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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dave Clark Five--Bits and Pieces (1964)

     The Dave Clark Five was probably the most immediate beneficiary in the wake of the British Invasion after the Beatles. Clark, who was the drummer and had led bands since 1957, turned out to be a smart businessman and shrewd when it came to the direction of the group. They were the first British band to tour the US, they not only leaped at the chance to be on Ed Sullivan (the Beatles were first), but promoted a more wholesome image and found themselves on the show 18 times through the 1960's.
     The success of the band in the US lasted until psychedelic rock took hold in the late 60's. However, they did well in the UK until breaking up in late 1970. Interestingly enough, they did better in the UK in the latter part of the decade than they did during the US success. All told, the group racked up 8 top ten hits from 1964-1967 and 17 top 40's. 
     "Bits and Pieces" was written by Clark and lead singer Mike Smith. It was the second top 10 hit in the US reaching #4 in the spring of 1964.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Eric Clapton--Hello Old Friend (1976)

    Thinking of just ONE song for Clapton is not easy. When you have been around as long as he has, you find your share of great songs and also your share of duds. With Eric, it's a bit more difficult not only because of the high quality of the music, but he has spread his talent around so many places. Do I play something from The Yardbirds? or maybe Delaney and Bonnie. Derek and the Dominoes is an obvious choice, not so much but just as good would have been Blind Faith. You can't talk about "Slowhand" without mentioning do we go.
     I settled on his broad and deep solo output from the 70's. If you are into top 40, it's probably his most accessible period for hard rock fans, and for those who have no idea who Cream was. So I chose, "Hello Old Friend", which is probably my favorite period in his recorded history. Taken as the first single off of the, "No Reason To Cry" album in 1976, it has all of the sounds you expected from him at that time. Clapton's distinctive guitar work, and his underrated vocals, and a melodic sound that is as comfortable as a pair of old slippers. The backing vocals of Yvonne Elliman adds a touch that had become a normal part of the EC sound in the mid-70's.
     The song itself reached #24, which was lower than other efforts during that period, but it was the highest charting song he had since 1974's, "I Shot the Sheriff" and 1978's, "Lay Down Sally". If you are mostly familiar with Clapton of the 60's, or just turned on to him in the last 15 years, I would suggest you check out the music during the period 1972-1981. None of it may have been groundbreaking, but the consistency of the quality cannot be understated.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cinderella--Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone) (1988)

     "Hair Metal" is misrepresented in many quarters, but it's hybrid of heavy metal, pop, with a sensibility that comes directly from 70's glam rock had it's place in defining the 1980's (especially from 1985-1990). To my ears at least, they came upon a formula that was genius. Put out an album of metal, or in the case of Cinderella, a blues/metal/rock mix, record a couple of radio ready hits, stir generously  with music videos that included a LOT of women and Aqua net, and you had a hit group.
     For those who look at these sort of things, it was something new. Back in the 70's when us Rock snobs wanted our Rock to be Rock, and any sort of intrusion on the pop charts was anathema, groups like Cinderella, Motley Crue, Poison, and Bon Jovi would have sounded differently. However, MTV was like a big stick which affected all who were caught in the stew, and allowed for a lot of genre mixing.
     Cinderella was formed in 1983 with singer/keyboard/guitar player Tom Keifer, and bassist Eric Brittingham, guitarist Michael Smerick and drummer Tony Destra. In 1985, Smerick and Destra left to form Britny Fox and was replaced by Jeff LaBar and Jim Drnec in time for their debut album. That album, "Night Songs", released in 1986 peaked at #3 that year on the strength of the single, "Nobody's Fool". That remained their biggest hit single until 1988 and, "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone) off of the album, "Long Cold Winter"
     The group suffered the same fate as most hair metal bands with the musical wave that was Grunge. Cinderella suffered a bit more perhaps because of illness and constant lineup changes. Their last studio album was in 1994, but has released a series of concerts over the last 10 years.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lou Christie--Lightning Strikes (1965)

     Lou Christie had three distinct periods of popularity during the 60's. The first was centered in the year 1963 where he claimed two top forty hits, most notably, "Two Faces Have I". Shortly after the release of that singe, he was inducted into the army for the next two years.
     After his release, he signed with MGM recorded and his first release was not thought of well. In fact, the president of the company threw his version in the trash! Luckily for him (and for us), his management team in California did like it and promoted it hard. The result was his first and only #1 hit, "Lightning Strikes".
      He had another few hits, before falling in the background again, before again resurfacing in 1969 for a couple more hits before fading into the oldies arena during the early 80's.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chilliwack--Fly at Night (1977)

