Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Oldies - Heaven Is Being With You by Jackie DeShannon

However many hit records Jackie DeShannon made there should have been at least one more. This is one of them. This is dedicated to everyone who is lucky enough to be in love with someone who loves them back. Of course, it's a Brill Building tune as well.

Here's Heaven Is Being With You by Jackie DeShannon on Liberty 55342 from 1961:

There's a little slice of Heaven waiting for you on MusicMaster Oldies and you don't even have to die to get there.

Friday, March 30, 2012

New Oldies - The Battle Of Queenston Heights by Mike Darrow And The CHUMs

The Battle Of New Orleans engraving by Henry Bryan Hall printed by William Momberger

Just how much do you know about American History? A quick survey has convinced me that a lot of people must have used that class to catch up on their sleep when they went to school. Well, I'd like everyone's attention today because there will be a pop quiz later!

Today's New Oldie is a parody of The Battle Of New Orleans, smash crossover hit for Johnny Horton in 1959. The song went to #1 on both the Country and Pop charts in Billboard and Cashbox. It even made it to #3 on the R&B charts, which is nearly unheard of for a Country song. The song was also a #1 hit in Sydney, Australia and in Canada on 1050 CHUM-AM in Toronto in May 1959.

Mike Darow

This fun parody actually reached #16 in Canada a couple of months later. It was done by Mike Darow (his name was incorrectly printed with two R's on this record's label), who had just started working in 1959 as an air personality for CHUM Radio doing the afternoon (4:00pm to 7:00pm) shift.  Garry Ferrier, a very creative copywriter and part-time air personality for the station, wrote the lyrics.

Here's The Battle Of Queenston Heights by Mike Darrow And The CHUMs on Apex 76550 from 1959:

The Battle Of New Orleans was written and first performed by Jimmie Driftwood in 1957.

Jimmie Driftwood

Jimmie Driftwood was born James Corbit Morris on 20 June 1907 in Timbo, Arkansas. He wrote over 6,000 folk songs, including The Battle Of New Orleans. Some people believe he wrote this song in 1936, but didn't do anything with it until 21 years later.

Here's the original version of The Battle Of New Orleans by Jimmie Driftwood on RCA 7534 from 1957:

The lyrics are based on an actual battle between American and British forces in an area known as the Louisiana Purchase. That was a huge piece of land that covered roughly one-third of what is now the continental United States. It extended from the Gulf of Mexico north to include small parts of two Canadian provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan. It stretched between the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Mississippi River to the east, covering roughly 828,000 square miles (2.14 million square kilometers). President Thomas Jefferson secured the purchase in 1803 for around 78 million French francs, worth about 60 million dollars at that time. That's about $233 million dollars in today's money, which is less than half of what you could win in the big MegaMillions Powerball lottery today. The purchase doubled the size of the United States at the time and made citizens of the roughly 92 thousand people who lived in the territory at that time. Napoleon Bonaparte called it an affirmation of power for the United States that would ultimately create a maritime rival for England that would one day humble her pride.

On 18 June 1812, America declared war on the British Empire for the second time in her short history. The dispute was very complex and, if you're interested, you can read all about it by clicking here. One of the issues involved the possibility that America would annex Canada. In 1813, the Americans actually took control of Lake Erie and seized parts of western Ontario in the process. They also stopped the British plan to form a confederacy with the native Americans to create an independent state for them under British sponsorship. The British won a few battles in the beginning, including the capture and burning of Washington D.C. in the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814. But the Americans battled back with decisive victories in New York, Baltimore (the battle that inspired The Star Spangled Banner), and New Orleans.

When the War of 1812 ended on 18 February 1815, Americans were overcome with a sense of unity. They'd just defeated the British in what must have felt like a second Revolutionary War. Partisanship nearly vanished and the years that followed came to be known as the Era of Good Feelings (we could certainly use one of those today!).  Canada also came away with a renewed sense of national pride and solidarity having successfully repelled the American invasions. The big losers were the British, but they considered the conflict more of a nuisance that paled in comparison to the much larger Napoleonic Wars raging in Europe at the time.

The Battle of New Orleans was fought about five miles south of New Orleans in a place called Chalmette Plantation. It was a decisive victory for the Americans that led to the withdrawal of British troops from Louisiana and the recall of the British fleet from America's shores. Jimmie Driftwood's song reflects the pride that Americans felt after that victory. The song refers to Major General Jackson who became President Andrew Jackson, and his nickname was Old Hickory. The British forces were led by Major General Sir Edward Pakenham.

Battle Of Queenston Heights

The Battle of Queenston Heights was one of the first of the War of 1812, and a significant victory for Canada. Queenston is located just inside the Canadian border on the Niagara River just a few clicks north of Niagara Falls. This battle was fought on 13 October 1812, led for the Americans by Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer. The Canadian forces, aided by the British troops and Mohawk Indians, were led by Major General Issac Brock. When Brock was killed in battle, Major General Roger Sheaffe took his place. Again, if you're interested, and you should be, you can read all about what happened by clicking here.

