Friday, April 19, 2013

The History And Roots Of Rock And Roll (Part Two)

As promised, here is the "condensed" version of Ed Parker's "History And Roots Of Rock And Roll" piece.  

If you like what you see, please let us know ... the full-length piece would take several installments to run ... but if readers would like to see it, we'll see what we can do to persuade Ed to share it with us!  (kk) 

The year 2004 marked what was hailed as the "50th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll" due to the fact it was on July 5, 1954, that Elvis recorded his first record, "That's All Right" for Sun. It was a cover of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's recording from 1946. This article, then, is to feature songs, styles and artists to support my theory that Elvis did not create rock 'n' roll, that rock 'n' roll was not "born" in the 1950's and that Alan Freed did not coin the phrase "rock 'n' roll". None of this is meant to downplay the importance of Alan Freed, Elvis, or any of his musical contemporaries but simply to put it all in proper perspective.

Unfortunately, most of the world's population will forever place rock's beginnings in the 1950's, which simply goes to show that whenever something is said often enough it sadly becomes "fact". Even Rolling Stone devoted an issue to the "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock 'n' Roll". It traces the beginnings to Elvis, with the headline in big black letters: "Truck Driver Invents Rock". I used to have respect for Rolling Stone but this - not to mention the fact that they put a near-topless Britney Spears and a naked Christina Aguilera on its covers a few years ago - changed all of that. And when RCA released Elvis' #1 hits on CD several years back, the TV promotion for the disc began with a voiceover stating "Before anyone did anything, Elvis did everything". Fortunately, I read an article in the July 4, 2004, edition of USA Today in which the writer stated that rock dates back to the '30's. I go back about forty years earlier, but I'm proud that at least it acknowledged some of the pioneers who emerged before Elvis. Hopefully, by the time you finish reading this essay, you will acknowledge them, too.

We're going to start by examining the phrase itself: "rock and roll". The phrase "rock and roll" has actually had several meanings:

1. "Rock and roll" was black slang for sex. This is the most popular meaning. The best early example of this is "My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)," recorded for Black Swan Records ca. September 1922 by Trixie Smith. Piano: Fletcher Henderson.

2. "Rock and roll" was a spiritual phrase. Released in 1916 on the Little Wonder label, a group of unknowns (later dubbed simply Male Quartette) recorded a cylinder entitled "The Camp Meeting Jubilee". One passage goes this way: "We've been rockin' and rollin' in the arms... Rockin' and rollin' in the arms... Rockin' and rollin' in the arms... in the arms of Moses".

3. "Rock and roll" was a nautical term used by seamen to describe the motions of a ship. This meaning is best exemplified in a recording by pop vocal group The Boswell Sisters. The song, recorded on October 4, 1934, for Columbia Records and simply titled "Rock And Roll," was featured in the film Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round.

4. "Rock and roll" - now here's where it gets interesting - was used to describe musical rhythm. The first record to use the phrase "rock and roll" to describe musical rhythm was "Rock It For Me" by Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb Band, recorded for Brunswick on September 21, 1937. Miss Fitzgerald sings: "It's true that once upon a time, the opera was the thing... But today the rage is rhythm and rhyme, so won't you satisfy my soul with the rock and roll... You can't be tame while the band is playing... It ain't no shame to keep your body swaying... Beat it out in the minor key... Oh, rock it for me." Louis Jordan, a future pioneer in his own right, was a member of this band but was, unfortunately, absent the day "Rock It For Me" was recorded.

All of this proves that Alan Freed did not coin the phrase "rock and roll" nor was he the first to use it to describe musical rhythm; he was simply the most influential of those who had.

Now that we've cleared up the history of the phrase "rock 'n' roll," let's examine some more musical examples. I want to begin this section with a quote from my favorite music writer, Nick Tosches. The following comes from his amazing book, Unsung Heroes Of Rock 'n' Roll: The Birth of Rock In The Wild Years Before Elvis. The quote is in response to those who feel that either rock 'n' roll was created by Elvis in the 1950's and to those who feel that rock 'n' roll was created by blacks and then seized and commercialized by whites: "Rock 'n' roll was not created solely by blacks or by whites; and it certainly did not come into being all of a sudden. It evolved, slowly, wrought by blacks and by whites, some of them old and some of them young, in the South and in the West, in the North and in the East. Its makers were driven not so much by any pure creative spirit, but rather by the desire to make money. Nothing can better bring together a black man and a white, a young man and an old, a country man and a city man, than a dollar placed between them. Rock 'n' roll flourished because it sold." Makes sense to me.

