Friday, March 12, 2010

The Cheezy Easy Listening Song Of The Day

The other day I mentioned Scott Shannon's popular new feature on The True Oldies Channel.

Each afternoon he features a suggestion from one of his listeners for "The Cheezy Easy-Listening Song Of The Day" ... songs that originally charted on Billboard's Soft Rock / Easy Listening Chart but then somehow crossed over to the popular Top 40 Rock And Roll Stations, too ... and, for better or for worse, became part of our social consciousness in the process.

You know the kind of songs I'm talking about: Honey ... Dominique ... Ringo ... It Must Be Him ... 1900 Yesterday ... these are just a few of the songs we've heard him feature recently.
Well, Scott, here's a GREAT suggestion for this feature if you haven't already done it.


The first week of January, 1969, saw a pretty impressive Top 40 on The Billboard Chart:

Motown held down FIVE of the top seven songs in the country:
"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye was #1; "For Once In My Life" by Stevie Wonder was #2; "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" by Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Temptations was the #3 record in the nation ... and The Temptations and The Supremes also held down the #6 and #7 spots with "Cloud Nine" and "Love Child" respectively.

Top 40 Classics like "Soulful Strut" (Young-Holt Unlimited), "Stormy" (The Classics IV), "Hooked On A Feeling" (B.J. Thomas), "Crimson and Clover" (Tommy James and the Shondells), "Son-Of-A-Preacher Man" (Dusty Springfield), "Everyday People" (Sly and the Family Stone), "Hey Jude" (The Beatles) and "The Worst That Could Happen" (by The Brooklyn Bridge) were all making their way up or down the charts.

Heavier tunes like "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf, "Going Up The Country" by Canned Heat and "Touch Me" by The Doors were ALSO sharing space in The National Top 40 that week.
So what the heck were Rene and Rene doing at #14 with "Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero"?!?!?!

Fact is, it's a really pretty song ... and there's a pretty good chance the melody for this one will stick in your head and drive you crazy all day long.

It's just another Cheezy Easy-Listening Song that managed to find a spot on the pop charts thanks to sounding like nothing else that was out at the time! And clearly people bought it ... it peaked at #14 in January of 1969!

Rene and Rene ... those really ARE their names, by the way ... were a Mexican-American duo out of Laredo, Texas. They had one other record that made The Top 40 in Cash Box Magazine back in 1964 ("Angelito" reached #38 in Cash Box and stopped at #43 in Billboard) but "Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero" is the one that really caught on, peaking at #14 and spending a total of twelve weeks on The Billboard Chart. Rene Ornelas and Rene Herrera never hit The Top 100 again.

The duo first teamed up in the early '50's as part of a vocal quartet called The Quarter Notes. (Incredibly the other half of the quartet were a couple of guys name Juan ... Juan Orfila and Juan Garza-Gongora ... so you actually had two Renes and two Juans up on stage performing!)
They landed a record deal with both Deluxe and Dot Records and had a few hits on the Spanish stations but weren't very successful crossing over to the pop charts.

The Quarter Notes split up in 1962 but the two Renes stayed together and continued to record and perform. Rene Ornelas told Wayne Jancik (in his book "One Hit Wonders") that they often had to record a pop song on one side of the record and a Spanish song on the other in order to maintain their audience while still trying to break new ground.

Once "Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero" (which means "The More I Love You") became a hit, Rene and Rene found themselves touring with The Beach Boys and The Grass Roots and were even a part of Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars for a while.

Rene Herrera quit in 1972 but Ornelas stayed in the music industry, eventually writing or arranging music for the likes of Herb Alpert, Vikki Carr, Trini Lopez, Jose Feliciano, Peter Nero and Lawrence Welk. As of 1990 (when Jancik's book was first published), he was still out there performing as a solo act, now calling himself Rene Rene as a means of cashing in on their past success!!! Also in 1990, Ornelas and Herrera were inducted into The Tejano Music Hall of Fame in San Antonio, TX. (Not bad for a One Hit Wonder act!!!)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tying Up A Few More Loose Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, speaking of The Billboard Charts ...


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

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

– Randy Price

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

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

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

1940 - RAY NOBLE - A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square

1944 - DAVID ROSE - Holiday For Strings

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

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

1952 - ALAN DEAN - Luna Rossa

1953 - FRANK CHACKSFIELD - Limelight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, March 10, 2010


No ... not THAT one ... but your mind DOES instinctively go to Ringo Starr at the mere mention of the name, doesn't it???

One of the LEAST likely records to make it all the way to #1 in 1964 has got to be "Ringo" by Lorne Greene. Amongst all the latest hits from The British Invasion Artists, huge Motown acts and the piercing falsettos of The Beach Boys and The Four Seasons, this record just seemed to come out of nowhere and mosey its way on up to the top of the charts.

In fact, I heard Scott Shannon play "Ringo" as the "Cheezy-Easy Listening Song Of The Day" yesterday ... a hot new feature on The True Oldies Channel. (From what I've heard, the oldies fans are loving it ... nominating their own favorite candidates for the unlikeliest of hits during the rock era. It's actually a lot of fun ... but don't be fooled ... Scott's also taking on a little bit of grief over this feature, much as WE did when we promoted our "Guaranteed Gaggers" segment a while back ... from music fans who state that ALL music is GOOD music ... and we should appreciate it for what it is rather than belittle it and show any disrespect to these artists.)

