Sunday, February 15, 2015

Change Is The Only True Constant

The year is 1964. Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, is the President Of The United States, having ascended to that position following the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on 22 November 1963. For some reason, pop culture gave both men nicknames based on the initials of their full names, LBJ and JFK. This is an election year, so LBJ is running for re-election. His Republican opponent, Senator Barry Goldwater from Arizona, will not defeat him. In fact, Barry Morris Goldwater (who was not called BMG, but rather Mr. Conservative) would end up losing the election on 3 November 1964 by the largest landslide since James Monroe's re-election in 1820.  The Johnson-Humphrey ticket won by 61.1% of the popular vote earning 486 electoral votes, well over the 38.5% popular vote and 52 electoral votes won by Goldwater-Miller. An estimated 61.9% of Americans of voting age cast a ballot in this election, just over 70 million people.

Despite the crushing blow, Barry Goldwater's campaign is now seen as the catalyst that helped ignite the Conservative movement in America, culminating in the landslide victories of President Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984. Goldwater won the support of many Southern Democrats, which ultimately led many politicians along the Gulf coast to switch their party affiliation years later.

If you suspect that some politicians hold onto their jobs for a long time, you're right. When Barry Goldwater left his Senate seat in 1987, he was succeeded by John McCain, who is STILL representing that state.

Barry Goldwater was born on 2 January 1909 in Phoenix, Arizona (before Arizona became a state). His father's Jewish family had founded Goldwater's, the largest department store in Phoenix, which made the family comfortably wealthy. He graduated from Staunton Military Academy, an elite private school in Virginia, and attended the University of Arizona for one year, joining the Sigma Chi fraternity. Barry took over the business when his father died in 1930.  In 1934, he married Margaret "Peggy" Johnson, wealthy daughter of a prominent industrialist from Muncie, Indiana. They had four children, Joanne, Barry, Michael, and Peggy.

He served in the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel, and as a Colonel in the Arizona Air National Guard, and as a Major General in the United States Air Force Reserve. He saw combat both in World War II and Korea. He was an articulate and charismatic figure.

He did not attend church often, but considered himself to be a religious man. He once said, "If a man acts in a religious way, an ethical way, then he's really a religious man." He declared himself to be an Episcopalian, but on rare occasions, he was known to refer to himself as Jewish.

Barry Goldwater, a strong proponent of civil rights and racial equality, pushed the Pentagon to support desegregation of the armed services.  Despite being called Mr. Conservative, he had a substantial impact on the Libertarian movement. He strongly opposed the New Deal programs introduced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930's because they focused on creating government dependencies, using taxpayer money to create "make work" projects to put people to work, and expanding welfare for those who fell through the cracks. It also introduced the Wagner Act to promote labor unions, and gave birth to the Social Security Act, which is arguably the worst possible way to save money for your retirement ever conceived. The New Deal also established new government regulations on business, setting maximum work hours and minimum wages for most jobs. While the New Deal seemed like a good way to help America grow out of the Great Depression, it ended up being an economic failure. That set the stage for Republican gains in Congress in 1938, and also caused some Democrats to become more Conservative. By 1943, many of the work relief programs had been shut down. But America's entry into World War II caused an economic upturn that finally led to sustained prosperity and full employment in the post-war years.

As you might expect, Democrats painted Barry Goldwater as a reactionary. His supporters, however, praised his criticism of the Soviet Union, labor unions, and the Welfare State. Following the crushing loss to LBJ in 1964, LBJ now had the political clout to introduce his own vision of the New Deal, calling his version the Great Society. It was another dramatic expansion of Liberal programs, again calling for greater numbers of Americans to become dependent on the Federal government, boosting the labor unions ability to extort employers for wage and compensation increases that were not competitively sustainable, and introducing mountains of regulations that would force many businesses and industrial operations to relocate overseas.

Barry Goldwater became an elder statesman. He urged Richard Nixon to resign in the wake of the Watergate scandal. The growing influence of the Christian Right in the 1980's so conflicted with Barry Goldwater's views that he became a vocal opponent of the movement, particularly on social issues now associated with Liberalism, such as abortion, gay rights, and the role of religion in public life.

This group of Barry Goldwater supporters had no idea what was coming in that 1964 election. They must have been crushed by the defeat.  But, if they held on to their political convictions, they were no doubt quite pleased to watch the eventual rise of Conservatism with the election of Ronald Reagan.

The Goldwaters are:

Bob Green, singing tenor and playing guitar, from Valdosta, Georgia, who had moved to Nashville by the time this recording was made. He was a math major at David Lipscomb College.

Fred Quan from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He plays banjo and was a political science major at Belmont College in Nashville.

Kenneth Crook sings most of the lead material. He's from Pulaski, Tennessee and attended Peabody College where he majored in music.  He loved radio, and came to be recognized as one of the Mid-South's leading announcers.

Jim VanTrease lived near Old Hickory Lake in Gallatin, Tennessee, played bass, and was a music theory major at Peabody College.

So, without further ado, let's jump into the time machine, dial up Fall 1964, and listen in to some good old American folk music as the Goldwaters poke fun at the foibles of the Left Wingers!

President Barack Obama is clearly following in the footsteps of the Liberal rivals of Barry Goldwater.  His expansion of government spending, business regulation, and the Welfare State, would have made both FDR and LBJ very proud. Perhaps the Liberals should review their history. Mr. Obama could very well be setting the stage for another Conservative upswell in America, maybe even leading us to the next Ronald Reagan.

One can only hope...

Friday, March 28, 2014

New Oldies - Are You Lonesome To-Night by Vaughn De Leath (The Radio Girl)

Vaughn De Leath

Vaughn De Leath was born Leonore Vonderlieth on 26 September 1894 in the Chicago suburb of Mt. Pulaski, Illinois. Her parents were George and Catherine. At age 12, she moved to Los Angeles with her mother and sister. After finishing high school, she attended Mills College in the San Francisco area, but dropped out to begin her singing career.

One of the first radio crooners, she also wrote more than 500 songs and became known as "The First Lady of Radio." When her contemporary, Kate Smith, also began using that title, Vaughn became known as "The Original Radio Girl." She also threatened legal action, which forced Kate Smith to abandon use of that title, at least until after Vaughn passed away.

Hollywood Boulevard, 6600 block, South Side

At age 25, Vaughn went to New York City to record for radio pioneer and inventor, Lee DeForest. She sang Swanee River on the radio from a cramped studio in The World Tower, a performance which is often cited as the first broadcast to feature live singing. Supposedly, she was asked to abandon her natural soprano voice for a deeper contralto to prevent damage to the glass vacuum tubs in the carbon microphone!

A year later, Vaughn began singing for WJZ-AM Radio in Newark, New Jersey (later known as WABC). Although she also did a little work on the New York stage, Vaughn much preferred singing on the radio. 

