Sunday, March 27, 2011

"My Prayer"

OK, let's go way back: Georges Boulanger first penned this beautiful ballad as "Avant de Mourir" ("Before Dying") in 1926, the year my Mom was born. Jimmy Kennedy added English lyrics in '39, the same year that Glenn Miller took it to #2 and The Ink Spots to #3. By far the most popular version is by The Platters which topped the charts in '65. Yesterday's answer: "Da Doo Ron Ron" by The Crystals. There's also an unconfirmed rumor that Sonny Bono also sang background - we'll never know no thanks to that darn tree!

"Da Doo Ron Ron" by The Crystals.

OK, back to the 60's: This '63 Barry/Greenwich/Spector composition is widely regarded as being the first example of Phil Spector's famous "Wall Of Sound". Originally recorded by The Blossoms, Spector removed Darlene Love's lead vocals after a dispute and replaced them with Dolores "LaLa" Brooks', preserving The Blossoms' backup and adding Cher. It peaked at #3 and is #114 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. Shaun Cassidy's '77 cover was his first #1 solo hit. Song? Group? Yesterday's answer: "Cara Mia" by Jay and The Americans. "Jay Black" has been known to hold "the note" in "Cara Mia" for one minute (!). I had the privilege of seeing them live in Philly opening for The Four Seasons - what a voice!

"Cara Mia" by Jay and The Americans.

OK, back to the 60's: Englishman David Whitfield first recorded this Mantovani/Lewis composition in '54. He became the first British male singer to earn a gold Disc in the U.S. When Jay Traynor left his original group he was replaced by The Empires' lead singer and Thom McAn shoe salesman David Blatt. They took the song, which translates to "My Beloved", to #4 in '65. Song? Blatt's stage name? Yesterday's answer: ‎"A Thousand Stars" by Kathy Young and the Innocents. Ol' Wink's been around for a LONG time!

"A Thousand Stars" by Kathy Young and The Innocents.

OK, more 60's one-hit wonders: This Santa Ana, CA native was not quite 15 in '60 when she met all-male trio The Innocents during a taping of "The Wink Martindale Show". Producer Jim Lee of Indigo Records promptly signed her up to cover a '54 minor hit by The Rivileers. It peaked at #3 on Billboard and at #6 R&B. Artist? Song? Yesterday's answer: "Greenfields" by The Brothers Four. Four frat. brothers. This was my good friend and Phi Chi brother Tom Sharkey's favorite tune - many long nights spent studying anatomy and listening to "Greenfields".

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Greenfields" by The Brothers Four.

OK, more 60's folk: This Miller/Gilkyson/Dehr ballad was first recorded by The Easy Riders in '57. A quartet from the Phi Delta Gamma fraternity at University of Washington Seattle covered it in '60, peaking at #2 and remaining in the charts for 20 weeks. Song? Quartet? Yesterday's answer: "Jean" by Oliver. 1st Gold Disc - "Good Morning, Starshine".

"Jean" by Oliver.

OK, more 60's: Poet Rod McKuen wrote and performed this ballad in '69. It became the theme song for a movie that won Maggie Smith the Best Actress Oscar. Also Oscar-nominated for Best Original Song. William Swofford's cover peaked at #2 on the Pop charts, topped Adult Contemporary and won him his second Gold Disc. Quoting Swofford: "We had no idea it would be a single. It was a 3/4 ballad in the psychedelic was a beautiful arrangement." Song? Swofford's stage name? For extra credit - first Gold Disc? Yesterday's answer: "Music To Watch Girls By". That would have been a PERFECT song for an Austin Powers movie soundtrack (yeah, Baby, yeah!).

"Music To Watch Girls By"

OK, back to the 60's: Legendary songwriter and producer Bob Crewe first heard this Ramin/Valona composition as a demo for a Diet Pepsi commercial. He recorded it in '67 as an instrumental single with his group, The Bob Crewe Generation, peaking at #15 on the Pop charts and at #2 on Easy Listening. It was Crewe's first release as an artist. Al Hirt and Andy Williams also charted with it that same year. Yesterday's answer: "Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre" by Joaquin Rodrigo. No es tan popular como su "Concierto de Aranjuez" pero yo prefiero la "Fantasia". "Canarios" siempre ha sido un reto para los guitarristas.

"Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre"

OK, back to the 50's: Joaquin Rodrigo wrote this concerto for guitar and orchestra in 1954 at the request of and dedicated to fellow Spaniard Andres Segovia. It is based upon six dances for solo guitar by 17th century Spanish composer Gaspar Sanz. The last movement is inspired by the folk dances of the Canary Islands and is extensively played as a stand-alone virtuoso piece. First played by Segovia in '58 in San Francisco backed by the S. F. Symphony Orchestra. Yesterday's answer: "Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word". Bob also forgot that this song is also "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" just about note-by-note! Those chemicals will do it every time!

"Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word"

OK, more 60's folk: Dylan penned this folk classic in '65 but never recorded it. The title is based upon a line from Tennessee Williams' "Camino Real". Joan Baez recorded it in '68 and it became one of her signature songs. She was with Dylan when he first heard her version on the radio and he remarked, "Hey, that's a great song!", having forgotten that he had written it (gotta love ol' Bob!).

Yesterday's answer: "Mr. Lee" by The Bobbettes.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Mr. Lee" by The Bobbettes.

OK, back to the 50's: Originally named The Harlem Queens, this R&B girl quintet penned and recorded their first hit in '57. A girl's crush on her teacher (whom they didn't particularly care for in real life). It topped the R&B charts and crossed over to peak at #6 Pop, the first girl group ever to accomplish that. Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Get A Job" by The Silhouettes. "When I was in the service in the early 1950s and didn't come home and go to work my mother said 'Get A Job' and basically that's where the song came from" - Richard Lewis. Can you imagine "opening" for Hendrix?!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Get A Job" by The Silhouettes.

OK, more 50's one-hit wonders: When Richard Lewis returned to Philly after serving in the military he formed The Gospel Tornadoes, later renamed The Thunderbirds. They took their "final" name from a song by The Rays. He penned their only hit in '57 but the entire quartet got writing credits. A light-hearted doo-wop tune about unemployment and strained domestic relationships. Credited for first developing the "sha na na" and "dip dip dip dip" hooks. It reached #1 in 58 and remained in the charts for 13 weeks, selling over 3 million copies. Featured in "American Graffiti". Sha Na Na opened and closed their Woodstock set with it (right before Hendrix took the stage!). Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Twilight Time". Check out the 1998 movie "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?" about the life of Frankie Lymon - lots of The Platters history in it too.

"Twilight Time"

OK, back to the 40's: The Three Suns put music to Buck Ram's (now, that's a manly name!) lyrics and first recorded this romantic ballad in '44. Les Brown and Jimmy Dorsey released covers the following year. By far the best-known "updated" version is by The Platters, which topped both the Pop and R&B charts in '58.

Yesterday's answer: "(Who Wrote) The Book Of Love?" by The Monotones. The "boom" sound was accidentally recorded when a basketball hit the studio wall - they decided to keep it!

"(Who Wrote) The Book Of Love" by The Monotones.

OK, more 50's one-hit wonders: The only hit for this Newark, NJ doo-wop sextet came in '57 with a catchy tune penned by three of its members and inspired by a Pepsodent commercial. It peaked at #5 Pop and at #3 R&B. Referenced in Don McLean's "American Pie" and Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll". Part of the "American Graffiti" soundtrack and performed by Sha Na Na at Woodstock. Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: The Chad Mitchell Trio. Song: "Mighty Day", mockumentary: "A Mighty Wind". A young Jim McGuinn, fresh out of Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music, joined the Limeliters. He left them to tour with Chad Mitchell and shortly thereafter joined Bobby Darin. ‎"A Mighty Wind" is a must-watch for any folkie!

"Mighty Day" by The Chad Mitchell Trio.

OK, more 60's folk: This folk trio was formed in the early 60's by members of the Gonzaga University Glee Club (gotta love my Jesuits!). As opposed to most 60's folk ensembles, they played no instruments. Satirical takes on the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Subsequent members included John Denver on vocals and accompanist Jim (Roger) McGuinn on guitar and banjo. One of their best-loved songs is based upon the devastating 1900 Galveston hurricane and flood. A 2003 Christopher Guest "mockumentary" MIGHT have been loosely inspired by it. Trio? Song? For extra credit, "mockumentary"?