In this respect, we have both made our positions perfectly clear: in NO way are we making fun of this music ... pretty much EVERY track featured in this segment was a HUGE hit, meaning that an AWFUL lot of people bought it and loved it at the time. And the very fact that he's playing it at ALL ... at a time when more and more of these songs have disappeared from the airwaves completely ... is actually a TRIBUTE to these otherwise ignored songs and artists. (Although personally, I really do believe that I could live a full life from this point forward without EVER hearing "Dominique" by The Singing Nun again!!! lol)

Now I will admit that when "Ringo" first came out in the Fall of 1964, I am one of the ones who bought it ... and I played the heck out of that 45. (I bought the "Bonanza" album, too, featuring ALL of the "Singing Cartwrights"!!! I was eleven years old at the time and we were still in the era of only three television channels ... so I watched "Bonanza" just like everybody else in the country did!!! And if this music choice sounds odd to you, then let's not forget that MY first two 45's were "Itsy Bitsy Teenie-Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini" and "Speedy Gonzales"!!!)

For the record, we have already established a number of times in this column that I wasn't the BRIGHTEST eleven year old kid in the world ... but despite this fact, I have spent most of my life believing that I was, in some fashion, one step ahead of the rest of the world ... and, as such, when "Ringo" was first released, I was convinced that I was "in on the joke" ... I mean, let's face it ... releasing a song called "Ringo" at the absolute height of Beatlemania was pure genius, right??? ... so there just HAD to be some sort of a subliminal tie-in!

So when Lorne Greene spoke the final line ... about "the tiniest star above the name of 'Ringo'" ... I just KNEW that THAT was it ... Star ... Ringo ... Ringo Starr!!! Of Course!!!

Wink-Wink ... nudge-nudge ... I GOT it!!!

Of course what he REALLY said was "the TARNISHED star above the name" ... and it had absolutely NOTHING at all whatsoever to do with The Beatles ... and, quite honestly, what the heck would Pa Cartwright know about these things anyway?!?!

But then, a few weeks later, a guy named Larry Finnegan ... who had already scored a pretty big hit with the song "Dear One" a few years earlier ... released a song called "The OTHER Ringo" ... and I felt immediately vindicated ... somebody ELSE got the joke, too!!!

Larry's song died a quick death (although it DID chart here in Chicago for one whole week at #28 on The WLS Silver Dollar Survey) ... and has most likely been forgotten by nearly EVERYBODY who ever even heard it ... but not me!

Which means that we've just GOTTA feature it here today as yet another incredible, long Forgotten Hit!!!

The Other Ringo by Larry Finnegan

And The Real McCoy ...
(oops ... wrong tv show!!!)
I mean, the real deal by Lorne Greene

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Few More Of Your Recent Comments

Last week we did our best to answer the following question from one of our readers:
>>>I heard Scott Shannon state the other day on The True Oldies Channel that the Tornadoes' Telstar is the first British song to ever reach no. 1 on the U.S. charts. Could you tell us what British song first charted on Billboard without hitting no. 1? I'd be very interested to know. Thank you. (Fred Rhian / Lafayette, CA)
Here is how we answered Fred's question:
>>>The Tornadoes have always been singled out for beating The Beatles to #1 here in America. Confining ourselves strictly to The Rock Era (which, in this case, locks us into the period of 1955 - 1962, BEFORE "Telstar" hit the top spot on the charts), I can come up with a couple of pretty good candidates for the first British Pop Chart Hits on our shores. British Skiffle King Lonnie Donegan reached #8 with his version of "Rock Island Line" way back in 1956 here in The States. Donegan seems to be the artist most-often singled out as inspiring the whole British skiffle craze, which launched the rock and roll craze that begat The British Invasion. (How is it possible that THIS guy is not in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?!?!? Talk about your MAJOR "Early Influences"!!!) Donegan and Elvis pretty much turned Great Britain's teenagers on their ears back in 1956, inspiring HUNDREDS of kids to pick up a banjo, guitar, washboard or tea chest (prior to graduating to bass guitar, drums and keyboards), putting together a band and having a go that this hot new sound. Donegan hit The U.S. Top Five a few years later with the novelty hit "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (On The Bedpost Overnight)". In between a few other British acts hit our charts as well. In 1957, Liverpool-born Russ Hamilton hit #7 in Billboard with "Rainbow". A year later, 14 year old Laurie London (that's a GUY, by the way) reached #1 on Billboard's DeeJay Chart with his version of "He's Got The Whole World (In His Hands)" ... but the record OFFICIALLY stopped at #2 on The Top 100 Chart ... so he just missed the distinction of having the very first British #1 Record on the American Charts. Frankie Vaughn (ALSO born in Liverpool) hit #22 with a long-Forgotten Hit called "Judy" in 1958. It would be his only U.S. Hit ... but back home in Jolly Ol' England he reached The British Top 40 an incredible THIRTY times!!! Even British Superstar Cliff Richard (second only to Elvis in the Biggest Solo Male Artist Category) first hit The U.S. Charts in 1959 with "Living Doll", a #30 Billboard Hit. Before his big '70's comeback (with hits like "Devil Woman", "We Don't Talk Anymore", "Dreaming", "A Little In Love" and his big duet with Olivia Newton-John, "Suddenly"), Cliff also found minor success here with the hits "Lucky Lips" (#62, 1963), "It's All In The Game" (#25, 1964), "I Only Have Eyes For You" (#109, 1964) and "Bachelor Boy" (#99, 1964). By comparison, Richard hit The British Chart 105 times between 1958 and 1990. Crooner Matt Monro had a couple of U.S. Top 40 Hits, the first of which, "My Kind Of Girl" reached #18 in 1961. And finally, The Springfields (featuring a young Dusty Springfield and her brother Tom ... two years before Dusty's solo career took off) had a Top 20 Smash with their version of "Silver Threads And Golden Needles". So the REAL answer to your question as to which British Artists first made an impact on The U.S. Charts prior to The Beatles and The Tornadoes is ... quite a few!!! History has been rewritten in such a way as to make it appear that The Beatles kicked off the whole revolution ... and, as to massive impact, this very well may be true ... but, as you can see, several OTHER artists found a receptive audience here, too, prior to The Fab Four first landing on our shores back in 1964. (kk)

