Monday, December 24, 2012

New Oldies - It's A Cry'n Shame by The Gentlemen

My move from San Diego to Dallas is complete. So, as promised, here's a little taste of Texas garage rock for you!

The Gentlemen came from Fort Worth and played all over the Dallas area back in the mid-1960's. They made only one record, this one, which was released on the Vandan label. These records are nearly impossible to find today and could easily fetch $1500 or more in the used vinyl market. But, if you're lucky enough to find a copy on the "Crimson" label, hold out for more money. That hand-written test pressing was probably made first and is crystal clear compared to the Vandan release, which was clearly defective. Don't expect to find one, however. While a few thousand copies of the Vandan pressing were made, the Crimson test pressing is probably one-of-a-kind. Also, let the buyer beware, there are bootleg copies of this single out there. You can spot them fairly easily. The gold top looks more like yellow, and the word "distributors" doesn't hug the edge of the label like it does on the original pressings.

The group featured Mike Kelley on guitar and vocals, Seab Medor on lead guitar and vocals, Tommy Turner on keyboards (Farfisa), Bruce Bland on bass, and Tim Justice on drums. Mike handled the lead vocals on this particular track, which had just been recorded by another Dallas group called The Briks before being covered by The Gentlemen. The group formed in 1964 and cut one test pressing, Beg Borrow And Steal backed with Here I Cannot Stay, before making this record.

You can hear that earlier acetate and get a lot more background information about this band at the Garage Hangover blog, which also includes a rare recording of a rehearsal session for this track!

Here's It's A Cry'n Shame by The Gentlemen on Vandan 8303 from 1966:

And here's the flip side, You Can't Be True:

Now that I'm set up in Dallas, I hope to get back to regular posts here. I've also got some exciting plans for MusicMaster Oldies. With a little luck, you may soon be able to help pick which songs are played. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

New Oldies: Dear Love by Angie Kay And The Keys

Sorry again for the long delay between posts. I've been really busy getting ready to move. I'll be leaving San Diego this week for my new home in Dallas. Yes, I know it sounds crazy to leave the perfect weather of California for the hot summers in Dallas. But getting away from the new 13.5% state income tax will soften the pain quite a bit. I can always use the money I'll save to fly to California for a visit now and then. Since this will be my last post from San Diego, I thought I'd feature a home town artist this time.

Angie Kay was born Angela Kathol in San Diego, California in 1943. She grew up in the south suburb of National City and attended Cathedral Catholic Girls High School where she was a member of the Glee Club. Angie lived just around the corner from Rosie Hamlin who sang the hit song Angel Baby as Rosie And The Originals.

This record was released in March 1962 when Angie was just 22 years old. It was one of two records she cut on the Globe label with both singles released simultaneously. This one, on Globe 400, and the other on Globe 401. That second record contains That 'OO' Feeling b/w Cute Little Tomato. I'd love to play those two songs for you, but I can't. That's because I have never seen a copy of that single and I can't find it, or even recordings of those two songs, anywhere. If you just happen to have a copy of this single, or even just a recording of these songs, please let me know!

Here's Dear Love by Angie Kay And The Key on Globe 400 from 1962:

And here's the flip side, Mama May I:

The current whereabouts of Angie is a mystery, although I suspect she's still living in San Diego. If you know how to reach her, please send her a link to this page and let her know that I'd love to hear from her!

I hope to have everything set up to do another post just after Christmas. At that time, I'll feature another "home town" artist, but this time from my new home town of Dallas! Regardless of where you live, the chances of hearing an artist from your home town are extremely good on MusicMaster Oldies. We're playing 1950's and 1960's music from all over the world!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Oldies - Open Up Your Heart (And Let The Sunshine In) by Cowboy Church Sunday School

Stuart Hamblen

Stuart Hamblen was born Carl Stuart Hamblen on 20 October 1908 in Kellyville, Texas. His father, Rev. Dr. J. H. Hamblen, was a traveling Methodist preacher and founder of the Evangelical Methodist Church.

When he was 18 years old, Stuart took a job on KAYO-AM radio in Abilene, Texas, becoming radio's first "singing" cowboy. One year later, he entered a talent show in town where he won a $100 cash prize.

This was the tail end of the Roaring '20's and the Great Depression was about to clobber America. The radio and recording industries were still very young. At that time, the Victor Talking Machine Company was located in Camden, New Jersey. Young Stuart took off for Camden with a dream to expand his horizons into the fledgeling record business. He recorded four songs there, then headed to Hollywood, California for an audition at KFI-AM radio. They put him on the air as "Cowboy Joe" the Singing Cowboy.

Using the name Dave, Stuart joined a Western singing group called the Beverly Hill Billies (did you think the TV sitcom was the first to use that name?). The group's success led Stuart to form his own group which he called King Cowboy And His Wooly West Revue. Soon afterward, the name was changed to Stuart Hamblen And His Lucky Stars. Their radio performances on the Covered Wagon Jubilee became quite popular up and down the West Coast.

