Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Oldies - Surfer's Life by Robby And The Robbins

You've just got to love the city names in Wisconsin! These guys from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, a lake community that's on the western fringe of Milwaukee, hold the record for having the most singles on Billboard's Bubbling Under The Hot 100, six of them to be exact, without ever breaking into the Hot 100.

This group was formed in the early 1960's by three brothers, David Donaldson on lead vocals and guitar, Robert Donaldson on guitar and vocals, and George Donaldson on keyboards. They took stage names, so David became Dee Rob, Robert became Bruce Robb, and George became Joe Robb. This original group cut records on Argo as Dee Robb, on Todd as Robby And Robbins, and on Score as Dee Robb And The Robbins. In 1965, changed their name to The Robbs and brought in a fourth member to play drums, family friend Craig Krampf, who took the name Craig Robb.

When Dick Clark discovered the band in 1966, he got them signed to Mercury Records where Lou Reizner began producing some singles on them. The boys headed for California to replace Paul Revere And The Raiders as the house band on Dick Clark's spin-off of American Bandstand called Where The Action Is. That show ran from 27 June 1965 to 31 March 1967 and was aired on the ABC television network. The show's theme song, Action, became a #13 hit for Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon in September 1965.

The records they made on Mercury may not have done well across the nation, but they had tremendous success in certain regions, particularly their home town of Milwaukee. They also made the Top 40 in places like Chicago, Duluth, Louisville, San Antonio, Honolulu, Lansing, Hartford, Columbus, Youngstown, and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. If you lived in one of these cities, you probably remember hearing The Robbs often on the radio.

This record was one of the band's early efforts, before Craig joined the band. It's unusual because it's a surfing track that was recorded a couple thousand miles from California, the mecca of surfing in the continental United States. Here's Surfer's Life by Robby And The Robbins on Todd 1080 from 1963:

Five of their singles as The Robbs made it into Billboard's Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart, starting with Race With The Wind at #103 in 1966. Then came Rapid Transit peaking at #123 in 1967. In 1969, another single called Movin' topped off at #131. Two more singles parked on that same chart in 1970, Last Of The Wine at #114, and I'll Never Get Enough at #106.

After making just one self-titled album as The Robbs, then changed their name to Cherokee in 1971, with the band members reverting to their real names. They had help from Chris Hillman of the Byrds on their Cherokee album, but it never showed up on the national charts. Neither did the single they released from that album, Rosianna. They made a follow-up single that was not from the album called Girl I've Got News For You, which became their fifth record to top off on Billboard's Bubbling Under chart at #116.

Craig Krampf left the group and became a respected session drummer, songwriter and record producer. You can hear him drumming on Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes. He helped write Oh Sherrie, which became a big hit for Steve Perry in 1984. He produced Melissa Etheridge's first album.

The three Robb brothers built studios in a barn in rural California to record their own material, but they ended up using it to record other artists, such as Del Shannon. They never broke up the band, but kept so busy recording other artists they didn't have time to perform anymore. In 1975, they bought a premiere recording facility from Mike Curb and opened Cherokee Studio in Los Angeles, where more than 250 gold and platinum hit records were made. One of the artists who recorded there was another Oconomonoc native, Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's. The studio also rocked with the sounds of Steely Dan, Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, Al Green, Barbra Streisand, John Cougar, Warren Zevon, Jane's Addiction, Devo, Prince, Twisted Sister, Ozzy Osbourne, Public Enemy, Lenny Kravitz, and many others.

David Donaldson (Dee Robb) passed away in February 2008 after being diagnosed with throat cancer.

I'll leave you with two of my favorite Robbs tracks, neither of which ever made it onto the Billboard charts, although one of them is the B-side to one of their Bubbling Under records, Rapid Transit. That one is called Cynthia Loves by The Robbs on Mercury 72678 from 1967:

You can hear one more, but you have to promise me that you'll fire up iTunes and buy some Robbs music for your iPod. Here's Bittersweet by The Robbs on Mercury 72641 from 1966:

Coming up, I'll feature some more bands that made great records that became regional hits, but never broke out nationwide. Keep listening to MusicMaster Oldies. If you don't like what you hear, send me suggestions. If you do like it, please be sure to tell your friends!

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Oldies - Why Am I The One by Mary Frances

Tracking down information about Mary Frances made me feel like a kitten chasing a laser pointer. I ran into way too many dark alleys and dead ends on the information superhighway. But tracking down the record itself was even more challenging. Don't believe me? Just try to find a copy of this for sale anywhere in the world. Try to find a record store, dealer, or collector who even owns a copy of it. Go ahead, I'll wait.

I needed this Mary Frances record to complete my collection of Canadian records that appeared on the 1050 CHUM radio charts in the 1950's and 1960's. Although I eventually found them all, this was one of the very last ones to join my collection. I found it in a storage unit in Canada that was filled with at least a hundred thousand 45's. Out of all those records, I only found one that I needed for my collection. This one. Both sides of this single were listed on that chart, making it a double-sided hit. It debuted on the chart on 8 July 1961, and lasted only one week at #44.

