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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Paul Davis--I Go Crazy (1977)

     Paul Davis was born in, and died in his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi in 2008. In between was two decades of steady, if not underrated work.
     He began in the mid 60's with a couple of local groups before getting a gig as a writer for Malaco Records out of Jackson, Mississippi in 1968. Just a year later he was signed to a recording contract with Bang Records, where he would spend all of the 70's.
     His first time on the charts was in April of 1970 with a remake of The Jamels' hit, "A Little Bit of Soap". He had two more songs that found mild success until his first top 40 hit, "Ride 'Em Cowboy" in 1974. The big hit for him that decade though was, "I Go Crazy". The song he is probably best known for was, "65' Love Affair", which gets a lot of airplay today. But this "I Go Crazy" sneaks up on you with his underrated (but excellent) keyboard work, just like it did in August of 1977 when it was released. In fact, the song held a record, at the time, of being on the top 100 the most weeks (non-consecutive) with 40!
     He had other top 20 hits with, "Sweet Life", "Do Right", and "Cool Night" beside the others mentioned. In the mid-80's he switched focus to country music and had a couple of number 1 songs with Tanya Tucker, and Marie Osmond. He also wrote a couple of number 1's for his friend Dan Seals. He continued to write, and produce over the two decades before his death, the day after his 60th birthday.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mac Davis--Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me (1972)

     By 1972, Mac Davis had become a bit of a hot songwriting commodity. He had written several hit songs for other, "In the Ghetto" and "Memories"  for Elvis (he also wrote "A Little Less Conversation" which would become a hit years after the King's death), "Watching Scotty Grow" for Bobby Goldsboro and "I Believe In Music" for the group Gallery.
     He had also begun a solo career aiming for country music, but having a definite crossover feel. It wasn't until 72' however, that he hit the big time with, "Baby, Don't Get Hooked On Me". Which hit number one on the pop charts in the summer of that year. It was the beginning of a busy decade for Davis as he recorded three more top 20 hits, country hits well into the 80's. He also had several movie roles, in particular, "North Dallas Forty" with Nick Nolte.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Sunday Morning Vault: Bobby Darin--Mack the Knife (1959)

     Although not always successful, it would not be a stretch to call Bobby Darin one of the most versatile performers (if you define it through quantity) in the modern era. From teen pop to Frank Sinatra style crooning, folk rock, rock, and even a bit of Motown, Darin squeezed a lot of material in his 37 years on this planet. Not all of these attempts were successful, but if you take the time to look at his body of work, he accomplished much more than you would expect.
     Almost 40 years after his death he is defined though "Mack the Knife", which is probably why so many see him as just a night club act. "Mack" was written by the team of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht for their musical drama, "Die Dreigroschenoper" or as it's known in English, "The Threepenny Opera" in 1928.
     Gifford Cochran and Jerrold Krimsky wrote the English lyrics for it's Broadway debut in 1933, which failed badly. It fared better in the early 50's off-Broadway adaptation written by Marc Blitzstein. This is the version that we all know and Darin recorded in 1959. Louie Armstrong did the first swing version in 1956. Interestingly enough, the name Lotte Lenya which is found in the song belonged to Kurt Weill's widow who was at Armstrong's recording. As a bit of a tribute to it's original author, he spontaneously added her to the names in the song.
     Darin recorded the song and it was released as a single. Despite it's being an increasingly popular song in Darin's nightclub act, he was hesitant about it's release. There were those (Dick Clark among them) who thought that it's association with an opera would cause it not to sell well to teenagers. Darin, who already had three top 10 hits previous ("Splish Spash", "Queen of the Hop" and "Dream Lover") and was seen as a bit of a teen idol, was not sure about putting out a song about a murderer. The final decision was made by Ahmet Ertegun from Atlantic Records and Darin soon had his only number 1 hit.
     For those who are not aware of his full career, you might be interested to take a further look beyond here. He had a total of 21 top 40 hits with 9 of those being in the top ten. Although none of them were quite like the most swinging song about murder ever....