Johnny Horton was born John Gale Horton on 30 April 1925 in Los Angeles, and raised in Rusk, Texas. His life story is fascinating and you can read it by clicking here. He told people of his premonition of death, saying that he saw himself being killed in an accident by a driver who was intoxicated, which is exactly how he died on 5 November 1960. Johnny's version of The Battle Of New Orleans was issued on Columbia 41339 in 1959:

The Battle Of New Orleans became a huge crossover hit in America, but radio stations in England were reluctant to play the song for obvious reasons. Johnny actually recorded a different version of the song with new lyrics by Chet Atkins that turned it around to come from the British soldier's perspective.

Here's the British version of The Battle Of New Orleans by Johnny Horton on Philips 932 from 1959:

The melody for this song was based on an old fiddle tune called The Eighth Of January, which is also the date the battle took place. Here's Hank Williams doing that song:

I can't leave this topic without playing this parody of the song by Homer And Jethro. I used to hear this song while away at Boy Scout camp when I was very young. These guys were brilliant comedians!

Here's The Battle Of Kookamonga by Homer And Jethro on RCA 7585, also from 1959.

There are at least a dozen versions of this song playing on MusicMaster Oldies, and hundreds more with a military or war theme. So everybody at ease, please, and give it a listen. That's an order, soldier!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Oldies - Play Me A Sad Song by Dotty Daniels

So many of my disc jockey friends liked yesterday's New Oldie that I just had to post another one for them. If you haven't heard this one yet, you're in for a treat.

Carole King and Paul Simon

This song was written and first recorded in 1961 by a cat who called himself Jerry Landis. Of course, that was simply one of the many stage names Paul Simon used when he was just starting out making records. He also recorded as True Taylor and Paul Kane. He also sang lead vocals on some songs by Tico And The Triumphs and The Mystics, and did session work with Carole King as The Cosines. His early collaborations with high school chum Art Garfunkel were billed as by Tom And Jerry. Art Garfunkel also used some stage names of his own, including Tommy Graph and Artie Garr. A couple of years later, while still calling himself Jerry Landis, Paul Simon produced a record that featured this cover version of his song for a girl from New York City he discovered at Don Kirshner's who called herself Dotty Daniels. The flip side of Dotty's first record was one of her own compositions called I Wrote You A Letter.

Dotty Daniels, whose real name is Dorothy Goodman, first recorded as Desa Rae And The Soulettes on Swami Records in 1960 and is known today as Queen Goody, an international star of television, movies, musicals, plays, and more. Dotty lived in Brooklyn, New York, and attended the Ron Brown Academy where she acquired and perfected her talent for dancing, singing, acting and writing music. Her parents sang in the choir at Washington Temple, built in the old Loew's Theatre at 1372 Bedford Avenue by Bishop Frederick Douglas "F. D." Washington, whose ministry was known as "The Sawdust Trail." The Bishop's wife (did that remind you of the movie too?) was an incredible Gospel singer named Earnestine Washington who provided inspiration to young Dotty who became a soloist herself at the First Baptist Church of Sheepshead Bay while she was still a young child.

Dotty became a Brill Building songwriter and recording artist, often working closely with people like Paul Kaufman, Toni Wine and Evie Sands. She got to know the superstars too, like Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and Paul Simon. As a teen artist activist for civil rights Dotty appeared on Buddy Deane's television show in Baltimore, leading the movement to end segregation laws that actually made it illegal for black and white kids to dance with each other. (We've come a long way, thank you God.) This led to an appearance on Bob King's Teen Dance-a-Rama television dance show in Washington D.C., the first show in the nation to feature black dancers, along with stars Pat Boone, The Crystals, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Here's Play Me A Sad Song by Dotty Daniels on Amy 885 from 1963:

This song was a huge local hit, climbing all the way to #1 on the WAVZ-AM 1300 Top 60 in New Haven, Connecticut on 17 August 1963, staying there for six weeks. Graveyard shift R&B spinner Jack Walker made it his Pick Hit on WLIB-AM 1190 in Harlem, playing it every 15 minutes for a whole week. WLIB Radio was also the home of the legendary Jocko Henderson, who personally helped Dotty with her budding career as a teen artist and composer. The record was also reviewed favorably in Cashbox on 11 May 1963 and Billboard on 22 June 1963.

There were some other people you might have heard of in the studio with Dotty and Paul Simon that night. Freddie Scott and Big Dee Irwin were there, along with some folks we just talked about here recently, Cissy Houston (who was six months pregnant with Whitney at the time) and Valerie Simpson (of Ashford and Simpson fame), along with Doris Troy and Dee Dee Warwick of the Sweet Inspirations, all contributing backing vocals.

