This is default featured slide 1 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.This theme is Bloggerized by Lasantha Bandara -

This is default featured slide 2 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.This theme is Bloggerized by Lasantha Bandara -

This is default featured slide 3 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.This theme is Bloggerized by Lasantha Bandara -

This is default featured slide 4 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.This theme is Bloggerized by Lasantha Bandara -

This is default featured slide 5 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.This theme is Bloggerized by Lasantha Bandara -

Friday, September 27, 2013

Edwin Hawkins Singers--Oh Happy Day (1969)

      The advent of You Tube has brought an entirely different avenue for people to become music stars. In the early days of rock music especially in the US, artists would become popular in their local area, put a record out, and hope that a national chain would buy the contract so that the artist would get national exposure. This was the way that the Edwin Hawkins Singers would do it as well, the story behind this great song is even more interesting.
     Edwin Hawkins was a prodigy, having taken over as the keyboard player in his family's gospel group in 1950 (at the age of 7!) spending that decade performing and making their first recording in 1957. He continued working as a music minister and artist throughout the 60's when he came up with an idea for a city wide youth choir.
     Based in San Francisco, Edwin and Betty Watson recruited the best soloists in the city to form what was first known as the Northern California State Youth Choir. They recorded an album called "Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord" in 1968 as a fund raiser for the area churches. There were only 500 copies of it made at the time. It's blend of gospel and R&B was a new sound and several outside of gospel took notice. 
      A few of those people were FM disc jockey's in the bay area. Back in that day very few stations used the FM frequency as many radios only had AM available. So it became a bastion for the new modern rock sound in many cities, with San Francisco being the hub.  Before long, others in San Francisco began to take notice and the song, which had not actually been released as a single yet was becoming a radio hit. It was released as a single for local, then national coverage and it became a world wide hit selling over 7 million copies and winning a Grammy.
      The song, spurred on by the powerhouse vocals of Dorothy Morrison, put the group, now called the Edwin Hawkins Singers in the spotlight and in great demand. A couple of years later they were featured on a hit by folk singer Melanie called, "Lay Down (Candles In the Rain)". Although they never achieved notoriety on that scale, they proceeded to win four more Grammys in the course off the next 15 years. For his part, Hawkins scaled down the touring and recording in the early 80's while organizing, "The Edwin Hawkins Music and Arts Festival" which was conceived in order to promote, encourage, and educate young artists which continues to this day.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chesney Hawkes--The One and Only (1991)

     I have always liked Michael J. Fox. "Family Ties" was one of the only sitcoms I bothered to watch in the 80's (heck, it's one of the few I've bothered to watch period), mainly because of his talents, and his movies have been consistently good, even though many of his best known roles were variations on his Alex P. Keaton persona. Although many point to the "Back to the Future" movies as his best, my favorites were, "Secret of my Success" and "Doc Hollywood". It's the latter movie which leads me to today's blog.
     British singer, Chesney Hawkes was only 19 when this song became a hit in 1991. His father is singer Len Hawkes formerly of the group, "The Tremeloes" ('Silence is Golden', 'There Goes My Baby' both in 1967) and his mom was TV personality  Carol Dilworth. He wrote this song for the movie Buddy's Song in which he also starred in with Who's lead singer Roger Daltrey in 1991. It was from this movie that the song was chosen at the opening of "Doc Hollywood" in that same year. The song became a number one hit in the UK and also reached the top ten in the states as well.
      It was the only big hit for Hawkes in either side of the Atlantic. He has done well enough in his home country to stay visible, but never had the success that his early promise had forecast. In 2012 he released his first album in six years with, "Real Life Love". His website can be found here: .

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dale Hawkins--Suzie Q (1957)

     In the late 60's, Creedence Clearwater Revival became well known for a late 60's version of a rock and roll style known as swamp rock. A blend of rockabilly and southern blues, one of it's early stars was a guitarist from Louisiana named Dale Hawkins.
     Dale, like many others grew up in that area were influenced by country, blues, and gospel. His father, who left the family before Dale started school, was a traveling musician, and although Dale never remembered his Dad, he began to take up the guitar as well. He left home at the age of 16 he enlisted in the military and served a year and a half. Upon his release, he began a number of different jobs, one of which was at a record shop in Shreveport. It was here that the young musician met Leonard Chess who would become a huge influence in his latter career. Hawkins became one of the few white men to play on the Checker label (Chess' sister label) and soon after being signed wrote Suzie Q with James Burton. The song reached #27 on the charts, but it's influence far surpassed it's initial success as later in the 60's the song was covered by the Rolling Stones, and of course, CCR. It has been listed by Rolling Stone magazine as on of the 500 most influential songs of all time.
     Hawkins continued to record for Chess/Checker for quite a few years after this and had three more hits in the top 100. By 1959 the hits stopped coming, but Dale had a fervent following to those who were into Rockabilly and continued recording and touring until the mid-60's when he had an opportunity to produce others which led him into his next career as a record executive. He was influential in the careers of artists like The Five Americans, Bruce Channel, Harry Nilsson and Michael Nesmith.
     After being treated for prescription drug addiction in the late 70s, he moved to Arkansas where he spent the rest of his life. He passed away from colon cancer in 2010, but not before releasing a series of acclaimed albums, most notably, "Back Down to Louisiana" in 2007.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway--Where Is The Love (1972)