Everyone's opinion differs when the subject turns to deciding what the first rock 'n' roll record actually was. It's not cut and dried like jazz, for example, in that the first jazz recording is "Livery Stable Blues," recorded by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, a white group, in February 1917; the first composition with a boogie woogie bass line is said to be "New Orleans Hop Scop Blues" from 1916, composed by pianist George W. Thomas; the first country boogie record is credited to Johnny Barfield's "Boogie Woogie" from 1939, which ultimately lead to 1940's hillbilly boogie and 1950's rockabilly, which were really one and the same. History cites Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues," recorded on August 10, 1920, as the first vocal blues record, despite the fact that Morton Harvey, a white artist, recorded a version of W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" in 1914 (it was Mamie's recording of "Crazy Blues" that opened the floodgates to the blues recording boom of the 1920's, however). The first black vocal group to make records was the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet, who recorded six single-sided discs in the fall of 1902, while fiddler Don Richardson's version of "Arkansas Traveler" from 1916 is the first commercially-issued country record (it wasn't until 1923 with the commercial success of Fiddlin' John Carson that the country music industry was kicked into high gear, and even more so in 1927 with the discovery of both The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.)

Rock 'n' roll, on the other hand, embraces all of these styles, and one can thus pinpoint rock 'n' roll's first platter being from either 1902 or 1952, depending upon one's point of view. All of which leads to my opinion that rock 'n' roll's evolution began decades before the 1950's.

When Elvis recorded his version of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's "That's All Right," they didn't know how to promote Elvis or the record. Was he black or white? Was the record country, blues, or pop? Here we're going to feature some songs that also defy category on the hillbilly side of things, long before anyone ever heard of Elvis Presley.

1. "I Ain't Got Nobody" by Emmett Miller, recorded on June 12, 1928. This is the same tune that was later recorded by both Louis Prima and David Lee Roth. Emmett Miller, a white man who performed in black face, made his recording debut in 1924. He was a pop singer with hillbilly overtones supported by some of the hottest jazz artists who were billed as his Georgia Crackers. "I Ain't Got Nobody" features Tommy Dorsey on trombone and Eddie Lang on guitar, among others (Gene Krupa and Jack Teagarden are featured on his 1929 sides). Many of Emmett's records feature drunken hillbilly dialect straight out of the minstrel-vaudeville circuit. Like Elvis Presley thirty years later, his music defies category, although he is remembered today, when he's remembered at all, as a country singer. Amazingly, Miller's 1928 recording of "Brother Bill" not only predates the comic routines later done by Bo Diddley and Jerome Green, but also contains imagery that would later appear in the Bo Diddley classic "Who Do You Love?".  (Listen closely around the 40-second mark)

2. "Freight Train Boogie" by The Delmore Brothers, recorded on February 12, 1946, for King Records. Electric guitar: Jethro Burns, one half of the country comedy duo Homer and Jethro. This is easily the best example of hillbilly boogie. Take away the harmonica and you have the same style that Elvis was recording almost ten years later at Sun Records with Scotty Moore and Bill Black - a style that Elvis is said to have discovered "by accident".

3. "Move It On Over" by Hank Williams, recorded on April 21, 1947, for M-G-M Records. Of course, this was later covered by George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers, thus becoming a "classic rock" staple in the process. Personally, I feel that if black music gained the popularity that it had in the 1940's, Hank Williams would have been promoted as a rock 'n' roll singer. 

Black and white musicians influenced each other and it was not unusual for both black and white artists to cover the same material (R&B shouter Wynonie Harris, for example, covered country artist Hank Penny's "Bloodshot Eyes"; both versions were released on the King label. We also can't forget that Fats Domino covered "Jambalaya (On The Bayou," a Hank Williams tune). The color line, then, was seen largely by the record companies and not so much by the musicians themselves.

So far I've covered the different meanings of the phrase "rock 'n' roll" and songs that highlight those meanings; I have also shown that white artists embraced black styles decades before Elvis emerged on the scene and that rockabilly clearly existed in the 1940's, but that it was called hillbilly boogie. It's important to know that Sun Records owner Sam Phillips recorded Elvis more for his frustration with the limited acceptance of black music and not so much for the desire to make a million dollars. Here we're going to feature some blues/R&B recordings that, in my opinion, best capture the rock 'n' roll sounds of the 1950's, but, of course, all of the tracks are from the pre-1950's era. 

Here's what I came up with:

1. "Anticipatin' Blues" by The Southern Negro Quartette. The first doo-wop groups to emerge are said to have been The Ravens and The Orioles in the 1940's, but, since that's fairly common knowledge, we must seek an example from an earlier era. The closest example of doo-wop from the pre-1940's period is easily "Anticipatin' Blues" by The Southern Negro Quartette from June 1921. It's an early slice of R&B, and with its hollers and shouts that whoop and glide like a roller coaster, all done a cappella, one can easily hear it being sung on a street corner in Brooklyn, New York, circa 1954.