Now, with all that being said, we recently received a few OTHER suggestions from some of our readers as to British Artists who had an early impact on The American Charts ...

Long before The Tornadoes' "Telstar," Vera Lynn -- England's most popular female singer during World War II -- became the first British artist to hit #1 in the U.S., thanks to her moving rendition of "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" (London 1227). Recorded in England with a huge chorus of soldiers, sailors and airmen, her emotional farewell in song spent nine weeks at the top of Billboard's charts in 1952, selling over two million copies.
Gary Theroux

Hi Kent!
Some great work lately, especially the features on Sam Cooke and the old Cameo / Parkway recording studio fire. If Scott Shannon has stated that The Tornadoes had the first Billboard #1 by a British artist, then I’m not so sure that he is correct.
I believe that Acker Bilk’s "Stranger On The Shore" was #1 in the spring of '62, which is several months before Telstar was #1 for The Tornadoes.
Your summary of other Brits who charted pre-British invasion was pretty good.
Fred Rhian, who asked the question, might be interested in knowing that there were others.
The following are British (or British based) artists, who made the Billboard Top 20 chart inthe late 50’s or early 60’s, though they are not necessarily of the “rock” genre.

Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen with “Midnight In Moscow”, peaked at #2 in early '62.
Chris Barber’s Jazz Band with "Petite Fleur", peaked at #5 in early '59.
The Caravelles with "You Don’t Have To Be A Baby To Cry", peaked at #3 in late '63.
Frank Ifield with "I Remember You", peaked at #5 in the fall of '62.
Rolf Harris with "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", peaked at #3 in the summer of '63.
Hayley Mills with "Let’s Get Together", peaked at #8 in the fall of '61.
Cyril Stapleton with "The Children’s Marching Song", peaked at #13 in early '59.
Most of these artists only charted once in the US, though they had lots of charts success in the UK.

Mike Ogilvie
Mississauga, ON

I think the key to all these different answers lies in the way you interpret the question ... and, to a degree, are willing to manipulate your answer.

Since Fred's original question asked "Which British song first charted on Billboard without hitting no. 1?", we zeroed in on "The Rock Era", 1955 - 1962. That's because the years

typically covered here in Forgotten Hits are 1955 - 1979 ... and, since he prompted this question in the first plance, we figured that these would ALSO be the years that Scott Shannon would be most likely to cover on the True Oldies Channel. Since "Telstar" reached #1 in Billboard in December of 1962 ... and Fred wanted to know what British song hit the U.S. Charts BEFORE "Telstar" hit #1 ... we locked ourselves into a very specific timeframe in coming up with our answer(s).

So, while Gary Theroux is correct when he states that Vera Lynn hit #1 in Billboard in 1952, this pre-dates the specific area we elected to cover.

And while Mike Ogilvie is correct in stating that all these British artists had hits on the U.S. charts, many of these came AFTER "Telstar" ... and ALL of them came after "Rock Island Line" by Lonnie Donegan, the record WE decided to go with, from 1956, at the dawn of The Rock And Roll Era.

Now Laurie London DID hit #1 on Billboard's DeeJay Chart ... and Mr. Acker Bilk DID hit #1 with "Stranger On The Shore" BEFORE The Tornadoes reached #1 with "Telstar" seven months later ... but my GUESS is (since I didn't hear Scott Shannon's original statement) that what Scott REALLY said was that The Tornadoes were the first British GROUP to hit #1 in America ... because that's the way this particular "trivia question" is typically phrased.

A technicality? Yes ... but once you strip it down to these specifics, you can see that the correct answer CHANGES depending on your interpretation of the question ... and the specific criteria applied to your answer ... meaning that yes, there are several right answers ... depending on the EXACT question!!! (lol)

Fred's specific question DIDN'T specify whether the correct answer would be a group or a solo artist ... he just wanted to know which record by a British artist was the first to chart in America ... and my guess is (without doing ANY research) that if we REALLY dug deep enough, we could probably find several such British Artists charting here BEFORE Vera Lynn, too. It's really all a matter of going back far enough. After all, Billboard started publishing their music charts in the late 1890's!!! Joel Whitburn??? Fred Bronson??? HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (kk)

BTW: Scott Shannon later confirmed with me that he DID specifically say "which British GROUP hit #1 on The U.S. Charts before The Beatles" ... which is EXACTLY what I figured. (kk)KENT ... YOU ARE 100% CORRECT ... I DID SAY "GROUP" ... SCOTT SHANNON

And, speaking of Scott Shannon ...