     We see examples in music of duos who do much better together than separately. Although Roberta Flack maintained a strong career on the charts through the 70's and part of the 80's, Donny Hathaway's success always seemed to be linked to his female duet partner.
     Hathaway received an scholarship to Howard University and went there three years before quitting to pursue his professional avenues. He first worked behind the scenes as a songwriter, producer and session pianist for a number of stars such as Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers, and Jerry Butler. He also sang in "The Mayfield Singers" who would back The Impressions. Soon, he became the house producer for Mayfield's Custom record label.
     Atco Records was interested in Hathaway as a solo performer and signed him to their label in 1969, but the first few efforts didn't go far. However, his first album in 1970, "Everything is Everything" has become somewhat of a soul classic.
     I've read in some materials on the internet that it was during their time at Howard University that Flack and Hathaway were friends and this led to them working on music together. It sounds good, but that's not true since Flack was offered a scholarship at the age of 15 (one of the youngest to ever enter the university) in 1952 and graduated at the age of 19 when Hathaway was 11.
     The real story is that Flack included one of Donny's compositions on her "First Take" album in 1969 ("Our Ages or Our Hearts"). The next album not only included "Gone Away" written by Hathaway and Curtis Mayfield, but he was the arranger on the disc as well. It was Jerry Wexler who suggested an album of duets.
     The result was the album, "Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway" in 1971 which gave them a minor hit with the James Taylor song, "You've Got A Friend". In fact, both the duo's and Taylor's version came out on the same day, and while JT's version went to number one, it certainly gave both much needed exposure.
     This was especially true of Flack who just a short time later hit number one with, "The First Time Every I Saw Your Face",  a song from the Clint Eastwood movie, "Play Misty For Me". In the summer of 1972, Atlantic chose to take the song, "Where Is The Love" off of the duet album which became a top five hit, and won the pair a Grammy as well. The next solo outing for Roberta was, "Killing Me Softly With His Song" which became another number one hit and propelled her into superstardom.
     Hathaway however continued having problem making it big as a solo artist. His problems with mental illness also became a problem, not only in his personal life, but in his relationship with Flack. He had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and as long has he was taking his medication he was fine. His wife later admitted that he was not always diligent in this respect and it eventually effected all of his relationships.
     Although Donny had a few top 20 hits on the R&B charts, he was never able to translate this into overall success. He did some television work, including recording the theme song to "Maude" and produced some as well, but much of the mid-70's was spent working in small clubs and having several bouts in the hospital for his emotional issues. Later in the decade he reconciled with Flack and the two went back into the studio to record what would be another huge hit, "The Closer I Get To You" in 1978. The pair were making plans to release another duet album when Hathaway was found dead in January of 1979 after falling from his 15th story apartment. There were no signs of struggle and the sliding door was neatly moved, which led investigators to rule it a suicide. He was 33. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

George Harrison--All Those Years Ago (1981)

     Over the years there has been many songs written either referencing or directly dealing with John Lennon. After his shocking death in December of 1980, the musical world attempted to come to grips with his legacy. There are several song that stand out, the first (and in my mind the best) was Elton John's "Empty Garden" off of the 1982 album, "Jump Up". Paul McCartney came in with "Here Today" from his album, "Tug of War", and this song by George Harrison.
     Of the three songs mentioned, this was the first one released ("Here Today" was never released as a single). George had written a song for Ringo, but Starr never cared much for it because it was a bit high in pitch for the drummer. Harrison took the song back and in the meantime, when Lennon died, he put new lyrics to song. He took Ringo's voice off of the song, but kept his drumming track, then invited Paul and Linda McCartney with former Wings member Denny Lane to come and provide backing vocals.
     At the time the single was released, some critics found it a bit trite because of the bouncy music, but lyrically it spoke of George's loss. With it's release in May of 1981 it was the first of many tributes to the fallen Beatle. It was the third of four top five hits for Harrison who would not be heard from on the American charts again until 1987's, "Got My Mind Set On You"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dan Hartman--I Can Dream About You (1984)

     One of the fun things about the history of modern music is that not everything is always as it seems. Take Dan Hartman for instance. In the late 70s and early 80's he had several top 40 pop hits including this one. However, he got his first break as a bass player for one of the more popular rock acts of the early 1970's.
     Dan and his brother Dave had a high school band called The Legends in their home town of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. At the time Dan played keyboards and wrote much of the material. They actually recorded several songs, but success was not to be found. His first big break professionally was playing for the Johnny Winter Band for a period of time. Johnny's brother Edgar was looking for a bass player and hired Dan to fill that role in 1972. Hartman's first major contribution was on the album, "They Only Come Out At Night". "Free Ride" was the follow up to the monster hit,  "Frankenstein" and came in at #14.
     Hartman went solo in 1976 and had his first success with a dance number called, "Instant Replay". .Although not all of his songs were considered dance numbers, he always seemed to have had good luck on the dance charts. The biggest his of his career was this one, reaching number 5 in 1984. It was first offered to Hall & Oates, but they turned it down since at the time, they normally didn't do covered. They later recorded the song for their 2004 album, "Our Kind of Soul" as a tribute to it's writer who died earlier that year of brain cancer.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Freddie Hart--Easy Loving (1971)