Suzy Hamblen

In 1933, Stuart married a young lady named Veeva Ellen Daniels. One night on his radio show he referred to her as Suzy Ashenfelder and the alias stuck. From that point on, his wife became known as Suzy! He became a daddy in 1935 when his first daughter, Veeva Suzanne, was born. His second daughter, Lisa Obee Jane, came along in 1938.

Of course, everyone who lives in Hollywood ends up in motion pictures (right?). As life went on, Stuart found his way into quite a few Cowboy movies, including: In Old Monterey with Gene Autry, The Arizona Kid and King Of The Cowboys with Roy Rogers, The Plainsman And The Lady and The Savage Hoard with Wild Bill Elliott, Carson City Cyclone and The Sombrero Kid with Don "Red" Barry, King Of The Forest Rangers with Larry Thompson, and Flame Of The Barbary Coast with John Wayne.

Stuart was the very first artist signed by Decca Records in 1934. He wrote over 235 songs through the years, including: Texas Plains, My Mary, Golden River, Walkin’ My Fortune, Ridin’ Old Paint, (Remember Me) I’m The One Who Loves You, Teach Me Lord To Wait, Until Then, How Big Is God, His Hands, and Open Up Your Heart (And Let The Sunshine In).

Let's listen to Stuart tell a quick story about how he came to write Open Up Your Heart (And Let The Sunshine In):

Now let's hear Open Up Your Heart (And Let The Sunshine In) by the Cowboy Church Sunday School on Decca 29367 from 1955, which is actually sung by Stuart's two daughters, Veeva (20) and Lisa Obee (17), along with his wife Suzy. Stuart recorded the voices at 33-1/3 RPM and played them back at 45 RPM to raise the pitch and make them sound much younger:

You might be wondering by now if I've gone off my rocker featuring this song as a New Oldie. But, hear me out. If you come back and listen to this song the next time you're depressed, I'm willing to bet that it cheers you up! Now let's hear Stuart's original recording of the song:

Stuart also wrote a song in 1950 that became the very first "cross-over" hit, It Is No Secret (What God Can Do), which means it was a hit for Jo Stafford on the Pop charts and also for Stuart himself on the Country and Western music charts in 1951. The song also topped the Gospel sales charts. The original manuscript of that song is buried in the cornerstone of the Copyright Building at the Library of Congress in Washington. Elvis Presley even covered the song in 1957 on his Christmas album.

Here's It's No Secret by Stuart Hamblen on Columbia 20724 from 1951, but first listen to the interesting story behind the song as told by Stuart himself. He was living in Errol Flynn's old house at the time. The neighbor he's talking about was John Wayne:

Rosemary Clooney

By far the biggest hit Stuart wrote was This Ole House, which became Song Of The Year in 1954, reaching #1 on the charts for Rosemary Clooney in seven different countries around the world.

Here's This Ole House by Rosemary Clooney on Columbia 40266 from 1954:

Here's the original recording by Stuart Hamblen on RCA 5839 from 1954:

The also song became a hit in the UK by Scottish-born Billie Anthony with Eric Jupp and his Orchestra on Columbia 3519 from 1954:

The song was also a hit on the German charts, sung in German as Das Alte Haus Von Rocky-Docky by Bruce Low on Karussell 8450212 from 1955:

There's an interesting story behind the religious theme that runs through so many of Stuart Hamblen's songs. As so many others who lead a life in the spotlight, Stuart turned to alcohol for relief. This led to public fights and jail time, often bailed out by the sponsors of his popular radio show. He would refer to himself as the "original juvenile delinquent." He got into horse-racing as a trainer at Santa Anita and spent a lot of time gambling at the racetrack. His life was going downhill fast.

In 1949, Stuart's wife Suzy took him to the home of Henrietta Mears to attend a prayer meeting of the Hollywood Christian Group. A young Billy Graham was speaking with the group that night. They arrived early, on purpose. Suzy and Henrietta slipped into the kitchen leaving Stuart alone in the room with Billy Graham. They had a nice talk and became friends. Stuart invited Billy to the station to promote his tent crusade on his radio show. After that interview, Stuart urged his listeners to go to the crusade to hear Billy speak, saying, "Make sure y'all come, 'cause I'll be there too!" Suzy made sure Stuart kept his promise to attend the show that evening. Stuart sat in the center of the front row that night, and continued to attend night after night in that same seat. He would later refer to his first meeting with Billy Graham as the turning-point of his life. If you ask me, I think God set aside a special place for Suzy in Heaven!