Throughout the Roaring 20's, Vaughn recorded for several labels, including Edison, Columbia,  Victor, Brunswick, Gennett and Okeh, using a variety of different names including Marion Ross, Betty Brown, Sadie Green, Gloria Geer, Mamie Lee, Nancy Foster, Glory Clark, Angelina Marco, and Gertrude Dwyer. She would often accompany herself on guitar, banjo, or piano, and became so proficient at the  ukulele that she recorded several instructional records for that instrument. 

In 1924, at age 30, Vaughn was married to an artist named Leon Geer. In 1928, Vaughn performed on an experimental television broadcast. By the time she was 29, she was managing WDT Radio in New York City. She was one of the special guests on the very first broadcast of the Voice of Firestone Radio Hour. She also was among the first to perform on broadcasts to Europe on transatlantic radio. 

While working in New York, Vaughn lived in a house in Easton, Connecticut, where she had had her basement transformed into a replica of a Catholic Church.  She divorced Leon in 1935 and later married fellow musician Irwin Rosenbloom.

Vaughn was among the first to record a hit version of I Wanna Be Loved By You, the song that became a signature number thirty years later for Marilyn Monroe. She also had a hit with a ballad that became one of Elvis Presley's biggest hits, Are You Lonesome Tonight.  

Here's Are You Lonesome To-Night by Vaughn De Leath (The Radio Girl) transcribed from my personal copy of Edison 52044, an extra thick, 80 RPM, vertically-cut record!

I've discussed the history of this song in an earlier blog post, but I never went into detail on the life of Vaughn De Leath. 

Her long struggle with alcoholism plunged Vaughn into financial trouble and illness which almost certainly contributed to her early death in Buffalo, New York, on 28 May 1943. She was just 48 years old. Her ashes were scattered at her childhood home in Illinois. You can see memories of her life at the Historical Society of Mount Pulaski, Illinois.

This is just one of many early recordings you'll hear featured on MusicMaster Oldies as "Music that helped create rock and roll." 

Friday, November 1, 2013

New Oldie: Ho Ho Ho by Jim Adams

I have two records by Jim Adams and I love all four sides. Let me share them with you!

Despite my efforts to track him down, Jim Adams remains a total mystery to me. I can only assume from the subject matter and his accent that he comes from Minnesota, or maybe North Dakota. I've heard that he relocated to Los Angeles, but after that the trail goes cold. My guess is that these two records were published in 1963, or perhaps slightly later. These are the only two records I've ever seen on the Danger label, so I'm pretty sure this was self-published. If you have any more information about these records or Jim Adams, I'd love to hear from you. I have lots of reason to believe that this guy is NOT the reporter for the Minneapolis StarTribute by the same name, mainly because he would have been nine years old when these records were made.

These are all crazy and fun songs!  Let's start with his first release, and today's New Oldie. This song made me laugh out loud when I heard it for the first time. Don't ask me why because I can't tell you. I just think it's a clever play on words.

Here's Ho Ho Ho by Jim Adams on Danger 001 from 1963:

The flip side of this single is much more interesting. Supposedly, shortly after it was released, it went to #1 in Metered Jukebox Play in the Midwest area, which covers five states including Minnesota. This is a song about a family man who allegedly hired someone to kill his 34-year-old wife and mother of his four children, Carol Thompson. The man's name was T. Eugene "Cotton" Thompson, a 35-year-old lawyer who lived, at the time, on Hillcrest Avenue in Highland Park, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

T. Eugene "Cotton" Thompson (right)

Cotton, who was at work at his office at the time of the attack on his wife, claimed to have called his home at 8:25am to confirm some evening plans with his wife. But investigators don't believe that was the real reason for the call. It seems that Cotton had taken out several life insurance policies on his wife, with death benefits totaling around a million dollars. He was also seeing a girlfriend named Jacqueline Olesen at the time. The death of his wife may have been part of a plan to eliminate the wife from his little love triangle, thus freeing him to marry his mistress. Of course, there's always the possibility that the mistress herself had something to do with the crime!

You can read an in-depth accounting of the murder in a book called Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson by William Swanson.

The contract killer really botched the job. Carol was beaten and fatally stabbed in the neck in the bathroom of her home on the early Wednesday morning of 6 March 1963. But, before she died, she managed to escape and make her way out of the home while her attacker fled the scene.

Carol's murderer was quickly apprehended and later confessed to the crime, implicating Cotton and another man in an elaborate conspiracy. According to testimony, Cotton had actually hired a former prize fighter and legal client named Norman Mastrian to murder his wife. The initial offer was $4000 if it looked like an accident, and $2000 if it did not.

Cotton would make sure the family dog was removed from the house. Norman was instructed to enter the home before dawn through a side door that Cotton would leave unlocked, then hide in the basement until the children were all off to school. This also allowed Cotton to have time to get to the office and establish his alibi. Cotton was to call his home at exactly 8:25am. He'd moved a portable phone to a jack next to the basement door. The plan was for Cotton's call to draw his wife to that phone where she could be attacked through the basement door while distracted by his call. Norman was supposed to hit her with a rubber hose, then drag her into the bathtub to make it look like an accidental drowning. He was to leave her lying in the water, chain the door, then make his way out of the house.

But, for whatever reason, Norman never actually went through with the murder. He sub-contracted the job to a man named Dick "W.C." Anderson. Dick wasn't sure it could make it look like an accident and insisted on taking along a gun, just in case. The two agreed to a flat fee of $3000 and Norman provided Dick with rough floor plan of the house and a Luger to carry with him as a back-up weapon. It's not clear if Cotton knew about this change in plans ahead of time, but there's a good chance he did not.

Just before daybreak, Dick parked his car a block away. He entered the house through the unlocked side door. It was dark, so he had to use a small flashlight to find his way to the basement door. The steps creaked as he went down them and found a place to hide in a storage room.  He waited there, listening to the sounds of breakfast being prepared and eaten, after which the kids left for school. Cotton told his wife he didn't want any more coffee, then left for work himself, taking his son with him to drop him off at school on the way to the office. From his basement hiding place, Dick finally heard the sound of Carol quietly climbing the stairs to the second floor.

The contract killer waited for the phone to ring at 8:25. Cotton may have been a bit late, because the phone actually rang at 8:28, according to Dick's watch. After several rings, he heard Carol coming down the stairs, then heard her voice as she answered the phone. He abandoned the plan to attack her during that call because he was concerned that she would be alerted to his approach by the creaking stairs. Instead, he waited for her to return to the second floor. He put on surgical gloves, inserted one shell into the chamber of the Luger, and then crept up the stairs, using the edges of each step to avoid any noise.

He searched the first floor to make absolutely sure nobody else was home. As he made his way to the master bedroom on the second floor, he heard a radio playing. When he opened the door, he saw Carol sitting on the bed, wearing her reading glasses, and reading a magazine with the light from a bedside lamp. When Carol saw him, and his gun, he told her to turn her head so she couldn't see him. He told her to relax and assured her that he had no intention of hurting her. He said that he only wanted some money. She told him that he could find money in the dresser and he asked her to lie face down on the bed.

