Saturday, February 27, 2010

Forgotten Hits Remembers Sam Cooke

We recently received this piece on Sam Cooke as part of a special mailing for Black History Month. It knocked me out ... and I was anxious to share it with our Forgotten Hits readers.

As a LONG time fan of Sam's music, I was THRILLED to receive permission from Brian Leli, allowing us to reprint it in its entirety on the Forgotten Hits Web Page. (Our own month-long Sam Cooke Series never materialized ... too bad because I had invested about a hundred hours into it and then lost EVERYTHING during a computer crash!) With limited postings this past month, this also allows US to present The Gapers Block Sam Cooke piece as a final weekend wrap-up to Black History Month, too.

We'll be running another special Sam Cooke piece tomorrow, written by Bob Benham, a long-time Forgotten Hits Reader ... this piece first ran several years ago as part of our regular newsletter, making it a full-blown Sam Cooke Weekend here in FH!

Today's piece originally ran as part of a newsletter called "Gapers Block" ... you can check out the original piece here:
and Brian Leli's website here:

My original copy came via Bob Merlis, who has represented ABKCO Records for YEARS ... so I want to extend some special thanks to him as well for helping us secure permission to run this for all of your enjoyment today.


Over and over again, Sam Cooke would attribute his success to the art of observation. He wrote of what he saw and heard. He listened to it and spoke to it. Effortlessly and instinctively, he turned it into music. He sang the songs that brought relief to the civil rights movement. He sang the songs that formed a bridge. He sang the songs that healed. His furious will and feral tenor brought people to their knees, and lifted them to their feet. Then, at the height of his success, he was shot and killed. It was 1964. He was only 32.

The Spark:
Cooke was born to a preacher in Clarksdale, Mississippi on January 22, 1931. To make ends meet, his father Charles worked the fields and cared for the home of a cotton farmer. But he wanted a better life for his children. He would teach them never to accept the limitations set on them, from outside or within. That lesson began in 1934, when they boarded a Greyhound bus and moved north to Chicago.
Cooke was singing gospel professionally by the age of ten. He performed with his brothers and sisters in a group called The Singing Children. For practice, he would stick Popsicle sticks in the ground and perform for them. He earned money singing with his brother L.C. on the corner of 35th and Cottage Grove — the end of the streetcar line in their Bronzeville neighborhood.

Cooke began singing with the Highway Q.C.'s. at age 15, but left at 19 to join The Soul Stirrers — the number one gospel group in the country. He was loved by the old and young and became a gospel teen idol of sorts. He brought a sexual energy to the church that was known by all but spoken by none. The women started showing up early, and they filled the seats.

Amid The Soul Stirrers' success, racial tensions were mounting in the South and hitting close to home. On August 28, 1955, a black boy from Chicago was beaten and murdered after reportedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. His name was Emmet Till, and he was only 14. Many felt this to be the spark that started the civil rights movement. A few months later in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused a bus driver's orders to give her seat up to a white passenger, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott followed. A fire was starting. People were aware, tired of the injustice. They were taking a stand and making a change.

It was around this time that Cooke began to outgrow the gospel circuit. He wanted to evolve, to infuse his gospel roots into R&B and pop music. He'd reached the black audience but wanted to reach a white one. He wanted to reach them all. He knew this sort of move would be met with a backlash from the gospel community, but it was a burden he was willing to bear. Determined to reach a wider audience and bring them together, he extended his arms.

In 1957 Cooke recorded "You Send Me." It was his first release under his own name. It sold almost 2 million copies and reached number one on both the R&B and pop charts. It began his mass appeal, and it spread far and wide.

The Raging Fire:
Just a few months after the release of "You Send Me" Cooke appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. The show's producers received many complaints after cutting his performance short, and he was asked back the following week. With the success of this performance and his first single, he began to tour the country.

Within six months he was booked to play the Copacabana: a prestigious and mostly white club in New York City. He knew that a successful performance at the Copa could solidify his success. He felt the pressure, and he bombed. Years later on The Mike Douglas Show, when asked about it, he answered "I know why I bombed. Because I wasn't ready." Still feeling the sting, he returned to the road.

Like all black artists at the time, Cooke and his band came face-to-face with the nightmarish prejudice and segregation of the South. Choices were limited. Restaurants wouldn't serve them. They made and ate sandwiches in their cars. They washed in rest-stop washrooms. They traveled hundreds of miles between shows to find boarding houses that would take them. All the while there were more and more whites in the audience. Cooke endured and observed, and he always took a stand.

In Memphis, police ordered him to push his car after it had run out of gas, but he refused. In Atlanta, he was scheduled to headline a concert broadcast on The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. When the KKK heard a black man would be performing with white men they tried to stop it, but Cooke played anyway. In Little Rock, he was told he'd be performing two shows for two audiences: one white, one black. He refused and played to a room split literally down the middle. He was one of the first performers to do so.

At segregated shows of this sort, police and police dogs walked the aisles on the black side of the audience. If the people enjoyed the show too much, the dogs would bite. The opposite ends of the leash must have twisted and blurred together, in such a dark and hellish scene.

In 1959, Cooke formed his own publishing company with partner J.W. Alexander. It was a bold move for any artist at that time, especially a black one, but Cooke didn't care. He saw then what other artists didn't. He saw the importance of learning the business and taking ownership of his songs, so that's what he did. Soon after, he would go on to form his own record label, SAR Records. The first SAR release came in 1960, and was by a gospel group from Chicago called The Soul Stirrers.

In 1961, Cooke signed with RCA and continued to tour relentlessly. He returned to Memphis, and another segregated audience at Ellis Auditorium. He refused to play unless the audience members were seated together. His requests were denied and he was met with threats, but he didn't back down. Two hours before the show was scheduled to start, Cooke cancelled it. Around the same time, Ray Charles took a similar stand in Augusta. By the time Charles' tour reached the Ellis Auditorium, his audience sat as one.

By the beginning of 1962, Cooke was the best-selling singles artist on RCA behind Elvis Presley. By the end of that same year, he was touring England with Little Richard. During this tour, he realized that seeking white or mainstream audiences had become unnecessary. They were coming to him. He began to focus less on winning them over and more on knocking them over. He began to further embrace the gospel fervor of his roots. This transition can be heard like a loud and crushing thunder on the song that invented soul — "Bring It On Home To Me."

On the heels of this transition, Cooke joined The Soul Stirrers onstage for a New Year's Eve 1962 show. Cooke's agent Jerry Brandt recalls the show in the Sam Cooke: Legend documentary — "All these women were going up, throwing their arms in the air, shivering, and passing out. Just fainting. Everyone was fainting. That's all I remember, the whole place was fainting. Mostly women. And it was probably the best show I ever saw in my life."

Twelve days later Cooke would debut his new act at the Harlem Square Club in Miami. It was recorded for what would later become the One Night Stand live album. Listening to that album, it becomes impossible not to feel the fires raging, as the walls crumble, and the people melt together in one glorious night of song.

The Swan Song & The Eternal Flame:
In May of 1963, Cooke heard Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind" and was overwhelmed. He couldn't believe it wasn't written by a black man, and he couldn't believe it wasn't written by him. That same month, Cooke spent a great deal of time talking with students at sit-ins in North Carolina. He was inspired by what he heard.

On October 8, 1963, a harsher inspiration came when Cooke attempted to check into a hotel in Shreveport. After his reservation was taken by phone, he was turned away in person. When he refused to walk away, he was arrested. This experience was the catalyst that ripped open the others. It opened the floodgates for a deep and rushing song.

"A Change Is Gonna Come" came to Cooke in a dream. It's the only song that ever did, and it frightened him. He knew he risked alienating his audience but he also knew it was the greatest thing he'd ever written. He would spend nearly a month perfecting it before finally recording it on January 30, 1964.