After his conversion, Stuart decided to clean up his act. He quit gambling and got out of the horse-racing business. He quit smoking and booze, becoming an activist against alcohol. By this time, Stuart’s show was syndicated nationwide. When his show's sponsor asked him to read a commercial promoting beer, Stuart refused, based on principles of his new-found faith and the fact that he had publicly vowed to reject alcohol. The sponsors threatened to cancel his show, but Stuart would not compromise and stuck to his convictions. The sponsors pulled out and the show was cancelled. But, in the last few shows before it went off the air, Stuart used the time to let his listeners know what happened. This made Stuart popular with the Prohibition Party. As a staunch anti-Communist, Stuart had unsuccessfully run for Congress in 1938. In 1952, the Prohibition Party asked him to lead their ticket in a run for President of the United States. He agreed, and was actually running in the lead in the very early returns! But he finished in a distant fourth place behind the eventual winner, Dwight David Eisenhower.

Here's some rare footage of Stuart Hamblen being interviewed by Jimmy Dean on his television show.

Stuart and Suzy were together for more than 55 years. They bought a horse ranch in Santa Clarita, California, and bred Peruvian Paso horses. They owned a thoroughbred (Oro Negro) that was a three-time U.S. National Champion of Champions. For ten years they rode their horses in the annual Pasadena Rose Parade. Beginning in 1971, Stuart produced a weekly radio show from that home called Cowboy Church Of The Air which was syndicated on Christian stations across the country.

Stuart also won several awards for his contribution to Country and Western music. In 1970, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. In 1972 he received the Academy of Country and Western Music’s prestigious Pioneer Award for his work as the first singing Country and Western Cowboy on radio. The Los Angeles City Council proclaimed 13 February 1976 as Stuart Hamblen Day when he was immortalized with a Star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. In 1978 Stuart won the Gene Autry Award for the enrichment of our western musical heritage. He received a Golden Boot Award for his work in movies in 1988. The honors continued after his death. In 1994 he was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. In 1999 he was inducted into the Western Music Association’s Hall of Fame. In 2001 he was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and also won the International Country Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame Award.

Stuart Hamblen was 80 years old when he died of brain cancer on 8 March 1989 in Santa Monica, California. He's buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles. His beloved wife Suzy joined him on 2 June 2008 at the age of 101. They were survived by their two daughters, Veeva and Lisa Obee, along with ten grandchildren and nineteen great-grandchildren.

Thanks for attending the sermon here at the church of MusicMaster Oldies. We're a non-denominational congregation and you're all welcome to sit and listen to the gospel music as long as you like. We're all neighbors in here!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Oldies - Is It Time by The City Squires

(Top L-R) Gus DeAngleo, Jim Brickner, Jerry Colvin.
(Bottom L-R) Bill McCracken, Greg Burnett

The City Squires got started in 1963 as The Jaguars (named after the car) when a couple of 12-13 year old kids from the southern Cleveland suburb of Parma, Ohio, decided to get together and form a garage rock band. The original members were 13 year old Jim Brickner on guitar and 12 year old Roland Solomon on bass (who reportedly had the gift of perfect pitch). They added a drummer named Tom Sitzler. A few weeks later, Tom Kent from nearby Middleburg Heights came on board to handle lead vocals and rhythm guitar. Shortly afterward, drummer Tom Sitzler split from the band and was replaced by Tom Kent's friend, Dale Zack.

The Jaguars took their act to the streets and gathered up some fans. In June 1965, inspired by one of the biggest local band at the time, the guys decided it was time to cut some records. So they hooked up with The Baskerville Hounds manager, James M "Jimmy" Testa, and got into the Audio Recording studios to lay down some tracks. They recorded a cover of Jenny Jenny by Little Richard, and a couple of original tunes, including one Jimmy Testa wrote called Laurie and an instrumental penned by Roland Solomon. Jimmy Testa messed around with some interesting production techniques on that instrumental and ended up giving it a new name, Russian Ho-Ho. Jimmy convinced the guys to change their name to The City Squires and pressed up a couple hundred copies of Jenny Jenny b/w Russian Ho-Ho on his Tema label. (I know this is hard to believe, but I don't happen to own that record! If you know where I can get my hands on a copy of Tema 136, or at least a recording of these two songs, I'd love to hear from you! I'd especially love to hear that orphaned recording of Laurie.)

Just one year later, in June 1966, the guys were back in the studio recording three tracks, Child Of Our Times, I Want Your Girl, and Parma Polka, which was inspired by local Friday night horror movie host Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) on WJW-TV 8 who used to love picking on that suburb for it's Polish population, which he referred to as "A Certain Ethnic" population, and the pink flamingo statues found in front yards all over the city.

Parma Polka was more of a rocking polka, partly inspired by the song Gloria by Them, where the band spells out P-A-R-M-A instead of Gloria's name, and riffs from other current hits such as Day Tripper by The Beatles and Time Won't Let Me by Cleveland's Outsiders. They made an acetate pressing of Parma Polka b/w I Want Your Girl and gave it to Ghoulardi for possible use on his show, along with the many other cool records he liked to use which included Who Stole The Keeshka by Frankie Yankovic His Yanks. But Ernie Anderson was leaving Cleveland for a very successful voiceover career in Los Angeles, to be replaced by Big Chuck and Hoolihan, with Hoolihan later being replaced by Little John. A guy named Ron Swede, who called himself The Ghoul, picked up much of Ghoulardi's schtick when he began hosting movies on Saturday afternoons on another station. The Ghoul made extensive use of the Parma Polka on his show. (Again, I don't have a copy of this recording, but I'd love to get one. It may have been credited to The Esquires instead of The City Squires, but I'm not certain of that. I'd especially love to hear the flip side of that acetate, I Want Your Girl, which I hear is a garage rocker featuring some nice guitar work by Jim Brickner and a melody similar to Beg Borrow And Steal!)