Dick shoved the gun into the right pocket of his coat and took out the rubber hose. He hit her with it as hard as he could across the base of her skull. He laid the hose on the bed, ripped back the covers, and tore off her nightgown. He carried the hose and nightgown with her into the bathroom. He sat her body in the bathtub and filled it partially with water. Pushing on her chest, he held her head under water. At this point, Carol regained consciousness and started fighting him. He had trouble holding on to her because the surgical gloves were wet and slippery.

Dick fumbled for the gun in his coat pocket while Carol began running away. She made it down the hallway back to the master bedroom. He grabbed a pillow from a one of the other bedrooms and flipped off the safety on his gun. Carol was in a panic, quickly pulling on a blue bathrobe. He got right up close to her and pointed the gun directly at her. She pleaded with Dick not to shoot her. She told him that her husband was a criminal lawyer and she'd make sure he would protect him from the police. He pulled the trigger -- but nothing happened.

Dick dropped the pillow and started punching the gun with his left hand. This delay gave Carol an opportunity to slip past her attacker and run away. Dick quickly turned and hit her with the butt of his gun. Carol fell, then got back on her feet. Dick tried to reload, allowing Carol to get past him again and start running away.

The two ran down the hallway, then down the stairs, just a few feet away from each other. Carol made it to the front door, but the door chain kept her from getting it open. That small delay allowed Dick to catch up with her and he began hitting her repeatedly with the butt of the gun.  She pulled off her diamond ring and offered it to him. He took it and dropped it to the floor, hitting her again and again with the gun. She fell to her knees crying, "God help me!"

Even after she fell to the floor, Dick continued beating her with the gun. He hit her so hard that the plastic grips on the handle of his pistol were shattered and the trigger guard was bent. He hit her at least 25 times while she continued to plead with him to stop. She finally lost consciousness once more.

At this point, Dick ran to the kitchen and searched several drawers for a butcher knife. He decided instead to grab a paring knife. He took that back to Carol's body and rammed it into her throat three times, breaking the blade off on the third blow. He left the blade sticking out of her neck.

Dick assumed that Carol was either already dead, or quickly dying, and didn't think she could get back up. So, he went back to the master bedroom. He had intended to clean up the evidence of deliberate murder, then try to make it look like a robbery gone wrong. He dumped out drawers and scattered things around. He then went into the bathroom to wash off the blood. He heard the door slam!

Dick ran downstairs to find Carol's body gone. In a panic now, he left the house and walked slowly toward his car and drove home. With her blue bathrobe barely covering her naked body, Carol made it to the nearby home of Harry Nelson and his wife a couple doors down the street. Mrs. Nelson was home at the time, watching the news. When she opened the door, she could not recognize Carol at first through all the blood. Carol clutched her neck around the protruding blade and struggled to talk. Mrs. Nelson covered Carol with a blanket.

Meanwhile, another neighbor from across the street, Mrs. Fritz Pearson, saw Carol through her window and called police. Carol was taken to Ancker Hospital and Cotton was contacted at his office to alert him to the incident. Carol went into shock and was pronounced dead at 12:58pm.

The crime was heavily publicized and became known as the "Murder of the Century" in Minnesota. The 1996 movie Fargo starring William H Macy and Steve Buscemi was very loosely based on, or at least inspired by, the murder of Carol Thompson.

T. Eugene Thompson denied having anything to do with the crime, and still maintains his innocence to this day. Despite his denials, a jury convicted him in December 1963 and he spent the next 20 years in jail.

Cotton was released on parole in 1983. To the best of my knowledge, he's 85-years-old now and still living in the Twin Cities. His son Jeff, who was 13 at the time of the murder, became an attorney and ended up being a judge in Winona, Minnesota. The couple also had three daughters, all younger than Jeff, with the youngest being only 6 years-old at the time. Despite everything that happened, Eugene's children still maintain a cordial relationship with their father.

Here's Ballad Of T Eugene by Jim Adams on Danger 001 from 1963:

Jim Adams made a follow-up record that's not what you'd call "politically correct." This one is about a man who has a girlfriend who is living off of a government program known as "A.D.C.," which stood for Aid to Dependent Children. This government program authorized case workers, supervisors and administrators with the discretion to determine who would receive this financial aid.

This program got started during the term of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) as part of America's push toward Socialism in a set of new programs collectively known as The New Deal, and included as part of the Social Security Act in 1935. It was initially available exclusively to poor white single mothers. Efforts of the Civil Rights Movement by the National Welfare Rights Organization helped extend the program to black women in the 1960's, and the name was also changed to Aid to Families with Dependent Children. In 1996, the program was replaced by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

There were many critics of this plan over the years, and you'll find all kinds of strange "facts" about it, most of which are only partially based in the truth. Let me just try to cover some of these concerns. For starters, there seems to be ample evidence to suggest that government aid programs, like this one, tend to cause an increase in the number of people who become dependent on government for their survival. Instead of working toward self-sufficiency and climbing out of poverty, these programs allow them to avoid working and, thus, remain in poverty for the remainder of their lives. There's also an argument that parents who become dependent on the government become role models for their children, creating a growing dependency class of people who end up living their entire lives on welfare. Many people believed the program encouraged, and, in fact, rewarded women for having more children, and having as many of them as possible out of wedlock. There were also concerns that men would take advantage of the program by stealing money from mothers who received benefits from the program. This, in fact, is the subject of this song.

Here's My A D C Baby by Jim Adams on Danger 002 from 1963:

Finally, here's the flip side of Jim's second record, another silly song that talks about a man who drops himself in the U. S. Mail.

Here is Mail Myself To You by Jim Adams on Danger 002 from 1963:

You'll hear thousands of strange, silly, and historical songs just like these on MusicMaster Oldies. We're trying to find and play every single one of them from the 1950's and 1960's.  If you know of any you think we might be missing, let us know. And, by all means, if you know (or you are) the Jim Adams who made these two records, please contact me with some details!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Oldies - Minor Chaos by The Elegants

The Elegants at St John's University in Minnesota

This isn't a group harmony record from the Staten Island guys who did Little Star. This is an instrumental from a bunch of college kids in Minnesota who also called themselves The Elegants.

Although this song was written by two members of The Elegants, it was recorded by three different groups, all based in the same part of the country. It was first recorded by Steve Rowe And The Furys from Fargo, North Dakota, issued on a custom pressing in 1962. In 1964, two more versions were released, including this one. The other came from another Fargo group called The Treasures.

The Elegants formed in 1960 by students at St John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, just northeast of St. Cloud, and about 150 miles southwest of Fargo. On 26 April 1964, the group set up on stage in the college auditorium for a seven-hour recording session. The Chief Engineer of the college radio station KSJU, a guy named Bill Kling, was the recording engineer. The two tracks that came out of that session were issued the following week on the Bangar label by Kay-Bank Studios in Minneapolis.