     My formative years listening to the radio was during a time I consider one of the best eras for rock music, the early/middle 70's. FM radio had taken hold in many cities with a devil-may-care attitude about everything but the music. KSHE radio in St. Louis in a studio that was about half the size of a single-wide trailer. the DJ's were fun, more than a little irreverent, and had a love for the music that was equaled by their fans. It was this radio station that formed my love of rock music.
     This kind of leads me to our featured song for the day. Many of my favorite artists were rarely if ever heard on top 40 radio. Many of them would have one or two songs (like Yes, or Emerson, Lake, and Palmer), some never even bothered to aim for that market. A group out of Vancouver called Chilliwack was one that had some minor success on the charts in the 70's, but actually did better in that respect in the next decade with a hit that almost reached the top 20 called, "My Girl (Gone Gone Gone)".
      It was in the late 70's that Chilliwack impressed me the most. Their album "Dreams, Dreams, Dreams" released in early 1977 was a great album that should have been more popular. The single off that album, "Fly at Night" (not to be confused with Rush's song of the same name), was their biggest hit in Canada at the time, and found a audience among American FM listeners as well. The group had it's origins as The Classics in 1964, had a name change to The Collectors in 1966, and after a change in lead singers, to Chilliwack in 1970. Guitarist Bill Henderson stepped up to the mike as well as taking over much of the songwriting duties at that time. A role in which he fills as they still play on the oldies circuit today. There are several gems with this group, but in my mind....start right here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: Chubby Checker--The Twist (1961)

     Ernest Evans at times lamented the fact that many overlooked his talent, but one thing is for sure, he was smart enough to ride "The Twist" to a solid career for the entirety of his career.
     Evans was working at a chicken processing plant and a produce market in the late 50's, and was known as a good singer who had the gift of making impressions of popular singers of the day, Fats Domino, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis were just a few of the artists that he would imitate. He would entertain workers at both places with his talents. It was the owner of the produce market and his friend who was a songwriter for Cameo-Parkway records who arraigned for him to make a private recording for Dick Clark (who was still based in Philadelphia at the time) using the voices.
     It was Clark's wife who gave him the name "Checker". She asked him his name and Ernest said that his friends called him, "Chubby". She was making a play on Fats Domino's name when she saying, "Like Checker?". The name got a laugh from all there, but it also stuck. The record that Checker made was sent to Clark's friends as a Christmas gift. However, the folks at Cameo-Parkway was so impressed that they signed him to a contract and released, "The Class" as a single in the spring of 1959. It reached the top 40 later that year.
     "The Twist" had been recorded by Hank Ballard & The Midnighters in 1959, and reached the top 20 that year. They had also introduced the dance, but it was Checker's version, released in the summer of 1960 that stormed up the charts, all the way to #1. It not only hit the top of the charts that year, but it went on to reach number 1 again in late 1961.
     This launched Checker into international stardom, but it also trapped him by producers who saw him as a, "dance" singer, and had him not only attempt songs with a "Twist" theme (Let's Twist Again, Twistin' USA, Slow Twistin'), but a whole bunch of other songs about dancing, (The Hucklebuck, Pony Time, The Fly). He wasn't always happy about this, but on the other hand, was a smart enough businessman to strike while the iron was hot.
     As it turned out, Checker finished with three #1's and had 24 songs on the top 40, with the last time being a re-recording of "The Twist" for a new generation with The Fat Boys in 1988. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Chi-Lites--Oh Girl (1972)

     It's Friday morning and rainy here in of those mornings one wishes to crawl up on the couch with a book and let the day pass you by. The music needs to be mellow as well and the Chi-Lites seem to fill the bill.
     The group was formed in the late 50's as the "Hi-Lites", but changed it in 1964 to give tribute to their hometown. It was in the 60's that Eugene Record was added to sing lead, and with his vocals, and songwriting ability, they began to make some waves by the late 60's. They began having some chart action during the 1969/70 period, and broke through to the top 10 with, "Have You Seen Her" in 1971. "Oh Girl" shot up to number one in the Spring of the next year.
     The Chi-Lites was a presence on the pop charts for the rest of the early/mid 70's, with Record leaving for a few years to attempt a solo career, but came back in 1980.  They had a presence on the R&B charts up through the mid-80's.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