Cooke wasn't the only one frightened by the song. Drummer John Boudreaux was so intimidated by it's orchestration that he refused to leave the studio's control room. Earl Palmer eventually stepped in to record the drum tracks. Friends told Cooke the song felt eerie, foreboding, like a premonition. As he recalls in the Sam Cooke: Legend documentary, friend and musician Bobby Womack told him it felt " death."

The song was not immediately released as a single and it was almost never performed live. One exception came during a February 7, 1964 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, when Cooke reluctantly agreed to perform it. The tapes of that performance are lost.

By it's own might, "A Change Is Gonna Come" reached the people. It was almost instantly adopted as an anthem of the civil rights movement.

Cooke was becoming a prominent figure in the movement. On February 25, 1964 he came together with friends Malcolm X and Cassius Clay in Miami, where Clay was set to fight heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. Before the fight, Cooke met with Malcolm X to discuss politics and religion. After Clay dropped Liston in eight, Cooke stood by his side in the ring, as Clay sang his praises.

In the summer of 1964, Cooke donated "A Change Is Gonna Come" to the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) for the album, The Stars Salute Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King would later ask him to participate in a civil rights benefit concert, a request reserved for the artists having the greatest impact on the people.

The summer of 1964 also marked Cooke's return to the Copa. He was no longer trying to win the audience, but he was determined to awe them. He rehearsed endlessly. In the Sam Cooke: Legend documentary, Bobby Womack recalls "he rehearsed, and he rehearsed, until he knew the songs backwards ... and he said, 'I'm gonna get them fuckers this time.'" And on July 7-8, he got them. He took it a step further when he sang the song heard at sit-ins and marches all over the country, "This Little Light Of Mine." He sang it to the audience that, perhaps, needed to hear it most.

On December 11, 1964 Cooke walked into the home of friend and musician Lou Rawls, where Rawls was sitting in a room with his baby and dog. When Cooke walked in, the baby started crying, the dog walked out. It was as though they sensed the tragedy that was about to come. Hours later, in the middle of the night, Rawls received a phone call. Cooke had been shot. He was dead.

The stories surrounding Cooke's death travel in many poisonous directions. At it's core, however, the story is as simple as it is devastating. Cooke went to a motel with a woman named Elisa Boyer. At some point during the night, Boyer ran off with his clothes and money. He went looking for her. Believing she went into motel manager Bertha Franklin's office, he looked for her there. When Franklin refused to let him in, Cooke broke the door down, and Franklin shot him three times. That simply, that foolishly, he was gone.

The things that make great legends, are often the same things that make great, great tragedies.

Cooke's funeral in Chicago was immense. Fans stood outside the AR Leak & Sons Funeral Home on Cottage Grove Ave for hours, in below zero temperatures. There were an estimated 10,000 of them. Cooke's brother and father were turned away at first amid the chaos, and they had to fight their way in. When Cooke's wife and daughter met similar difficulties, they were lifted over the crowd.

The legacy that Sam Cooke leaves behind is large and towering. He helped to shape music, a movement and a culture. He leaves behind a golden voice, and an ocean of songs. He leaves behind a lesson in the art of observation, and the power of action. He leaves behind an epic, and a swan song. "A Change Is Gonna Come" is said to have been played at the funeral of Malcolm X, and at the home of Rosa Parks upon the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. More recently, it was played at the inaugural celebration in Washington, when we elected our first black president.

Audio & images © ABKCO Music & Records, Inc.
Sam on stool photo © ABKCO Music & Records, Inc.
Billboard photo © ABKCO Music & Records, Inc.
This feature is supported in part by a Community News Matters grant from The Chicago Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
— Brian Leli
About Transmission:
Transmission is the music section of
Gapers Block.
It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city.
Editor: Anne Holub,
Transmission staff inbox:
submitted by
Bob Merlis / M.F.H.
606 N. Larchmont Bl. #102
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Complete article appears by kind permission of Brian Leli -- thanks, Brian! (kk)

And special thanks to ABKCO Records, who provided this link to download Sam Cooke's all-time classic "A Change Is Gonna Come":

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Few More Of Your Recent Comments

Running a few more of your recent comments today ... this weekend Forgotten Hits salutes Sam Cooke and Black History Month ... you'll definitely want to check this out. Meanwhile ...

Hi Kent ...
I hope things are good with you.
It seems that the fire was confined to one floor.
I worked at Cameo many times with Bunny Sigler, The Formations, Len Barry and others. When I worked there, Joe Tarsia was in charge of the recording studio.
The Cameo studios were across the street from our offices.
I will try and get some comments from Chubby.

Meanwhile, I am attaching some photos of the studio.
Lots of love,
John Madara

Thanks, John! I invited Joe Tarsia to share a few words with our readers (as he has in the past) but haven't heard anything back yet. Would LOVE to hear from Chubby. Based on the official statement released by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, it sounds like they will be in the rebuilding process very soon. What a shame that some of this priceless memorabilia is now gone forever. I still can't believe that someone would deliberately set fire to this incredible building. (kk)

I found some interesting articles in the local Doylestown, PA (suburban Philly) papers on the origin of dance tv shows in Philly.
'Bandstand,' Dick Clark offered best of two worlds
07 Feb 2010 — The Intelligencer --
Watching Dick Clark on his annual New Year's Eve TV broadcast a few weeks ago, it hardly seemed possible that more than 53 years had flown by since my first meeting with him in 1956.
Then, Clark was simply a young disc jockey hosting both a morning radio show at WFIL in West Philadelphia - in a studio that I recall being only slightly larger than a telephone booth - and an increasingly popular afternoon show called "Bandstand" in a much larger area.
The idea behind the latter had come from a radio show that had been produced on WPEN in Philly for more than a decade.
Hosted by Joe Grady and Ed Hurst, the show was called "950 Club." Grady and Hurst would spin records in front of a live teenage audience, conduct what amounted to a dance party and interview celebrity recording artists.
Between 1945 and 1955, "950 Club" had been the top-rated radio program in Philadelphia and was the first teen dance show aired in the United States. Its dance-party format had slowly evolved from one or two curious teens who simply wandered into the studio and began to dance to a time when more than 3,000 had shown up to welcome a popular guest recording star.
In 1955, and inspired by the success of "950 Club," programmers at WFIL-TV decided it was time to try the identical format on television.
They asked Grady and Hurst to host it.
Afraid of losing their top stars to television, WPEN's management refused to let them go, and Bob Horn, another local radio DJ, was given the assignment.
The new show was named "Bandstand."
Despite its immediate success, Horn - beset with personal problems - lasted barely a year. It was then that the 26-year-old Clark was offered the job.
It would change his life forever.
Like Grady and Hurst, and Horn before him, Clark would spin records and interview popular recording artists before a live teenage audience.
Unlike the earlier radio show, "Bandstand" would quickly develop a cast of regulars - kids who would show up every day and become well known to others watching at home. A few of them would soon achieve a brief celebrity status of their own.
By the end of its first year, "Bandstand" was on its way to spectacular success, and by the summer of 1957, it was renamed "American Bandstand" and televised coast to coast. It would soon become one of the country's best-known TV shows.
My association with Clark began shortly after he had taken over the "Bandstand" reins from Horn.
Following a prolonged labor strike, the daily newspaper the Levittown Evening Press had just folded, and three of the Press' former employees - Bill Smith (who later founded the Piggy Back Shopper and Ad World), Mickey Courtenay (a former ad salesman) and myself - decided to try our own hand at publishing.
Our venture would be a weekly newspaper for Philadelphia area high school students called Teen Times.
Opening a small office in downtown Philly, we went to work. For our first issue, I decided to write a feature story on the new "Bandstand."
Asked to help arrange some interviews at the station, Joe Zimmerman, WFIL-TV's young promotions director, offered me an even better idea: If I would allow our story to be written and bylined by Clark, he would ask him to promote Teen Times during several upcoming broadcasts.
For three aspiring young publishers, it was the perfect marriage.
Having a feature article bylined by the city's most popular disc jockey appear in our first issue would help give credibility to our new publication in the minds of our young readers.
And there was certainly no better means of getting word of our new publication to the area's teens than by Dick Clark personally promoting it live on "Bandstand."
Zimmerman then suggested that we extend our arrangement and have Clark's bylined column appear in every issue. In turn, we would receive live promotions on the "Bandstand" show several days each week.
It was an offer we couldn't refuse - and we began to seek ways for our publication to tie in with "Bandstand" and its many celebrity guests.
In those years, a number of America's top recording artists had grown up in South Philly. When a particular song became a hit, I would visit the singer's home, interview the parents and the neighbors and occasionally borrow photos from the family album. This usually made for a good feature story.
While the new hit song was being played, Clark would distribute our newspapers to his young audience while briefly describing what was in them.
The cameras would then zoom in for close-ups of individual teens reading copies of Teen Times over their shoulders as they danced, and the next few days would bring us a deluge of new subscriptions.
In each weekly column, Clark would write about his show and the teens who were his guests. He would reveal information about his favorite recording artists, recommend a new movie and occasionally even offer advice to his young readers.
Because of his increasingly busier schedule, many of our meetings to discuss column ideas or promotions would take place in his tiny radio studio, often squeezed between record promoters and agents.
Unfortunately, for financial reasons, we were eventually forced to close the doors at Teen Times.
Yet, in retrospect, it was a memorable experience, especially our work with Dick Clark and "Bandstand" - even if most of our meetings with him took place in such cramped quarters.
Jerry Jonas' column appears in the Life section every Sunday.
"'Bandstand,' Dick Clark offered best of two worlds" -- The Intelligencer --
07 Feb 2010