2. "Hastings Street" by ragtime guitarist Blind Blake and boogie pianist Charlie Spand, recorded on August 17, 1929, for Paramount Records. Here, the rock 'n' roll beat is undeniable. Its intro is identical to that of Fats Domino's "The Fat Man" recorded a little over twenty years later. According to the folks that put together the 2-CD compilation Rock Before Elvis, Before Little Richard, Before Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley or Bill Haley (honest, that's the title), "Hastings Street" is the first rock 'n' roll record.

3. "Strange Things Happening Every Day" by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, recorded for Decca Records on September 22, 1944. Gospel boogie is a rare thing indeed, but here is an example, and probably the best one, too. Jerry Lee Lewis: "I tell you, man, that woman could sing some rock 'n' roll! First time I ever heard her, in Natchez, Mississippi, I was eight or nine, and she was singing religious music, but she was hitting that guitar, man, she's shakin', and she is singing rock 'n' roll. I said, 'Whoo-ooo!'" 

4. "T-Bone Boogie" by T-Bone Walker with Marl Young and His Orchestra, recorded possibly May, 1945 for Rhumboogie Records. Here we have Chuck Berry licks a full ten years before Chuck Berry emerged on the scene.

5. "Ain't That Just Like A Woman" by Louis Jordan and His Tympani Five, recorded for Decca Records on January 23, 1946. Speaking of Chuck Berry, the guitar intro to "Ain't That Just Like A Woman" was copied note-for-note by Berry twelve years later for his intro to "Johnny B. Goode". The guitar is played by Jordan's guitarist, Carl Hogan, an early idol of Berry's.

6. "That's All Right" by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, recorded for Bluebird Records on September 6, 1946. Here's the original version of what would become Elvis' first record (Sam, frustrated with the limited acceptance of black music, finally heard what he was looking for.) The flip side of Elvis' record was a cover of Bill Monroe's bluegrass classic "Blue Moon Of Kentucky," bringing together musically and physically (i.e. both sides of the same record) black music and white in a very powerful fashion - and at exactly the right time in history.

7. "Good Rockin' Tonight" by Wynonie Harris, recorded on December 28, 1947, for King Records. By June 1948, the song was a #1 R&B hit, and paved the way for countless songs having the word "rocking" or "rock" in their title, and they all rocked musically, too! It was Wynonie whom Elvis was imitating when he curled his lip and shook his hips. 

And there you have it. Music, of course, is subjective and everyone has their own view of rock 'n' roll history. 

Personally, I feel that what was new in 1950's America wasn't rock 'n' roll as much as youth culture, giving black music - which was always around - its largest audience to date when more and more kids, with an emphasis on white kids, discovered it. I submit my opinions to you so that you can draw your own conclusions.

C. 2004 and 2012 JacoFan Music. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The History And Roots Of Rock And Roll (Part One)

Most of you were as surprised (clueless???) as I was after this piece ran on the Forgotten Hits website yesterday ...
Kent ... 
I never heard of this guy. I was wondering if you and your readers have ever heard of him.
Frank B.
Nope ... but we've found traces of "rock and roll" dating back to the 1920's before ... so I'm not convinced that he "invented" the term. One of these days we're going to run a very special "History Of Rock And Roll" by our buddy Ed Parker, who has made this his lifetime study ... tracing back the origins of all the different rock and roll phrases and stylings we've all come to enjoy over the years. (kk)


We've got a Hardrock Gunter disc. I'll have to check this out later in the week - thanks!
Ed Parker
Here are a couple of reactions we received to yesterday's post ...

In the first item mentioned today with your FH, was the name of Hardrock Gunter. It appears that most, if not all of your readers, were not familiar with him. I would like to add my name to that list. However, when I first saw the name, Hardrock Gunter, I knew immediately that I had one record by him. The record in question is one he recorded in 1955 on King Records out of Cincinnati called I'LL GIVE EM RHYTHM.
Now, I'll be honest with you, I can't remember when, where, how, why I have the record but I do (as Clarence 'Frogman' Henry would have said.)
One final thing. If you are like me, your records are filed or categorized where you can go lay your hands on them immediately. I went to the record and got it out. I just happen to file that one record 'between a rock and hard place'.
Greetings, Kent,
Interesting story about the origins of the expression, "rock and roll." While the majority of us baby boomers would love to credit Elvis by saying his July 5, 1954 recording of "That's Alright Mama" was the first rock and roll record, others say Ike Turners' Rocket 88 beat him by a full three years.
But if you look further back -- even into the 1920's and 1930's, there are examples of the expression, rock and roll in the 1934 Boswell Sisters single, "Rock and Roll," but in that case the term was used to describe a ship at sea.
Four years later, 1938, Chuck Webb, a band leader -- featuring lead vocals by the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald -- had a swing hit, "Rock It For Me," which features the line, 'won't you satisfy my soul with your rock and roll.'
A number of years ago, when I was going through some old 1940's music magazines, I had come across the term 'rock and roll' as it pertained to a Black expression. Thus, I knew that while Alan Freed may have popularized the expression -- and tied it to the music -- he had definitely not come up with the term.
Fred Vail
Treasure Isle Recorders, Inc.
Music City, USA