William Shatner--Rocket Man (1978)/Bohemian Rhaposdy (2010)

     Today William Shatner turns 81. I have to list myself as a fan since his days as Captain Kirk in Star Trek. There are many who consider himself a pompous, overblown bag of air, including those who worked with him. For some strange reason, his ability to project such a narcissistic persona, while making fun of it at the same time is one of the things I like about him. That and his ability to sing....
     Well...not really SING. It's more what I call "song as  dialogue". The genre isn't as full as it used to be, but it seemed to be prominent in the late 60's, as people attempted to make rock music, "serious". What it turned out to be was seriously funny as actors such as Leonard Nimoy, Telly Savales (a blog of his rendition of Bread's, "If" is found in our listings from last year), and probably the most sidesplitting of them all, Sebastian Cabot reading Dylan's, "It Ain't Me Babe" as if he were auditioning for a Shakespearean role.
     Shatner was late to this party, but when he chose to start, he was all in....the following was from 1978 as he chose to dis-assemble Elton John's "Rocket Man" 
     I've often wondered how much money Bernie Taupin was being paid to introduce this epic re-creation of his lyrics....
     Just last year, Shatner decided it was time to release an album of songs. Am not sure where the clamoring came from that led him to his decision, but one of the songs was made into a wonderfully funny video. Here he does a cover of  Queen's,  "Bohemian Rhapsody". Sit back and listen while you watch a master at work...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chic--La Freak (1978)

     It's thought that I hate disco....and am not sure if it's just mellowing with age, or with reflection just realizing that just like any other trend in music, there are trendsetters, then everyone else. For every great band, there are a bunch of poseurs who do nothing but make a parody of things. How many attempted to follow the footsteps of Elvis, The Beatles, Dylan, Nirvana, etc....and just made us wish even more for the original?
     In my mind there are a handful of artists who made disco a quality genre, one of them being Chic. Guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards had been working together since 1970, but the group didn't begin to take form until 1977 with the addition of drummer Tony Thompson. Keyboard player Raymond Jones and singers Norma Jean Wright and Luci Martin rounded out the lineup.
     How La Freak was created is one of my favorite stories from the sounds funnier coming from the writer himself....
     "La Freak" became a #1 hit and one of the most iconic songs from the disco era. They had two top ten hits in 1979 before getting caught in the undertow of anti-disco sentiment, and broke up a few years later. Nile Rodgers became one of the most important producers of 1980's music being involved with many of the top names of the era. Over 30 years after disco era on the charts was over, "La Freak" and "Good Times" became two of the sparkling singles of it's time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cheap Trick--Surrender (1978)

     Cheap Trick was formed in 1972 as  Guitarist Rick Nielsen, drummer Bun E. Carlos, and bassist Tom Petersson and vocalist Randy "Xeno" Hogan had been in bands in their native Illinois throughout the late 60's/early 70's and join forces. Hogan left shortly after their formation and was replaced by Robin Zander.
     By 1975, they had recorded their first official demo and after seeing them at a gig in Wisconsin, was signed by Epic records. In 1977/78 they released three albums to some critical acclaim, but lackluster record sales. They also released six singles, which all stiffed except for "Surrender" which hit #62 in the fall of 78.
     Meanwhile, across the Pacific, all three albums went gold in Japan, and their popularity was at a fever pitch. The decision was made to travel there and to also record a live album. What happened was almost a Beatle-like response from the Japanese, and a live album that blew away their studio efforts. "Cheap Trick at Budokan" became the album that launched them into stardom, and led the way into becoming the best known power pop band of all time. You heard the studio version above...we leave you with the live version..

Monday, March 19, 2012

Charlene--I've Never Been To Me (1982)

     Remember tonight at 9pm central US, The Rock and Roll Omnibus will be on the air. Just go to, and for two hours hear the best music and the stories behind them.....