Here's Why Am I The One by Mary Frances on Chateau 123 from 1961:

Now here's the flip side of that single, Everybody's Got Somebody:

Now that I owned the record, I wanted to find out more about Mary Frances. A Google search is pretty much useless. That name is so common, you get millions of useless hits when you search for it. I assumed that 'Mary Frances' was just her first and middle names, but that doesn't help much! Eventually, I found a bit more information about her, but it sure wasn't easy.

At first I thought she might be Mary Frances Penick, the girl you know as Skeeter Davis, best known for cutting one of the most definitive 1960's oldies ever made, The End Of The World, in 1963. But it would have been impossible for Skeeter to have been the Mary Frances on those Canadian music charts. By the time the Canadian record was made, Skeeter was already working with the legendary Chet Atkins, cutting hit records in Nashville under the name Skeeter Davis, and touring the country with Ernest Tubb. Alright, that's fine. Once I figured this out, I was one step closer to my goal. I still didn't know who Mary Frances was, but at least I had ruled out one candidate.

While researching another artist, I happened upon a small news item in the 10 October 1960 edition of Billboard Music Week that mentioned Mary Frances, announcing that she had joined the regular cast of a musical variety television show called Country Hoedown on CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). That show began in 1956 as a summer replacement for On Camera on Saturday evenings, but moved to Friday evenings when it became a regular series. It ran for nine years, ending in 1965. The host was Gordie Tapp, a Canadian entertainer who also played a couple of characters on the show called Cousin Clem and Gaylord. The show featured some of Canada's best performers on a regular basis, including Tommy Common, Tommy Hunter, the Hames Sisters, and the Singing Swinging Eight square dance group with caller Johnny Davidson. Mary Frances made her debut on that show when it began its fifth season on 30 September 1960. I found a few other mentions of her in later editions, but was only able to learn that she was a brunette. Another piece of news about her appeared in the 9 January 1961 edition. She would record several original Western songs written specifically for her by Les Pouliot, musical arranger for Country Hoedown. An article in the Montreal Gazette from 29 September 1961 noted that Mary Fran, formerly known as Mary Frances, would be returning for the show's sixth season. One final mention of Mary Fran simply listed her name in the show's credits on 13 October 1961. Whatever happened to her after that is a complete mystery to me!

Now that I knew she had changed her name, I thought that would help me find later information about her. No dice. Searching for Mary Fran produces even more useless information than Mary Frances! At one point I found an actress and singer named Mary Frances, also known as Maria Frances, and who later began using her real name, Paca Gabaldon, who appeared in several foreign films and later started appearing in Italian pin up magazines in the nude! I actually thought I'd figured out what became of Mary Frances, until I realized that in order for these two women to be the same person, Mary Frances would have had to be just twelve years old when she appeared on Country Hoedown and cut this record. That was obviously not the case. Needless to say, if anyone reading this knows anything about Mary Frances, a.k.a. Mary Fran, please let me know!

Someone named Mary Fran cut a record on D 1258 in 1964 called Tic-Tac-Toe b/w I'm Tired Of Waiting. I'm still trying to track down that record because it could be a later release by Mary Frances.

I've spent fifty years tracking down obscure records like this one. But you can enjoy them all without working so hard. Just listen to MusicMaster Oldies as often as you can. You'll hear songs from the 1950's and 1960's that you never even knew existed, and some that money simply cannot buy. If there's a record you've been trying to find for a long time, let me know. Odds are I either own it, or I can find it for you!

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Oldies - Cookbook by The Damnation Of Adam Blessing

If you ever wondered why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located in Cleveland, Ohio, this might give you a clue. Even the Cleveland bands that didn't make the big-time were incredible.

The Damnation Of Adam Blessing were a bunch of guys from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, who were only a couple years older than me. Although their records did very well locally, for some very strange reason they never found national success. Only one of their singles, Back To The River, ever appeared on Billboard's Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart, peaking at #102 in November 1970. That record did slightly better on Cashbox reaching #85. If you lived outside the Cleveland area, these guys could be the greatest rock band you've never heard!

The group was formed in 1968 when two local groups, Society and Dust, agreed to join forces. As seen from left to right in the above photo, the group's original lineup included Ray Benich on bass, Jim Quinn on guitar, Bill Constable (aka Adam Blessing) on vocals, Bill Schwark on drums, and Bob Kalamasz on guitar. These guys wrote a lot of their own material which featured some incredibly poetic lyrics. Artistically speaking, they were far more advanced than the other local bands, and even many of their contemporaries anywhere in the country.

The Damnation Of Adam Blessing played a ton of gigs all over the Cleveland area, often opening for The James Gang featuring Joe Walsh. I think I saw them perform at The Plato club in downtown Cleveland, but thanks to various chemicals, I don't completely trust my memories of the late 1960's and early 1970's!

When United Artists signed the group they released their debut album in 1969 called The Damnation of Adam Blessing. Then they went on tour opening for The Faces featuring Rod Stewart. They've also toured with Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, Sly And The Family Stone, Traffic, The Byrds, Uriah Heep, Alice Cooper, The Stooges, and Grand Funk Railroad. When they played the Cincinnati Pop Festival at Crosley Field on 13 June 1970, some 70,000 fans got so excited after their nearly hour-long rendition of You Got Me Floatin', they broke down a snow fence and rushed the stage that was set up near second base. This temporarily stopped the show. They also went to Los Angeles in 1970 to do a gig at the legendary Whiskey A Go Go club.