Grady and Hurst's ultimate success formula
14 Feb 2010 — The Intelligencer:
A week ago, I described how Dick Clark's "Bandstand" TV show had its roots in the "950 Club," an extremely popular Philadelphia radio show in the 1940s and '50s.
A number of readers called and e-mailed, requesting more information on the subject.
As a high school student in the late '40s, I had shared one afternoon activity with just about every other kid in the greater Philadelphia area. Whenever we had access to a radio, the dial was generally tuned to WPEN-AM and the "950 Club."
The show's hosts, Joe Grady and Ed Hurst, played all the latest hit records, conducted a teen dance party and interviewed most of the recording artists of that era.
On any given day, Nat "King" Cole, Jo Stafford, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Patti Page, Doris Day, Frankie Laine, Pearl Bailey, Perry Como or any of their contemporaries might be in the studio, along with an audience of dancing teenagers.
It was the first teen dance show in the United States, and it was as popular with adult listeners as it was with youngsters.
Years later, when "Bandstand," Dick Clark's nationally televised show, was at its peak, Clark openly acknowledged that the idea behind his show had been taken from Grady and Hurst's "950 Club" format.
Late in their careers, Grady and Hurst reminisced with me about their early days together and the joy the "950 Club" had brought to each of them.
Considering its ultimate success, the "950 Club" had a very quiet beginning.
In 1944, Grady had been paired on the show with several different staff announcers.
"For the first few broadcasts, between records, we just kibitzed," he recalled. "Then one day, we started talking about different high schools.
The next thing we knew, kids were picking up on it, and a few of them started coming down to our studio. They just stood outside that window and watched us play records. Eventually, we invited them in, and some of them began to dance. That was the beginning."
In 1948, 19-year-old Ed Hurst joined the station's staff and was teamed with Grady. They couldn't possibly have imagined it then, but they would be together for the next 50 years.
Soon, the kids coming to the show began bringing friends with them. Often, there would be 30 to 35 teenagers in the tiny studio - a lot of them dancing. When the crowds of kids became too much, the station owners were forced to build a new studio a few blocks down the street.
And still the crowds continued to swell.
"The biggest crowd we ever had," Hurst remembered, "was when we introduced Johnny Ray's big hit of the early 1950s, 'Cry.' We had over 3,000 kids who came to see Ray - and there was only room for about 150."
Between 1946 and 1955, Grady and Hurst's "950 Club" was consistently the No. 1 afternoon radio program in the Philadelphia area.
Aware of its popularity and its potential on TV, in 1952, the management at WFIL (Channel 6) decided it would like to televise the show.
However, afraid of losing their two top performers to television, the radio station's management refused Grady and Hurst permission to do it. The TV show was launched without them - and called "Bandstand."
Initially hosted by another local radio DJ, Bob Horn (with a sidekick, Lee Stewart), it soon became a mirror image of the "950 Club."
By 1956, Stewart had been dropped, and Horn, due to numerous personal problems, was replaced by Clark, then a young DJ at WFIL radio.
Soon, "Bandstand" would make Clark a national celebrity.
Convinced that TV was a key to the future, in 1955, Hurst finally persuaded Grady that they should buy out their radio contracts.
"It was a dramatic move, to give up a No. 1 show on radio to make a move into television, when we didn't know what was going to happen," Hurst said.
Leaving WPEN and the "950 Club," the two moved to Channel 12 in Wilmington, where they hosted their own teen dance show until the station became part of the Public Broadcasting Service in 1958.
During their time at Channel 12, Grady and Hurst began to host teen dance parties throughout the tri-state area, including weekly record hops at the Edgely Fire House in Bristol Township and at Hugh Carcella Hall in Fairless Hills.
"During those years, parents weren't afraid to send their kids to either of our record hops or into our studios," Hurst remembered. "They knew that there wouldn't be any bad vibes. We had a dress code: The boys had to wear ties and jackets and the girls had to wear dresses. We didn't permit anything else."
Later, Hurst would host weekly TV teenage dance parties from the old South Philadelphia "Aquarama" until it closed in 1969, and then for 20 years from Atlantic City's Steel Pier until it closed in 1976.
In 1970 and '71, dressed in a cowboy outfit (that included a hat previously worn by Tom Mix), and using the pseudonym "Cowboy Ed," Hurst hosted an anthology of classic Western movies called "The Cowboys," a show I wrote and produced, on Channel 29.
In 1981, after an absence of 26 years, Grady and Hurst were asked to re-create the "950 Club" for two weeks as part of WPEN's then-new nostalgia format.
To their surprise and their audience's delight, the show was such an overwhelming success, the initial two weeks extended into a seven-year run, ending only when Grady decided to retire. Hurst continued the show on weekends for several more years.
In addition to his on-air duties, Grady also taught homiletics and communications at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood and was chairman of the school's communications department. He died in October 2000 at the age of 82.
Today, Hurst, 83, lives in quiet retirement in Margate, N.J.
Jerry Jonas' column appears in the Life section every Sunday.
Thanks to American Bandstand and the local talent recording in Philadelphia, Philly became the center of the musical universe there for a few years in the late '50's and early '60's ... SO much talent coming out of that fine city ... making it all the more amazing when "The Philly Sound" re-invented itself in the early '70's thanks to Philadelphia International Records and the team of Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell. A truly exciting time in music. (kk)

Some time ago, we ran a list of the most popular Cameo / Parkway and Gamble and Huff Productions.
According to Fred Bronson's Book "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits", The Top 20 Cameo / Parkway Hits of All-Time are:
1. The Twist - Chubby Checker
2. Pony Time - Chubby Checker
3. 96 Tears - ? and the Mysterians
4. Mashed Potato Time - Dee Dee Sharp
5. Limbo Rock - Chubby Checker
6. The Bristol Stomp - The Dovells
7. Wild One - Bobby Rydell
8. The Wah-Watusi - The Orlons
9. Silhouettes - The Rays
10. So Much In Love - The Tymes
11. Butterfly - Charlie Gracie
12. Slow Twistin' - Chubby Checker
13. South Street - The Orlons
14. You Can't Sit Down - The Dovells
15. Forget Him - Bobby Rydell
16. We Got Love - Bobby Rydell
17. Volare - Bobby Rydell
18. Let's Twist Again - Chubby Checker
19. Don't Hang Up - The Orlons
20. The Fly - Chubby Checker

