Friday, February 24, 2012

More Wrecking Crew Memories

We've had LOTS of Wrecking Crew coverage again lately in Forgotten Hits ...   

So it was ESPECIALLY sad to get the news on Wednesday about the passing of Billy Strange.

Here are some of your recent comments about Billy, The Wrecking Crew (including the new book and the as yet unreleased film), the participants and artists whose lives they affected like The Beach Boys, Nancy Sinatra ... and a few others!

Speaking of The Wrecking Crew .... and this week's FH piece on "These Boots Are Made For Walking"   

-- David Lewis

Musicians Hall of Famer Billy Strange, songwriter for Elvis and Sinatra, dies at 81

Posted on by Peter Cooper   

Sept. 29, 1930 - Feb. 22, 2012

Musicians Hall of Famer Billy Strange, a songwriter, guitarist and arranger who aided the hit-making efforts of Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra, has died in Nashville at age 81.
“My dear friend, the legendary guitarist / arranger Billy Strange passed away this morning in Nashville,” Nancy Sinatra wrote on her Twitter page. “My heart is shattered.”
Mr. Strange wrote the musical arrangement for Sinatra’s smash, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” directing standup bass player George Burghofer to play the song’s signature sliding descent.
Mr. Strange also played the haunting guitar part on Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” a minimalist recording popularized in the new century as part of the soundtrack for the Quentin Tarantino movie Kill Bill. And he helped arrange “Somethin’ Stupid,” Ms. Sinatra’s duet with father Frank Sinatra.
For Presley, Mr. Strange contributed hit compositions including “A Little Less Conversation” and “Memories.” He also wrote Chubby Checker’s hit, “Limbo Rock.”
A member of the “Wrecking Crew” of Los Angeles-based session musicians in the 1960s, Mr. Strange played guitar on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, as well as on recordings by The Everly Brothers, Randy Newman, Willie Nelson, Nat King Cole and many others.
Mr. Strange was raised in Long Beach, Calif., and he was performing on local radio with his father and mother as a young boy. He began playing guitar at age 14, and touring with other musicians at 16.
Though he worked in the rodeo, as a truck driver and as a stunt man in his 20s, he settled into a musical life, performing early on with Spade Cooley, Roy Rogers, Count Basie, Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant and others.

His striking guitar work soon caught the attention of major producers, and he became an essential member of the informal group known as “The Wrecking Crew.” And he released a series of solo works in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that highlighted his unusual tone and musicianship.
When Presley came to Los Angeles for sessions, he employed Mr. Strange as a player and arranger, and the two became fast friends, riding motorcycles together and sitting and playing with baby Lisa Marie Presley together.
Mr. Strange moved to Middle Tennessee in the early 1970s, and in Tennessee he ran a publishing company for Frank and Nancy Sinatra.
Our timing IS impeccable, isn't it?!?!  (lol)  Seriously 'though, it's REALLY sad to hear about the passing of Billy Strange ... his music touched our lives in SO many ways.  (Honestly, I had NO idea how much GREAT music he was involved with ... or had a hand in writing.)  And, here in Chicago, he had a #11 hit of his own with his version of "The James Bond Theme" in 1964.  (kk)