Man, you put some effort into THIS project, didn't you?!?
You've come up with some GREAT suggestions and, while I didn't hear ALL of the remakes that Scott Shannon featured, you've certainly given him a lengthy list of choices for future Remakes Weekends. This is the kind of programming that really interests us die-hard oldies music fans ... thanks to Kent Kotal and Forgotten Hits and Scott Shannon and The True Oldies Channel for digging just a little bit deeper than the music most OTHER oldies stations tend to play.
Ed Sanders
Thanks, Ed! Funny thing is, I've probably come up with at least two dozen MORE since we put this list together ... so yes, we can keep this feature going for some time to come. (And, from what I understand, it is one of the listeners' favorites on The True Oldies Channel ... so we are happy to have been able to contribute in some small way to that success!) Hope most of you got a chance to tune in and listen a little bit this past weekend! (kk)

Wow, Kent ...
I think I could dedicate the entire weekend to reading the stories, articles, links that I've missed and still have more catching up to do. How you do all this is simply amazing!
Thanks for your 'labor of love.' Have a great 2010!
Fred Vail / Treasure Isle
"Music City, USA"

Yeah, even taking some time off earlier this month still left PLENTY of reading and catching up for our readers ... hopefully some of you used that time to check out some of the articles you missed the first time around ... or enjoyed enough to read again. Thanks again to EVERYBODY out there for their continued support! (kk)

Hi Scott & The Gang,
I VERY MUCH appreciated the Remake Weekend! It was very informative, with historical tidbits of the remade songs and original obscure recordings. By my count, the number of remade songs that you broadcast was well over 50. And playing the songs at the top and bottom of the hour was also appreciated as well as the supplemental oldies site "Forgotten Hits." THANKS AGAIN from the Oldies Nation!
John M.
Huntsville, AL

Hal "Baby" Moore was a big time jock on KIMN in Denver in the 60's and is doing mornings on Cruising Oldies 950 here in Denver. Not sure if he's signed up with you yet, but I put a bug in his ear.
Hope you're well.
Wild Bill Cody

Don't know if you're signed up for Forgotton Hits or not, but it's free and you get killer emails about Oldies Tunes weekly. Check out this week's edition about Oldies Remakes and let me know what you think. Kent Kotal is the guy that puts it all together and he loves any input you might have.
Wild Bill
Thanks, Bill ... actually yes, Hal IS on the list ... although we don't hear from him very often. (Too bad, too, 'cause can you imagine the volume of information HE could give our readers?!?!?) Thanks for the kind words. Glad you're all enjoying what we do here in Forgotten Hits! kk

Wow, Scott.
A wonderful job.
What a lot of work you and the staff put into preparing the weekend.
Fascinating stories -- and lots of new material.
Together, your features and Kent Kotal's stories make a great historical archive going forward for music fans everywhere.
Thanks for all the effort and for sharing it all.

Loved the tie-in between your website and The True Oldies Channel on the Rock And Roll Remakes Weekend ... very informative (and so much to read! I'll be back for sure!) What else have you guys got cooked up ... any more "specialty weekends" on the horizon? Margaret

Actually, we DO have a couple more "specialty weekends" in the works ... and, as soon as I get the official word on when Scott is planning to run them, you can be sure that we will pass this information along to our readers as well. Glad you enjoyed this feature! (kk)

>>>After recording their #1 Hit "Wild Thing", Troggs' lead singer Reg Presley reportedly said, "This is either gonna be the biggest bomb or the biggest hit ever." Incredibly, by the time The Troggs' version was released as a single in 1966, it is believed that at least FIVE other versions of the song had already been recorded and released, with NONE of them garnering any attention. (kk)

Re: "Wild Thing":
Lead singer Reg Presley told me in an interview a few years back that after The Troggs recorded "Wild Thing", everyone in the group went back to their respective day jobs. Reg was working construction and a few weeks later, he was up on the roof of a house with a bunch of other guys and "Wild Thing" came on the radio. The announcer said, "Here's a new smash hit from a new group, The Troggs". Reg says he put down his tools, climbed down the ladder and quit his construction job then and there. These days, he spends most of his time investigating crop circles in England.
Doug Thompson (Toronto)

Hello Kent ~ Please, please, PLEASE add my name and email address to any list you have. I just moments ago checked out your web site for the first time! Holy Cow! Between you and Scott Shannon my head is about to explode! This amazing music - - all this information. The wonderful REMAKES weekend. All I have to say is WOW and THANK YOU so much for what you and Scott Shannon do!

YOU DO A HELLUVA JOB, KENT! Thanks for all the posts!

Charlie Gracie, Jr.

Hi Kent!

Great work as always! One note to add to Sedaka's own remake of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" is that the 1976 version's strings were arranged by Richard Carpenter. (Before the fiasco that turned into a PR nightmare of Richard firing Sedaka as their opening act for upstaging them!) I personally always longed to hear Karen sing the slow ballad version in her lower register and was very excited to see it on the album track list for "A Kind of Hush" LP, but was disappointed to hear a version that appeared to channel the Partridge Family more than anything else.

