Friday, February 18, 2011

New Oldies - No Friend Of Mine by The Sparkles

Have you been wondering how long I could keep posting great unknown oldies from the 1960's? When I play songs like this for veteran Oldies radio programmers, they sometimes say, "Yeah, I'm sure a few potential hits got overlooked back then. But there can't be that many of them, right?" Uh, yeah. There can be. There are. In fact, I have found so many potential hit songs and artists from the 1960's that I couldn't possibly live long enough to blog about them at this pace. They may not all be good enough to have become hits, I'm sure. But, then again, there were many songs in the 60's that did become hits that weren't nearly as good.

Here's another example which I like to call Bob Dylan meets Green Day. I could almost hear this song on a rock station today, that's how much ahead of its time it was back when it came out in 1967!

The great state of Texas was an incredibly fertile ground for rock music. I only need mention Buddy Holly to prove my point, but there have been SO many others. The Sparkles got started back in 1957 in Levelland, Texas. The group consisted of Stan Smith and Carl Huckaby on guitar, Bob Donnell on electric bass, Johnny Waller on piano, brothers Guy and Jesse Balew on saxophones, and Gary Blakey on drums. They made their first recordings in 1958 for the legendary Norman Petty, but nothing from that session was ever published. The group broke up for a bit, then got back together again with some new players. Most of the guys moved to Lubbock to work with a band called the Raiders. Stan Smith hung around and re-formed the Sparkles by adding Lucky Floyd on vocals and drums and Bobby Smith on bass. But before this song was recorded, Stan Smith, the last remaining founding member, also resigned from the band. Lucky Floyd, along with Bobby Smith, pulled in some new talent to get the band up and running again in 1965. They added a couple of hot guitarists named Gary Nunn and Louie Holt, and drummer Jimmy Marriot. The drummer for Roy Orbison, Larry Parks, agreed to produce the band and he got them signed to the Hickory label. Their first release, The Hip, was a major regional hit in the Austin area. They had become the hottest band in town, especially at the University of Texas. They followed this up with a couple more singles, Something That You Said, then Jack And The Beanstalk in 1966. Then, in 1967, they cut this awesome track. By this time the group was very polished and tight, having played countless gigs around the Austin area.

The passionate, Dylan-esque vocals on this track showcase the talents of Lucky Floyd, while the incredible guitar licks are provided by Gary Nunn. It's hard to believe that this song did not break out and become a nationwide hit in 1967. Oldies stations should still be playing this one today! The guys put out one more single, Hipsville 29 BC, before Nunn and Holt called it quits. Lucky Floyd, Bobby Smith, and Jimmy Marriot moved the whole band to California and changed their name to The Pearly Gate. While working there, they landed a gig playing a rock band on a TV show called Judd For The Defense. Legend has it that they were scheduled to play at a benefit for Bobby Kennedy on the same night he was assassinated. Eventually, they returned to Texas and changed the group's name back to The Sparkles. At one point, they added a guitarist named Steve Weisberg, who later went on to play with John Denver. In 1972, when Lucky Floyd left for California to join a folk-rock group called Red Wilder Blue, the band finally had to call it quits for the last time.

If the song sounds familiar to you, you probably bought the first Nuggets box set. This song was one of the many gems on that compilation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Oldies - First Love Never Dies by The Cascades

First let me apologize for not posting a New Oldie for several days. Every once in a while I have to stop playing and do some actual work! Today's sample of New Oldies - The Greatest Hits You've Never Heard comes to us from my current home town, San Diego. This song is actually a demo that was recorded for RCA records, but never released. The story behind the song gets a bit complicated! Maybe you should listen to it while you read the details.

I'm sure you remember The Cascades and their smash hit, Rhythm Of The Rain, on Valiant 6026 in 1963. The Cascades were John Gummoe (lead vocals and guitar), Eddy Snyder (piano), Dave Stevens (bass), Dave Wilson (saxophone), and Dave Szabo (drums). These guys put out a ton of records between 1962 and 1970! Leader John Claude Gummoe was born in Cleveland, Ohio (same as me!).