Yesterday's answer: Jimmy Clanton, "Venus in Blue Jeans." Gotta love those 60's teen idols - Bobby, Jimmy, Teddy, Frankie (do I see a pattern here?!)!

"Venus In Blue Jeans" by Jimmy Clanton.

OK, back to the 60's: Nicknamed "The Swamp Pop R&B Teenage Idol", this Baton Rouge native had a major hit in '62 while serving in the Army. A Greenfield/Keller composition, it peaked at #7, sold over one million copies and was awarded a Gold Disc. Covered by Bobby Vee, Frankie Avalon and Mark Wynter. Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "It's All In The Game". Dawes was a self-taught pianist and his great great grandfather rode with Paul Revere.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"There's A Moon Out Tonight" by The Capris.

OK, back to the 60's: Originally named The Supremes, this Queens doo-wop quintet was formed when its members were all 15 years old. They later changed their name to that of a Lincoln model (NOT after an Italian isle, as was originally thought). Their only hit was recorded in '58 - a street-corner harmony classic ballad by Luccisano/Gentile/Striano. The ending is unique in that is goes from falsetto to bass instead of the other way around. The original recording faded into obscurity only to be "found" by Murray the K at WINS, peaking at #3 in '61. Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: The Pozo-Seco Singers. "Time". I had completely forgotten about this beautiful ballad until I recently heard it on PBS during a "Folk Rewind" show hosted by John Sebastian.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"It's All In The Game"

OK, back to the 50's: In 1911 banker and amateur musician Charles Gates Dawes composed "Melody In A Major" in one piano sitting. It was later dubbed "The Dawes Melody". He subsequently became the 30th Vice President under Calvin Coolidge and went on to share the Nobel Peace Prize for his Dawes Plan of post-WWI reparations. Carl Sigman added lyrics in '51 and Tommy Edwards took it to #1 in '58. #38 on Billboard's All-Time Top 100. ONLY #1 pop single by a Vice President or by a Nobel Prize Winner.

Yesterday's answer: "There's A Moon Out Tonight" by The Capris. The Lincoln Capri V8 was built between '52 and '59. BIG moon out tonight!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Time" by The Pozo-Seco Singers.

OK, more 60's folk: Before achieving Country Music stardom, Corpus Christi, TX native Don Williams sang with Lofton Kline as The Strangers Two. High school student Susan "Taylor Pie" Taylor joined them to form a pop-folk trio. Their first and best-loved recording came in '66 with a Michael Merchant ballad which peaked at #47 on the Pop charts. Trio? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Wanted, Dead Or Alive" by Bon Jovi. Love Sambora's guitar work.

"Wanted Dead Or Alive" by Bon Jovi.

OK, more 80's: Bon Jovi and Sambora penned this '86 rock classic in Richie's mother's basement in less than a day and recorded it on one take (!). Peaked at #7. It likens the life of a rock star to that of an Old West outlaw. Quoting Jon, "(the)lifestyle of every rock band was similar to that of outlaws in that each was a young band of thieves, riding into town, stealing the money, the girls, and the booze before the sun came up." Inspired by Bob Seger's "Turn Of The Page" and Sambora's guitar work by Jimmy Page's. Bon Jovi and Sambora's acoustic rendition during the '89 MTV Video Music awards gave the company the idea for its "Unplugged" series.

Yesterday's answer: "Young At Heart" - great tune by The Chairman of The Board.

"Young At Heart".

OK, back to the 50's: Originally titled "Moonbeam", this 1953 Richards/Leigh classic pop ballad was first recorded by Frank Sinatra. It became an instant million-seller. At the time, Sinatra was filming a movie with Doris Day - following the success of the song the movie was renamed with its title, playing at the beginning and at the end.

Yesterday's answer: "Funiculi, Funicula". A funicular is a railway up the side of a mountain pulled by a moving cable and having counterbalancing ascending and descending cars.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Hold On" by Wilson Phillips.