Friday, May 25, 2012

Danny Wilson--Mary's Prayer (1987)

     One-hit wonders are a fascinating breed. Sometimes quirky, almost always different from the music around it. Every so often it stands out so well that it transcends the era in which it was based. Which leads us to the Scottish band Danny Wilson.
     Gary and Kit Clark had played in a couple of bands in the early 80's before meeting up with Ged Grimes and forming a group called "Spencer Tracey". The estate of the deceased actor didn't take kindly to the group taking that name, so they changed it to "Danny Wilson" after the 1952 movie, "Meet Danny Wilson" starring Frank Sinatra.
     The first album didn't make much of a dent on the charts, but the first single, "Mary's Prayer" hit the top 40 here in the states. This led to a re-release in early 1988 in the UK and it shot up to number 3 and let them to two other albums before closing up shop in the early 90's.
     The song itself shimmered with religious imagery (speaking of reminded me of IRISH Catholic imagery...which has to be odd coming from a trio of Scottish lads) and hooks that just stuck in your head. They never had a single which even sniffed the top 100 and they went off into one-hit wonderland. If you ever get a chance to hear the entire album, "Meet Danny Wilson", you will not be disappointed. 
     Gary Clark has had a very successful career as a producer and writer. Kit performs today with his band, "Swiss Family Orbison" (They do have a way with names....)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Danny and the Juniors--At the Hop (1957/58)

      Danny Rapp, Frank Maffei, Joe Terranova, and Dave White  had been singing together since their teen years in Philadelphia in the early 50's. They did the usual high school dances (under the name Juvenairs) and such until they were heard by John Madera who had an interested in rock and roll from the management side. Madera was impressed and introduced them to Artie Singer who was a vocal teacher, and also head of Singular Records.
     Singer liked one of the songs that  White had written called, "At the Bop". The word bop had gone out of fashion by that time and Singer changed it to "Hop". Him and White rewrote parts of the song into the form we know it today. Singer also shortened the name of the group to The Juniors. After recording, it was taken to the Philly DJ's. During this time, Dick Clark heard the song and was impressed, but at the time had no openings for the group to play on his TV show, "American Bandstand".
     As luck would have it however, soon afterward, Little Anthony and the Imperials canceled out on a show, and Clark asked the Juniors to fill in. It became an immediate regional hit, and since the cash strapped Spector records couldn't afford nationwide distribution, it was leased out to ABC-Paramount who put it out across the country. The result was a number one hit for seven weeks in late 1957/early 1958.
     The group continues to tour today except for Rapp who passed away in 1983. Saxophonist Lennie Baker left the group in the 60's to form the nostalgia group, "Sha Na Na". You can see more about them here: 


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Charlie Daniels Band--Uneasy Rider (1973)

     Charlie Daniels had been performing since the 1950's, and spent much of the 60's as a Nashville session musician and songwriter, being mostly known for co-writing the song, "It Hurts Me" which Elvis recorded. As his name started to grow outside of the country genre, he was featured as a bass player on recordings by Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohan.
      As he began to explore his musical options, he began not only to perform with his own band, but help mentor other southern rock groups, most notably the Marshall Tucker Band. Being in his late 30's when the album, "Honey in the Rock" was released with it's single, "Uneasy Rider", his spot in the genre was one of a father type figure.
     "Uneasy Rider" told a universal story of cultures clashing. In this case, it was the 60's hippie culture meeting the 'good old boys' from the deep south. As exaggerated as the song was, anyone who lived south of the Mason-Dixon line could relate to elements of the song (or better or worse), as could those who were a part of the 60's culture.
      As opposed to his more political strident and mawkish stance later in his career, he was at his best during the 70's showing off his fiddling prowess and telling stories through his songs, it's apex being in 1979 with, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reflections on Donna Summer by her former music director.

Scott Hallgren is a friend of mine who had the privilege of working with Donna Summer for seven years. Since her death, I had been hoping to get some thoughts and stories. Hope you enjoy reading them as well. His website is:

I had the pleasure of working with Donna 1998 - 2005; all of it on keyboards, 4 of them as her pianist, 3 as her musical director. If I'd only known as an 8 year old, driving around in my Mom's Chevette, listening to Donna on AM radio...