Since there's been talk about "the first Rock and Roll record" I've been
going through the early years of R&R just for fun.
In my travelings on the WWW I happened to find this list and thought it
might be of some interest.
I've seen some of these on folks first R&R lists.
This is a pretty cool site ... with all kinds of topics available for perusing ... check it out when you have a chance.  (kk)
We could debate for years (and some of us already have!) the origins of both the phrase "rock and roll" and the style of music that came to be known under this expression. 
As mentioned above, Ed Parker has made it a study to trace back ALL of the true roots of rock, finding early examples of doo-wop stylings in recordings predating the mid-'50's by decades ... the early "call and response" of records like those by Ray Charles well rooted in the church ... and even Chuck Berry licks ... which have long credited Berry as the "inventor" and "innovator" ... used on other recordings years earlier.
Over time, it's been easiest to say the Elvis invented rock and roll ... but we all know this simply isn't true ... although he DID become rock's poster child and first major rock star. Many have stated that The Rock Era began the week that Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock" topped Billboard's Pop Singles Chart for the very first time. Others attribute it to the day Elvis, Scotty and Bill recorded "That's All-Right Mama" in Sam Phillips' Sun Records studio back in 1954. 
But rock music (particularly on the black music charts) dates back considerably earlier. Songs like "Good Rockin' Tonight" and "Rocket 88" are also often cited as the first rock and roll songs. 
For years now we've been promising to run the "short version" of Ed Parker's "History And Roots Of Rock And Roll" Series in Forgotten Hits. (We actually had him condense it down to one simple post, which will run tomorrow on this page.) 
Sure to spark even more debate and examples, these are facts every real rock and roll fan out there needs to know. 
So drop back tomorrow for more on this topic ... and feel free to share your thoughts and opinions with our readers, too! (kk)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Helping Out Our Readers

Kent ...  
I never heard of this guy. I was wondering if you and your readers have ever heard of him.
Frank B.  
Nope ... but we've found traces of "rock and roll" dating back to the 1920's before ... so I'm not convinced that he "invented" the term. One of these days we're going to run a very special "History Of Rock And Roll" by our buddy Ed Parker, who has made this his lifetime study ... tracing back the origins of all the different rock and roll phrases and stylings we've all come to enjoy over the years. (kk) 


We've got a Hardrock Gunter disc. I'll have to check this out later in the week - thanks!
Ed Parker     

We recently ran a piece on Gary Lewis and the Playboys, which mentioned the Hit Records version of "I'm Sure Going To Miss Her" as released by The Chellows.
FH Reader Paul Urbahns was able to give us quite a bit of insight into this recording ... he even has a website dedicated to the Nashville label, specializing in sound-alike recordings, issued trying to cash in on the REAL hit records out at the time by the original artists. (Some might say "dupe and unsuspecting public" into buying what they THOUGHT was the hit record ... actually, I myself may have said that ... but this label made a living putting out exactly these types of records. In fact on Paul's site you'll find a complete discography of the label.) 
Now he's looking for help trying to nail down copies of some specific pressings. Anybody out there able to help?

The web page I mentioned is kinda inactive but most Hit Records fans, are on a yahoo group.

Keep my name handy for Hits (notice the capital H) I have most of them. Some are being reissued on various European labels but there is no interest in this country.

Paul Urbahns

Radcliff, Ky

This is my list of Top 10 Collectible Hits:

1- Hit 72 MEMPHIS by The Music City Five with special insert card highlighting the musical history of Memphis. This was only sold in the Memphis area. (I still have not found one of these cards ... would a Forgotten Hits reader have one?)

2- Hit 99 JOHN KENNEDY (SPECIAL RELEASE) Comment: issued NOV 63 A 7 inch, 45 rpm Memorial Album issued with special picture sleeve. The record contained the complete Inaugural Address and an excerpt from his final speech on November 22, 1963 at Fort Worth, Texas. Both sides run approximately 8 minutes each. Total Time approximately 16 minutes. Written By David Cobb and Bill Beasley, Narrated By David Cobb. These are actually excerpts from a Modern Sound album MS-519 titled John Fitzgerald Kennedy A Memorial Album.

3- Hit 15 SNAP YOUR FINGERS by Benny Lattimore Comment: First commercial recording by soul artist Lattimore

4- Hit 20 SPEEDY GONZALES by Tom Walls Comment: Features Mexican voice by Nashville funnyman Ray Stevens

5 - Hit 63 REV MR BLACK by Bobby Russell Comment: Rare Hit label credit for Nashville songwriter (1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero) who performed lead vocal on the most Hit sound-a-likes.

