Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tying Up A Few More Loose Ends

Tune in to The True Oldies Channel today and you'll hear Tommy James playing the role of Guest Disc Jockey!!! Tommy's new book "Me, The Mob And The Music" is all the rage right now ... in fact, they're already discussing movie rights to this thing ... and, according to Scott Shannon, Tommy will be playin' ... and sayin' ... whatever he wants to this afternoon. It's MUST listening ... so here's a "Listen Live" link:
Click here: WPLJ-HD2

The TOC Website says that Tommy'll be on from 10 am - 3 pm (I'm assuming that means EASTERN time ... but maybe not, since those are the EXACT hours that Scott Shannon's program airs here in Chicago) ... so tune in early just in case and give it a listen. If you're a Tommy James fan ... and who isn't ... I think you'll really enjoy today's broadcast. And, if you're a Tommy James fan ... you might want to check out OUR special mailing on Tommy ... it went out "By Request Only" last night. Wanna get your hands on a copy? Then just drop me an email at ... and ask us to send it to you!!!

Here's just a "Sneak Peek" ...

Hi Kent;
I don’t recall if you’ve reviewed Tommy James new book, “Me, the Mob and the Music” or not.
When I heard that he signed with Roulette in the mid 60’s, I knew that they would rob him blind ... and they did. He tells the story of Morris Levy and the control the mob had at Roulette Records as well as most of the east coast record business, the artists and some of the big name dj’s. The fact that the mob beat Jimmy Rodgers (as James points out in the book) to a pulp was well known in the business. The talk in the trade was that Mario Lanza may have also met the same fate.
The Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons story also admits that they were owned by the Philly mob (which we in the business were also well aware of!) The promotion men from some but not all of those east coast record companies used to look like they came from a Soprano TV audition.
What I can’t help but wonder is IF the mob still owns the rights to the Four Seasons music (and they may not) are they still getting part of the action?
Clark Weber
The mob ties to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons becomes an integral part of the story in "Jersey Boys", the AMAZING musical devoted to their legacy. Morris Levy seems to be one of the most notorious, talked-about "business men" of this era. (Check out the film "Why Do Fools Fall In Love", the Frankie Lymon story, for more horror stories!!!) Like I said, LOTS of buzz about Tommy's book ... and I give him a lot of credit for being bold enough to tell it. (Artie Wayne told me that Tommy confided in him that there's really only one of these guys left ... and he's about 83 years old and doesn't pose all that much of a threat anymore ... Tommy's still in pretty good shape ... he probably figures he can out-run him if he needs to!!! lol) kk

By the way, the music that Tommy is making today is every bit as good as the music we all grew up loving in the '60's and early '70's ... check out his website for information about all of his recent releases.
Click here: Tommy James and The Shondells Official Website

(Collectors' Choice has just issued a number of "Two-Fer" CD's, too ... and recently, a "Complete Singles" collection also hit the marketplace.)
Click here: CCMusic Results - tommy james

Tommy James was HUGE here in Chicago ... TEN of his records made The Chicagoland Top Ten, including seven that went all the way to #1. Clark Weber was there at the very start of Tommy's career ... (of course he also tells the story about how he didn't think James was going to make it in HIS book "Rock And Roll Radio: The Fun Years, 1955 - 1975".) Turns out WLS was instrumental in breaking a number of hits for Tommy James and the Shondells ... and they even had special "exclusives" from the band! Fascinating stuff ... and, quite honestly, BOTH of these books belong on your bookshelves! (kk)

The other day we delved into the question of which British artist(s) first charted here in America (as well as who first hit #1 here in The States). We explained at the time that the REAL answer to these questions can be determined by what criteria you establish and how that criteria specifically relates to the question at hand.

I thought of another good example the other day ... and wanted to share it with our readers.

One of the most-often repeated pieces of '60's trivia is that despite being one of the most successful recording artists of the '60's ... and despite being THE most successful instrumental artist of the '60's ... Herb Alpert didn't hit #1 for the first time until he SANG a song ... taking "This Guy's In Love With You" to the top of the charts in 1968.

Now for the most part, that's a true statement ... depending on how you twist the question. The truth is, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass sold MILLIONS of albums in the '60's (including a particular favorite of mine that we're especially partial to here in Forgotten Hits!!!) And SIX of those albums went all the way to #1 on Billboard's Album Chart ... including FIVE before his 1968 single topped the charts ... so it's not entirely true that he NEVER had a #1 Record prior to singing a song.

Likewise, Alpert's version of "A Taste Of Honey' DID top The Cash Box Singles Chart in 1965 (despite stopping at #7 on the Billboard chart.) So again, you would have to phrase your question to specifically state that Herb Alpert never had a #1 Record on The Billboard Singles Chart before "This Guy's In Love With You", thus eliminating both the Cash Box factor and the album chart factor.