Co-founder and bass guitarist Roland Soloman left the band and was replaced by a guy named Greg Burnett from The Canterburys. Greg could play sax and trumpet and was a good vocalist, but he really had to fake his way along as a bass player. The City Squires were a bit upset by the way things were going so they decided to break up for a while. A few months passed before Jim Brickner and Greg Burnett assembled a new band. Still using the name The City Squires, they joined forces with another band from Parma called The Set LTD, which included Jerry Colvin on keyboards and Gus D'Angelo on bass. They also picked up Bill McCracken from the Canterburys to handle the drums. Greg Burnett became the lead singer for the new City Squires and also got a chance to pick up his sax and trumpet for a change.

Practice makes perfect, and boy did these guys practice together! They became close friends and practiced together several hours every day. After practice, they might go out for a gig that same night and play together for several more hours! What if you throw a party and nobody comes? That's what happened one night when the City Squires were booked together with The James Gang at a place called the Painesville Armory just east of Cleveland. The event was hosted by a disc jockey from WIXY 1260 in Cleveland, but only a few people showed up! The guys decided to do an extensive jam session together.

The City Squires built a repertoire of over 500 songs. Fresh out of High School, they played at places as far west as Cedar Point, as far east as the clubs of Erie, Pennsylvania, and many places in between, including the Playboy Lounge, and the Columbia Ballroom. They became members of the Cleveland Musicians Union, which paid off for them on occasion when a club owner would try to stiff them on their fees. The guys put on a heck of a good show. They'd do some crazy stuff like auctioning themselves off for a dance with the girls who could scream the loudest. Sometimes Greg would take over playing the other guys' instruments, including the drums, right in the middle of a song without missing a beat!

They made their way back into the recording studio in 1967 to record Is It Time and Lonely Boy. Here's Is It Time by The City Squires on Tema 141 from 1967:

And here's the flip side, Lonely Boy:

Both songs got some spins on Cleveland radio and ended up selling several hundred copies around town. They also got a chance to lip sync to Lonely Boy on Big Jack Armstrong's TV show. The show's producer accidentally started the record at the wrong speed and the guys frantically tried to make it work anyway. Big Jack made them suffer by keeping it going at 78 RPM for an uncomfortably long time. During that same recording session in 1967, Jim Brickner wrote a theme song for the band and put it on a record for use every time they opened or closed one of their shows.

After an argument in 1968, Jim Brickner left the band for a few weeks. The rest of the guys got together and did a gig at Cain Park using the name Pye Jones And The 28th Day Ragtime Band, probably a takeoff on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

They went on to write and record even more songs, gradually getting even better and better over time. In 1968, drummer Bill McCracken was replaced by Pete Naster, then by 15 year old Bob Dillinger. In 1969, ABC Records got hold of their demo and the result was a visit by Bill Symzyck and a four-single recording contract. However, the label felt that the name City Squires sounded too dated and turned them into The Gregorians. The band wasn't thrilled with the new name, so it was only used on one record, a tune called Dialated Eyes b/w Like A Man.

Here's Dialated Eyes by The Gregorians on ABC 11225 from 1969:

To promote this record, the guys did an interview on WMMS-FM, which was a new progressive rock station in Cleveland at the time (and where I would end up working a few years later).

The band finally called it quits in 1970. Greg Burnett went into the Air Force. Richard Solomon played bass for the Baskerville Hounds for a while, then got back together with Tom Kent in a band called Raintree, which also featured Bob Dillinger on drums.

Jim Brickner, Greg Burnett, Roland Solomon reunited in 1979, pulling in Doug McCutcheon from The Baskerville Hounds on keyboards and Tom Napier on drums. They played some local clubs for a while, but didn't make any more records.

A lot of the music you'll hear on MusicMaster Oldies came from records that were big hits in just a single city back in the 1960's. I've found many of these records by traveling all over the world and visiting as many vinyl record stores and record shows as possible. I've also collected a whole bunch of radio station surveys. Songs that appear on these surveys that never appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 national charts are often very good. In most cases, they simply never got the promotion needed to launch them into the national spotlight back in those days before the Internet leveled the playing field for local talent and allowed them to publish their own material for the whole world to enjoy. Still, it's all about promotion. The world may be able to hear your songs on YouTube or buy them on iTunes, but people still have to find them first! You'll hear thousands of local and regional hits on MusicMaster Oldies. It's like taking a trip around the world in a a time machine!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

New Oldies - Mystery Girl by Billy Cook

Billy Cook was born William John Cook on 25 August 1942 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mom and dad, Daisy and Billy, along with his sister Peggy, all lived in a big house in Lester, Pennsylvania. Just like me, Bill was a big fan of gangster movies starring James Cagney, and television shows like The Untouchables. Bill graduated from Bishop Neuman High School in Philadelphia in 1960.