6- Hit 76 WIPE OUT by Music City Five Comment: Highly acclaimed recording in various collectors magazines of the surf instrumental

7- Hit 125 NO PARTICULAR PLACE TO GO by Sammie Moore. Comment: Generally recognized as the first commercial recording by Sammie Moore who was Sam of "Sam And Dave" fame.

8- Hit 187 I'M SURE GOING TO MISS HER by The Chellows Comment: Not a sound-a-like. This is the original demo recording of the Gary Lewis and the Playboys hit, issued almost a year before the Gary Lewis version.

9- Hit 229 KEEP ON DANCIN' by The Gentrys Comment: Due to a mixup in the office staff, label miscredited to the original group, The Gentrys.

10- Hit 253 RHAPSODY IN THE RAIN by Fred York Comment: Used the original "banned" lyric. MGM withdrew the original Lou Christie version and removed the references to "making out", Hit continued to sell the original.  
We wrote about that Gentrys record some time ago in FH ... several people thought it was the original "local pressing" of their hit "Keep On Dancing" before they were picked up by a larger label ... obviously not the case at all ... but documented this way by several other sources. Ironically, the record DID first make an appearance on another label (Youngstown) prior to being picked up by MGM.

The fact that Bobby Russell (staff songwriter and studio singer for Hit Records) got to see one of his compositions become a hit for another artist ("Sure Gonna Miss Her") was a HUGE feather in his cap and advancement of his career. In hindsight, it's hysterical to think that after the Lewis record became a hit, Hit went back and re-recorded the song to sound like the Gary Lewis arrangement ... when originally Snuff Garrett (Gary's producer) copied the Bobby Russell arrangement before deciding to spice things up by adding horns and the flamenco guitar riff! (kk)

The rumor about "Keep On Dancin'" was fanned even more because Hits were issued on stereo singles and this track was in mono, though the record was clearly labeled Compatible (for stereo). The album issue of the Hit recording did not bear an artist credit but was true stereo which the original Gentrys single never was.

>>>Ironically, the record DID first make an appearance on another label (Youngstown) prior to being picked up by MGM. (kk)
Yes and I had to track down an original pressing of the Youngstown to make sure they had not reissued the MGM version for the local market. Bill Beasley of Hit had worked around Memphis and still had connections there so if there was an early version, he had the pull and he could have gotten it ... like some labels issued Tommy Roe's early version of Shelia. Not sure who the lead vocal is on the Hit (notice the capital H) version but its a damn good record and recorded in about 45 minutes! It's attached if you have not heard it.
Yes, we featured it awhile back ... but I have no problem featuring it again. Clearly not The Gentrys ... but in retrospect, I'm kinda surprised that MGM Records didn't go after Hit for printing The Gentrys' name on their label. I would have figured that cause for a lawsuit for sure! (kk)

Lots of memories from HIT! records for me. I play them on my radio show on a regular basis. My favorite is probably "Ride" by Peggy Gains.
A quick story for me, which backs up everything you, David and Paul have been saying:
My sister had a boyfriend named Bobby back then, and she bought the HIT version of "Bobby's Girl," by Connie Landers. I had never even heard the "official" version on the radio, so as far as I was concerned, the HIT record was the official version. So when I hear the Marcie Blane or Lesley Gore versions on the radio, they never sound quite right. Anyway she played it a million times on our old record player, and I still have that exact record today. It has her name written on a piece of white medical tape on the label, since the labels were black.
Mr. C
Mr. C plays BOTH sides of the record on his weekly radio program "The Flip Side" ... and often features some of these rare Hit Records versions as well. You can listen live on Tuesday Nights here:
Maybe your readers can at least confirm I actually saw this and am not hallucinating.
It was RANDY TRAVIS in a duet video with ROY ROGERS (modern day) singing HERE'S HOPIN' (I have the cd). I've looked on occasion for many years (and I know how to search) without success.
The video had them side by side on horseback ... and at the end ... they get off the 'horses' and have a word and a laugh.
The horses are actually just the body with saddle, rocking as if real, not movie cut-outs ... you don't realize it (confirm it) till the end ...
I'm sure I saw it on tv back in the day ... not a show ... a video ...
I should have asked Roy the time I called him in his office back in the 80's when the museum was in Victorville, Ca. (BIG FAN ... it was a thrill)

