Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Rivieras ... and Tommy James

Got a few responses to yesterday's Rivieras piece ... so I thought I'd run a follow-up today ...


>>> What's up with that?!?! How come when Brian Wilson wrote "Surfin' USA", patterned after Chuck Berry's tune "Sweet Little Sixteen", he ultimately had to give cowriting credit (and a substantial amount of royalties) to The Grandfather of Rock And Roll ... yet The Rivieras' surfin' tune "Little Donna" ... a blatant rip off of Berry's "Rock And Roll Music" ... only shows leader Bill Dobslaw's name under the title as songwriter?!?!? (kk)

What's up with that? On Little Donna, it is a blatant rewrite of Rock And Roll Music, but was not a huge national hit. I'd say Chuck Berry concentrated his efforts on Surfin' USA as there was much more money to recover. If Little Donna became a huge hit, it would have been worth the effort for Berry to sue. Just my opinion.
Mark the Shark

Your postings today of the Rivieras reminded me that one of our local DJ's (can't really remember his name) many times would use the instrumental H.B. GOOSESTEP as his theme.
Larry Neal

I had meant to feature this track in that post but couldn't locate it in time ... here is that rousing instrumental now. (kk)

Here's the Rivieras' version of Hanky Panky from their 1965 USA LP. IF the Shondells learned THEIR version from the Rivieras, I would be surprised. They sound light years apart to me.
Clark Besch


When I first wrote that piece back in 2006, it was purely speculation on my part that James may have heard the song performed at a club in Niles, Michigan, as The Rivieras were playing all over the midwest at the time. (And the fact that Tommy worked in a record store increased the odds of him being familiar with the tune as well as The Raindrops' B-Side.) But in 2010 when Tommy James wrote his biography "Me, The Mob And The Music", he finally addressed some of my suspicions once and for all.  I had the right idea ... I just had the wrong band!

James (and his various pre-Shondells high school bands) used to see The Rivieras (then performing as The Playmates) perform all the time ... in fact, they were almost a "rival" band if you will. 

Here, in Tommy's own words, he lays down the scenario for you:

There was a group called the Princeton Five that was terribly popular in the South Bend area. 

(The Princeton Five would eventually chart here in Chicago with their version of "Roll Over Beethoven", right at the start of Beatlemania ... and then more famously, as simply The Princetons, with their Top Ten Local Hit "Georgiana".) 

These guys were rockers. They were our nemesis. There was a group called The Playmates (later The Rivieras) from La Port and The Tempests from Elkhart, and still another band from Mishawaka called The Spinners. There was even another Niles band called The Corvettes. These were only the most popular, but this was our competition and we were the new kids on the block. 

At this time Tommy was calling his band Tom and the Tornadoes!  And they even got to make a record on a small, local label (that went absolutely nowhere ... but would be QUITE the collectible today!) Tommy describes their set list at this time as follows:   

Motown and surf music were hot that year and we did them to death. We also played "Quarter To Three" by Gary "U.S." Bonds, 'Wah-Watusi" by the Orlons, practically everything by the Beach Boys, "Do You Love Me" by the Contours, instrumentals like "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris, "Pipeline" by the Chantays and "Easier Said Than Done" by the Essex. But by far the most requested song that summer was "Louie Louie" by the Kingsman, a song in which no matter how closely you listen to it, the lyrics are still unintelligible. Years later I found ot even the Kingsmen did not know what the hell they were singing!   

James then goes on to describe his feelings about the Kennedy assassination ... and witnessing The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, an event that transformed his life forever.

The Beatles opened up a floodgate and the British Invasion was on. The Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Animals, the Zombies, the Kinks ... and on and on and on. We loved the new sound. It was very different from the three-chord rockers we had been playing up to that point. This change in music was also reflected in the Tornadoes. We were so transfixed by all the new groups from Britain and so preoccupied with imitating the British rockers, that we weren't paying attention to what was going on in our own backyard.    

That spring a mysterious box of records came into the Spin-It (the record store where Tommy worked) with about twenty-five copies of a song called "California Sun" by a group I had never heard of, the Rivieras. Stranger still, it was on the Riviera label, which in all likelihood meant it was a local band pressing its own records. I put it on the turntable. It sounded like a second-rate impersonation of the Princeton Fives version of "California Sun", which they had been playing for years and was practically their theme song.   