     There is no doubt of the connection between radio and records, and how one fuels the other. There are more than a few occasions where a radio station will spark a company into releasing a song nationwide based on it popularity in a certain area.
     This is what happened in the case of Charlene Marilynn D'Angelo who was signed by Motown in 1973, and for marketing purposes, was known as Charlene. Her first chart action was in 1977, but on three releases, which included, "I've Never Been to Me", she never went above #96.
     She moved to England after Motown released her from her contract. She remarried and was working at a sweetshop in London in the early 80's, when her career was resurrected in a most unusual way.
     In 1982, Tampa disc jockey Scott Shannon who at the time was working at WRBQ, was persuaded by his girl friend, to play the "I've Never Been To Me" as a part of his show. The song caught fire in Tampa, and it's popularity convinced Motown to re-release the song. It reached number 3 in the US and number 1 in the UK.
     She did a duet with Stevie Wonder later in 1982, which went to #47, she never was seen on the charts again. She still continues to record, and lives in California with her family.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: Ray Charles--I Can't Stop Loving You (1962)

     By 1962, Ray Charles was already considered a ground breaker. As an r&b singer, who broke through in the late 40's and early 50's as a considerable talent. Later as the man who fused r&b with gospel and created what was known as soul music, and now, a move to country music?
     Looking back, you might have been able to see this coming. One of his first hit singles with ABC-Paramount was, "Georgia On My Mind", which mixed the blues, gospel, and country. However, he had always been a fan of country music. Even back in his days with Atlantic, he had covered Hank Snow's, "I'm Movin' On". It would be understood however, that  a total move wasn't in the cards based on his output of 1960/61, which included, "One Mint Julep", "Unchain My Heart", and "Hit the Road, Jack".
     Despite some of his songs having country overtones, nothing could have prepared his audience for, "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music". It doesn't seem like it now, but it was a risky move for Charles, and for ABC Paramount. A black man had never attempted to put out a recording of country and western (as it was known then) and the record company was already getting some flack over the potentially unwise choice. In addition, Charles had just been busted for heroin possession in late 61', and putting an album that could possibly alienate his fan base just after this brush with the law was risky as well. 
     There were no worries however, as the album became a soul classic, but a County classic as well. Charles took the songs, and instead of singing them in a "Country" style, he put a stamp on them that truly made them his own. Take "I Can't Stop Loving You" for instance. Don Gibson wrote the song in 1957 and his version went to #7 on the country charts. A year later, Kitty Wells covered the song and did well with it. But Charles, took the song, with very little change in it's actual notation, and with orchestration (which he was given total control over it's content) transformed it. The album, and it's follow-up broke down many barriers. As Billy Joel put it, commenting on the album, "it was taking the whitest music and singing it in the blackest possible way". If Charles had not already solidified his brilliance as a musician...he did it here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tracy Chapman--Fast Car (1988)

     I usually never know what the subject matter of my blogs will be until the morning their written. It's interesting that the artist that's spotlighted today has ties to the blog from yesterday.
     Tracy Chapman, like Harry Chapin, is an activist. Whereas Harry focused on world hunger, Tracy writes about and donates much of her time, money, and energy to human rights across the globe. She attended Tuffs University in Boston and it was there, playing in the coffee houses, that one of her classmates recommended her to his dad, who was Charles Koppelman who ran SKB publishing. Upon her graduation in 1987, he helped secure a deal with Elektra Records.
     From the first album in 1988 and the debut single from it, "Fast Car", Tracey wrote about the things she saw in the country and around the world. This song, which spotlighted generational poverty was released in April of 88', and reached number 6 on the charts. Her time in the spotlight after 1988 was spotty, except in 1995, where the single, "Give Me One Reason" reached the top 10 once again.
     She continues to release material and tour, she is especially popular on college campuses.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Harry Chapin--Taxi (1972)

     It would be very easy to write about, "Cat's In The Cradle" since that was by far Chapin's most popular song, but when I think of Harry this is the song that always sticks in my mind.
     Before Bob Geldof and Live Aid made it fashionable to support causes such as hunger and other world wide issues, Harry Chapin was regularly giving most of his money away. According to his widow, he thought "Money was for people" and was giving it back to help others. He supported many humanitarian causes and was instrumental in the creation of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1977.
       Before he signed a contract with Elektra Records, Chapin was a film maker. In fact, his short film, "Legendary Champions" was nominated for an Oscar in 1968 for best documentary. In 1971, he began focusing on music and on the strength of  the single "Taxi", his debut 1972 album, "Heads and Tails" hit the charts. 
     Chapin would be criticized in the rock press for being too moralistic. I do agree that at times, his lyrics could tend to get preachy, but for me, he was at his best when telling stories. "Taxi" got it's initial push by DJ Jim Connors from WMEX who championed the song, and from Johnny Carson. It turns out that in 1972 when Harry was invited to sing, "Taxi" that the show received so many telegrams, and Carson himself was so impressed that Chapin became the only artists to be invited to come back and give an encore performance the next night. He ended up being invited 14 times to sing on the Tonight show, which would always help keep him in the public eye.
     The last single he released before his death ("Sequel")in 1981 was a song that brought closure to the subjects in the original.   