The Top 20 Songs written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff are:
1. Me And Mrs. Jones - Billy Paul
2. Don't Leave Me This Way - Thelma Houston
3. TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) - MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother) with
The Three Degrees
4. I'm Gonna Make You Love Me - Diana Ross and the Supremes and
The Temptations
5. You'll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine) - Lou Rawls
6. If You Don't Know Me By Now - Simply Red
7. Love Train - The O'Jays
8. When Will I See You Again - The Three Degrees
9. Back Stabbers - The O'Jays
10. If You Don't Know Me By Now - Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
(How on earth does the Simply Red remake come ahead of THIS classic?!?!?)
11. Use Ta Be My Girl - The O'Jays
12. Expressway To Your Heart - The Soul Survivors
13. I Love Music - The O'Jays
14. Now That We Found Love - Heavy D and the Boyz
15. Enjoy Yourself - The Jackson
16. Only The Strong Survive - Jerry Butler
17. Cowboys To Girls - The Intruders
18. Together - Tierra
19. The Love I Lost - Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
20. Break Up To Make Up - The Stylistics
Some AMAZING tracks!!!

What follows is part of an actual phone conversation I had recently with Ronnie Rice, former lead singer of The New Colony Six:
KENT KOTAL: Well, you've got that big fund-raising show coming up in Naperville later this month (with The Cryan' Shames and Dennis Tufano, former lead singer of The Buckinghams).
RONNIE RICE: Yeah, well that's an expensive ticket ... I don't know if I'd even pay $75 to see me!!! Maybe for somebody like Paul McCartney.
KENT KOTAL: lol ... a $75 ticket to a McCartney concert pretty much gets you a seat in the parking lot!

Well, you'll soon have a chance to BUY that ticket ... Macca has announced the first of his upcoming tour dates. McCartney will perform on Sunday, March 28th at The Arena in Phoenix, Arizona and again on Tuesday, March 30th, at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California. Advance tickets (through Paul's website) went on sale this past week with general public tickets becoming available on Sunday. More tour dates are expected to be announced shortly.
Due to overwhelming response a second show has been added for The Hollywood Bowl. McCartney will now perform on both Tuesday, March 30th AND Wednesday, March 31st. In addition, his website has added dates for April 3rd (Sun Life Stadium in Miami, FL) and April 5th (Coliseo De Puerto Rico in Puerto Rico). Meanwhile, the latest Chicagoland rumor has McCartney performing at Wrigley Field this summer! Stay tuned for more details.

And, of course, a short while back we gave you Ringo's tour dates, too, for this year's edition of his All-Starr Band:
June: 24-25 Niagara Falls, ONT Fallsview Casino
26 Bethel, NY Bethel Woods Center
27 Uncasville, CN Mohegan Sun Arena
29 Boston, MA Bank Of America Pavilion
30 Westbury, NY Westbury Theatre
July: 2 Easton, PA State Theatre
3 Atlantic City, NY Caesar's Circus Maximus
5 New Brunswick, NJ State Theater
6 Lancaster, PA American Theater
7 New York, NY Radio City Music Hall
10 Atlanta, Ga Chastain Park
11 Durham, NC Durham Performing Arts Center
13 Clearwater, Fl Ruth Eckerd Hall
15 Hollywood, Fl Hard Rock Arena
17 Saint Augustine, FL St Augustine Amphitheatre
20 Cleveland, OH City Lights Pavilion
21 Canandaigua, NY Sands PAC
23 Windsor, ONT Caesars
24 Hammond, IN Horseshoe Casino
25 Prior Lake, MN Mystic Lake Casino
28 Calgary, ALB Jubilee Theater
30 Spokane, WA Northern Quest Casino
31 Woodinville, Wa Chateau St Michelle
August: 5 Rancho Mirage, CA Agua Caliente Casino
6 San Diego, CA Humphrey's
7 Los Angeles, CA Greek Theatre
With Paul having appeared on Ringo's latest CD, one cannot help but wonder if these two might "cross paths" somewhere on the road this summer. Man, what a show THAT would be!!! Stay tuned!

Hi Kent!
I just wanted to let you and your readers know that I have two concerts coming up next month. If you happen to be in these cities on these dates, come hear me.
The first one features a return to the scene of the crime -- Denver -- where it all started for me.
The other one is in South Carolina where my friend, veteran rocker Jamie Hoover of The Spongetones, will be appearing on the bill with me.
Saturday, March 13 = Denver, Colorado (Swallow Hill, Tuft Theater 877-214-7013) Friday, March 26 = York, South Carolina (Sylvia Theater 803-684-5590)
Call the venues for show times, ticket prices and directions.
For web sites and addresses check out my Gigs Page (
In fact, even if you don't live near either of these cities, we're still working on the possibility of adding more shows and they tend to come up quick. So keep checking the Gigs page. We'll post them as they're confirmed.
For you Denverites who plan to attend the Swallow Hill concert, let me suggest reserving your tickets early. It's a small theatre and I understand tickets are selling fast
Bob Lind
We've just added Knoxville, Tennessee, to the list of shows for March.
Here are the particulars:
Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - The Pilot Light
(show time is 7 p.m.)
106 E. Jackson
Knoxville, TN 37915
With me on the bill is Kim Koehler, a talented local favorite.
Important to note that I'm doing the early show (seven o'clock). The club may also feature another act later that night.
If you're nowhere near Colorado, South Carolina, Oklahoma or Tennessee, keep checking my Gigs Page:
New shows may still come up and I don't want you to miss knowing about them.
Hope to see you at one of these venues.
Bob Lind
If any of our readers make it out to some of Bob's shows, please tell him that you heard about it in Forgotten Hits (and say hello for us!!!) And then be sure to report back to us with a full review!!! (kk)

>>>Austin Roberts ("Rocky," "Something's Wrong With Me") suffered the beginnings of a heart attack two weeks ago and underwent a triple bypass surgery. He is resting in Baptist Hospital in Nashville. (Ron Smith / Tom Diehl)>>>SO sorry to hear this about our music buddy Austin Roberts ... Austin has been SO helpful in spreading the word about Forgotten Hits and what we're trying to do here ... and personally set up my interview with Bobby Hart for the piece posted on the OTHER Forgotten Hits website, We wish you a healthy and speedy recovery, Austin ... from ALL your music friends out here who appreciate all that you've given us and all you have yet to give. Our prayers are with you. (kk)
I was very sorry to hear of Austin Roberts health problems. He has been a great person to know these past few years and his music has spoken for itself for decades. From "One Night Ann" in the 60's thru the Arkade and solo recordings, his music has been great to my ears. I still think of "One Word" as my fave by him. May he continue to recover and be well again soon.
Clark Besch
I haven't seen or heard any updates on his condition ... but I know that his mailbox is full as a couple of attempts to contact him over the past few weeks have bounced back for this very reason.
Austin and I started a Forgotten Hits Interview a few years back ... we're probably about 70% of the way through it ... unfortunately, a TON of stuff was lost during recent computer crashes and viruses (always the FUN part of doing what I do.) It would be great to hear some of his perspective on things NOW if he's feeling up to it. I'd be happy to run a week-long series featuring a lot of Austin's great music from over the years. Hopefully he is well on the road to recovery and will be participating with us again real soon. (kk)
Maybe an appropriate song to play on FH this week is Austin Roberts' early 70's 45, "Life is For Living"? Austin, we all hope you do better every day because your song says it all! Very Grass Roots like, don't you think?