I asked where these records had come from and was told a guy named Dobslaw dropped them off. "Bob Dobslaw? The manager of the Playmates?" She handed me a glossy eight-by-ten. I could not believe it. The Rivieras were really the Playmates, our old sparring partners from La Porte, Indiana. How did they do it? I grudgingly accepted the fact that another local band had had the savvy to put out a record. But, I figured, what the hell difference does it make? Without national promotion or a miracle, they could not do any better than we did with "Judy" and "Long Ponytail" (the single that Tommy had cut with his band earlier the previous year.)   

That all changed that Friday night when I turned on my car radio to WLS, the biggest station in the Midwest, and almost drove off the road. It was Art Roberts, WLS's top DJ, announcing as only he could, "The new smmmmmmmash hit by the Rivieras ... Cal-La-Forn-Ya-Suuuuuuuun!"   (Ah yes ... the glory days ... when WLS was a LEADER instead of a follower!!!)   

I honestly did not know whether to cry or put my fist through the windshield. God, was I jealous. This could not be happening. We knew these guys. They were local schlocks, just like us. What was going on here? I had always felt that their manager, Bob Dobslaw, was a bona fide nerd who could not find his backside with both hands ... but he quickly went up a few notches in my estimation. I was in a state of shock. Over the next few weeks, I helplessly watched as the record climbed relentlessly up the charts. Top 30! No, No. Top 20! Stop, Stop! Top 10! Oh my God! And not just on WLS ... the whole damn country!   

Later that summer Tommy met a DJ named Jack Douglas, who was the morning man at WNIL, the local radio station in Niles. He had been kicking around the idea of starting his own record label ... and offered to record Tommy and his band. "Who knows," he told him, "With enough local airplay maybe we can break out of Chicago." 

All I kept thinking about was the Rivieras ... and I said "Let's do it."  

Unfortunately, when they got to the studio, Douglas wanted them to record what Tommy described as "Mother Goose" instead of rock and roll ... and so that first release, "Pretty Little Red Bird" / "Wishing Well", died a quick but (personally painful) death.    

In September, Tommy stopped by a local club called Shula's and caught his old pals The Spinners playing there.    

I had not seen The Spinners in a while and I wanted to check them out. One of the songs they played during their first set got an amazing reaction from the crowd. It was called "Hanky Panky." I had never heard it before.  

In between sets, Tommy asked Spinners Drummer Hank Randolph about the origins of the tune and Hank told him that they had heard another band do it a few weeks ago and the crowd went nuts ... so they decided that they should do it, too. They weren't able to find a copy of the actual record so they just started playing the bits and pieces they could remember and ad-libbing the rest.   

During the next set, over the PA system, I could hear people requesting this song over and over. The requests were coming mainly from the girls, which was always a good sign. The Spinners played "Hanky Panky" twice more that afternoon and each time the reaction was the same ... the crowd went wild. Everybody hit the dance floor and sang along.  

When I left Shula's later that afternoon, all I could thnk about was getting into Jack Douglas's studio and recording that song. After the Rivieras' rip-off of "California Sun" from the Princeton Five, I knew we didn't have much time and I was not going to take any chances. "Hanky Panky" was going to belong to the Shondells.

Once he got back to the Spin-It Record Store, Tommy did some research of his own and found that the song had first been recorded by The Raindrops as the B-Side of their record "That Boy John". It had been released the previous fall but was quickly pulled off the market after the Kennedy assassination because HE was the "John" referred to in the title.

The Shondells added "Hanky Panky" to their set list and got the same reaction The Spinners got ... EVERYBODY loved this song! They recorded it for Snap Records and the record went straight to #1 in the Niles / South Bend area ... and Top Ten in many other local radio outlets ... but they couldn't get a major market to bite and it, too, slowly faded away.

In his book "Rock And Roll Radio: The Fun Years, 1955 - 1975" legendary WLS DeeJay Clark Weber remembers:

I'm the first to admit that I didn't always hear "hit record" when a song was first played.  In 1965, I was doing a beach party record hop at the Glen Lord Beach Park Pavilion in Niles, Michigan, when a very polite teenager asked me if I would listen to a record that he and his friends had recorded.  I said that I would and put it on the turntable.  My first reaction was that it was a bit primitive, but I decided to be gentle in my response.  I told him that while it was a good first try, it wasn't something that WLS would have an interest in playing on the air.  That song became such a big hit that people still dance to it today.  The kid's name was Tommy James and the song was "Hanky Panky".

