Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Oldies - What A Girl Can't Do by The Hangmen

Well, I'm in the mood for another moody garage rocker. How about you?

This record was actually recorded by a band called The Reekers from Bethesda, Maryland. In 1964, three kids from Walter Johnson High School, Tom Guernsey, Mike Henley and Joe Triplet got together to form a rock band. They called themselves The Reekers because they often thought they "reeked" on stage.

Here's What A Girl Can't Do by The Hangmen on Monument 910 from 1965:

And here's the flip side, The Girl Who Faded Away:

Tom Guernsey was born in 1945 and started taking jazz guitar lessons when he was 12 years old, right around the time Elvis was dominating pop music. When the Beatles came along, Tom began playing rock and roll. The Reekers took second place in a Battle Of The Bands contest that was being judged by two members of The Mugwumps, Mama Cass Elliot and Zally Yanovsky, later of the Mamas And The Papas. The Reekers recorded What A Girl Can't Do at Edgewood Studios in Washington D.C. under the direction of engineer-owner Ed Green. Shortly afterward, the band members graduated and went off to different colleges, with Tom attending Montgomery Junior College in nearby Montgomery County, Maryland.

Tom decided to assemble a new band. Tom would play lead guitar and backing vocals. He met fellow student and rhythm guitar player George Daly in 1965. They searched around campus to find other members for the band and picked up Mike West (Walters) on bass and Bob Berberich on drums. But the guys needed a lead singer and they wanted someone who sounded British. George Daly called the British embassy to see if they could help them find someone, and they put him in touch with a female singer. She turned them on to Dave Ottley, and that's how he came on board with The Hangmen. Believe it or not, Dave was was actually a hairdresser from Glasgow, Scotland at the time! He was later replaced by Tony Taylor, and bass player Mike West was later replaced by Paul Dowell. But don't forget, the Monument single wasn't The Hangmen, it was The Reekers.

The Hangmen (Tom, George, Tony, Paul and Bob) on The Jerry Blavat TV Show in Philadelphia

A bit later, the owner of Monument Records in Nashville, Fred Foster, listened to What A Girl Can't Do and decided that he'd like to release it. He insisted there should be an actual band to back up the release, but the original Reekers were no longer available. Fred Foster suggested they release the Reekers recordings under the name of Tom's new band, The Hangmen.

The song topped the charts on Washington's WEAM-AM 1390 after it was released in 1966, actually bumping We Can Work It Out and Day Tripper by The Beatles into second place. The band later put out an album called Bittersweet on Monument, which is a nice collector's item if you can find it!

Here's an incredibly cool version of Gloria from that album!

You can hear lots of great garage rock from the 1960's on MusicMaster Oldies, surrounded by every other genre of pop music from that era. The context, I think, makes the garage rock records really stand out and sound great. Check it out!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Are There Fewer Hit Records Made Today?

How many songs make it to number one on Billboard's Hot 100 each year? Have those numbers been getting higher or lower over the years? The answer might surprise you. The reason for this might surprise you even more.

The average number of records that make it to number one in a given year (1955 to 2011) is very close to 20. That means that, on average, a record sits at the number one spot for about two and a half weeks. But something changed radically around 1992. The number of unique songs that reached the number one spot suddenly dropped -- dramatically -- and stayed there. The average number of #1 hits each year between 1955 and 1992 was about 24. But the average number of annual #1 hits from 1993 to 2011 dropped to around 13 1/2. What happened?

The years that produced the most #1 hits (since 1955) were 1974 and 1975, each giving us 35 unique #1 tunes. We saw 33 #1 hits in 1988 and 1989, and 32 of them in 1965. From 1955 to 1992 the number of top hits per year ranged from a high of 35 to a low of 13 (in both 1955 and 1992).

From 1993 to 2011, however, the number of top hits per year only ranged from a high of eighteen (in both 2000 and 2007) to a low of just eight (in 2005).

Clearly there are fewer number one hits on the chart in recent years. There are several factors that can explain minor variations. Every so often a huge hit comes along that simply sits at the top of the chart much longer than most other number one hits. For example, Elvis Presley's huge 1956 hits, Don't Be Cruel and Hound Dog, stayed in the number one spot for a whopping (for then) eleven weeks. They each stayed on the charts for just over half a year. When those huge songs hit the charts, they take up space at the top, blocking other songs from reaching the number one position. These monster hits account for much of the variation in number one songs from one year to the next. But that doesn't account for what happened around 1992.

It used to be rare, but lately it's become more common for a song to slip out of the number one spot, only to bounce back up to number one again a week or two later. It's like a big song came along that pushed it's way through to the top, but then dropped quickly, allowing a song with more longevity to jump back up again. There are clearly songs that have more staying power than others. Novelty records, for example, tend to have very poor staying power. Once you've heard the joke, it's not funny the second time.

One possible explanation for the sudden decline in the number of unique number one hits each year since 1992 is that the music industry is producing songs with more longevity. Perhaps the industry has been paying attention to those longer lasting songs and figuring out what makes them hang around at the top of the charts. But does this suggest that Katy Perry and Lady GaGa are making better records than The Beatles or Elvis Presley? Maybe not better, but at least good enough to keep people from getting tired of hearing them quickly.