But the truth is you'd have to be even more specific than THAT ... because Alpert reached #1 on Billboard's Easy Listening Singles Chart THREE TIMES before "This Guy's In Love With You" topped their pop chart: "A Taste Of Honey" (#1 for five weeks in 1965); "Casino Royale" (#1 for two weeks in 1967); and "A Banda (#1 for two weeks in 1967). When "This Guy's In Love With You" also topped Billboard's Easy Listening Singles Chart, it stayed there for an incredible TEN WEEKS in 1968!

And, for the record, just in case you were wondering, Alpert FINALLY topped The Billboard Pop Singles Chart with an instrumental in 1979 when "Rise" reached the summit. (kk)

And, speaking of The Billboard Charts ...


>>>My guess is that if we REALLY dug deep enough, we could probably find several such British Artists charting here BEFORE Vera Lynn, too. It's really all a matter of going back far enough. After all, Billboard started publishing their music charts in the late 1890's!!! Joel Whitburn??? (kk)

Actually, Billboard started publishing music charts in 1940. The listings in Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories book for the years before that were from a variety of different sources.

– Randy Price

The very first issue of Billboard Magazine was published in 1894 ... and Randy's right ... their focus on music didn't come until much later. (Wikipedia says they published their very first "Hit Parade" Chart on January 4th, 1936 ... and their first official MUSIC Chart on July 20, 1940. Prior to that I believe they did keep track of sheet music sales, which was a popular way of sharing music back in the day. We've covered numerous times before that this was an era where the SONG was considered far more important than the artist(s) who recorded it ... and it was VERY common for a number of artists to cut the same tracks ... a popular song was, after all, a popular song. Since I had some time on my hands last night, I went through Joel Whitburn's Pop Hits Book, 1940 - 1954, checking for any and all British Artists who made the chart during that time period. Here's what I came up with:

As I suspected, several other British Artists placed hits on Billboard's Pop Singles Chart prior to Vera Lynn hitting #1 with "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" in 1952 ... but she WAS the first British Artist to OFFICIALLY hit #1 here in The States as mentioned by FH Reader (and music historian) Gary Theroux. (I found one other British #1 Record attributed to Ray Noble ... his version of "Linda", a song written about the future Linda McCartney, hit #1 in 1947 ... but that was on Billboard's Disc Jockey Chart ... it peaked at #2 on their Best Sellers Chart ... and, since we disqualified Laurie London's hit "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" for peaking at #1 on Billboard's DJ Chart, we have to do the same thing here ... and give SOLE credit to Vera Lynn as having the very first #1 Record in America by a British Artist in Billboard.)

That being said, here are the OTHER British Artists we found listed in Joel Whitburn's book "Billboard Pop Hits, 1940-1954", listing the artist (alphabetically), the year of their first hit song on the U.S. Chart (chronologically), along with the title of that tune:

1940 - RAY NOBLE - A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square

1944 - DAVID ROSE - Holiday For Strings

1948 - GRACIE FIELDS - Now Is The Hour / DICK JAMES - You Can't Be True, Dear / VERA LYNN - You Can't Be True, Dear / SCALA'S PRIMO BANJO AND ACCORDIO ORCHESTRA - Underneath The Arches

1949 - SAM BROWNE - A Tree In The Meadow / REGGIE GOFF - I Love You So Much It Hurts / EDDIE MILLER - She Wore A Yellow Ribbon / JAY AND BEENY LEE NICHOLS - The Pussycat Song / ANNE SHELTON - Be Mine

1952 - ALAN DEAN - Luna Rossa

1953 - FRANK CHACKSFIELD - Limelight

1954 - EDDIE CALVERT - Oh Mein Papa / DAVID WHITFIELD - Cara Mia (Hey Scott, THERE'S one for your next Remakes Weekend!!!)

During this same timeframe (1940 - 1954) we found Canadian Artists (The Crew Cuts, The Four Lads, Guy Lombardo, Gisele MacKenzie, Dick Todd and others), Artists from Spain (Xavier Cugat), Germany (Will Glahe, Henri Rene), France (Ray Bloch), Argentina (Dick Hayman), Italy (Mantovani, Ralph Marterie), Venezuela (Edmundo Ros), Portugal (Carmen Miranda) and even Russia (Al Jolson, Jan Savitt and The Hour Of Charm Choir) scoring a spot on The Billboard Best Selling Singles Chart ... quite a mixed bag of music hitting our shores.