OK, back to the 90's: Daughters of "rock royalty", this trio's breakout single topped the charts in mid-'90, was voted 1990's Hot 100 Single Of The Year, received 4 Grammy nominations and worldwide acclaim. Co-written by them and Glen Ballard, it is a light pop-rock uplifting and empowering tune dedicated to a woman undergoing romantic woes, mostly self-caused. One of 3 #1 hits from their debut album. Incidentally, 12 other songs by the same title have made Billboard's Hot 100. Group? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons". Great tune!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Funiculi, Funicula"

OK, let's go way back: This popular Neapolitan song was written by Turco and Denza in 1880 to celebrate the inauguration of the first cable car to Mt. Vesuvius. Translated into English by Oxenford. The late great Mario Lanza recorded the "definitive" version.

Yesterday's answer: " Will You( Still) Love Me Tomorrow?" by the Shirelles. I'm rather partial to Frankie Valli's version.

"(Good Ole) Mountain Dew" by Grandpa Jones.

OK, back to the 40's: This Kentucky-born "old-time" Country/Gospel singer, songwriter, humorist and banjo player was dubbed with his nickname when he was only 22 because of his bushy eyebrows. Grand Ole Opry member, Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and long-time part of the "Hee Haw" cast. One of his best-loved tunes (1942) is a Lunsford/Wiseman composition that shares its name with a very popular (highly caffeinated!) soft drink. For some reason, however, I don't think he was referring to a "soft" drink in the song! Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: Danny O'Keefe's "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues". Great memories from the early 70's!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Will You (Still) Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles.

OK, back to the 60's: Gerry Goffin and Carole King first offered this '60 composition to Johnny Mathis and then to Tony Orlando before deciding that in was most definitely a "girl song". An all-girls quartet recorded it and it became the first #1 hit by a black female group, selling over 1 million copies. Some radio stations refused to play it because of its "too sexually charged" lyrics.
#125 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. The Four Seasons took it to #24 in '68 and Dave Mason to #39 in '78. Song? Group?

Yesterday's answer: "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips. Can't go wrong when the daughter of John and Michelle Phillips teams up with the two of Brian Wilson and Marilyn Rovell (of The Honeys and (American) Spring)!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons"

OK, back to the 40's: William "Pat" Best penned and published this romantic ballad in '45. First recorded by his group, The Brown Dots. Nat "King" Cole's cover went to #1 in '46, remaining in the charts for 12 weeks. Also covered by Dinah Shore, Sam Cooke and masterfully on jazz guitar by Django Reinhardt.

Yesterday's answer: "(Good Ole) Mountain Dew" by Grandpa Jones.

"Goodtime Charlie's Got The Blues" by Danny O'Keefe.

OK, more 70's one-hit wonders: The only hit for this Spokane, WA singer/songwriter came in '72 with a moving tune about a man down on his luck, fighting addiction and watching as all his friends move away to greener pastures. He originally wrote it as a Country song however "pills to ease the pain" was taboo in Country circles in those days. It peaked at #9 on Billboard, charted for 14 weeks, sold over 1 million copies and was RIAA Certified Gold. Covered by Elvis, Willie, Waylon, Dwight and Chet (they must have changed their minds about those pills!). Artist? Song?

Yesterday's answer: "Touch of Grey" by The Grateful Dead. Classic "skeleton" video. The Dead were, of course, a "live" touring band always on the fringes of pop culture.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Touch Of Gray" by The Grateful Dead.

OK, more 80's one-hit wonders (!): The ONLY commercial hit for this immensely popular band came in '87 with a Garcia/Hunter composition. About aging, "chemicals", overcoming life's tough situations - we'll never know?! Their ONLY Billboard Top Ten Hit and their ONLY MTV music video. It introduced the "mainstream" audience and a whole new generation to their music. Band? Song?

Yesterday's answer: ‎"Witch Doctor" by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. Advice: "Oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang". " The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" was Alvin and The Chipmunks' first recording. And, of course, who can forget "El Medico Brujo"?!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Witch Doctor" by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr.

OK, more 50's one-hit wonders: This '58 smash hit was written and recorded by "David Seville", a pseudonym. A man in love with a woman who ignores him takes "drastic" measures and is given some advice. Recorded in the artist's bathroom taped at double-speed. Mistakenly thought to be Alvin and The Chipmunks' first recording. It topped the Billboard, Cashbox and R&B charts and sold over one million copies. Covered in Spanish by Manuel "El Loco" Valdes. Song? Artist? For extra credit - advice?

