Monday, November 26, 2018

Happy Anniversary To Us

Exactly nineteen years ago today ... November 26th, 1999, the very first issue of Forgotten Hits went out via email to a select group of 35 friends I had made in the old AOL Oldies Music Trivia Chat Room.

It was a simple enough premise ... with over 10,000 charted hit songs to choose from, released between the dawn of the rock and roll era in 1955 and the present, 44 years later, radio seemed hell-bent on only giving us the same 200-300 titles, played over and over and over again on a daily basis.  It was getting to the point where we were beginning to hate and resent the very music that we fell in love with all those years ago, simply because of the complete saturation of the same tracks and artists being repeatedly driven into our heads.

I suggested that there had to be at least another 3000-5,000 songs that listeners would respond to in a positive way ... tracks they'd remember ... tracks that were a big part of their lives ... records they'd bought ... songs they laughed to, danced to ... cried to ... songs that truly did make up the much now cliche'd "soundtrack of their lives" ... if they were only given the chance to hear them again.

So I proposed to my audience of 35:  "If I wrote a newsletter featuring some of this music ... and gave you the back story on some of these hits and artists ... would you read it?", to which I received a resounding "Yes" ... and Forgotten Hits was born.  

The very first issue was emailed on the Friday after Thanksgiving, 1999.  (Due to dozens of computer crashes since then, it no longer exists or we'd run it here today.  However, thanks to the incredible loyalty ... and pack-rat nature ... of our readers, we have been able to rebuild a pretty extensive archive of material dating back to 2001!)

Forgotten Hits has grown by leaps and bounds ever since.  I wasn't sure how often I'd send out a copy ... or how long I'd keep the franchise going ... but this was something I was very passionate about and through great word of mouth throughout the AOL Oldies Music Room, I was suddenly connecting with others who shared that passion and love for this music, much of which was about to disappear from our lives and consciousness forever if somebody didn't do something to help drudge it all up again and re-present it to the world at large.  Thanks to the tremendous support of those early readers, I became the duly-elected leader of this campaign.

It was an immediate hit ... every week more and more oldies music fans were contacting me, wanting to know how they could get on the list.  Soon we had hundreds, all thanks to good word of mouth and rave reviews.  

Then oldies radio discovered us.  Some embraced us and were soon quoting from our pages on the air, inviting us on their programs to discuss what we do, and even expanding their own playlists ... while others fought us tooth and nail ... we heard from high-paid "experts" INSISTING that they were giving listeners exactly what they wanted and all they could handle ... according to those "in the know," most listeners couldn't handle more than the same 200-300 songs a day because they weren't really listening anyway ... the radio had simply become "background noise," playing while they were doing FAR more important things thru multi-tasking ... emphatically maintaining that they must be right ... or why else would EVERYBODY be doing it???  (They were right about that ... at that time, you could literally travel to virtually ANY city in the United States and hear the exact same 200-300 songs playing there as well!)  If programming continued in this fashion, it would surely spell the end of radio as we know it ... so, if you can believe it, my response to all of this was to propose an absolutely PREPOSTEROUS idea:  "Then why not give them something worth listening to???")

In 2008, DeeJay extraordinaire Scott Shannon, a HUGE, long-time supporter of Forgotten Hits, suggested it was time to start a website ... readership had just grown too large to feed by email. (He was right ... I wanna say that at our peak we were attempting to email between 4000 and 8000 people per day ... it was virtually impossible to keep up with.)  

So on February 9th, 2008, the site you are currently reading was born.  (We celebrated the tenth anniversary of that posting earlier this year ... and you can still find it here ...  It was a piece tied into the upcoming 2008 Grammy Awards Ceremony ... and was timed to post on the 44th Anniversary of The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  

Over the years, our focus has greatly expanded ... it wasn't just about the music that radio had forgotten anymore ... we were now doing far more in-depth features, series and exposes, taking on The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame for their ridiculous choices (actually, I guess we still do that!) and researching topics like "Who Played The First Beatles Record In America" and running FH Readers Polls determining everything from your Favorite, Forgotten B-Sides to your Favorite Songs of Summer to your Favorite Instrumentals to your Favorite Psychedelic Songs, TV Themes and Garage Bands.  Our "First 45's" feature ran on The True Oldies Channel for years ... and we STILL get an occasional addition to the list!  (You can find many of those most popular features permanently posted here:

Not only were more oldies deejays jumping on board with our campaign, but now more and more artists were joining the list ... and soon we were running interviews (some of which got picked up by national publications) ... as well as promoting upcoming shows and new releases.  Forgotten Hits had found its niche and became a vital part of Oldies Nation and continues to draw new readers all the time.  (What we have found is that if you like oldies music from the '50's, the '60's, the '70's and the '80's, odds are you'll like Forgotten Hits!)  

As we go to press this morning we see that we have gone from our original 35 readers to closing in on FIVE MILLION website visitors over the past ten years!!!  A pretty incredible journey indeed!

Oh yeah ... our first Forgotten Hit, from nineteen years ago today?

"Shape Of Things To Come" by Max Frost and the Troopers, a fictitious band put together to record the soundtrack to the "Wild In The Streets" film.  We've featured this track on numerous anniversaries since ... and have even come close to tracking down original lead singer Paul Wibier (who apparently didn't want to be found ... and refuses to discuss his days as a session singer.)  Still, it's a GREAT track that went to #16 nationally (#22 in Billboard) and all the way to #3 here in Chicago nearly fifty years ago this week.

As we begin our 20th Year tomorrow, we want to make this our biggest year yet ... but we need your help.

We need to keep spreading the word.  There are thousands of you out there reading Forgotten Hits every single day, most of whom we have never even heard from.  PLEASE be more vocal as we enter our 20th year.  Each and every one of you must know at least another twenty people who love oldies music as much as you do ...  spread the word ... let them know about what we do here in Forgotten Hits.

DeeJays ... please keep your listening audience informed.  (I can always tell when some DJ somewhere in the world mentions us on the air because I'll get requests for twenty new subscriptions the very next day!)  You'll find all kinds of great programming ideas for special countdowns on the site ... and we cover such a wide variety of material that you can ALWAYS find something to tie into your own programs as well.

And that goes for all of you "vintage" dj's too ... if you were on the air during the prime Top 40 era, share your memories with our readers ... this is what makes Forgotten Hits so unique and unlike any other oldies music publication.

And artists ... YOU know who your contemporaries are ... you've been friends for years ... often, you're still sharing the same stages together.  Turn them on to Forgotten Hits and let them know all that we have done to help keep this great music alive and how large our viewing audience is.  Tell them to "use us" to help promote their upcoming shows.  I would love nothing more than to add another fifty new artists to the list this year, all actively participating and telling us about the glory days of rock and roll.

Let's make our 20th Year our biggest one yet.  Get on board and spread the word!  And thank you all for an incredible 19-year run ... it has been nothing short of amazing!  
Kent Kotal
Forgotten Hits