This is why the books and movie are important. Billy Strange's story lives on:
Guitarist, composer / arranger and singer Billy Strange died Wednesday (February 22) in Nashville from an unnamed illness. The Long Beach, California, native was 81.
As a member of Hollywood's "Wrecking Crew" of studio musicians, Billy played on sessions for Frank and Nancy Sinatra, the Beach Boys ("Pet Sounds"), the Everly Brothers, Jan and Dean and Nat "King" Cole. He arranged "These Boots Are Made For Walking" for Nancy as  well as "Something Stupid," her duet with father, Frank. He also arranged the Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You."
As a composer, he worked with Mac Davis on tunes like Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation" and "Memories." A tune he composed (which he called "Monotonous Melody") later became "Limbo Rock." He provided the vocals for Steve McQueen in the movie, "Baby, The Rain Must Fall." His own recording on "The James Bond Theme" reached #58 in 1964, followed by "Goldfinger" (#55) the next year. In later years he moved to Nashville and ran a publishing company for the Sinatras. He was married to actress Joan O'Brien for two years in the fifties and at the time of his death he had been married for many years to country singer Jeanne Black ("He'll Have To Stay"). Billy was enshrined into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Musicians Hall of Fame two years later.
-- Ron Smith
I was probably 14 years old when I first met Billy Strange at a Dino, Desi & Billy recording session around 1965.  It was either at United or Western, I just don't remember exactly which studio it was since our Producer, Lee Hazlewood, used both with equal regularity.  The first thing that came to mind when I was introduced to him was that his name was so unusual and, well - strange, but I liked that we shared the same first name.  I thought that perhaps it was a professional or "stage name" because it was so odd to me but it was his real name.  Anyway, he was standing near a wall of the studio with some paperwork he was reviewing on top of a Leslie cabinet.  They were the musical arrangements or "charts" that he had written for the session players for the songs they were going to record that day.  I didn't know that he was also an amazing guitar player until I saw him credited on several of our subsequent albums.  For instance, he played a descending / ascending "fuzz guitar" line (that guitar sound was innovative at the time) on our "The Rebel Kind" single. Though I can't say I knew him well, I remember him being very nice to me at that first session and I guess that's how I'll always remember him - a kind man who was nice to me when I was just a kid.  Rest in peace, Billy.
Billy Hinsche 
And this from our FH Buddy Tom Cuddy ... reviews of the new Wrecking Crew book by Kent Hartman ...
Hidden Hitmakers 
The Lovin' Spoonful praised them in "Nashville Cats." The Kinks scorned them in "Session Man." ("He's not paid to think, just play.") Now Kent Hartman has written an entire book about session musicians, specifically a posse of players who flourished in Los Angeles during the 1960s and in various permutations contributed to the instrumental tracks for hit records such as "Be My Baby," "Good Vibrations," "I Got You, Babe," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Light My Fire," "California Dreamin' " and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." 
"No single group of musicians," Mr. Hartman claims in "The Wrecking Crew," "has ever played on more hits in support of more stars than this superbly talented — yet virtually anonymous — group of men (and one woman)." Drummer Hal Blaine gave the Wrecking Crew its moniker and was "the unofficial dean of the whole bunch," whose most prominent members included Larry Knechtel, Carol Kaye, Tommy Tedesco, Al DeLory, Leon Russell and Glen Campbell. That Mr. Campbell, a session guitarist before becoming a singer and star in his own right, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and has embarked on a cross-country "Goodbye Tour" lends a special poignancy to the pages devoted to him. 
The Wrecking Crew operated, as Mr. Hartman aptly observes, at "the intersection of time and money." Because its members played expertly and efficiently, they saved many costly hours in the recording studio. The Wrecking Crew also enabled a group for which it ghosted to stay out on the road, performing lucrative live gigs while the session musicians kept the home fires burning and cut the track for the group's next smash hit. (Occasionally the order was reversed. Mr. Campbell was a Beach Boy before he was the Rhinestone Cowboy.) This division of labor maximized revenue but stirred resentment within bands like the Byrds, the Monkees and the Grass Roots, some of whose members insisted on playing on their own records. (The nerve!)
The Wrecking Crew thought as well as played. It was Mr. Blaine's idea, for instance, to slam automobile snow chains against a cement floor in order to heighten the percussive intensity of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," whose grandiose arrangement was inspired, in part, by Phil Spector's production of the Righteous Brothers' rendition of "Old Man River." Mr. Hartman's chronicle is chock-full of such nuggets. I, for one, had never recognized that the "chink-chink" guitar chords in the background of the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man" echo those in the foreground of the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry, Baby" and were played by the same session musician, Jerry Cole. 
Mr. Hartman has many tales to tell — the circuitous route, for example, by which a song that Billy Strange, another Wrecking Crew guitarist, composed in five minutes and contemptuously called "Monotonous Melody" eventually became a hit for the Champs and then for Chubby Checker as "Limbo Rock." (When Mr. Strange received a royalty check for $63,000, he was sure someone had made a mistake.) Or how guitarist Don Peake, the sole white member of the Ray Charles Orchestra before his Wrecking Crew days, avoided arrest for violating Alabama laws against racial mixing only after Charles insisted to state troopers that Peake was Spanish. Peake wore brown makeup for that evening's performance, just in case. 
The book flags somewhat as the 1960s progress and the songs featuring the Wrecking Crew become less innovative and more middle-of-the-road: "Up, Up and Away," "Love Will Keep Us Together," "(They Long to Be) Close to You." But the stories of the session men who played for them offer fascinating, fly-on-the-Wall-of-Sound insights into Phil Spector and the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson as their genius bloomed in the recording studio and then withered into self-indulgence and paranoia. 

The Wrecking Crew 
By Kent Hartman
St. Martin's, 292 pages, $25.99

Mr. Hartman makes a nearly fatal error, however, by seldom quoting directly from the more than 100 interviews he conducted except to re-create, with dubious accuracy, decades-old conversations. Instead of letting these musicians get a word in edgewise, he translates his interviews into his own narrative voice, which is riddled with clichés and swollen with hyperbole. Was "Eve of Destruction" really "one of the most important songs in popular music history"? Was recording-studio owner and engineer Bill Putnam the "one person in the history of popular music [who] could ever be compared to Leonardo da Vinci in terms of his breadth of accomplishments"? 
To make matters worse, Mr. Hartman frames his vignettes as if they were soap operas: Bass guitarist Carol Kaye "knew what a burden it was for her [mother] to simply put enough food on the table each day. But Carol never complained, even when she had but one pair of shoes to her name." Or grade-C movies: "Sitting in a small booth inside a bustling twenty-four-hour diner on the Sunset Strip late one summer night, Billy Strange knew it was time to think about getting sober."
Denied their individual voices, the members of the Wrecking Crew remain almost as anonymous as they were on the hits they recorded. Mr. Hartman compounds this problem by never describing their distinctive musical styles. What distinguished Mr. Blaine, for example, from peers like Bernard Purdie in New York or Gary Chester in New York? For that matter, how did Mr. Blaine's drumming differ from that of Earl Palmer, with whom he often double-teamed and who was the only black musician associated with the Wrecking Crew? Mr. Hartman can't be bothered to discern and therein lies one of the many tales that "The Wrecking Crew" leaves untold.
Mr. Emerson's books include "Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era 

When following the recent Forgotten Hits link to research the new Wrecking Crew book I found a review that contained a strange comment I do not understand. In the editorial reviews section, a review from Publishers Weekly had the following sentence " Eight years later, Campbell joined the Champs, whose “Limbo Rock” Chubby Checker would soon record as “The Twist." If anyone can explain this line regarding Chubby I would be very grateful.   (Charlie)
How ironic that this comes up now.  (Honestly, I didn't know that Billy Strange had composed "Limbo Rock", first calling it "Monotonous Melody"!!!  He then watched his hit climb up the charts by two different artists!)  Meanwhile, that comment as offered by Publishers Weekly simply isn't true.  The Champs recorded an instrumental version of "Limbo Rock" in 1962 that climbed to #33 on the pop charts.  (As far as I know, Glen Campbell never appeared on ANY of the hit records made by The Champs.  In fact, in the past I have referred to The Champs as the group most famous for members who passed through their line-up AFTER their hit-making days were over!  In addition to Campbell, you can count '70's soft-rock superstars Seals and Crofts amongst their members.)
Chubby Checker recorded a VOCAL version of "Limbo Rock" that climbed the charts a few months after The Champs' instrumental version fell off ... it had absolutely NOTHING to do with "The Twist" ... originally recorded by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.  Checker's version of "Limbo Rock" ended up topping the charts ... one of THREE Number One Records that Chubby Checker earned in Cash Box Magazine in 1962!  (The others were the reissued "The Twist" and "Slow Twistin'", a record that also featured labelmate Dee Dee Sharp.)  When you read little erroneous tidbits like that, you cannot help but wonder how accurate the rest of the book is.  Note Doug Thompson's similar comment below.  (kk)