UPDATE: I am very happy to report that I heard from Austin Roberts this week ... he is finally home and on the road to recovery, having completed some necessary rehab before leaving the hospital. My hope is that when he's feeling strong enough to do so, he will grant me the honor of presenting his thoughts to his fans. (Who knows ... this whole experience just might lead to one more great piece of music!!!) Anyway, Austin, the offer still stands ... and it's a sincere one. I would LOVE to present your story to your fans. (kk)

Etta James Hospitalized:
Singer Etta James is in a hospital in Riverside, battling sepsis caused by a urinary tract infection. Donto James, one of the 72-year-old's two sons, also told KTLA that his mother had entered a treatment program about a month ago to shake a dependence on painkillers.
[Updated at 2:20 p.m.: Donto James
tells CNN that Etta is also suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and "right now she is very confused." She was diagnosed last year, he says.]
The music legend's tunes turn up frequently as
audition pieces among the "American Idol" generation -- including earlier this week when leukemia survivor Christian Spear pleased the judges with her rendition of"All I Could Do Was Cry."
James popped up on the gossip scene early last year when, during a concert in Seattle, she
threw out a few choice comments about Beyonce's performance of Etta's song "At Last" for Barack and Michelle Obama during his inauguration.
She later said that
she was going for a laugh while introducing "At Last" and was "feeling left out of something that was basically mine, that I had done every time you look around."
"Dancing With the Stars" invited her in April to
perform her signature tune for its audience.
James has struggled in the past with drugs,
including an addition to heroin that led to a stint in rehab in 1974. She also had gastric bypass surgery in 2003 and lost 200 pounds.
Best wishes for a quick and complete recovery. -- Christie D'Zurilla
UPDATE: Etta James' son said his mother was transferred Tuesday (February 9) to a medical facility in a Los Angeles suburb. The 72 year-old is said to be improving in her fight against serious infections which hospitalized her last month. Donto James says Etta wants to return to performing, but it's unknown how much longer she'll be in the hospital.
-- Ron Smith

Some sad news for all the Johnny Maestro fans out there ... and believe me, there are PLENTY!!!
I received this email today. Remember him in your thoughts and prayers.
-- Bob Hughes
Here is a Johnny Maestro Update --
I received the following message today from several different people confirming what has been a rumor for a while, along with a recent photo which I prefer not to forward on at this time out of respect for Johnny and his privacy. Suffice to say that Johnny Maestro is ill with cancer and is taking a three-month break from performing at this time. He has apparently lost a considerable amount of weight and needs to rest. Read on ...
-- from Ed "Smitty" Smith, production manager for Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge. Messages of encouragement and support can be sent to Johnny and the group through their website at:
Through his gifts and the way he shared them with others, Johnny has brought much happiness to others. We pray for peace, acceptance, and health for Johnny, his wife, Grace, and the entire JM & BB family.

Because we haven't been around much lately, we're a little late with this announcement ... but I wanted to be sure to pass the info along and encourage our readers to head over to The Hit Parade Hall Of Fame Website and cast your votes for your favorites amongst this year's batch of new nominees:
The 2010 Nominees at the Hit Parade Hall of Fame have just been announced:
The nominating committee of the Hit Parade Hall of Fame has announced the 2010 nominees. They are Gordon Lightfoot, Tommy Roe, The Steve Miller Band, Martha & The Vandellas, The Chipmunks, Santana, Bill Withers, The Shirelles, Gerry & The Pacemakers and James Brown.
Fans are encouraged to vote for their favorite nominees that have had two or more top ten hits in the 1950’s, 1960’s and/or 1970’s at the website of the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
That's quite a list this year ... I'm not sure that there's anyone on the list that I WOULDN'T vote for, in fact! After inducting their biggest class ever this year, it'll be interesting to see who makes the cut on this pared down list. (kk)

Writer Bill Dahl has posted an absolutely stellar interview on Dennis Tufano which is this month's feature on his website at:
For a direct link to the interview:
Keep up the great work on this website!
Linda Matlow,
Photographer & Publicist for Dennis Tufano ... and friend of Bill Dahl :-)
re: YOU OK???:
Whew - finally I can get off my knees - I was praying you weren't taken hostage!!! Welcome back!
Lea Mea

Hey Buddy ... take it easy. The amount of work you put into the Forgotten Hits Newsletter is amazing, ALL THE TIME ... WEEK AFTER WEEK ... YEAR AFTER YEAR ... to tell you the truth, I was WONDERING when you were going to need a vacation, because it's obvious to EVERYONE I'm sure, that you NEED one now and then.
I have thanked you before for your great work Kent, and I know that EVERY ONE of your readers who knows this newsletter knows how much effort you put into it to make it as accurate as possible and to try to answer EVERY comment and question to the Max. So I'm going to THANK YOU again, and let you know that if you want ME to take over and write nothing but MOONRAKER STORIES for a couple of Issues, just let me know ... lol.
( BIG lol on THAT one ... lol )
Your Fan,
Veeder Van Dorn
Thanks, man ... I've received a number of emails from FH Readers (and fans) wondering if I was physically sick or just sick of blogging!!! (lol) Truth is, maybe a little bit of both ... with so much time away from the computer (and free time to think), it's helped to set the wheels to turning as to just where we may take this next ... perhaps there is another level that might make for a more logical, interesting and challenging set. Who knows ... we'll see ... even reading through three weeks of now mostly out-of-date emails did little to inspire me to get back in the saddle again ... it just feels like it's already been done ... so stay tuned ... ya just never know what may happen next! (kk)

So what's next? What's coming up? You must be cooking up SOMETHING!!!

Hiya Kent ... feel better, man!
Keep up the INCREDIBLE job you do! Maybe a magazine or at least a RADIO version of your show is in your future ... syndicated ... just sayin' ...
Big Jay Sorensen
I'm getting there ... VAST improvement these past couple of days. (Why didn't they just give me THIS stuff three weeks ago?!?!?) Good news is it sounds like many of you spent some time perusing the websites, catching up on some missed articles and / or re-reading some old favorites. Let's face it, there's a TON of stuff on there to be found and digested (and with all of our memories starting to go, you probably don't remember most of it in the first place!!! lol)
Anyway, I'll continue to post what I can, when I can ... as I said, some MAJOR catching up to do (and I'm concentrating on those emails and topics that still feel the most relevant ... who knows, if there's enough of the OTHER stuff, it just might prompt a couple more of our "Leftovers" pages!) Meanwhile, I'm working on a couple of other ideas and oldies-related side projects, so hopefully I'll be able to share some of this with you in the not-too-distant future.
Thanks again for your concerns and well-wishes ... I appreciate it and it means a lot. Still have a number of "real life" issues to sort out, too ... but I'll be back whenever I can be ... let's just leave it at that for right now, ok??? (kk)
Hi Kent,
I meant to ask earlier, and please forgive me if I missed it, but what's been going on with you? Whatever your troubles, I hope they are small ... I certainly enjoy what you do.
Jim Shea / Y103.9
Thanks, Jim, that means a lot. If last year's motto was "Survive '09" then I guess this year we've got to "Do It Again In 2010" ... had some health issues for about three weeks but seem to be doing better now ... just wasn't inclined or inspired to sit at the computer (or really able to for more than five or ten minutes without needing to go lay down for a while!!!) ... but I think things are on the upswing again right now ... as I said earlier, with so much time to think lately, I've given a lot of consideration to where we may want to go with this next ... and who knows, some type of radio tie-in just might be the answer! (kk)
Dear Kent,
I just found your cool website about the Voodoo Child section. I'm known as a Jimi Hendrix fanatic in France. For someone like you who's not a fan, you really did quite a great job. Congratulations!
Best regards
>>> I put in my JIMI HENDRIX album and my son said
"Daddy, who's that ?"
And I said "Well son, that's God".
-- Robert Plant
Thanks for the kind words ... clearly, Jimi still has quite a loyal following, as evidenced by his name still coming up here regularly ... and the advance anticipation for some hot new releases! In fact, we've stock-piled so much recent Jimi Hendrix material that we just may put out a "Special Edition" Jimi Hendrix email. If anyone out there would like a copy of this, drop me a note as this will be a special mailing going ONLY to those who request a copy. (kk)

What a great site! And it just keeps getting better and better! Way to go, my brother!