The Billboard charts are based on physical (and now digital) sales, with radio airplay factored in. There's a synergy between the music business and radio. I heard this described brilliantly last week at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. One of Country music's more prolific composers told the audience of radio programmers, "You can think of us as artists who paint beautiful pictures, but without you to hang them on the wall, nobody would ever see them." Radio promotes music. Always has. Always will. Or will it? There's been an ugly fight bubbling under the surface recently between radio and the music industry concerning performance royalties. The record companies used to let radio stations slide without paying these fees in consideration of the promotional value of exposing songs on the radio. That promotion used to sell records. It still does, of course, but to a lesser degree, especially among younger people.

Radio's dirty little secret is that it's not as effective at attracting the younger audience than it used to be. Young people today are exposed to new music from many different sources. Back in the 1950's and 1960's, you would only hear new songs when you listened to the radio, watched the occasional music variety show on television, or visited your local record store or a friend's house. The Internet changed all that.

Today, iTunes is the easiest way to discover new music. You can see the top selling songs in the iTunes music store and sample them on your computer or phone. This leads you to other songs by the top artists, and also to music from other "similar" artists, some of whom are completely independent from any record company. The record companies are slowly becoming irrelevant when it comes to promoting new music, while the radio stations are slowly becoming irrelevant at exposing new music.

The distribution of digital music via the Internet and the use of personal MP3 players really started to pick up speed around 1992. It became much easier for listeners to enjoy their own playlists, even while on the go, so they didn't spend as much time listening to the radio. There was also an explosion of illegal distribution of music, including new music, that had the potential to cut into record sales dramatically. Illegal music downloading could account for some of the variation in the Billboard charts, since they are based on legitimate record sales. The charts are also influenced by radio airplay, which really wasn't affected by the Internet. Instead, the number of radio listeners and their demographics changed. This would have had an impact on the feedback that radio programmers received from their audience through research, and that could have affected airplay which, in turn, would have had an impact on the Billboard charts.

Radio programmers have been researching the music they play for many years, but their methods were not very scientific prior to the 1960's. As the 1970's passed by, radio research companies started to prefect the art of music preference measurement. It's been getting even better ever since. Well, some say better, while others blame research for the smaller playlists and repetitive nature of radio today when compared with the "good old days."

The fact is, radio stations are getting better at finding the better songs, dumping the weaker songs, which all means that hit records continue getting airplay for a much longer time than they did in the past. Radio programmers use different methods to measure the music preferences of their audience, but they're all attempting to determine the same things. How many people (in our target audience) like this song? How many of them hate it? How many of them are tired of hearing it? How much does our audience think this song "fits" on our station? These factors act like a negative feedback that forces out the bad records quickly and keeps the good records playing much longer.

Almost all radio stations use computer software, such as MusicMaster, to create their playlists these days. In this software, the Program Director can assign each song to a Category, which controls the amount of time between repeat plays of that song. A big current hit will repeat much faster than a new release or an older song. Really old songs take much longer to repeat, or are removed from the system completely. The theory is that a radio station needs to consistently provide the musical product that their audience expects. It's like how McDonalds hamburgers usually taste exactly the same no matter which store you visit anywhere in the country, or even the world. It's not the best food, but you know what to expect when you visit McDonalds. The same thing happens with a well programmed radio station. You know what to expect whenever you tune in. If it's a current hit radio station, you should hear a current hit every time you tune in, at least within one or two songs at the most. You should hear the current hits often because that's what you expect. It's how people "use" radio these days.

If music research keeps better records playing longer, it follows that the total sales for these songs should increase as well. Both of these factors push the top songs up the charts and keep them there longer. This is clearly the reason why there are fewer number one hits each year. The hits just last longer on the radio giving more people a chance to hear them, love them, and ultimately buy them.

It's not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing. It is what it is. By the way, research shows that most people, as they get older, continue to prefer the music that was a current hit when they were fourteen years old. Take your birth year, add fourteen, and look up the top songs in that year. This should prove the point. There are exceptions, of course. But that statistic is pretty reliable. Researchers believe that our brains are actually imprinted with the music we heard during this particular time of our development from birth to adult.

I was fourteen in 1967, which probably explains why I'm so obsessed with the music of the 1960's. If you're younger than me (which, unfortunately, many people are these days), MusicMaster Oldies is probably not playing your favorite music. If you listen anyway, thank you. Think of it this way. When you listen to the oldies, you're learning about the roots that eventually spawned and shaped the music you do prefer. I'll be back with some more tunes in a bit. Thanks for letting me ramble on!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Home From Nashville

I'm home from Nashville and ready to get busy posting more stuff. But first, I need a little sleep. Nashville has so much going on all the time, you couldn't possibly see everything. I always end up listening to great live music almost 24/7 when I'm there!

While I'm catching up on my beauty sleep, here's a little slice of Heaven from Nashville for you. If you happen to be in Nashville on any Monday night, find a little place in "The Gulch" called The Station Inn. The doors open at 7:00pm, the music starts at 9:00pm, but you should get there and stand in line at least by 6:00pm. It's a small place and it always fill up completely!