I picked up "The Wrecking Crew" book over a week ago and started reading it immediately.  It is quite detailed and I'm enjoying some of the stories, having interviewed many of these amazing musicians over the years for various radio specials, including Carol Kaye (who was so very kind and generous to me.  I have the utmost respect for Carol); Glen Campbell; Nino Tempo (who was really more on Phil Spector sessions) and three separate interviews with Hal Blaine, who immediately after the first interview was finished, took me to a recording session he was playing drums on that night at Bell Sound in Hollywood with producer Joe Saraceno. 
I have, however, found a mistake on page 124.  I was friends with Denny Doherty of The Mamas and Papas the last few years of his life, and he always told me that "Harvey" was the name the group gave to the harmonic overtone that was created in the studio by their 4 part harmony.  He also says it was called "Harvey" in his wonderful play "Dream A Little Dream".  Kent Hartman, author of "The Wrecking Crew" book, says they called it 'harpy'. 
Personally, I believe Denny since he was there (even though he's no longer with us to speak for himself).  I do still have the tape somewhere in my archives.
Doug Thompson in Toronto
I will have to pick up a copy of this book.  Something as simple as this I can attribute to possibly mis-hearing the word, especially if some of these interviews were done over the telephone ... so that one doesn't bother me as much (although we ALL want the book to be as historically accurate as possible.)  Being unfamiliar with the term "Harvey" would ALSO contribute to some confusion.  The "Limbo Rock" comment above, however, is way off base ... but it sounds like it was attributed more to Publisher's Weekly than the author ... so this, too, might explain part of the problem.  I don't know whether or not the film has been screened yet up your way in Canada but it's an absolute MUST SEE ... especially since you've had the opportunity to chat with so many of the principle players over the years.  If you ever get down Chicago-way, I'd love to order pizza and offer you a private screening!  Thanks, Doug!
Yes, I have seen it ... and absolutely love it.  Denny and I have corresponded and he's trying to arrange a Toronto screening sometime soon.  I'm sorry Carole Kaye feels the way she does about the documentary, but she is a wonderfully talented musician and was extremely accommodating to me when I interviewed her a few years ago.  Carol rightfully deserves her place in history and should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (I know, I know, let's not both of us get started on that).  If Hal Blaine's in there, then so should Carol ... and engineer Larry Levine (another modest guy who made history every day he went to work.  I spent an afternoon with Larry and his wife in LA and got several wonderful hours of stories on tape).
Despite the 'harpy' mistake, I am really enjoying "The Wrecking Crew" book.  These stories need to be out there for all to see and kudos to Kent Hartman and Denny Tedesco for getting' it done, son.
I usually get into Chicago in August for Beatlefest (oops!  I mean, The Fest For Beatles Fans.  Don't want to piss off Apple Corps), so we could have that pizza then.
Consider it a date!  I wish Carol were more supportive of the film ... it recognizes ALL of the artists who made The Wrecking Crew the incredible team of musicians they were back in the day.  And who knows ... with a little bit of luck, maybe Denny's film will be widely available by August.  Nothing would please me more!  (kk) 
We have received a fair amount of mail concerning Carol Kaye's negative attitude and response toward the film ... and it makes all of us sad, especially some of the artists who have worked with her in the past.  Without question, Carol was an integral part of the line-up ... scroll back and read some of our Wrecking Crew coverage from last week to see that virtually EVERYONE concerned has ONLY been complimentary toward her contributions and achievements.  But she seems to have this on-going "RAGE" of late when it comes to discussing this film these days (and toward Hal Blaine and Denny Tedesco in particular).  While I'm not on Facebook, I have heard from several folks who are that tell me that Carol regularly bashes the film publicly on her Facebook Page ... almost as if it were a personal vendetta of some sort ... and this is sad.
These incredible artists are FINALLY getting the credit they deserve, after being overlooked and hidden in the shadows for SO many years.  As I've stated before, embrace your legacy ... this music has been such a HUGE part of our lives ... let's not taint these memories with some bitterness and sour grapes now after all these years.  The Wrecking Crew were an "ensemble" ... it was through the collective efforts of ALL of these musicians and participants that this great music was created.  (kk)
In his new book "Where The Action Is!", Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon tells about working with The Wrecking Crew when he came out to Los Angeles to record the theme song "Action" for the hot new afternoon Dick Clark television series "Where The Action Is".
The theme song had already been recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders, hosts of the daily music fest ... but Producer Dick Clark wasn't happy with their version of the tune.  He then had Del Shannon take a crack at it ... but still wasn't happy with the results.  Clark then exclaimed "This is a Freddy Cannon song" ... and Freddy was summoned into the studio to record his rendition.
Here, in Freddy's own words, are his recollections of that amazing session:
Producer Dick Glasser explained to me, "Dick Clark has a television show that is going on the air in ten days.  He has this song that he wants to use as the theme song, and no one can seem to come up with a version of the song that he likes.  Listen to it.  And, if you think you can sing it, we will rush to the studio, and we can cut it and get it over to Dick."
I said, "Alright, put it on."
He put it on once, and I listened very closely to the demo that had been sent over.  On the demo, it was Tommy Boyce (Tommy wrote the song with Steve Venet - kk) who was singing it.  When it finished playing, I said to him, "Put it on again."
He played it again, and by the second time around, I was singing it in his office.  That was all it took.  He said, "OK ... let's go cut it immediately."
We went right to the studio and there were the musicians they had assembled to do the record.  They were the top guys in the field:  Glen Campbell (guitar), James Burton (guitar), Leon Russell (keyboards), and David Gates of the group Bread (bass).  These were all of the studio musicians at United Western Studio in Hollywood.
