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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