It wouldn't become a NATIONAL hit until two years later when a disc jockey in Pittsburgh started playing the record on his program, immediately lighting up the switchboard with more requests. Soon it was a #1 Record in Pittsburgh (so much for "overnight success") and then the rest of the country as well.  (The rest of the story, of course, is history. Tommy James and the Shondells became one of the most successful acts of the '60's ... and their music is still played regularly 45 years later.  By the way, "Hanky Panky" went on to top The WLS Silver Dollar Survey for four weeks during the Summer of 1966!)  

For more on the Tommy James story, you've GOT to pick up a copy of "Me, The Mob and the Music", one of the best bios ever published.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Friday Flash

Was able to get these ready before dashing out the door this morning ...


>>>Fred Glickstein of The Flock, Jim Peterik of The Ides of March and Survivor, Jimy Sohns of The Shadows Of Knight and Ronnie Rice of The New Colony Six will all be appearing on Dick Kay's radio program next Saturday (October 20th) on WCPT from 1 - 4 pm. (kk)
Please tell Ronnie Rice of the New Colony Six that I'm still crazy about "Things I'd Like To Say." I have a folder of 'Songs I Never Tire of Hearing' ... there are only 26 in there and this is one of them. It is what I call a perfect song ... nice lyrics, good tune, matches the singer and the beat makes you feel good ... still touches my heart.
Thanx for this song.

A great one, to be sure ... and their biggest national hit.  Here in Chicago it was "I Will Always Think About You" that went to #1 on the WLS chart.  (kk)

Congratulations to Jim Holvay, former member of The Mob ... and composer of FOUR Top Ten Hits for The Buckinghams in 1967 ... Ron Smith just sent us this local article about Jim's induction into the Lyons Township High School's Hall Of Fame: Click here: LTHS HOFer — James Holvay - La Grange

Kent -
I've attached two more photos, one of the Ides, the second a photo of Chase my wife had. No identification on the back side of the Ides photo. On the back of the Chase photo, there is a partially torn label that reads: LE Mackie, Samanth Bldg., 243 Bree St, Johannesburg. P.O. Box 2943 Tel. 23-8029. I'm sure that somebody could identify the members in this picture.

Any of the locals want to take a crack at this one? (kk)

Hi Kent,

Good article about Tobin Matthews and the first WLS chart.

I'd like to send you a copy of what is perhaps one of the rarest rock and roll picture sleeves ever - from 1960's "Ruby Duby Du". I was once offered one thousand dollars for it. I have the only copy that I've ever seen!
Joel Whitburn
You're probably not going to remember this but something like ten years ago I did a spotlight feature on "Ruby Duby Du" for the Forgotten Hits newsletter. Somehow, Tobin Matthews saw it (my guess is Ron Smith forwarded it to him) and contacted me. We did a brief interview for FH (now lost forever along with countless other pieces thanks to the computer-crashing Gods that have plagued me since the beginning of time!!! lol) and gave me his real name, which I then forwarded to you for inclusion in your "Top Pop Singles" book (where it's appeared ever since.) I believe I also had, at that time, a copy of the picture sleeve you're referring to ... NO idea where I got it ... but again I'm guessing that either YOU or Tobin sent it to me. (That, too, has been lost ever since.) So I appreciate your sending me an updated copy to include on the website. $1000?!?!? That's more than some of the rarest Beatles picture sleeves. (But then again how many copies of "Ruby Duby Du" are there out there compared to say "She Loves You"?!?!?)
If nothing else, we now know with all certainty that he spelled his name with two T's ... look at the autograph! (lol) Interesting! Thanks, Joel! (kk)
The Osborne guide does not even list the picture sleeve and he still shows his name as Tobin Mathews!
Well, Jerry Osborne is a Forgotten Hits reader ... you need to get on this one, Jerry!  (kk)

