Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Oldies: Billy by Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues

Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues
Bill Hockett - Shirley Anne - Larry Peterson

This is your lucky day! You're about to enjoy one of my favorite Teener records from the heartland of America, backed with a charming and fun-filled novelty song that features some very good yodeling and a chipmunk-style voice. Yah dere, hey - You read that right - Yodeling!!! Make sure your cheese-heads are screwed on real tight because here we go now...

Shirley Anne Hudziak was born 21 April 1942 in Oconto, Wisconsin, a small town on the western coast of Green Bay. When she was 18 years old, she began singing and playing rhythm guitar in a Country-Rock combo called Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues. The small band was led by her husband at the time, lead guitarist William (Bill) Hockett, along with bass player Larry Peterson. They were based in the western Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, birthplace of legendary guitarist, Les Paul.

In 1968, the group went to Dave Kennedy's recording studio in Milwaukee to cut their first record, a cover of Al Martino's 1963 recording of Somebody Else Is Taking My Place, backed with a cover of Frankie Yankovic's 1948 recording of Just Because. These songs were released locally on Tee Pee 71/72. Shortly afterward, they cut today's New Oldie, Billy, an original composition by Bill Hockett, backed with a crazy cover of a song called Chime Bells, first recorded by Elton Britt in 1939. They made just one more record after this, Lonely Girl, backed with Baby Face, the classic tune first recorded in 1926 by Jan Garber.

Here's Billy by Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues on Raynard 1094 from 1968:

While you're listening to this, remember that "Billy" was Shirley Anne's husband at the time, as well as lead guitarist and leader of the band. This might explain why Shirley Anne is so convincing when she sings these lyrics. She was clearly singing this from her heart, and that always makes for a fine piece of music.

Now here's the really fun flip side of the record, a tune called Chime Bells:

The chipmunk voice was done by a guitar player from Oconomowoc named Dick Smith who is credited on the label as The Country Rodent.

I'm not sure this record is particularly valuable, but it's certainly quite rare. In fact, it's not even listed in any of my price guides. I really believe it should be in the Teen Collectors Record Guide by Jeff Kreiter, but it's not. It's not even in Jerry Osborne's Rockin' Records guide, even though he does list the Country Rogues first single on Tee Pee with a $5-10 suggested value. When customers came into my record shop looking for a record that was really tough to find, I'd usually insist on getting a higher price for it. If they tried to negotiate a lower price, I'd simply tell them to go look for another copy somewhere else and come back after they gave up the search!

Want some more fun? Here's Elton Britt doing his own version of Chime Bells:

Before disbanding in 1971, a few other musicians passed through the group including Kenny Christiansen on bass, Carl Whitney on drums, Freddy Marcus on lead guitar, and Carl Jacobson on drums. They played gigs around southeastern Wisconsin, occasionally crossing the border into northern Illinois. At one point, they were lured to New York City by some TV producers for an interview. This led them to Nashville where a record producer tried to buy one of their original compositions, something called The Bitter And The Sweet. Despite several attempts, they never agreed to sell their song. The band broke up in 1971. Shirley and Bill eventually went their separate ways. She kept performing locally until about 2003, working in the 1980's with a band called Gold Rush, and did some gigs with her daughter and son-in-law into the 1990's. Shirley's now married to Gary Bohlmann and the happy couple are still living in Waukesha.

I updated this post on 29 October 2013 to add scans of the labels after finally finding my copy of this single in my collection.

If you want to hear more music from America's Heartland, check out MusicMaster Oldies. We're playing thousands of songs like this from the 1950's and 1960's. Listen for a while and you're bound to hear the Greatest Hits You've Never Heard!

Friday, May 17, 2013

New Oldies: Dream Girl by Garry Miles And The Statues

Here's a really "dreamy" oldie that really should have been a big hit.

