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!

1 comment:

  1. Love the Fleetwoods, but this is the first time I heard about Vic Dana stepping in for Gary. Neat!