Dotty followed this record with one more on the Amy label, I'm Alone b/w A Casual Look. That one is also very good and just might end up getting featured here someday! You can preview and buy Dotty's latest songs on by clicking here.

Here's Paul Simon's original version of Play Me A Sad Song on Warwick 619 from 1961:

A much improved stereo version of the song was later reissued with orchestral strings mixed over the original recording:

There are many more buried treasures like this waiting for you on MusicMaster Oldies. What are you waiting for? Give your virtual digital dial a spin and check it out!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Oldies - Mister Dee-Jay by The Cinderellas

Here's one for all my friends who talk on the radio for a living. Remember the days when people could call the station, request a song, and dedicate it to their friends? Can you imagine how that made the lucky listeners feel when they heard their name on the radio? Why aren't we doing that anymore?

The Cinderellas were three girls from Hoboken, New Jersey, Julia Veronica Petronzio, Joyce Eyerman, and Josephine De Pasquale. They started out as the Three J's (Julia, Joyce, and Jo) after winning a talent contest on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour television show (a 1950's version of American Idol). This earned them a performance at Madison Square Garden where a talent scout heard them and introduced them to his boss, Buddy Kaye. They made three records in 1959 on Columbia and Decca, plus one where they were backing lead singer Henry 'Gaddy' Wilson. The girls were very young, ranging in age from 11 to 13 years old, when they started making records together!

Billboard Magazine - 9 February 1959

Here's Mister Dee-Jay by The Cinderellas on Decca 30830 from 1959:

We're not taking requests and dedications on MusicMaster Oldies either. Well, at least not yet. That doesn't mean I wouldn't love to do that someday!

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Oldies - Figurines by The Fleetwoods

If you find a Fleetwoods album, buy it. Every song they ever made is wonderful. Most people only know their two #1 hits, Mr. Blue and Come Softly To Me, both from 1959. Their first hit, Come Softly To Me, was an international success as well, reaching #1 in Canada, #6 in England, and #4 in Australia. The song was immediately covered in England by Frankie Vaughan With The Kaye Sisters, but the British audience still preferred the original version. Their version only peaked at #9 on the British charts. Strangely, none of the records by The Fleetwoods ever made the airplay or sales charts in Germany. The Fleetwoods placed nine other records on the Billboard Hot 100, with the biggest hit being Tragedy at #10 from 1961. They also placed four songs in Billboard's Bubbling Under The Hot 100. Go find them all on YouTube and you'll wonder why they didn't have a lot more top ten hits.

This song is from their Goodnight My Love album from 1963, written by drummer Jack Greenbach, along with Mel Larson, and Jerry Marcellino, who later wrote and produced records for Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five.

Here's Figurines by The Fleetwoods on Dolton LP 2025 from 1963:

This is also one of my favorite album covers, a beautiful girl with a record in her hand. What's not to love about that? Can you figure out which album she's holding in her hand?

The group was made up of two girls and a guy, which is what they originally called themselves when they assembled the group in the summer of 1958. The two girls were Gretchen Christopher, born 29 February 1940, and Barbara Ellis, who was just nine days older than Gretchen. The guy was Gary Troxel, born 28 November 1939. All three lived in Olympia, Washington.

Gretchen and Barbara were trying to assemble a vocal group and working out an arrangement of Stormy Weather. They heard about Gary, a trumpet player, from a local group called the Blue Comets. Gary walked Gretchen to her ballet class and started humming a trumpet riff he had been working on in his head that was loosely based on Come Go With Me by The Del Vikings. Gretchen, who had been putting together lyrics for a song she called Come Softly, realized that her lyrics fit the chord progressions of his tune. She started singing along with Gary and liked the way her lyrics fit in counterpoint with his melody. She and Gary sang it that way for Barbara and the three began working on the song together. They sang it at school functions, getting a lot of attention from their classmates. Gretchen got her dad's tape recorder and captured the trio singing the song a cappella. She took the tape to Bob Reisdorff, a record promoter who started Dolphin Records in Seattle. They worked on the song in the studio for five months, the only instrumental backing being Gary's car keys clicking out the rhythm. Bob Reisdorff and fellow producer Bonnie Guitar took the tape to Los Angeles where an instrumental backing was laid down using acoustic and bass guitars. All three lived in the same area of Olympia and shared phone numbers from the Fleetwood exchange (352 and 357), which is how they came up with their new name.

When Gary was drafted into the Navy in 1963, Vic Dana took his place for live performances. But the British Invasion put the finishing touches on The Fleetwoods, as it had done to countless other American acts at the time. Gary ended up working in a plywood plant. Gretchen became a jazz dance teacher and housewife. Barbara managed a trailer park in California. They got back together in 1970 to perform at Oldies revival shows. You'll find a wealth of information about The Fleetwoods, along with many pictures of their records, by clicking here.

