Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Blue Ridge Rangers

We'll do a little bit of unashamed cross-promoting today here in Forgotten Hits.

Without question, one of our highest regarded series was the profile we did on Creedence Clearwater Revival several years back. (It has since been posted on The Official Forgotten Hits Web Page here):
Click here: Forgotten Hits - Creedence Clearwater Revival

That series sprang from a number of questions we received after featuring Jambalaya, the classic Hank Williams country song, as done by John Fogerty, leader of CCR, under the guise of The Blue Ridge Rangers.

Fogerty was a one-man band on this album, first released back in 1972 (and virtually ignored ever since.)

Today, we'll not only feature this great version (a Top Ten Hit in its OWN right on The Cash Box Chart ... and Top Five here in Chicago on Super 'CFL!) ... but ALSO an excerpt from our CCR Series regarding the recording of this tune and The Blue Ridge Rangers album. (For more details on this revolutionary band, be sure to check out the COMPLETE Creedence Clearwater Revival Series at the link above.)


Creedence Clearwater Revival turned in their last album together as a band in 1972. Entitled "Mardi Gras" (and featuring, for the very first time, songs written and sung by all three members of the band), it was their first critically panned album ... and ultimately spelled the end of the group. (They've barely spoken to each other in the 37 years since. Leader John Fogerty even snubbed his former bandmates when the group was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, electing to perform instead with OTHER artists on stage that night like Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Robertson of The Band. Stu Cook and Doug Clifford have been performing as Creedence Clearwater REVISITED for well over a decade now while Fogerty goes out under his own name, performing the songs he wrote and sang that put CCR on the map in the first place.)

At the time of its release, Rolling Stone Magazine called Mardi Gras "the worst album ever made by a major group." Reviewer Jon Landau wrote that "In the future, Mardi Gras may be known as Fogerty's revenge. After all the carping about his egotism, and after the published complaints from his co-workers about his hogging the show, he has done what I never thought he would: allowed his cohorts to expose themselves in public. Ceding six of the new album's ten selections to drummer Doug Clifford and bassist Stu Cook may have been an invitation to artistic suicide for them, but it sure proves that John was right all along. The result is ... the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band."

During the recording of the Mardi Gras album, John was already at work on his first solo release. Since he only contributed three new songs to the CCR LP (and, some say, refused to play on the songs contributed by Stu and Doug), John had free time on his hands and devoted that time to recording what would become The Blue Ridge Rangers album. By the time of that album's release in early 1973, CCR was pretty well represented on the record shelves: solo albums by John Fogerty, the second solo disk from his brother Tom and Doug Clifford's first solo LP were all now available. Only John's album sold well enough to make the charts ... The Blue Ridge Rangers peaked at #47 early that summer.

Released with virtually no reference to John Fogerty's involvement (other than the producer's credit on the back cover), it simply featured five silhouettes of Fogerty against a sunset on the front cover, each pictured playing a different instrument. It was, for all purposes, an anonymous release. The first single release, Blue Ridge Mountain Blues, failed to make the charts at all. The follow-up, a great re-working of the Hank Williams classic Jambalaya, made Cash Box Magazine's Top Ten. (It stopped at #16 in Billboard but was a #5 smash here in Chicago.) The next release, Hearts Of Stone, went to #33. Even John wasn't guaranteed chart success by virtue of his previous resume ... his next two releases Back In The Hills / You Don't Owe Me and Comin' Down The Road / Ricochet, both failed to chart. (Both were non-LP singles and are now quite collectible.) They would also be his last releases for Fantasy Records.

Because of the stipulations in the contract the band signed with Fantasy Records, they owed the label a specific number of new masters each year. When the band split up, the contract stated that all former members of CCR owed the label 24 tracks per year ... EACH!!! In addition, John still owed masters from the previous year's contract! In all, he was supposed to turn in 36 new tracks in 1973. If he didn't, the missing tracks would be added to NEXT year's commitment ... by 1974, John would owe Fantasy over 50 tracks!!! Between the pressure of having to come up with this much new material and the resentment he began to feel toward his label, John developed writer's block. (Along with a little case of "blue flu" too, I imagine.)

