Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Oldies - You Know by The Huns

The Huns were a popular local band from Concord, North Carolina. The members included Bill Turner on guitar and vocals (who also wrote this song), Bill Towery on keyboards, Terry Lacefield on guitar, Dean Coley on bass (whose father managed the group), and Johnny Reece on drums. Both sides of this single are excellent. This song, called You Know, was actually the flip side of the single:

They recorded this single in 1966 in the Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte, the same place where James Brown recorded Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag. The record was released on Pyramid 6646, and a clean copy is worth a few hundred bucks to collectors today!

The top side of this single features a song called Shakedown, which the Huns allegedly stole from another local band called the Tamrons!

According to Keith Stacy, bass player for the Tamrons, the band was practicing one day at the home of lead guitarist Lloyd Pettus and his brother Ted who played drums for the band. The Huns came over to watch and heard them do an original song they called Genie. The Huns must have really loved that song because they rushed into the studio and recorded it first, changing the name to Shakedown. Needless to say, the members of the Tamrons were pissed! They stormed over to (Huns bass player) Dean Coley’s place and stood outside calling the guys out for a street fight!

I'd like to invite you to help us test out a new online music service called Blendella. There are currently three channels, Hits, Nashvillage (Country), and EuroHeart. More channels will appear soon, along with some fun stuff. Create a login and you'll be able to help pick the upcoming songs. Your votes combine with the other listeners and the songs with the most votes win. Let me know what you think!

Friday, March 25, 2011

New Oldies - Kenny Vance And The Planotones - Looking For An Echo

Here's a song that didn't make the charts when it was released, but it's widely known among doo-wop lovers today. The original version of Looking For An Echo by Kenny Vance And The Planotones was issued on Atlantic 3259 in 1975.

Growing up in New York City, Kenny was captivated by Rock n' Roll and group harmony music. You'd see him hanging around the famous Brill Building at 1619 Broadway (at 49th Street) meeting other singers and songwriters. Eventually, he made enough connections to put together a successful group, which we now know as Jay And The Americans. What a group it was, too! They toured with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for each of their first performances in the USA. They also recorded fifteen albums. Kenny remained a member of Jay And The Americans throughout their 11-year run. He also helped launch the career of a young Walter Becker and Donald Fagen and their little group known as Steely Dan.  If you've ever seen the early Richard Pryor movie You've Got to Walk It Like You Talk It or You'll Lose That Beat from 1971, the soundtrack was done by Steely Dan and produced by Kenny Vance. Kenny went on to compose and produce a huge list of scores and soundtracks for both movies and television. He also put together the music for the Alan Freed story, American Hot Wax, which revived the group harmonies of the 1950's and early 1960's. The Planotones were actually put together for the movie. Kenny was also the musical director for Saturday Night Live and music supervisor for the movie Animal House, Eddie And The Cruisers, and Looking For An Echo. Kenny himself appears as an actor in several movies, including Hurly Burly, Billy Bathgate, American Hot Wax, Eddie And The Cruisers, and some Woody Allen flicks.

Now here's something few people know!  Listen to the opening of this song and compare it to the opening of Looking For An Echo.  This is called Turnaround by the Half-Tones and it was released on Twilight 3476 in 1964.  Copies of this single fetch at least $100 today!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Oldies - Vilas Craig - Walkin' Down The Avenue

Today's New Oldie sample comes out of Wisconsin from a guy named Vilas Craig.  This was his eighth single, and his second on the Cuca label.  It was released on Fan Jr. 4792 in 1962, and copies of it sell for as much as $500 today. I've owned several copies of this record personally, one of which was in brand new condition. If you have one, consider yourself very lucky!  Fortunately, you can find the song on several Teener compilation CD's now.

Vilas Craig was born on a farm in Richland Center, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1938.  While attending high school, he learned to play the coronet and started a country music band called The Kollege Kings. Like so many kids back in the mid-1950's, he was a huge fan of Elvis Presley. As a result, a little rock and roll crept into his early work, even though the kids he played for in Wisconsin were not accustomed to the new sound yet!  In fact, he often had to guarantee that his band could play polkas in order to get gigs in the area.

Vilas has often claimed to be the first rock and roll act from Wisconsin, but most people now believe that The White Caps with Johnny Edwards beat him to the punch with their release of Rock 'N' Roll Saddles in 1957 (a subject of an early blog post of mine). If not the first, he was almost certainly the second.  They recorded and released their first two original songs, Spring Fever and My One My Only Love in April 1959 on Rif 1148. These tracks were cut at Kay Bank Studios in Minneapolis on the same day when a cat named Robert Velline was recording his debut record, Suzie Baby.  You know him as Bobby Vee!

In 1960, Vilas renamed his band Vilas Craig And The Vi-Counts and released a few more singles. While appearing at The Shuffle Inn in Madison in 1962, he got the band in to see Skip Nelson of Fan Jr. Records to record a demo session.  During a break, he played his own composition, Little Brown Eyes, and it sounded like a hit.  That was probably his only shot at breaking out nationwide. The song got lots of airplay on local Wisconsin stations, along with more distant stations like KAAY in Little Rock and KOMA in Oklahoma City, thanks to a deejay friend named Jay O'Day who moved from a madison station to KOMA and took a copy of the record with him. Even so, none of his singles ever made it on to the national charts. It made it to #2 in Oklahoma City, but the Fan Jr. folks were not set up to handle national distribution. Vilas tried to find a distributor in Oklahoma, but never managed to find one.

Many musicians who passed through Vilas Craig's band over the years, including Keith Knudsen, one of the twin drummers for the Doobie Brothers in the 1970's.

