Friday, December 28, 2012

The Friday Flash

Fontella Bass, who recorded the #4 pop hit, "Rescue Me" (#1 R&B) in 1965, died Wednesday (December 26) from complications of a heart attack at a St. Louis hospital. She was 72. Fontella had suffered the heart attack December 2. A St. Louis native, Fontella had sung with the Clara Ward's gospel singers (of which her mother was a member) while still a child. As a teen she began to sing in clubs and came to the attention of promoter Oliver Sain, who hired her to accompany blues singer Little Milton. When Milton couldn't perform one night, Fontella filled in and became a regular singer with Oliver's revue. Upon moving to Chicago in 1965, she auditioned for Chess Records, where she was initially paired with Bobby McClure. "Don't Mess Up A Good Thing" reached #33 pop and #5 R&B that year. It was the first of eight chart records on Chess' Checker label, the last six of which were solo. Other hits included "Recovery" (#37 pop, #13 R&B in 1966) and "I Surrender" (#78 pop, #33 R&B in 1966). Disillusioned with the music business (she fought for years to be given songwriting credit on "Rescue Me"), she and her husband -- trumpet player Lester Bowie -- moved to Paris where she recorded two albums with the Art Ensemble of Chicago but semi-retired in 1972. She sued American Express in 1990 over the use of "Rescue Me" in a television commercial and settled for $50,000. Her brother is R&B singer David Peaston. 
-- Ron Smith (
While Chess carved its own niche in the blues market, their success rarely crossed over to the pop charts after the Chuck Berry era. That all changed in 1965 when Fontella Bass took her Motown-infused hit "Rescue Me" all the way to #2 on the National Pop Charts. (Berry Gordy had to be beside himself trying to figure out ways to sue Chess Records for copying his sound!)    

FH Reader Tom Cuddy sent us five excellent "Rescue Me" cover versions to share, too, courtesy of a tribute put together by Billboard Magazine ...

Your comments about the frequency of hearing Supertramp on the radio nowadays resonated with me. Driving home recently, I heard "Take the Long Way Home" on our former Oldies station in Chicago. While I was grateful that it was not another Journey song, I punched the next pre-set button in hopes of hearing something else. Instead, the next "classic" station was playing the exact same song, at almost precisely the same point -- less than half a second apart. Forget about hearing 50s and 60s songs anymore. There is such a lack of variety that they're all sounding the same -- and this certainly drove the point home!   
Dan Crabtree 
Wheaton, IL

It's happening more and more often ... not just the same artist playing on two or three stations at the same time ... but now the same SONG playing on multiple stations at the same time! Clearly there is no longer a need for a program director ... we've finally done it ... gone "All Robot". (They warned us about this,ya know!) Sometimes we hear two songs by the same artist twenty minutes apart! What a shame. Because a program director who knows his music ... and CARES about his music ... could REALLY make a big difference right now. Not some kid who wasn't even born yet when these songs were out, simply following the charts put together by these mindless consultants telling them THIS is what people really want to hear. It's gone so far past insulting that I just can't listen anymore. I make sure the car has at least half a dozen CDs in it at all times and leave the button on The Drive ... at least I know they'll mix things up by playing album sides or A to Z salutes or featured artists and deep tracks ... and when they DO hit on those same old Journey, Bob Seger and Steve Miller songs, I just pop the CD in instead. And for right now, this is working for me. (Unless, of course, K-Hits wants to contact me and revamp oldies radio once and for all, Chicago style. In THAT case, I'm all in ... just give me a call ... and let's set this town on its ear. Imagine that ... a radio station in Chicago actually playing something that every OTHER radio station in town isn't already playing ... man, what a concept!) Funny thing is, once it catches on, all of the other stations will follow suit anyway ... Lord knows there's no such thing as an original idea in radio anymore ... but once they do and all the dust settles, what do you know ... radio will be interesting again! (kk)
Thanks for fully
waking me up with the song by the Trade Winds. It has made my day.
This morning while driving in my car and after earlier having played your tune you posted by the Trade Winds, reminded me of another tune which came out earlier in 1959 by another group known as the Tradewinds. Different group, I believe, but the song was FURRY MURRY on RCA. Had to get it out when I got home and play it, as they say, "one more time". You remember FURRY MURRY don't you? He had to get a Yul Brynner haircut.  
Incidentally, I am GUILTY of having the two songs you mentioned that the INNOCENCE made, not to be confused with the INNOCENTS, another group.
Gotta be a different Tradewinds ... in 1959, Vinnie and Pete were recording as The Videls. In 1960, they hit the charts with "Mister Lonely", (not the Bobby Vinton tune), which peaked at #66.
By the way, The Innocence singles actually performed pretty well here in Chicago ... "There's Got To Be A Word" reached #18 ... and "Mairzy Doats" (which some of the non-Top 40 stations even played) climbed as high as #21 ... both far surpassing their national showings of #33 and #75 respectively. (kk)

Speaking of Melissa Manchester (as we were yesterday), when's the last time you heard one of HER hits on the radio??? Sure, you might hear "You Should Hear How She Talks About You" on one of those '80's / Rewind stations ... but Melissa scored two Top Ten Hits in the mid-to-late '70's with two soaring, power ballads called "Midnight Blue" (#5, 1975) and "Don't Cry Out Loud" (#10, 1979).
These are songs that still deserve to be heard ... and are showcase vocal performances by this fine singer / songwriter. (I always felt bad for Melissa Manchester ... she cowrote "Whenever I Call You 'Friend'" with Kenny Loggins ... and then he went off and recorded it as a duet with Stevie Nicks instead!!!)
Manchester had one of those booming voices that just excelled as the orchestra soared to its building crescendo ... I had the chance to see her perform live twice in the late '70's, both VERY entertaining shows.  She is still performing (tour dates listed on her website) and last year, taught the class "The Art Of Conversational Singing" at USC,  The University of Southern California!
(By the way, Manchester also cowrote one of her other '70's hits, "Just Too Many People" (#30, 1975) with her producer Vinnie Poncia, who we profiled in yesterday's piece on The Tradewinds. Don'tcha just love it when all this stuff ties together!!!)