Congratulations to our FH Buddy Tony Hatch on his nomination for the 2013 Songwriters Hall Of Fame, a well-deserved nod to his illustrious career. 
I had the pleasure of meeting Tony and his wife for drinks last year at The Palmer House and you're not going to find a nicer or more personable guy. We hit it off immediately ... and throughout our visit Tony had an uncanny way of making me feel like he was every bit as interested as what I do here in Forgotten Hits as I was in his own phenomenal accomplishments over the years. (Considering that, on a scale of 1-100, my work probably ranks about a 1 1/2 ... and his ranks about a 150, that's pretty a impressive accomplishment ... thanks again, Tony!)
Anyway, best of luck from all of us here at Forgotten Hits on this well-deserved honor.
The committee selects twelve nominees from two different categories: Performer / Songwriters and Non-Performing Songwriters. Other nominees include: Jeff Lynne (one of my favorites ... and not even MENTIONED in the attached article!!!), Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks (collectively as Fleetwood Mac), Jimmy Buffett, Elvis Costello, Ray Davies of The Kinks, Country Superstar Vince Gill, Mick Jones and Lou Gramm of Foreigner, B.B. King, Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox of The Eurythmics, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Stevie Winwood and Bobby Womack for the performer / songwriter category and Bobby Braddock ("D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today", two country classics), Don Covay ("Chain Of Fools", "Sookie Sookie" and "Mercy Mercy"), Randy Goodrum ("You Needed Me", "Oh Sherrie" and "Bluer Than Blue"), Tony Hatch ("Downtown", "I Know A Place", "Don't Sleep In The Subway", "Sugar And Spice" and countless others!), Holly Knight ("Love Is A Battlefield", "Better Be Good To Me" and "Simply The Best"), Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter ("Ain't No Woman Like The One I Got", "Two Divided By Love" and "Don't Pull Your Love"), Bob McDill ("Amanda" and "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On"), Rick Nowels ("Heaven Is A Place On Earth" and "Fallin' For You"), Linda Perry ("Get The Party Started", the Christina Aguilera classic "Beautiful" and "What You Waiting For?"), FH favorites (and oft-profiled team) P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri ("You Baby", "Secret Agent Man" and "Eve Of Destruction", and many others), J.D. Souther ("Best Of My Love", "Heartache Tonight" and "You're Only Lonely" ... and now starring on the hit new ABC Television Series "Nashville"), and Rod Temperton ("Rock With You", "Always And Forever" and "Boogie Nights"). WOW! That's quite a list!
Catch the full article here (courtesy of Ron Smith):
And visit The Songwriters Hall Of Fame Website here:
Speaking of Jeff Lynne, we just saw an EXCELLENT documentary special on VH-1 Classics (also airing on Palladia) that shows some unbelievable footage I've never seen before. Not only does the special document his time with ELO, but we also get some very cool Traveling Wilburys stories as well as what it was like the work with The "Threetles" on the new Beatles Anthology sessions ... amazing stuff and well worth watching. (Looks like it next airs ... at a semi-reasonable time ... on Sunday, the 21st ... at 9 am Eastern on Palladia.) kk
And be sure to check out the brand new video for one of our ELO favorites, "Mr. Blue Sky" ...

And, speaking of great songwriters ...

-- Tom Cuddy

Don't know if you saw it or not but a few months back we ran a clip of Alan O'Day joining Helen Reddy on stage to sing "Angie Baby" when she apparently forgot some of the words.
Alan remembered because he WROTE the song!!!
Here he tells Forgotten Hits exclusively the story behind this #1 Hit ... and shares his own version of the tune with our readers.
Of course Alan is probably BEST remembered for his own #1 Hit "Undercover Angel" ... which we had a little fun talking about a couple of years ago ...

Hi Kent,
I don't know if you have seen this or not ... There was a 'celebration' of 50th James Bond anniversary at the Academy of Motion Picture arts on October 5th.
Having written a book, which took me years, I really don't know how you keep up the output of Forgotten Hits. You must have a wonderful organizational capability. As always, well done. Good photo of Jimmy Page in the latest edition.
VERY cool!!! That's a pretty titillating story, Vic ... thanks for sending! (kk)

And, speaking of James Bond, Paul McCartney was honored this week for passing 4 Million broadcast airplays in the U.S. for his 1973 chart-topper "Live And Let Die"! (Talk about your over-played tunes ... but the funny thing is, I'll still listen to THIS one nearly every single time!) Congratulations, Macca! Great tune ... great honor. (kk)

Congratulations to Forgotten Hits Readers Randy Price, Charles Rosenay and Claudia Stern ... they each won a pair of free tickets to see Micky Dolenz live at B.B. King's in New York City tonight, courtesy of Micky and The David Salidor Company! Don't forget to report back to us with a review of the show!
And, you can catch Micky on The True Oldies Channel today doing an interview with our buddy Scott Shannon!