The founding members hooked up while serving in the Navy on the USS Jason, which was based in San Diego and served overseas in Sasebo, Japan. John Gummoe met the other band members while on board ship. They had been playing together as The Silver Strands and did gigs around San Diego when they were in port. John became their biggest fan, and then their acting manager. He had them playing five nights a week before long, and eventually started doing duets with Dave Wilson on stage.

When they left the Navy, they first called their band The Thundertones. Len Green wrote a couple of songs called Thunder Rhythm and Pay Day that they recorded for Bob Keene's Del-Fi Records (same label as Ritchie Valens). They had been playing mostly instrumentals, but around this time they started adding more vocals into the mix. Some personnel changes took place with Art Eastlick leaving to be replaced by bass player Dave Stevens. John Gummoe was doing vocals while also handling percussion and keyboards. Eddy Snyder came on board to play guitar. The group also included Dave Szabo on vocals and keyboards.

The guys were really starting to dig the harmonies of some cats just up the coast a bit -- The Beach Boys! They ran into a guy named Don Blocker at Liberty Records who told them to hunt down a young guitar teacher in San Diego named Andy Di Martino. They performed some songs for Andy and he took their audition tape up to Valiant Records in Hollywood, which was run by the very talented Barry De Vorzon and Billy Sherman. The demos ended up in the hands of Phil Spector who was doing work with Valiant Records (a subsidiary of Warner Brothers) at that time. He loved their sound and signed them up with the label, but insisting that they change their name to The Cascades (supposedly inspired by a box of detergent). Len Green left the group before they cut their first record for Valiant. A lover of Country music, he went on to become a staff writer for Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville.

The first single from The Cascades, There's A Reason, got a bunch of local airplay and became a regional hit in the summer of 1962. In November of that same year, the group went up to Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles to cut their next record, a song that John Gummoe had written while he was on watch aboard ship during a thunderstorm. Some powerhouse studio musicians sat in on this recording, probably because Phil Spector wanted to turn the song into a monster hit. Hal Blaine got on the drums, Carol Kaye played bass, and Glen Campbell (who had also been a member of The Champs with Jimmy Seals) played the guitar. Perry Botkin worked out the arrangements, and Rhythm Of The Rain was born. Rhythm Of The Rain broke out in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where it got heavy airplay on 920 WOKY-AM. The fuss it created there encouraged the label to promote it nationally. It hit the Billboard Magazine Top 100 Pop charts on January 12, 1963, and stayed there for 16 weeks, peaking at #3. It went to #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and #2 in Cashbox. It also had success overseas, peaking at #5 in the U.K., #3 in Australia, and going all the way to #1 in Ireland! The Germans and Canadians missed it, however, as the song never charted there at all.

Now back to THIS song! Remember Summer Breeze by Seals And Crofts? That duo was Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts, and it was Jimmy Seals who wrote First Love Never Dies. Remember The Champs who had a 1958 hit song called Tequila? That group included Dave Burgess, Dale Norris, Bobby Morris, Dean McDaniel, Gen Alden, Paul Saenz, and Benny Van Norman. The group picked up some musicians for their road tours, including Jimmy Seals, Dash Crofts, Glen Campbell and Jerry Cole. Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts joined the Champs after moving to Los Angeles from central Texas where they were both born, and where they had been playing local gigs. They got together in a band called Dean Beard And The Crew Cuts. Jim Seals played guitar, while Dash Crofts was a drummer.

In 1961, The Champs, with Jimmy Seals, were touring with Jerry Fuller. You may not recognize his name, but he wrote a TON of songs in the 1960's, including huge hits like Travelin' Man, Young World, It's Up To You, and A Wonder Like You for Ricky Nelson, and also Lady Willpower, Young Girl, and Over You for Gary Puckett And The Union Gap. Unfortunately, Jerry's solo career never really took off. His biggest hit was a cover of Tennessee Waltz that only made it up to #63 on the charts (although it went to #13 in Canada on CHUM in Toronto, but I digress!) Champs bass player, Bobby Morris, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bobby Morris and Jimmy Seals wrote this song together, and they gave it to Jerry Fuller to record, which he did on Challenge 9114 in 1961. But that single didn't get much airplay and never made it on the charts.