Chip Cogswell

First Choice PROductions

Burleson, Texas

Cool ... I did not know that! Thanks, Chip! (kk)

Hi, Kent,
Loved your Friday feature on Remake Weekend songs.
One interesting aside:
With all the versions and permutations of "Muskrat Love" out there, there's one more folks should know about -- and it's actually my favorite version, from the magnificent (and underappreciated) Lani Hall (formerly of Brasil '66), who offers new lyrics that she and her husband wrote -- a much more sultry arrangement, in my opinion. Her version removes all of the animal references but not animal instincts!
It's renamed "Sundown" and is the title song of her 1972 "Sundown Lady" album. Oh, and that's her husband, Herb Alpert, accompanying her on the song. He also arranged and produced it all, one of my all-time favorite albums.
Thanks for all your work, for sharing all your knowledge and for producing a "living history" that's preserving a landmark musical era before those who created it are no longer around to share their stories.
Thanks for the kind words, Don ... and for sharing this track. No, I was NOT familiar with this version. "Muskrat Love" has always been considered a pretty syrupy song ... I first heard it thanks to the America version (which petered out at #67 in Billboard in The Fall of 1973 ... yet. incredibly, despite that poor Billboard showing, the record actually went to #33 in Cash Box Magazine!) Even so, I was still QUITE surprised to see The Captain and Tennille ressurect this song a few years later ... and even MORE shocked to see it go all the way to #2 in Cash Box and top our charts here in Chicago ... pretty much EVERYBODY I knew HATED this song ... and it was the butt of quite a few jokes ... but NONE quite as "biting" as the Big Daddy track that Dr. Demento used to play on his program. "Hamster Love" gives a whole new meaning to the term "bad taste" ... pun intended!!! (kk)

By the way, I just about fell out of my chair Saturday Night when I signed on to AOL to check mail and saw THIS headline on the Sign-On Screen:

Aretha Wasn't The First To Sing R-E-S-P-E-C-T
That's right, Franklin's popular song is really a C-O-V-E-R ... and it was first sung by a man 2 years earlier.

20 hits you didn't know were covers
Some people have a negative reaction when they hear a cover version of one of their favorite songs. On the other hand, there are other covers that are so identified with the artist, many people don't even realize someone else did it before. Here are examples of cover songs where we've discovered, recovered and uncovered the original versions.
The article goes on to single out several of the songs covered this past weekend on both Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel Rock And Roll Remakes Weekend AND right here on The Forgotten Hits Web Page:

In addition to "Respect", the article also mentions "Hound Dog" by Elvis, "Twist And Shout" by The Beatles, The Isley Brothers and The Top Notes ... and "Wild Thing" by The Wild Ones and The Troggs!!!

Not sure whether to chalk this all up to "Great Minds Think Alike" ... "Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery" ... or simply the fact that we now provide a great deal of inspiration when it comes to all things musical!!! (lol)


Speaking of which ...

I just saw a posting on a site called SITELOGR, which tracks how many visitors EVERY website in the world receives ... and I am proud to announce that ... as of last week anyway ... The Forgotten Hits Website was the #3,039,424 most-viewed website in the world!!! (lol) Of course, we had THOUSANDS of new visitors this past weekend, thanks to The True Oldies Channel / Rock And Roll Remakes Weekend tie-in ... so I'm guessing that we MUST have moved up in stature to AT LEAST #3,039,420 by now!!! Too funny! (kk)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sharing More Sad News Today

Boy, it seems like every time we turn around we hear more sad news about some of our musical favorites ... these came in this past week:

Ron Banks, founding member of the Dramatics of "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" (#9 - 1971) and "In The Rain" (#5 - 1972) fame, died unexpectedly Thursday afternoon (March 4) at his home in Detroit. He was 58. No cause of death has been determined but it is believed Ron died of a heart attack. The Redford, Michigan, native formed the group in 1962 with the late Elbert Wilkins and William (Wee Gee) Howard, along with Larry Demps and Willie Ford as the Dynamics. The 1967 name change was followed by their first chart single, "All Because Of You," which reached #43 on the R & B charts for Sport Records. It wasn't until the group was picked up by Volt (companion label to Memphis' Stax Records) that they broke through with "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get." All told, the Dramatics charted 35 times on the R & B charts and a dozen times on the pop charts, including the tunes "Me And Mrs. Jones" (#47 - 1975) and "The Stars In Your Eyes" (#81 - 1975), which were credited to Ron Banks and the Dramatics. Ron sang with the group as recently as last Fall. The group will perform Saturday at the Westbury Music Festival in New York but the space in front on Ron's microphone will be empty.
-- Ron Smith (

We received this bit of sad news from a number of our readers this past week ... obviously, The Dramatics were list favorites. We hear "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" all the time on the oldies stations ... but they seem to ignore their OTHER Top Five Hit "In The Rain" ... so that's the one we'll feature here today. (kk)