      Every time I post a country song on here, the same type of emails come in, "This ain't rock and roll". Well no kidding. At the same time, no matter what era that it had been recorded, if it makes it on to the top 20 on the pop charts, then it has something going for it. In 1971 Freddie Hart had a huge hit with "Easy Loving" which just goes to show that a good song is a good song no matter what genre it comes from.
     Hart was born in rural Alabama and had just a minimal education. He had quit school before he was a teenager to go work, and a few years later lied about his age at the outset of World War II to get into the military. He saw action in Iwo Jima and Guam. On his release, he settled in California where he taught self defense courses at the LA Police Academy. He also began to perform and write which led to a recording contract in 1953 with Capitol Records. This never led to much, but ended up getting his first big break when Carl Smith covered his song, "Loose Talk" in 1955. He continued to write for artists such as Patsy Cline and George Jones. His switch to Columbia Records in the late 50's began to bear some fruit with the song, "The Walk" in 1959.
     The 60's found him having middling success, especially in the latter part of that decade. It was his return to Capitol in 1969 that marked the beginning of his most fruitful period. He had become a part of what was known as the "Bakersville Sound" which had been made so popular with Buck Owens. "Easy Loving" in 1971 not only became his first number one his on the country charts, but did well enough to climb to number 17 on the pop charts as well. It began a streak of five number 1's in a row (he had six total) from 1971 to 1973. He became a country star for the entirety of the decade.
     He has continued to record traditional country and gospel over the years since 1980 and in his 80's continues to remain active in music and his love for painting.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Corey Hart--Sunglasses at Night (1984)

     Am sure it's just me, but I have always had a problem remembering Corey's, especially ones of 1980's vintage. For the life of me, twenty five years on, I still get Corey Hart, Corey Feldman, and Corey Haim confused. You don't have to tell me they are not only different, but Hart is the one who was a successful recording artist (but I had to check to make sure). He also had one of the more distinctive hits of the mid-80's.
     Hart was born in Montreal, but traveled with his parents around the world, living in Spain, Mexico City, and Florida. His parents divorced when Corey was ten, and moved back to Canada with his mother, although would still travel a great deal which led to him singing to Tom Jones in Florida at the age of 11 and also for Paul Anka in Los Vegas shortly thereafter. He continued to sing throughout his teenaged years even representing his home country in Japan in 1980 at the World Popular Song Festival. By 1982, he had signed a contract with Aquarius Records.
     Success came relatively quickly for the young singer although upon it's release, his first album, "First Offense" didn't do well in Canada. It was only after it begin to catch fire in the US, on the strength of, "Sunglasses At Night" that he became a North American superstar. The song eventually reached number seven on the US charts.  Although having eight more top 40 hits through the rest of the decade (including, "Never Surrender" which sold even better than "Sunglasses"), he would always be linked to this song.
     A couple of interesting "what if" notes. He was given consideration to play the role of Marty McFly in the "Back to the Future" movie. Director Steven Spielberg sent him a script and an invitation to do a screen test, but Hart declined wanting to focus more on his music career. He also rejected the idea of recording, "Danger Zone" since he was only interested in singing his own material. He continued to chart regularly in Canada throughout the 90's. Although he has done some recording since 2000, he has spent much of his time in the Bahamas with his wife and family.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wilbert Harrison--Kansas City (1959)

     "Kansas City" was one of earliest songs written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Written in 1952, the song was inspired by Big Joe Turner and his songs about the mid western city, and was written specifically for Little Willie Littlefield.   As a pair of 19 year olds, neither one had been to Kansas City before (neither claim to have visited there until 1986!). In fact, the "12th Street and Vine" that was referred to in the song didn't exist at the time, it has since been concocted as a marketing tool by city fathers. The song, which was released as "KC Lovin'", had some success on the west coast, but none on the national charts.
     Wilbert Harrison, born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1929, had bounced around as a singer of several types of music including calypso. He had heard Littlefield's version several times over the years and wanted to do a version of his own, which he did in 1959 on the Fury label. The song not only became a big hit for Harrison, but it proved to be so popular with other artists that at one point in the spring of 1959 there were FIVE versions of the song on the charts. (Harrison's, Hank Ballard, Rocky Olson, Rockin' Robert and the Rebels, and a re-release of Littlefield's original)
      The song not only became a rock and roll standard at that time, it continued to be a staple for a number of acts including The Beatles, and James Brown. Harrison hit the charts again in 1969 with the song, "Let's Work Together" which cracked the top 40, and continued to tour for much of the rest of his life. He died in 1994 at a nursing home in Spencer, North Carolina at the age of 65. Below we have the original by Littlefield, and the hit by Harrison.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thurston Harris--Little Bitty Pretty One (1957)

     For many, doo-wop was a form of music which was mainly linked to the areas around New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. One of it's early and important hubs however was in Los Angeles. Most of those groups never had the exposure of their east coast counterparts, but nevertheless was important in the development of the genre.
     Thurston Harris, who was born in Indianapolis, started out like most R&B singers in gospel, but the lure of the secular stylings took him to LA where he helped form what would become The Lamplighters in 1953. He would record with them for three more years with some great records, but nothing which would reach the charts. The Lamplighters would morph into The Tenderfoots, The Sharps, and finally The Rivingtons who would finally score with 1962's, "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow".
      In the meantime, Harris would sign with Aladdin in 1957 and have the only hit in his career. "Little Bitty Pretty One" was written by Bobby Day that same year. Just a few days after recording it for himself, Aladdin owner chose Harris to record it for his label. Day's version never reached the top 40, but Thurston's made it to number 6 on the pop charts and number 2 on the R&B charts.
     Harris never had another hit, and after recording his last side for Aladdin in 1961 drifted from one label to another until the mid-60's when his hot temper, partying ways, and eventually drug addiction put him in an almost 20 year exile from music while he was essentially homeless, living from one friends house to another. In the early 80's he cleaned up from the drugs (but not the alcohol which would eventually lead to his death in 1990) and became a blues singer.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Rolf Harris--Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport (1963)