Bill also loved to sing, but he liked dancing even more. As a six foot tall teenager with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes, he landed a job as one of the top dancers on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. His unique dance style was a wild and almost mesmerizing spin on the classic Jitterbug. Although he personally preferred being called Bill, everyone on the Bandstand team always called him Billy. He had dreams of becoming a Broadway dancer one day, although few of the fellow dancers on the show shared that ambition. On one of his American Bandstand appearances, Billy had to endure a really short haircut. He wasn't thrilled with the way it looked and couldn't wait for his hair to grow back.

Billy made just one record, but it's a good one. This side sounds commercial enough to have become a hit back then. It's from the Lawn label, a subsidiary of Swan Records in Philadelphia.

Here's Mystery Girl by Billy Cook on Lawn 204 from 1963:

And here's the flip side, This Little World (Has A Moon Has Stars And You):

While working with Dick Clark, Billy frequently danced with Barbara Levick and Pat Molittieri. He and Pat became close friends and stayed in touch with each other for many years.

Pat Molittieri also made a really nice record of her own a couple of years before Billy made his record. It's about dancing, of course! Here's The USA by Pat Molittieri on Teen Magazine 414 from 1961:

Billy also got to know a lot of teen singing idols through his work on Bandstand and ended up becoming friends with Johnny Tillotson from Jacksonville Florida.

Here's one of my very favorite Johnny Tillotson records. This song peaked at #42 on the Billboard Hot 100 after hitting the charts on 18 January 1960 and staying there for 14 weeks. It did slightly better regionally, going to #25 on 1050 CHUM in Toronto and #31 on Cashbox.

Here's Why Do I Love You So by Johnny Tillotson on Cadence 1372 from 1960:

You can read more about Billy Cook and all the dancers on American Bandstand in a great blog called The Princes And Princesses of Dance. They've even put a video clip on YouTube featuring Billy Cook.

Of course, you can also hear Billy Cook's record, Pat Molittieri's record, and ALL of Johnny Tillotson's records on MusicMaster Oldies. While you're listening, feel free to roll up the rug, kick off your shoes, and dance like you're on American Bandstand!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Oldies - South To Louisiana by Johnnie Allan And Krazy Kats

Today's New Oldie fits squarely into the category called Answer Songs on MusicMaster Oldies. This is a parody of the 1960 Johnny Horton hit, North To Alaska.

Johnnie Allan was born John Allan Guillot on 10 March 1938 in Rayne, Louisiana. He was the son of a sharecropper, so he and his brother worked on the family farm. His Great Grand Uncle was Joseph Falcon, a legendary Cajun accordionist. The young Cajun sold seeds to earn money to buy his first guitar. His mama taught him how to play it. By the time he was 13, he got together with a classmate named Walter Mouton and started a band called The Scott Playboys, playing pure Cajun music at clubs around Louisiana, like the Colonial Club in Esterwood. He got hold of a pedal steel guitar and taught himself how to play it, eventually earning him an invitation to join another Cajun group called Lawrence Walker And The Wandering Aces. He was only 16 years old. He was bitten by the rock and roll bug after watching Elvis Presley perform live on the Louisiana Hayride show. He and a couple of band mates split from Lawrence Walker's band to form their own band as The Johnnie Allan And Krazy Kats. Johnnie's background in Cajun music, blended with his new love for rock and roll and rockabilly music, helped pioneer a brand new musical style that became known as Swamp Pop.

His first record was called Lonely Days Lonely Nights on the Jin label with Floyd Soileau who, as a junior in high school, was already doing a Cajun music show on KVPI in Ville Platte, Louisiana. Johnnie followed this up with another single called Letter Of Love, both records enjoying regional success along the Gulf coast. After graduating from high school in 1956, Johnnie attended the University of Southern Louisiana in Lafayette. He graduated in 1961 and began working as a school teacher. But, just six weeks into that job, he was called up in the National Guard and shipped off to Berlin to prevent the Soviet Union from cutting off Allied troops as the Berlin Wall was being built. When he returned to Louisiana, a song he recorded with the Krazy Kats before leaving called Your Picture was getting local airplay on the radio. Johnnie hooked up with promoter Bill Hall and "Crazy Cajun" record producer Huey Meaux in an attempt to capitalize on the local success of Lonely Days Lonely Nights. The song was reissued on MGM 12799, but it just missed getting enough national attention to make the Billboard charts. He tried again with a song called Unfaithful One on the Viking label. When this didn't work out either, he went back to work with Floyd Soileau.