I walked in there ready to rock and roll.  Dick Glasser played the Tommy Boyce demo for them to hear, and told them the key that I was going to sing it in ... which is the key of "C".  They listened to it, and what I saw happen, was something that I have never seen in my life.  They heard it one time, and they turned on the tape while they played it.  They finished it, and they did a second "take".  And, by the second "take", it was done.  That was it!  They absolutely nailed it!  After they did the second "take", they got up, they walked out of our studio, and into the next studio where they were recording with someone else!  They did it in two takes!  That was how good they were.
-- Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon
Hi Kent,
Just a quick response to some recent comments made about my attending a screening of the Wrecking Crew film in Vegas a few weeks ago.  I don't know anything about the behind-the-scenes squabbling, legal wrangling, name-calling, etc., nor do I care to know.  It's not my business and I have nothing to do with any of that.  I didn't make the film and I'm not even in it.  On a positive note, I am forever grateful to *all* the musicians involved in this film for the unforgettable music they have created.  My admiration for them will never change.  And just for the record (pun intended), my last name is spelled H-I-N-S-C-H-E.  
Thanks, Billy ... this seems to be the sentiment of most of the musicians and recording artists we've talked to, many of whom share their memories in the film. (I remember Billy Hinsche telling Forgotten Hits years ago about the first time he entered the recording studio as part of Dino, Desi and Billy to make their very first record ... and being shocked to find other musicians there to record the backing tracks.  He thought that a Dino, Desi and Billy record was going to be recorded by Dino, Desi and Billy!!!  Go figure!)  
Of course, that's just NOT the way music was recorded back then ... and while I'm sure that this HAD to be a major disappointment for these young teen-age stars, it was the fine musicianship of these seasoned musicians ... all studio wizards ... that helped their records climb the charts.  SO many artists who a big part of their success to the folks "behind the curtain" ... and I believe ALL of us are happy to see these guys finally get their due.  (kk)
And HERE'S a group Billy certainly spent some time with ... Hinsche was part of The Beach Boys' touring band for DECADES ... and was also proud to call Carl Wilson his brother-in-law!
Kent ...
The Beach Boys have released a video of their new recording of "Do It Again".  It will be part of their new unnamed album.
Frank B.
Click here: The Beach Boys Release ‘Do It Again’ Music Video
I know!  Of course you COULD have watched it here ... The Beach Boys Are Back! ... back on February 17th!!!  (And we got it posted a couple of days late as we were right in the middle of our Wrecking Crew mini-series at the time!)  I'm telling you ... it PAYS to check Forgotten Hits every day ... or you can just wait for the rest of the oldies world to catch up!  (kk)
Kent ...
Wouldn't it have been great to see Glen Campbell singing with the Beach Boys just one more time at the Grammy Awards ceremony this year?
Frank B.
From our review of The Grammys (published February 13th):
I couldn't agree more that artists like The Beach Boys, Paul McCartney and Glen Campbell SHOULD have been saluted in their hey-day ... but it IS kinda cool that these three "dinosaur acts" put on some of the best performances witnessed all night.  (And you're right ... Brian Wilson looked like he couldn't get off the stage fast enough once the song was over!)  My first thought when they flashed on Glen Campbell in the audience during The Beach Boys' set was, "Man, they should have invited HIM up there to play with these guys!!!  What a memorable performance THAT would have been!  (kk)
And, speaking of Glen Campbell ...
Glen was one of my favorite artists back in the day.  He even had his own TV show, and in my opinion it was because he had so much talent, there was no way to hold him back. It's sad to see him getting older and dealing with a failing memory, but isn't that part of life?  Let's enjoy his music while we still can.  It was great seeing him on the Grammys the other night -- I thought he did a fantastic job.  
Mr. C.
While surfing the cable stations on Sunday, I just happened to come across a GREAT documentary profiling Glen Campbell's farewell tour that also served as an overview of Alzheimer's Disease in layman's terms that made things very easy to understand.  I wasn't aware that two of Glen's children are performing with him on stage for this last hurrah ... and it was GREAT to hear him perform SO many of his hits up on stage, including many of those that WE consider to be The Forgotten Hits of the '60's.  Glen seems to be in fine voice and most at home when he's performing.  I didn't see any upcoming broadcast dates for this listed, but check your local listings to see if it'll be showing in your area.  A nice way to spend an hour with a guy who gave us SO much great music over the years.  By the way, if you've been fortunate enough to catch Glen in concert during his farewell tour, we'd love to hear from you.  I've read some EXCELLENT reviews!  (kk)
What sheet of paper is Lee reading from?
Well, I can't say for sure ... but I'm guessing it's probably an old Forgotten Hits Newsletter!!!  lol  (kk)
Always loved the
SAM PHILLIPS version from the PRET-A-PORTER soundtrack ... IT ROCKS!
David Lewis
Cher had the hit ... but Nancy Sinatra's version was the haunting one that gave the song some extra meaning.  I LOVED the way this was used in the "Kill Bill" soundtrack by Quentin Tarantino ... Quentin REALLY knows his music!  (kk)
Hey Kent,
Here is a video of Frank Jr. and Nancy Sinatra singing "Somethin' Stupid" on the Smothers Brothers TV show. Maybe this is how the rumor started about Frank Sr. acing his son out of the studio. I've got to say that I like the blend of brother and sister better than when the ol' man did it, but the pairing isn't any more weird, right? I'm usually pretty good at proofreading what I write, but I meant to say that I heard that Lee Hazlewood would only produce the record if Frank Sr. WOULD sing it, and not Lee, himself, but that was wrong, too, I guess. I think the song was a big hit, partially because the public thought it was "so cute" that father and daughter sang a sweet duet together.
John LaPuzza
What a GREAT clip!  (I can't believe I don't remember this ... I thought I remembered EVERYTHING from The Smothers Brothers television series!)  Great quality ... and a fun one to watch!  (kk)
And if you think singing love songs with your father is a little weird ... check out THIS clip of Nancy Sinatra singing a love song with one of her dad's best friends!  It's Nancy Sinatra and Dean Martin singing the Bobby Darin hit "Things"!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday This And That