     For decades now, Rolf Harris has been involved in the arts as a painter, television personality, and music in England. However, his connection to the American music charts had to do with a song he wrote while he was still a struggling artist.
     Harris was born at Perth, Australia in 1930 and first made his mark as a champion swimmer from 1946 to 1952, but from his teenaged years, he had hopes of being an artist. In 1946, at the age of 16 his self portrait in oil was one of 80 chosen to be hung in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Over the next few years he won several other awards for his paintings. He made the decision to devote his time in full to art after a viral infection in 1952 left him partially paralyzed giving him time to think of his future. He recovered fully, but chose to move to London which he considered to be one of the hubs of the artistic world.
     He spent the next few years learning his craft while at the same time working for BBC on different shows which highlighted he drawing talents. On his off-days he would find himself playing piano accordion at a pub which catered to homesick Australian and New Zealanders called "The Down Under". He worked on his entertainment skills while here, and in 1957 he wrote the song, "Tie Me Down Kangaroo, Sport". In 1960, he was incited into moving back to his homeland when television broadcasting was developed. It was while here he recorded the song which became a hit in Australia and the UK. In 1962 he returned to England when George Martin re-recorded all of the songs he had done in the previous two years. It was this version of "Tie me Down"...that became a hit in the US reaching number 3. Although never having another hit in the states, Harris remains a major figure through his work on the BBC and through his paintings

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Richard Harris--MacArthur Park (1968)

     Richard Harris was a true artistic renaissance man. In the 1960's, Harris became one of the leading actors from the UK due to roles like, "The Guns of Navarone", "Mutiny on the Bounty", and "A Sporting Life" which netted him a nomination for a Golden Globe in 1963. In the 70's he was not only known for his hard partying ways, but for his role in the movie, "A Man Called Horse" and it's sequels. After spending much of the 80's cleaning his life up after too much alcohol and cocaine, he returned with several memorable role including, "The Field", "Unforgiven" and one of his last roles, playing the headmaster Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies. It was one movie in particular that would lead us to our feature song today.
     In 1967, Harris played the role of King Arthur in the movie adaptation of the Lerner and Lowe play, "Camelot". Despite winning five Academy Awards, was quite dull (at least to these eyes) except when the King was on the screen. His stage presence wasn't a surprise, but what came as a shock to many was how well he sang. Harris didn't actually "sing", but he had a way of talking through songs which came across as singing (much like another UK actor of the time, Rex Harrison), which was quite effective.
      Harris had met Jimmy Webb late in 1967 at a event in California. Out of the blue, the actor mentioned that he was interested in doing a musical project. Jimmy of course was aware of the movie "Camelot", but didn't take him seriously until receiving a telegram from London wanting to secure a time for him to come and begin recording. Harris had listened to Webb's material and had chosen "MacArthur Park", a song written about the songwriter's relationship with an old girlfriend (that relationship was also the impetus for, "By the time I get to Phoenix" as well) as the first song to record. It became a sprawling, four movement single clocking in over seven minutes. If you notice, the actor actually sings, "MacArthur's Park", this was despite Webb's attempts to get him to sing it correctly. After a few missed takes, he just allows him to sing it the way that we hear it today.
     It was one of the songs which made up the album, "A Tramp Shining", which is arguably the best album of Webb's material ever recorded. The single itself reached number 2 in the states during the summer of 1968, and was covered by Donna Summer in a disco version ten years later which reached the top of the charts.   


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Major Harris--Love Won't Let Me Wait (1975)

      Major Harris was born in Virginia and spent his early years singing in various groups in and around his Richmond home, most notably, The Jarmels. He was called upon to replace Randy Cain in the group The Delfonics in 1971, but they were on a downward trajectory following the departure of producer Thom Bell and after less than two years left to begin a solo career.
     His first single, "Each Morning I Wake Up" did well on the dance charts, but it was the second single, "Love Won't Let Me Wait", written by Vinnie Barrett and Bobby Eli which stormed up the charts. It was the only top ten hit for Harris on the pop charts, and was also number 1 on the R&B list. He had a couple more minor hits, but it had all but dried up by the end of 1976. With his run as a solo artist complete, he rejoined The Delfonics and toured with them up until his death in November of 2012 at the age of 65.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Emmylou Harris--Boulder to Birmingham (1975)