In 1970, the group made a second album called The Second Damnation, which produced their only charted single, Back To The River. Bill Schwark left the band and was replaced by the brother of Adam Blessing, Ken Constable. The group's third album, Which Is Justice Which Is The Thief, was released in 1971.

The group changed their name to Glory in 1972 and released one final album with the same name on Avalanche Records, a subsidiary of United Artists. You can find all of their material on an Italian compilation from Akarma.

Here's Cookbook by The Damnation Of Adam Blessing from their 1969 debut album, which was also issued as a single on United Artists 50912:

Here's the flip side of that single and another cut from their debut album, a very nice slowed-down version of the classic Morning Dew, written by Bonnie Dobson and Tim Rose:

Here's the record that did sneak into the charts for them, Back To The River by The Damnation Of Adam Blessing from their second album, The Second Damnation, from 1970, which also issued as a single on United Artists 50726:

David Spero, Executive Vice President of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, brought The Damnation Of Adam Blessing back for an incredible encore performance on 27 September 2000. The guys proved they can still play some kick-ass rock!

You'll hear many incredible local rock bands from all over the country, and all over the world, on MusicMaster Oldies. Tell your friends. Tell your children! I wouldn't want our kids to grow up without some appreciation of the folks who helped music evolve from Crooners and Big Bands, into R&B, Rockabilly, Rock and Roll, Disco, Country, Heavy Metal, Modern Pop and Hip Hop!

New Oldies - !aaaH-aH yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er'yehT by VIX noelopaN

Am I crazy, or does this sound like Russian to you?

This is the flip side of They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha by Napoleon XIV, a novelty song that has been called one of the worst records ever made. Maybe I'm just nuts or something, but I loved this song when I first heard it, and I still think it's really fun today. The flip side was just the same song running in reverse. Even the label was a mirror image, with just a couple of exceptions. This may not be your cup of tea, but you can't deny that it's a very strange piece of pop music history!

Napoleon XIV was actually a professional songwriter named Jerry Samuels who started writing songs when he was 16 years old. Jerry was born on 3 May 1938 in Brooklyn, New York. The first song published with his name in the composer credits was called To Ev'ry Girl To Ev'ry Boy (The Meaning Of Love) by Johnnie Ray on Columbia 40252 in 1954:

He actually wrote this song with Sol Parker, even though it's credited to B. Parker. That's Sol's father, Barry. The same thing happened on Jerry's second published song, The Only Girl I'll Ever Love by Johnnie Ray on Columbia 40324 in 1955. The first song written solely by Jerry Samuels was So Rich And Yet So Very Poor by Tommy Mara on RKO Unique 377 in 1956. The biggest hit he wrote, but did not sing, came in 1964 with The Shelter Of Your Arms by Sammy Davis Junior, which peaked at #17 on Billboard's Hot 100.

Also in 1956, Jerry started recording his own records. His first was Puppy Love by Jerry Samuels on Vik 0197. By the way, there were at least 19 completely different songs recorded using the title Puppy Love in the 1950's and 1960's, which may be some kind of record! Jerry also recorded a Break-In novelty record called The Trial under the name Jerry Field And The Lawyers on Parkway 801 in 1958:

In 1959, he recorded Dancing Partners using the name Jerry Simms on RCA 7483:

He used that same name on Treasure Supreme on Dual 501 in 1961. He's also rumored to be singing under an assumed name on Gruesome by Mike Evans on A&M 837 from 1967:

I suspect he's also the artist on Medical School Talkin' Blues by Dr Douglas Greer on Reprise 0524 from 1968. But his biggest hit came in 1966 when he made They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha! on Warner 5831. That bizarre novelty record shot up the charts, peaking at #3 on Billboard's Hot 100, and #1 on Cashbox. It also went to #7 in Canada on 1050 CHUM, #4 in England, #7 in Ireland, #13 in Australia, and #22 in Germany. The record dropped off the charts like a lead balloon after an avalanche of protests forced Program Directors to take it off the air.

He filled an album with more songs about insanity in that same year, then followed up with a second single from that album called (I'm In Love With My) Little Red Tricycle on RCA 5853. He was working on a second album for Warner called For God's Sake Stop The Feces in 1968, but it was never released.

He made one more novelty record in 1973 as Jerry Samuels again with I Owe A Lot To Iowa Pot b/w Who Are You To Tell Me Not To Smoke Marijuana on J.E.P. 1175.

Jerry is 73 now, but still running a talent agency in New York City.

Speaking of Crazy, did you know there was a little flaw in Crazy by Patsy Cline? When that track was recorded in Nashville, Patsy came in too early near the end of the song. This was fixed in the editing process, but her voice "leaked" into the instrument pickup microphones. You can hear it faintly in the background if you listen carefully. I've made it easier for you by jacking up the volume on that part. You should easily hear it at 2:29, right near the end:

You may think I've lost my mind, but I don't think 120,000 oldies provides enough variety. That's why I'm adding 100-200 new songs from the 1950's and 1960's to the MusicMaster Oldies mix every week. If I can keep up this pace, and I don't get myself committed to the Funny Farm, you could listen forever and never stop hearing something you've never heard before. Scary, right?

