Saturday, June 30, 2012

New Oldies - Good Lovin' by Lemme B Good

One of the most memorable and influential songs from the 1960's is Good Lovin' by the Young Rascals. Almost everyone knows the song and it's been used in several movies. This is the complete story behind that song, going all the way back to the original version written by a cat named Rudy Clark. Dissatisfied with the lyrics after hearing Lemme B Good's recording, Rudy asked record producer Artie Resnick for help. A new version of the song, with the updated lyrics, was recorded by The Olympics. Artie thought a British Invasion group might cover the song, but that didn't happen. When The Young Rascals from New Jersey released their version, Artie was disappointed at first. But his mood improved considerably when their version went to number one on the charts!

Limmie And The Family Cooking

Lemme B Good was born Limme Snell in 1945 in Dalton, Alabama. When he was very young, his family moved to Canton, Ohio. By age 11, he had already begun cutting soul records on the Columbia, Mercury, and Warner Brothers labels. A few years later, Limmie dropped out of McKinley Senior High School to pursue his dream of becoming a soul singer. Some of his records credit him as Limmie B Good. He moved to the UK and formed a group called Limmie And The Family Cooking that included his sisters, Martha and Jimmie. After that group broke up, he stayed in the UK and created a band called Limmie Funk Unlimited. Limmie had several children and continued to write and record songs until his death in May 1986 of renal failure. He died in Atlanta, Georgia and was buried in Canton, Ohio.

Here's the original version of Good Lovin' by Lemme Be Good on Mercury 72418 from 1965:

The Olympics were formed as Walter Ward And The Challengers in 1957. Their first record was I Can Tell on the Melatone label. Lead singer, Walter Ward, was born on 28 August 1940 in Los Angeles. The doo-wop group included Walter's cousin Eddie Lewis singing first tenor, Charles Fizer singing second tenor, Walter Hammond singing baritone, and Melvin King singing bass. With the exception of Eddie Lewis, the guys all met while attending high school together in Los Angeles and became friends. In the summer of 1958, The Olympics had their first hit record, Western Movies on Demon Records. Their version of Good Lovin' wasn't very successful, rising only to #85 on Billboard's Hot 100 and #92 on Cashbox.

Walter Ward died on 11 December 2006. Charles Fizer was shot and killed during the Watts Riots in 1965. Shortly thereafter, Melvin King left the group after his sister died in an accidental shooting. With personnel changes, the group continued to record and perform into the early 1970s, later doing oldies revival shows.

Here's Good Lovin' by The Olympics on Loma 2013 from 1965:

The Rascals were Eddie Brigati on vocals, Felix Cavaliere on keyboard and vocals, Gene Cornish on guitar, and Dino Danelli on drums. Eddie and Dino formed the band in their hometown of Garfield, New Jersey. Eddie, Felix and Gene had all been members of Joey Dee And The Starliters. The guys got some help with backing vocals and harmony arrangements from Eddie's brother, David Brigati, who is sometimes referred to as the "Fifth Rascal." After being signed by Atlantic Records, a group called The Harmonica Rascals featuring Borrah Minnevitch and Johnny Puleo objected to their use of the name Rascals. That's why their manager Sid Bernstein decided to rename them The Young Rascals. They made their first appearance on television on 27 February 1965 performing their debut single, I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore. Good Lovin' was the group's second single, and it shot up to number one on the charts. It was a #3 hit in Canada on 1050 CHUM in Toronto, and even reached #33 in Australia. Strangely, the song never appeared on the charts in Europe.

Here's Good Lovin' by The Young Rascals on Atlantic 2321 from 1966, including the famous 'false' ending:

We've talked about Hit Records, the budget label out of Nashville, in previous posts. On that label, Bobby Russell and others created cover versions of current hit records for sale at a reduced price in the stores. Lots of kids bought these records thinking they were getting the actual hit versions. Despite the confusion this may have caused, many of these Hit Records covers are really pretty good, including this one!

Here's Good Lovin' by The Spartas on Hit 251 from 1966:

Want to hear more original versions of hit songs? It's easy! Just hang out with MusicMaster Oldies for a while. They're popping up there all the time!

Monday, June 18, 2012

There's a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere

Last Friday, 15 June 2012, an American soldier was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, our nation's third highest military decoration, for demonstrating steadfast loyalty and sustained courage during his capture by enemy forces.