     Emmylou Harris has one of the purest voices in any genre, and much like Neil Young, she has followed her muse at all times, encouraging her fans to follow along. This has made her impossible to pigeon-hole, but has won her fans from all genres, picking up a dozen Grammys along the way. She has recorded many memorable songs, but this one is one of my favorites.
      Harris was admitted to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro on a drama scholarship when she began to take music more seriously. Beginning heavily into folk music she dropped out and moved to New York where she produced her first album in 1969, married, had a child, and soon divorced. She moved moved back to Maryland with her parents to start the new decade.
     She soon returned to singing and in 1971 was heard by Chris Hillman, then of the Flying Burrito Brothers. After briefly considering asking her to become a member of the group, referred her to Gram Parsons who had just left to pursue a solo career. Personally they hit it off immediately. Parsons introduced her to his brand of country rock, and she brought a crystalline voice that was made for his. Although never romantic, she was totally devastated by his death in 1973.   (Harris has some interesting comments on this in an article from The Independent:
      Thanks to Linda Ronstadt, she got a record deal with Warner and released the 1975 album, "Pieces of the Sky" which contained, "Boulder to Birmingham" which was the first of many attempts to sort out Gram's life, death, and their relationship to one another. It has remained a fan favorite, and laid out the template for her future in music as the torch bearer of his country rock vision.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Betty Harris--Cry to Me (1963)

      Music fans love the promising pull of things "lost". It could be a lost recording (as in The Beach Boys' Smile album), or lost 45 gems (if you believe those who research such things...there are hundreds of them), or even the latest artist who you think isn't getting the proper pub and getting lost in the  (if your asking, check out The Explorers Club, or Nathan Angelo).
     For decades, lovers of deep soul music had pondered the whereabouts of Betty Harris. She hit the charts with a slow, cooking cover of Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me", but subsequent singles went nowhere and she found herself without a record label. In 1965, she traveled to New Orleans to work with producer Alan Toussaint. The next four years saw twenty releases, many of them classic recordings which brought her no closer to success.
     Finally, she chose in the early 70's to totally walk away from the business. She spent the better part of three decades raising a family, her only singing being done in her church. During that time, as new fans of deep soul began to discover her for the first time, and those who did remember her rediscovered her immense talent, there was much speculation on what had happened to her. To hear her tell the story, she had no idea this fan base was building.  By 2000, Betty was living in Hartford CT and doing some work as a vocal teacher when her daughter found several fan sites in her honor and for the first time Betty had discovered a very devoted fan base. It inspired her to begin reaching out to the fans, and record her first (and only) proper album. The album, "Intuition" released in 2007 proved she still has the chops.  It's a great ending to a story of a woman who deserves all of the accolades she has received. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Slim Harpo--Rainin In My Heart (1961)

     Slim Harpo (real name: James Moore) is one of the great blues harmonica players. Born in Lobdell, Louisiana in 1924, he got his start playing the bars and club in and around Baton Rouge at night, while working as a longshoreman during the day. He was known during the late 30's and 40's as Harmonica Slim as his fame began to grow in the state. Although he signed a recording contract with Nashville based, Excello Records in 1957, he never became a full time musician. His solo debut, "I'm a King Bee" is now in the Grammy Hall of Fame, became his signature song and became a part of the repertoire of many rock bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Doors, and Led Zeppelin.
     His first pop chart action was with this song in 1961, but took another five years to reach the top 40 again when, "Baby, Scratch My Back", which is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,  reached the top 20 in 1966. With what money he made on music he put into a trucking business that took most of his time during the 1960s. He passed away in 1970 of a heart attack at the age of 46.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Harpers Bizarre--The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) (1967)

     It was the summer of 1966 and Paul Simon was having issues with adjusting with his new found fame. He had been in England the year before writing in anonymity when an electric version of his song, "The Sound of Silence" broke on the charts. Along with singing partner Art Garfunkel, they quickly followed up with, "Homeward Bound" and "I Am a Rock", both top ten hits, but not necessarily songs that were considered upbeat. The rush of new found fame did little to put Simon in a happier frame of mind as he continued to churn out songs that were on the dour side.
     However, it was while coming home early one morning driving over the 59th Street Bridge (officially known as the Queensboro Bridge) that he began to take stock of what was going on around him. His hard work over the years had began to bear fruit, and rather than rush through it all, that he should step back a bit more and enjoy life a bit more. This was the genesis of what would become, "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)".
     The song was included on the album, "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" which was released in October of 1966. This version was never released as an "A" side, but was on the "B" side of the top 20 single, "At the Zoo", released in the Spring of 1967.
      Meanwhile, producer Lenny Waronker was wanting to take the song and make a hit out of it. He approached Leon Russell who came up with a multi-layer arraignment reminiscent of something from the mind of Brian Wilson. Waronker then enlisted a group from LA known as The Tikis to record the song. The members were all for doing the recording, but were known around town as a group which did Beatle-type music, and didn't want any confusion concerning this new direction, so they were rechristened, Harpers Bizarre (a play on the magazine Harper's Bazaar).
     The song became a hit, reaching number 13 on the charts in winter/spring of 1967 and for the next two years found themselves on the charts with songs that were chocked full of vocal harmonies, although none of them did near as well. They broke up in 1969.
     One of the members to make note of was Ted Templeman who became a producer of artists such as The Doobie Brothers, Carly Simon, Van Morrison, and Van Halen.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Carpenters--Hurting Each Other (1972)