You'll hear 15 different versions of Come Softly To Me on MusicMaster Oldies, along with almost 100 songs from The Fleetwoods, including a couple that were never officially released. Come Softly, and I promise you'll like what you hear!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New Oldies - Oh Neil by Carole King

For some reason, there's a lot of conflicting information out there about Carole King. You'd think that wouldn't be the case, right? If you do a Google search and read about her on Wikipedia, you'll see what I mean. Was she born in Sheeps-head Brooklyn or Manhattan? Did she find the stage name King in a phone book? Did she join a vocal group at high school, or was she already working at the Brill Building as a songwriter when she was 16? Just how well did she know Paul Simon, and when did she first meet him? Was Gerry Goffin the guy who got her pregnant at age 17 or did she meet him in Queens College? Was she Neil Sedaka's boyfriend at Queens college AFTER her first kid was already two years old and she was married to Gerry Goffin? Was she forced to marry Gerry by her parents or did she really love him? What happened to him? Did she divorce him because of his failing mental health, or was there some other reason? I've read countless books, magazine articles, watched Biography channel shows, in addition to searching every corner of the Internet, and I still can't answer these questions with any degree of certainty. Maybe one day I'll stumble upon a source I can trust. Better yet, maybe one day I'll have the opportunity to ask Carole herself.

The most common story about this record is that Carole wrote it after she broke up with Neil Sedaka after being her boyfriend at Queens College. Supposedly, she was the inspiration for Oh Carol in the first place. Of course, she would have had to be attending Queens Collage at the age of just 17 because that's how old she was when this song was made. Neil Sedaka was 20 at the time. He was accepted at Julliard when he was only eight years old and attended that famous school on Saturdays. He went to Lincoln High School, which is where he and some friends put together The Tokens. Carole King went to James Madison High School. There's no mention anywhere of Neil Sedaka going to Queens College. Yikes!

No matter. It's a cute pair of songs from a very talented couple of Brill Building legends.

Here's the original hit, Oh! Carol by Neil Sedaka on RCA 7595 from 1959:

Here's the Answer song, Oh Neil by Carole King on ALpine 57 from 1959:

Oh! Carol was a #9 hit that stayed on the charts in the Fall of 1959 for 18 weeks. No doubt it made a lot of money. But Carol gets the last laugh. An original pressing of Neil's hit is worth about $15 today. But Carol's record can fetch as much as $500 in really good condition. I know, because I've already owned three of them and sold two for about that price.

You'll hear about 1000 Answer Songs on MusicMaster Oldies. So what was the question again?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sweet Little Surfin' Sixteen USA

On this date in 1963 the Beach Boys hit Surfin' USA made its debut on Billboard's Hot 100. It would peak at #3 and stay on the charts for 17 weeks. Three years earlier, also around this time of year, Chuck Berry's Sweet Little Sixteen was topping the charts. It made its debut on 17 February 1958, peaked at #2, and stayed on the charts for a sweet sixteen weeks.

Everyone knows that Chuck Berry sued the Beach Boys for copyright infringement because of the similarities of those two songs. Here's why Chuck Berry won that case and was granted composer credits and royalties for the Beach Boys song:

Of course, Bobby Rydell's 1959 hit, Kissin' Time, also borrowed the melody from Chuck Berry's Sweet Little Sixteen and probably inspired a bit of Surfin' USA as well. It first hit the Billboard Hot 100 on 29 June 1959, went up to #11 and stayed on the charts for 17 weeks. If you tuned around on an AM radio in 1963 and heard three distant stations coming in at the same time, it might have sounded something like this:

I call it Sweet Kissin' Little Surfin' Sixteen Time. No, I don't play mashups on MusicMaster Oldies, but you will hear the original hits, even those who got caught stealing!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Captain Kirk

William Alan Shatner was born on this date, 22 March 1931, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. If you're a Trekker you already know that Captain James T. Kirk was also born on this date in the year 2233. Of course, it also happens to be the birthday of a police sergeant named T. J. Hooker and a senior law partner named Denny Crane, along with a whole bunch of other characters fabricated through the fertile imagination and incredible talent of Bill Shatner.

Here's Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds by William Shatner from his 1968 album, The Transformed Man:

Is this a serious effort or a joke? That debate rages on. There are over 2000 novelty records waiting to surprise you on MusicMaster Oldies, and that's no joke.

Happy 81st Birthday, Captain Kirk! Live long, and prosper!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Oldies - Gonna Get Some Records by Sandy Selsie

Today is Record Store Day, so I pulled up an appropriate song.