This is Dream Girl by Garry Miles And The Statues on Liberty 55279 from 1960:

The guy singing this record was born James E. Cason in Nashville, Tennessee, on 27 November 1939. His mother, Rosa, sang alto at their church. She got him involved in the youth choir there. Nicknamed "Buzz", he attended Issac Litton High School in suburban Inglewood where he became an art student, and a big fan of Elvis Presley (who wasn't in Nashville in 1956?). Buzz also had dreams of running a camera, and maybe becoming a film director one day. In his Junior year, Buzz had his first taste of show business when he was invited to lip-sync White Christmas on a TV show called the Noel Ball Saturday Showcase on WSIX-TV. Wanting to be behind the camera, Buzz was initially reluctant to do the show. But the guy organizing the show, a fellow student named Jim Seymore, talked him into it by saying, "It'll be fun and there'll be lots of girls there!"

(Note: Despite the call letters, WSIX-TV is actually channel eight. The call letters were simply a reference to the name of a tire shop, 638 Tire Company in Springfield, where two brothers, Louis and Jack Draughon worked. These guys started WSIX-AM radio in 1930, now WYFN-AM, then added Nashville's second television station, WSIX-TV, in 1953, and finally put WSIX-FM on the air in the late 1950's.)

After meeting the musicians at the Christmas show, he organized a rock and roll group called The Casuals with Buzz on lead vocals, Richard Williams on piano and backing vocals, Chester Power on accordion and piano, Johnny McCreery on guitar, and Billy Smith on drums. Buzz wrote his first song with Richard, My Love Song For You, which became their first single on Nu-Sound 801 in 1957, a label organized by Noel Ball and Buzz Cason. The song became a top 10 local hit and was issued nationally on Dot 15557. They went on the road as the backing band for The Everly Brothers in 1960. Dub Albritton heard them and singed them as the backing band for Brenda Lee. Around this time, Buzz met Bobby Russell, another Nashville native who was writing songs at Globe Recording Studio above Mom's Tavern on Broadway, the building that today houses Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. The two guys started writing songs as a team. Their first project together, along with arranger Bergen White, was a group they called The Todds, putting out a single called Tennessee on Todd 1064. That was the original recording of the song that Jan And Dean turned into a top 20 hit in 1958. This was the first time a song co-written by Buzz made the national charts. It was this same trio, Buzz, Bobby, and Bergen, who hooked up with Bill Beasley to produce budget covers of hit songs to be issued on the Hit Records label. I've mentioned this interesting label before and plan to do a more extensive feature about it later. Believe it or not, I own at least one copy of every single and album ever issued on that label (called "running the label" among record collectors). Buzz and Bobby repeated this trick when they put out a single on Todd called Popsicle. Again, Jan And Dean picked it up and turned it into another top 20 national hit in 1963. It was around this time that Buzz moved to Los Angeles to join Jan And Dean's label, Liberty, as Snuff Garrett's assistant.

Leon Russell was a session musician with Liberty. When he met Buzz, the two produced a group called The Crickets doing a really cool "California" version of (They Call Her) La Bamba on Liberty 55696 in 1964. The song did very well in England and was even featured in a movie called Girls On The Beach. Back in Nashville, Buzz had come to know arranger Bill Justis, known at the time for his hit instrumental, Raunchy. Through Bill, Buzz met Bucky Wilkin, lead singer of Ronny And The Daytonas. The two wrote a song called Sandy that also became a top 20 hit.

In 1966, Buzz and Bobby, along with then-president of Nashville's Monument Records, Fred Foster, formed a publishing company called Rising Songs. This lead them to another huge hit, Everlasting Love by Robert Knight. A year later, Buzz and Bobby started their own publishing company, Russell-Cason Music. They wrote and published more hits, including The Joker Went Wild by Brian Hyland, Little Green Apples, first recorded by Roger Miller, and Honey, first recorded by Bob Shane of the Kingston Trio, later a big hit for Bobby Goldsboro. Bobby Russell did his own versions of these compositions for the Hit Records label. He recorded Honey as Bobby Sims on Hit 320. He also recorded two different versions of Little Green Apples for Hit Records, first on Hit 322 as Steve Miller after Roger Miller's version became a hit, and then again on Hit 347 as Leroy Jones, after O C Smith's version became a hit.

