Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Allisons

The Allisons The Allisons were not brothers but they pretended to be, foreshadowing The Righteous Brothers and The Walker Brothers. They were an English pop duo favouring folky harmonies, foreshadowing Peter & Gordon and Chad & Jeremy. They had one hit.

The Allisons:

Are You Sure – A breakup song. Very chirpy, but there is real stuff hidden in the pap: “I’m not sure what to do” they admit, “It’s hard but I’ll pull through.” A number one hit (after hitting second place at the 1961 Eurovision Song Contest) in the UK in the winter of 1961.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jimmy Luther

If Luther Perkins married Jimmy Luther he’d be Luther Luther. I know who Luther Perkins is but I can’t find out anything about Jimmy Luther. Even is silent. I know just that he made at least one record (2 sides of a single) and it’s country, and that I happened to find it and buy it (or acquire it in some fashion). I don't have it anymore though, not the physical copy, so I don't any info about it, not label, composer, anything.

Jimmy Luther:

Love Can Be A Mansion – Sure, love can be a mansion. Love can also be an outhouse. You take it as you find it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Buzz Clifford

Apparently this guy bounced around, recording, songwriting, playing live. But for all the effort he put into his career, all he has in Whitburn’s book is a single single. I undoubtedly picked it up on one of those “Kooky Favourites” collections.

Buzz Clifford:

Baby Sittin’ Boogie – We all know that rock and roll appealed to a (human) teenage demographic, so it was only to be expected that there would be those who would venture outside its strict confines to include erstwhile outsiders. An so we had Bill Haley & His Comets bringing in the dogs (Two Hound Dogs), Jan & Dean singing about rocking seniors (Little Old Lady From Pasadena) and Kay Starr’s pitying her parent’s sad attempts to be hip (Rock And Roll Waltz). And here is Buzz Clifford singing about a rockin’ tot. It’s what they call a novelty number, and it’s not too funny. It’s meant to be cute I supposed, but it’s not that either. It appealed to enough people, though, to earn a placement of number 14 on Billboard. From the winter of 1961. It was his only hit.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The String-A-Longs

An instrumental group that had three hits, more or less, counting the other two that I don’t have. They join The Crickets and The Fireballs as part of the Norman Petty stable of performers.

The String-A-Longs:

Wheels – A loping instrumental, and the title kind of fits, though I’m not sure why. I guess the title of an instrumental has a profound effect on how we hear it. Imagine if this were called “Fido” or “Chesnut Trees” or “Beer Belly.” We’d hear it very differently. I think. From the winter of 1961.
Red River Twist – It was Johnny & The Hurricanes that took Red River Valley and rocked it up as Red River Rock; these guys sped it up just a bit and made it into a twist. Apparently a twist song has to be very fast. It wasn’t fast enough, though, to make the top 100.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Capris

I heard Tears In My Eyes today, a song by The Capris, on AOL Doo-Wop radio.

It’s fascinating, doo-wop radio, what passes for doo-wop – which of course raises the question: what should pass for doo-wop?

They play Jackie Wilson for example, and early Miracles, and late Platters. Now The Platters, it’s a question. The Great Pretender, for example, or Only You or Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. Doo-wop? I wouldn’t think so, but they live in the same universe, so maybe we can give them that. But With This Ring? Late 60s soul and not even close.

So what are the requirements? Are nonsense syllables necessary? Harmony? Attitude? Get A Job by The Silhouettes – that’s doo-wop. But what about Silhoutttes by The Rays? Come Go With Me by The Del Vikings? What about The Fleetwoods?

And the ultimate question: Does it matter? [Answer: Of course it matters.]

And so The Capris. The song I heard today wasn’t a hit as far as I know. The group actually had four hits on the charts and the Tears song wasn’t one of them. You decide whether they were doo-wop…

The Capris:

There’s A Moon Out Tonight – A weather report? Interesting. If you want to sing about romance, sing about stars, or about the moon, or about the moon and the stars, and you’ve got it. Easy. By the time this song came out in late 1960 the sound was already somewhat antiquated; it was part of what has since been recognized as a doo-wop revival. The song is in ¾ time, the singer is just slightly off key, the attitude is just a bit lethargic, and the words are just a bit silly. But still, with the right partner I’d dance to it in a heartbeat. From the winter of 1961.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

February, 1961

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Al Caiola

Look him up on Wikipedia yourself. The number of recordings this guy played on makes me dizzy. On his own, though, he only had 2 hits. I picked one up off the single (The Magnificent Seven) and the other (Bonanza) from the creatively titled album Hit Instrumentals From Western TV Themes.