Sandy Selsie was born in 1946 in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, Ontario. She attended Bayview High School there. The family took a trip to Nashville to audition at the Columbia Records studios. She was signed to a five year contract with the label right on the spot! She released her first record on Columbia when she was just 15 years old. She was managed by her father, Fred Selsie. She started out singing in area shows. This led to appearances on local radio and television shows, like Tommy Hunter's radio show and Country Hoedown on television. She appeared on Hi Time on CFTO Channel 9 in Toronto on 25 August 1962 along with other guests Pat Hervey, The Beau-Marks, Gord Lightfoot, and Ronn Metcalfe. She did a personal appearance at the Sayvette City Record Bar on 3 May 1962. I don't know what she's been up to lately. If you do, by all means let me know.

Here's Gonna Get Some Records by Sandy Selsie on Columbia 42594 from 1962:

Now go buy some old vinyl records! While you're driving from one record shop to the next, plug your mobile device into your aux input and let MusicMaster Oldies keep you entertained.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Oldies - Stand By Me Father by The Soul Stirrers

Talking about Sam Cooke in yesterday's post reminded me of this incredible slice of music history. You're going to think this is Sam Cooke singing, but it's not. Although Sam was a member of the Soul Stirrers from 1949 to 1957, he left that group before this record was made to launch his solo career. He was replaced briefly by Little Johnny Jones, and then by Johnnie Taylor, who stayed with The Soul Stirrers for a couple of years. The guy singing this song is actually Johnnie Taylor, trying to sound as much like Sam as he could. Sam Cooke had actually done the same thing earlier, emulating the style of R. H. Harris when he took his place as a member of The Soul Stirrers. Only someone with incredible talent could pull this off, which is why these two men could do it so well. Johnnie perfected his instrument as a member of Melodymakers and, before that, with The Five Echoes in 1954. He stayed with the Soul Stirrers until 1963 when he was replaced by Jimmy Otler.

This was also the first record issued on Sam Cooke's independent SAR Records label. But what's most interesting about this song is that it laid the foundation for a song that became a timeless classic. With the help of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, Stand By Me Father was fitted with new lyrics and the melody restyled to create Stand By Me by Ben E. King, which makes this another Original Version of a hit song. This song was still listed as one of the top five gospel records on Billboard's Hot Spiritual Singles in February 1965, six years after its original release.

Here's Stand By Me Father by The Soul Stirrers on Sar 101 from 1959:

Johnnie Taylor was born on 5 May 1934 in Crawfordsville, Arkansas. When he was still a child, his family moved to West Memphis, on the Arkansas side of the river, where he performed in gospel groups. In the 1950's, Johnnie joined the gospel group known as Highway QCs on Chicago's Chance label, a group that had been founded by Sam Cooke. Johnnie became one of the first acts on Sam's SAR label. When Sam died and SAR closed down, Johnnie moved to Stax Records where he became known as The Philosopher Of Soul. Working there with house band Booker T And The MGs, he recorded a number of hits, including the million-selling hit, Who's Making Love. Johnnie Taylor died of a heart attack on 31 May 2000 in Dallas, and is buried in Arkansas beside his mother, Ida Mae Taylor.

I know you want to compare the two songs, so here's Stand By Me by Ben E. King on Atco 6194 from 1961:

Ben E. King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson on 23 September 1938 in Henderson, South Carolina. He moved to New York City in 1947 and became a member of the Moonglows while still attending high school. He joined the Five Crowns in 1957, which evolved into the new Drifters in 1959. He wrote his first song as lead singer for the Drifters, There Goes My Baby.

In May 1960, Ben E. King launched his solo career. Stand By Me was the second record he made as a solo artist. It went to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1961, and circled the globe to reach #27 in England and #23 in Australia about a month later. Strangely, the song never appeared on the R&B charts. Stand By Me is one of those rare records that manage a second life on the pop charts. It went to #10 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart in November 1986 when it was featured in the Rob Reiner film of the same name. It went to #1 in England in February 1987 after being featured in a television commercial for Levi's 501 jeans.

Almost immediately after Stand By Me became a hit, it was "answered" by Damita Jo. Her Answer Song, I'll Be There, became a #12 pop hit in June 1961 and, unlike Stand By Me, did pretty well on the R&B charts, peaking at #15. Her version also got some airplay in Australia, reaching #48 in Sydney, but did not make it on the charts in England.

Here's I'll Be There by Damita Jo on Mercury 71840 from 1961:

Damita Jo was born Damita Jo DeBlanc on 5 August 1930 in Austin, Texas. She sang with her husband's band, Steve Gibson And The Red Caps in the 1950's, but left both the group and the marriage in 1959. In addition to her solo works, Damita also worked with Ray Charles, Count Basie, and Lionel Hampton. In 1998, she started touring as a comedian with Redd Foxx. She died in Baltimore on Christmas Day that same year after suffering a respiratory infection.

Have you heard the 2009 Spanglish version of Stand By Me by Prince Royce? I love this version!

But, Prince Royce wasn't the first to record the song with Spanish lyrics. That honor goes to Los Hitters from Tijuana, Mexico, who included their version of the song on a 1966 album.