The Elegants were Wayne Pikal, John Evans, Bill Marrin, Tom Hilgers (drums), and Steve Muggli. For this one session, a guy named Jim Creech sat in to play the bass guitar. Steve led the vocals on the flip side, Lost Souls, with help from Tom Olson, Neil Ostgaard, Fran Fullenkamp, and Dick Dufault.

This is a pretty rare record. To my knowledge, it isn't available on any compilation CD. You won't find a clean recording of it on YouTube, either. For the first time, maybe ever, you can go back fifty years in time and listen to both sides of this single!

Here's Minor Chaos by The Elegants on Bangar 00613 from 1964:

And here's the flip side, Lost Souls:

Instrumentals may be a lost art when it comes to pop music, but you'll hear over 2,000 of them on MusicMaster Oldies! Why not check it out?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

New Oldies - Chu Sen Ling by The Bermudas

Sheila - Rebecca (Becky) - Joanna

The Bermudas were the three daughters of a singer-songwriter known back then as Rickie Page. Rickie was married to another singer-songwriter and record producer named George Motola. The story gets a bit complicated, so let's go through the cast of characters one by one.

Rickie Page

Rickie Page was born June Evelyn Kuykendall in tiny Lindsay, Oklahoma on 7 November 1929. Her father was Charles Herman Kuykendall, but folks always called him Herman. Herman married Ovella Joy Webb on 3 October 1925. He was 18 and she was 17 at the time, and both were from rural Oklahoma. After losing their first child, the couple had five more children, Ray, June, Noah, Sonya, and Susan. June's mother passed away in 1988 and her father followed in 1996, and both had been living in Fresno, California.

Young June began singing as soon as she could talk. It was during the depression, so the family couldn't afford records. They'd listen to the radio and June would sing along, accompanied by her father. The whole family would get together often for hoe downs where it seemed everyone could either sing, play some instrument, or both. June grew to love classical music, but her dad wasn't all that fond of it. The family moved to Fresno while June was growing up. She had dreams of becoming a songwriter, which led her to leave home for Hollywood in search of fame and fortune with nothing in her pocket but ten dollars cash.

She took a job waiting tables at a Jewish deli that was popular with folks in the music business at the time. It was there, in 1956, that June served a milkshake to a guy who gave her a five dollar tip and then asked the hostess about her. The guy's name was George Motola, but folks always called him Buddy. After hearing about June's aspirations as a songwriter, he invited her up to his office for an interview. "Yeah, right, interview," she must have thought, because she never went. But George was persistent. Later that week he went back to the deli and asked her why she didn't show up. Still suspicious, she asked a friend to accompany her and she went to George's office. She was a bit surprised when she found that George worked in the same office with Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, who were writing material for the Coasters and working on the music for Elvis Presley's movie, Jailhouse Rock! June played some of her compositions for George, but he wasn't very interested in them. Instead, he liked June's voice. He wanted her to become a singing star! June decided to pick a stage name that sounded youthful, and she came up with Rickie Page, but we're going to keep calling her June here.

George Motola

George Motola was born on 15 November 1919 in Hartford, Connecticut. His parents had immigrated to the United States from Italy and had five boys. He started out as a used car dealer! Music was his true calling, so George found himself working at Modern Records in Los Angeles by the mid 1950's, supervising acts like Jesse Belvin, Young Jessie, Jimmy Beasley and many others.

George formed a group called The Shields with the sole purpose of covering the song You Cheated by The Slades for his own Tender label. The Shields included Frankie Ervin (lead singer), Jesse Belvin, and Johnny 'Guitar' Watson. George sold the song to Randy Wood who released it nationally on Dot Records. It became a bigger hit than the Slades version, which was probably the first time a black group covered a white group's song and turned it into a bigger hit on the pop charts.

In 1960, George produced one of the wildest recordings ever made, a frantic song called Rockin' This Joint Tonight by Kid Thomas. George was too busy to do anything with the record, so he hooked Kid up with the owner of the TRC label, Brad Atwood. Kid, whose real name was Tommy Louis, was all set to appear on television to promote his record when Brad Atwood got into some unspecified trouble and his company went down the drain.

June and George also ran their own record label, Troy Records, and put out several singles throughout 1963.

George wrote or co-wrote approximately 120 songs during his career. Most of his co-writing was done with his wife, June. One of the many songs they wrote together was Johnny Johnny Johnny for the G Notes in 1958. All vocals on that song were done by June, with Eddie Cochran sitting in and playing guitar on the session. He loved the song and asked permission to record it. He did, changing the name to Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie and it squeaked up to #94 on the charts in America, but made it all the way to #31 in England. The G Notes were three sisters, 12 year old Linda, 10 year old Nancy, and 3 year old Coleen. Their father, Sam Gino, built a recording studio for them in his home in Thousand Oaks, California. June discovered these kids while watching them perform on an amateur show and brought them to George's attention. They also recorded as the Gino Sisters.

June became a recording star with releases on Liberty, Dot, Zephyr, and Rendezvous. Sometimes recording with her sister Sonya, and sometimes with some combination of her three daughters, June also put records out on Con, Landa, Decca, Epic, Era, Fleet, Hit, Landa, Spar, United Artists, and VIP, using a huge variety of artist names, including The Georgettes, The Bermudas, Joanne And The Triangles, The Majorettes, Beverly And The Motorscooters, Becky And The Lollipops, June And Joy, and The Page Sisters. She had several solo releases under the name Rickie Page, Ricky Page, and even Ricki Page.

The Georgettes were named after George. The vocals were done by June with help from a girl from the Philippines named Rosalie. They hired someone to take their place when performing the songs live. Things get complicated when you try to research this group because there were at least two other groups using the same name. Those other groups recorded on the Sabre, Goldisc, and Hit labels.

Both the Page Sisters and June And Joy were June with her sister Sonya. Later, Sonya quit, leaving June to search for a replacement. She considered using her other sister, Susan, but she was too young at the time.

Becky And The Lollipops were June's two older daughters, Rebecca and Joanne.

June also worked with many other artists and producers over the years, including Darlene Love and Phil Spector, The Blossoms, The Righteous Brothers, Sonny And Cher. She became a session singer too, laying down backing vocals behind The Blossoms and Eddie Cochran on a couple records.

Today's New Oldie was one of the many "family" records that June put together. The song was probably recorded by June herself, with help from her two older daughters, 15 year old Sheila and 14 year old Joanna. However, when the song was promoted on television, they would replace June with her youngest daughter, Becky, who was just twelve years old at the time. They called themselves the Bermudas, and they had a #62 chart hit in April 1964 with a song called Donnie. This was the only record by June, with or without her family members, to make a dent in the charts. But, it's on the flip side of that record that we find the following hidden gem.

Here's Chu Sen Ling by The Bermudas on Era 3125 from 1964:

Here's a video clip of The Bermudas doing a lip-sync to Donnie for Dick Clark, also known as the Ryan Seacreast of the 1950's and 1960's.