Hi Kent:
The problem with the R&R HOF is because it has gotten so stupid! Does anybody really know what the exact criteria is, besides the politics & personal ideas of a select few? They put too many people in as well. Some years maybe only 1 or 2 should get in, especially now that you are getting in to more modern people. They are putting in too many performers that are not even Rock n Roll! Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen, Miles Davis, as influences sure, but not as Rockers! Madonna!!! Yikes! Disco Artists! Yikes!! Rap! Yuck! It’s getting meaningless. At least the Baseball HOF inducts Baseball players!!! You can argue about Ron Santo or Jim Rice or Bert Blylevan, but at least they all are baseball players!! The R&R HOF is a becoming a hodge-podge because nobody knows what it means anymore.
The problem with The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has ALWAYS been the lack of criteria ... they have NEVER defined specifically what these nominations are based on ... nor will they ... instead we're just supposed to accept their choices and leave it at that. Their own voting committee has been frustrated for years because they have no input into the selection process other than to vote amongst the list of choices dictated by the nominating committee, under the direction of Jann Wenner.
Did Madonna take rock and roll in a new direction? Yes she did ... and was quite successful at it ... so I can accept her as an inductee. (She was always a "given" anyway.) But I cannot accept this seemingly endless list of "who?!?!?" artists that are thrown at us every year, while continuing to ignore the names that BUILT rock and roll in the first place. And because this is the way it is ... has always been ... and apparently will always be ... nobody cares ... and this includes many if not most of the artists themselves. It simply has NO credibility at all anymore ... and maybe they're FINALLY starting to realize it. Maybe that's why this year they're letting the public vote amongst their list of nominees. A step in the right direction? I'm not so sure ... because the consensus of ALL of those votes will then have the value of ONE vote when their voting committee finally sits down to pick next year's winners. (I'm not sure we're even talking "baby steps" here!!!) kk

His new single DEVIL's SOUL PILE has hit #1 on the Independent Music Network Charts
Tommy is a true rock 'n' roll legend ... hitting #1 again, 50 years after his first number 1 ... SHEILA
23 top 100 certified Billboard hits, including 6 top 10, 4 GOLD, and 2 #1s
Call now: Rick Levy Mgt - 904 - 806 - 0817
Booking ... World Entertainment ... 
John Regna - 201 - 394 - 5944
Hey Kent,
In it's line of expanded edition CD's, Hip-o Select continues with the Supremes line. Now out to buy is the expanded 2-disc collection, I Hear A Symphony. The album, released in 1966, reached #8 Pop, and #1 R&B. Berry Gordy's vision of crossover seems to be at its peak. The Supremes had the teens, now they had their parents. The album features many standards, as well as a few rockers. Included in the new release, is the entire original album in mono and stereo, as well as a few goodies. Disc 2 is an entire show the group did at Detroit's Roostertail Club. A must have collection for any fan of America's top group of the 1960's!
AJK (the Youngest Oldies Freak Around!)

About a month ago we told you about the new Rolling Stones Greatest Hits collection coming out ... the deluxe, deluxe edition features EIGHTY TRACKS on 4 CD's ... and man, what a song line-up. EVERYTHING is here (including their brand new tracks just recorded and released) as well as a couple of bonus features. (There is also a 3-CD version available with 50 tracks ... these are VERY impressive collections!)
More details here:
Super Deluxe Edition / 80 Tracks: 80 TRACKS ON 4 CDS, INCLUDING TWO BRAND NEW TRACKS

CD 1

  1. Come On
  2. I Wanna Be Your Man
  3. Not Fade Away
  4. That’s How Strong My Love Is
  5. It’s All Over Now
  6. Little Red Rooster
  7. The Last Time
  8. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  9. Heart Of Stone
  10. Get Off Of My Cloud
  11. She Said Yeah
  12. I ’m Free
  13. Play With Fire
  14. Time Is On My Side
  15. 19th Nervous Breakdown
  16. Paint It, Black
  17. Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?
  18. She’s A Rainbow
  19. Under My Thumb
  20. Out Of Time
  21. As Tears Go By

CD 2

  1. Let’s Spend The Night Together
  2. Mother’s Little Helper
  3. We Love You
  4. Dandelion
  5. Lady Jane
  6. Flight 505
  7. 2,000 Light Years From Home
  8. Ruby Tuesday
  9. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  10. Sympathy For The Devil
  11. Child Of The Moon (rmk)
  12. Salt Of The Earth
  13. Honky Tonk Women
  14. Midnight Rambler
  15. Gimme Shelter
  16. You Got The Silver
  17. You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  18. Street Fighting Man
  19. Wild Horses

CD 3

  1. Brown Sugar
  2. Bitch
  3. Tumbling Dice
  4. Rocks Off
  5. Happy
  6. Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)
  7. Angie
  8. It's Only Rock 'N' Roll
  9. Dance Little Sister
  10. Fool To Cry
  11. Respectable
  12. Miss You
  13. Shattered
  14. Far Away Eyes
  15. Beast Of Burden
  16. Emotional Rescue
  17. Dance Pt. 1
  18. She's So Cold
  19. Waiting On A Friend
  20. Neighbours