In 1963, Frankie Avalon did a cover version of the song on Chancellor 1131, and so did The Cascades of San Diego. (The Walker Brothers also covered it in 1965.)

RCA never released the Cascades version of the song. It remained in their vaults for years. But it's here now, and it's probably the best sounding version of the song ever made.

So, John Gummoe of the Cascades was born in the same town I was, Cleveland. His smash hit, Rhythm Of The Rain, broke out in Milwaukee, the city where I lived for over 30 years. The Cascades were from San Diego, the city where I live today. All this means nothing, of course. But it sure is a pretty strange set of coincidences!

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Oldies - Talk To Me Girl by The Next Five

Today's sample of New Oldies - The Greatest Hits You've Never Heard - comes from Brookfield, Wisconsin.  The lead singer is Eric Olson, and he also wrote this song. Steve Thomas is playing guitar, Gordy Wayne Olski plays bass, Mark Buscaglia is on the Hammond organ, and John Kruck is banging the drums. The group was managed by Con Merten and produced by Paul Christy, and you can read more about them here.  The band was formed in 1966 as the Toy Factory, and later became known as the Next Five. Their music, in a word, is awesome! It was issued on Wand 1170 in 1968. Take a listen to the Next Five doing Talk To Me Girl.

For me, this was one of those rare songs that becomes one of your favorites the very first time you hear it.  It's almost like your brain is tricked into thinking that you're already familiar with the song, even though you've never heard anything like it before. It instantly transforms into a cherished memory!  It's a musical magic trick.  I hope you like it as much as I do.

New Oldies - The Greatest Music You've Never Heard - is a radio format that I've developed that is unlike any oldies format ever heard before.  If you're already a fan of my MusicMaster Oldies online stream, let me assure you, that's NOT what I'm talking about. New Oldies has a very small playlist and the songs play in very fast rotations. If you're interested, contact me and I'll explain!

Friday, February 4, 2011

New Oldies - Sittin' On A Fence by The Rolling Stones

Andrew Loog Oldham

Here's another deep track from a group you all know very well, The Rolling Stones. They wrote this song for a British singing duo called Twice As Much who recorded it first in 1966. Their version went to #25 on the charts in England, but only made it to #122 on the Billboard Bubbling Under chart. It did slightly better on Cashbox, reaching #98. Still, you can hardly call that "hit" status. Now, 45 years later, I think either of these tunes could be a "New Oldies Hit" today!

The Rolling Stones

Here's the Rolling Stones version, which they recorded in 1965 while making their Aftermath album, but  it wasn't released here until the Flowers album came out in 1967. They released it in England in 1969 on Through The Past Darkly (Big Hits Volume 2). But this song never appeared on a single. It's one of their rare acoustic-driven songs that are usually quite special. At the end, you'll hear Brian Jones playing the harpsichord! Give 'er a listen and tell me what you think...

And now here's the version by Twice As Much that became a hit in England in 1966 on MGM 13530. It's the harmony of David Skinner and Andrew Rose from Middlesex who shared a manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, with the Stones. They were clearly influenced by other pop Brits like Chad and Jeremy or Peter and Gordon.

This song is also a nice example of what's come to be known as Baroque Rock, which I guess you could combine into a single word as Barack. Maybe not ;-)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Oldies - King Of The Surf by The Trashmen

Here's a New Oldie to take your mind off the winter storms in the midwest and northeast.  This is another "flip side" by The Trashmen.  If you own a copy of Surfin' Bird on Garrett 4002 from November 1963, just flip it over and you'll find this little gem on the back side!  Alright you gremmies and ho-dads, grab your longboards and hit the beach. Surf's up!