Buzz made his own hit record, 1432 Franklin Park Circle Hero on Elf 90,020 in 1968. The song peaked at #36 on Billboard's Hot 100, #41 on Cashbox, and #64 on the Country charts. But it did best on the Adult Contemporary charts, peaking at #9.

His career really took off at this time. He wrote songs and did backing vocals for his childhood hero, Elvis Presley, along with Kenny Rogers, John Denver, Julie Andrews, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Andy Griffith, Roy Orbison, Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy Buffett, Billy Swan, Mel McDaniel, and Willie Nelson. He started the Berry Hill Music Scene when he created a state-of-the-art studio in Nashville called Creative Workshop, which has been used by country superstars like Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, and The Judds, along with many others such as The Doobie Brothers, Little Carl Carlton, Jimmy Buffett, and Olivia Newton-John, just to name a few. Creative Workshop was rebuilt, then later sold to country superstar Martina McBride and her husband John, and is now known as Blackbird. Buzz became President of Southern Writers Group USA, a member of the Board Of Governors of National Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), a member of the CMA and ASCAP, and was nominated to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005, the Nashville Public School Hall of Fame in 2006, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Quite the impressive career! You can read his entire life story in his autobiography, Living The Rock 'N' Roll Dream: The Adventures of Buzz Cason.

There are well over 150 records on MusicMaster Oldies that were either written, produced, or recorded by Buzz Cason, including every single single ever published on the Hit Records label. If you want a big slice of pop music history, covering country, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and more, give it a listen today!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

New Oldies - Fake Out by Frankie Sardo

Frankie Sardo
Frankie Sardo was born Frank Marco Sardo in Italy in 1936, although most sources incorrectly claim he was born in 1939. His exact date of birth is unknown (at least to me). His father, Marco, worked in show business. Frankie was only five years old when dad got him up on stage, acting, dancing and singing. The family came to America to escape World War II and settled in New York City where Frankie attended grade school. When he left high school, somewhere around 1952, Frankie went into the United States Army for a couple of years, serving through the end of the Korean War in 1953. When he returned around 1954, he went to Virginia to continue his education. He kept busy in the theater while attending school, both acting and singing in various plays, some of which he even produced himself. When he got back to New York City in 1958, he went into the recording studio with his brother and cut his first of eleven singles. Here's the complete discography:

1958 - MGM 12621 - My Story Of Love / May I
1958 - MGM 12678 - Let's Go Rock / Midnight Stomp
1958 - ABC/Paramount 9963 - Class Room / Fake Out
1959 - ABC Paramount 10003 - Oh Linda / No Love Like Mine
1959 - Lido 602 - Kiss And Make Up / The Girl I'm Gonna Dream About
1959 - Lido 604 (as Frankie And Johnny) - Big Clem / Together Tonight
1960 - 20th Fox 208 - When The Bells Stop Ringing / I Know Why And So Do You
1960 - 20th Fox 221 - Dream Lover / Bonnie Bonnie
1960 - SG 1 - She Taught Me How To Cry / Ring Of Love
1961 - Studio 9910 - I'm Sittin' At Home / Just You Watch Me
1962 - Newtown 5005 - I Got You Where I Want You / Mister Make Believe
1962 - Rayna 5005 - She Taught Me How To Cry / Ring Of Love (reissue or remake of above SG 1 from 1960)

Out of all these records, and most of them are more than good enough to have become big hits, only one made the national charts. That one was today's New Oldie, Fake Out, written by Frankie's brother John, which made its debut in Cashbox magazine on 6 December 1958 where it lasted six weeks and peaked at #68. It was never listed in Billboard's Hot 100. The single was favorably reviewed, however, in Billboard's 6 October 1958 issue as a Pick of the New Releases.

Frankie had invited a friend from Brooklyn named Victor Bonadonna, who sang under the name Vic Donna, to the session where he recorded Fake Out and Class Room. Frankie wasn't satisfied with the sound they were getting out of Fake Out and the Producer felt there was something missing. Vic said, "I have an idea. I think on certain parts there should be a little harmony." The invited Vic into the studio where he grabbed a mike and sang the backing vocals. Everyone loved it! Frankie's manager invited Vic to join forces with him and Vic agreed.