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Now...a place where you can hear the Bus on the Radio!!

You's great to have friends here who can point out the obvious. I got a note yesterday from a fan who said, "I would have never known you were on the radio by looking at your blog". Lo and behold, he was right. The actual Bus website has a place to find our affiliates, but the majority of you don't go there. So if you look on the right, just under the archive, you will find all of the places during the week you can hear the bus, and a link to their website. Am attempting to work out legalities of having a podcast put on the site as well...but that's a ways into the future. Thanks for pointing out things like guys are fantastic!! 

Gene Chandler--Duke of Earl (1962)

     Gene Chandler was a member of the vocal group, "The Dukays" beginning in 1957. After a stint in the Army in 1960, he returned to the group and began professionally recording late that year. In fact, in 1961, they had a minor Billboard hit with, "She's A Devil". Later that year, they recorded "Nite Owl" and "The Duke of Earl". "Nite Owl" was slated for release, but the story of "The Duke of Earl" is a bit more complicated. The following is directly from his bio at

"The Du-Kays would warm up by singing do-do-do-do- in various tones and pitches. Gene started singing duke--duke--duke and from there added fellow member "Earl" Edward’s first name to complete the phrase. He then began composing the lyrics on the spot. It worked so well and they were excited that this was a potential hit. They immediately sang the lyrics to Bernie who in turn added more lyrics. They recorded the Duke of Earl. But getting the "Duke of Earl" released however, was the hardest part. Nat Records released "Nite Owl", but was unable to get the distribution rights for "Duke of Earl".

Calvin Carter, A&R man with VeeJay Records absolutely loved the tune and especially liked Gene’s singing style. Carter was more interested in Gene alone than in the whole group sound and felt Gene could top the charts easier as a solo artist. While "Nite Owl" by the Du-Kays was shooting up the charts, VeeJay was holding back the release of the "Duke of Earl ", because Gene couldn’t decide to go solo or stay with the group that had a hit 45 on the charts. In January of 1962 Eugene Dixon became Gene Chandler, taking his last name from actor Jeff Chandler because he thought it had a romantic ring. Under Gene Chandler he released solo records while still under contract with the Du-Kays as Gene Dixon. The " Duke of Earl " was finally released and it sold a million copies in little over one month. It was a huge hit, Number 1 for three weeks in 1962. It dethroned the " Twist " from its Number 1 position"

     Although most know him only for this song, he had a string of chart hits singing the songs of a (at the time), Curtis Mayfield, which showed his abilities around slow ballads and made him a staple of Chicago soul in the mid-60s. His last big hit was in 1970 with, "Groovy Situation", he continues to tour today. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Champs--Tequila (1958)

     The Champs were not even a group. They came together as a studio backup group to Dave Burgess, who had recorded the A side, ("Train to Nowhere") with the The Daniel Flores trio. There was some studio time, and it was during that time that the group came up with an impromptu riff that was developed into a song. This song was put on the "B" side of the record, and soon after it's release became a hit on Gene Autry's, Challenge Records. 
     Wanting to capitalize on the success of the record, they took the name "The Champions" (named after  Gene Autry's horse), then shortened to "The Champs". As the new band hit the road things did not jell, and some changes were soon made to the group, with Jimmy Seals (sax) and Dash Crofts (drums) being added to the mix. Both stayed with the group for a few years, and later made a name for themselves as the 70's soft rock group, Seals & Crofts.
     The song shot up to #1 for five weeks in the spring of 1958, and although hitting the charts 7 more times, with three of them reaching the top 10, nothing compared to the success of  "Tequila!". The group folded in 1965 for good, but not before having Glen Campbell, and for a very short time Delaney Bramlett  passing through.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chairmen of the Board--Give Me Just A Little More Time (1970)

     Most of the time band and vocal groups would come together by a series of events that are usually orchestrated by a lead member, or a couple of members bringing in others. It was not uncommon, especially in 60's for soul and R & B groups to be brought together. by record executives. 
     General Johnson had a couple of regional hits as lead singer of The Showmen in the early 60's. In 1967, the writing team of Dozer/Holland/Dozer left Motown to start up their own record label. Invictus/Hot Wax was in need of a top name to head the label, so they brought in Johnson, who had not had a lot of luck in the previous few years attempting a solo career, to start a group. He was paired with Eddie Custis, Danny Woods, and Harrison Kennedy to create Chairmen of the Board.
     All four members shared lead vocals, but it was Johnson's voice that was distinctive and set the group apart from others. Their biggest years on the charts was in 1970 and 71, with "Give Me Just A Little More Time" being the best of the bunch. The group continued to record and tour up to Johnson's death in the fall of 2010.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: Richard Chamberlain--Three Stars Will Shine Tonight (1962)