I'm sure you're familiar with the top side of this platter. Even Peter Griffin went nuts singing this song on the Family Guy episode called I Dream Of Jesus. The song is essentially a medley of two different songs by an R&B group called The Rivingtons from Los Angeles, Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow and The Bird's The Word. I was only nine years old when "bird" became the "word" back in 1962, but I remember it very well! It created a serious buzz across the country, but was especially popular in Cleveland where it was used by a TV movie host named Ghoulardi (voice-over legend Ernie Anderson). What you may not know is that The Trashmen swear they'd never heard the Rivingtons version of The Bird Is The Word when they came up with the idea for Surfin' Bird. Instead, they heard a cover band called the Sorensen Brothers playing it. The Trashmen weren't even from the West Coast! They lived about as far as you can get from an Ocean, Minneapolis, Minnesota! The lineup included Tony Andreason (lead guitar, vocals), Dal Winslow (guitar, vocals), Steve Wahrer (drums, vocals), and Bob Reed (bass).

The Trashmen

The first pressings of Surfin' Bird list The Trashmen as composers, but this had to be corrected after treats of legal action by The Rivingtons! Minneapolis disc jockey, Bill Diehl, was at the concert where Surfin' Bird was born. He loved the song and convinced the guys to record it. It won a local Battle Of The Bands contest in Minneapolis, then won at another one in Chicago. Garrett Records picked up the song and quickly released it on a single. It was red hot, with over 30,000 sales in just the first few days! It hit the Billboard charts on December 7, 1963, stayed there for 13 weeks, and peaked at #4. It did exactly the same on the Cash Box charts. It went to #3 on WLS-AM's Silver Dollar Survey in Chicago, and #2 on 1050 CHUM in Toronto! The song even managed to reach #8 in February 1964 in Sydney Australia (where they also love surfing), and #25 in land-locked Germany in March 1964.

The Rivingtons

The Rivingtons didn't do as well with their versions. Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow peaked at #48 on Billboard in August 1962, and The Bird's The Word only made it up to #52 in March 1963. Between these two records, they took another run at the charts with a follow up tune called Mama-Oom-Mow-Mow (The Bird) which only went to #106 on Billboard's Bubbling Under chart in January 1963. The Rivingtons were Carl White (lead vocals), Al Frazier (tenor), Sonny Harris (baritone), and Turner "Rocky" Wilson, Jr. (bass). They sang together previously as The Sharps, and you can hear them in the background on some earlier hits, such as Little Bitty Pretty One by Thurston Harris. They even provided the rebel yells on Duane Eddy's 1958 hit, Rebel Rouser!

I guess I can't let this go without letting you hear the rest of these tunes...

Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow by The Rivingtons on Liberty 55427 from 1962:

Mama-Oom-Mow-Mow by The Rivingtons on Liberty 55528 from 1963:

The Bird's The Word by The Rivingtons on Liberty 55553 from 1963:

Surfin' Bird by The Trashmen on Garrett 4002 from 1963:

Now what's that word again?

But King Of The Surf is today's sample of New Oldies - The Greatest Hits You've Never Heard! This song is a musical dictionary of surfing terms. Here are the lyrics, I'll explain the terms below!

Well we're takin' my woodie and a-headin' on down,
Where the cool cool surfers all gather round.
Got a brand new board and I'm ready to fly,
I'll be shootin' the curl before the sun is high.
Show those hodads, gremmies, heroes too,
The kinda' high ridin' real surfers do.

Well I'm a high ridin' surfer and it takes three crunchers and a heavy to wipe me out;
I can do a double spinner before you count to three.
Whoa-oh, king of the surf that's me.
Whoa-oh, king of the surf that's me.

Well I'm a real hot-dogger so glad I'm alive;
When I'm ridin' the cruncher and a-hangin' five.
Listen to the roar of the shore break sound;
Keep on surfin' till the sun goes down.
Grab your honey and a'hold her tight,
We're gonna have a surfin' a-party tonight.