Al Caiola:

The Magnificent Seven – The tune bears more than a passing resemblance to the theme from Hockey Night In Canada, which I haven’t watched in many years, and which may have a different theme now. The Magnificent Seven was apparently a movie, a western in fact. The song was a hit in early 1961.
Bonanza – This was a cover of the TV show theme, a staple of every TV in the land every Sunday night. Oh how I remember the tales of Pa and Hoss and Little Joe. Adam was gone by the time I was old enough to watch. I don’t think that TV theme shows still make radio play lists. From late winter of 1961.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Innocents

These are the same Innocents that sang behind Kathy Young, singing about the stars. They must have been moonlighting. The group actually had two hits; the first was called Honest I Do and it reached number 28 a few months before Gee Whiz, which also reached number 28.

The Innocents:

Gee Whiz – A rather melancholy sounding record about the wonders of new love. It is in much the same style as the records they made with Kathy Young, and sounds not unlike Angel Baby by Rosie & The Originals. It was as if someone were deliberately trying to keep things juvenile. Not the Carla Thomas song. From late 1960 / early 1961.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

January, 1961

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rosie & The Originals

I don’t know what was original about The Originals. They don’t sound so original to me. The truth is that though they are known for only one song, Rosie & The Originals had a follow-up to Angel Baby, called Lonely Blue Nights, which reached number 66 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the winter of 1961. John Lennon was a fan. The Wikipedia article cites the members of the band but not what they played. And Rosie’s real name was Rosie.

Rosie & The Originals

Angel Baby – Write a generic love song. Make the lyrics vaguely teenage. Use a minor sixth turnaround chord pattern (trust me on this, I have it on good authority). Use a singer who may or may not be pubescent. Use the simplest possible arrangement. Mix. Simon Frith described this song as “sexuality transmuted into a dual promise of heaven and childhood.” Yeah. I suppose it’s that too. From the winter of 1961 / 1962.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Louis Prima

Prima was a bandleader and a singer and he recorded vocal duets with his wife Keely Smith. But as a solo artist he only had one hit.

Louis Prima:

Wonderland By Night – The song was a hit for three artists at the same time. Anita Bryant was the only one of the three with words (it was about a one-night stand), and it placed third. Prima’s version placed a distant second to Bert Kaempfert’s whose record reached number one. Prima reached 15. From late 1960. (There is a vocal version by Prima on YouTube, but the hit version was instrumental.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Her name was Edith Zuser and she was Austrian. She was also known as Ditta (from Edith, one assumes) Zusa Einzinger. But Joel Whitburn indicates that her real name was Lolita Ditta. I don’t know where “Lolita” came from, but I hope it wasn’t from Nabokov.

In North America she had one big hit and one small hit, the latter being Cowboy Jimmy Joe, which reached number 94 on Billboard in 1961.
I remember finding this at Sound Exchange in a box full of dusty singles, all by artists whose name started with “L.”


Sailor – A lament to a guy who just won’t stay around. “Sailor” is the English title of a song originally called "Seemann (Deine Heimat ist das Meer)” – ("Sailor, You’re Home Is The Sea”) – and which she sings in German. There is a surprisingly unaccented English interlude. Petula Clark had an English language hit version in the UK. From late 1960.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kathy Young & The Innocents

See, now here’s something different; they had 2 hits in the top 40, and a third that didn’t make it. That third was Magic In Your Eyes from the fall of 1961. The Innocents also recorded without Kathy. They are not to be confused with Innocence, a completely different group.