The Station Inn

In this tiny little club you will see a collection of Nashville's finest session musicians playing Western Swing and classic Country music. These folks are the A-Team for sure, and they call themselves The Time Jumpers. Here's a little sample of what you'll hear when they slow down the pace a bit.


A few sights to go with the sounds...

The Time Jumpers Setting Up At The Station Inn

RCA Studio B

Live Music at Roberts Western World on Broadway

Owen Bradley

Street Corner on Music Row

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New Oldies - Angel In My Eyes (You May Not Be An Angel) by Ronnie Premiere And The Royal Lancers

Ronnie Premiere is really Ronnie Barzyk who was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on 11 August 1938. A white kid who grew up in a black neighborhood, Ronnie could write great songs very quickly and then sing them with soul. He sang for a local group called The Comic Books. Voice troubles forced him to quit singing in the mid-1960's. He moved from Milwaukee to nearby Merton. You might have heard him performing in the West Bend area in 1977 using the name Ron Bishop. In 1984 he moved to Nashville to become a cabinet maker.

This song was reissued for national distribution on Laurie 3091. Here's the original pressing of Angel In My Eyes (You May Not Be An Angel) by Ronnie Premiere And The Royal Lancers on Sara 1020 from December 1960:

And here's the flip side, So Loved Am I:

The Royal Lancers worked with several vocalists over the years. The core members were vocalist Paul Stefan (Stefaniak), Doug Tank on lead guitar, John Pavlik on rhythm guitar, Roy Malvitz on bass, Hal Block on sax, and Lee Breest on drums.

A lot of great music came out of Wisconsin in the 1950's and 1960's, and you can read all about it in a couple of excellent books written by Gary E. Myers, Do You Hear That Beat and On That Wisconsin Beat. I highly recommend both of them!

I'm on my way to Nashville now, but I'll try to post some more stuff this week if I can! In the meantime, this would be a great time to check out MusicMaster Oldies!

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Oldies - I've Been Everywhere by Lucky Starr

Since I'm about to hit the road for a week in Nashville, this song naturally sprang to mind. I might not be able to post new stuff every day while I'm away. This is a trip that really keeps me busy. There's just way too many fun places to listen to great music in Nashville!

Many people remember this song as a #1 Country hit for Hank Snow in September 1962. But the song was first recorded six months earlier by an Australian guy who called himself Lucky Starr. Not only did he record the original version of the song, he did four different versions of it for Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Here's the original Australian version I've Been Everywhere by Lucky Starr on Festival Records from 1962:

Here's the New Zealand version, also issued on Festival Records in 1962:

Here's the United Kingdom version issued on Parlophone in 1962:

Here's the United States version issued on Dot 16506 in 1962:

Lucky's Australian version was a #1 hit Down Under in March 1962. There are more than 130 cover versions and parodies of this song, including one from 1966 by the original composer called I've Had Everything that talks about all the diseases he's contracted!

Geoff Mack

I've Been Everywhere was written years before it became a hit by Australian singer-songwriter Geoff Mack, but he sat on the song for quite a while until Lucky Starr got hold of it. Geoff Mack was born Albert Geoffrey McElhinney on 20 December 1922 in Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia. He started performing in 1944 while stationed in Borneo as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. He came back to New South Wales, Australia, and began touring with the Barton's Follies tent show. He went to Japan to entertain and work as a radio announcer on WLKS Radio, the voice of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces. In 1948 he went to England and hung around Europe for the next several years. He met an English comedian named Tabby Francis in Germany and the two were married in 1953. Together, they rode their motorcycles to Ceylon (called Sri Lanka then), then shipped the bikes to Fremantle in Western Australia to continue their trip across the Nullabour Plains to Sydney. The entire trip took about a year. So, you see, Geoff Mack and his wife really have been everywhere, man!

Lucky Starr (Center)

Lucky Starr was born Leslie Morrison on 29 December 1940. At age 17, he joined a rock and roll group called The Hepparays as their lead singer. He made regular appearances on Australian music television shows Bandstand and Six O'Clock Rock, replacing Johnny O'Keefe as the host of Six O'Clock Rock for the 1960 season.

Cheryl Holdridge

In May 1960, 19-year old Lucky Starr was involved in a scandal after having sex with Cheryl Holdridge, then a 15-year old Mouseketeer on tour in Australia. Cheryl joined the Mickey Mouse Club in 1956 when she was just 11 years old. She went on to become a working actress on American television, working in shows like Leave It To Beaver, Bachelor Father, My Three Sons, The Adventures of Ozzie And Harriet, The Rifleman, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Dennis The Menace, The Donna Reed Show, Hawaiian Eye, Ripcord, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mr. Novak, Dr. Kildare, Wagon Train, Bewitched, and others. She died on 6 January 2009 in Santa Monica at age 64 after a battle with lung cancer.

Here's I've Been Everywhere by Hank Snow on RCA 8072 from 1962:

In 1963, Lucky Starr did a tour in the United States performing at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, The Mapes in Reno, and Harvey's in Lake Tahoe. He signed with Dot records and made five singles. The Hilton Hotel group invited him to tour the world and perform in their prestigious clubs. Paying his own travel expenses, Lucky became the first Australian performer to entertain troops in Vietnam and made a total of six trips there. In 2002-2003, Lucky toured Australia with an arena show called Long Way To The Top featuring top acts from the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's.