Lolly Vegas, lead singer and guitarist with Redbone, died of lung cancer Thursday at his home in Reseda, California. He was 70. Lolly, whose real name was Lolly Vasquez, was diagnosed with lung cancer after being hospitalized with a stomach aneurysm in January. He had suffered a stroke in 1996 that forced him to leave the band. Lolly and his brother, Pat formed Redbone with brothers Anthony "T-Bone" Bellamy and Peter DePoe in Los Angeles in 1969. The name came from a cajun term for a mixed-race person. Their first, self-tiled, album came in 1970 but it was their second, that yielded the #45 single, "Maggie," early the next year. It was followed by two more chart hits -- "The Witch Queen Of New Orleans" (#21 - 1972) and "Come And Get Your Love" (#5 - 1974). The group was inducted into the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2008. T-Bone died of liver failure just last Christmas at the age of 63.
-- Ron Smith (
Lolly and his brother Pat had quite a long and illustrious career in music, dating all the way back to performing as members of the house band on the old musical television series "Shindig". As part of our "Honest Injun" Series several years ago, we kinda blew the whistle on these guys for portraying themselves as full-blooded Indians in the band Redbone when, in fact, they were of Mexican heritage. Here is an excerpt from what was at that time considered to be a pretty revolutionary piece:
Redbone are described in Joel Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles" Book as "a Native American Indian 'Swamp-Rock' Group" formed in Los Angeles in 1968. They have long been recognized for this distinction, considered unique in the music world as being the first (and only) successful, authentic American Indian Rock And Roll Band. They performed on stage dressed in what can best be described as ultra-stereotypical Indian fashion: buckskins, moccasins and full Indian headdress ... yet, despite all the hype, the truth is that only ONE member of the band was actually born a Native American Indian.
(Here we go again ... another thirty-year old myth is about to be debunked today in FORGOTTEN HITS.)
Brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas were the backbone of Redbone, but their musical roots date back even further. Pat and Lolly first hit the rock and roll scene back in the early '60's when they were backing up pop star Jimmy Clanton. In truth, they were Mexican-Americans, born with the last name of Vasquez. When they decided to split off from Clanton to concentrate on studio sessions and club work, they were taken under the wing of famed musical manager Bumps Blackwell (Sam Cooke and Little Richard), who suggested that they change their last name to the more "politically-correct" / "user-friendly" Vegas. Soon, as Pat and Lolly Vegas, they were recording as a duo with Pat on bass and Lolly on guitar, trading off lead vocals. They landed a gig on the popular teenage music television series "Shindig", performing as both up-and-coming recording artists as well as part of the "house band," backing many of the other artists who were appearing on the program. They continued to do a fair amount of studio session work (in fact, that's their fretwork you hear on the hits "Let's Go" by The Routers and "Out Of Limits" by The Marketts! They also sat in on recording sessions with the likes of studio session whiz kids Glen Campbell, Johnny Rivers and Leon Russell in the mid-'60's before each of THESE artists went on to have significant solo recording careers.) Along the way, they even took a crack at songwriting, placing material with artists like Bobbie Gentry, Tom Jones and Aretha Franklin. Their biggest pop hit was recorded by P.J. Proby ... the previously featured Forgotten Hit, "Niki Hoeky" went to #23 in 1967.
In the late 1960's, they formed a new group called The Crazy Cajun Band and, after a series of other players who came and went, spinning through the proverbial musical revolving door, added Anthony Bellamy on guitar and Peter De Poe on drums. Tony Bellamy was ALSO a Mexican-American (real name Tony Avila) but he had an Uncle who was a Navajo Chief. Peter De Poe was the ONLY native born American Indian in the band. Given the Indian name "Last Walking Bear", De Poe (from the Cheyenne tribe), was the ceremonial drummer on the reservation where he was born prior to discovering rock and roll and joining Redbone. With a slight change in musical direction (along with a quick name change ... Redbone was a "wink-wink" / tongue-in-cheek selection ... it is reportedly Cajun and Indian slang for Half-Breed), Lolly and Pat Vegas now claimed that they were descendants of the Yaqui Indians (who were, coincidentally, based out of Sonora, Mexico). Soon the gimmick (and the legend of Redbone) was in place. (Ironically, after reaching chart success, it was Native American Indian Peter De Poe who became the first member to leave the band, being replaced by new drummer Butch Rilera, another Mexican-American ... however, HE claimed to have had a great-grandmother who was an Iroquois / Seneca Indian princess! Rilera had previously played for The Righteous Brothers.)
Quite honestly, their musical inspirations were as varied as their own backgrounds ... Cajun, Mexican-American, Indian and Latin influences can be heard throughout their recordings. But it nearly didn't happen ...
Their first two chart singles bombed when they were released the first time around ... in 1970, "Maggie" hit #80 and "The Witch Queen Of New Orleans" never charted at all. Remarkably, a year later "Maggie" was revived by the record label and this time it just missed The Top 40, peaking at #45 in early 1971. When "The Witch Queen Of New Orleans" (with what was now their trademark Native American backing rhythms and chants) became an International Smash, (Top Ten in Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain and Singapore!), it was quickly re-released here in the States, too, and this time it went to #19 in Cash Box Magazine (and was a #3 smash here in Chicago.) Their next release became their biggest hit ... "Come And Get Your Love" soared to #5 on both of the national charts and went all the way to #1 here in Chi-Town ... and then, mysteriously, at the top of their game, it was all over. (No official report as to whether or not they later sold or donated their stage costumes to that guy from The Village People!)
The hits may have stopped coming, but today Redbone is remembered and highly regarded as the premier, authentic American Indian band, staying true to their musical roots while bridging the gap to rock and roll ... even if that's not quite EXACTLY the truth!!! (LOL)

Bobby Espinosa, founding member and keyboardist for El Chicano, died Saturday (February 27) at an East Los Angeles hospital at the age of 60. The cause of death was not given, but Bobby had been in ill-health for quite some time. The group was formed by Bobby, along with Freddie Sanchez, Mickey Lespron, Andre Baeza, and John De Luna in the late '60s in East L.A. It was Bobby's Hammond organ work on the song "Viva Tirado" (an instrumental version of Gerald Wilson's homage to a bullfighter) that propelled the tune to #1 in Los Angeles and -- after a jump from tiny Gordo Records to Kapp / MCA -- to #28 nationally in early 1970. It was followed by two more chart entries -- their version of Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" (#45 - 1972) and "Tell Her She's Lovely" (#40 - 1973). The group performed for a PBS special on Latin music that was taped last November and will air this month. Bobby was inducted into the "Hammond Heroes" -- a hall of fame for those who played the Hammond organ.
-- Ron Smith (
Several years ago El Chicano bandmates Bobby Espinosa and Freddy Sanchez participated with Forgotten Hits on a piece we did spotlighting their group ... in fact, if I remember correctly two of our list "regulars" interviewed them for our publication.
El Chicago's music performed very well on the Chicagoland Charts ... "Viva Tirado" went to #19, "Brown Eyed Girl" hit #25 and "Tell Her She's Lovely" (my personal favorite) reached #20.