Stock Copy Label

Here's Fake Out by Frankie Sardo on ABC/Paramount 9963 from 1958:

Promo Copy Label

And here's the flip side, Class Room:

While Fake Out was climbing the Cashbox charts, mainly due to airplay and record sales in the Midwest, Frankie was invited to be the opening act for the 1959 Winter Dance Party tour alongside rock and roll legends Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson), and Dion And The Belmonts. Frankie's name appears on the bill as an "Extra Attraction" (above), but you'll notice that his "New Hit" is incorrectly listed as "Take Out." Oops!

Buddy Holly Crash Site - Clear Lake, Iowa

Frankie shared a room with Ritchie Valens while staying in Clear Lake, Iowa, to perform in the show on 2 February 1959. Backing musicians included Tommy Alsop on guitar, Waylon Jennings on bass, and Carl Bunch on drums, who were billed as The Crickets. This would end up being the final show for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. Later that night, Buddy chartered a small plane to take him to Moorhead, Minnesota from the nearest airport in Mason City, Iowa. It was snowing like crazy. The pilot, Roger Peterson, finally took off shortly after midnight, despite the fact that the flight would heavily rely on instruments and Roger was only qualified to fly in clear weather. There was only room for three passengers. Waylon Jennings won a seat on the flight, but gave it up to Buddy Holly and rode the bus instead. Buddy yelled to him, "I hope your ol' bus freezes up!" Waylon replied, "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes!" It was a statement that would haunt Waylon Jennings for many years. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff near a fence that was built to separate two cornfields. The four bodies laid in the blowing and drifting snow all night. This is the night Don McLean is talking about in American Pie when he sings, "February made us shiver, with every paper I delivered, bad news on the doorstep, I couldn't take one more step." Ritchie Valens was only 17 years old and left his new bride that night. Buddy Holly's new bride, Maria Elena Holly, was just two weeks pregnant that night. She learned about her husband's death through news reports. This was very painful, of course, and it's the reason why the names of people killed are now withheld from the press until after the family has been notified. Her pregnancy would later end in a miscarriage, putting an end to the Holly family tree. She's blamed herself for the tragedy. Normally, she tagged along with her husband when he went on tour. But she stayed home that night because she wasn't feeling well. Had she gone with him, she believes, he would not have been on that airplane. She did not attend the funeral, and she has never visited his grave in Lubbock, Texas. That's what Don McLean talks about in American Pie when he sings, "I can't remember if I cried, when I read about the widowed bride. Something touched me deep inside, the day the music died."

Frankie continued recording through 1962, never breaking through with a national hit song. That's when he got married and tried his hand at record producing, off-Broadway theater, and even working night clubs with his father, Marco. Frankie headed to California in 1968. His first project was to help produce music for the movie Hell's Angels '69.

On 12 November 1971, while visiting London, Frankie, along with six other men, were arrested after Scotland Yard detectives raided a luxury apartment in the Mayfair district. The group was charged with conspiracy to commit what was first described as the theft of a million dollars worth of stock certificate blanks printed for Westinghouse Electric and Continental National Bank and Trust of Chicago. In reality, the 5,000 blank stock certificates were printed at the American Bank Note Company in New York. On 4 October 1968, they were delivered to Emery Air Freight for shipment via American Airlines to Chicago. When the plane carrying the notes arrived at O'Hare airport, the certificates were missing. The actual FBI complaint in Los Angeles listed the blank securities as $30 million and claimed they had been intended for delivery to four American companies when they were stolen in August 1971. The seven men arrested included:

35 year old movie producer Frank Sardo of Los Angeles, California;
Movie producer Rudolph Johnson of Cannes, France;
52 year old Charles Samuel Bufalini of Los Angeles, California;
39 year old record producer James Walker of Los Angeles, California;
29 year old Terry (???nzi) of Highland Park, Illinois;
50 year old financier Marion Arthur Denark of London, England;
Record producer Nicholas Avenelli of Los Angeles, California.