Oh, one last thing before I forget (too late, I did forget it!) They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Haaa was not the first song of this kind. Let's dial the time machine back to 1947. Here's Hooray Hooray I'm Going Away by Beatrice Kay on Columbia 37922:

Totally sick and certifiably demented, eh?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Oldies - Your Driver's License Please by Bobby Please

It's a beautiful day in Southern California so I thought we could go for a drive. Let's put the top down, hit the coast highway, and see what this baby can do!

Bobby Please was from Los Angeles. He co-wrote this song with Joe Saraceno who got into surf music in 1962 and became a producer for The Ventures and The Mar-Kets. The voice of the cop on this record is rumored to be Eddie Cochran! Here's Your Driver's License Please by Bobby Please on Era 1044 from 1957:

This next record is actually a tenor sax player named Teddy McRae. He was born in Philadelphia in 1908 and played with some of the jazz greats, including Chick Webb, Red Allen, Ella Fitzgerald, Teddy Wilson, Cab Calloway, Jimmie Lunceford, Lionel Hampton, and Louis Armstrong. He and Eddie Wilcox formed their own record label, Raecox, in the 1950's, but that venture did not last long. By 1955 he was working with Champion Jack Dupree and recording a few sides for Groove Records. Here's Radar by Mr Bear And His Bearcats on Groove 0150 from 1955:

Arlen Sanders was a disc jockey on KRLA in Los Angeles from 1956 to 1963. He had moved on to KEZY in the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim by the time he made this record. (I once applied for the job of Program Director of that station!) From there he went to KIEV in 1967, then KFOX (1972-1977). He passed away in 1994 at the age of 64 after suffering a stroke. Here's Hopped-Up Mustang by Arlen Sanders And The Pacifics on Faro 616 from 1964:

Kenny Karen was born in Troy, New York in 1944. When he was just two years old his family moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He joined the church choir and began writing his own songs when he was just 11 years old. He went to New York City in 1959 to persue a career in the music industry. He signed as an exclusive singer-songwriter with Al Nevins and Don Kirshner in 1961. As a demo singer, he actually recorded the first (demo) versions of songs like Alfie, This Guy's In Love With You Hello Dolly, and Promises Promises. He even recorded demos for some Elvis Presley movies. He became a jingle singer in 1966 and has sung on over 15,000 jingles since then, including ones for McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Budweiser, Pabst, Miller, Pepsi, Coke, and many many more. Here's Oh Susie Forgive Me by Kenny Karen on Columbia 42264 from 1962.

Vernon Green was born in 1937. He wrote a song called The Letter in 1954 that contained a bit of nonsense in the lyrics, "The puppetutes of love." This line was picked up by Steve Miller in The Joker and we heard it as "The pompatus of love." When asked about this line, Vernon said that "puppetutes" was a word he made up to describe a secret lover, a paper doll that would be his everything and bear his children! Vernon died the day before Christmas in 2000 in Los Angeles. Here's Speedin' by Vernon Green And The Medallions on DooTone 364 from 1955:

You've heard of Them with Van Morrison, right? Well, these guys are not them ;-) This Them is a garage rock group from Cincinnati, Ohio. Here's Don't Look Now by Them on King 5967 from 1964:

I'd like to continue our drive, but it appears we've got a flat tire! There were actually two different groups recording as the Del-Vikings at the same time. The original group was formed in 1955 by five members of the U.S. Air Force stationed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The original lineup was Clarence Quick, Kripp Johnson, Don Jackson, Samuel Paterson, and Bernard Robertson. They signed up with the tiny Fee Bee label and recorded the classic hit, Come Go With Me in 1957. Because they were all under 21 when they signed that contract, it was easy for them to get out of the deal. They moved to Mercury Records in 1957 under the direction of their manager, Alan Strauss. Kripp Johnson, however, was still bound to his contract with Fee Bee (which was later distributed by Dot Records), so he stayed with that label and formed another group, who also called themselves the Del Vikings! William Blakely, a friend of Clarence Quick, joined the group to take Kripp's place in the new lineup on Mercury. Meanwhile, Kripp formed a new group for Dot as the Dell Vikings. For some strange reason, they also changed his name to Krips Johnson at that same time. Confusing, right? Having two groups recording with the same name was causing confusion, so Mercury filed a lawsuit claiming ownership of any name that sounded like Del Vikings, regardless of the spelling. Kripp's group briefly became The Versatiles, but broke up shortly afterward. Chuck Jackson, who had been a member of the Dot group, went on to have a very successful solo career. After the Dell Vikings on Mercury broke up, Kripp pulled them together again, forming the Del Vikings on ABC-Paramount. The core of the original group was back, but they failed to produce any hit records and split up again in 1965. This particular record features the Mercury version of the group. Here's Flat Tire by the Dell Vikings on Mercury 71390 from 1958:

The confusing story of the Del Vikings, Dell Vikings, Del-Vikings, and Dell-Vikings is very well sorted out by Marv Goldberg. You can read all about it by clicking here.

Now that we've got too many points on our license to legally drive, let's all head for the ocean and catch some waves instead! If you like "Car Tunes" you will find over a thousand of them waiting for you on MusicMaster Oldies. Cruise on over sometime!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Oldies - Don't Give Up Hope by Four More

The guy who sold this record to me claimed it was a bootleg, so he was willing to sell it for just a few bucks. Quite some time later, I found another copy of the record, but this one actually was a bootleg. It was now obvious that the first one I got was an original, and that means it's worth a little bit of money. You could probably count the number of legitimate copies of this record that exist on one hand!

