Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hurt So Bad - The Lettermen

One of The Top Ten Songs From The Summer of '69 here in Chicagoland was "Hurt So Bad" by The Lettermen, a GREAT remake of the old Little Anthony and the Imperials tune that they took all the way to #2 on both the WLS and the WCFL charts.

I asked Lettermen vocalist (and Forgotten Hits Reader) Gary Pike to tell us a little bit about the selection and recording of this tune so that we could share this little bit of history with our readers.

The Lettermen had been hitting Billboard's Pop Chart since 1961 ... but hadn't had a Top 20 Hit since 1965 when their vocal version of "The Theme From 'A Summer Place'" went to #16. In early 1968, they turned ALL of that around when they put together a medley of "Goin' Out Of My Head / Can't Take My Eyes Off You" ... it rose to #7 on the charts and, although in-between hits like "Sherry Don't Go" and "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" hovered in the #35-#44 range, their rendition of "Hurt So Bad" returned them to The Top 20 (with a #12 Billboard peak) in The Summer of '69.

Here is Gary's report:

Hi Kent,
I joined the group as a Letterman just before the fall tour of 1967 and before that I was the bass player with the "Wilson Brown Trio," a piano, bass and drum combo that was the permanent rhythm section that played behind "The Lettermen". During the shows I used to step up from behind the bass and sing one of the hits with them, "Theme from a 'Summer Place'".
When Bob Engemann decided to leave the group, my Brother Jim asked if I would like to take Bobby's place and I said: "Is this a trick question ?".
Anyway, since we had the hit with, "Goin' Out Of My Head / Can't Take My Eyes Off You" in 1968 and, of course, 'Outta My Head' had been a hit by Little Anthony, Jim said. "Let's take a look at 'Hurt So Bad'".
What a great song !!! Jim, of course, along with Wilson Brown, did the vocal arrangement and Mort Garson (who fairly recently passed away) did the orchestration. It went to #1 in Los Angeles, Boston and few other major markets. I think it peaked at #2 or #3 at WCFL in Chicago. It is what I call one of our reluctant hits because it was on again, off again, on again with the Capitol promoters. By the time it was #1 in Boston, it had already peaked in LA, so it didn't impact the national charts like it could have. Cash Box, I believe, had it peaking in the top ten and Billboard I think at #12 or #13.
We still received an RIAA certified gold record for our efforts. Some years after our success with the song we were talking with Linda Ronstadt and she was planning to record it. It was a hit for her, too. One of the great songs written by Teddy Randazzo.
Live Long and Prosper,
Gary Pike
Lettermen / Reunion
Thanks, Gary!
"Hurt So Bad" is a GREAT song ... and, actually, Bobby Hart co-wrote that one with Teddy Randazzo ... here's what he told me when I interviewed him for Forgotten Hits a few years back:

Hart eventually moved to New York as well, since that seemed to be the songwriting capitol of America at the time. It was here that Boyce and Hart finally wrote their first their first chart hit together. Twister Chubby Checker recorded their composition "Lazy Elsie Molly", and it became a Top 40 Record in 1964, peaking at #39 in Cash Box Magazine. Teamed with songwriter / producer Wes Farrell, they enjoyed their first Top Ten Hit together later that year when Jay and the Americans recorded the smash "Come A Little Bit Closer", a #3 National Hit that Fall. Shortly after this success, Boyce was offered a contract to become a staff writer for Screen Gems and took off again for the west coast. Hart stayed behind in New York City where he was signed to Teddy Randazzo's and Don Costa's publishing company. When Randazzo went to perform in Las Vegas, he offered Bobby a job singing background in his stage act. One night, Teddy and Don told him that they were looking for a song for Little Anthony and the Imperials to record ... something with a similar sound and feel to their recent Top Five smash "Goin' Out Of My Head", written by Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Wilding. Between sets, Hart, Randazzo and Wilding went upstairs to a conference room and wrote "Hurt So Bad", which quickly followed it into The National Top Ten! It looked like ... together or apart ... Boyce and Hart were on their way as successful songwriters!

Today, Bobby Hart considers "Hurt So Bad" his crowning achievement as a songwriter. It's been a Top 20 Hit THREE TIMES (#10 for Little Anthony and the Imperials in 1965, #12 for The Lettermen in 1969 and #8 for Linda Ronstadt in 1980.) However, he also recognizes the fact that, despite writing songs that were nominated for Emmys, Golden Globes and Academy Awards, he will always BEST be remembered as one of the guys who wrote the songs for The Monkees!!!

Earlier in this series, we told you that Bobby Hart says the best song he ever wrote was "Hurt So Bad", a Top 20 Hit three times for three different artists. When he was asked “What's the WORST song you’ve ever written”, Hart replied "The worst songs you'll never hear." He sites "Let's Dance On" (from The Monkees' first album) as being "pretty much of a throwaway", written as filler for the pilot television episode. However, that "throwaway" appeared on an album that sold MILLIONS of copies, so it was STILL heard by an awful lot of people!

KENT KOTAL: I know you’ve said on the record that you believe "Hurt So Bad" was your greatest achievement as a songwriter … but that one was a hit … what about another piece of music that you’re especially proud of that just didn’t make it? Is there any one particular song that you felt should have been much bigger than it was ... something that you really believed in that just didn't go over to the degree that you thought it would? And, on the other side of the coin, were there other songs that you were surprised to see become as big a hit as they did? Songs you considered more "throw-aways" that the public ended up loving?

BOBBY HART: I rarely look back. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of an important era in Pop music. I couldn’t ask for more than I’ve been given. I had big hopes for our Dolenz, Jones, Boyce And Hart material, "I Remember The Feeling", "Right Now" and "I Love You And I'm Glad That I Said It". We lost our champion at Capitol Records at just the wrong time. On the other hand, I was surprised at the success of "Come A Little Bit Closer".

For the record, "Hurt So Bad" peaked at #12 in Billboard and #14 in Cash Box and, here in Chicago, at #2 on WLS and #2 on WCFL. This is one of those rare remakes that did every bit as well as the original version ... and Linda Ronstadt's version made The Top Ten on both National Charts, too! It's a GREAT track that made our final "Top 50 Songs Of The Summer of '69 List" ... and we're happy to feature it here again today.

Hi Kent,
If you have never heard Reunion doing the Lettermen have got to hear this Lettermen Hits Medley that I have on a 45. It is outstanding! (enclosed) Mike Hartman

I was involved in a TV show that included Reunion in 1989 (however, it was never broadcast), and that same year I saw the 4 Preps / 3 Golden Groups on the KRTH Legends of R'n'R show and they were outstanding.
Gary E. Myers / Music Gem