And here's one we missed:
Lee Freeman, rhythm guitarist with the Strawberry Alarm Clock, died Sunday, February 14, at his home in San Bruno, California after a long battle with cancer. He was 61. Lee formed Thee Sixpence, the forerunners to SAC, along with Ed King, Mark Weitz, Gary Lovetro and Randy Seol in Los Angeles in 1966. The group recorded three singles for tiny All American Records before 1967's "Incense And Peppermints" and even that song was so lowly-regarded by the group that they used a 16 year-old friend of theirs -- Greg Munford -- to sing lead and relegated the song to the B-side of "Birdman Of Alkatrash." However, when "Incense" started gaining airplay in Los Angeles, Uni Records picked up the single and made it the A-side. The tune reached #1 and spent 16 weeks on the national charts. SAC added George Bunnell and Steve Bartek but lost Gary Lovetro before their second single, "Tomorrow," which peaked at a disappointing #23 in 1968. It was followed by three other singles that never escaped the top 60. Lee left the group briefly in the Summer of 1968 and within three years the group broke up until the inevitable reunions -- the latest of which was in 2007.
Ron Smith (

Several years ago our Forgotten Hit readers voted "Incense And Peppermints" as their all-time favorite Psychedelic Song. (You can read ALL about it on The Forgotten Hits Web Page:

Click here: Forgotten Hits - Top 20 Favorite Psychedelic Songs). Long-time, faithful readers will ALSO recall that the 2007 reunion that Ron mentioned above was at the hands of former Chicago Sun Times Film Critic Roger Ebert, who asked the group to reunite to perform at a special screening of his film "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls", a film for which Ebert wrote the original screenplay and in which The Strawberry Alarm Clock first appeared back in 1968. It was all part of a special film festival dubbed "Ebertfest"! Roger Ebert made the news last week, too, after his appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where he debuted his new computerized voice! Ebert recently lost his jaw to cancer.) At various times, members of The Strawberry Alarm Clock have also participated with our publication, letting fans know about their latest goings-on. (kk)

>>>Some sad news for all the Johnny Maestro fans out there ... and believe me, there are PLENTY!!! (kk)
>>>Friends: Here is a Johnny Maestro Update -- Remember him in your thoughts and prayers. 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. "JOHNNY WANTS TO THANK EVERYONE FOR THEIR PATIENCE OF THIS SITUATION OF HOLDING INFORMATION. YES, JOHNNY IS BEING TREATED FOR CANCER. HE NEEDS TO REST AND HOPE FOR A SPEEDY RECOVERY. JOHNNY NEEDS TO TAKE TIME OFF BUT REQUESTS THE BAND TO GO ON TO DO SHOWS. HE HAS PICKED A FRIEND OF HIS, JOEL KATZ, TO SING THE SONGS AT THE SHOWS.WE ALL KNOW JOHNNY CANNOT BE REPLACED. IT IS TOUGH ON EVERYONE, BUT JOHNNY WANTS THE SHOWS TO GO ON FOR THE FANS TO ENJOY THE SONGS OF THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE & JOHNNY MAESTRO. THIS IS A REAL DIFFICULT TIME FOR THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE FAMILY AND THE FANS. WE ALL NEED TO TAKE A STEP BACK AND KEEP SAYING THOSE PRAYERS!"-- from Ed "Smitty" Smith, production manager for Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge (and sent to us by Forgotten Hits Reader Bob Hughes. We heard legendary Chicagoland Disc Jockey Dick Biondi read this official statement on the air the other night. We're all trying to do our part to get the word out to Johnny's fans. kk)
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.
We ALL send Johnny our best wishes and prayers for a speedy recovery. (kk)


Dateline: February 3, 1959 - Clear Lake, Iowa:
Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson's 4-week tour of the midwest, played the Surf Ballroom in Clearlake, Iowa. Although February 2 was originally to be a night off following 10 straight shows, agent Irvin Feld and General Artists Corporation added a performance date, which cost the Surf Ballroom $319. After the show, on a cold winter's night a small private plane took off from Clear Lake, Iowa bound for Fargo, N.D. It never made its destination.Read the true story with pictures here:
-- submitted by Sam Lyt

Here's the story of how I learned how to play the guitar from Buddy Holly ... plus a rare 59 second clip of Buddy and Elvis together! Regards,
Artie Wayne

As you know, February 3rd is called The Day The Music Died. If you were tuned in to my program a couple weeks back, you heard my annual tribute to that day that changed rock and roll music. That terrible plane crash still haunts many of us.
Back in 2007 my friend Ronnie Allen interviewed Sonny Curtis, who not only was part of Buddy Holly's Crickets, but a singer and song writer as well. I recently featured Ronnie's full one hour interview.