Here's Ven A Mi by Los Hitters from a Phoenix LP in 1966:

I can't help myself. There is another version of the song that interests collectors of both vinyl records and sports memorabilia. That would be this version, sung by heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay, who changed his name to Muhammad Ali when he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964, the same year he made this record. His version stalled at #106 on Billboard's Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart, but did slightly better on Cashbox, peaking at #94. If you find a copy of this with a picture sleeve, it's worth about $150 today.

Here's Stand By Me by Cassius Clay on Columbia 43007 from 1964:

I'll leave you with one of my all-time favorite songs, I Believe In You (You Believe In Me) by Johnnie Taylor on Stax 0161 from 1973:

You'll hear at least a dozen more versions of Stand By Me on MusicMaster Oldies.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Oldies - Oom Dooby Doom by Alicia Adams

What do the songs You Send Me by Sam Cooke, Tell Laura I Love Her by Ray Peterson, and the theme songs from The Jetsons and The Flintstones have in common? The answer is Alicia Adams, who sings background vocals on all of them.

Billboard Magazine
20 March 1961

Alicia also sang background vocals for Duane Eddy, Ann-Margret, Rosemary Clooney, Esquivel, and many others.

Here's Oom Dooby Doom by Alicia Adams on Capitol 4545 from 1961:

Rumor has it that Alicia was born in Nevada, Missouri, a small town south of Kansas City near the Kansas-Missouri border, but I haven't been able to confirm that. She moved to California at some point and became a member of The Encores, a group that was put together by Randy Van Horne. They went on tour with Billy May's Orchestra. In addition to Randy and Alicia, that group also included Clark Burroughs, Bob Morse, and Jack Elliot. In the mid-1950's, Randy collected some of his best session singers, including Alicia, and assembled The Randy Van Horne Singers. You may not have heard of them, but they were premiere studio vocalists in the 1960's. With her beautiful voice, Alicia should have had a long solo career as a pop singer. In fact, we should still hear her singing on oldies radio stations. I don't know why that never happened. That part of the story will always remain a mystery to me!

Randy Van Horne
Randy Van Horne was born on 2 February 1924. He attended school in Baltimore, then El Paso, and moved to California in 1949. He was a pioneer in the development of commercial jingles and studio background singers. He even did some work as the voice of Tony The Tiger and The Grinch. His friends described him as a fun-loving and enthusiastic, yet very humble person. Randy lost his battle with cancer on 26 September 2007. A memorial service was held for him at the Motion Picture And Television Home in Woodland Hills, California.
I have no idea where Alicia is today or what she's been doing. If anyone knows, please help us fill in the blanks! All of her solo records are played on MusicMaster Oldies. But now, the next time you hear You Send Me or Tell Laura I Love Her, you can remember Alicia Adams and Randy Van Horne.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Oldies - There's Gonna Be A Party by Bobby Gray

When the Beatles took off in America in 1964 it sent a shock wave through the music business. Teenage girls weren't the only ones screaming and crying. Tears were also being shed by American musicians who saw the British Invasion groups sucking up all the record sales, at least for a while. Sales of all genres of pop music were affected, but Motown seemed to be the first to come back. After a while, American artists found themselves selling even more records than before. Maybe the Beatles made the public more interested in music. Or, maybe the Beatles were a wake up call for musicians everywhere that they needed to work even harder to produce better material in order to compete.

In the wake of Beatle-Mania, a bunch of very strange things started to happen. Some groups made records that attacked the Beatles, which in hindsight was probably not a smart move. Other groups started to mimic the style of the Beatles, inserting "Yeah Yeah Yeah" or Little Richard-like "Wooo's" into their lyrics. Many of them also dropped their saxophones and keyboards in favor of a simplistic mix of one lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, backed by a drummer who knew how to pound out the British Beat. But one thing that really stands out in the American music from 1964 was the incredible number of records that acknowledged Beatle-Mania by mentioning the Fab Four in their lyrics. This is one of those records, which I like to call Beatle-Mania Records.

Here's There's Gonna Be A Party by Bobby Gray on Jody 101 from 1964:

Bobby Gray is still a mystery to me. I believe he came from Texas. This Jody label was pressed by Southern Plastics and has nothing in common with the other Jody Records out of New York. Bobby's real name was probably Robert J. Gray. I believe he only made three singles, all of which were produced, arranged, and published by a guy named J. A. "Bobe Wes" Balthrop out of Mesquite, Texas.

Bobe Wes was the son of a traveling fundamentalist preacher who spent his formative years around gospel music. Bobby Gray wrote most of his own songs, but not this one. This one was written by Bobe Wes, who also wrote Blue Memories by Dean Martin, Railroad Bum and You're Slipping Away From Me by Jim Reeves, and It Won't Seem Like Christmas (Without You) by Elvis Presley. He also traveled around playing his guitar at clubs in New York and Nashville, trying to sell his material. He also worked with Willie Nelson and Lefty Frizzell. Bobe Wes passed away on 26 September 2002 at Baylor University Medical Center after suffering a stroke.