Ahh, the stories - WAY too many to tell, whether it was:

- the Rod Stewart impersonator we sent onstage with flowers in El Paso during "Dim All The Lights" (she'd originally written the song for Rod and talked about that every show) that made her freak out and fall off her stool laughing during our 'acoustic' segment,

- performing as the 'house band' at the reception following Sony label prez Tommy Mottola's 3rd wedding (before he was legally divorced from Mariah), and having my rig directly in front of a table - at which were seated Joe Pesci, Rhea Perlman, Rosie O'Donnell, Danny DeVito, and Michael Jackson (who planned THAT table?),

- me getting to perform with my hero Elton John's band, play his piano, and accompany him and Donna on "Enough Is Enough" for the AIDS Foundation's 2003 benefit at Elton's home, then Barry Manilow get up to join them and say, "I can't believe I'm up here with Donna & Elton - this is fuckin' great! Isn't this fuckin' great?" to the horror of many glitterati,

- or the number of times something went awry during "On The Radio", where Donna would invite 3 audience members (females, for reasons you might expect) up to sing background vocals; once, in Columbus, a girl took the mic and walked out front and sang the second verse with an astonished Donna looking on; another time, at a Sony PGA Open, only 2 females were willing to come up, so the audience begged Donna to take the guy 'in the red windbreaker'... he promptly flew up the stairs, grabbed the mic, and said, "Donna, I'm not a girl, but I do have a very small penis", just as she had taken a sip of Dr. Pepper from the cup on my piano. ***It was Adam Sandler.*** (You can imagine how long it took her to stop laughing, and us to clean off the piano!)

Donna never wanted to be an 'oldies' act, and struggled with the box that many tried to put her in. She could sing ANYTHING. We used to do 'Someone To Watch Over Me' as a duet, Fleetwood Mac's 'Dreams', 'Nights In White Satin', 'New York, New York'. She sounded INCREDIBLE on the 2010 David Foster & Friends show (with Seal).

None of us had any idea she was sick, and I only hope that I'll be able to attend the memorial here in Nashville - she had so many real friends I don't know where they'd put everyone. The fact that she's gone too soon makes it that much harder.

She never stopped creating, was always musical, and my life is so much better and richer for having known her.

- S

Scott Hallgren

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dale & Grace--I'm Leaving It Up To You (1963)

     Dale Houston and his singing partner, Grace Broussard were both from Louisiana. He was from Ferriday and she was from Prairieville. Dale was pretty much self taught at the piano and by the age of 18  had a regional hit  "Lonely Man" that reached number 75 on the national charts. He struggled along as a songwriter and singer when in 1963 he was introduced to Grace Broussard who had been singing in bars for several years along with her brother Van. The two began working on an old song by the duo Don & Dewey called, "I'm Leaving It Up To You", it was recorded and released in the fall of 1963, and reached number one for a couple of weeks.
     The follow up, "Stop and Think It Over" also was a top ten single in early 1964, but a combination of tension between the couple, the advent of the Beatles and an illness that kept Dale out of commission for much of that year, led the duo to split up in 1965. Grace returned home and resumed performing with her brother.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: Daddy Dewdrop--Chick-A-Boom (1971)

     Every so often I find a song that deserves to be re-heard just because it was a hit in it's time. Daddy Dewdrop is the pseudonym for songwriter Dick Monda. He has written for a host of other artists, but his main claim to fame was a song he recorded in 1971. "Chic-A-Boom" reached the top ten in the spring of 1971, and never had another song come close to the top 40. You can read more about him here:

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Cyrkle--Red Rubber Ball (1966)

     The Cyrkle originally began as The Rhondells. Founded by Don Dannemann (guitar, lead vocal) and Tom Dawes (bass) who were students at Lafayette College in Easton Pennsylvania. Earl Pickens (keyboards) and Marty Fried (drums) were added, and were soon playing at college frat events and other places locally then regionally.
     They were playing on Labor Day in 1965 in New Jersey when discovered by Nathan Weiss who was a friend of Beatles' manager Brian Epstein. Epstein signed the group and changed the name to The Cyrkle. The spelling of the name was provided by John Lennon.
     1966 was their best year as they released, "Red Rubber Ball" which was written by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley of The Seekers. It went to number 2 for a couple of weeks in the early summer of that year. They had another top 20 with it's follow-up, "Turn Down Day" later in the year. Another five songs reached the charts over the next two years before the band wrapped it up late in 1967.
     Dawes and Dannemann both became jingle writers after the groups demise. Dawes later wrote the famous "plop plop fizz fizz" jingle for Alka-Seltzer