What does all of this mean? Well, breaking down Fred Rhian's original question to these specifics and criteria, and utilizing Billboard Pop Singles Best Sellers Chart Information dating back to 1940, we can now state that the first record to chart in America by a British Artist was "A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square" by Ray Noble ... and the first #1 Record in America by a British Artist was "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" by Vera Lynn (1952). Concentrating on The Rock Era, 1955 - 1962, I've got to go with Skiffle King Lonnie Donegan and his Top Ten Hit "Rock Island Line" (1956) as the first "rock" record to hit our charts here in the States ... while the first #1 Record by a British Act goes to Mr. Acker Bilk with his instrumental hit "Stranger On The Shore" and the first #1 Record by a British GROUP goes to The Tornadoes for "Telstar." (Betch by now you're sorry you ever even asked the question, right Fred?!?!? lol)

Meanwhile, here's a copy of the very first Billboard Magazine ever published:

Earlier this week we told you about the passing of Bobby Espinosa ... and mentioned that we did a feature on the band several years ago that included comments from both Bobby Espinosa and Freddie Sanchez. At the time, I couldn't locate this piece in The Forgotten Hits Archives ... but I did come across it the other day and wanted to share it with you (especially since we have SO many new readers on the list.)
The circumstances around this particular piece are especially interesting since it was the participation of two of our long-time FH Readers that made this happened ... and, therefore, that much more exciting.
Here it is again for those who may have missed it ... and for all of your enjoyment:

El Chicano first came up in Forgotten Hits when we featured their version of "Brown Eyed Girl" as part of our "Most Over-Played Oldies" Poll back in 2003. We were then reminded of another one of their great tracks, "Tell Her She's Lovely", which we featured again the other day. (Despite this being a #28 hit in 1973, you rarely if ever hear this one on the radio anymore.)

All this attention prompted us to do a follow-up feature on the band ... and, for some assistance on this project, we went to our FH field representative BRITINVLVR (who just happens to be an authority on all things L.A. (as in both Los Angeles AND Latin / American ... or, at the very least, Mexican / American), who files this report: (btw, VERY cool, Suzanne!)

Hello Kent!
So happy to oblige regarding information on El Chicano. I may have mentioned that I had a yearning to read about the roots of Mexican / American / Southern Californian music. In doing so, I found a book called "Land Of A Thousand Dances - Chicano Rock 'n' Roll From Southern California", written by David Reyes and Tom Waldman. Very good reading on the local bands from my area.

I also did a search on the web and found this link:

Welcome to the El Chicano Official Website
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This website link seems to now be disabled. However, I DID find THIS link while resurrecting this piece:
Click here: EL CHICANO MUSIC : EL CHICANO VIVE) By the way, this new website mentions a memorial service for Bobby Espinoza in L.A. coming up on March 20th ... perhaps some of our LA-Area Readers would like to attend. More details can be found on the El Chicano Website. (kk)

When researching this band, I came to the conclusion that they are much like a Mexican - American Plastic Ono Band or Steely Dan ... there was a revolving door policy for all the personnel, except for Bobby Espinoza, who played the organ.
The members from the first album were:The before mentioned, Bobby Espinoza, organ; Andre Baeza, congas; Freddie Sanchez, bass; Micky Lespron, guitar and John DeLuna, drums.

Other members of the band over the years have been: Ersi Arvisu, lead vocals; Rudy Regalado, timbales; Max Garduno, congas; Danny Lamonte, drums; Brian Magness, bass; Joe Perrerida, bass; Jerry Salas, lead vocal & guitar; Rudy and Steve Salas (from Tierra), guitar and lead vocals, respectively.

I attempted to get into contact with Bobby to find out some information that wasn't in the usual places I research, but was told by his management that he and the original guitarist, Micky Lespon are currently working on a new album. I am informed they will soon be back on the road with the new material as well as their old hits.Because of their East L.A. roots, these guys were huge here. They, along with Tierra, Tower of Power and Malo, still play around here. They played quite often at a venue I have sang at, The Hop. You can still hear their hits on the oldies stations here. You know, their version of "Brown Eyed Girl" is the one I heard before Van Morrison's. "La, la, la ... ay, que vida!"

Suzanne even tried to get in contact with the folks involved with El Chicano for yet another exclusive Forgotten Hits interview ... here is some of the correspondence that transpired:

Dear Fred Sanchez:
I have a friend who lives in Chicago who writes articles on the Internet that focus on artists and bands who had huge hits from the 60's and 70's nationwide that aren't heard on the every day rotation of most "Oldies" or "Classic Rock" stations. The purpose of these articles is to enlighten the young and to let the older music lover reminisce about the wonderful songs that made up the soundtrack of our lives. His readers are from all across the United States.