Bobby Gray's songs were recorded at Boyd Recording Service in Dallas, which operated out of the KCPA Radio studios. It was a side project for the station's engineer, a cat known only as 'Juicy' Boyd.

If you happen to find a copy of this record, it's worth about $150 today. Bobby's first record, Devil Eyes b/w Chinese Angel on Jody 100, is even harder to find and worth at least $400. I've got a recording of Devil Eyes, but I'd really love to hear Chinese Angel. If you have one to share, please do!

I'll post many more Beatle-Mania Records here soon. So far, I've found over 1,500 of them! Since I won't live long enough to post that many songs, I guess you'll just have to listen to MusicMaster Oldies if you want to hear them all!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New Oldies - I Love The Rain by Us Kids

It would be a shame if it never rained in Heaven. We need rain to break up the monotony and help us appreciate the sunny days. It can also be our friend when we're feeling lonesome.

I love the rain, and I love this record. The first thing you'll notice when you hear it is that the lead singer sounds incredibly young. That because he was only about twelve years old. His name was Dennis Chitwood of Medford, Oregon, who sang lead and played his Fender rhythm guitar. The other three kids in the band were Bill Leach on his Rickenbacker lead guitar, Frank McCaslin on bass, and Kent Klinkenbeard on drums. The oldest kid in the band, Bill, was just 14 years old. They saved up some money and, with help from their parents, drove five hours to the Rex Recording Service in Portland where four very excited young men cut this record.

Kent - Dennis - Frank - Bill

They played a bunch of local gigs, including a Battle of the Bands in the parking lot of a local shopping center and an appearance on a local television show called Woman's World. KBOY-AM 730 Radio had them in the studio for an interview to help promote this record, which went to #3 on the KBOY "Rogue Valley's Swingin' List" Top 25 chart on 26 August 1966, right behind Sweet Pea by Tommy Roe and Yellow Submarine by The Beatles.

Here's I Love The Rain by Us Kids on Rex 2629/2630 from 1966:

Check out the flip side, a Garage Rocker called Check-Out:

Sadly, Dennis Chitwood passed away in 2009. He would have been only 55 years old.

I'll dig up some more dusty 45's to share with you, but in the meantime, check out MusicMaster Oldies. It's especially fun on a rainy day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

New Oldies - Elvira by The Skunks

The Skunks

Back in 1981, when the people of Milwaukee, Wisconsin first heard Joe Bonsall and the Oak Ridge Boys sing Elvira, they already knew the song very well. That's because it had been a regional hit fourteen years earlier for a local band who called themselves The Skunks. If that band's 1967 recording had broken out nationwide, Elvira might have been a pop hit before it was a Country hit. But that's not what happened. On Memorial Day in 1981, the Oak Ridge Boys version of Elvira had already gone to #1 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart, and by August it had crossed over to become a #5 hit on Billboard's Hot 100 as well.

The Skunks were four guys pulled together by guitarist Larry Lynne, aka Larry Ostricki of the western Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha. He brought in Rick Allen, aka Rick Sutherland, to play keyboards, Duane Lundy on drums, and Tony Kolp on sax. Playing on the band's name, Larry had everyone dye their hair black with a white stripe down the side. The band first appeared in 1964 at a place called Monreal's on 16th Street at National Avenue. The group went to Chicago to record some demos with the legendary Sonny Boy Williamson sitting in on harmonica, but those recordings were never released. A couple of changes were made, with Rick Allen replaced by Jack Tappy on bass, and Duane Lundy replaced by Teddy Peplinski on drums. The band moved about 100 blocks west to a place called Papa Joe's in Brookfield. Tony Kolp was then replaced by Randy Klein, playing rhythm guitar, and the band moved out to California. They played at a club called Gold Street in Garden Grove. They cut their first record on the Era label for release in November 1965. But the label's owner, Herb Newman, didn't like their name and changed it to The Unbelievables for that release. For their second single, the guys went to the Gold Star Studio and recorded their version of Elvira, along with the flip side, The Journey. The record wasn't released until the band moved back to Milwaukee.

Here's Elvira by The Skunks on USA 865 from 1967:

But The Skunks didn't record the first version of Elvira. The song was written and first recorded by Dallas Frazier in 1966. His version didn't do very well, peaking at #76 on Billboard's Hot 100 and only touching the very bottom of the Cashbox charts at #100.