The band is from Corpus Christi, Texas, even though some sources have incorrectly claimed they were from twenty miles south in Kingsville. The group was formed in October 1965 and featured Jerry Chandler on vocals and rhythm guitar, Kenny Chandler on vocals and bass, Mike Burrows on drums, and Chuck Carter on lead guitar.

Rare records sometimes lose a lot of value when they're released on a compilation CD. That'll probably be the case for this one too. That's a shame, but at least that allows more people to find and enjoy the music. But if you want the actual vinyl in your hands, expect it to set you back at least a couple grand.

Here's Don't Give Up Hope by Four More on Fairchild 1001 from 1966:

Here's the awesome flip side, Problem Child by Four More:

Some people say they also recorded as The Chosen Ones, but the only records I've ever seen by a band with that name came from Topeka, Kansas. The members of that group were "chosen" from auditions, which is how they got their name! They made just one record, as far as I know, and that was a custom pressing "vanity" album on Audio House 267 released in 1967. Wanna hear a sample of it? I thought you might...

Here's As As Tears Go By by the Chosen Ones (of Topeka) on Audio House LP 267 from 1967:

If you like this kind of music, keep your digital dial set on MusicMaster Oldies all the time!

Monday, January 23, 2012

R.I.P. Jamesetta

With her husband, Artis Mills, and two sons, Donto and Sametto, at her side, Etta James left us last Friday in a hospital in Riverside, California. She was 73 years old. She had been suffering with leukemia for almost a year and had also been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2008. Her passing was a monumental loss for R&B fans all over the world. We can only thank God that her music will live on forever.

To say that Etta James had a rough life would be a serious understatement. She was born Jamesetta Hawkins on 25 January 1938 to a 14-year old mother named Dorothy. Her life was scarred by heroin addiction. She had been arrested for forgery and cashing bad checks. Etta's husband took responsibility for her drug use when the two of them were arrested shortly after getting married in 1969. Etta never knew her father, but speculated that he was the legendary pool player, Minnesota Fats. Etta's mother, who she called The Mystery Lady, ran around with various men and frequently left her in the hands of caretakers. She called one of the couples who took care of her Sarge and Mama Lu. She began singing with the Echos of Eden choir at St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles after receiving vocal training from James Earle Hines, who started working with her when she was only five years old. During this time, Sarge kept trying to get the church to pay him for Etta's singing, but they never did. Sarge would wake Etta up in the middle of the night and force her to sing for him and his all night poker buddies, who were all drunk at the time. If she refused, Sarge would beat her. Etta was a bed-wetter, so she often had to sing for the men while soaking in her own urine.

When Mama Lu died in 1950, Etta's real mother took her to the Fillmore district in San Francisco. She loved listening to doo wop music, which inspired her to start her own group called the Creolettes. When she was 14, she met bandleader Johnny Otis, who took Etta under his wing and helped launch her professional career. He changed the name of her group to The Peaches, then twisted her name around to put her in front of the group. She became Etta James And The Peaches.

Johnny Otis helped Etta get signed to Modern Records where she made her first record. It was an Answer Song based on Work With Me Annie by The Midnighters, written and sung by Henry "Hank" Ballard, which was itself inspired by a 1953 recording called Get It by Hank Ballard when he was with a group called the Royals. Etta's version was released with the title The Wallflower, even though that term is never sung in the lyrics. This was done to avoid censorship because the word "roll" was common slang at the time for having sex. In fact, the FCC had originally objected to Hank Ballard's record because of its overly sexual lyrics. But once that record crossed over to become a huge favorite with white teenagers, the FCC was trumped by public demand for the record. If you think about that while you listen to these songs, it makes them even more interesting and entertaining!

Here's The Wallflower by Etta James And The Peaches on (78 RPM) Modern 947 from 1955:

The male vocalist on this record is actually Richard Berry, the guy who wrote and first recorded the frat rock classic, Louie Louie!

And here's Work With Me Annie by The Midnighters on Federal 12169 from 1954:

This Hank Ballard song was a #1 R&B hit that crossed over to reach #22 on Billboard's Hot 100. Etta's answer became a #1 hit on the R&B charts, but never made it on the "white" charts. That's because Mercury Records quickly released their own version of the song as Dance With Me Henry sung by Georgia Gibbs, which became a #1 hit on Billboard's Hot 100. That makes this record fall into another category on MusicMaster Oldies which I call Black And White. It's where the record industry literally screwed black artists by having white artists cover their hit songs to capitalize on record sales to white teenagers. Aren't we all glad that those days are gone?

So you can compare the Black vs White versions, here's Dance With Me Henry (Wallflower) by Georgia Gibbs on Mercury 70572 from 1955:

Hank Ballard actually followed up Etta's answer with an Answer Record of his own, which he called Henry's Got Flat Feet (Can't Dance) on Federal 12224 in 1955. How come don't we have fun with records like this anymore?

