons and a few other musicians and began touring in 1973. November 10, 1974, I caught their show when they appeared in Nashville at Vanderbilt University. I was pleased at their selection for an encore number and instantly recognized it: they were covering Do Ya, and it impressed me as their best performance of the show.

Apparently, I was not the only one with that opinion. A large number of music fans became familiar with the song as a result of Todd’s tour and a studio recording was put on the group’s next album in 1976.

Bev has explained how a journalist asked ELO how they felt about Utopia’s original recording of Do Ya under the mistaken impression that Utopia recorded the song first. ELO reacted by recording their own version of the song for their next album. It was their intent to make it clear to everybody that the song was created by Jeff Lynne, not Todd.

ELO’s version of Do Ya was released as a single in 1977 and reached #24 in the US and #13 in Canada.

ELO continued to release successful albums and singles with a total of seven top-ten singles on the Hot 100 and 12 more top forty singles. Although their last visit to the Hot 100 came in 1986, Jeff Lynne’s ELO was still releasing new material as recently as 2019 when the album From Out Of Nowhere was released.