From a 1965 Capitol LP called All Together Now by Rolf Harris

So if you don't see me making many posts next week you'll know why. I'll be Waltzing Matilda all over Music City USA. I'll be sure to bring back some cool stuff to share with you! Why not let MusicMaster Oldies keep you company while I'm away? If I don't make it back home, tie me kangaroo down, sport!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

New Oldies - That's The Way by Keetie And The Kats

Larry - Dave - Keith - Bill

You'll find Shelbyville a few hours south of Springfield on Indiana state highway 35. We're not talking about The Simpsons here! Drive a few miles west of Shelbyville and you'll come to Whiteland, a farm community on the southern fringe of Indianapolis, near Interstate 65, one of America's busiest roads. Whiteland is the home of a barn that rocked out in the late 1950's, surrounded by hot rods and pickup trucks, and filled with wild and crazy midwestern teenagers, girls in poodle skirts and farm boys with crew cuts or greaser haircuts. One of the bands that turned the Whiteland Barn upside down was Keetie And The Kats, led by Keetie, also known as Keith Phillips who, as you will soon hear, is one heck of a drummer!

Along with Keith, the band's original lineup included Larry Lee, Dave Ellman, and Bill Rooker. By the time they cut this record in 1959 the group had replaced Bill Rooker with two new members, Norm Shafley and Jimmy Clendening, who does the vocals on this track.

Here's That's The Way by Keetie And The Kats on K-W 503 from 1959:

The band continued to evolve, adding Gary LeMaster from a band called Sons Of Liberty and changing their name to Keetie And The Casuals in 1963. A couple of years later you'd find Keith Phillips heading up the Keith Phillips VI.

The hits just keep on coming! There are now over 125,000 oldies from 1911 to 1973 beaming from the MusicMaster Oldies "Tower of Power" to the whole planet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New Oldie - Made In The USA by Don Clements

Don Clements was born on 21 May 1939 in Joplin, Missouri, and lived around Joplin and nearby Springfield for his entire life. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a trapeze artist with the circus, but that never happened. Instead, this self-taught musician became a professional entertainer at the age of 15 when he got his first gig at Jim Bowen's bar in Joplin in 1955. He got the idea to play there when he and his brother were walking past the place and heard someone singing inside. He turned to his brother and said, "Well, hell, we sing better than that!" Ten years later, he cut this record on Si Siman's Skipper label out of Springfield, Missouri, with the Anita Kerr singers providing backing vocals.

Here's Made In The USA by Don Clements on Skipper 7917-7918 from 1965:

The song was written by Ronnie Self, another underrated performer who wrote great songs like I'm Sorry and Sweet Nothin's that were made into classic oldies by Brenda Lee. Ronnie was born in Springfield, Missouri on 5 July 1938. He may have been the first rock and roll act signed to Columbia Records even though Mitch Miller, head of that label at the time, would have argued otherwise. Mitch Miller, the guy who hosted a music variety show on television called Sing Along With Mitch (follow the bouncing ball), had a well-known hatred of rock and roll music! Despite being a very talented singer-songwriter who was recorded by two major labels, Columbia and Decca, Ronnie's career never really took off. He managed only one minor chart hit with Bop-A-Lena, which reached #68 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1958. Ronnie won a Grammy in 1969 for writing the Best Sacred Performance, a country gospel song called Ain't That Beautiful Singing that was recorded by Jake Hess. He battled alcoholism for much of his life, which at times would lead him to violent behavior. Ronnie Self died in Springfield on 28 August 1981.

This is one of the few Country-flavored records listed as a collectible Teener, worth about $15 according to Jeff Kreiter's Teen Collectors Record Guide, because of this nice ballad on the flip side. Here's Don Clements singing My Conscience Knows, a song written by Doc Dougherty:

In 1967, Don turned down an offer to become ring announcer for Larry and Betty Carden's Shrine Circus in Springfield. Instead, he recorded the song Talk To The Animals so the ringmaster could lip-sync to it during the animal acts. Throughout the 1970's you might catch Don Clements performing with Buddy Welch, together billed as The Entertainers, playing every night at places like the Catch One club in the Riviera Motel out on Range Line Road. Around 1994, Don began performing every night at The Shady Inn, a restaurant and piano bar in Springfield, taking requests for songs like The Lady Is A Tramp from the noisy bar patrons while they sipped their tonic and gin.

Don got married to his longtime friend Genene L. Habermehl on 30 June 1997 in Miami, Oklahoma. Genene was born in Bakersfield, California, on 19 February 1945 and had been living in Springfield for many years. Shortly after the wedding, Don left the Shady Inn to travel briefly with the National Child Safety Council, but didn't like the work, or the idea of leaving his wife alone for long periods of time. He went back to performing in local clubs.