Kathy Young & The Innocents:

A Thousand Stars – Living up to her name, Kathy sounds very young, though not too young to be singing about teenage romance, which is what she is singing about. The Innocents hum and hum behind her (they are male), the arrangement is very muted, the song is a ballad, and you can feel the warm evening breeze and see the stars of which she sings, the ones in the sky and the ones in her date’s eyes. I wonder if teenage dating ever really feels like this. From the winter of 1960 / 1961.
Happy Birthday Blues – Birthdays were a popular subject in the annals of teenage romance songs, and most often they are downers; think of Happy Happy Birthday Baby by the Tune Weavers. This is a downer too. Some dude (an Innocent, one assumes) takes the lead vocal off the top, but Kathy takes over quickly. And of course the birthday is her 16th. From the winter of 1961.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Damita Jo

Before Damita Jo was a Janet Jackson album, she was a recording artist. Her top 40 career consisted entirely of answer records, for her follow up to I’ll Save The Last Dance For You was a song called I’ll Be There, an answer to Stand By Me. Besides her two top 40 records she had Keep Your Hands Off Of Him, in 1961, and If You Go Away, presumably the Jacques Brel song, in 1967. She is listed in Whitburn under J, suggesting that Jo is her surname, which it isn’t, her surname was DeBlanc, though it’s arguable whether Damita Jo should be her first names, like Donovan or Melanie, but doubled, or whether, in fact, she would be Ms. Jo.

Damita Jo:

I’ll Save The Last Dance For You – An answer record, obviously, to Save The Last Dance For Me, and reassuring in a feeble kind of way. What about the other dances? From the winter of 1960 / 1961

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs

This is an ancient part of my collection. I can’t remember exactly where I got the Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs song, but it’s part of my “family” now for ages.

The Zodiacs seem to have been The Gladiolas, though earlier sources told me that they were different groups. I have an entry for The Gladiolas; they did the original version of Little Darlin’.

Besides Stay, the group had 2 records on the top 100, Come Along and I Remember, both in 1961, but the pièce de la resistance was a record called May I , which did not make the pop charts at all, (how could it? as Dave Marsh points out, with lyrics like “may I sleep with you” – this was 1962 remember), but it was as great a sample of beach music as one is likely to find.

Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs:

Stay – It was a short song, about a minute and a half, and a last minute recording, and it hit number 1 in the early winter of 1960, and it became a pillar of R & B / rock and roll. People have written treatises on transience, but nobody has dealt with the subject more eloquently than the Zodiacs, lamenting the shortness of the evening, the fleetingness of a romantic encounter, the belief in the ability to delay the inevitable. Amazingly what we remember is the falsetto, which really only lasts about 2 lines. And you can’t argue with the intro: 3 notes and “STAY!” . The song was covered by The Four Seasons and later by Jackson Browne (with altered lyrics). “Your mommy won’t mind if we have another dance.” A shag, no doubt…

Monday, May 9, 2011

Don Costa

I spent four years working in a building on Greene Avenue, a building that happens to house the studio of a local radio station, one whose programming is dedicated exclusively to sports. When I started there, 9 years ago this month actually, the station would be playing in the elevator. And you know, talk radio is bad, and sports talk radio is talk radio on steroids. So those elevators, man. (A good way to punish little children – do your homework or you go in the elevator!!)

I took the stairs a lot in those early days, before someone turned off the damn radio and lost the switch.

Elevators used to play music, that’s the point. And they don’t anymore. Muzak, it doesn’t exist, not the way it used to (though the company is still around, still providing background music). And our hero today is Don Costa, most of whose work was done as a conductor and arranger for others, like Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan. He did, though, have a few hits under his own name, and I’ve got his biggest one. And it very much elevator music.

Don Costa:

Never On Sunday – From the movie. The whole concept is odd if you ask me, take a day off from nookie. The theological questions are daunting, so I will leave them for some other blogger, but it’s food for thought. The song is Greek-style, with bouzoukis and all, and it was a hit for The Chordettes, with words, a few years later. Costa’s cover was a hit in the fall of 1960.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Joe Jones

There are, and have been, many many people named Joe Jones. The one we are interested claimed to have written many songs that he did not, in fact, write. It’s kind of like that guy on Monty Python (Stake Your Claim) who claimed to have written all of Shakespeare’s plays. Ok, well, not exactly like that, but you get the picture.

Jones had two hits and I have them both.