     Richard Chamberlain has had a long, varied and successful career. His list of accomplishments range from the stage where he has played in latter versions of My Fair Lady and  The Sound of Music. He played the title role of "Hamlet" with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, being the first American to do it since John Barrymore in 1929.
      He has, and continues to act in films. His first being in 1960, and as recent as last year played roles in several movies. However, his fame for most of us has been on the television screen. From his role as intern Dr. Kildare in 1961, he has been a star on the tube. For folks my age he is best known for his role in the mini series', Centennial, Shogun, and especially The Thorn Birds. In the last several years he could have been seen on episodes of the Drew Carey Show, Will and Grace, Nip/Tuck, Desperate Housewives, and Chuck.
     For our purposes here however, it was his pleasant voice that gave him an opportunity to record several singles from 1962-1964. He had three top 40 hits, with this one, the theme from Dr. Kildare, being his highest charting song from the summer of 1962. Happy Sunday Everyone!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chad & Jeremy--A Summer Song (1964)

     Not all of the bands who came in through the British Invasion were of the Beatles/Stones variety. Chad Stuart & Jeremy Clyde rode in on that tide as a pair of intellectual folk singers. Their first hit, "Yesterday's Gone" was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was the last and only hit in Britain.

     Seeing clips of them from back in the day, I have to believe their success in the US was based on 1). The music was light and poppy, with a hint of folk. Remember that just before the Beatles hit, folk music was one of the most popular genres....there were still a lot of those fans out there. and 2). Their music and look was less threatening to adults who saw the Beatles/Stones axis too much.

     Their follow up, "A Summer Song" actually became their biggest hit stateside, reaching #7in the fall of 1964. They had a series of songs on the chart up to the end of 1966. Both had been drama students in England and by the end of the decade, Jeremy had chose to go back to home to resume his acting career. Chad stayed in the states and continued working as a songwriter. Both have resumed touring since 2008.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Peter Cetera--Glory of Love (1986)

     One of the wonderful things about this blog, is that I get confess all things musical under the guise of "serious" writing. No matter how respected you are as a critic in your field, it still comes down to what you like or don't like...just like the reader.  Hopefully, you find these blogs interesting, and that the few times I have opinions, you agree with them. But the bottom line is that it's MY opinion, and your mileage may vary.
     Having said that I must confess that I have always loved Peter Cetera's voice. For those not old enough to remember, he was one of the singers in the group Chicago. For those who are older, you can remember during the groups first few years, they could actually rock....thanks to guitarist Terry Kath. There is a old You Tube video of the group covering the Spencer Davis Group hit, "I'm a Man". Hearing Cetera wailing away should put a smile on your face...especially if you think his career began with 80's version Chicago...
     After the death of Kath, the group began a slow turn into ballads as their bread and butter. Cetera led the way as the group had a renaissance in the early to mid 80's. By his solo output, one could only  suppose the group wasn't heading into Adult Contemporary fast enough, so Cetera  left for a solo career.
     His first hit was from the hit movie, "Karate Kid 2". I'm not a movie critic, but for some strange reason, although the acting we better in the first movie, I prefer the second one, and his voice seemed perfect for the song. Although it's obvious that he didn't quite know what to do with his hands during the whole video. It went to number 1 for two weeks and was the first of  5 top ten hits from 1986 to 1997. . Cetera still remains a favorite no matter if he's singing rock, or singing middle of the road pop ballads.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jimmy Castor Bunch--Troglodyte (Cave Man) (1972)