     It was 1972 when The Carpenters reached number two with this song, becoming easily the biggest charting version of the song, but it has had an interesting recorded history.
     Written by Gary Geld and Peter Udell in 1965, it was first recorded by Jimmy Clanton later that year on Mala Records. This version (which has a more urgent sound) reminds you of something The Righteous Brothers would have recorded. The Walker Brothers recorded a version in 1966 that had a similar feel. Chad Allen & the Reflections, which was the early version of The Guess Who put a bit more of a pop twist to it.  It was released in Canada in early 1966 and reached the top 20.
     The earliest version of the tune in the form we know it by now comes from the singer Ruth Lewis in 1966. Notice how the urgency of the music has been smoothed out and it has become more of a ballad.
     A later version by Ruby and the Romantics in 1969 attempted to split the difference with a bossa nova style verse and a more straightforward ballad chorus. You can find this on You Tube, but to me, all of the energy was taken out of the song going back and forth. It might have been the version to break through on the US charts if it had made up it's mind where it was going.
     It wasn't until the Carpenters took the song that it became a massive hit and looking back at the other versions it was easy to see why. Richard took the urgency out of the music and gave it their patented soft rock sheen. It was replaced by the heartbreaking sadness of Karen's voice. It was a perfect marriage of lyric to voice and one of their best.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Linda Ronstadt diganosed with Parkinson's

     The devastating news crossed my desk tonight that Linda Ronstadt's career is over. The article found here:  discloses that she has known for about eight months, but was having symptoms for several years before. On uneven ground she uses a cane, and travels with the use of a wheelchair.
     For many of us Linda and Stevie Nicks defined 70's LA style rock/pop. As the 70's turned to the 80's however, Ronstadt felt confined by the barriers of pop and spent the last 30 years traveling through the great American songbook, country, Spanish-language songs, children's music, and her last effort, 2006's, "Adieu False Heart" a Cajun flavored collaboration with Ann Savoy. She is easily the true definition of a musical renaissance woman.
     All of us wish to leave our profession on our own terms, but not all of us do. Artists of all kinds however leave a recorded legacy that keep them forever young, forever strong, and forever a part of our musical lexicon. Our thoughts, energy, and prayers go out to her as she continues to fight a much different battle. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hagood Hardy--The Homecoming (1975)

     As I have mentioned in previous blogs, inspiration for songs literally come from anywhere. As early as the late 60's the lines began to blur between Madison Avenue and the Hot 100. Many of you might know The Carpenters' hit, "We've Only Just Begun" started with Richard Carpenter hearing the tune used on a TV ad for a bank. Just a few years later, a Canadian composer had a hit based on a ad for tea.
     Hardy had a very successful career on the vibraphone, piano and other percussion instruments. He played in several well known bands in the early 60's behind great names such as Herbie Mann and Martin Denny. In the late 60's he began writing jingles for television and radio and soon branched out into films as well.
     The genesis of "The Homecoming" began as an ad for Salada Tea in 1972. He fleshed out the snippet used for the promotion and released the song just prior to Christmas in 1975. The song became a hit around the world, and just missed hitting the top 40 here in the states. It's easy listening style was set more for an older crowd, but it's smooth easy sound impressed many a listener. He continued recording up to his death in 1997.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tim Hardin--Simple Song of Freedom (1969)

       As a songwriter, Tim Hardin's career was defined his first two albums in 1966 and 67. Several of his songs, "If I Were A Carpenter", "Reason to Believe" and "Hang On To A Dream" have been a part of the musical lexicon almost from the time they were first recorded. However, what has not been stressed was his abilities as an interpreter of outside material as well. The several albums he released in the early 70's showed someone who's phrasing could take a song and make it his own. His life however was also defined by heroin, which was a constant companion throughout much of his life (most seem to think he developed it during a stint in Vietnam in 1959), and would finally take it in 1980 at the age of 39.
     His only chart success was a cover of Bobby Darin's, "Simple Song of Freedom", which was ironic considering that it was Hardin's, "If I Were a Carpenter" which re-ignited Darin's career in 1967. The song reached #50 in the fall of 1969, perhaps spurred on by Hardin's performance at Woodstock just several weeks before.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Paul Hardcastle--19 (1985)

     During the late 60s/early 70's, the war was written about and sung about extensively. After the war, musicians, like the rest of the country did their best to forget what had happened and the war was rarely mentioned until the early 80's. At that point several began not only to take a historical look back, but began to access the toll on the men and women who served during that time. Billy Joel was one of the first singers to deal with the issue with the song, "Goodnight Saigon" from the album, "The Nylon Curtain" in 1982.
     A couple of years later, songwriter/keyboardist Paul Hardcastle was watching a news special called, "Vietnam Requiem" and was struck by how young many of those who died were, and how when HE was 19, he was out in the pubs having a grand time. He was also moved by how many had just been ignored upon their coming home.
      This was the genesis behind the song, "19". From a musical standpoint, it was ground breaking for it's use of processed speech and sampling. He had reached the charts earlier in 1985 with a song called, "Rain Forrest", but this song touched a nerve with a population who was either too young to remember the war, or who were attempting to come to terms with it. At the time there were those who considered the song un-American, but Hardcastle refutes this claim. In fact, many veterans at the time praised the song as an attempt to at least bring to light the plight of many of those who had suffered with the after effects of post-war syndrome.
     He continues to record and release smooth jazz albums. His website can be found here:

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Happenings--See You in September (1966)