Yesterday's answer: "Take A Letter, Maria" by R. B. Greaves. Tony Orlando and Dawn did a cover and actually many thought it was the original. Remember stenos?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Take A Letter, Maria" by R. B. Greaves.

OK, more 60's TWO-hit wonders (?!): A Georgetown, Guyana native of mixed ancestry, Ronald Bertram Aloysius Greaves III composed and recorded his first hit in '69. He was Sam Cooke's nephew. A businessman learns of his wife's infidelity and dictates to his steno before asking her out. It peaked at #2, stayed in the charts for 15 weeks and was RIAA Certified Gold. He had another Top 40 (#27) hit the following year. Doug Stone's '99 cover hit #45 on the Country charts. Artist? Song? Second hit?

Yesterday's answer: "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer". I'm partial to Joan Baez's version - from the heart!

"Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer"

OK, back to the 70's: Stevie Wonder co-wrote this '71 moving, heart-wrenching ballad with his late ex-wife Syreeta Wright. A failed love affair likened to the changing of the seasons. Peaked at #78. Masterfully covered by Joan Baez in '75 as well as by Three Dog Night, Phil Collins and Lauryn Hill. Featured on the '93 Janet Jackson film "Poetic Justice" soundtrack. A tearful Stevie Wonder sang it for his friend Michael Jackson at his Memorial Service.

Yesterday's answer: "Surf City" by Jan & Dean. Or, as Belinda Carlisle would have it, "Two boys for every girl!"! We had the privilege of seeing Jan & Dean live in '79 opening for McGuinn, Clark & Hillman at the Valley Forge Music Fair - what a thrill!

Friday, March 4, 2011

"Surf City" by Jan & Dean.

OK, back to the 60's: Brian Wilson penned this surf classic in '60 as "Goody Connie Won't You Come Back Home". He "gave" it to Jan Berry and Dean Torrence who altered it and gave it its well-known name. Their '63 recording topped the pop charts for 2 weeks and peaked at #3 on the R&B charts (!). First surf song to hit #1 on Billboard. Through Dean's efforts, Huntington Beach, CA has been nicknamed after this song and at least 65 of its businesses incorporate the title in their names. Covered by The Ramones and by The Go-Go's.

Yesterday's answer: "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite" by The Spaniels. Some say "goodnight", others "goodnite" - we'll never know. How do you spell the bass line intro phonetically? (To-toro, to-tum?)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite" by The Spaniels.

OK, more 50's one-hit wonders: This Gary, Indiana doo-wop/R&B quintet started out as Pookie Hudson and The Hudsonaires while its members were still in high school. They changed their name shortly after graduation. Their one hit was a '53 Thornton James "Pookie" Hudson/Calvin Carter composition released in '54 which peaked at #24 Pop and at #5 R&B. The McGuire Sisters' "white" cover version sold even better. First successful midwestern R&B group, first vocal group to incorporate tap into their routine and first vocal group to give the lead singer his own microphone. Famous doo-wop bass line intro. Used by Sha Na Na as the closing number during their 70's TV show. Part of the "American Graffiti" and "3 Men And A Baby" soundtracks. Members of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. "Pookie" died of cancer in Des Moines in '07. Group? Hit?

Yesterday's answer: Darlene Love. "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry".

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" by Darlene Love.

OK, back to the 60's: This Hawthorne, CA native will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame later on this month. She joined the Blossoms under Phil Spector in '62 while still in high school. Her biggest SOLO hit came in '63 with a Powers/Greenwich/Spector composition which peaked at #39. Spector paid her $3,000 for the rights to the song. She played Danny Glover's wife on all 4 "Lethal Weapon" movies. Artist? Solo hit?

Yesterday's answer: "Something In The Way She Moves" by James Taylor. Quite possibly my fave JT tune. The guitar work is beyond sublime. Check out JT's James Olson guitar on the video - HEAVEN! (Of course, I might be just a little biased towards Olsons!). It inspired George to write "Something".