     Novelty records come in many shapes and sizes. Some are topical, that deal with pop culture such as dances, or fashion or just things that are not music related, but taken the country by storm (like Pac-Man Fever or The Streak). Or songs like this one. With the advent of funk in the late 60's and early 70's, the beat became paramount which led to some pretty strange lyrical content. It didn't matter what the words said, just as long as you could dance to it.
      Jimmy Castor got his start in doo wop in the middle/late 50's, singing in his group, "Jimmy and the Juniors", then replacing Freddy Lymon as lead singer of 'The Teenagers". The stint didn't last long, and after being with a couple of other groups, decided to focus on his talents as a sax player. The latter part of the 50's and much of the 60's, he could be found doing studio work for many artists. A great example of his work could be heard on the instrumental, "Rinky Dink" by Dave 'Baby' Cortez in 1962.
     He began dabbling in recording himself again in 1966, to little result, except for the single, "Hey Leroy, Your Mama's Calling" which hit the top 20 on the R&B charts (and #31 on the pop charts). As the 60's turned to the 70's, the Jimmy Castor Bunch developed a reputation as a hot funk band. Their commercial success hit a peak in 1972 with the album, "It's Just Begun" and the top ten hit, "Trogoldyte" which introduces us to Bertha Butt (one of the Butt sisters), who was also the subject of another top 20 song by the group in 1975.
     He recorded and toured as a solo artist from 1976 to 1988. He passed away this past January at the age of 71.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Castaways--Liar Liar (1965)

     One of the often overlooked sub-genres of 1960's music is the garage band. These were the local bands that every city and town had. If a group was lucky, they would play a lot in their area and make a few bucks and garner some attention. The big groups were the ones who would make records at one of the small independent labels and get some airplay on local radio. The rarest of the rare would have a song that would break through to a larger audience.
     The Castaways were one of those groups. Coming from the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota, James Donna (keys), Robert Folschow and Dick Roby (guitars), Roy Hensley (bass), and Dennis Craswell (drums) had only one chart hit. "Liar, Liar" was written by Donna and Craswell featuring the distinctive falsetto of Folschow. They continue to tour today, but Donna is the only original member of the band. Check them out at

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Shawn Cassidy--That's Rock and Roll (1977)

     Shawn Cassidy is known, much like his half-brother David (they shared the same Dad, Jack Cassidy, while Shirley Jones was his Mother) as 70's teen idols. However, that was the about the only similarity. Shawn had what would be considered a "normal" teen idol trajectory: the music came first, then other doors opened. David's early career would have been more akin to Davy Jones, in that the music was created FOR television as well as radio.
     Also, as much as Shawn loved music, the acting bug bit early. (he used to beg his mom to get a spot part on 'The Partridge Family', but she refused citing that he needed to focus on his studies), Since he never had to burden being typecast ala Keith Partridge, when he won the gig to play in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, people saw it a novelty, but the transition was a smooth one. In fact, the show outlasted his life on the music charts.
       This opened up more opportunities to act and in 1980-81 he was cast in the show, "Breaking Away". For most of the 80's and into the 90's, he followed the path of his parents, spending most of his time on the stage. Since the mid-90's however, he has concentrated on writing and producing for television for shows like, "American Gothic", "Invasion", and "Blue Bloods".
     "That's Rock and Roll" was his second hit in the late summer of 1977, and the first of two written by ex-Raspberries front man Eric Carman (the other one was Cassidy's next hit, "Hey Deanie").

Monday, March 5, 2012

David Cassidy--Cherish (1971)

     For the last 20 years, David Cassidy has done a lot. Recording, some TV, but just like his dad, Jack Cassidy, stage acting is where he has made his name.....

      If your under the age of 40.

      If you are over 40  no matter how hard you may try, he will be Keith Partridge. The star-maker machinery of television did such a good job of marketing, that it's virtually impossible to separate the two. If you think it's hard for you to do that...just think how hard it was for him to escape it. In fact, he couldn't, and never seemed to make peace with it as until he embraced that character, and went in another direction artistically.

     But looking at it with more of a critical eye, it's easy to see that as good as his singles were (solo and with The Partridge Family), he had a charisma on the screen that went far beyond his singing talent. In fact, when he was hired on in 1970, no one knew he could even sing. Before they went into the recording studio, he talked music director Wes Farrell into letting him try out for lead singer spot.

     "Cherish" was a hit for The Association in 1966, and was Cassidy's first solo single. In the previous year, The Partridge Family had 4 hit singles, and three hit albums. David's first outing reached #9 and was his only top 20 hit. It's always interesting to think what would have happened if he had not been typecast. On one hand, he might have been the rock singer he thought he wanted to be, but it's pretty certain that he wouldn't have had the success, which eventually led him down the road to find his true calling.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Morning Vault: The Casinos--Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (1967)