In September 1965, after working together in Hollywood for almost nine years, George and June moved to Nashville and hooked up with producer Billy Sherrill. June recorded four tracks under Billy's direction, two of which were released on Epic in October 1965. In 1968, she did a budget cover of Jeannie C Riley's Harper Valley PTA on Spar 301 which managed to get a lot of local airplay in Seattle and Vancouver. She released one more single on Decca 35242 in 1969, Why Why Why b/w You Don't Know What A Friend Is Made For. June became a member of The Nashville Edition, singing with the Jordanaires, and appearing regularly on the Hee-Haw television show.

When George Motola died on 15 February 1991, his friends, business associates, and family chartered a boat to scatter his ashes at sea while Gretchen Christopher of The Fleetwoods sang his greatest hit record, Goodnight My Love (Pleasant Dreams), a cappella. That song was a #7 R&B hit for Jesse Belvin in December 1956, with a "white" cover by The McGuire Sisters reaching #32 on the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously. It became a hit again in November 1959 for Ray Peterson. It was a #32 hit in June 1963 for The Fleetwoods. Ben E King's version peaked at #91 in January 1966. It popped up the charts again in 1969, reaching #27 for Paul Anka. There are at least a couple dozen cover versions of this song playing in the rotation on MusicMaster Oldies. Paula Abdul even had a hit with the song in 1991, but we don't play that one. George had just finished producing the song with Jesse Belvin when he met June back in 1956. That version became the closing theme for Alan Freed's radio show. There are at least four other songs with that same name, making my research efforts even more complicated!

What you may not know about the song Goodnight Sweetheart is that George Motola didn't actually write the whole thing. He started it, but he never finished it. Instead, Jesse Belvin provided the lines for the bridge to complete the lyrics. Jesse asked for $400 in lieu of co-composer credits, but George didn't have that much money handy. Instead, he asked a friend, John Marascalco, to put up the money for him. That's why John's name appears with George's on these records! You may also be interested to know that the piano player on the Jesse Belvin record was only 11 years old at the time. His name was Barry White. Yup, THAT Barry White - and now you know the rest of the story!

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Oldies - Tears Of Misery by Pat Hervey

Pat Hervey was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. As a child, Pat loved to sing. At age nine, she was a member of her high school choir. Pat sang at school dances and parties accompanied by her girlfriend on guitar. Al Boliska, a very popular Toronto disc jockey, saw her perform at an amateur talent show and hooked her up with CBC-TV. They were so impressed, they made her a regular on four network shows, While You Were Young, Holiday Ranch, Club Six, and Country Hoedown. Just 5' 3" tall, Pat has been called the Brenda Lee of Canada.

Art Snider, musical director for the Club Six television show, signed Pat to a recording contract with his Chateau label. Her first hit, Mr Heartache, climbed the 1050 CHUM charts to #14 in June 1962. She made another brief appearance on the charts at #39 with both sides of her next single, A Mother's Love b/w Heaven For Awhile.

Al Snider had been taking Pat to Nashville to record her sessions, and it was there that legendary Nashville producer Chet Atkins discovered her. He helped her get a recording contract with RCA Victor and produced several singles for her, including today's New Oldie, which was her biggest hit in Canada, reaching #11 in February 1963 and stayed on the charts for nearly three months.

Here's Tears of Misery by Pat Hervey on RCA 8135 from 1963:

Pat followed this up with her final chart single, Walking In Bonnie's Footsteps, which reached #16 on 1050 CHUM in December 1963. Chet Atkins also had her record an album full of new material, none of which every made it on the charts.

She became the featured singer on a very popular Canadian country music variety series called The Tommy Hunter Show. In 1964, Pat also won an award for Top Country Female Artist.

She moved to the Red Leaf label owned by Stan Klees, but never made any more hit singles. None of Pat's recordings ever appeared on any national charts in the United States, despite getting some regional airplay, mostly in the northern states.

At age 22, Pat moved to Vancouver and temporarily retired from the music business. She came out of retirement for her own Summer television show in 1970, followed by a second album called Peaceful which she recorded in 1971 on RCA's Camden label. By 1973, Pat was working as a regular musician on the Judy And Jim Show on CBC television across Canada.

Pat married a famous Canadian jazz guitarist named Oliver Gannon and they live in British Columbia. They've got a four-piece group called the Oliver Gannon-Patty Hervey Quartet, in which Pat plays bass and sings. They play in jazz venues around Vancouver.

You can hear a couple dozen songs by Pat Hervey on MusicMaster Oldies. What are you waiting for? Tune in, turn on, and drop out!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New Oldies - Jimmy's Song by Tommy Sands

I have to apologize. It's been a really long time since my last post and I've been feeling guilty about that. Here, I'll make it up to you with a really special song!

Tommy Sands was born Thomas Adrian Sands on 27 August 1937 in Chicago, Illinois. His mother, Grace, was a big-band singer and his father, Ben, played the piano. While he was still a child, the family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. Tommy began playing guitar when he was eight years old and, within a year, was featured twice a week on a local radio station. As a young teenager, he moved to Houston, Texas where he attended Lamar High School. Shortly afterward, he and two friends, Jimmy Lee Durden and Billy Reno, formed a band called The Junior Cowboys. Together they made a lot of personal appearances, performing on radio and at county fairs. Colonel Tom Parker heard about Tommy and signed him to RCA Records when he was just 15 years old.

In January 1957, at age 20, Tommy, who was no longer a stranger to show business, became an overnight sensation after he appeared on an episode of the Kraft Television Theater called The Singin' Idol. His performance on the show, capitalizing on the enormous success of Elvis Presley at the time, made that broadcast one of the most most popular programs in the history of television. The song he sang on that show, Teen Age Crush written by Joe Allison, was rushed into distribution on Capitol Records and shot quickly up the charts, reaching #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 and #1 on Cashbox. His instant success was followed by an invitation to sing on the Academy Awards show, and then a starring role in a 1958 musical film, Sing Boy Sing, essentially reprising his role from the Kraft television episode. He also appeared on Tennessee Ernie Ford's television show, then began making a string of movies in Hollywood. He can be seen in epic war movie, The Longest Day, from 1961. He plays a Marine Second Lieutenant in 1965's None But The Brave.

Tommy also appeared in several television shows. Watch for him on retro TV in an episode of Laramie called Trapped with Claude Akins, an episode of Wagon Train called The Gus Morgan Story with Peter Falk, an episode of Combat called More Than A Soldier alongside Vic Morrow, twice in the NBC drama called Mr. Novak, and on an episode of the original Hawaii Five-O called No Blue Skies starring Jack Lord.

In 1960, Tommy married Nancy Sinatra, but the two were divorced just five years later. This led to his being 'blacklisted' in the industry by Nancy's famous father! He later married his current wife, Sheila. Together they had just one daughter, Jessica, who was born on 18 July 1978.