The FBI had the California men under surveillance when they boarded a plane from Los Angeles to London. Scotland Yard was notified and the English detectives continued watching the men as they left the airplane together, took their luggage, and watched them arrive at the apartment together. All were held in Brixton Jail in South London awaiting trial in London or possible extradition to Chicago. Rudolph Johnson tried to claim that he didn't know any of the other men, but had once made a movie with Frankie Sardo. When he heard Frankie would be coming to London, he asked him to bring along some cigarettes. He told authorities that he was only visiting the apartment to pick up those cigarettes at the time of the raid. By themselves, phony stock certificates have no value because they would be inspected and identified as forgeries if anyone ever tried to cash them in. However, they could be used as collateral for a loan. Most fraud cases like this are discovered when someone takes out such a loan and then disappears. Frankie was eventually acquitted of all charges. It appears that another man, Anthony Ditata, was ultimately arrested, indicted, and convicted of using the notes as collateral for fraudulent loans. In 1972, Ditata tried to appeal on the grounds that the value of the notes were less than $100, making the crime a misdemeanor. Despite this claim, the conviction was upheld.

After that bizarre experience, Frankie returned to Hollywood to make movies and changed his last name to Avianca, which was his mother's maiden name. Here's a list of some of his projects:

1971 - Executive Producer - Clay Pigeon
1973 - Producer - The 14 (also distributed under the names Existence and The Wild Little Bunch)
1975 - Producer and Actor - The 'Human' Factor
1978 - Actor - Matilda
1982 - Producer - Blood Song (also distributed as Dream Slayer)
1988 - Producer - The Undertaker
1999 - Producer - The Survival Club
2000 - Producer - Blame It on the Moon

An annual show and symposium is held each year around February 2nd, the anniversary of the Winter Dance Party tragedy. Frankie was invited to attend this show several times, but he always refused.

On the 50th anniversary, in 2009, Frankie finally agreed to make an appearance. He signed autographs on Saturday afternoon, then spoke on a panel on Saturday evening in the E.B. Stillman Auditorium at Clear Lake Middle School called "The Last Tour" where Frankie Avianca (Sardo), Tommy Allsup, Carl Bunch, Bob Hale, Carlo Mastrangelo, and Freddie Milano recalled good memories, horrible weather conditions, and shared stories about the last show. It was at this panel where the world learned why Frankie had been avoiding the Surf Ballroom for 50 years. He admitted that survivor guilt kept him away. He had always felt the anniversary gathering was commercializing the tragedy. After finally returning, Frankie's feelings changed. "This showed me how wrong I was about how I conceived it to be. I thought it would be some commercial thing, one of those morbid sad things; milked. But it wasn't that at all. It's quite the opposite, really." Instead of sorrow, what Frankie recalled during his return was the kids who came to see the show and their laughter and joy. Frankie continued, "I tell a lot of my friends, I was not in their league. I never wanted to be a rock and roll star. I didn't want to be a singer." He went on to say, "I was just a Korean War veteran who got caught up in it, was taking advantage of it and having fun. I was in between whatever life had in store for me." According to Frankie, "I was just having fun and, luckily, I could carry a tune!" He also admitted that, although he'd been avoiding the Surf Ballroom, he had once paid a visit to the farm where the plane came down after a business trip to Chicago. During that visit, he left flowers there in memory of his friends.

By the way, my first visit to that site was a very moving experience. I went back there with four friends and we all felt the same thing. It's like being surrounded by ghosts, but you aren't scared. Instead, you're overwhelmed with the feeling that you're members of an audience and they're really happy you came to see them.

A year later, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, in conjunction with the Surf Ballroom and Museum presented a luncheon in Clear Lake where they featured The Frankie Sardo Story.

Last I heard, Frankie's still working as an independent film producer in New York City, also spending some time at a second home in Canada.

You'll hear EVERY ONE of Frankie Sardo's songs on MusicMaster Oldies on Live365, along with hundreds of other talented young people with similar stories. Check it out! Tell your friends! While you're visiting, please take a moment to send a note to the DJ (that's me!).