Kent ...
Talk about your Oldies but Goodies!
Here's a list of The Top Ten Oldest Living Rock Stars!
Frank B.

While surfing the cable stations on Sunday, I just happened to come across a GREAT documentary profiling Glen Campbell's farewell tour that also served as an overview of Alzheimer's Disease in layman's terms that made things very easy to understand.  I wasn't aware that two of Glen's children are performing with him on stage for this last harrah ... and it was GREAT to hear him perform SO many of his hits up on stage, including many of those that WE consider to be The Forgotten Hits of the '60's.  Glen seems to be in fine voice and most at home when he's performing.  I didn't see any upcoming broadcast dates for this listed, but check your local listings to see if it'll be showing in your area.  A nice way to spend an hour with a guy who gave us SO much great music over the years.  (kk)

>>>Paul Peek had at least two records which made our local survey, WALKING THE FLOOR OVER YOU in 1959 on NRC and PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEY in 1966 on Columbia.  (I've got to get that one out again and refresh my memory how it goes. Interesting to know if it charted in your town.) Larry Neal
I've also got an acetate 45 of an unreleased version of Pin The Tail On The Donkey by Ray Stevens (they all knew each other down in Atlanta) but it's not as good as Paul Peek's version (maybe that's why it was left unreleased). I'll put that one up on youtube one of these days.
Tom Diehl
If you haven't already beaten me to the punch, Tom sent along a copy of Paul Peek's version to share.  Not a bad tune, really, for this era.  Peek charted twice in Billboard ... first with "Brother-In-Law" (#84, 1961) and then with "Pin The Tail On The Donkey" (#91, 1966.)  I don't show either of these tunes charting here in Chicago.  (kk)

Hey Kent ...
Just wanted to respond to your comment about the song,  "American Pie" , and how it immortalized Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.  I listened to a very interesting segment on Talk Radio the other day and was introduced to a whole new take on that song.  I mean, this guy analyzed almost every line and the realization was that this song also had a whole lot to do with the problems with our country and government over the years.  I will have to see if I can come up with all of the "hidden messages" ... but it was very interesting!  
I'm sending a link to the closest thing I could find to that program.  Gives you something to think about, huh?  Good job with FH!  

“American Pie” explained by Glenn Beck: What does “The Day the music died” mean? – Glenn Beck                                  
Unfortunately, I think the over-analyzing of "American Pie" greatly contributed to turning me off to the song all-together.  Dating all the way back to 1971 when it was first released, I think I've heard every take and every spin on what each line of lyric means that it took the enjoyment of listening to it right out of the mix.  A favorite of many, to be sure ... but it's become an immediate button-pusher for me!  (kk)

Kent ...
Dion likes this song off his new CD.
His Facebook friends like "Ride's Blues" and "Bronx Poem".
I like "Bronx Poem". 

Frank B.

>>>Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits are doing a Valentine's Day Show in Fairfield, CT, at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield UniversityIf you get a chance to catch this show, DO IT!!!  You will NOT be disappointed ... Peter Noone continues to be one of the most entertaining oldies artists on the circuit!  (kk)
You must have suspected I would be there?  ;-)
Shelley J. Sweet-Tufano
No point in asking you what you thought of the show ... I'm guessing I already know the answer!!!  (lol)  Thanks, Shelley!  (kk)

Kent ...

Here is an article on my longtime friend and occasional collaborator Toni Wine (“CANDIDA”, “A GROOVY KIND OF LOVE”) I hope you enjoy it! 
Artie Wayne

Have you been watching American Idol?  I was very impressed by the song choices on Thursday night.  I am sure that my good friend Bobby Vee has to be pleased that 'The Night Has a Thousand Eyes' was performed.  'Make It Easy On Yourself',  Í Only Have Eyes For You' ... whoever was responsible for the song list deserves a standing ovation!  There are some good candidates this year.  How bout that Phillip Phillips?  What an awesome name.
Philip - WRCO 
Actually, we've completely tuned "Idol" out this year ... been watching more and more of "The Voice" ... better singing talent and FAR less drama.  The show also moves along at a very brisk pace whereas Idol was really starting to drag for me.  I enjoy Stephen Tyler but he almost seems "scripted" these days ... "and now ... playing the part of the lecherous, dirty old man ... Stephen Tyler!!!"  Sounds like an interesting song choice line-up, however ... and certainly NOT what you'd expect by a younger group of contemporary singers vying for a spot on the program.
And while Phillip Phillips may be a cool name, let us not forget that Phil Phillips scored a #2 Smash Hit back in 1959 with "Sea Of Love"!!!  (Now had they had Phillip Phillips sing "Sea Of Love" on the program ... perhaps while holding a Phillips Screwdriver ... well THEN I might have been impressed!!!  lol)  kk

In Monday's piece about the Magical History Tour, the line "It's getting better all the time" appeared. Every time I hear this track, I think it's sometime in 1969 - 72, and I'm hearing the intro to an ABC-TV program. Does anyone else feel such a strong connection between the song and a TV network? 
David Lewis

Of course in reference to The Magical History Tour, I'm sure it was more a case of "It's getting better all the time" from The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album ... but you're right ... this is a great, long-forgotten Cass Elliot song, too ... a #30 Hit for Mama Cass in 1969 ... and part of ABC's new season campaign, too!  (That's when you know the advertising agency did an incredible job ... that folks STILL remember this campaign some 40 years later!!!)  kk

The Huffington Post just named CHICAGO the most corrupt city in America ... CONGRATS!!!
-- Renfield
ps - I was rooting for Newark, NJ ... but ya gotta give credit where due!
Well, it's cool to be #1 at SOMETHING!!!  (kk)

Here's ANOTHER 50th Anniversary worth talking about ...