This song, however, was not a chart hit for Tommy, at least in the United States. It did, however, climb to #22 on 1050 CHUM in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It's a fun song that could be considered an autobiography of sorts, even though it was written by John D Loudermilk, himself a prolific songwriter and singer. This song even features The Jordanaires on backing vocals, the same guys who were backing Elvis Presley at the time!

Here's Jimmy's Song by Tommy Sands on Capitol 4660 from 1962:

I promise to get more gems like this up on this blog in the coming weeks. In the meantime, keep listening to MusicMaster Oldies, where you'll hear over 100,000 songs from the 1950's and 1960's, along with many surprises. If you like what you hear, tell all your friends. If you don't, please tell me!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Oldies: Billy by Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues

Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues
Bill Hockett - Shirley Anne - Larry Peterson

This is your lucky day! You're about to enjoy one of my favorite Teener records from the heartland of America, backed with a charming and fun-filled novelty song that features some very good yodeling and a chipmunk-style voice. Yah dere, hey - You read that right - Yodeling!!! Make sure your cheese-heads are screwed on real tight because here we go now...

Shirley Anne Hudziak was born 21 April 1942 in Oconto, Wisconsin, a small town on the western coast of Green Bay. When she was 18 years old, she began singing and playing rhythm guitar in a Country-Rock combo called Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues. The small band was led by her husband at the time, lead guitarist William (Bill) Hockett, along with bass player Larry Peterson. They were based in the western Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, birthplace of legendary guitarist, Les Paul.

In 1968, the group went to Dave Kennedy's recording studio in Milwaukee to cut their first record, a cover of Al Martino's 1963 recording of Somebody Else Is Taking My Place, backed with a cover of Frankie Yankovic's 1948 recording of Just Because. These songs were released locally on Tee Pee 71/72. Shortly afterward, they cut today's New Oldie, Billy, an original composition by Bill Hockett, backed with a crazy cover of a song called Chime Bells, first recorded by Elton Britt in 1939. They made just one more record after this, Lonely Girl, backed with Baby Face, the classic tune first recorded in 1926 by Jan Garber.

Here's Billy by Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues on Raynard 1094 from 1968:

While you're listening to this, remember that "Billy" was Shirley Anne's husband at the time, as well as lead guitarist and leader of the band. This might explain why Shirley Anne is so convincing when she sings these lyrics. She was clearly singing this from her heart, and that always makes for a fine piece of music.

Now here's the really fun flip side of the record, a tune called Chime Bells:

The chipmunk voice was done by a guitar player from Oconomowoc named Dick Smith who is credited on the label as The Country Rodent.

I'm not sure this record is particularly valuable, but it's certainly quite rare. In fact, it's not even listed in any of my price guides. I really believe it should be in the Teen Collectors Record Guide by Jeff Kreiter, but it's not. It's not even in Jerry Osborne's Rockin' Records guide, even though he does list the Country Rogues first single on Tee Pee with a $5-10 suggested value. When customers came into my record shop looking for a record that was really tough to find, I'd usually insist on getting a higher price for it. If they tried to negotiate a lower price, I'd simply tell them to go look for another copy somewhere else and come back after they gave up the search!

Want some more fun? Here's Elton Britt doing his own version of Chime Bells:

Before disbanding in 1971, a few other musicians passed through the group including Kenny Christiansen on bass, Carl Whitney on drums, Freddy Marcus on lead guitar, and Carl Jacobson on drums. They played gigs around southeastern Wisconsin, occasionally crossing the border into northern Illinois. At one point, they were lured to New York City by some TV producers for an interview. This led them to Nashville where a record producer tried to buy one of their original compositions, something called The Bitter And The Sweet. Despite several attempts, they never agreed to sell their song. The band broke up in 1971. Shirley and Bill eventually went their separate ways. She kept performing locally until about 2003, working in the 1980's with a band called Gold Rush, and did some gigs with her daughter and son-in-law into the 1990's. Shirley's now married to Gary Bohlmann and the happy couple are still living in Waukesha.

I updated this post on 29 October 2013 to add scans of the labels after finally finding my copy of this single in my collection.

If you want to hear more music from America's Heartland, check out MusicMaster Oldies. We're playing thousands of songs like this from the 1950's and 1960's. Listen for a while and you're bound to hear the Greatest Hits You've Never Heard!

Friday, May 17, 2013

New Oldies: Dream Girl by Garry Miles And The Statues

Here's a really "dreamy" oldie that really should have been a big hit.

This is Dream Girl by Garry Miles And The Statues on Liberty 55279 from 1960:

The guy singing this record was born James E. Cason in Nashville, Tennessee, on 27 November 1939. His mother, Rosa, sang alto at their church. She got him involved in the youth choir there. Nicknamed "Buzz", he attended Issac Litton High School in suburban Inglewood where he became an art student, and a big fan of Elvis Presley (who wasn't in Nashville in 1956?). Buzz also had dreams of running a camera, and maybe becoming a film director one day. In his Junior year, Buzz had his first taste of show business when he was invited to lip-sync White Christmas on a TV show called the Noel Ball Saturday Showcase on WSIX-TV. Wanting to be behind the camera, Buzz was initially reluctant to do the show. But the guy organizing the show, a fellow student named Jim Seymore, talked him into it by saying, "It'll be fun and there'll be lots of girls there!"

(Note: Despite the call letters, WSIX-TV is actually channel eight. The call letters were simply a reference to the name of a tire shop, 638 Tire Company in Springfield, where two brothers, Louis and Jack Draughon worked. These guys started WSIX-AM radio in 1930, now WYFN-AM, then added Nashville's second television station, WSIX-TV, in 1953, and finally put WSIX-FM on the air in the late 1950's.)

After meeting the musicians at the Christmas show, he organized a rock and roll group called The Casuals with Buzz on lead vocals, Richard Williams on piano and backing vocals, Chester Power on accordion and piano, Johnny McCreery on guitar, and Billy Smith on drums. Buzz wrote his first song with Richard, My Love Song For You, which became their first single on Nu-Sound 801 in 1957, a label organized by Noel Ball and Buzz Cason. The song became a top 10 local hit and was issued nationally on Dot 15557. They went on the road as the backing band for The Everly Brothers in 1960. Dub Albritton heard them and singed them as the backing band for Brenda Lee. Around this time, Buzz met Bobby Russell, another Nashville native who was writing songs at Globe Recording Studio above Mom's Tavern on Broadway, the building that today houses Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. The two guys started writing songs as a team. Their first project together, along with arranger Bergen White, was a group they called The Todds, putting out a single called Tennessee on Todd 1064. That was the original recording of the song that Jan And Dean turned into a top 20 hit in 1958. This was the first time a song co-written by Buzz made the national charts. It was this same trio, Buzz, Bobby, and Bergen, who hooked up with Bill Beasley to produce budget covers of hit songs to be issued on the Hit Records label. I've mentioned this interesting label before and plan to do a more extensive feature about it later. Believe it or not, I own at least one copy of every single and album ever issued on that label (called "running the label" among record collectors). Buzz and Bobby repeated this trick when they put out a single on Todd called Popsicle. Again, Jan And Dean picked it up and turned it into another top 20 national hit in 1963. It was around this time that Buzz moved to Los Angeles to join Jan And Dean's label, Liberty, as Snuff Garrett's assistant.