Now it's in Branson.
Thanks for any help.
(gary) RENFIELD ...
It's funny but as I read your email I started to remember seeing this, too. I was a bit of a Randy Travis fan at one point ... nothing major, mind you, but I followed along with the crowd. It seems like this ought to exist somewhere ... in fact, I thought at one time I may have even owned a VHS of Randy Travis Music Videos but I can't find it now.
I wrote to Randy Travis via his website but never received a reply of any kind. Let's see if anybody out there comes back with anything on this one. Thanks, Gary! (kk)  

I love what you guys are doing with this project, and need your help.
I'm looking for a B side from the mid to late 70s.
The title was "Love Is All Around" but it is not the Troggs or Wet Wet Wet version ... this was a comedic song. I don't know the artists name but may have been the B side to "The Streak"?
Any help appreciated.
According to Joel Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles" book, the flipside of "The Streak" (the #1 Hit by Ray Stevens) was a song called "You've Got The Music Inside" ... so that isn't it. Anybody else out there got any ideas? (kk)  

I have some memories of an interesting story regarding Chicago's "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is". I was just in the 8th grade at the time but I recall there was a local New Haven, CT.-based group called Tension and they released their arrangement of the song in late 1969 - early 1970 on Poison Ring Records (PR713) and it became a local hit on WAVZ 1300. A local DJ, Ed Flynn, was somehow connected with the promotion of the group. The song went to #1 on WAVZ, though interestingly was NEVER played on their competitor WHNC 1340 - New Haven. Tension had another local hit "Life Is A Beautiful Thing", -PR715 (still have my copy of it - actually thought it was a better song!). Tension was supposed to have signed with Roulette records after their two local hits but I never heard from them after that! I wonder if maybe the FH fans might be able to fill-in some more details of the story? I always wondered if Chicago released "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" as a single because of Tension's earlier local hit of it?
Well I certainly wasn't aware of this earlier version ... obviously Tension had to become aware of the song from Chicago's first Columbia album (released as Chicago Transit Authority.) A couple of single releases from that LP failed to do much on the charts. Then in the Spring of 1970, Chicago released their second album and Columbia released "Make Me Smile" as a single, which quickly went into The Top Ten. Quickly several of their older tracks were released as singles, trying to cash in on this newfound success ... so cuts like "Questions 67 and 68", "Beginnings" and "I'm A Man" continued to hit the charts along with new material from both Chicago's second and third albums! Let's see if anybody comes back with any more info on this Tension track. (kk)
Actually, John came up with more info ... including a sound clip on YouTube (and a few of the comments posted there!) We found this one listed in the "Fuzz, Acid And Flowers" book ... but again very few details were available.

Actually a single before Chicago put it out as a single!!
Loading iconThey were from the New Haven area, got airplay on WNHC and WAVZ as well as DRC and POP in the Hartford area. Was on the local charts around March 1970. We were so very lucky to be in a hotbed of talent in the New Haven area, I loved it so much I became a lounge musician, visiting Connecticut again in my travels! 
I was a big Chicago fan back in the early 1970's and I never knew this. It makes sense considering Chicago's single of this song from their first album wasn't released until after the second album (and two of its singles) were already released. Tension's version is interesting and kind of nice, with a late 1960's "bubble gum" pop feeling to it. I wonder if Robert Lamm liked this version, even though he obviously didn't make much money in royalties from it.
Tension played our CYO HS dances - Johnny Paris was the lead singer ... around 1971 -72 ... they were really good ... R.I.P. JOHNNY ... I will never forget you.
From the youtube replies, it's clear now that Tension WAS a Johnny Paris group that did perform in the Hartford - New Haven area from 1970 - 1972 and Johnny was the lead singer! This will be an interesting story for sure as more facts start to come out. Ed Flynn was a WAVZ DJ at the time and from what I've read, he was sort a some kind of booker / manager for the group. Seems like his Bio has some missing facts, which hopefully FH will be able to fill-in!
Here is some more info on Tension! Johnny Paris (Johnny & The Hurricanes) was the group leader and there is also a youtube of their second hit ("Life Is A Beautiful Thing") with two PR photos. It is listed as Tention. That helps fill-in a bit more info!
Meanwhile, here are scans of the labels for the two Tension songs. I'm starting to wonder if when Johnny Paris folded his own Atilla Records in 1970, that somehow unreleased material was put out in the two Poison Ring 45's (PR713 & PR715). There is NO mention of Tension in the CT Music Blogs (there IS a lot of mention PULSE, a Poison Ring recording group) and in his Bio's, there is no mention of Johnny Paris living in CT. In a 1974 interview, Johnny Paris said that he was hoping the Hurricanes could get a record deal and that they had been together since the 1950's, so maybe Tension WAS a re-named Johnny & The Hurricanes? This is getting interesting!