All the best,
Dr. Robert (Bob Rush, D.C.)
The U.S. Beat
The Beat Magazine
Thanks, Dr. Bob! (kk)
I know I said I was going to be REAL careful about what I promised was coming up in Forgotten Hits (because lately it seems like half the time we aren't always able to deliver) ... but we've got a couple of cool things already in the works that we wanted to tell you about.
This week it's a VERY Special Forgotten Hits Tribute to Sam Cooke -- a nice little tie-in to Black History Month, too (which we nearly missed this year due to our limited postings)
And NEXT weekend, we're doing a FH tie-in with The True Oldies Channel's "Remakes Weekend". (We've actually done some "behind-the-scenes" work on a couple of Scott Shannon's upcoming "Specialty Weekend Features" and we'll be sure to keep you posted as they come up.) This weekend The True Oldies Channel is doing a Twin Spins Weekend -- back-to-back hits by all of your favorite oldies artists. Next weekend, it'll be one of their most popular series, The Remakes Weekend, featuring the original, often "non-hit" versions of songs followed by the big hit versions that we all know and love ... and we've added some great titles to the list this time around. (More in-depth features will be featured on our website next weekend, too!) You can always "Listen Live" here:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More On Philly

Some of your early comments regarding the recent arson fire at Philadelphia International Records:

Kent -
Not sure if you're on Randy Alexander's list, but here's the press release with reaction from Gamble & Huff. Sad that that someone feels the need to do this.
Be Well,

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and Hitmakers Eager to Uncover Cause of Blaze which Destroyed their Home of 40 Years; Vow to Rebuild Major Tourist Attraction Where Michael Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, the O’Jays, Lou Rawls, Chubby Checker and Dozens More Created Worldwide Smash Hits

PHILADELPHIA – Describing the burned-out remains of their historic “Sound of Philadelphia” offices as “total devastation,” legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter-producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff held a press conference today to express their outrage and sorrow from seeing the iconic birthplace of Philly Soul Music ravaged early Sunday by a fire termed “suspicious” by officials.

Despite the extensive damage to the third-floor at 309 S. Broad St., where the Philadelphia International Records (PIR) offices and recording studio are located and the fire apparently originated, Gamble & Huff vow to rebuild their home of 40 years, a major tourist attraction where Michael Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, the O’Jays, Lou Rawls, Chubby Checker and dozens more created worldwide smash hits.

“Ain’t no stoppin’ us now,” said the seminal R&B songwriting team, citing the title of the McFadden & Whitehead classic that was part of the Gamble-Huff/PIR music machine which generated over 100 Gold and Platinum records and over 70 #1 hits, including “Love Train” by the O’Jays, “Me & Mrs. Jones” (Billy Paul), “if You Don’t” Me By Now” (Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes) and “Enjoy Yourself” by the Jacksons.

“Our space has been violated by someone who chose to set fire to it,” said Gamble & Huff in a joint statement. “But what’s most important is that we will build it again and continue to rebuild. Nothing is going to stop us.”

Following a preliminary survey of the monumental brick building, which they first took over in 1970 with legendary producer and songwriter Thom Bell in 1970, Gamble & Huff estimated they have lost approximately 40 percent of the memorabilia that adorned the walls, filled their offices and was kept in storage closets. The losses include numerous Gold and Platinum records and PIR’s personal inventory of CDs by Teddy Pendergrass, Michael Jackson and the Jacksons, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls.

“Some of the things we lost in the fire are irreplaceable,” said Gamble & Huff. “We will know better in the days ahead what our total losses will be.”

Gamble & Huff consider it a “blessing” that the third floor recording studio, where countless hit songs were partially created in conjunction with Sigma Sound Studios, appears to have suffered the least damage and may have been completely saved. Its functionality will ultimately be determined by fire officials and PIR technicians.

In recent years, the Philadelphia International Record offices has become a major tourist destination in the City of Philadelphia. From school children to celebrity VIPs, Philadelphia International Records has continually hosted visitors eager to see the historic rooms and hallways where the legendary “Sound of Philadelphia” music was created. The offices and recording studios also have been the site of several film documentaries and television specials and media visits, as well as special receptions, including a recent event honoring Motown founder and friend Berry Gordy. Gamble & Huff also originated their recent radio series on Sirius XM from the third floor recording studios.

As the corporate office for Gamble & Huff, the building has been serving primarily as the source of the vast music catalog’s worldwide licensing. Their music has been featured prominently in television programs ("The Apprentice"), films ("The Nutty Professor") and advertising spots (Coors, Verizon, Old Navy, The Gap) for more than 30 years, entering the musical DNA of contemporary culture

Prior to the PIR era, this also was the building where Chubby Checker recorded “The Twist” and Dee Dee Sharp recorded “The Mashed Potato” as the home of the legendary Cameo-Parkway record label.

Gamble & Huff are determined to “get to the bottom of this” to find out who was responsible and why this “suspicious” fire broke out in the building that “has been our home for the last 40 years and also has been a refuge for so many other artists and singers. It’s been a tremendous part of our lives.”

“The No. 1 thing that went through our minds as we walked through the facility is that thankfully, no one was hurt. After all the years our building has been there, we’ve never had any problems that come close to this. The devastation is just horrible. It’s unbelievable.”

Gamble & Huff wrote over 3,000 songs within 35 years, including R&B #1 hits, pop #1 hits, gold and platinum records, Grammy winners and BMI songwriters' awards honorees. Featured prominently in television programs ("The Apprentice"), films ("The Nutty Professor") and advertising spots (Verizon, Old Navy, The Gap) for more than 30 years, Gamble and Huff's songs have entered the musical DNA of contemporary culture. In fact, one of their songs is played on the radio somewhere in the world every 13.5 minutes. With a stable core of artists led by the O'Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, MFSB and the Three Degrees, Gamble and Huff co-founded Philadelphia International Records and created monster hits almost from the first day of its inception. Songs they have written and produced together, like "Back Stabbers," "Love Train," "For The Love Of Money," "If You Don't Know Me By Now," "Cowboys to Girls," "Don't Leave Me This Way," "Enjoy Yourself," "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," "Only the Strong Survive" and "TSOP," have received songwriters' awards from Broadcast Music International (BMI). All told, the Gamble-Huff/PIR music machine has generated over 100 Gold and Platinum records and over 70 #1 hits.

In 1999, four years after being inducted into the National Academy of Songwriters' Hall of Fame, Gamble & Huff were honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences with the Trustees Award for their extensive body of work, both as producer and songwriter, and their contribution to the entire fabric of popular music. In 2008, Gamble & Huff were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Gamble & Huff also have appeared on American Idol in a show devoted entirely to their music, and have been inducted twice into the Dance Music Hall of Fame and the R&B Hall of Fame.