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Donna Summer (1948-2012)

     Thankfully Donna Summer's talent allowed her to go far beyond disco. At the same time, I'm thankful for that dance sub-genre because it allowed her substantial talents to even be heard. She was considered the "Queen of Disco", but her abilities allowed her to break free from the backlash that effected most of her peers in the early 80's and go into a different direction, without totally disassociating herself from it's many fans. In the 90's she was still a major player, especially in the UK. With the re-emergence of dance music over the last decade, she found herself back on top of the charts with 9 top 5 hits since 2000, with her last number one being last year's, "To Paris With Love".
     On of her talents that was always underrated was her songwriting abilities having written, "Bad Girls", "Heaven Knows", "On The Radio"and others. She had 17 Grammy's nominations  and won five in four separate genres ( R&B, Rock, Dance, Inspirational). There will be many obits over the next few days and where you can get a biography on her career. For those who are between the ages of 40-50 and all who love to hit the dance floor, we have lost a major force today.
     Please feel free to share your thoughts and memories....Peace. 

Cymarron--Rings (1971)

     My hunch about certain things in music is probably like most of you. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but usually interesting because the arts in general are so subjective.
      It had been a long time since hearing the song, "Rings" from the soft rock group Cymarron. It's one of those songs that's is as lite and airy as the meringue on Grandma's banana creme pie, and has as much nutritional value. However, that isn't why you listen to songs like this, they are pure pleasure while you listen, then ten minutes later you can't remember the name of the song, much less the name of the group.
     For historical sake, the group was made up of Rick Yancey, Sherrill Parks, Richard Mainegra and this was their only hit, reaching number 17 in the late summer of 1971. There was a brief showing of the follow up, "Valerie" several months later, then disappeared.
     Upon hearing this again for the first time in at least 30 years, my first thought was, "This has a late 80's/early 90's vibe about it. I know that era in country music well, as it's about the only period in that genre's history that I actually gave a damm about. Well, it turns out that twenty years after this singles, Yancey and Maingera teamed up with former Bread member James Griffin to form The Remingtons which had a couple of top ten hits on the country charts in the early 90's. This dovetails nicely into my theory that modern country music is as much influenced by 70's rock/pop then the country music of an earlier generation.....but then again you can read my opening sentence and argue that I don't know what I'm talking about...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Burton Cummings--Stand Tall (1976)

     Burton Cummings was the lead singer of The Guess Who through most of their existence. He first joined the band in 1965 as a keyboardist, but took over singing duties when Chad Allen left the band.
The Guess Who had a long stretch mainly as a single band for ten years, but in 1975, Cummings chose to head for a solo career.
     His first album reached the top 40 on the strength of, "Stand Tall". The ballad was a bit of a different sound for Cummings, and it went to number 10 on the pop charts in late 1976. His career stalled in the states not too long afterwards, but still had songs on the charts up to 1981 here in the states, and 1990 in his native Canada.
     Over the last ten years, he had reunited with his The Guess Who, formed a band with bandmate Randy Bachman for a couple of years, done some solo work, and has written a book of poetry. You can keep up with Cummings here:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Culture Club--Karma Chameleon (1983)

     The term, "new romantics" refers to a sub culture of the new wave sound of the late 70's/early 80's. Actually they were more about fashion than music, but the music was always an important part of things as well. Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, ABC, and Culture Club were all a part of this sub-genre. Their love of fashion and distinctive visuals dovetailed headlong into MTV which gave all four bands the exposure they wouldn't have seen otherwise.
     None were more distinctive than George Alan O'Dowd or as he was known around the clubs, "Boy George". His androgynous style of dressing and use of make up became the center point about which the group swirled. People remember the group, but the mix of Caribbean, pop, and northern soul was why people still remember the music as it has held up much better than a lot of music of it's era.
     "Karma Chameleon" was a nonsensical song as was the song the proceeded it, "Church of the Poison Mind", but they were just as capable of doing songs that were deeply emotive and just downright beautiful. Try, "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me", or "Time (Clock of the Heart), for examples of that. However, "Chameleon" was the apex of their career. It's mix of different sounds, the visual of George in his coat of many colors on the TV screens singing on a riverboat was just pure fun.
     That fun belied tensions in the band that, along with George's drug addiction, couldn't keep everyone together for long. The band got together for an album in 1999, "Don't Mind if I Do", which is quite good The boys have confirmed they were recording material for release in 2012, but nothing has come of that as of yet.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Cuff Links--Tracy (1969)