Fantasy Records had done very well by way of Creedence Clearwater Revival ...
without question, they were the label's cash cow. It is said that in 1969 and 1970 alone, Fantasy earned more money on CCR sales than in their previous 20 years in business combined! With that money, Saul Zaentz was able to build and upgrade two new buildings to house his label. He also bought several other small jazz labels, expanding the company's jazz portfolio ten-fold. By the early '70's, he began a foray into films and, in 1973, produced the year's biggest hit, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. John felt (perhaps rightfully so) that since it was HIS music that allowed Zaentz the ability to afford these new ventures, a new deal could be worked out regarding royalty rates and masters commitments. Zaentz wouldn't budge and soon Fogerty put the word out that he would be available to any label who could get him out of his Fantasy contract.

A bidding war of sorts began ... the primary players were Atlantic Records, Warner Brothers Records and music giant David Geffen, who owned Asylum Records. Geffen's solution was simply to BUY Fantasy!!! When all was said and done, they simply bought out Fogerty's contract but one of Fogerty's concessions was to forfeit all future royalties from his back catalog. (This move would go on to cost him MILLIONS over the next 25 years. With Stu's, Doug's and Tom's majority votes to allow Creedence music to be used in films and commercials ... not to mention the fact that this music has NEVER been off the radio for the past 40 years ... these three guys went on to make a FORTUNE off the music written by their leader. The resentment felt by John over this fact ... despite it being HIS concession ... has never gone away and sadly, those wounds have yet to heal.)

NOTE: Last year John Fogerty released a very highly regarded new album called (of all things) "Revival" ... the LP included a track called "Creedence Song" and was released on Fantasy Records!!! To quote the lyrics of yet another Fogerty tune, it truly was "Deja Vu All Over Again"!!!!!
THIS JUST IN!!!: It sounds like John Fogerty is ready to put the band back together again!!! Now before anybody out there contracts CCR-Fever, we're not talking about THAT band ... instead, Fogerty is preparing a new release by The Blue Ridge Rangers!!! A sequel of sorts to his 1973 release, Fogerty stated in a news release last month: "This seems like the right time for the Blue Ridge Rangers to come back. The last time around, it represented something of a clean slate for me and that country rock sound is still something I hold dear. We're really excited about revisiting the whole sensibility that Blue Ridge Rangers represent." John made no secret of his love for country music while performing with Creedence Clearwater Revival and on numerous occasions expressed his excitement as a kid growing up every time a brand new record was released on Sun Records. It was an important part of developing his own musical skills.
Only THIS time around, John has NO interest in trying to play all of the instruments himself again! Instead, he's surrounded himself with "an array of stellar outsider players" including Buddy Miller, Dennis Crouch, Jay Bellerose, Greg Leisz, Jason Mowery, Jodie Kennedy, Kenny Aronoff and Hunter Perrin. In fact, Fogerty is co-producing the album with T-Bone Burnett and Lenny Waronker and "John Fogerty: The Return Of The Blue Ridge Rangers" should be ready for release by mid-2009. Last time around, Fogerty didn't use ANY of his own compositions on his Blue Ridge Rangers LP, preferring instead to pay tribute and homage to some of the great country music he grew up loving as a child. Song titles are being kept under wraps on this new release until we get closer to the LP's official release date. Stay tuned to Forgotten Hits for more details as they become available.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Grand Funk Railroad

One of the first MEGA-successful Hard Rock Bands of the Rock Era was Flint, Michigan's Grand Funk Railroad. In 1969, 1970 and 1971 they were selling HUGE quantities of albums and receiving ALL kinds of airplay on the relatively new FM Radio Band ... yet today it is EXTREMELY rare to hear ANYTHING by them that pre-dates their 1973 #1 Hit We're An American Band. The entire early phase of their career has been virtually ERASED from the radio airwaves.