Randy Alexander - Randex Communications

This is GREAT, Kent!
Give me a day or so to try to get a one or two line response from all the acts touring as part of the Cameo / Parkway Reunion. I'm going to send you "THE" very first Demo ever cut by Cameo and Bernie Lowe ... of BUTTERFLY -- the label's first big hit ... which hit # 1 on Billboard by March of 1957. Of course, Cameo Records (later Cameo - Parkway) began with Charlie Gracie, Sr., and I don't believe anyone at that time really knew this would become the largest independent label in the United States until Motown eclipsed them by 1963 / 64. It's amazing to review the number of artists who walked through that door of opportunity ... and how the Cameo - Parkway Era would evolve into Philly International and another historic chapter in pop music history! -- Chas., Jr

I also heard from film maker Shawn Swords, who told me that they are currently working on a "Wages Of Spin" sequel that will pick up the story in 1963 - 1964 and carry it forward through the early '70's when Philadelphia International Records, led by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell, reinvented "The Sound Of Philadelphia" for a whole new generation of fans. We can't WAIT to see this one ... please keep us posted, Shawn! (kk)

>>>I remember my father Hy telling me how he got a call from Bernie Lowe early in Cameo / Parkway's history, and that they were just about to record this new group called the 'Rays' and a song called "Silhouettes". It wasn't but less than an hour later that Bernie showed up at the station with an acetate of the recording and five one hundred dollar bills. After Hy played it on the cue monitor and liked it, he played it on the air. In fact he played it three time in a row. The phones lit up, and the song was an instant smash. (Sam Lyt)

OK, here's the scoop on this one. "Silhouettes" was first recorded for the "XYZ" Record Company. (No, that's not a joke ... that was the REAL name of the company ... a single was pressed as XYZ 102 in 1957!) It didn't go anywhere and the track was ultimately re-recorded. (Prior to this recording, The Rays cut some tracks for Chess Records, which also failed to make the charts.) The charted hit single was INDEED released on Cameo (Cameo 117) and it went all the way to #3 on the Billboard Chart later that same year ... one of the first big doo-wop hits (and a classic ever since!) You are correct in that Frank Slay and Bob Crewe wrote and produced the song. According to the liner notes from the Cameo / Parkway CD Box Set, Bernie Lowe purchased the completed master from Crewe and Slay and released it on his Cameo label. (Maybe the master was cut at Swan??? Frank Slay recorded for the label ... and also wrote or co-wrote many of Freddy Cannon's hits ... so I suppose THAT's a possibility ... but in either event, it was Cameo Records who enjoyed the hit.) kk

By the way, I found this piece in an old Jerry Osborne "Mr. Music" column on this same topic:

DEAR JERRY: Who were members of the Rays, the vocal group who did “Silhouettes”? What other songs did they make?
— Karen from Glendale, Calif.

DEAR KAREN: Since a fellow Californian, Aana Pregliasco, of San Jose, asks almost exactly the same question, let's answer two for the price of one.
The featured vocalist you hear on “Silhouettes” is Harold “Hal” Miller. Other members of the Rays are Walter Ford, David (or Davey) Jones, and Harry James.
“Silhouettes” (Cameo 117), issued in late 1957, reached No. 1 on countless regional surveys, but stalled at No. 3 on Billboard.
Though not generally regarded a 1950s classic equal to “Silhouettes,” the flip side, “Daddy Cool,” got a tremendous amount of air play and charted right along with “Silhouettes.”
Neither of the follow-up Cameo singles landed at any position on any of the charts. They are “Triangle” (Cameo 128) a “Silhouettes” knock-off, and a smooth version of “Rags to Riches” (Cameo 133).
The Rays never had another hit in the '50s, though they did manage a pair of minor “moon” hits in the early '60s: “Mediterranean Moon” (XYZ 605) and “Magic Moon (Clair De Lune)” (XYZ 607).
IZ ZAT SO? As you see from today's musical ramblings, the two Rays hits from the '60s are on the XYZ label. Interestingly, “Silhouettes” first came out on XYZ (102) in mid-'57, but without success. Only when Cameo picked the tune up for national distribution did it hit pay dirt.
The XYZ original can now fetch $100 to $200 — about 10 times that of the Cameo single.

Hi Ya Kent ...
I would like to add a very close friend of mine to the mailing list ... we worked together for many years together here in Delaware, and like me, he is an oldies FREAK!!!! He will love the great things you do for all of us oldies lovers.
I sent him the mailing about the Philly Int. fire. He's from that area. He was bummed, but quite impressed with the attention you gave to the story.
Thanks Kent ... and keep up the GREAT work!
Thanks for the recommendation! Hope your buddy continues to enjoy Forgotten Hits! (kk)

And THIS update just in from Ron Smith:
City man charged in record-company fire
By Troy Graham
Inquirer Staff Writer
Investigators said a man charged yesterday with setting the Sunday-morning fire at Philadelphia International Records had been so drunk that they were amazed he had not passed out and perished in the flames.
Firefighters had to rescue 27-year-old Chris Cimini from the third floor of the building, at Broad and Spruce Streets.
Cimini, of the 2700 block of South Fairhill Street, was treated at a hospital, questioned, and released Sunday. A warrant for his arrest was issued later, and he surrendered with his lawyer yesterday.
The fire destroyed gold records and priceless photos, and damaged the building where artists such as Teddy Pendergrass and Patti LaBelle recorded some of their hits.
Chuck Gamble, a company vice president and nephew of songwriter Kenny Gamble's, estimated damage was "in the millions."
The fire spared the recording studio that spawned the Sound of Philadelphia, its walls covered in their original orange shag carpet.
The studio's master recordings are kept in a vault outside the city.
Cimini had no affiliation with the record company, owned by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell.
In fact, police said, Cimini appears to have believed he was "somewhere familiar," such as a friend's apartment building, when he arrived at the record company about 6 a.m. Sunday after a night of drinking in Center City.
Surveillance video shows him knocking and banging on the door, and "acting intoxicated, because he is intoxicated," said Police Capt. John Gallagher of East Detectives and the Arson Response Team.
Eventually, Cimini kicked the door until he broke the glass and squirmed inside, Gallagher said.
Once inside, police said, Cimini set off a fire extinguisher and ignited items in a merchandize storage room about 7:30 a.m.
The extinguisher set off an alarm five to 10 minutes before Cimini set fire to the storage room, investigators said.
Gallagher would not say where Cimini believed he was or why he allegedly vandalized and torched the place.
He said Cimini was "cooperative to a degree" but declined to discuss what he had told investigators.
Gallagher said that Cimini had used a lighter to guide him around the darkened building, but that the fire had not started accidentally.
Cimini was charged with arson, burglary, and other offenses. Gallagher said he did not know the name of Cimini's lawyer, and court records were not available yesterday.
Gallagher also said that he didn't know Cimini's blood-alcohol level, but that he had been "intoxicated to the point where we were amazed . . . he didn't fall asleep."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fire Tears Apart Philadelphia International Records, Former Home To Cameo / Parkway Records in the 1960's

We were very saddened to hear about the fire that ripped through the building that has been home to Philadelphia International Records since the early '70's ... and formerly housed the legendary Cameo / Parkway Records Label in the 1960's over the weekend.

Thanks to a couple of Forgotten Hits Readers, (Thank You Again, Rich and Mamie!!!), Frannie and I were invited to take a private tour of these facilities a couple of years ago. The musical history recorded inside those walls is unparalleled ... what Motown was to Detroit, Cameo / Parkway and then later Philadelphia International Records were to the city of Philadelphia ... they truly created "The Sound Of Philadelphia" that came out of ALL of our radios back in the '60's and '70's.

We've done two extensive series on The History Of Cameo / Parkway Records in Forgotten Hits ... and over the years have shared personal memories from many of the artists and folks behind the scenes in making some of this great music.
Tapping the seemingly limitless talent of its local citizens, Philly truly became the center of the musical universe for a while and, coupled with the success of American Bandstand, the eyes and ears of the world were focused on the East Coast Sound. As such, much of the great music of this era was first broken by Philadelphia deejays ... if THEY thought it was a hit, it generally was.

I first heard about the fire through one of our readers, Tony Waitekus, who sent us a news clip link for what was, at that time, a breaking story in Philadelphia:

I then found this announcement posted on Ron Smith's OldiesMusic.Com website:
A fire Sunday (February 21) caused extensive damage to the Philadelphia studios used by Parkway Records to record Chubby Checker's "The Twist" as well as Cameo Records artists like Bobby Rydell and later the Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff-owned Philadelphia International artists, including "TSOP" by MFSB and "When Will I See You Again" by the Three Degrees. One man was rescued from the building with minor injuries and firemen said that even though they had to cut a hole in the roof to battle the blaze, every effort was made to spare the memorabilia-- including gold records-- inside. The building is not designated as a landmark and there has been speculation about building a high-rise on the site.