Well I'm a high ridin' surfer and it takes three crunchers and a heavy to wipe me out;
I can do a double spinner before you count to three.
Whoa-oh, king of the surf that's me.
Whoa-oh, king of the surf that's me.


Surf City's callin' me and a-man oh man,
Gonna find a surf baby grab her by the hand.
Gonna build a fire, gonna build it right,
We're gonna dance on the beach, gonna dance all night;
Dance and sing the whole night away,
And be ridin' our surfboards well the very next day.

Well I'm a high ridin' surfer and it takes three crunchers and a heavy to wipe me out;
I can do a double spinner before you count to three.
Whoa-oh, king of the surf, that's me.
Whoa-oh, king of the surf, that's me.
Whoa-oh, king of the surf, that's me.
Whoa-oh, king of the surf, that's me.


A "Woodie" is not what you're thinking, guys. It's a station wagon with wooden panels on the side. Pontiac made some really cool ones in the 1940's. Great car for loading up surfboards and heading down to the ocean to catch some waves!

"Shootin' The Curl" is, well, surfing! It's riding on, in, or through that hollow curl of water that's formed when waves break near the shore.

A "Hodad" or a "Gremmie" is anyone who doesn't surf, but just hangs around the beach for some strange reason. You'll see me down at Tourmaline Surf Park wearing my Hodad T-shirt! If you're a little kid who is either not surfing, or just learning to surf, you're a "Gremlin" or a "Grommet!"

"Heroes" are just good guys, classy surfers.

"High-riding" is just riding as close to the top of a wave as you can. (Not me, you!)

A "Cruncher" is a tough wave to ride. It folds over and breaks really hard.

"Heavies" are really huge waves, usually 12 or more feet tall.

"Wipe Out" is falling off your board, or getting knocked off. Also called "Eating It!"

A "Spinner" is a 360 degree turn which is done by the surfer, not the board, and is only done correctly if you remain standing. A "Double-Spinner" is, of course, turning around twice. It is amazing to watch the professional surfers do this stuff!

"Hot-Dogging" is what those pro surfers are doing, all the fancy tricks!

Hey gang, Surf's Up! I'll see you at the beach! Last one in is a Goofy-Foot Dweeb! Cowabunga, Dude!

New Oldies - Seven Days Of Cryin' by The Cavaliers

You're not likely to find today's New Oldie on the original vinyl single. It is estimated that there are only between 12 and 20 copies of this record still circulating. That rarity, plus the incredible demand for this record by garage rock collectors, pushes the value up into the nosebleed area.  If you have one these in that box of dusty 45s in your attic, you could easily sell it for over $1000 on eBay, or more if you go directly to the hungry collectors!

Brace yourself for an excellent garage rock tune, then hit the play button on Seven Days Of Cryin' by The Cavaliers on Crisis 101 from 1966:

The Cavaliers were eight high school students in Lynwood, California, which is in the southern section of Los Angeles. The first incarnation of the band began in 1964, playing surf music and calling themselves the Bremen Band. They briefly changed names to The Surf Age, and finally became The Cavaliers. Legend has it that these guys had the uncanny ability to cover then-current hit songs almost perfectly! That's probably why they managed to win a few Battle Of The Bands contests, the biggest of them at the Palladium. They even built up a huge fan club and cult following, thanks to the efforts of a couple of local teenage girls who loved their music.

In 1966, the guys went into a recording session at Western Recording Studios, paid for by the drummer's father. Bones Howe was supposed to produce the session, but he was sick that day. The replacement guy did a straight recording of this song, but he screwed up the other side when he insisted they leave out the feedback on the guitars!  Well, maybe. Why don't I let you be the judge of that. Here's the flip side of this record, a song called Checkmate!

They had 1000 copies pressed up and quickly sold every one of them! The guys continued to play together for awhile under the name Crystal Fog, breaking up in 1972. As good as these kids were, you would have expected them to become huge rock stars. But that never happened. As far as we know, this is the ONLY record they ever made.  Not much more is known about these guys. If you have more information, please let me know!