Now, in all fairness, until Todd Rundgren took over the production reigns for GFR's "We're An American Band" album, they were not what you'd consider Top 40 staples ... in fact, just three singles managed to crack The National Top 40 prior to their chart-topping hit. Closer To Home (#22, 1970) is something that you MIGHT hear on a really good Classic Rock FM Station ... but is rarely (if ever) heard on the oldies stations, where it TRULY deserves some recognition ... it's an excellent tune that your audience will respond to. An occasional spin of Footstompin' Music (#29, 1972) and Rock 'n' Roll Soul (#24, 1972) just might earn you a positive reaction, too. (Personally, I've always enjoyed their version of Dave Mason's Feelin' Alright, too ... as well as some of their earlier FM Hits like Heartbreaker, Inside Looking Out and Mean Mistreater.)

Once they redefined themselves as "An American Band", the hits came in quick succession: We're An American Band (#1, 1973); Walk Like A Man (#17, 1974); The Loco-Motion (#1, 1974); Shinin' On (#11, 1974); Some Kind Of Wonderful (#3, 1975) and Bad Time (#4, 1975) all raced up the charts and right into The Top 20 ... although it's rare that you hear Walk Like A Man, Shinin' On or Bad Time these days either. (We featured Bad Time as the second half of our recent True Oldies Channel / Forgotten Hits / Twin Spin Weekend ... and Scott Shannon told me that he got a very good, positive response to that one.)

Prior to forming Grand Funk Railroad (named after Michigan's Grand Trunk Railroad), Guitarist and frontman Mark Farner and Drummer Don Brewer had both been members of Terry Knight and the Pack, who charted back in 1967 with their version of I, Who Have Nothing. (In fact, Terry Knight went on to manage and produce Grand Funk Railroad in the early years! We featured the Terry Knight and the Pack hit during one of our Local Hits / Show Me Your Hits series a few years back.) Bassist Mel Schacher was a former member of ? and the Mysterians,, who topped the charts with the classic 96 Tears back in 1966.

Their first eleven albums all went multi-gold and / or platinum and eight of those landed in The Top Ten on Billboard's Album Charts. Nearly every early '70's aspiring garage band member had copies of classic GFR albums like On Time, Grand Funk, Closer To Home, Survival, E Pluribus Funk, Mark, Don and Mel, Phoenix, We're An American Band, Shinin' On, All The Girls In The World Beware!!! and their Live Album in their personal record collections. (Of course those SAME hard-rockin' guitarists would have called you "insane" had you told them that their favorite rock band would eventually be topping the charts with a remake of a Little Eva tune!!!)

Today we're featuring three of these earlier, long-forgotten tracks, in the hopes that a deejay or two on the list will be inspired to give them a spin, if only to gauge their listeners' reaction.

Probably MOST radio-friendly (and recognizable) would be Footstompin' Music ... this one'll get your head bobbin'!!! We've also got Rock And Roll Soul for you today ... as well as Grand Funk Railroad's version of Feelin' Alright. (If nothing else, ALL of these ought to jar a memory or two!!!)


Footstompin' Music

Rock And Roll Soul

Feelin' Alright

Aww, what the heck!!! The VERY best of their Forgotten Hits has GOT to be Closer To Home ... so we'll give you THAT one, too!!!

Closer To Home

Thursday, January 22, 2009

We're On Our Way

In the gallows of Beatles / Apple Records folklore, we often hear the stories about how artists like Badfinger, Mary Hopkin, Jackie Lomax and James Taylor came to be signed to the label. Other well known artists like Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar, Ronnie Spector, Doris Troy and Yoko Ono came to Apple by way of previous (or growing) relationships with The Beatles themselves. For the most part, John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney all had a hand in helping to develop these artists ... and often performed on their records as well. Even lesser-known acts like The Elastic Oz Band, The Black Dyke Mills Band, Trash, David Peel and Elephant's Memory reaped the benefit of having a Beatle write and / or produce some of their tracks.