Having personally seen first hand the memorabilia contained inside those walls, I cannot
fathom how arsonists could even think to destroy such a legendary, musical landmark. Our heartfelt condolences go out to ALL of the artists who laid down tracks here ... and to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, recently inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, who have kept the music and the legend alive for all these years.

Me and Kenny

Here are a couple of follow-up stories reported by the press:
February 22nd, 2010: Fire Rips Through Philadelphia International Records HQ; Master Tapes Safe (Whew).
As you may have heard, a fire tore through the iconic Gamble & Huff-founded Philadelphia International Records studios and offices at Broad and Spruce — a place where such legends as Teddy Pendergrass, Chubby Checker, Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, and many others have recorded songs — early Sunday morning. The good news is that PIR’s thousands of master tapes are stored in a “secret underground vault” in a different location, PIR executive vice president Chuck Gamble (Kenny’s nephew) tells KYW1060, so the damage was certainly minimized.
The fire is considered suspicious in nature; one man who was found in the building at the time of the blaze is hospitalized and being questioned. Says Gamble: “It appears that someone has broken into the building. They couldn’t get through our fire escape. That was secure. The doors were secure. They would have to come through the roof, and somehow get from the roof into our building. Probably in the wee hours of the morning. Probably around, closer to 7 when the fire happened.”
-- Philadelphia Weekly

Philadelphia International Records is Philadelphia’s true historical asset; you can forget about any cracked bell or old torn parchment. The orange shagged studio is where Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass, and other R&B stars birthed the Sound of Philadelphia. And while a fire on February 21st destroyed 40% of the buildings’ memorabilia, the legendary recording space miraculously survived.
The fire, which started just before 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, ignited on the third floor. An unknown man was treated for burns, but was released uncharged. Officials aren’t quite sure how the man had gotten into the building, and neither does co-owner Kenny Gamble, who said the man had no business with the company or any of the owners and went on to add that the venue is normally locked down like “Fort Knox”.
As for damage, several gold and platinum records had been destroyed, but the identity of those hadn’t yet been discerned. The owners assured that the company’s 10,000 masters are fine, however, as they are stored safely in a secondary facility. The studio had suffered some damage, but employees mentioned most of it was soot from smoke damage.
In the meantime, temporary offices have been set up elsewhere and has been fielding calls of support from across the globe. Fire officials have began an investigation and a ruling could be made as early as this week. While no cause has been named, Fire Commissioner Lloyd M. Ayers said the blaze was “suspicious.”
-- Consequence Of Sound

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Officials say a two-alarm fire that is considered "suspicious" destroyed about 40 percent of the memorabilia at the home of famed Philadelphia International Records but spared the recording studio that gave birth to the "Sound of Philadelphia."The fire broke out downtown at about 7:30 a.m. Sunday and injured one man, who authorities say was questioned and released.Executive vice president Chuck Gamble says the blaze melted gold and platinum records, but the company's 10,000 master recordings are stored at an underground vault.Philadelphia International Records produced many R&B classics of the 1960s and 1970s. Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle and Teddy Pendergrass are among the musical luminaries to have recorded there with producing team Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

The studio was covered in vintage '70's shag carpeting from floor to ceiling ... every wall "sound-proofed" to capture the very essence of The Philadelphia Sound.

Here's Frannie and I inside the plush studio, sharing a microphone that recorded countless hit vocals over the year ... and me sitting in a chair in the very room where the #1 Billy Paul Hit "Me And Mrs. Jones" was written.

I'm hoping that some of the artists integral to this musical scene will share their memories with our readers in the days to come. Ironically, there's a Cameo / Parkway Reunion Tour going right now, featuring Charlie Gracie, The Orlons, Dee Dee Sharp and The Tymes. Charlie Gracie Jr. files this report:
CHARLIE GRACIE, DEE DEE SHARP, THE TYMES and THE ORLONS, drew nearly a strong house (300-plus) at CANNSTATTER'S CRYSTAL BALLROOM in Northeast Philadelphia (2/13) despite record-breaking snowfalls throughout a week which was not so ... "Wonderful, Wonderful!" Those who attended witnessed a dynamic and rare combination of Rock 'n' Roll, Doo Wop, Rhythm & Blues and Soul --- performed by four legendary acts known around the world ... and still the pride of the Philadelphia! If you missed this one ... look for another -- perhaps this spring! THANKS AGAIN!

Sam Lit, son of revolutionary Philadelphia Jock Hy Lit (who helped to define the very essence of The Philly Sound) was kind enough to file this report:

Philadelphia had many new and unique record companies taking advantage of new and surprising talent on the streets of Philadelphia. Bernie Lowe & Kal Mann were two native Philadelphians and played a major role developing many of these new artists at Cameo / Parkway records and studios on Broad Street in Philadelphia. In fact Broad Street was lined with recording studios and record distributors at the time.
There were so many of these new artists that they would have to record in one or two takes during sessions that were generally limited by the constant demands of the studio time as they were always continually booked and testing and recording new artists.

I remember my father Hy telling me how he got a call from Bernie Lowe early in Cameo / Parkway's history, and that they were just about to record this new group called the 'Rays'
and a song called "Silhouettes". It wasn't but less than an hour later that Bernie showed up at the station with an acetate of the recording and five one hundred dollar bills. After Hy played it on the cue monitor and liked it, he played it on the air. In fact he played it three time in a row. The phones lit up, and the song was an instant smash.

In fact, practically everything that was recorded at Cameo Parkway usually arrived at the station in the same fashion. However, Hy did not accept everything as being air worthy and was very select at what he played. His ratings bear that out. But what he did play usually became an instant overnight smash. And all the record companies knew that.

Hy was very popular and dominated AM radio in the 50's and 60's, so naturally. if you were involved in recording music and you got Hy Lit to play it, you probably had a hit on your hands. Needless to say when Hy was on the air it was a venerable circus of promotion men at the radio station, each trying to top one another with prods and perks to entice Hy to play their record first. There was always new music coming out and such was the dawn of Rock n Roll.

Len Barry is my uncle and was the lead singer of the 'Dovells' on the Cameo / Parkway label, recorded at the Famous Cameo / Parkway studios on Broad Street. Needless to say. he had the inside track to my father.

Many years later, after Len Barry left the Dovells and went solo, he began producing. In 1969, time was booked at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia and he began writing, producing, recording and arranging a session under the name 'The Electric Indian'. This was an all instrumental musical album composition with the 45 release to be a song called "Keem-O-Sabe". When the session was complete after two weeks or so, Lenny was handing out the checks to the 12 or so musicians that he had hand picked from throughout Philadelphia for his recording session. Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff were kicking around and walking the halls at Sigma Studios at the time. They practically witnessed Lenny's entire Electric Indian recording session. Practically before the musicians got up and left to cash their checks, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff signed most of those musicians to a recording contract to be the house band for a new record company that they wanted to form. They named their house band MFSB. They named their record company Philadelphia International Records. Less than a year later, they were picked up in a distribution deal with CBS records. The rest is history.

Daryl Hall was one of those musicians Lenny picked for the Electric Indian, but he declined to sign and formed his own group instead.

Bernie Binnick of Swan records and my father Hy Lit, formed a label called Marmaduke, Inc. records to back the Electric Indian sessions under a shell company, Ben Sam, inc. (for Benna, my sister and Sam, me ... Marmaduke was the affectionate term my father called my mother).

Lenny is credited as writer / publisher under the name Len Borisoff, his real name, as well as the name Uniman, on the album (My mother's maiden name). Hy couldn't have his name on records because of his broadcast influence on the air.

Keen-O-Sabe reached the top 20 nationally. The flip side of the 45 was called Broad Street. Marmaduke records was quickly bought by United Artists when Keem-O-Sabe charted.

Sam Lit
President / CEO
Hy Lit Radio Technologies Inc.

We'll be sharing more of your comments in the days to come. Got a memory or two to share with our readers? Just drop us a line at