There are currently over 50 Etta James tunes playing on MusicMaster Oldies, but I'm in the process of adding more. There are also 863 different Answer Songs being played, with more on the way!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Oldies - Help For My Waiting by The Dorians

The Dorians were John Unger on vocals, Bill Loop on guitar, Bob Nixon on bass, and Mike Bets on drums. The group was formed in 1968 in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada by Bob Nixon and John Unger, who had been a member of Small Town Boys and The Living Ends. They released a single called If I Were 21 And You Were 24, but it got very little attention. In 1969, Ray Charles band member Floyd Jones heard the group and suggested they record Psychedelic Lipstick. That became a hit for them overseas. The group also released this song, written by Floyd Jones and John Unger. It got a lot of airplay in certain areas of the United States and Canada, but it failed to appear on any national charts.

Here's Help For My Waiting by The Dorians on GM 707 from 1969:

This song was reissued for national distribution in 1970 on Big Tree 110. You're much more likely to locate a copy of it on that label.

The group's name comes from ancient Greek mythology. They were a tribe of warriors who conquered lands all across and around Greece. They were most likely responsible for much of Greek architecture, and introduced the use of choral lyrics in Greek Tragedy.

You like garage rock? You'll hear over 6,000 garage rock records on MusicMaster Oldies, most of them recorded between 1965 and 1967.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Oldies - Daydreams by Charlotte O'Hara

There's a wild and crazy story behind the girl singing this song. I'll tell you all about it. But first, lets hear today's New Oldie. This is Daydreams by Charlotte O'Hara on Ava 126 from 1963:

The girl singing this song is actually Charlotte Ann Matheny from Los Angeles. She was a regular backup singer for Phil Spector at his recording sessions.

She was also very active in the "song poem" world. That's where a production company, for a fee of course, will turn poems that you've written into songs and publish them on a single. After recording this song as Charlotte O'Hara, she began cutting more records using different names, such as Bonnie Graham, just Bonnie, Bonnie And Nita (with her very close friend Nita Garfield), and Bonnie And The Treasures. Yes, Charlotte was, in fact, Bonnie of Bonnie And The Treasures, even though Ronnie Bennett of the Ronettes has often claimed that SHE was Bonnie in that group.

Ronnie Bennett, of course, was married to Phil Spector from 1968 to 1974, becoming Ronnie Spector. If you have any doubt that Phil Spector was capable of shooting a woman in his home, you will put away all doubts if you read about Ronnie Spector's personal life. You can get a nice idea of what Phil was like as a husband and a person by clicking here.

Bonnie And The Treasures recorded a song written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil called Home Of The Brave and released it in 1965 on Phil Spector's Phi-Dan label. It was produced by Jerry Riopelle and arranged by Nick DeCaro. If you listen to the song, you will clearly hear the famous "Wall of Sound" production that was characteristic of Phil Spector. Despite the fact that Phil Spector owned the label, the production of THIS Wall of Sound record was all Jerry Riopelle's work.

Here's Home Of The Brave by Bonnie And The Treasures on Phi-Dan 5005 from 1965:

Very shortly after this record was released, and unaware of the fact the song had already been recorded by someone else, producer Steve Douglas recorded the same song with singer Jody Miller and arranger Billy Strange, releasing it on Capitol 5483. Possibly due to the fact that Capitol had more "capital" to invest, along with an established nation-wide promotional network, Jody's version became a much bigger success, peaking at #25 on Billboard's Hot 100. The same song by Bonnie And The Treasures topped out at #77 and only survived five weeks on the charts.

Here's Home Of The Brave by Jody Miller on Capitol 5483 from 1965:

Both labels thought they had an "exclusive" when they released the song. In fact, the Bonnie And The Treasures version was almost certainly issued first. But the success of Jody Miller's version, and the fact that both versions debuted on the charts in the same week, led many in the industry to think Jody Miller's version was the original and that Bonnie And The Treasures had copied it. This really irritated Phil Spector, who we now know is a man you dare not irritate! He reacted by taking out ads in the trade magazines to make sure everyone knew his label's version was the original.

Despite her many attempts, Charlotte failed to get any more of her own records on the chart. This really frustrated her. She was especially annoyed that a song like Me And You And A Dog Named Boo by Lobo, which she detested, could become a big hit. Actually, I have to agree with her. Charlotte's work is considerably better!

Charlotte did become an accomplished composer. She and Keith Colley wrote Love Bells which was a hit for The Galens in 1963. Charlotte and her friend Nita also wrote We're Here To Entertain You for the Jackson Five, along with other songs for Jean Knight, Bobby Bland, and Jermaine Jackson. If you want to read a lot more about Charlotte, click here.

Sadly, Charlotte's career and life were both cut short by breast cancer. After the cancer spread to her brain, she passed away in 1976 while still in her 30's.

If you like Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, you'll hear every single record he ever produced on MusicMaster Oldies, along with many other records that tried very hard to imitate that sound throughout the 1960's!

Friday, January 20, 2012

New Oldies - Bopper 486609 by Donna Dameron

I had two copies of this record, until I sold one of them to a man claiming to be the son of The Big Bopper. After asking him many questions, I am convinced that he was telling me the truth. He even invited me to attend one of his shows in northern Wisconsin. This man's name was Jay Perry Richardson, and he was born two months AFTER the death of his famous father. He's been performing as The Big Bopper Junior, doing concerts with a Buddy Holly impersonator named John Mueller, often on the same stages where his dad once performed with Buddy Holly.