But in 1972, a young rocker named Chris Hodge came on board by way of Beatles Drummer Ringo Starr. (It's said that Ringo caught Chris performing in a London club and liked what he saw ... they also reportedly shared a common love of science fiction movies.)

Chris' only U.S. Hit, We're On Our Way, snuck into The American Top 40 when it peaked at #36 on The Cash Box Chart during The Summer of '72. (Once again, this one fared a little better here in Chicago, peaking at #17 on The WLS Chart.) It probably hasn't been heard on the radio since ... which is too bad because it's actually not a bad track.

Although he went on to record for a couple of other record labels, Hodge never hit The U.S. (or The British) Charts again.

Give a listen to We're On Our Way ... and see if this one rings a bell at all.

DIDJAKNOW?: Chris' hit We're On Our Way was produced by Tony Cox ... Yoko Ono's ex-husband!!! How weird that Ringo and Yoko may have been the ones most responsible for its release!!!

Click here: Chris Hodge - Apple Records

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sir Monti Rock III

I saw THIS question raised on another list I belong to a couple of weeks ago ...

Do any of you remember Sir Monti Rock III?

But before I could even pull something together to put up on the web, I saw that answers were already coming in:

Of course I remember! -- Disco Tex and The Sex-O-Lettes. I think the "hit" was "Get Dancing." I remember playing it on the radio, although I don't remember what year it was, so I don't know if it was 'KB or not. But I do remember the song was fun, and Monte made Elton John and Liberace look conservative.
Don Berns

The single was a hit in late 74, early 75 ... I probably played it during my short stint on WYSL, then.

Take care,

Monti Rock the 3rd I believe was a hairdresser (1st), a chef? (2nd), and a singer (3rd) but I forgot he had a hit with “Get Dancing.) He was also known as Disco Tex (and the Sex-O-Lettes). "Get Dancing".
-- Dennis

Sir Monti Rock III is alive and well and living in Las Vegas. Remember his line(s) in Saturday Night Fever? "This is Monti, your delicious DJ -- turn yourselves in, baby!"
John Bisci
Sir Monti Rock III (Real Name: Joseph Montanez) had two Top 40 Hits as Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes in 1975: Get Dancin' (which actually made The National Top Ten) and I Wanna Dance Wit' Choo, which hit #23. Both are camp, over-the-top, horribly hard to listen to, God-Awful semi-disco tracks that definitely fall into the Forgotten Hits category ... by all appearances, conventional oldies radio won't touch them!!! (Quite honestly, I'm not so sure that these tracks need to be resurrected!!! lol In fact, along with Rick Dees' Disco Duck, Disco Tex's recordings are a pretty fair representation of disco music at its absolute worst!!! At the very least, nothing short of "Disco Gone Wrong"!!!) But the truth is these recordings were EXACTLY what they were intended to be ... they were SUPPOSED to be completely outrageous and out of control ... and that's what made them so unique at the time!

Prior to his chart success, Sir Monti Rock III was probably best known as a hair-dresser ... in fact, at one point, he owned a chain of hairdressing salons ... and he became an internationally known celebrity for his flamboyant behavior. (He even managed a few movie roles during his fifteen minutes of fame!) Believe it or not, his hit singles were produced by the legendary Bob Crewe ... you've just gotta wonder what he was thinking at the time!!! (Novelty hits??? Or just part of the crowd he was hangin' out with back then?!?!?)

You can check out all the latest on Monti's comings and goings at his website here:
Click here: Monti Frame

(In fact, how cool is this?!?!? If you're interested, you can even hire Sir Monti Rock III to perform your wedding ceremony!!! Yep, I think folks'll remember that event!!!)
-- Kent Kotal