      Not all of the music being heard in the mid to late 60's could be considered rock. The pop music of the mid-50 never really went away with the advent of rock and roll, and with the advent of the Beatles and the British Invasion there were artists who mixed the softer sounds of that era's music, with a modern sound. Thus was born what we knew as "soft rock". The Association brought the genre to the fore, but it wasn't until the early 70's that it hit it's stride with groups such as Bread and The Carpenters. This music became a middle ground for those who liked early rock and roll, but didn't care for the direction of the music as heard post-Sgt. Pepper. More than a few older adults, who couldn't stomach rock at all, but wanted to be up with the times found this sound to be appealing as well. There were a number of artists who spent their careers to some degree. The Lettermen, The Sandpipers, and The Happenings were three who had success on the pop charts during the early days of the genre.
     The Happenings formed in New Jersey in 1965 and were together until 1970. One of it's members, David Libert, became a manager of several major acts including, Alice Cooper, Parliament/Funkadelic, The Runaways, Living Colour and others. They seemed to straddle covers from pop acts in the late 50's/early 60's (such as "See You In September" which was a hit for Steve Lawrence in 1962), and what would be considered "oldies" by listeners of the day, such as George and Ira Gershwin hit, "I've Got Rhythm" (which reached #3 on the charts in 1967). The idea was to take songs which were considered successful and put a group harmony spin on it.
     The group reformed later and continue to tour on cruises and short tours across the country. You can find more about them here:

Saturday, August 17, 2013

John Handy--Hard Work (1976)

     Not sure what it is this week, but we seem to be covering artists who are noted more for their jazz career than anything on the pop charts, but here is another example of that with John Handy and, "Hard Work".
     Handy got his start playing with the Charlie Mingus band in the 1950's. He later formed his own group in the mid-60's and recorded several landmark albums including their performance at the Monterrey Jazz Festival in 1965.
     Although he is most noted for playing the alto saxophone, the man has been known to play just about any type of reed instrument. His only placement on the pop charts was with a shortened version of this song in 1976. He continues to tour, although his last album to my knowledge was back in the late 90's. We will present the short and the long version for you listening pleasure.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Herbie Hancock--Chameleon (1974)

     In high school, many of my friends were in Jazz Band. I was never good enough to get in on my own, but used to go with them to festivals and contests, which if nothing else, broadened my palate of music. Through that, I have come, if not to love, than to certainly have a knowledge of, and appreciation of 70's era jazz. Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and Herbie Hancock were some of my favorites to this day. The only one of those three who attempted a broader pop audience was Hancock.
     Herbie was born in Chicago in 1940 and by his early 20's was beginning to catch the attention of some of the jazz greats, in particular trumpeter Miles Davis, who invited the young pianist to join what was to be known as the Second Great Quartet. Before leaving the band and forming his own in 1968, he began to branch out on the Fender-Rhodes Piano, and some early electric keyboards, which would point the way to the 70's.
    That decade would be one of non-stop growth as he began a life long love of keyboards and all gadgets electronic. He also began a turn towards trends away from straight jazz. Funk, pop, and later in that decade, disco, would all find themselves incorporated within his mix. This turn to a broader based jazz sound would also find himself hitting the charts on several occasions. The one most remembered would be, "Rockit" in 1983 due to it's cutting edge (at the time) video which found itself on regular rotation on MTV. Actually however, his most popular song was from 1974.
     "Chameleon" was off of the album, "Head Hunters", which has become one of the great jazz albums of the 70s. The album version was over fifteen minutes long, but of course was shortened greatly for top 40 consumption. This shorter version came very close to the top 40 (#42), and broadened Hancock's fan base. Having released his last album in 2010 at the age of 67, he doesn't seem ready to slow down at all. Below are a shorter version and also the album cut.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Keith Hampshire--Daytime Night-Time (1973)

     Keith Hampshire is very well known in Canada not only as a rock singer, but of a song that has become somewhat of a theme for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club. The song, "OK Blue Jays" recorded in 1983, is sung during the seventh inning stretch of home games. His version of, "The First Cut Is The Deepest" in 1973 reached number one on the Canadian charts. This song, which sounds a lot like fellow Canadian, David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears was the highest charting song of his career in the US reaching #51 in early 1973.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Albert Hammond--It Never Rains in Southern California (1972)

     "It Never Rains in Southern California" seemed like one of the quintessential early 70's "California" songs, which in fact, it is, but author, singer Albert Hammond comes from climes much different that it's warm, sunny beaches.
     Hammond, born in London during the World War II in 1944 and quickly his family evacuated to Gibraltar where they stayed and raised their family. His first bands were located in Spain (which makes sense given the location of the tiny island), where he had a hand in the development of the rock scene in that country. He founded the UK group, "The Family Dogg" in 1966 and they scored a top 40 hit in 1969 called,  "A Way of Life".
     He became better known in the 70's as a songwriter, penning the UK hits, "Little Arrows" for Leapy Lee and "Gimmie Dat Ding" for The Pipkins in 1970. Upon moving to the United States the next year he continued writing and also recording solo. This brought his biggest hit, "It Never Rains in Southern California" in 1972. Throughout the decade, Hammond was on the charts, but never with the success of that song.
     However, there are more than a few songs that has his songwriting stamp on it that DID hit big in the coming decade. "The Air That I Breathe" by The Hollies in 1974, "When I Need You" by Leo Sayer in 1976,  and perhaps his most popular song, a co-write with Hal David, "To All The Girls I've Loved Before" by Julio Igesias and Willie Nelson in 1984.
     Hammond has also written hits for Starship ("Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" with Diane Warren), Diana Ross, and Tina Turner. He's also well known for his work as a songwriter in Spain, where he continues to record from his home base in Gibraltar.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Jan Hammer--Miami Vice Theme (1985)