Francis Gary Powers

Francis Gary Powers was born on 17 August 1929 in Jenkins, Kentucky and raised across the border in nearby Pound, Virginia. He became a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force and assigned to the 468th Strategic Fighter Squadron at Turner Air Base in Georgia. He was an exceptional F-84 Thunderjet pilot.

F-84 Thunderjet

In 1956, Captain Francis Powers was discharged from the Air Force and recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a U-2 pilot. He would fly espionage missions at altitudes of up to 70,000 feet (21.3 KM) over the Soviet Union and other hostile countries, taking high-resolution photographs of strategic military installations and other potential targets.

U2 Spy Plane

On 1 May 1960, as the United States and the Soviet Union were preparing for summit talks in Paris, Francis Gary Powers secretly took off from an air base in Peshawar, Pakistan, for another photo reconnoissance mission over the Soviet Union. As he passed over Sverdlovsk, Mayak, the location of a nuclear accident in 1957 that was related to the development of atomic weapons, a number of MiG-19 Soviet fighter jets took chase, and a total of eight S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missiles were fired in his direction. One of these missiles hit the MiG and took down the Soviet friendly force. Another hit the American U-2. Unable to activate the self-destruct mechanism, Francis Gary Powers managed to eject and parachute to the ground where he was captured by Soviet forces. The U-2 fell to Earth nearly intact, giving the Soviets access to classified technology. The incident angered Soviet Premier Krushchev, who promptly cancelled his participation in the summit talks.

On 17 August 1960, Francis Gary Powers was convicted of espionage and sentenced to three years of imprisonment at Vladimir Central Prison about 100 miles east of Moscow, followed by seven years of hard labor. Two years after his capture, on 10 February 1962, he and an American student named Frederic Pryor were released to the United States in exchange for a Soviet KGB Colonel named Vilyam Fisher who was arrested for espionage by the FBI and imprisoned in Glienicke Bridge in Berlin, Germany.

Francis Gary Powers was certainly not the only spy-plane pilot who was shot down by enemy forces, nor was he the first. In the 1950's and 1960's, over 160 airmen were shot down over Communist territory and subsequently listed as killed or missing in action.

Upon his return to the United States, Francis Gary Powers become the target of a Senate Armed Services Select Committee investigation who charged him with misconduct that led to the release of classified technology. His reputation was cleared when it was determined that he carried out his orders and conducted himself as a fine young man under dangerous circumstances. He went to work for Lockheed as a test pilot in 1963. In 1970, following the publication of his memoirs of the U-2 incident, he was terminated. He became a helicopter traffic reporter, first for KGIL Radio in Los Angeles, then for KNBC Television. He died in 1977 while covering wild fires in Santa Barbara County. Possibly due to a faulty fuel gauge, the Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter ran out of fuel just a few miles short of Burbank Airport. Although it was possible for him to land safely using a technique called auto-rotative descent, Francis Gary Powers diverted course at the last minute to avoid crash landing near some children he noticed playing below.

Francis Gary Powers at KNBC-TV

The story of this American hero was recalled in 1976 in a biography called Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident, and subsequent made-for-TV movie starring Lee Majors as Francis Gary Powers.

"Red River" Dave McEnery

Shortly after being shot down, the press started to uncover and report details of the incident. In 1960, a guy named David McEnery from San Antonio, Texas, who called himself Red River Dave, rewrote the lyrics of a million-selling 1942 Country and Western hit by Elton Britt called There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere, turning it into The Ballad Of Francis Powers.

Here's There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving #2 The Ballad Of Francis Powers by Red River Dave on Savoy 3020 from 1960:

This updated version climbed to #64 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #82 on Cashbox. Born in 1914, Dave got his nickname because he loved to sing the song Red River Valley on radio shows while attending high school in Texas. At age 16, he dropped out of school and left San Antonio to ride the rails. He found work as a migrant farmer and took odd jobs singing in restaurants. A radio station in Virginia finally hired him as their Singing Cowboy. Dave and his group, The Swift Cowboys, began recording for Decca Records, then cut some sides on the Savoy label. One of the first songs he wrote was about another missing pilot, Amelia Earhart's Last Flight. During World War II, Dave served in the infantry for two years. Afterward, he tried his hand at acting, appearing in several B-movie westerns. He returned to San Antonio in 1952 as host of a television program. Several years later, he retired from music to become a real estate salesman. In 1974, his wife wife of 35 years was killed in a fire. Dave moved to Nashville, but later returned to San Antonio where he died in 2002.