Leon Russell was a session musician with Liberty. When he met Buzz, the two produced a group called The Crickets doing a really cool "California" version of (They Call Her) La Bamba on Liberty 55696 in 1964. The song did very well in England and was even featured in a movie called Girls On The Beach. Back in Nashville, Buzz had come to know arranger Bill Justis, known at the time for his hit instrumental, Raunchy. Through Bill, Buzz met Bucky Wilkin, lead singer of Ronny And The Daytonas. The two wrote a song called Sandy that also became a top 20 hit.

In 1966, Buzz and Bobby, along with then-president of Nashville's Monument Records, Fred Foster, formed a publishing company called Rising Songs. This lead them to another huge hit, Everlasting Love by Robert Knight. A year later, Buzz and Bobby started their own publishing company, Russell-Cason Music. They wrote and published more hits, including The Joker Went Wild by Brian Hyland, Little Green Apples, first recorded by Roger Miller, and Honey, first recorded by Bob Shane of the Kingston Trio, later a big hit for Bobby Goldsboro. Bobby Russell did his own versions of these compositions for the Hit Records label. He recorded Honey as Bobby Sims on Hit 320. He also recorded two different versions of Little Green Apples for Hit Records, first on Hit 322 as Steve Miller after Roger Miller's version became a hit, and then again on Hit 347 as Leroy Jones, after O C Smith's version became a hit.

Buzz made his own hit record, 1432 Franklin Park Circle Hero on Elf 90,020 in 1968. The song peaked at #36 on Billboard's Hot 100, #41 on Cashbox, and #64 on the Country charts. But it did best on the Adult Contemporary charts, peaking at #9.

His career really took off at this time. He wrote songs and did backing vocals for his childhood hero, Elvis Presley, along with Kenny Rogers, John Denver, Julie Andrews, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Andy Griffith, Roy Orbison, Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy Buffett, Billy Swan, Mel McDaniel, and Willie Nelson. He started the Berry Hill Music Scene when he created a state-of-the-art studio in Nashville called Creative Workshop, which has been used by country superstars like Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, and The Judds, along with many others such as The Doobie Brothers, Little Carl Carlton, Jimmy Buffett, and Olivia Newton-John, just to name a few. Creative Workshop was rebuilt, then later sold to country superstar Martina McBride and her husband John, and is now known as Blackbird. Buzz became President of Southern Writers Group USA, a member of the Board Of Governors of National Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), a member of the CMA and ASCAP, and was nominated to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005, the Nashville Public School Hall of Fame in 2006, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Quite the impressive career! You can read his entire life story in his autobiography, Living The Rock 'N' Roll Dream: The Adventures of Buzz Cason.

There are well over 150 records on MusicMaster Oldies that were either written, produced, or recorded by Buzz Cason, including every single single ever published on the Hit Records label. If you want a big slice of pop music history, covering country, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and more, give it a listen today!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

New Oldies - Fake Out by Frankie Sardo

Frankie Sardo
Frankie Sardo was born Frank Marco Sardo in Italy in 1936, although most sources incorrectly claim he was born in 1939. His exact date of birth is unknown (at least to me). His father, Marco, worked in show business. Frankie was only five years old when dad got him up on stage, acting, dancing and singing. The family came to America to escape World War II and settled in New York City where Frankie attended grade school. When he left high school, somewhere around 1952, Frankie went into the United States Army for a couple of years, serving through the end of the Korean War in 1953. When he returned around 1954, he went to Virginia to continue his education. He kept busy in the theater while attending school, both acting and singing in various plays, some of which he even produced himself. When he got back to New York City in 1958, he went into the recording studio with his brother and cut his first of eleven singles. Here's the complete discography:

1958 - MGM 12621 - My Story Of Love / May I
1958 - MGM 12678 - Let's Go Rock / Midnight Stomp
1958 - ABC/Paramount 9963 - Class Room / Fake Out
1959 - ABC Paramount 10003 - Oh Linda / No Love Like Mine
1959 - Lido 602 - Kiss And Make Up / The Girl I'm Gonna Dream About
1959 - Lido 604 (as Frankie And Johnny) - Big Clem / Together Tonight
1960 - 20th Fox 208 - When The Bells Stop Ringing / I Know Why And So Do You
1960 - 20th Fox 221 - Dream Lover / Bonnie Bonnie
1960 - SG 1 - She Taught Me How To Cry / Ring Of Love
1961 - Studio 9910 - I'm Sittin' At Home / Just You Watch Me
1962 - Newtown 5005 - I Got You Where I Want You / Mister Make Believe
1962 - Rayna 5005 - She Taught Me How To Cry / Ring Of Love (reissue or remake of above SG 1 from 1960)

Out of all these records, and most of them are more than good enough to have become big hits, only one made the national charts. That one was today's New Oldie, Fake Out, written by Frankie's brother John, which made its debut in Cashbox magazine on 6 December 1958 where it lasted six weeks and peaked at #68. It was never listed in Billboard's Hot 100. The single was favorably reviewed, however, in Billboard's 6 October 1958 issue as a Pick of the New Releases.

Frankie had invited a friend from Brooklyn named Victor Bonadonna, who sang under the name Vic Donna, to the session where he recorded Fake Out and Class Room. Frankie wasn't satisfied with the sound they were getting out of Fake Out and the Producer felt there was something missing. Vic said, "I have an idea. I think on certain parts there should be a little harmony." The invited Vic into the studio where he grabbed a mike and sang the backing vocals. Everyone loved it! Frankie's manager invited Vic to join forces with him and Vic agreed.

Stock Copy Label

Here's Fake Out by Frankie Sardo on ABC/Paramount 9963 from 1958:

Promo Copy Label

And here's the flip side, Class Room:

While Fake Out was climbing the Cashbox charts, mainly due to airplay and record sales in the Midwest, Frankie was invited to be the opening act for the 1959 Winter Dance Party tour alongside rock and roll legends Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson), and Dion And The Belmonts. Frankie's name appears on the bill as an "Extra Attraction" (above), but you'll notice that his "New Hit" is incorrectly listed as "Take Out." Oops!