     If you are over 30, you probably remember the effect that the show, "Miami Vice" had in the year 1985. The show was a huge hit and made Don Johnson into a star. It's use of color on the show became a trademark of the 80's (for better or for worse). It had an effect on fashion, as Johnson's pastel t-shirts with white coat and pants ensemble, became a fashion statement in a decade of strange fashion statements. I need to take the time to mention, in full disclosure, that your writer fell prey to that particular statement. Thankfully, all photograph evidence of this has been destroyed. Let's just say that the outfits look great on Mr. Johnson, but were not meant for men who are built like fireplugs.
     In an era where the creative outlets of music and film became fully wedded, the music took on as much of the scenery as the city of Miami itself. This was due mainly to the talents of Jan Hammer. Jan, who moved to the Untied States from Czechoslovakia in 1968 to take advantage of a scholarship from the Berklee School Of Music, was well intrenched in the world of Jazz, then Jazz Fusion. He was one of the pioneers in that genre as one of the original members of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. He released his first solo album in 1975 and then formed, The Jan Hammer Band that next year. For the next several years he traded off solo projects and band albums, including several very good collaborations with guitarist Jeff Beck and also with Al Di Meola.
     To the average Joe however, his most notable work started with Miami Vice. It can be stressful enough to score a movie or one TV show, but he consistently scored a number of pieces for the show. The theme not only gave him his only hit, but opened up a totally new field for him. Since he has scored a number of movies, and continued to record with many artists in jazz and pop fields.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Marvin Hamlisch--The Entertainer (1974)

     This past Tuesday (Aug. 6), we marked the first anniversary of the death of one of our generations greatest composers. Marvin Hamlisch was on 68, but had a great impact on the world of musical theater. He won an Oscar, an Emmy, Grammy, Tony. He won a Pulizer prize in 1975 (for "A Chorus Line") and is only one of two (composer Richard Rogers being the other) to have won all five of those awards. His listing of songwriting credits in a more pop vein is impressive as well. He won an Oscar for, "The Way we Were" in 1974, and was nominated in 1977 for, "Nobody Does It Better" and in 1980 for, "Through the Eyes of Love".
     Hamlisch, who was born in Manhattan, was a child prodigy who at the age of seven had been accepted into the Juilliard Pre-College school. His first hit was a song he co-wrote with Howard Liebling at the age of 21. "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows" was a hit in 1965 for Lesley Gore. This began to open other doors including being the rehearsal pianist for "Funny Girl" which began a long association with  Barbara Streisand. This job led him to score the music for the film, "The Swimmer" in 1968.
     He did a number of movie scores but was not known world-wide until 1974. It was this year where, "The Way We Were" and "The Sting" both were released. We mentioned Hamlisch's involvement with the Streisand/Redford movie, but what got him on the map on the charts as an artist was from the latter movie.
     "The Sting", a movie starring Robert Redford (who had quite a 1974 as well), and Paul Newman. The movie did well enough at the box office, but what made it stand out was it's period piece music. Hamlisch had written several songs for the movie, but seven of the songs were written by the great Ragtime composer/performer, Scott Joplin. The song not only reached number three on the charts, it sparked a renaissance of Ragtime music in general, and of Joplin's work specifically.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Playlist for Rock and Roll Omnibus--Week of August 7, 2013


INXS—The One Thing 1983
The Ikettes—I’m Blue 1962
Barbara Striesand—Stoney End 1971
Linda Ronstadt—Your No Good 1974
The Incredible Bongo Band—Bongo Rock 1973
Luther Ingram—If Loving You Is Wrong 1972
The Independents—Leaving Me 1973
Natalie Cole—This Will Be 1975
Natalie Cole—I’ve Got Love On My Mind 1977
Innervision—Honey Baby (Be Mine) 1975
Instant Funk—I Got My Mind Made Up 1979
The Intruders—Cowboys to Girls 1968
The Inviations—Hallelujah 1966
The Incredibles—I’ll Make It Easy (If You’ll come On Home) 1966
The In Crowd—Questions and Answers 1966
Jorgen Ingmann & His Guitar—Apache 1961
The Intrigues—In A Moment 1969

Hour 2:
Indigo Girls—Closer to Fine 1989
Indigo Girls—Fill It Up Again 2004
Indeep—Last Night A D.J. Saved My Life 1983
Industry—State of the Nation 1983
Information Society—What’s On Your Mind 1988
INXS—Need You Tonight 1987
INXS—Devil Inside 1988
INXS—New Sensation 1988
The Inmates—Dirty Water 1979
In Transit—Turn On Your Light 1980
James Ingram (Patti Austin)—Baby, Come to Me 1982
James Ingram (Linda Ronstadt)—Somewhere Out There 1986
The Innocents—Honest I Do 1960
The Interpertations—Snap Out 1969
Intruders—Fried Eggs 1959

Where can you hear the show?  (all times US Central)

Monday evenings 9pm--11pm
WRFN--LP 107.1 Pasquo TN

Friday Mornings 2am-4am
KPVL 89.1 Postville IA

Friday Mornings Midnight-2am
WERU 99.0 Bangor, ME
WERU 89.9 Blue Hill ME

Saturday Afternoon
WYAP-LP, 101.7, Clay, WV