CD 4

  1. Start Me Up
  2. Undercover Of The Night
  3. She Was Hot
  4. The Harlem Shuffle
  5. Mixed Emotions
  6. Highwire
  7. Almost Hear You Sigh
  8. You Got Me Rocking
  9. Love Is Strong
  10. I Go Wild
  11. Like A Rolling Stone
  12. Anybody Seen My Baby?
  13. Saint Of Me
  14. Don't Stop
  15. Rough Justice
  16. Rain Fall Down
  17. Streets Of Love
  18. Plundered My Soul
  19. Doom And Gloom
  20. One More Shot

7” Vinyl EP / Side A

  1. Route 66 – BBC Session
  2. Cops And Robbers – BBC Session

7” Vinyl EP / Side B

  1. You Better Move On – BBC Session
  2. Mona – BBC Session

BONUS CD – iBC Demos

  1. Diddley Daddy – iBC Demo Session
  2. Road Runner – iBC Demo Session
  3. Bright Lights Big City – iBC Demo Session
  4. Honey What’s Wrong – iBC Demo Session
  5. I Want To Be Loved – iBC Demo Session
Thanks for the plug, Kent!
Davie Allan
P.S. Working on "Retrophonic 4" for 2013.

Love the Beach Boys Jukebox idea ...
I did something similar with a couple of playlists on YouTube:


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Remembering A Couple of '60's Classics


Blake Baker "B.B." Cunningham,Jr., lead singer and organist for the Hombres and co-writer of their #12 1967 hit "Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)", died in an apparent shootout with a gang member early Sunday October 14). The 70 year-old B.B. was serving as a security guard for an apartment complex and went to investigate a gunshot nearby. Police found him and a teenaged boy dead when they arrived. B.B., whose brother Bill was a member of the Box Tops, played in the touring version of Ronny and the Daytonas (which later became the Hombres) and also in Jerry Lee Lewis' band from 1977 on. He had been a recording engineering Memphis and Los Angeles, working with such artists as Billy Joel, Elton John, and Lou Rawls.
-- Ron Smith
"Let It Out" was a HUGE hit here in Chicago, climbing all the way to #2. A novelty track that certainly cught your attention when you first heard it, this one wore thin for me quickly when my brother played it CONSTANTLY at home. (I do remember the B-Side ... "Go Girl Go" wasn't a bad track at all!) Hailing out of Memphis, Tennessee, that opening recitation came from the 1948 Red Ingle country / novelty hit "Cigareetes, Whuskey And Wild, Wild Women". I remember buying their follow-up single, too ("It's A Gas"), thinking that it might be a cover of the Alfred E. Newman classic ... it wasn't. Bye bye B.B. (kk)

Check out the Red Ingle track here:


Ron Smith tells us of another recent passing ...
Marty "Bo" Fortson, guitarist and lead singer on the Rivieras' California Sun" died September 26 in South Bend, Indiana. He was 67. The group (originally the Playmates but re-named after the Buick Riviera) was formed at South Bend Central High School during the height of the military draft and Marty decided to join the Marines shortly after recording "California Sun" in nearby Chicago. He could only listen to his radio as the song went to #5 in 1964, thanks to exposure from DJ Art Roberts on WLS-AM in Chicago. "I was in Vietnam, and I kept hearing 'California Sun' on Armed Forces Radio," he said in a 1999 interview with Bob Greene. "'Out there havin' fun in the warm California sun'? Try the warm Vietnam sun." It was followed by three other tunes which never broke the top 90 in Billboard but were big hits in Chicago (their manager was Chicago promoter and label owner Howard Bedno and the B-side
of "California Sun" was named "HB Goosestep" in his honor.) Within two years, however, the rest of the group called it quits, as well. Marty went on to play in a group called Wildcat before taking a job at
Bendix / Allied Signal and managing a furniture store.
Tying into your recent articles, this points out again the power of WLS ... and their willingness not to "play it safe".
-- Ron Smith

The Rivieras charted here in Chicago six times on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey ... "California Sun" peaked at #3, followed by their two-sided hit "Let's Have A Party" / "Little Donna", which went to #4. Then came their version of "Rockin' Robin", a #8 hit, wrapping up 1964. In 1965 they charted twice ... first with "Let's Go To Hawaii" (#25) and then with "Somebody New" (#32).