In the middle of his act on New Year's Eve 1997, Don was handed a note on a cocktail napkin. It was a job offer from George Carden, the son of Larry and Betty Carden, who was now running the Shrine Circus. George heard that Don had left the Shady Inn and decided to offer him a job with the circus. Don was tired of singing requests for drunken bar patrons who weren't really listening anyway. He liked the idea of entertaining parents and children with uptempo happy tunes. When George offered to triple what he'd been making at the Shady Inn and bring his wife in as well, Don accepted George's offer. Don and Genene spent the next year traveling all over with the circus show. As music director, Don rocked the circus organ and sang tunes like Rock Around The Clock while Genene worked the concessions. He also ran the fog machines even played fast fiddle solos during the pig acts.

Don and Genene moved back to Joplin in 1999. Genene got a job with the Aegis Communications Group and became a senior supervisor. Don, who had been good friends with a boxer known as Irish Johnny Copeland, spoke at his funeral in 2004. Don passed away on 20 March 2005 after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 65 years old. He left two sons, Donald Nelson Clements and Brian Clifton Clements, and a daughter Shyla Jean Grantham, who was also diagnosed with cancer at the time. Genene's son from a previous marriage, Tony LaDue, also lived in Joplin. Genene passed away on 27 July 2009 and is buried with Don in the Osborne Memorial Cemetery in Joplin.

I'm just having fun digging up background information about all the rare and obscure records that you'll hear on MusicMaster Oldies. I hope you enjoy reading this stuff half as much as I enjoy researching it! Stay tuned, there's more where this came from.

Monday, February 13, 2012

New Oldie - Chick-A-Boom by Van Morrison

Yesterday I promised a story about Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison, a song that features backing vocals by Whitney Houston's mother, Cissy Houston and The Sweet Inspirations. Before we get into that, here's another cool record Van Morrison cut on the Bang label as a follow-up to Brown Eyed Girl. This is a fun hook-based song with great rhythm and a VERY cool ending!

Here's Chick-A-Boom by Van Morrison on Bang 552 from 1967:

The flip side of that record topped out at #107 on Billboard Magazine's Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart. Here's Ro Ro Rosie:

Brown Eyed Girl was actually considered offensive to some radio station programmers. They felt there was too much sexual innuendo in the lyric, "Making love in the green grass." So, an edited version was pieced together that copied an earlier section of the song over the offending lyric, replacing the "offensive" words with "Laughin' and a-runnin', hey hey." The edit is fairly obvious, but you will find that version on some compilation albums that include this song. Can you imagine this line being considered too risque to play today?

If you'd like to compare the two, let's start with the original single version of Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison on Bang 545 from 1967:

And here's the edited version of the song that was deemed more appropriate for teeny bopper radio listeners back in 1967:

While you have Brown Eyed Girl fresh in your mind, compare the "Sha-la-la-la-la's" and, frankly, the vocal sound and style of Van Morrison to Adam Duritz in Mr Jones by Counting Crows from 1993. Is it just me, or are these really similar?

Mr Jones was written about lead singer Adam Duritz's childhood friend, Marty Jones, who played bass in Adam's previous group from San Francisco, The Himalayans, and also Kenney Dale Johnson, the drummer of Chris Issak's band, Silvertone. The lyrics talk about working musicians who dream of making the big time and fantasize about the pleasures that stardom will bring. Adam sang the song just for fun, never really expecting it to make him a big star - but it did. MTV started playing a video version of the song in December 1993 and it became an unexpected hit. That prompted radio stations to play it, launching the Counting Crows into the very stardom the song speaks about.

Van Morrison had been the leader of Them from Belfast, Northern Ireland. When he went solo, he hooked up with Bang records and really made a big bang with Brown Eyed Girl. Unfortunately, very soon afterward, some legal issues arose concerning his royalty payments from the record company. It seems he signed his contract with Bang Records without consulting an attorney, which is never a good idea. Van Morrison has claimed for years that he never received a single dime for writing and performing Brown Eyed Girl! A studio outtake from a 1967 recording session that was released by Recall Records in 1997 contained a rare track that features Van Morrison with just an acoustic guitar singing a short song about those missing royalties for Brown Eyed Girl. The session is often referred to as the Contractual Obligation Session where Van recorded thirty-one completely nonsensical songs in order to fulfuill his contract with Bang Records.

Here's The Big Royalty Check by Van Morrison from a 1967 Bang Records studio recording:

I want to leave you with one very special and rare recording. This is Van Morrison recorded live at Pacific High Studios in 1971 doing a cover of Bob Dylan's Just Like A Woman. As far as I know this was only released on a bootleg album called Buonasera.

This is one of my favorite recordings and I hope you like it too:

You'll hear all kinds of crazy stuff like this on MusicMaster Oldies, including every known version of the hit songs from the 1950's and 1960's, including those that were censored, cut short, redone, or edited. I'll find some more like this and post them for you!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New Oldies - Be My Baby by Cissy Houston

The most honored singer in the world passed away yesterday. She left this world after having won two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, thirty Billboard Music Awards, and twenty-two American Music Awards, all part of the over 415 total awards she'd earned in her lifetime, in addition to selling over 170 million albums, singles, and videos around the world. They're still trying to determine the cause of her untimely death. She was just 48 years old. The whole world has lost someone really special.

Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born on 9 August 1963 in Newark, New Jersey. She started singing in church when she was just 11 years old. The first song she ever sang there was Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah. When she and Stevie Wonder were guests on the Arsenio Hall show in 1990, she recalled that song and sang a bit of it. Here's that video clip:

Whitney's mother was Emily "Cissy" Houston, who formed a harmony gospel-soul group while she was pregnant with Whitney called The Sweet Inspirations, along with Doris Troy and Whitney's cousin, Dee Dee Warwick. That group evolved over the years, adding new members Sylvia Shemwell, Estelle Brown and Myrna Smith. The group sang backing vocals on dozens of records by artists like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Lou Rawls, Otis Redding, The Drifters, Dusty Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, and Van Morrison. Houston is the operatic soprano in the background on Franklin's hit, "Ain't No Way". The group also sang backup for Elvis Presley in Las Vegas on his return to live performances during July and August 1969, and for Cissy's niece Dionne Warwick.

Cissy Houston

Here's a great gospel-flavored cover of the Everly Brothers hit from 1960, Let It Be Me, by The Sweet Inspirations on Atlantic 2418 from 1967, a #13 R&B hit that also appeared at #94 on the Billboard Hot 100:

Cissy left the group in 1969 for a solo career. She got into the Billboard Hot 100 at #92 with this song from 1971, a cool cover of the 1962 Ronettes hit written by Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. Here's Be My Baby by Cissy Houston on Janus 145 from 1971:

The Sweet Inspirations sang backup vocals on Van Morrison's hit, Brown Eyed Girl. I've got a little story about that song to tell you tomorrow. Don't touch that dial! Keep it set on MusicMaster Oldies, the place to be for pop music history!

Friday, February 10, 2012

New Oldies - I'm Gonna Buy Me A Dog by (You Got) The Gamma Goochee

You may have heard this song performed by The Monkees, but this was the original version of the song, before it was turned into a silly novelty record. It was popular in New York City, and The Velvet Underground even used to include it in the mix they played through the public address systems before going on stage to perform at various clubs around town.

Here's I'm Gonna Buy Me A Dog by (You Got) The Gamma Goochie on Colpix 786 from 1965:

The story behind this song takes us through one of my favorite places in musical history, the famous Brill Building in New York City.

Here's me standing in front of The Brill Building!

The Brill Building is located at 1619 Broadway at 49th Street in Manhattan, just north of Times Square. It was built in 1931 as the Alan E Lefcourt Building and designed by Victor Bark Jr., but is now regarded as the heart of popular music in America. By 1962, the Brill Building contained 165 businesses that were all involved in the music industry. It was a one-stop shopping center where an aspiring recording star could find a publisher and printer, record a demo, and make a deal with a record promoter who knew exactly how to get a song played on radio stations all over the country. However, this was not the only home of the Brill Building Sound. Another building at 1650 Broadway was the original location of a music publishing company founded by Don Kirshner and Al Nevins in 1958.

Al Nevins, born Albert Tepper in Washington D.C. in 1915, played guitar with Three Suns for more than twenty years and co-composer of their 1941 hit on RCA Victor, Twilight Time, that sold over three million copies. The Three Suns also included Al's brother Morty on accordion and Artie Dunn sang lead vocals and played the organ.

Don Kirshner was a younger man, born in the Bronx on 17 April 1934, who had written some songs with Bobby Darin. He became known as The Man With The Golden Ear because of his amazing talent for discovering, predicting, and making hit records. He became a publisher when he latched on to two big songwriting teams, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, and Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. After bringing those two legendary teams on board, he combined forces with Al Nevins and together they created Aldon Music. In 1963, after putting over 200 songs into the Top 40 in just five years, Aldon Music was sold to Columbia Pictures and Don Kirshner became the head of their record division.

I swear I would have cleaned toilets just for a chance to work in The Brill Building back in the 1960's. One of my all-time favorite books about pop music is called Always Magic In The Air by Ken Emerson. I highly recommend it, and even have a copy of it on my iPad! It contains a ton of interesting stories about the people who contributed to The Brill Building Sound such as Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Hugo (Peretti) and Luigi (Creatore), Artie Kornfeld, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Shadow Morton, Laura Nyro, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Paul Simon, Phil Spector, and many more.

I'm Gonna Buy Me A Dog was written by Brill Building legends and hit recording stars, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The Gamma Goochee was actually a Dental Technician who made false teeth out in Southern California during the daytime, but became a wild rock and roll performer by night. His real name was John Mangiagli. He'd save his pennies all year so he'd have enough to cut a record every summer, always using a fake name, such as Johnny Knight, Johnny Donn And The Jazz Rockers, Johnny Marlo, John Mangelli, John Mangiagli, and (You Got) The Gamma Goochee Himself. Lester Sill signed Johnny to the Colpix label, which was being run at the time by Don Kirshner. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were brought in to produce this record with him. They gave him this song they'd written for a television project called The Monkees, a show about a singing group that was literally being assembled by Don Kirshner. Johnny Mangiagli was being considered for being included in The Monkees, but he wasn't interested. The backing track was made by The Astronauts, the surf music group on RCA Records from Boulder, Colorado (nowhere near an ocean) who made the surf instrumental hit Baja in 1963. The Astronauts included Rich Fifield, Jon "Storm" Patterson, Bob Demmon, Dennis Lindsey, and Jim Gallagher. However, Bobby Hart plays percussion on this track and Tommy Boyce is on piano. Many years later the original studio demo of the song with vocals by The Astronauts was finally released on a compilation CD called Rarities. Here's the original Astronauts demo version of the song in stereo:

