Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tommy Facenda--High School USA (1959)

     Marketing departments get paid for making whatever product they are selling seem appealing. There is no regard to quality of the product...some might be good, some are not so good, but it's not really the point I suppose, the fact that your interested in buying is the whole point. In the recording industry, marketing has played a major role in the industry. Overall there are more important factors (like talent), however, for the course of one single, there are times where a gimmick is all it takes.
     Tommy Facenda was a member of Gene Vincent's backing group, The Blue Caps. He was a guitar player, but in the band was known more as one of the guys who provided hand claps on the records. In fact, him and fellow member Paul Peek were known as "The Clapper Boys" After about a year with the group he left to attempt a solo career in 1958.
     His first single, "Little Baby" received no attention, and he moved from his home in Virginia to New York City to jump start things. It was here he met Frank Guida of Legrand Records Guida asked him to record a novelty song called, "High School USA". There is a part to the song where a list of local high schools were to be add. For each major city the song would be released, a set of schools would be overdubbed so it would sound as if it were a local record. In all 28 different versions of the song was released. All versions were counted together on the charts, and the single reached #28 on the top 100.
     Facenda never had another hit, and after a stint in the military his career was effectively over. He worked as a firefighter in his hometown of Portsmouth, Virgina, but did tour with The Blue Caps in the early 1980's. The version heard here is the national one which actually very few people had ever heard.



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