They've been featured numerous times in Forgotten Hits, including THIS spotlight feature from 2006:

THE RIVIERAS are pretty much regarded as just another One Hit Wonder group ... but boy, what a hit it was! CALIFORNIA SUN perfectly captured the surfin' sound of sunny California ... all the more amazing when you consider that the record was released in JANUARY by a band out of South Bend,

As somewhat of a "local" band, THE RIVIERAS tore up the Chicagoland charts in 1964 and 1965, placing SIX songs in Chicago's Top 40, despite never rising out of the 90's on Billboard's Pop Singles Chart after their Top Five Smash, CALIFORNIA SUN.

Here in Chicago, their follow-up single was a two-sided hit. LITTLE DONNA peaked at #11 and LET'S HAVE A PARTY went all the way to #4 (one shy of CALIFORNIA SUN's #3 local showing earlier that year.) These hits were followed by yet another Top Ten Chicagoland Hit, THE RIVIERAS' version of the old BOBBY DAY song ROCKIN' ROBIN, which went all the way to #8. (All of these tunes charted in Billboard but at peaks of #93, #99 and #96 respectively ... so these songs ABSOLUTELY qualify as LOCAL HITS!!!)

Two more RIVIERAS singles snuck into the Chicagoland charts despite never denting the national trades ... LET'S GO TO HAWAII went to #25 in April of 1965 and SOMEBODY NEW peaked at #32 five months later in September.

CALIFORNIA SUN was first recorded by JOE JONES, who had a #2 smash in 1960 called YOU TALK TOO MUCH. (In fact, CALIFORNIA SUN was JONES' only other chart hit ... but it stalled at #81 in the Spring of 1961. All things considered, it's pretty amazing that anyone even remembered it at all!)

But in 1962, a South Bend, Indiana, Central High School Band (then called THE PLAYMATES), put together the cheesy organ hook (performed by former ACCORDION player OTTO NUSS!!!), added the VERY heavy drums of PAUL DENNERT and, along with guitarists MARTY FORTSON and JOE PENNELL and crosstown Washington High bassist DOUG GEAN, turned the song into a surfing anthem that still sounds great everytime it comes on the radio.

The band was discovered by local promoter BILL DOBSLAW, who booked them as the house band at the nearby LaPorte club TIPTON TERRACE, where they were soon packing in 600-700 kids on a Saturday night. Shortly thereafter, THE PLAYMATES were making appearances throughout the midwest, always returning home in time for their weekend gigs at THE TIPTON TERRACE. On a trip to Chicago in the Summer of 1963, DOBSLAW took the band into COLUMBIA RECORDING STUDIO, where they recorded what they felt would be their first hit single, PLAYED ON. The whole self-financed session took all of an hour, and there was even time left over to squeeze in a quick recording of their club favorite, CALIFORNIA SUN, to be used as the single's B-Side.

It was at this time that the band decided they needed a name change. (ROULETTE RECORDS already had a recording act called THE PLAYMATES ... of BEEP BEEP fame ... under contract and there was no doubt that their notorious label boss, MORRIS LEVY, would "levy" a quick lawsuit against anyone else trying to record under that name. Ironically, LEVY eventually earned royalties on THE RIVIERAS' recording of CALIFORNIA SUN, as he was listed as a co-writer of the tune ... as he OFTEN was for many of his ROULETTE artists ... when JOE JONES first released his version on LEVY's ROULETTE label back in 1961!)

The Buick Riviera was the hot new car on the market back in 1963 ... it seemed like every car manufacturer was trying to come up with THEIR own version of this FINE new driving machine. As such,
THE PLAYMATES quickly became THE RIVIERAS and BILL DOBSLAW even had the record pressed on the RIVIERA Record Label ... which he then quickly sent to radio stations and record shops throughout Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. (Incredibly, one of the Niles, Michigan, teenage record clerks who sold the single on consignment was a young kid named TOMMY JACKSON ... who, with his own teenage
backup band, THE SHONDELLS, would go on to record HANKY PANKY under his new stage name of TOMMY JAMES later that same year!!! Their recording would sit dormant for three years before a
Pittsburgh, PA, disc jockey started playing it on his program in 1966 ... making it one of the biggest hits of that year ... and of the '60's!!! Perhaps even MORE ironic: THE RIVIERAS recorded HANKY PANKY
for their 1965 album release CAMPUS PARTY, a year before the TOMMY JAMES AND THE SHONDELLS single was re-released!!!) And, bringing the whole thing full cycle, that re-release came at the hands of Morris Levy and his Roulette Records label! (You can read all about the connection between The Playmates / Tommy James and the notorious Morris Levy in Tommy's book "Me, The Mob And The Music".