Just got this from FH Reader Dave Barry:
Tony Bennett's special SF Valentine's performance  
Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Tony Bennett is bringing his heart back to San Francisco on Valentine's Day to celebrate the 50th anniversary year of his signature tune.
The song, of course, is
"I Left My Heart in San Francisco," which Bennett first sang at the Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill in the last month of 1961. He recorded it for the first time 50 years ago this week in New York and it became a surprise smash hit.
Neither Bennett nor the song has ever gone out of style and he will sing it again at a sold-out benefit concert at the Venetian Room on Feb. 14 to raise money for heart research at UCSF.
Protocol chief Charlotte Shultz, a friend of Bennett's, wants him to add another concert, in San Francisco's City Hall rotunda at noon that day, as a sort of valentine to the city.
"Our hearts are here," she said. "We should celebrate how great the ity is."
The City Hall concert is not yet on Bennett's calendar - "It's not confirmed yet," said Sylvia Weiner, the singer's agent - but the benefit for the UCSF division of cardiology is already a hit. The event, which includes cocktails, dinner and a show reprising the song that helped make the singer a household name, sold out almost as soon as it was announced.
Global appeal
One reason is "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" and the city itself are a perfect match.
"They love it everywhere," Bennett said of the song and San Francisco. "You'd be surprised how much they respect the city. I get it everywhere in the world. England, Paris, wherever I play. Internationally, it is the most respected city in America."
Bennett has been back to San Francisco many times since his first appearance here 50 years ago this winter. He's played at stadiums, at the Fairmont, at City Hall, for celebrations of everything from the cable cars to the Symphony.
Bennett's last appearance was at the opening game of the Giants' 2011 season at AT&T Park in April. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" is both the city's and the team's signature song. It is played after every Giants home victory.
Bennett is 85 now, still at the top of a great career. He has been identified with San Francisco because of the song for 50 years. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" earned him his first Grammy Award for record of the year in 1962.
His career has never let up - he has been nominated for another Grammy this year for his album "Tony Bennett Duets II," which will be broadcast on PBS Friday. In this one, Bennett sings duets with Lady Gaga, Carrie Underwood, Aretha Franklin, John Mayer and the late Amy Winehouse, among others.
Rose from obscurity
"I Left My Heart in San Francisco" has a charming backstory. It was written by George Cory and Douglass Cross in 1954 and languished in obscurity for years. Cory and Cross had modest success as songwriters, and they gave the song to Ralph Sharon, who was Bennett's accompanist and musical director.
Sharon kept it in a drawer for years, but when the songwriters heard that Bennett was about to make his first San Francisco appearance, they reminded Sharon about the song.
Late one night in 1961, after a performance at the Vapors Restaurant in Hot Springs, Ark., Bennett and Sharon decided to rehearse the song.
In one version of the story, Bennett thought the song was "just OK." The bartender cleaning up was the only audience - and he liked it and said he'd buy a record of the song if they ever made one. In another version, future President Bill Clinton, then a 15-year-old Arkansas high school student, was peeking in the window and heard the first performance.
Bennett took "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" (an earlier title was "When I Come Home") with him to the Fairmont. Local audiences loved it.
He recorded the song a few weeks later. It was the B side of the record. The A side was "Once Upon a Time" from a Broadway show. Bennett thought that would be a smash hit. "A beautiful song," he called it.
But it was "I Left My Heart" that was the hit.
"A few weeks after it came out, a Columbia rep called me up and said, 'Turn the record over. 'San Francisco' is really catching on,' " Bennett said.
Fifty years later, Shultz believes "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" is perfect for Valentine's Day in San Francisco.
"There has been lots of bad news lately," she said, "and it's time to celebrate how we left our hearts here and our love for the city."
Dave Barry's footnotes:
(1) "I Left My Heart" was not exactly a "smash hit." According to Joel Whitburn, the chronicler of Billboard's music charts, "Heart" peaked at #19.
(2) I have the 45 single of "Heart" (a reissue I must confess) autographed by the composers Cory and Cross.
While unquestionably and undeniably a "standard", "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" was NOT the run-away chart success one might expect for such a landmark tune.  Released in August of 1962, it only managed a #19 showing on Billboard's Pop Singles Chart.  It didn't even top Billboard's Adult Contemporary Chart, stalling at #7.  But it did win a couple of Grammys that year and it is, by all accounts, a bona fide standard ... as well as Tony Bennett's signature tune.  (kk)

Two things came to my mind immediately after reading Monday's Comments.
First, the child prodigy  playing the piano and supposedly being Little Richard ... well, you
could have fooled me!
Second, whenever I hear THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE or somehow see the title in print, it always reminds me of the time it made its film debut here in OKC. Outside on the marquee sign it said, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY BALANCE.

>>>I have had a song recorded off KOMA since 1960 that I have never been able to get a 45 copy of and am wondering if you have an MP3 to share of it.  The song is a pop teener by Jimmy Darrow (I think it was anyway) called "Johnny Blue".  It was not a GREAT song, but I have had it SO long on tape and still one I would like to locate in good quality.  (WLSClark)
>>>The song in question you are asking about is JOHNNY BLUE. It was recorded in 1960 on the UBC record label. It was recorded by Johnny Hughes who was 12 years old at the time. (said so on the label.) The song was produced by Bobby Boyd and written by (Crutchfield - Nelson). The flip was called PRETTY LITTLE GIRL written by (Joe B. West). The record label number was 1018 for JOHNNY BLUE and 1017 for PRETTY LITTLE GIRL. That is the only song I have that I know of with the title of JOHNNY BLUE. (Larry Neal)
>>>If anybody else out there is able to track this one down, please let us know.  Clark Besch has certainly provided US with all kinds of great music over the years ... would love to be able to pay him back with this one!  (We're looking for "Johnny Blue" by Johnny Hughes)  kk
We received this link from several Forgotten Hits Readers after the above comments ran.  Thinking that this has got to be the song ... not a GREAT copy ... but certainly enough to identify (and, hopefully, satisfy a memory or two!) kk
And this from Clark and Larry ...
Would you believe early today before I went to work I looked on the internet and found this youtube video and was going to e-mail you tonight, even though I thought others might find it.
Same record. I have done some minor research here at home and have come up with absolutely nothing on a Jimmy Darrow. This has got to be the song in question that that Clark is inquiring about. Johnny Hughes also had another song called JUNIOR HIGH DOLL.  (That record of JOHNNY BLUE is probably a promo copy. Mine is red in color like JUNIOR HIGH DOLL.)
In regards to the readers talking about beatniks, would you believe last night I played BEATNIK BLUES by Huey 'Piano' Smith from 1960.
Thanks, Kent.  Now I need to find time to make an MP3 of it.  It is cool to see the record label.  The song is pretty good for a 12 year old, I'd say.  Not great quality, but my static laden KOMA tape from 1960 is much worse, ha-ha.  Actually, the record may not be much better quality judging by the record label.  Thanks again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Helping Out Our Readers