     Am not sure what it was about 1969/70 and studio musicians, but some of pop's more enduring hits came as studio "creations" rather than from artists who made it by what would be considered normal means. I wrote a blog last year about Tony Burrows and his contributions to a host of singles during this period. Another musician who had success under other names was Ron Dante.
     Ron had success as a writer of jingles for television and radio as well as a session singer. He was approached with two singles which would change his career. The first was "Sugar Sugar" written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim for Don Kirshner's fictional group, "The Archies", the other was "Tracey" written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss. "Sugar" came out first and was a huge hit, as it started down the charts, "Tracy" began it's ascent, reaching number 9 in the fall of 69. As a group was assembled to take The Cuff Links on the road, Dante chose not to be a part of the group. They had two more songs on the charts, "When Julie Comes Around", and "Run Sally Run" which did not feature Dante, but his replacement on the road version of The Cuff Links, Joe Cord.
     Dante actually made his name in music circles during the 70's, as he produced all of Barry Manilow's albums from 1973 to 1981. He continues to record and tour today. You can find him now at:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: The Crystals--He's A Rebel (1962)

     It's hard to think today how little control artists had in the first years of rock and roll. Stories about bad contracts and rip offs have always been a part of the landscape as unscrupulous record companies and managers took advantage of men and women who just wanted hear their records on the radio. 
     In the early 60s,  Barbara Alston, Mary Thomas, Dolores "Dee Dee" Kenniebrew, Myrna Girard, and Patrica "Patsy" Wright made up The Crystals. They signed with Phil Spector's Philles Records, and their first hit was 1961's, "There's No Other One (Like My Baby)". Another hit followed about 6 months later with, "Uptown".
      The potential third hit was written by Carole King and Jerry Goffin. "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)". It's subject matter kept many radio stations from playing it, and the song never reached the charts at all. This leads up to our featured song...
      By mid-1962, Spector was recording in LA much of the time, and had found Darlene Love and her group The Blossoms and began recording THEM under the name, "The Crystals". This song, which was released in the fall of 1962 was not actually recorded by the original Crystals. There are a couple of stories concerning this. One legend was that he was so enthusiastic about the song that he recorded it as soon as he heard it. The more likely story has that the original Crystals were based in New York and as there was a race to get the recording out as soon as possible, Spector didn't want to wait for the girls to travel cross country, so he used what he had.
    The song, written by Gene Pitney, which began a trend among girl groups to sing about the relationships between the girl and her tough guy boyfriend, went to number 1 in the fall of 1962. Phil Spector played fast and loose with both groups and the names associated with them for the next couple of years This clip which was filmed in 1965 is very ironic considering the real Crystals are lip syncing to a song they never recorded...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Crowded House--Don't Dream It's Over (1987)

     Am not totally sure why, but with all of the music that was so wedded to the 80's, whenever "Don't Dream It's Over", comes on the radio, I instantly return to that decade. It's a timeless tune which launched Neil Finn and his group Crowded House onto the charts for the first time in the US. Neil and his brother Tim fronted the group Split Enz in the 70's and early 80's. After splitting up the band in 1984, Neil and drummer Paul Hester formed Crowded House.
     With success in their native Australia, Crowded House started off well, and with the release of "Don't Dream It's Over" became international stars. With the follow up, "Something So Strong", 1987 became a banner year for them in their homeland, and in the states.
      Interestingly enough, as popularity began to wane here, they became superstars in Europe. The guys saw some minor chart action again several times, but never again would have the clout on the chart that was seen in that big year. The quality of the music however arguably better as time went on. If you like what you hear, it would serve you well to pick up any of their albums as they maintained a solid consistency through the years.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Christopher Cross--Sailing (1980)