He told me he'd been searching for a copy of this record for a very long time. He had a recording of it, but not the original vinyl pressing. According to him, the lady singing this song was actually his mother, Elise Richardson! Both sides of the record were written by The Big Bopper and published by Glad Music and Big Bopper Music.

Here's Bopper 486609 by Donna Dameron (probably Elise Richardson) on Dart 113 from 1959:

And here's the flip side of that single, a song called Big Love:

The Big Bopper's father was born Jiles Perry Richardson on 12 October 1905 in Beaumont, Texas. In 1930, Jiles, then a 24 year old oil rig worker, married 20 year old Elise Stalsby. They had their first child, James Gilbert Richardson, on 28 October 1932 in Beaumont. James died on 12 December 1995 in Pasadena, Harris County, Texas.

The family moved to nearby Sabine Pass, Texas and had their second son, Jiles Perry Richardson Jr on 24 October 1930. He became known as The Big Bopper.

Sabine Pass in Jefferson County is a small town just on the Gulf of Mexico at the Louisiana-Texas border, about ten miles south of Port Arthur (birthplace of Janis Joplin) and 20 miles south of Beaumont.

A third child, Cecil Allen Richardson was born on 1 August 1934 back in Beaumont. He got married to Billie Carter and died on 30 August 1989 after living his entire life in Beaumont.

Jiles junior was nicknamed "JP" to distinguish himself from his father. His friends started calling him "Jape" instead. After he was born, the family moved back to Beaumont where JP graduated from Beaumont High School in 1947. He studied law at Lamar College while working a part-time job at KTRM radio. He joined the U.S. Army in 1955 and worked as a radar operator at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. After being discharged, he returned to Beaumont and began working full-time at KTRM radio. A new dance craze called The Bop was really popular at the time, so he started calling himself The Big Bopper on his radio show. He had a passion for writing songs, and he soon became Program Director of the radio station. A couple of his early compositions would later become big hits, such as White Lightning and Running Bear.

A guy named Harold "Pappy" Dailey, who was Promotions Director for Mercury Records, heard The Big Bopper sing and offered him a contract with the label. His first recording, Beggar To A King, wasn't very successful. He finally hit the big time with Chantilly Lace, which peaked at #16 on Billboard's Hot 100 and stayed in the Top 40 for 22 weeks. All the while, he was still working at KTRM radio.

He took time off from that job to go on the road to perform with Buddy Holly And The Crickets, Ritchie Valens, and Dion And the Belmonts. The midwest concert tour, organized by the GAC agency, was called The Winter Dance Party. On the eleventh night of that tour, after finishing a show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy Holly decided to charter an airplane to fly to the next show in Moorhead, Minnesota. He'd been traveling by bus for over a week, and it had already broken down once along the way. He was exhausted and his clothes were all dirty. Buddy's plan was to arrive in Moorhead early enough to get his clothes washed and catch up on some badly needed sleep.

Roger Peterson, a 21-year old pilot, agreed to take the singers to the airport in Fargo, North Dakota, the nearest one to Moorhead. A blizzard was on the way, and Roger was tired after working a 17-hour day, but he agreed to make the trip anyway. Buddy Holly's bass player, Waylon Jennings, was supposed to travel with them, but offered to give up his seat to The Big Bopper who was suffering with the flu at the time. Buddy yelled to Waylon, "I hope your ol' bus freezes up!" Waylon shouted back, "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes!" That exchange would haunt Waylon Jennings for many years to come.

Buddy Holly's guitarist, Tommy Allsup, flipped a coin with Ritchie Valens for the one remaining seat. Ritchie won that coin toss. Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper, climbed on board the red and white, single engine Beech Bonanza about 30 minutes past midnight on 3 February 1959.

Roger got clearance to take off from the tower, but was not warned that the blizzard was quickly approaching. Snow was blowing across the runway, but the sky still looked clear. Just a few minutes after taking off, the four-passenger plane crashed in an Iowa cornfield at over 220 miles per hour. It flipped over on impact and threw the passengers into the air. The bodies landed several yards from the wreckage and remained there for ten hours as big snow drifts formed all around them. Nobody could reach the crash site until the next morning.

Buddy Holly had just married Maria Elena six months before his death and she was pregnant at the time. She learned of her famous husband's death from a news report on the radio. That traumatic experience probably contributed to her miscarriage shortly afterward. It was that incident that made it standard practice from then on to keep the names of victims from the press until after family members had been notified.

Here's a recording of a radio news report that aired shortly after the accident:

I've personally visited the lonely spot where Buddy Holly's plane crashed. I've also toured the Surf Ballroom at 460 North Shore Drive in Clear Lake, Iowa. If you have the chance to go there, I highly recommend it. It's literally a museum of 1950's music with the walls covered with records and memorabilia. Every year on the anniversary of Buddy Holly's death, they have concerts there and a vinyl record show. The crash site itself can be difficult to find. It's not marked very well, which has always seemed strange to me.