>>>Just curious when or why the Sullivan show started allowing pre recorded tracks to be used? I don't remember you talking about that in your articles that you did on the show. Some are annoyingly obvious like the Steppenwolf Born to Be Wild clip. John Kay is singing along to his own vocal track. One would have thought, they would have at least got a mix without the vocal so he could just sing.  (Bill)
>>>To the best of my recollection, the acts typically appeared "live", performing to a backing track previously recorded ... that meant for live vocals and sometimes different arrangements of their songs. (The Rolling Stones singing "Let's Spend Some Time Together" immediately comes to mind.) Some bands seemed to have played TOTALLY live as even the backing tracks were different than their recorded hits. However, we did witness some lip-synching as well.

I forwarded your inquiry to Andrew Solt, keeper of the castle when it comes the Ed Sullivan catalog. Hopefully we'll hear something back soon that can provide us with a few more details. (kk)  
And we did! Here is Andrew's take on this ...

Kent -
Thanks so much for continuing to support the Sullivan Show. It is the daddy of all great variety shows and the birthplace for so many unforgettable rock 'n roll performances so we very much appreciate your continued support of the archive.
Here's my answer to the question you sent me from Bill.
As the top musicians of the late 60's were increasingly powerful and in demand, they could get their way. Some of them decided that the TV shooting -- audio and video -- were hardly up to studio standards, they might be better off making it look like they were performing live while they actually were lip-synching. The Sullivan production team fought this in most cases, but in some they decided they would defer to the talent in order to get them to appear. In most cases, they had the artists show up with their background tracks and perform the vocals live. In a few cases, they allowed them to lip-synch. This was due in large part to the fact that the sound created in their recording studios could not easily be duplicated live on stage.

I hope this responds to the question. I was too young to produce the Ed Sullivan Show way back when, but this is my undersanding.

Hope this finds you in good spirits. Stay well!
Andrew & Josh

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Catching Up On A Tuesday

re: BY THE BOOK ... 
(or should that be BUY The Book???):


Gary's Book recounts the early days of R&B, rock, E-Street Band / Springsteen collaboration...
Publication date: June 1, 2013
Title: BY U.S. BONDS, That's My Story
Authors: Gary U.S. Bonds with Stephen Cooper
ISBN: 978-0-9887063-0-9
248 pages
Wheatley Press LLC
World-known performer, hit songwriter, influencer of Bruce Springsteen, and now published author, Gary U.S. Bonds will be celebrating his 74th birthday and first world book launch for his memoir, By U.S. Bonds - That's My Story, written by Bonds with Stephen Cooper. The event June 5, 2013 at B.B. King's, NY, includes Gary's live performance of his newest music single "That's My Story," with after-concert book signing and party festivities. West coast launch is slated for June 17 at the iconic Book Soup, West Hollywood, Calif. Other cities for book signings to be announced as well as concert tours worldwide (John Regna/Regna Artist Management, Orlando FL).
Bonds is noted for his hits: "New Orleans" (#6 on the charts 1960), "Quarter To Three" (#1, 1961), "School Is Out" (#5, 1961), "This Little Girl" (his comeback hit in 1981, which reached #11 on the pop chart and #5 on the mainstream rock chart) from the album Dedication, followed by On the Line, both of which were collaborations with Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and the E-Street Band. Twenty years later, Bonds released Back in 20, featuring Springsteen and recently Christmas Is On!
The book is a fascinating tale tying together the sometimes loose ends of music history, putting readers right smack in the middle of the early days of R&B and rock music.
The foreword by Steven Van Zandt, guitarist for The E-Street Band, provides the perfect start. Also included are eighty photos selected by photo editor Mark Weiss from the family's collection.
Among the many stories, Bonds recounts memories of traveling with B.B. King and Sam Cooke, his first big break with Dick Clark, music hits "New Orleans" and "Quarter to Three," the real "Garden Party" with Rick Nelson, his humorous outing with Muhammad Ali and the "comeback" album.
Bonds received a Grammy nomination (Rock Male Vocalist, 1982) for Dedication, and was nominated for the Country Music Association's "Song of the Year" ("She's All I Got") in 1972 and inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, Oct. 15, 2006.
Confirmed to attend is very special guest 86 year old Gene "Daddy G" Barge, Bond's original sax player and founding member of the Church Street Five. When Bonds sang "Blow Daddy," on his 1961 #1, "Quarter to Three," it was Barge who played the iconic horn riff, and guests will hear "Daddy G" and Bonds once again on his new release, "That's My Story."
As with his previous birthday celebrations, special guests can be expected with prior years' celebrants including:
Ben E. King (singer and co-composer of "Stand by Me,")
Darlene Love (known for 1960s for the song "He's a Rebel," a #1 American single in 1962)
Chuck Jackson (recorded Burt Bacharach, Bob Hilliard hit "Any Day Now")
Steven Van Zandt, Vince Pastore and The Rascals Gene Cornish
Official website:
Performing videos - New Orleans, This Little Girl Is Mine, Quarter To Three