     In a blog not too long ago, I referenced, "luck" as a ingredient in the success of an artist or a song. Those who say, "you make your own luck" obviously never tried their hand at music. There are not many career directions that are determined, not only by hard work, but by the whims and tastes of an audience that for the most part you never see. One of the things we do at, "The Rock and Roll Omnibus" radio show is to not only celebrate the hits from the past, but also to give due to those who produced quality music which never got the recognition. 
     In hindsight, Christopher Cross' first album came at a perfect time for a breath of fresh pop air. The disco backlash was in full swing, most of radio listeners were not latching on to punk, and what was to become new wave had not been fully developed yet. His unique vocal style blended with a timeless soft rock sense that was punctuated by Michael Omartain's production produced a single, (and album) that is a near flawless record of it's genre.
     Despite what critics (especially those who think of themselves as 'hip')  might have said about his career, Cross has done very well. He had a total of 8 top 40 hits from 1980 to 1983 and that first album won a Grammy. He continues to tour and record with regularity.You can find him on the internet here:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Crosby, Stills, and Nash--Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (1969)

     David Crosby had been with The Byrds, Steven Stills from Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash from The Hollies. The first two had been known as fairly combustible personalities at their previous stops, but were itching for the next musical project. In fact, Crosby and Stills had been jamming informally.
     Crosby knew Nash since 1966 when The Byrds had toured the UK, and revisited again when The Hollies toured California a couple of years later. So the night that Cass Elliot invited them all to a party at her house, there was renewed friendship. What was unusual about that evening was the sound that was birthed....
     Nash had asked David and Stephen to sing a song that Stills had just written. As the two men began singing, Graham began adding a third part to it. The results were breathtaking to the folks at the party, and to the three men themselves. Nash had been looking for a creative outlet outside of The Hollies, so when it was suggested that they start writing and recording as a group, he was all in.
     Troubles would ensue in short order, but not before recording a glorious album chocked full of those harmonies. "Crosby, Stills, and Nash" was released in May of 1969 to a great reception by fans and critics alike. All three brought distinct styles to the party. Crosby brought a sense of on the edge political activism, Stills brought a folk/country touch and became the mastermind of the studio, Nash had a keep pop sense. Wrapping all of this in those tight harmonies made their first few albums classic. What made this first one a bit different was the freshness and sheer excitement of creating together that was transmitted to the listener.
     They had bigger hits on the singles chart, but if I never remember these guys for anything else, it would be for, "Suite, Judy Blue Eyes". Stills' relationship with Judy Collins was nearing it's end. and in sadness, he wrote a song broken into a four part suite which chronicled it's demise. In the studio it was turned into a musical tour de force which, at least for me might have been equaled by the group, but never surpassed. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Jim Croce--You Don't Mess Around With Jim (1972)

     It was the 1st of October and I was sleeping on the couch in our living room. When ensconced within the four walls of our house, the radio was always playing and during the winter I fell into slumber with KSHE95, our local "underground" station being my lullaby.
     This morning was strange however. Being used to waking to the latest from The Strawbs, The Beatles, or King Crimson, I was hearing Jim Croce, which for this station was quite unusual. It was the song, "Operator" and even at the age of 13, knew something was amiss. Sure enough, after the song was over, the DJ announced that Croce had died the night before in a plane crash outside of Natchitoches, Louisiana.
     Croce was different than many of the singer songwriters of that era. Rather than songs of personal introspection, he liked to tell stories. Jim and his wife Ingrid met while he was attending Villanova University, and they later begin to sing and later write as a duo. They moved to New York City and began touring. They released an album in 1968, but not long after got tired of the business and NYC specifically and moved back to Philadelphia.
     The next couple of years probably did a great deal to define his later sound. He did a stint in the military, and doing various jobs, such as truck driving and working construction. During that time he met people who would shape the many songs he would write about other people. He attempted to find a life outside of music, but was always drawn back to it.
     In 1970, a college friend, producer Sal Joseph introduced Croce to classically trained guitar/pianist Maury Muehleisen. The two began working as a duo, with Croce backing Maury's songs, but as time went on the roles switched as Muehlesien began to provide the perfect sweet guitar backing to Jim's down to earth stories.
     Less than two years later, Croce was offered a contract with ABC Records and released, "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" which on the strength of the title track and "Operator" shot up to number 1 on the album charts. That title track was vintage Croce, but "Operator" which was his second hit showed the sensitive side of him as well.
     It seemed just as his career was headed into overdrive, the plane crash not only took his life, but Muehleisen's as well. His son Adrian James, now known as A.J. Croce has an accomplished career as a musician, Ingrid owns and manages Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar in San Diego.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Crests--16 Candles (1958)