In the late 1960's, Johnnie took two years off to complete his education, earning a master's degree at McNeese State University in Lake Charles. He became the principal at Acadian Elementary School in Houma, Louisiana, until his retirement in 1981. A Cajun accordionist named Bessyl Duhon persuaded him to revive the Krazy Kats in 1970, resulting in a Swamp Pop version of Chuck Berry's Promised Land. He and Floyd filled the clubs across southern Louisiana. Johnnie loved to collect photographs and write about the Southern Louisiana and East Texas Cajun Country music scene. He wrote a book called Memories, A Pictorial History of South Louisiana Music 1920s-1980s. Later, he wrote a second book called Born To Be A Loser which told the story of a cult favorite singer and songwriter named Jimmy Donley. Last I heard, Johnnie settled in Lafayette, Louisiana, and hosted a Swamp Pop music show on local KRVS Radio for several years.

Now let's test your ability to understand Cajun-English! I'll get you started by telling you that the first line of this song is, "South to Louisiana, to the town of Thibodaux." That town, by the way, is located about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge, and 40 miles west of New Orleans, smack in the heart of Cajun country on the Louisiana Bayou. The lady he's singing about is Norine Collins and she still lives in Jeanerette, Louisiana today.

Here's South To Louisiana by Johnnie Allan And Krazy Kats on Viking 1015 from 1961:

Here's the flip side, a nice Country tune called If You Do Dear:

This song appeared on an album in 1964 on Jin 4001, along with several other of his previous recordings.

This may sound a bit strange, but if you really want to have some fun, trace the eastern border between Louisiana and Mississippi on a map. That has to be the most complicated state border in the United States. It wanders back and forth across the river, looping deep into Mississippi to capture a couple of nice lakes here and there!

You'll hear music from every part of the United States on MusicMaster Oldies, along with tunes from all over the world. Tune in and enjoy the trip!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Back When My Hair Was Long

General Managers and Program Directors are careful to work within the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. If they fail to do so, the station can be charged a hefty fine, or in extreme cases, lose their license to broadcast. Back in the 1960's, the broadcast of obscene or indecent material was strictly prohibited. Unfortunately, the definition of those words was not clearly defined in the rules. To some extent, that's still true today, which is why you hear "cleaned up" versions of many hit songs on the radio that are marked on iTunes with "Explicit" tags. Some people who listen to the radio to hear the latest hits, but never actually buy the songs for themselves, may not even be aware that these alternate versions exist. If you think Cee Lo Green did a song called Forget You, or that Pink did a song called Less Than Perfect, or that Enrique Iglesias and Ludacris did a song called Tonight I'm Lovin' You, then you're in for a shock. Go to iTunes and sample the versions of these songs that say [Explicit] next to them!

Over time, we seem to keep pushing the envelope of what's considered "decent" on the radio. Back in the 1960's, lyrics that would seem harmlessly innocent by today's standards were often considered too risque to play. For example, I recall a radio station in Cleveland playing a version of Let's Spend The Night Together by the Rolling Stones that someone had edited to change the hook to, "Let's spend the to-night 'gether." Of course, the kids all knew what the song was about. This cat-and-mouse game between the FCC and the radio stations seemed a bit silly, even back then. But, if they didn't do this, the station would usually get a handful of letters of complaint. I'm sure many Program Directors decided to err on the side of "better safe than sorry."

Offensive lyrics weren't limited to sexual innuendo. Implying that drug use was cool could also get a station in trouble. We're not talking about extremes either, like some of today's rap songs that openly glorify murder, rape, or drug and alcohol abuse. Back then, the mere mention of a street drug could keep a record off the air, and off the charts. Today we'll explore one such song and learn how it was cleaned up enough to just manage to crack the Billboard Top 40 back in 1973.

Gun Hill Road is a street in the Bronx, New York City. In 1971, a group of musicians from New York City named Glenn Leopold, Steven Goldrich and Gil Roman got together to form a rock band. They were good friends with the owner of The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, Paul Colby. Using the name Gun Hill Road, they signed with Mercury Records to release an album called First Stop, which was produced by Jay Leer. It's not a bad album, but it didn't get much national attention. One single was issued from that album that featured a song called 42nd Street (not the one from the musical of the same name).

Source: Billboard Magazine ad 22 May 1971

They changed their name to Gunhill Road to release a second album on Mercury in 1972, also called Gunhill Road, with all songs written by Glenn Leopold. That album was produced by Kenny Rogers, the garage rock hippie who turned into a Country legend. The album included a fun track called Back When My Hair Was Short, which featured Gil Roman on lead vocals and 12-string guitar, Glenn Leopold on backing vocals and 6-string guitar, Steven Goldrich on backing vocals and piano, Bill Perry on bass, and Larry Brown on drums and percussion. The lyrics talked about how life had evolved for teenagers from when they grew up in the 1950s with short hair to become long-haired hippies in the 1960s who attended college and took drugs, including the "alphabet" variety: LSD, THC, and STP.