     Those who listen to a broad range of music from the past century is familiar with the term "The Great American Songbook". It defines music generally from the late 1920's to the mid 1950's. (although purists and historians would date it back much further than that...say the turn of the century) It was defined by music that was heard on Broadway and then adapted to radio and records and has more to do with the songwriters on Tin Pan Alley then it does the performers.
     It has been said that this period ended with the advent of Rock and Roll. Well, I have been working with a theory that suggests that there was (and is) another period that extends the idea of "The Great American Songbook" for decades after that. It's just that the media had changed. One of the songs that I would put in that group we looked at in the vault last week, (Vicki Carr's, "It Must Be Him") we look at another one, The Casinos and "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye".
     The group was a nine piece at the time of their hit, although several members had been working together since 1958, the version that record this came together in 1965. It's writer, John Loudermilk was a popular songwriter, mostly in country music, but more than a few pop and rock artists cut his tunes as well. Loudermilk's cousins, Ira and Charlie, were better known as the country duo The Louvin Brothers.
     "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" was a hit in early 1967, reaching #6 on the Billboard 100 chart. Their follow up, "It's All Over Now" was written by Don Everly and reached the charts, but that was about it for the group in the public eye. However, they never stopped touring and still remain a concert draw to this day.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cashman and West--American City Suite (1972)

     Terry Cashman and Tommy West has have found success in songwriting, recording, and producing as a duo in the early/mid 70's, most notability for Jim Croce.  When they went their separate ways, Cashman began writing songs about his true passion, baseball (before going into music, he was a minor league baseball player in the Detroit Tigers organization). The song, "Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey, and the Duke)" became a cult hit in 1981 and fans of the sport keep the song alive today. He has since written albums based on the sport. West has spent much of his days as a producer and owner of High Harmony Records, which he launched in 1992.
     Their crowning achievement, (at least for me) was this 4 song suite called, "American City Suite". Cashman came up with the idea of writing a song about his New York City, and what he saw at the time as it's slow demise. It comes across as a song for a friend, and in a way it was, as he recalls his fond memories as a child growing up, and it ending with him as an adult watching the city (and other east coast cities at the time) dying. The song was almost 10 minutes long, and even after editing for single release was over 7. However, this was the days where longer songs like, "Nights in White Satin" could garner radio play. One has to think however that it's length kept it from being even more popular. As it was, it still reached #27 in the fall/winter of 1972.
     It never made much of a dent on the charts here in the midwest, but it had such an impression on me, that it was very easy to recall the first time I heard it. Hope you enjoy as a much as I have...below is the entire suite. Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We're now on Twitter!!

You want a daily update on what's going on with the bus? Well...we are now on twitter. Follow us at @rokandrollomnibus. Thanks!!

Davy Jones (1945-2012)

     This is third tribute I've written this year, which seems way too many. Or maybe it's because all three were musical legends and influential in my life in how I listened to music. Davy Jones was different however, in the fact that he is best remembered best by just being Davy Jones.
      He was into the creative world early, being on the BBC soap opera, "Coronation Street" in 1961, but left acting for a brief period after the death of his mother to pursue the life of a jockey. This didn't last long however, as he was approached by a friend at London theater about the idea of playing role of the Artful Dodger in the stage adaptation of "Oliver"  Interestingly enough, he was with that cast when they were on the Ed Sullivan show a February night in 1964, when they shared the bill with The Beatles. The experience put a seed into Jones' mind about the direction of his life. Later that year, Jones was signed to a contract with Screen Gems. This led him into his role with The Monkees.
      One day, I'll write more about these guys, but let's just say that the show in retrospect holds up better than most of the "cutting edge" shows from the 60's, and the music does as well.
      Davy's voice, and more importantly his looks and personality made him a hit from the start, and there no doubt who the girls preferred, and as the group went their own ways by the end of the decade, Jones found himself playing ....well....himself (kinda) in a host of shows in the early 70's. As opposed to Michael Nesmith, who attempted to run as far away from the groups legacy, Dolenz and Tork wanted to further their musical career (Dolenz and Jones teamed with two of their songwriters, Boyce & Hart to tour for a few years in the mid-70's), Jones embraced being a Monkee. As a new generation discovered the group thanks to MTV and Nickelodeon in the 80's, the reassessment of the band as TV stars and musicians began and Jones in many ways became (if he wasn't always) the face of the band.
     He had spent the last decade keeping himself busy with being Davy Jones, some TV work, recording, touring...and maybe most importantly, continuing his lifelong love with horses, raising them on his farm. As opposed to many who became burdened with tag, "teen idol", his charm, personality, and talent allowed him to go beyond that....although he is arguably one of the most beloved of his generation..