Here's Elvira by Dallas Frazier on Capitol 5560 from 1966:

But The Skunks didn't cover Dallas Frazier's version. Instead, Larry Lynne heard a blues version of the song on WLAC Radio from Nashville by a cat named Baby Ray, aka Ray Eddlemon. All I know about Ray is that he married a girl named Terri Prim Zephyrhills. Ray and Terri were good friends with the famous World War II hero and actor, Audie Murphy and the three of them wrote songs together. Ray made many other singles, all of which are great, and opened for a Sonny And Cher concert in Dallas in late 1966. He died in 2000 at the age of 62 while serving time in the Nevada State Penitentiary, but I can't tell you what Ray did to get sent there. Although he sounded black, Ray is actually a white singer. Attempts to keep that information from the public is probably the reason why it's virtually impossible to find a photograph of him today. More mysteries to solve, I guess!

Here's Elvira by Baby Ray on Imperial 66232 from 1967:

Elvira - The Mistress of the Dark

The song really has nothing to do with the sexy TV movie host Elvira, host of the syndicated Movie Macabre television show. They simply share the same name. But, if you are one of Elvira's many fans, you probably think of her when you hear the song. But just how much do you know about the Mistress of the Dark?

Cassandra Peterson

Elvira was born Cassandra Peterson on 17 September 1951 in Manhattan, Kansas, and raised in Colorado Springs. She became a Las Vegas showgirl when she was just 17 years old, appearing in Viva Les Girls at the Dunes. She made her TV debut doing a guest appearance on Seymour's Fright Night on KHJ-TV in Los Angeles, featuring Larry Vincent as Seymour, the weekly horror movie host. Ironically, Cassandra would, herself, eventually become a horror movie host on that same station several years after Larry's death, thus getting her start as Elvira.

While working in Las Vegas, Cassandra met Elvis Presley who convinced her that she should go to Europe to pursue a career as a singer and actress. She did just that, landing a small part in a Federico Fellini film called Roma. She also toured Europe as lead singer of an Italian rock band called I Latins 80, incorrectly called I Latins Ochanats on many online reference sites. Good luck trying to research the band using that name! For you die-easy Elvira fans (sorry for my lame attempt at Elvira humor), here's a sample from that group's 1972 album, which was called Foglie Gialle All'imbrunire, or Yellow Leaves at Dark in English.

Here's Ci Vuol Pazienza (English: It Takes Patience) by I Latins 80 on Cinedelic CNCZ20083 from 1969:

I find it odd that Cassandra isn't credited on this album. It could be that she simply joined the group when they went on tour, or maybe she was using a fake name. The girl on the left in this photo from the back of the album sure looks like Cassandra to me.

After making this album, the group accompanied several other artists, including Domenico Modugno. In 1974, they changed their name to Expo 80, and then became known as Cappuccino in 1976. The band members credited on their 1969 album were: Franco Marcangeli on piano and vocals, Wilfrid Copello on drums and percussion, Lino Ranieri on bass, Vincent Barbera on guitar, percussion and voice, with Jackie Gustamacchio and Rosalba DiMarzio on vocals.

Another mystery, perhaps solved, perhaps not. If you can shed any light on Cassandra's other life in Italy, please share what you know with the class. In the meantime, I'll keep coming up with interesting bits of musical history for you, all of which can be heard in the massive archive of MusicMaster Oldies.

New Oldies - Jesus Is Just Alright by The Art Reynolds Singers

Michael Hossack

Today's New Oldie is another Original Version, dedicated to drummer Michael Hossack of The Doobie Brothers who lost his battle with cancer a couple days ago (Monday 12 March 2012). Big Mike played with the Doobies on three albums, Toulouse Street, The Captain And Me, and What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, which included the hits Listen To The Music, Rockin' Down The Highway, China Grove, Long Train Runnin', Black Water, and this song, Jesus Is Just Alright.

Many people think this song was first recorded by The Byrds in 1970. Their version, which peaked at only #97 on Billboard's Hot 100, was actually a cover of the original version by The Art Reynolds Singers. The song was written Arthur "Art" Reid Reynolds and appeared as a track on the 1966 album, Tellin' It Like It Is on Capitol Records. The song was listed as Jesus Is Just Alright on the album cover, but abbreviated to Jesus Is Alright on the label.

Thelma Houston

To create this gospel singing group, Art Reynolds selected five of the best singers from his choir at the St. Vestal C.M.E. church. One of those singers, Thelma Houston (no relation to the late Whitney), would go on to win a Grammy Award in 1978 for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for her #1 1977 hit Don't Leave Me This Way.

Here's Jesus Is Alright by The Art Reynolds Singers on Capitol LP 2534 from 1966:

Here's the Byrds version of the song on Columbia 45071 from 1970:

Big Mike Hossack was back with The Doobie Brothers for this 25 July 2004 performance at Wolf Trap National Park in Virginia:

You'll hear music from 1911 through 1973 on MusicMaster Oldies, including the early 1970's hits of the Doobie Brothers. You'll also hear the original versions of many hit songs, and I guarantee that you didn't know that many of them existed and you've probably never heard them before!