     The Crests were formed in 1955 by J.T. Carter and included Talmadge Gough, Harold Torres, and Patricia Van Dross (the older sister of singer Luther Vandross). The next year, when vocalist Johnny Mastrangelo (later known as Johnny Maestro) joined the group, they began to take shape. They had a minor hit  with, "Sweetest One" in the summer of 1957 on the Joyce label, it was late in 1959 however that their fortunes began to change.
     "16 Candles" was written by Luther Dixon and Allyson R. Khent, and was the number 2 hit in the country for two weeks during the winter of 1958/59. It began a two year run on the charts which scored them four trips to the top 40 until Maestro left to pursue a solo career.
     The song was revived again by it's use in the John Hughes movie, "Sixteen Candles" with Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: Marshall Crenshaw--Someday, Someway (1982)

    Over the years of studying popular music, one comes to the conclusion that most of the hits over the years were that way because they ARE good. However, to just dismiss all other songs as unworthy is musically throwing the baby out with bath water. Anyone who has spent time attempting a career in this business can tell you that many variables come into play for a song to even get a record deal, much less making a hit out of it. Some will play for awhile, and decide to quit music after awhile to pursue more lucrative interests.  Others seems to be happy doing what they are passionate about despite popular sentiment, they make enough money to make a secure living (sometimes not), and in the case of artists like Marshall Crenshaw, have a solid cult following.
      Marshall would be considered an artistic renaissance man. His Beatles roots were deep early as his first group was called, "Astigafa" which is an acronym for "a splendid time is guaranteed for all" from 1968 to 1973. His first break came playing John Lennon in the off-Broadway version of "Beatlemania". He has penned songs for movies, written books, and played Buddy Holly in the 1987 movie, "La Bamba".
      It's interesting that he played Holly, because with his debut release in 1982, he seemed nothing less than a second coming of the fallen star. Just a look at the cover of that album showed an uncanny resemblance with the glasses and his angular frame. More importantly, the music had a clean, fresh production and an enthusiasm that almost glistened off of the disc. It sounded so new at the time, but for those who knew better, it's roots were the short, to the point songs about love in it's various forms that Holly wrote and sang, and filtered through the early Beatles.
     "Someday, Someway" barely made the top 40 in the summer of 1982, but none of it's follow-up's ever made the charts. The single and the album that is came off of however, was not ignored as a very strong cult following has developed over the past 30 years who consider him (as I do), the most underrated artist of the last three decades. His second album, "Field Day" is actually my favorite, and the single off of it, "Whenever Your On My Mind" is one of the finest pop singles ever. His latest release, "Jaggedland" was released in 2009. You can see what he's up too at:
     Not only are we playing, "Someday, Someway", but as a putting up "Whenever Your On My Mind" as well. Happy Sunday!!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Creedence Clearwater Revival--Fortunate Son (1969)

     I've read a book or two on CCR, and it always leaves me sad. It also leaves me wondering about the kind of childhood that Tom and John Fogerty had to cause such a rivalry later on.
     For a much too brief time (if you don't count their last album,  'Marti Gras'...which wasn't very good, it was less than three years) Creedence was THE American band. Forty years later, it still defines much of what was good about late 60's/early 70's rock.
     However, most of that time they were on top of the world, there was turmoil. The band originally had Tom as lead vocalist and chief songwriter. As John began singing and writing, the music not only took a different turn creatively, the hits began to pile with with a fury that could only be described as breathtaking. Fourteen hits (several of them two sided) in a 24 month period reached the top 20 from January 1969 to January 1971.
     You would think this would leave the guys happy, but it seemed everything but. Tom was obviously jealous over John's success. This was compounded greatly by John's instance of leaving the others out of the writing process, and never giving them the credit they deserved for creating the "sound" of CCR if not the actual song.
     They always had a chip on their shoulder about being seen as a "serious" band. They guys wanted to be seen on the same plane as the Beatles. Although some music critics at the time saw them as "just" a "singles" band, this was much more than just bubblegum. Besides the fact that no one seemed to mind the Beatles continuing to produce fantastic singles, CCR was crafting songs that could easily be seen as equal to what was being done by ANY group of the era.
      Besides that, when Fogerty wanted to make a statement, he could. Listen back to back to "Fortunate Son" and "Have You Ever Seen The Rain". One would not find a pair of songs that described the war from a average kid's perspective any better than these two. There are many anti-war songs that are more direct in the wording perhaps, but there are few with as much literary (or on the case of 'Fortunate Son', sonic as well) punch. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cream--Sunshine of Your Love (1968)