>>>I have had a song recorded off KOMA since 1960 that I have never been able to get a 45 copy of and am wondering if you have an MP3 to share of it.  The song is a pop teener by Jimmy Darrow (I think it was anyway) called "Johnny Blue".  It was not a GREAT song, but I have had it SO long on tape and still one I would like to locate in good quality.  Those were great days listening to KOMA as they "went border to border and Coast to coast" with their great "Yours, Truly KOMA" jingles!  (WLSClark)

Hi Clark!

I appreciate the fine words you had for me and the two specialized shows I did on KOMA. The song in question you are asking about is JOHNNY BLUE. It was recorded in 1960 on the UBC record label. It was recorded by Johnny Hughes who was 12 years old at the time. (said so on the label.) The song was produced by Bobby Boyd and written by (Crutchfield - Nelson). The flip was called PRETTY LITTLE GIRL written by (Joe B. West). The record label number was 1018 for JOHNNY BLUE and 1017 for PRETTY LITTLE GIRL. That is the only song I have that I know of with the title of JOHNNY BLUE. Sorry, I don't have access to MP3.
Larry Neal
If anybody else out there is able to track this one down, please let us know.  Clark Besch has certainly provided US with all kinds of great music over the years ... would love to be able to pay him back with this one!  (We're looking for "Johnny Blue" by Johnny Hughes)  kk

Big reader of Forgotten Hits.  I'm 52 and this song has escaped me finding out if it is available and what the name is.  It is from the documentary called Straight Shooter about the Mamas and Papas.
Here is the song that starts:  I am a rake and a rambling boy, many a city I have been. The Cumberland City is ??????  Well, the Cumberland City, yes, I married me a wife, loved her better than I did my life ... She threaten kind by night and day ...
Can you please send this out to the viewers for help ??  I've tried Shazam and Sound Hound to no luck.
My info is as follows
Bob Morrow
Vicmorrow@Aol. com
This is a tough one that I feel can be a tremendous challenge for the listeners and having the video clip to show - if we can show this of course ???
Thanks for any help you can give.
I know exactly what clip you're referring to ... have seen it numerous times ... and I know we've searched for this one in the past, too, but evidently without success.  (As I recall, there are no "end credits" on "Straight Shooter", which typically would show you the song, artist and songwriter for this tune.  If anybody out there can shed some additional light on this, we really would appreciate it.  This was done by one of John Phillips' early folk bands and my guess is it's some sort of traditional folk tune.  Let's see if anything comes back this time around.  (kk)

By the way, Bob emailed me a short clip of the song in question.  If you're interested in seeing it ... or think you might be able to help identify this tune and its origin ... let me know and I'll send you a copy via email.  Maybe between all of us we can finally narrow this one down!  Thanks, Gang!  (kk)

I wanted to ask you for some examples of what you think real Beat music is. I have looked it up and I see it seems to be a confused mishmash spanning a few generations.  
My personal first reference is to the background / instrumental sound of the somewhat comedy song  “Shopping for Clothes” Leiber and Stoller, the Coasters recording, released 1960.  
I wanted to find some more music like this to explore and researched online came to the Wikipedia article on the neo-beatnik group, the Washington Squares, and they are in my experience a post beatnik sound, more like the Association in spirit and sound.  
This is where the cultural links seem to go, in it mentions: 
The Beats had a pervasive influence on rock and roll and popular music, including the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison: the Beatles spelled their name with an "a" partly as a Beat Generation reference,[50] and Lennon was a fan of Jack Kerouac.[51] Ginsberg later met and became friends with members of the Beatles. Paul McCartney played guitar on Ginsberg's album Ballad of the Skeletons. 
Ginsberg was close friends with Bob Dylan[52] and toured with him on the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975. Dylan cites Ginsberg and Kerouac as major influences. 
Jim Morrison cites Kerouac as one of his biggest influences, and fellow Doors member Ray Manzarek has said "We wanted to be beatniks".[53] In his book "Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors", Manzarek also writes "I suppose if Jack Kerouac had never written On the Road, The Doors would never have existed." Michael McClure was also friends with members of The Doors, at one point touring with keyboardist Ray Manzarek
Ginsberg was friends with Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, a group of which Cassady was a member, which also included members of the Grateful Dead. In the 1970s, Burroughs was friends with Mick Jagger, Lou Reed, and Patti Smith.”  
ETC., fine and ultimately we have Steve Jobs (born ~2/24/55) listening to Bob Dylan songs all day and wearing turtleneck sweaters, so this just proves that it was a broad cultural influence that morphed as it went along, from beatniks, to hippies, perhaps to today’s “occupiers” as a connected line of counterculture influence. 
I would just like to know which records do you think belong in the original mold, and is my reference to the instrumental design of “Shopping for Clothes” in the original genre? Can you think of some other songs that may have been popular we can listen to get to know the original conception, as opposed to what it morphed into, which is nearly everything in the counterculture of the 1960s. And the arrangers and musicians of the Coasters song must have had a reference, and it was clearly something different from the original “Clothes Line” by Kent Harris, which is in an earlier genre.
Interesting topic, Leslie ... but not one I'm comfortable answering because I'm not familiar enough with the genre to speak intelligently (much less conclusively) on the subject.  So instead, I'm putting this out to the masses.  Perhaps some of our readers can narrow down the definition a little bit for you ... and even cite some musical examples that we can feature.  There are still "Beat Music" Charts going on to this very day ... in fact a couple of our readers have placed new music on these charts consistently over the past several years ... so let's wait and see what comes back.  Perhaps once we can more carefully narrow down the definition, we can all agree to disagree on just who belongs on this list.  (kk)
I came across this collection on Amazon, which seems to me to just attempts at exploiting the beat conception and are in fact variations on boogie, teeny-bop, jazz-boogie, early surf, over-produced popular personality dreck, big band bop.  
Just in my opinion, this is a pretty awful collection with the exception of the Miles Davis tune, which is at least authentic jazz and couple others that are jazz.  
So sorry to drag you into this, maybe “real” beat music is just a slight variation on “cool jazz” with a narrative and sparse instrumentation?  
But clearly the cultural image had some power, given all the attempts at morphing popular music into whatever they felt that “beat-music” and “beatniks” were.  
No biggie ... I just know that this is NOT within the area of my expertise ... so I'd rather open this up to our readers and get you a more thorough, detailed explanation.  Stay tuned!  (kk)