The band was then picked up by Kama Sutra Records and their second album was reissued on that label. Neil Bogart, the guy who ran Kama Sutra Records at the time, felt that Back When My Hair Was Short had hit potential, but only with a bit faster tempo and less offensive lyrics. Neil gave the band's new producer, Kenny Kerner, some really simple instructions, "Here's all I am going to tell you; I want it to be really bouncy and really pop." They went into the studio, picked up the tempo just a bit, and cut a new version of the song, along with several other songs on the album. A second pressing of the album was made using the updated tracks, and a single was released for the new version of Back When My Hair Was Short.

Here's the original version of Back When My Hair Was Short by Gunhill Road on Mercury LP SR-61341 from 1972, complete with the "offensive" drug references:

Here's the revised version of the song that made its debut on Billboard's Hot 100 on 31 March 1973, stayed there for fifteen weeks, and peaked at #40. By June 1973, the band would be performing it on American Bandstand:

According to trade magazines at the time, Back When My Hair Was Short had the unique distinction of hitting the top ten at different times in several different markets around the country. Paul Reisch replaced lead vocalist Gil Roman in 1973.

Just after making this record, producer Kenny Kerner picked up a demo tape that Neil Bogart left outside his office for him to review. It was made by some local kids who had been playing clubs in a band they called Wicked Lester. The five-songs were recorded at the Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village (built by Jimi Hendrix) and supervised by a producer Kenny knew named Eddie Kramer. Upon hearing the tape, Kenny Kerner was blown away, and the four guys who now called themselves KISS would soon become superstars. Neil Bogart launched the Casablanca label in November 1973 and KISS was the first act he signed.

Neil Bogart, born Neil Bogatz on 3 February 1943 in the housing projects in Brooklyn, passed away on 8 May 1982 at age 39 after suffering with cancer and lymphoma. He had recorded several Teener records back in the 1960s using the name Neil Scott, including this odd teenage angst tear-jerking ditty called Bobby on Portrait 102 from 1961, which actually climbed to #58 on Billboard's Hot 100, and did much better in Chicago where it topped out at #8 on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey:

Neil Bogart in 1975

Kenny Kerner

Kenny Kerner has continued in the music business for over four decades as a producer, writer, director, publicist, magazine editor and director of a music business program at the Musicians Institute in his home town of Hollywood, California.

Glenn Leopold became a film producer working on cartoons for Hanna-Barbera. He's been involed as writer, editor, and character creator on several projects and was nominated for an Emmy in 1994 for his work on The Town That Santa Forgot.

Gil Roman is still around and living in California. He's still playing bass, and did so as one of dozens of musicians who have sat in on the strange band called The Stupeds.

Steven Goldrich, who also plays Calliope, Harpsichord, Organ and Piano, is probably still active in the music business, but I haven't been able to track him down.

If you know where I can get in touch with any of these guys, or you ARE one of these guys, please drop me a note. I'd love to speak with you on the phone!

MusicMaster Oldies is not only where you'll hear all your favorite hits from the 1950's and 1960's, it's also where you'll hear the ORIGINAL versions of several hits, including this one. In fact, there are currently over 1,300 "original" versions waiting for you to discover there!

Friday, August 24, 2012

New Oldies - Happy Happy by Bobby Rydell

Looking over my older posts it occurred to me that I frequently spotlight an artist who has recently passed away. Today I'm going in another direction. I'm going to talk about one who was probably days away from death, but is now on the road to recovery.

Bobby Rydell was born Robert Louis Ridarelli on 26 April 1942 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He set out to be in show business before he even started school. Inspired by Gene Krupa, he was playing drums when he was only six. Just a year later, seven year old Bobby appeared on a TV talent show called Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club. He won first place and spent the next few years working with Whiteman, a 60 year old musician who headed up a very successful dance band in the 1920's. He became a regular performer on that show. Along the way he changed his name, later joining some local bands in his home town. At local nightclubs around Philadelphia, young Bobby would entertain the guests with impersonations of famous TV stars, such as Johnny Ray, Louis Prima, and Milton Berle. While still attending Bishop Neumann High School in south Philly (now known as Neumann-Goretti), Bobby played drums with a group called Rocco And The Saints which also featured a young Frankie Avalon on trumpet. He and Frankie became best friends and are still close to this day. Another kid from the old neighborhood known simply as Fabian was another of Bobby's friends.

He made his first solo record in 1958, a song called Happy Happy released on Venise 201:

I apologize for the inferior audio quality of the flip side of this record. My copy of this rare platter has a lot of scratches on both sides, but much more on this side. It's a fairly obnoxious novelty called Fatty Fatty:

Happy Happy was issued again in 1958 on Veko 731 with a different song, Dream Age, on the flip side:

Neither of these records made the national charts, but they did earn Bobby a contract with Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe's Cameo records in Philadelphia.