Before the record even had a chance to catch on, MARTY FORTSON and JOE PENNELL had already enlisted in The Marines!!! It wouldn't take them long to regret THAT decision! "I was in 'Nam getting shot at and I heard the record," FORTSON told WAYNE JANCIK, author of THE BILLBOARD BOOK OF ONE HIT WONDERS. "I thought, 'Oh man, you blew it!'"

With FORTSON and PENNELL out of the band, manager BILL DOBSLAW took over the lead vocals. They then added guitarist JIM BOAL and waited for PLAYED ON to climb the charts. It didn't happen. 

Finally, legendary WLS deejay ART ROBERTS flipped the record over and started playing CALIFORNIA SUN repeatedly on his late night program. Within days, local Chicagoland record label USA RECORDS picked up the tune for distribution. Soon, CALIFORNIA SUN was climbing the national charts, too ... and it's gone on to become a '60's Summer Anthem.

Quite honestly, despite this new-found success, DOBSLAW and GEAN stood by and watched as THE RIVIERAS became an on-going vicious circle of band members filing through the proverbial revolving door of pop music semi-stardom and, by the end of 1965, even they decided to shut things down.

Nobody else may remember these songs ... but here in Chicago THE RIVIERAS tore things up in 1964 / 1965 with these three hits: LITTLE DONNA, LET'S HAVE A PARTY and ROCKIN' ROBIN ... all part of our
FORGOTTEN HITS / LOCAL HITS Series here today!!!

WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?!?!?: How come when BRIAN WILSON wrote SURFIN' USA, patterned after CHUCK BERRY's tune SWEET LITTLE SIXTEEN, he ultimately had to give cowriting credit (and a substantial amount of royalties) to The Grandfather of Rock And Roll ... yet THE RIVIERAS' surfin' tune
LITTLE DONNA ... a blatant rip off of BERRY's ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC ... only shows leader BILL DOBSLAW's name under the title as songwriter?!?!?

DIDJAKNOW-1?: Much like THE VENTURES' remake of WALK DON'T RUN '64, THE RIVIERAS released a revamped version of CALIFORNIA SUN '65 ... with no luck at all!

DIDJAKNOW-2?: After CALIFORNIA SUN started to catch on as a hit single, THE RIVIERAS went back into the studio to record a new B-Side. Still believing that PLAYED ON could be a hit in its own right if
given a chance, they threw together a track called H.B. GOOSE STEP, the title a tribute to USA Records
promotions man HOWARD BEDNO, who had an industry reputation for his peculiar walk. They reissued the record with this new B-Side, holding on to PLAYED ON for a subsequent single release. Copies of the ORIGINAL 45 release (with PLAYED ON on one side) are now collectibles, worth about $40-$50 in Mint Condition. (By the way, despite their faith in the song, PLAYED ON never hit the charts!) Illustrating again the aforementioned revolving door of musicians that plagued the band, by the time H.B. GOOSE STEP was recorded, JIM BOAL had already replaced MARTY FORTSON and JOE PENNELL on guitar!

DIDJAKNOW?-3: HANKY PANKY was written by JEFF BARRY and ELLIE GREENWICH and was first recorded back in 1963 by THE RAINDROPS, a studio group they were actively involved with. (The story goes that THEY needed a B-Side for THEIR new single, too ... so BARRY and GREENWICH went out into the hall and wrote HANKY PANKY in about twenty minutes as pretty much a throw-away tune.) But TOMMY JAMES says that HE first heard the song when it was performed by "a group in a club in South Bend, Indiana." Incredibly, that group just happened to be THE PLAYMATES (pre-RIVIERAS fame) who turned TOMMY on to what would become his first #1 Record!!! The original pressing (on SNAP
RECORDS) sold pretty well regionally here in Illinois, Michigan and Indiana. (In fact, I got MY first
copy of the single on SNAP for eleven cents at the neighborhood dime store!!! It has since become a VERY collectible record!) Once the Pittsburgh DJ gave the song some exposure, it was picked up by ROULETTE RECORDS (see how all this stuff ties together) for national distribution ... and launched their phenomenal career! (By then, the ORIGINAL SHONDELLS that recorded the tune had already split up and TOMMY had to put together a completely new band to tour and record behind the hit single's success!!!)