Before the final lineup of The Monkees had been selected, future Monkee member Davy Jones was selected to play a member of a teenage rock and roll quartet called Moe Hill And The Mountains for an episode of The Farmer's Daughter that first aired on 7 January 1966. In this sitcom episode, the band cuts a demo of I'm Gonna Buy Me A Dog with the hopes of becoming recording stars. The demo is rejected, but that performance might have become a hit if it had actually been released at the time! Fellow Brill Building legends Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are actually playing the instruments behind the scenes on this track! Here's a video excerpt from that episode:

The Monkees version of the song appeared on the group's debut album, and was also featured in a show that aired on 28 November 1966 called I've Got A Little Song Here. In that episode, Mike Nesmith has written the song and is about to be cheated by a guy named Bernie Class of the High Class Music Publishing Company. Of course, the other three Monkees come to his rescue with a plan to turn the tables and swindle the swindler instead. Veteran character actor Phil Leeds plays the part of the phony music publisher:

Here's Gonna Buy Me A Dog by The Monkees from Colgems LP 101 (The Monkees) from 1966:

I have no idea what happened to The Gamma Goochee Himself. For all I know, he could be one of my neighbors out here in California! The Monkees got mad at Don Kirshner because he wouldn't let them perform their own music on the show, so they fought for creative control and won, a decision that would soon tank their hit record-making careers. Al Nevins suffered a heart attack at the height of his career which forced him to quit working full time at Aldon Music in the early 1960's. He passed away on 25 January 1965 at the age of 48. Don Kirshner died of heart failure in Boca Raton, Florida on 17 January 2011 at the age of 76.

Stay tuned! MusicMaster Oldies is the place to be for pop music history!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Oldies - Every Road (I Walk Along) by Anastasia

I keep this record in a locked metal box filled with 45's that are all worth over a thousand dollars each. This one is worth at least twice that much. I still can't believe I own a copy of this platter in mint condition!

Anastasia is actually Phil Anastasi, a Spanish-Italian kid who grew up in the Little Italy section of Brooklyn. He developed his skills as a tenor singing doo-wop on the same street corners with harmony groups like The Admirations, The Chimes, The Classics, Jay And The Americans, Vito And The Salutations, The Mystics, The Quotations, The Tokens, and many more. Within a couple of miles of his house lived Carole King to the east, and Neil Sedaka to the south. The year was 1960, Phil was graduating from high school and sitting right in the middle of an incredible pool of musical talent. He cut his first record on the Laurie label using the name Anastasia. He made a couple more records under that name on the Staci label. He made another on 20th Fox using the name Phil Stacey.

After high school, Phil attended the School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan, where he and some of his black friends would get together to sing harmony together in the men's room where the natural echo was just right. At night he'd frequent the Peppermint Lounge at 128 West 45th Street in midtown, the epicenter of entertainment at the time. Everybody was dancing The Twist with Chubby Checker or the Peppermint Twist with Joey Dee And The Starliters, with The Ronettes singing backup. Phil landed a gig there as well and started hanging out with the biggest names in the New York music scene. Ronnie Spector convinced him to change his name to Dean Parrish in 1964 when he started cutting more records on Warner, Musicor (as Dean Parish), Boom, and Laurie. His specialty was soul sounding records that were perfectly suited for dancing.

This song is dripping with sweet street corner harmony, but it's also a Teener in my mind. The Nocturnes Orchestra is backing it up.

Here's Every Road (I Walk Along) by Anastasia on Stasi 1002 from 1962:

The song was first recorded a year earlier by Dennis And The Explorers who sang it in a very different way. Here's Every Road (I Walk Along) by Dennis And The Explorers on Coral 62295 from 1961:

Phil Anastasi didn't know this for a very long time, but his later recordings became huge crowd-pleasers in the Northern Soul clubs in England, which meant they were snapped up in huge quantities by club owners and collectors over there. For that reason, they're pretty scarce around here now. Once Phil learned of the popularity of his songs some thirty years later, he made a trip to England and did one of his most popular dance tracks, I'm On My Way, in a live performance that brought down the house. He was astonished to find that the audience could sing along with every note! That song, as it turns out, was the last record played every night at the famous Wigan Casino in Wigan, Lancashire, England. It was a tradition to end every All-Nighter with the same three-song set which consisted of Time Will Pass You By by Tobi Legend, Long After Tonight Is All Over by Jimmy Radcliffe, and I'm On My Way by Dean Parrish. This sequence of records became known as the 3 Before 8, and they were played as usual to end the night when that club closed for good on 6 December 1981.

Let's hear all three of those Northern Soul classics right now! It's the end of a long night of dancing and spinning, and your feet are tired. Get up on that floor because we're not done yet!