     The word "supergroup" in the music world was coined for Cream. All of these years later, we have understood that more than just ability goes into a group working together. Things like personal chemistry...which was a problem from the beginning with this group.
     Cream was formed from Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, both who were feeling stifled in the groups they were with. Jack Bruce had been in the Graham Bond Organization with Baker, and man were well aware that the two really didn't get along, but Clapton and Baker both admired his talent and so he was asked to join the group.
     The debut album, "Fresh Cream" was released to favorable reviews and good sales, which lead to "Disraeli Gears", produced by Felix Pappalardi in 1967. The first single off of that album, "Sunshine of Your Love" reached number 5 on the charts, and was their only gold single. The opening riff is one of those that has endured over the last 40 years and has considered one of the greats of all time. Baker's drumming is a driving force that counterbalances the guitar perfectly.  The song was written by Bruce, Clapton, and Pete Brown, who was a poet who later wrote their other big hit, "White Room"
     Within that year however, it would all be over after a clutch of great albums, a few classic singles, and a warning to future "supergroups" that musical prowess alone might sound good in the short term, but a lot more goes into a group that lasts over the long haul. In that short two years however they created some enduring music.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Billy "Crash" Craddock--Rub It In (1974)

     Billy Craddock got his start in the 50's as a rockabilly singer. He was signed to Columbia records and was positioned to be their "Elvis". It never quite turned out that way as the biggest hit he could muster was, "Don't Destroy Me" which eked in at number 94 on the charts. Craddock was however a major teen idol in Australia during that time.
     The sixties brought on a long dry spell as he drifted from one label to the next. Mercury, King, and Chart all tried to be the one to make him a star. By the late 60's however, he was without a label, and for the most part was out of music as well as he was back in his native North Carolina working in a cigarette factory and hanging drywall. After doing that for a bit, he went back to music, not going in more of a country format.
     This led him to a contract with Cartwheel records and his first country hit, a cover of Dawn's, "Knock Three Times". A move to ABC Records in 1973 gave another jolt to his career as he scored a host of hits, including three number 1's. One of them being, "Rub It In".
     The song, written and sung in 1971 by Layng Martine, and produced by Ray Stevens for his Barnaby label made it to the pop charts that year. Craddock reached number 1 on the country charts and number 16 on the pop charts. He never had that big of a hit again on the Hot 100, but continued making hits in country for the rest of the decade. You can check out his latest recordings and much more at his website:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Coven--One Tin Soldier (1971)

     One wonders if 40 years from now, our children (grandchildren? great-grandchildren) will look at something like the "twilight" series and read about the frenzy that accompanied it and scratch their heads and smile, as they attempt to figure out what the fuss was about.
      I wonder that same thing looking back at the "Billy Jack" series. Tom Laughlin directed, co-wrote and starred in the movie. When a distributor could not be found, Laughlin took the film to theaters himself. It bombed when first released in 1971, but by word of mouth it took on a life of it's own a couple of years later and grossed over 40 million dollars.
     This is not a movie blog, and I am not much of a movie watcher now, but can tell you that on reflection, watching the movie in a drive-in as a 13 year old was a lot more exciting than watching it now. (probably because I didn't reflect on trivial things like a guy who preached peace while kicking bad guy ass. )
     The song that came from this movie actually had it's major success the year the movie bombed. In 1971 it reached number 26 on the charts, and could have possibly been instrumental in keeping the movie alive long enough to reach an audience. The story of the group Coven would probably have made a better film than "Billy Jack". Jinx Dawson, the lead singer of the group had a distinctive voice, striking looks, and was, along with the other band members, true practitioners of the black arts. The group and it's role in the heavy metal scene is in need of a blog post all their own, but if your interested, look them's a fascinating story.
     "One Tin Soldier" actually made it on to the top 100 three times in it's chart life. Coven never had another charting single, and the original  group broke up in 1974, although they have returned in several different forms over the years, with Dawson always the driving force. She has also had a career in modeling and acting as well.