These days, Vilas Craig spends his winters in Florida, moving to Wisconsin or Wyoming during the summer months. His son, Timothy Craig, fronts his own band based in Nashville.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Oldies - Dave Sampson And The Hunters - Easy To Dream

David John 'Dave' Sampson was born on January 9, 1941 in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, England.  Today's New Oldie offering is a song he did on Columbia (UK) 4625 in 1961 called Easy To Dream. This did not appear on any charts and was probably not played on the radio anywhere. However, one listen and you'll probably wonder how it managed to be overlooked!

He's officially a One-Hit Wonder in the UK, having just one chart hit with a song called Sweet Dreams on Columbia (UK), which peaked at #29 over there in May 1960, but nowhere else in the world. His very first record was a 4-song EP demo from an unnamed band with co-vocalist Steve Laine, who later became a member of the Liverpool Five.  He made a total of five singles and one EP in 1960-1962, mostly in the style of Cliff Richards And The Shadows or Ricky Nelson, with a Hawaiian-surf feel in the soft guitar echo. He even dabbled in the Rockabilly style on a couple of tracks.  As a matter of fact, it was Cliff Richards who helped Dave Sampson get his contract with EMI Records. Cliff Richards was the "Elvis of the UK." But it will require another blog post to tell you the complete story about him!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

New Oldies - Be True To Me by Ricky Nelson

If you listen to the handful of oldies radio stations that still exist today, you'd think that Ricky Nelson only had a couple of hit records. In reality, he had 62 records that made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 and Bubbling Under charts. He had 36 songs in the Billboard Top 40, 19 of those being in the Top 10. He had only two Number One hits, however, Travelin' Man and Poor Little Fool.

You might be wondering about some of his other classics, such as Hello Mary Lou. That only went to #9 on Billboard, but it hit #1 regionally, like on 1050 CHUM in Toronto, WLS-AM Silver Dollar Survey in Chicago, and even RTE in Ireland. He even had a #1 hit in Australia with his cover of Yes Sir That's My Baby. Garden Party and For You both peaked at #6 on Billboard's Hot 100, but they did manage to make it to Number One on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.

This song, however, never made it on to any airplay or sales charts, anywhere in the world.

Be True To Me was released on Imperial EP 159 in 1958, shortly after his first #1 hit, Poor Little Fool, and a little bit before It's Late and Never Be Anyone Else But You. It was also around the time he was filming Rio Bravo with John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Walter Brennan (A great movie, by the way, that you should rent if you haven't seen it yet).

This is the #1 hit record that Ricky Nelson made that, for some strange reason, was completely overlooked by radio stations...

Ricky Nelson was born Eric Hilliard Nelson on May 8, 1940 at 1:25 in the afternoon at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey. What a life he had! When he was just nine years old, he became part of a radio sitcom that had already been running since 1944 which featured his family, Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Hilliard Nelson, and brother David. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet moved to television in 1952 and began an incredible run that lasted for 14 years. Right around that same time, Ricky appeared in a movie based on the show called Here Come The Nelsons. By the time he was 13, Ricky was earning over $100,000 a year (which put him in the 93% income tax bracket back then!) But his parents managed his money and only gave him an allowance of 50 bucks, which often left him hurting for cash as a kid who literally attended Hollywood High School.

Ricky was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 21, 1987. He died when the airplane that carried him and his band crashed near DeKalb, Texas on December 31, 1985. I plan to visit that crash site later this year.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

New Oldies - I Didn't Realize by Jack Herbst

I know SOME stuff about this recording, but almost nothing about Jack Herbst.

This song was recorded by a group called The Nitecaps at Norman Petty's famous studio in Clovis, New Mexico back in 1963. This is the same studio where many of Buddy Holly's hits were recorded, and the same record label that published the music of Ritchie Valens during his short career. It was released on Del-Fi 4228. The flip is another cool song called Jimmy's Party.

The record was supposed to be credited to The Nitecaps, but supposedly there were some kind of contract negotiations that weren't going well. So, the record was published with Jack Herbst as the artist. It's not clear to me how Jack fit into the Nitecaps. Maybe he was the lead singer of this harmony group, which had been quite popular in that area, especially around Colorado.

So, here I go again. If you know anything about Jack Herbst, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, March 11, 2011

New Oldies - 80 Foot Wave by The Vaqueros

No disrespect to the poor folks in Japan. I'm packing my iPod Shuffle with surfing music to take along to La Jolla Cove to watch the tsunami waves come in today. Came across this nifty bit of surfing music...

Seeing what a six foot wave has done in Japan, I can't even imagine an 80 foot wave. Makes me wonder, what was the biggest wave ever recorded? Did anyone try to surf it? Vaqueros is Spanish for Cowboy, by the way.

I know absolutely nothing about The Vaqueros, except that they're from the oddly named town of Virginia, Minnesota, and it was written by a cat named T. Schmidt, who was probably a member of the group. No information can be found about these guys anywhere in my wall of music resource books. That's amazing, considering how well they play. If you know anything about this band, please let me know!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Oldies - The Only Girl For Me by The Intimates

I can't tell you anything about these guys, but wow, what a record!

The Intimates might have been from New York or Manitoba, but I suspect New York City. It was issued in 1964 on AmCam 402, a subsidiary label of Canadian-American records.  It was produced by Ron Schubert, who is also a total mystery to me.  This song is very rare because promotional copies of it had only one side, an Ellie Greenwich song called I Got You Where I Want You. This song, The Only Girl For Me, only appeared on the flip side of non-promotional stock pressings. The song was written by John "Jack" Carlson who was with The Roommates. They recorded the song, but did not release it until many years later.  You would think that a great song like this would have become an oldies classic, but for some strange reason it was completely overlooked. It made no appearance on the charts and, as far as I can tell, didn't even get a lot of regional airplay. But things have changed.  It's a pretty collectable white group Teener today!