His first single on that label, Please Don't Be Mad backed with Makin' Time, was issued in the summer of 1959 on Cameo 160. Both songs escaped the charts, despite the fact that the topside was an awesome group record:

Bobby followed this up with a couple more Teenage Idol attempts, For You For You backed with All I Want Is You, on Cameo 164. He finally landed a hit with his next record, Kissin' Time (USA), which went to #11 in June 1959.

Bobby toured Australia a year later with The Everly Brothers, Marv Johnson, The Crickets, The Champs, and Billy "Crash" Craddock. For the tour, he recorded a different version of Kissin' Time for the Australian market. The original version never charted Down Under, but with the new lyrics it climbed to #7 there in November 1961. This version was never released anywhere else. Here's Kissin' Time (Australia Way) on Columbia 4235:

Here's an interesting bit of Bobby Rydell trivia for you. While Paul McCartney and John Lennon were sitting on twin beds in a hotel writing She Loves You in May 1963, Bobby Rydell's last big hit, Forget Him, was a #13 hit in England, but it hadn't caught on yet in the states. They liked the way the backing chorus would "answer" Bobby in that song and wanted to do the same thing in She Loves You. The idea was for Paul and John to sing "She Loves You" followed by everyone singing "Yeah Yeah" immediately afterward. After trying it that way, they decided it wasn't a very good idea and a couple hours later had changed it to the smash hit everyone knows.

Bobby recorded a fun "answer record" for his 1963 album, Top Hits Of 1963. It's actually a cover of a song that was first recorded as an instrumental called Chariot by Franck Pourcel in 1961. Lyrics were first added in 1962, turning it into a European hit for Petula Clark called Chariot, which she sung in French. She also recorded a German version called Cheerio. You probably know the song best as I Will Follow Him by Little Peggy March, which became a #1 hit on Billboard's Hot 100 in January 1963. Bobby's cover changes the lyrics again, very slightly, so he could sing it from a male perspective.

Here's I Will Follow Her by Bobby Rydell on Cameo LP 1070 from 1963:

Here's the original French version, Chariot by Petula Clark on Vogue EP 8000 from 1962:

And here's the German version, Cheerio:

While we're on the subject, here's Little Peggy March singing I Will Follow Him in perfect Japanese:

Ricky Nelson took a different approach when he sang the song on TV as I Will Follow You:

Nearly all the hits issued on the Cameo-Parkway labels featured the same backing musicians led by Dave Appell, who liked to use up to four saxophones on his rock and roll sessions. Blowing those tenor horns were Buddy Savitt, George Young, and Fred Nuzzolillo (using the name Dan Dailey). The guitar work was handled by Dave himself, or Joe Renzetti. Bob McGraw or Joe Macho played bass. At the keyboards you'd hear Fred Bender or Roy Straigis, although co-owner Bernie Lowe would take over for Charlie Gracie's recordings. Ellis Tollin or Bobby Gregg worked the drums.

Here's another interesting bit of trivia about Bobby Rydell. Did you know that, despite putting more than a couple dozen songs on the charts, he never had a number one hit on Billboard's Hot 100? Nor did he score a chart-topper in any other part of the world. It's true. His biggest hit, Wild One, only peaked at #2 in February 1960. That's amazing when you consider that he placed 19 hits in the Top 30 from 1959 to 1964, many of which became million-sellers.

This next piece comes from a very strange 45 that was actually issued as a bonus record in the same 1963 album that included I Will Follow Her. One side of this record featured the song Forget Him, which at the time of this album's release had been a #13 hit in England in May and June of 1963. The song would become a #4 smash hit for Bobby in the states in late December 1963 and early January 1964. But it's the other side of this record that's most interesting. This is called A Message From Bobby, and it features Bobby just talking about what was going on in his life at the time. It's a wonderful glimpse into the past, and into the world of rock and roll from the perspective of a true Teenage Idol.

Here's A Message From Bobby by Bobby Rydell on Cameo 1070 from 1963:

Here are just a couple more interesting YouTube clips:

In March 2010, Bobby, who suffers from diabetes, missed a show because he wasn't feeling well. Bobby was forced to cancel his Australian tour this year when his health problems suddenly became much more serious. He was in urgent need of a new liver and kidney. In fact, his doctor told him he probably had less than a month to live. Just six weeks ago, Bobby underwent a 20-hour double organ transplant at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. During his hospital stay Bobby's old friend, Frankie Avalon, called to let him know that he'd gone to church and prayed for him. He's back home now with his second wife Linda Hoffman, who is also a nurse, and recovering very nicely. He met his first wife, Camille Quattrone, in 1968 and they had two children together. They were still married when Camille died of cancer in 2003. He married Linda on 17 January 2009. Bobby and his doctor will work together to raise awareness of the critical need for organ donors. For updates, check out his official website at

There are nearly one hundred Bobby Rydell songs playing right now on MusicMaster Oldies. This includes his duets with Chubby Checker and the duet he sang with Ann-Margret when he starred in the movie Bye Bye Birdie.