(Note: This interview is still available as part of Ronnie Allen's Jersey Girls Sing website ... be sure to check out our upcoming "On The Radio" special mailer for a list of OTHER recent Ronnie Allen interviews!) kk
DJ Stu Weiss / The Pop Shoppe / Top Shelf Oldies

Studying music's past through reading old Billboard, Cash Box and other magazines often turns up amazing stories I did not know about the past days of artists. The attached story came from the Cash Box Annual of August 15, 1964. Just two weeks prior to this issue, on July 31, 1964, country music legend Jim Reeves died. I knew he died in the 60's, but did not know he died in a plane crash. The circumstances were a bit like Buddy Holly's death of five years earlier. Reeves was returning to Nashville from a gig. They recovered Buddy's glasses at the crash site, while they ID'd Reeves by finding his drivers license.
The first amazing thing I realized was that the crash and victims were not located for two days! In those hours, friends of Reeves searched a 20 mile area. This is what was amazing! Guess who was searching those fields. 700 people including Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins, Ernest Tubb and Stonewall Jackson! Can you imagine today's country legends out in a field searching for a fellow star?
If that weren't enough, he was on the radio at a young age like many country superstars of that era. BUT, a second amazing story is in the article. He was ALSO an athlete and received an athletic scholarship to Texas University and decided to pursue a baseball career instead of music. Unlike what the article says, he dropped out of school after just six weeks and went back to working the shipyards in Houston. Soon, he returned to baseball playing in a semi-pro league before signing with the ST. LOUIS CARDINALS in 1944! Unlike the article's info, he played in St. Louis' farm Class B (much like today's Double A) league team Lynchburg (Virginia) Cardinals. He was a pitcher who played in six games in 1945. He pitched nine innings without a record. The following years he dropped down to Class C (with White Sox organization club) and Class D in 1946 and 1947. Despite seriously injuring his ankle in 1947, he posted a winning record in each league. 7-6 in class C and 15-10 in class D. At 24, his Field of Dreams try was over.
It took quite some time to become famous in music, but by the 60's he was a big star and at the time of his death was one of the top international stars of country music. He had a Top 10 record that week in the US, but also in other countries as well. He died just as "A Hard Day's Night" was reaching #1 at the early stages of Beatlemania in the U.S.
At age 41, Jim Reeves was gone. Elvis would die at age 40. Below is Jim's baseball record, but he will be known best for that low voice singing "Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone" and his huge hit, "He'll Have to Go". Makes you wonder if there was ever a movie made about THIS legend?
Sometimes amazing stories still turn up!
Clark Besch

(Click to enlarge)

The cool thing about reading about new artists in old issues of Billboard and Cash Box is that these stories hit BEFORE much of the myth was fabricated over years of developing more "colorful" story-telling. (Of course it's never been above a good press agent to fabricate a little bit of the story going in, too, in an effort to launch a new artist, trying to make them sound just a little bit more interesting or, most often, shaving a few years off their birthdays!) Cool info about Jim Reeves ... and, just as a matter of record, Elvis died at 42, not 40. (We're all about getting it right, too! lol) kk

Members of our generation remember “where we were and what we were doing” when key events occurred: The Kennedy Assassination, The Challenger Explosion, 9/11 to name a few. For me, there’s another one that most people don’t think too much about.
In the 1950s and 1960s, only a very few country music acts earned enough money to become wealthy. Most country acts lived among the working class folks of suburbia, and many of them held other jobs to keep food on the table week after week.
Wednesday, March 6, dawned cool like most late winter days in Nashville, but there was something sad and different in the air that morning. I was only in third grade, but the memory of that morning is fresh and clear. The phone rang several times. Neighbors gathered and talked in driveways and porches before heading for work or school. A horrible tragedy had occurred the night before, and the bodies and wreckage had been discovered at daybreak. Singers Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and manager / pilot Randy Hughes had perished on that ill-fated flight through bad weather.
I walked past the home of Cowboy Copas every morning and afternoon going to and from school. His son Mike was a few years ahead of me, in junior high. Randy Hughes’ son Larry attended my elementary school. Patsy Cline, having made the big-time, had just moved into a new home a few miles away in another neighborhood of ‘spacious’ 1800 sq ft homes. Her husband Charlie worked in the composing room at the afternoon newspaper. These folks were our neighbors. Part of our community. Tragedy struck, history was written, we grieved.
Those who didn’t attend the funerals assembled at the cemetery to pay their respects in the days that followed. I remember riding through the packed cemetery after the burial and the family had departed. This was big stuff in our small world.
I drive by the cemetery daily. My dad’s buried there. Our earliest remembrances are the strongest. I look over at Mr. Copas’ gravesite and remember the third grade. The world has changed, but the music lives on and on.
David Lewis

Our special mailing remembering Dale Hawkins and Doug Fieger of The Knack went out by email this morning to those on the mailing list who requested it. Remember ... we have SEVERAL "Special Mailings" available that will go out "By Request Only" ... with so many new readers joining the list this past weekend, we figured we'd run 'em by you one more time. If you'd like to receive ANY of these special mailings, you MUST drop us an email requesting them. Thanks!

LEFTOVERS (For die-hard fans only ... some of this stuff takes us off the regularly traveled path of Forgotten Hits)
ON THE RADIO (Fairly recent ... old ... and even OLDER radio news and features!!!)
THE NEW COLONY SIX (yet another follow-up to our recent features)!