Here's the little-known follow-up that Red River Dave released shortly afterward, The Trial Of Francis Powers on Savoy 3023 from 1960. This one failed to make an appearance on the charts:

Betty Johnson

When Red River Dave's updated version of the song became a hit, a pop artist named Betty Johnson recorded her version of it on Coed 532. It only managed to reach #111 on Billboard's Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart. Betty Johnson is best known for her 1958 novelty, The Little Blue Man.

Here's There's A Star Spangled Waving Somewhere by Betty Johnson on Coed 532 from 1960:

Elton Britt

Elton Britt was born James Elton Baker on 27 June 1913 in Marshall, a small community in Searcy County, Arkansas. He recorded over 600 songs for RCA and other labels over his 30 year career. He died of a heart attack on 23 June, 1972, just five days shy of his 59th birthday.

Here's the original wartime version, written by Paul Roberts and Shelby Darnell (actually producer Bob Miller), There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere by Elton Britt on RCA Bluebird 9000 from 1942:

It's a song about a crippled young man who feels it is his patriotic duty to serve his country and help fight the war in spite of his handicap. So where is the "somewhere" referenced in this song? It was probably a fictional corner of Heaven that was set aside for the allied soldiers who faced the axis powers during World War II. I wonder if someone will write a new version of this song, bringing it up to date with what's going on today. Can you imagine those lyrics?

Historical Marker on Route 23 in Pound, Virginia

Keep listening to MusicMaster Oldies and you're bound to hear hundreds of songs that were written about other current events. It's a whole lot easier than the History courses you took in school!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

All You Need Is Love Love Love

While visiting Las Vegas last April for the National Association of Broadcasters trade show, my very dear friends, Rainer and Andrea, gave me a great birthday gift. They took me to the Mirage to see a Cirque de Soleil show called Love.

If you love the Beatles, as I do, this show is a must-see. Picture yourself in a boat on a river, floating down a steam of consciousness through strawberry fields forever. This is a show you not only see and hear, but you can also touch, smell and taste. Seriously. At one point you are engulfed in a dream that looks a lot like the cover of the white album. Really. You'll walk out feeling like you've just stepped back in time and actually witnessed a live Beatles stadium concert. Honest. You'll hear Beatles tunes in a way that you've never heard them before. If you pay close attention, you'll realize that some of the surround sound is actually emanating from behind your head, through the cushions of your seat.

Everyone who watches the show gets a different experience, from a slightly different perspective, which basically means you could go back and see it again and again and get a different show every time. If all this sounds excessively superlative to you, please understand that my description is actually understated. How can I possibly make you understand? This is more than a show. It's a life experience.

Imagine, in my life, on my birthday, there's a place, a magical mystery tour if you will, like an octopus's garden on a hard day's night, where I'll be on my way. Tell me why we can come together to see lucy in the sky with diamonds twist and shout. I want to hold your hand so we can work it out. I should have known better that lovely Rita, Martha my dear, the Lady Madonna, would love me do because she's a woman. I saw her standing there, the fool on the hill, and I love her, because, hey Jude, all you need is love. You can't buy me love and your bird can sing another day. From me to you, thank you girl. I want you and I feel fine. Please please me, let's get back to where we once belonged. I'll get back, and I'll follow the sun, here there and everywhere. Maybe I'm amazed, but that day in the life was really something.

Here's a great documentary that talks about the making of this show, but I recommend you wait to watch it until after you've seen the show.

Keep the Fab Four planted firmly in your brain as you enjoy You Can't Do That by (Harry) Nilsson on RCA 9298 from 1967:

You'll hear nearly 500 different Beatles songs on MusicMaster Oldies, including stuff from Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers, George Harrison, George Martin and his Orchestra, John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band, Stuart Sutcliffe, The Silver Beatles, the Savage Young Beatles, The Quarrymen, Paul and Linda McCartney with and without Wings, Ringo with and without Badfinger, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Pete Best, and even Jimmy Nicol. If you're not familiar with some of these names, well, that's why they invented Google!

In addition to all these songs, you'll also hear over 1000 songs about the Beatles, cover versions of Beatles tunes, and original songs that were covered by the Beatles. The best part is that you can hear them Any Time At All. Just spin your digital dial to MusicMaster Oldies and Baby, You're A Rich Man!

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