Buddy Holly Crash Site - Clear Lake, Iowa

Frankie shared a room with Ritchie Valens while staying in Clear Lake, Iowa, to perform in the show on 2 February 1959. Backing musicians included Tommy Alsop on guitar, Waylon Jennings on bass, and Carl Bunch on drums, who were billed as The Crickets. This would end up being the final show for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. Later that night, Buddy chartered a small plane to take him to Moorhead, Minnesota from the nearest airport in Mason City, Iowa. It was snowing like crazy. The pilot, Roger Peterson, finally took off shortly after midnight, despite the fact that the flight would heavily rely on instruments and Roger was only qualified to fly in clear weather. There was only room for three passengers. Waylon Jennings won a seat on the flight, but gave it up to Buddy Holly and rode the bus instead. Buddy yelled to him, "I hope your ol' bus freezes up!" Waylon replied, "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes!" It was a statement that would haunt Waylon Jennings for many years. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff near a fence that was built to separate two cornfields. The four bodies laid in the blowing and drifting snow all night. This is the night Don McLean is talking about in American Pie when he sings, "February made us shiver, with every paper I delivered, bad news on the doorstep, I couldn't take one more step." Ritchie Valens was only 17 years old and left his new bride that night. Buddy Holly's new bride, Maria Elena Holly, was just two weeks pregnant that night. She learned about her husband's death through news reports. This was very painful, of course, and it's the reason why the names of people killed are now withheld from the press until after the family has been notified. Her pregnancy would later end in a miscarriage, putting an end to the Holly family tree. She's blamed herself for the tragedy. Normally, she tagged along with her husband when he went on tour. But she stayed home that night because she wasn't feeling well. Had she gone with him, she believes, he would not have been on that airplane. She did not attend the funeral, and she has never visited his grave in Lubbock, Texas. That's what Don McLean talks about in American Pie when he sings, "I can't remember if I cried, when I read about the widowed bride. Something touched me deep inside, the day the music died."

Frankie continued recording through 1962, never breaking through with a national hit song. That's when he got married and tried his hand at record producing, off-Broadway theater, and even working night clubs with his father, Marco. Frankie headed to California in 1968. His first project was to help produce music for the movie Hell's Angels '69.

On 12 November 1971, while visiting London, Frankie, along with six other men, were arrested after Scotland Yard detectives raided a luxury apartment in the Mayfair district. The group was charged with conspiracy to commit what was first described as the theft of a million dollars worth of stock certificate blanks printed for Westinghouse Electric and Continental National Bank and Trust of Chicago. In reality, the 5,000 blank stock certificates were printed at the American Bank Note Company in New York. On 4 October 1968, they were delivered to Emery Air Freight for shipment via American Airlines to Chicago. When the plane carrying the notes arrived at O'Hare airport, the certificates were missing. The actual FBI complaint in Los Angeles listed the blank securities as $30 million and claimed they had been intended for delivery to four American companies when they were stolen in August 1971. The seven men arrested included:

35 year old movie producer Frank Sardo of Los Angeles, California;
Movie producer Rudolph Johnson of Cannes, France;
52 year old Charles Samuel Bufalini of Los Angeles, California;
39 year old record producer James Walker of Los Angeles, California;
29 year old Terry (???nzi) of Highland Park, Illinois;
50 year old financier Marion Arthur Denark of London, England;
Record producer Nicholas Avenelli of Los Angeles, California.

The FBI had the California men under surveillance when they boarded a plane from Los Angeles to London. Scotland Yard was notified and the English detectives continued watching the men as they left the airplane together, took their luggage, and watched them arrive at the apartment together. All were held in Brixton Jail in South London awaiting trial in London or possible extradition to Chicago. Rudolph Johnson tried to claim that he didn't know any of the other men, but had once made a movie with Frankie Sardo. When he heard Frankie would be coming to London, he asked him to bring along some cigarettes. He told authorities that he was only visiting the apartment to pick up those cigarettes at the time of the raid. By themselves, phony stock certificates have no value because they would be inspected and identified as forgeries if anyone ever tried to cash them in. However, they could be used as collateral for a loan. Most fraud cases like this are discovered when someone takes out such a loan and then disappears. Frankie was eventually acquitted of all charges. It appears that another man, Anthony Ditata, was ultimately arrested, indicted, and convicted of using the notes as collateral for fraudulent loans. In 1972, Ditata tried to appeal on the grounds that the value of the notes were less than $100, making the crime a misdemeanor. Despite this claim, the conviction was upheld.

After that bizarre experience, Frankie returned to Hollywood to make movies and changed his last name to Avianca, which was his mother's maiden name. Here's a list of some of his projects:

1971 - Executive Producer - Clay Pigeon
1973 - Producer - The 14 (also distributed under the names Existence and The Wild Little Bunch)
1975 - Producer and Actor - The 'Human' Factor
1978 - Actor - Matilda
1982 - Producer - Blood Song (also distributed as Dream Slayer)
1988 - Producer - The Undertaker
1999 - Producer - The Survival Club
2000 - Producer - Blame It on the Moon

An annual show and symposium is held each year around February 2nd, the anniversary of the Winter Dance Party tragedy. Frankie was invited to attend this show several times, but he always refused.

On the 50th anniversary, in 2009, Frankie finally agreed to make an appearance. He signed autographs on Saturday afternoon, then spoke on a panel on Saturday evening in the E.B. Stillman Auditorium at Clear Lake Middle School called "The Last Tour" where Frankie Avianca (Sardo), Tommy Allsup, Carl Bunch, Bob Hale, Carlo Mastrangelo, and Freddie Milano recalled good memories, horrible weather conditions, and shared stories about the last show. It was at this panel where the world learned why Frankie had been avoiding the Surf Ballroom for 50 years. He admitted that survivor guilt kept him away. He had always felt the anniversary gathering was commercializing the tragedy. After finally returning, Frankie's feelings changed. "This showed me how wrong I was about how I conceived it to be. I thought it would be some commercial thing, one of those morbid sad things; milked. But it wasn't that at all. It's quite the opposite, really." Instead of sorrow, what Frankie recalled during his return was the kids who came to see the show and their laughter and joy. Frankie continued, "I tell a lot of my friends, I was not in their league. I never wanted to be a rock and roll star. I didn't want to be a singer." He went on to say, "I was just a Korean War veteran who got caught up in it, was taking advantage of it and having fun. I was in between whatever life had in store for me." According to Frankie, "I was just having fun and, luckily, I could carry a tune!" He also admitted that, although he'd been avoiding the Surf Ballroom, he had once paid a visit to the farm where the plane came down after a business trip to Chicago. During that visit, he left flowers there in memory of his friends.

By the way, my first visit to that site was a very moving experience. I went back there with four friends and we all felt the same thing. It's like being surrounded by ghosts, but you aren't scared. Instead, you're overwhelmed with the feeling that you're members of an audience and they're really happy you came to see them.

A year later, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, in conjunction with the Surf Ballroom and Museum presented a luncheon in Clear Lake where they featured The Frankie Sardo Story.

Last I heard, Frankie's still working as an independent film producer in New York City, also spending some time at a second home in Canada.

You'll hear EVERY ONE of Frankie Sardo's songs on MusicMaster Oldies on Live365, along with hundreds of other talented young people with similar stories. Check it out! Tell your friends! While you're visiting, please take a moment to send a note to the DJ (that's me!).