I can't leave without sharing a couple tribute songs with you. This one is fairly well-known, having peaked at #11 on Billboard's Hot 100 very shortly after the accident. This is Three Stars by Tommy Dee With Carol Kay And The Teen-Aires on Crest 1057 from 1959:

Here's a much lesser-known tribute song that also came out just after the accident, but this one did not appear on the charts. Here's Gold Records In The Snow by Benny Barnes on D 1052 from 1959:

You'll hear this Donna Dameron single on MusicMaster Oldies, along with every song ever recorded by The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and Ritchie Valens, and literally dozens of tribute songs honoring these three legendary rock and roll pioneers. You'll also hear plenty of great stuff from Dion and the Belmonts and even Waylon Jennings.

Every year some of my crazy friends and I take a 1000+ mile drive searching for places that are part of the history of rock and roll music. We particularly like to visit crash sites, which are often very difficult to find or located on private property. We like to find people from the area who were alive when the crash happened, interview them, and see if we can learn anything new. Just to give you an idea how crazy we are about this, we've already visited the crash sites of Ricky Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Otis Redding, Chase, Buddy Holly, Jim Croce, Stevie Ray Vaughan, along with dozens of other places. I'll dig up our pictures and put some future posts together for you!

I like to think of MusicMaster Oldies as an ongoing tribute to the music of the 1950's and 1960's. It's a musical museum you can visit any time you like!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Oldies - A Walk In The Black Forest by Salena Jones

A Walk In The Black Forest really is my personal favorite 1960's oldie. The song was written and performed first as an instrumental by Horst Jankowski as Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt. It was issued as a single on Mercury 861 in Europe, and on Mercury 72425 in the United States in 1965.

Amazingly, it was not a chart hit in Horst's own country, Germany. It peaked at #12 on Billboard's Hot 100, and did slightly better on Cashbox, reaching #9. It was a #11 hit on 1050 CHUM in Toronto, Canada. It was a #5 hit on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey in Chicago. It as a #1 hit on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, and also topped the charts in Australia. It fell just short of the top in England, peaking at #3 there. It peaked at #10 in Ireland. With all that success around the world, it's difficult to imagine the song having trouble charting in Germany. Maybe they were all buying the album that contained the song, Traumklang Und Rhythmus Mit Horst Jankowski, which was released very late in 1964 on Mercury 610104 in Germany. The song also appeared in America on an album called The Genius Of Jankowski in 1965. The single and the album both sold over a million copies.

Horst Jankowski was born in Berlin, Germany on 30 January 1936. He grew up surrounded by political changes and World War II. As a young adult following the war, he studied classical piano at the Hochschule für Musik Berlin. The name "Hanns Eisler" was added to that school's name in 1964 to honor the passing of that composer, who was also one of that school's first professors. He played jazz piano in the 1950's and became the bandleader for singer Caterina Valente, a French-born singer who charted 60 hits in Germany, but only one in America, The Breeze And I (Andalucia) issued on Decca 29467 in 1955.

After the success of A Walk In The Black Forest, Horst released many more albums. His only other single to appear on Billboard's Hot 100 was called Simpel Gimpel, which peaked at #91 later in 1965. However, a total of seven of his songs charted on Billboard's Adult Contemporary review. Despite limited success in the United States, he never had another chart hit anywhere else in the world. He went on to compose and perform easy listening music for Sonoton in Munich, one of the largest independently owned production music libraries in the world. Horst Jankowski died of lung cancer on 29 June 1998 at the age of 62.

A Walk In The Black Forest was covered by more than a dozen other artists throughout the 1960's, including Herb Alpert, Floyd Cramer, Bill Justis, Marty Gold, Russ Conway, Roger Williams, Billy Vaughn, and many others. However, it was almost always covered as an instrumental. I say "almost" because at least one cover of the song was made with lyrics added.

Here's the vocal version of A Walk In The Black Forest (Our Walk Of Love) by Salena Jones on Columbia (UK) 7818 from 1966:

Salena Jones was born Joan Elizabeth Shaw on 29 January 1944 in Newport News, Virginia. By coincidence, she and Jorst almost shared the same birthday! She first took the stage name Joan Temple and began singing around her home town. She ventured to New York City and took a shot at a talent contest at the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem singing September Song - and she won! She began singing regularly at the Village Vanguard. In the mid-1960's, she moved to Europe where she sang in Paris and London as Salena Jones. In 1978, she made a visit to Japan and fell in love with that country, and they fell in love with her too. She released twenty albums on JVC Records in Japan that were all top sellers in the Far East.

Last I heard, Salena Jones was still performing and currently living in London. Ironically, there was another singer named Joan Shaw who had performed at New York's Apollo Theater in the early 1950's and became a popular R&B singer throughout the 1950's. As far as I know, there's no relation between the two women. There was also a girl named Joan Temple who made a couple of Teener records on the Prep label in 1957. I can't say for sure if there's any relation there, either. But I'll keep digging because, well, that's what I like to do!

Now, please enjoy the very first 45 I bought with my own money when I was twelve years old and living in Cleveland, Ohio. Here's A Walk In The Black Forest (Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt) by Horst Jankowski And His Orchestra on Mercury 72425 from 1965:

You'll hear every version of this song that I've ever managed to find if you listen long enough to MusicMaster Oldies. You'll also hear many vocal versions of well-known instrumental hits too. I'll try to feature more of them here in the coming weeks.