Since I live in the LA area and was raised in Boyle Hts / E.L.A., I am always eager to talk and / or write about the many talented musicians from our neighborhood. My friend asked me to find out what I can about El Chicano. I have to say that I never had the chance to see El Chicano live, although our family had their records and I heard their music most of my life.

I read their history on the official website, and I also read what was written by David Reyes & Tom Waldman in their book, "Land Of A Thousand Dances - Chicano Rock 'n' Roll From Southern California." I was wondering if I can get more information on Bobby Espinosa and wondered if he would be interested in exchanging some emails. Anything I would submit for Kent Kotal's Forgotten Hits article would be only with Bobby's approval.

I see that the band has a new project in the works. I was also wondering if they're touring at this time or will be soon. If so, I would very much like to be put on a mailing list so I can attend one or more of their shows.

Thank you so much for your attention. And please don't hesitate to contact me.
Yours Sincerely,
(I also left a voice message for Fred, so hopefully we'll get a response. I already have all the personal of the original line-up and some of the guest artists who worked with them over the years. I also know they made quite an impact in Japan recently.)

In fact, she DID get a response ... and here it is:

Dear Suzanne,
Thank you so much for taking the time and the interest in sending us your message.
El Chicano is currently working in the studio and at this time is not touring. We will be posting a schedule in the near future on our website. Concerning Bobby Espinosa, we will pass along your request. At this time we feel the information on our website is current and can be written about directly from the site. Once again thanks for getting in touch.
Fred Sanchez / Mgr.
El Chicano

In a completely unrelated coincidence, we happened across this little piece of information supplied by FH list member BEATLEPRINCESS, who just HAPPENED to be taking a class with a Professor Gerald Wilson ... it never ceases to amaze me how all this music stuff is somehow connected ... it truly is a small world ... and the bigger the coincidence, the cooler the story!!!

Omigod! I never heard of El Chicano until I took a Development of Jazz class this past Winter Quarter with Professor Gerald Wilson. It turns out that he was the one that wrote "Viva Tirado" and El Chicano covered it in the 70s (he said that they had an extra hour of studio time and he was there and asked them to fiddle around the studio with his composition) and later it was covered by Latino rapper Kid Frost in the 90s.
FYI: "Viva Tirado" was on the final exam and I got 100% on it =)
- Beatle Princess

So, we sent the comments received from BEATLE PRINCESS to BRITINVLVR who then forwarded them on to her contacts at El Chicano ... again, truth is stranger than fiction sometimes!!!

Thank you so much, for your little note ... it was very interesting, especially the part about Professor Gerald Wilson. Yes, that was correct, he did write our hit "Viva Tirado" but we never met him before that at anytime. We did the song without any help from him. I think we only met him one time after it became a hit. We did some kind of musical show together ... I'm not sure?
Once again thanks for your thoughts, please feel free to keep in touch.
El Chicano

(As a follow-up measure, we also invited BEATLEPRINCESS to offer Forgotten Hits as a forum for her professor to discuss his involvement with the song, the band and the recording):

How Cool! Thanks for hooking me up with El Chicano and clarifying the links between them and my professor. Unfortunately, the class I had with Gerald Wilson is over now and I'm not sure if he's teaching this quarter. However, a couple of friends and I might go to his performance at the Jazz Bakery where he'll be launching off their new Big Band Mondays series, on April 7th. I'll try to get a comment from him if I go :)
I hope it won't be too late!
- BeatlePrincess

LOL ... As you can see, we've gone WAY past April 7th, 2003 on this one!
Special thanks again to BritInvLvr and BeatlePrincess for their help on this one and the lucky happenstance that it provided!

re: FIRST 45's:
Thanks to all the new readers who discovered The Forgotten Hits Website this past weekend, we've posted several new "First 45's" stories ... be sure to check them all out (THREE pages worth now!!!) here: Click here: Forgotten Hits - Home
Meanwhile, I couldn't resist posting this one ... 'cause it gave me an excuse to feature this song!!! (lol) kk
My first 45 was a gift from my sister when I was about 7 years old (1962). It was a song called "Mama Look A Boo-Boo" and the artist was Calypso Jack & his Calypso Cavaliers. This must have been a cover version by a children's record label, as I remember it being a bright colored label. But the song was also done by Harry Belafonte. I remember as a kid being fascinated for some reason by the first line - " I wonder why nobody don't like me, or is it the fact that I'm ugly?" The brunt of the song is a man being teased by his children. They think he's so ugly they are calling him a Boo-Boo.
Needless to say, as I got older my taste in music improved considerably. But, as I built my collection of over 1400 45 RPM records, I still was a sucker for many of the novelty songs that were played on the radio.
Bob Earnest
Clearwater, FL (grew up in Pittsburgh, PA)