Joe Jones:

You Talk Too Much – Plain spoken. Not the kind of thing you’d think to write a song about but there you have it. And the truth is that we all know people we'd love to sing this to. From the fall of 1960.
California Sun – The California myth was just beginning to get itself a foothold in the top 40, though this version of this song didn’t actually make the top 40. Annette did this, but it was the Rivieras’ version that hit the top 5 in 1964. Jones’ version did not get higher than 89, though for my money, his was the better one. From the spring of 1961. http

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bob Luman

Unlike all those almost-one-hit wonders we’ve been looking at, Bob Luman was a genuine one-hit wonder; Let’s Think About Living was the only hit he ever put on the Billboard Hot 100. But then he had dozens of hits on the country charts, over 18 years. So he’s not really a one-hit wonder after all, is he…

Bob Luman:

Let’s Think About Living – It’s not rare than pop music offers comments on itself, but it’s rare that the comments are deeper than “let’s party to this great music.” Luman, in a light-hearted country song, makes some not-so-lighthearted observations about the morbidity of songs like El Paso and High Noon, and he does it with an eloquence that others have failed to achieve in multiple paragraph essays.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jimmy Charles

The truth is that though he is known for only one song, Jimmy Charles had a follow-up to A Million To One, called The Age For Love, which reached number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the winter of 1961.

Jimmy Charles:

A Million To One – The curse of being young. It’s about love, but the subtext is more . Jimmy sings of the frustration of not being taken seriously by adults. Isn’t that the whole purpose of rock and soul music? From the fall of 1960.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Larry Verne

The truth is that though he is known for only one song, Larry Verne had a follow-up to Mr. Custer, called Mister Livingston, which reached number 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the winter of 1961.

Larry Verne:

Mr. Custer – “I don’t want to end up dead or bald,” says our hero, referring to the Native Americans (“injuns” he calls them) fighting General Custer’s troops at the Battle Of Little Bighorn. Very funny. It’s amazing listening to this; it wouldn’t get within 20 miles of radio airplay in today’s politically correct world, and that’s a good thing, not just because it’s racially insulting, but the humour is kind of juvenile besides. It was funny enough at the time (fall of 1960) to reach number 1.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Johnny Bond

The truth is that though he is known for only one song, Johnny Bond had a follow-up to Hot Rod Lincoln, called 10 Little Bottles, which reached number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1965.

Johnny Bond:

Hot Rod Lincoln – I was in high school when Commander Cody’s version of this was riding high; I remember cruising around with a friend on our respective bicycles, and he yelled over and said “My fender is clicking the guard rail post!” and I didn’t miss a beat; “you’re white as a ghost!” I yelled back. Bond’s version of this went head to head with Charlie Ryan’s in the fall of 1960; Ryan wrote the song but Bond placed about 10 points higher on Billboard. Their styles were very close.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Demensions

The truth is that though they are known for only one song, The Demensions had a follow-up to Over The Rainbow, called My Foolish Heart, which reached number 95 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the winter of 1963.

The Demensions:

Over The Rainbow – This is one of those songs that you really can’t touch. There’s a story of Harry Nilsson wanting to do it for his album of standards (A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night) and Gordon Jenkins refusing. (Actually they did record it but it didn’t make the final cut). The song belongs to Judy Garland and to The Wizard Of Oz. That’s it. This version was a neo-doo wop arrangement (with no actual doo-wop) that was the group’s only real hit, in the fall of 1960.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Charlie Ryan

A one-trick pony for sure. The truth is that though he is known for only one song, Charlie Ryan had a follow-up to Hot Rod Lincoln, called Side Car Cycle, which reached number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1960.

Charlie Ryan:

Hot Rod Lincoln – Credited to Charlie Ryan & The Timberline Riders, Hot Rod Lincoln was a Charlie Ryan original, co-written by H. W. Stevenson. Like Maybelline and Beep Beep, the story is that of a car chase, but unlike those two, we have the tale here of someone driving (in both senses) a vehicle to its utmost limits and beyond. We are presented with the whole macho culture of physical achievement for its own sake, replete with the run-ins with authority: the law, “the cops was after my hot rod Lincoln,” and parents, “my pappy said son you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’.” It fought its way up the charts (not all that high up, either) with a competing version by Johnny Bond. In the early 70s it was revived by Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, who, true to his assumed name, took complete command of the song. From the fall of 1960.
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