re:  WIPE OUT:

Hi Kent,
Perhaps I got this all wrong, but I thought I had heard - many years ago - that the Impacts' "Wipeout" (which never charted) is a completely different song from the one done by the Surfaris. I thought Fankhauser had tried to sue at one point but there was really no basis for a case (?).
Gary E. Myers / MusicGem
It IS a completely different song ... it just happened to come first and was in much the same vein as The Surfaris' hit single.  A proposed Forgotten Hits series tracing the history of BOTH versions of "Wipe Out" never materialized a couple of years ago because of too many inconsistencies in the stories.  Nevertheless, there are still some VERY interesting stories to be told ... maybe someday we can convince Joe Klein and Merrell Fankhauser to do some "editing" and run this piece after all!  Meanwhile, Merrell's been making quite a name for himself lately ... between his cable tv show "The Tiki Lounge" and his inclusion on the recent "Where The Action Is" compilation CD, he's been more popular than ever! 

By the way, "The Tiki Lounge" is now available on home DVD!  Watch for it February 28th!
To purchase Merrell Fankhauser 'Best Of Tiki Lounge' DVDs
Visit the official Merrell Fankhauser website at

Hey Kent,
I just heard Frank and Nancy Sinatra's hit, "Somethin' Stupid", on the oldies station. I have heard two versions on how this recording came about. One is that Frank had an album, containing the song, recorded by a folk singer and his wife. He took it to his daughter, Nancy's producer and collaborator, Lee Hazelwood, to see if Nancy and Lee would be interested in recording the duet. Lee told him that he would produce it, only if Frank didn't want to record it with his daughter. Then, Frank changed his mind and told him that he wanted to sing it. The other version is that it was Lee, who came up with the idea of recording the duet, but he had Frank Sinatra Jr. in mind, to sing the song with his sister. When Frank Sr. got wind of it, he raised the roof until he got "his way", replacing his son in the studio.The rest is history. Do you know anything about this? -
John LaPuzza,
Omaha, NE
How TOTALLY weird to get this email today!  I had JUST played "Somethin' Stupid" by Nancy and Frank Sinatra right before heading off to work this morning!  Even after all these years, it STILL strikes me as a weird song for a father and daughter to sing together ... the lyrics play as a love song ... and it's always seemed a little bit creepy to me for this reason.
But there's no denying the hit power of this track ... it went all the way to #1 back in 1967.
According to Fred Bronson's book "The Billboard Book Of Number One Hits" ... which, coincidentally quotes Forgotten Hits' very own Gary Theroux's book "The Top Ten":
"'Somethin' Stupid' was a collaborative effort by Frank Sinatra's producer Jimmy Bowen and Nancy Sinatra's producer Lee Hazlewood, who found the song, written in 1966, by C. Carson Parks.  Hazlewood gave the song to Nancy.
"She showed it to her dad.  Frank thought it was perfect for the two of them -- a sure fire hit -- and they wanted to cut it right away."
Bowen says, "Since I was producing Frank at the time ... and Lee was working with Nancy ... Lee and I became co-producers on this particular track."
He goes on to describe the process:
"The session itself was hilarious.  It was on the first eight-track equipment any of us had used -- a brand new board at Western Records in Hollywood.  Eddie Bracken was our engineer, the greatest there was, especially back in the days of three-track and four-track.  He arranged the studio so that Frank and Nancy would be looking in the control room at us, side by side, the entire time.
"He also set up a producer's desk with two talk-back mikes and a couple of name plates, you know, making kind of a light thing of it.  That was because everyone was worried there'd be a lot of tension between Hazlewood and me.  But we got the session done.  I think it took about four takes.  It was one of those that went real smooth."
Bowen told Theroux (and his writing partner Bob Gilbert) that some of the people at Reprise Records (Frank's record company, for which Nancy also recorded) thought it was a mistake to have a father and daughter sing a love song together.  One bold label executive even told Frank what he thought about it ... to which Frank responded, "Don't worry ... the record's a hit."  And it was ... it went straight to #1. 
Shortly after the success of this record, Nancy Sinatra started recording duets with her producer Lee Hazlewood ... "Jackson" (#13, 1967); "Lady Bird" (#20, 1967); "Some Velvet Morning" (#26, 1968) and one of your All-Time Favorite, Forgotten B-Sides, "Summer Wine" (#49, 1967) kept the duo on the charts.  After the success of "Somethin' Stupid", Papa Frank never hit The Top 20 again ... although he continued to perform for sold-out audiences until his death in 1998.  (kk)

And how much weirder is it to get THIS clip from FH Reader Frank B at the exact same time?!?!?
Kent ...
Here's an interesting version of this 1966, #1 Hit.
A never-released version by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood.
Frank B.