Here's Time Will Pass You By by Tobi Legend on Mala 591 from 1968:

Here's Long After Tonight Is All Over by Jimmy Radcliffe on Musicor 1042 from 1964:

Here's I'm On My Way by Dean Parrish on Laurie 3418 from 1967:

But enough about Phil Anastasi, Phil Stacey, Anastasia, Dean Parrish, or whatever you'd like to call him. On the ride home from the club, let's talk about a different kind of legend in the music industry. Every Road (I Walk Along) was co-written by an 18-year old kid who was also born in Brooklyn, but grew up in Queens. Al Kooper was a musical prodigy who became a professional guitarist at a very early age. While fooling around at the end of a recording session, he came up with a twelve-bar blues riff for Short Shorts, a #3 hit for the Royal Teens. He was 14 years old at the time!

Here's a nice video of Short Shorts being performed by The Royal Teens:

Al Kooper moved to Greenwich Village when he was 21 and started hanging out with Bob Dylan. He played Hammond organ for Bob at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. You can hear Al's Hammond organ opening Bob Dylan's hit, Like A Rolling Stone, despite the fact that he wasn't very experienced with the organ at that time. When Paul Griffin moved from the organ to the piano, Al told producer Tom Wilson that he had a great idea for an organ part for the song. It was just a ruse to get a chance to play in the session, but it worked. He played an eighth-note behind the other musicians so he could follow the chords. When Bob Dylan heard the playback of the track he reportedly said, "Turn the organ up!" During Al's sessions with Bob Dylan he met Mike Bloomfield. He played keyboards for The Blues Project, then formed Blood Sweat And Tears in 1967. After cutting just one album, Child Is Father To The Man, the band wanted to go in one direction and Al wanted to go in another. Al's playing can be heard on literally hundreds of songs by folks like BB King, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Alice Cooper, and The Rolling Stones. In 1972 he discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd. Not only did he produce their first few albums, he sat in with them on their studio sessions. You can hear him playing on the single versions of Sweet Home Alabama and Free Bird.

Here's one of my favorite early Blood Sweat And Tears tunes featuring Al Kooper. This is I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know from their first album on Columbia:

I'll be back with another dose of Northern Soul soon. In the meantime, you can get your fix on MusicMaster Oldies. We rock the house with thousands of rare R&B tracks that got them out of their seats at the clubs. But now it's closing time. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New Oldies - Promised Land Of Love by Dean Morgan

Today's New Oldie comes from a beautiful double-sided Teener that barely cracked into the Top 40 in Canada in 1960, but found considerably more success in Japan.

Dean Morgan was born in 1941 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He attended Mount Royal High School and graduated in 1959. While in his senior year, he put a band together and made his first record using his real name, Joe Padulo.

Here's Chinese Baby by Joe Padulo on London 17045 from 1958:

Chinese Baby failed to make the sales charts, but it did get the attention of a record producer named Rusty Davis who got Joe a deal with Quality Records, became his manager, and changed his name to Dean Morgan.

Here's Promised Land Of Love by Dean Morgan on Quality 1014 from 1960:

And here's the flip side of that single, Come What May:

The record company put a lot of effort into promoting this record. In May 1960, Mat Heft, manager of Southern-Peer's Canadian office in Montreal, and Lee Farley, national sales manager for Quality Records in Toronto, came up with an interesting publicity stunt. They had Dean fly across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver in a jet. As the jet passed over each city, they had radio stations directly under his position play a pre-recorded interview with Dean. He talked about how he was flying over the city and promised to call the station again on his return trip. This did manage to get Dean's record on the radio across Canada, but it didn't sell very well. In Vancouver the song was listed at #54 on the C-FUN Radio Future 'Fun Favorites list. In Toronto, it peaked at #40 on the 1050 CHUM Top 50. The attention landed a deal with Top Rank for International distribution in Australia and Japan. The teens in Japan loved the record and it managed to do much better both in radio airplay and sales over there.

Dean Morgan and his combo started touring Canada and played many local gigs. He broke attendance records at the Belmont Park dance pavilion in Montreal during a summer concert when 1,400 teenagers purchased tickets to the show.

He began working on a new record for 20th Century Fox that was to be the theme for a movie. There was talk of Dean possibly getting offered a movie role in Hollywood, too.

In June 1960 he sang Promised Land Of Love on a midnight television show called Good Evening Mr. Sinclair, hosted by Gordon Sinclair. Earlier that same week he had appeared on another show called Focus where he was interviewed by host Bob McGregor about his recent success as a teenage singing sensation.

Here's Ouch! You're Breaking My Heart by Dean Morgan on 20th Fox 272 from 1961:

And here's the flip side of that single, What's Up Buttercup:

Dean was attending private school between concerts and did not intend to make a lifelong career in the recording industry. His goal was to practice medicine. It never happened.

By 1969 he was a record producer, using his real name again, and running a business called Dean Morgan Associates. He was the Musical Director for a music show on CFCF-TV Channel 12 in Montreal called Like Young, hosted by Jim McKenna (seated with dark slacks) and Diane Dickinson (green dress). He produced an album called The Best Of Like Young on RCA Camden featuring musical performances from that show.

Last I heard, Dean Morgan (Joe Padulo) was still alive and well and living in Montreal. He attended his 50th High School Reunion in 2009.