PAUL ANKA was interviewed on satellite radio by Opie & Anthony. Paul has a new, pull (not-too-many) punches book to set the record straight concerning the parts of his 'living-among-giants' that are from him ... HE WAS THERE! SINATRA, RAT PACK, BEATLES, VEGAS, ANNETTE, BOBBY DARIN, ELVIS, ALCOHOLIC JOHNNY CARSON (beaten by mobsters for flirting with a 'side-dish'), CAREER CHOICES, and confirming that YES, IT'S TRUE ... Milton Berle had 'enough' for the room ... FASCINATING, INTERESTING INTERVIEW !!!
We covered this one about a week ago ... and I've got to say that the book sounds absolutely amazing! (The excerpts I read blew me away ... I'm going to have to pick up a copy of this one!!!)
For more tidbits and details, check out this site:

Kent ...
In honor of Paul Anka's new book "My Way", the other day Paul was on the "Imus In The Morning" radio program. Imus was amazed. He asked everybody around him - "Who wrote 'My Way'?"
Nobody knew that is was Paul Anka. They also said Paul got $800,000 a year for writing the
"Tonight Show Theme." Not bad.
Frank B.
I finally caved and went out and bought a copy this weekend ... I've just been hearing too many good things about it to wait any longer. I'll keep you posted! (kk)   

More good press for Howard Kaylan's new book, "Shell Shocked" ...
Amazing and Humbling.
This is the big one.
Thanks to Michael Jensen Communications for helping me to carry the ball.
Bigger than coverage in Forgotten Hits?!?!? 
(Well, OK, I'll give you that one!!!)
Congratulations, Howard! (kk)  

And, speaking of new books, we heard from Jim Peterik last week that his new book is now in the hands of the publisher ... hopefully we'll have release news soon! (kk)

Here is another update from Jeff March on important events from this past week in pop music history:

Hi, Kent,
Here are a few more upcoming "anniversary" news items from our Facebook postings for "Pop Stars -- Volume 2."
April 12:
"The River Is Wide," the ninth chart single by the Grass Roots, made its debut on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 12, 1969. Gary A. Knight (credited as B. Knight on the Dunhill label) and Billy Joe Admire (shown as E. Admire on the label) wrote the song about love gaining strength like a powerfully flowing current. Steve Barri produced the recording session, with strings and horns arranged by Jimmie Haskell. Grass Roots rhythm guitarist and keyboard player Warren Entner and lead singer Rob Grill wrote "(You Gotta) Live for Love," the song on the flip side. "The River Is Wide," on the Dunhill label, peaked at No. 31, and remained on the chart for 11 weeks. The song was released just as producer Barri decided to withdraw from songwriting to concentrate on his role as vice president of A&R (artists and repertoire), in charge of developing new talent for Dunhill and ABC Records. "We had an incredibly large artist roster, and I felt it would be real awkward to pitch somebody on a song and say, 'by the way, I'm the writer on this one.' So I decided to stop writing. It's one thing when you sign an act that you're involved with producing, with the understanding that you're going to be the creative force behind them. It's another thing when you’re supposed to be looking for songs for 20 or 30 different artists," Barri told us for "Where Have All the Pop Stars Gone? -- Volume 2."

April 12:
A 28-year-old singer and rhythm guitarist who initially worked in a bottling plant before struggling unsuccessfully for four years in country music bands finally found his niche in the emerging genre of rock and roll. Decca Records had signed the singer and his band to a recording contract, and scheduled the band to work with Milt Gabler, who had produced many hits for Louis Jordan. The band's first session was scheduled for April 12, 1954, in the Pythian Temple at 135 West 70th Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues in Manhattan. The building had been constructed in 1928 as the meeting place of the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization. In the early 1940s Decca Records converted the temple's acoustically superb auditorium into a recording studio in which Billie Holiday, Louis Jordan, Coleman Hawkins, Sammy Davis Jr. and other performers recorded tracks. Pianist Johnny Grande, tenor saxophonist Joey D'Ambrosio, steel guitar player Billy Williamson, bass player Marshall Lytle and drummer Dick Richards -- collectively the Comets -- entered the studio that April 12 for their first recording session along with their leader, 28-year-old Bill Haley and session guitarist Danny Cedrone. That day they recorded two songs for a single: The intended "A" side, "Thirteen Women," and the planned "B" side, "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock." Radio airplay favored "Rock Around the Clock following its May 1954 release (in both 78 and 45 rpm formats), and while the song did place on the Billboard Hot 100, its peak success occurred in the spring of 1955, when it was featured in the film "The Blackboard Jungle." That exposure perched "Rock Around the Clock" at No. 1 for eight consecutive weeks. Although "Rock Around the Clock" wasn't the first rock and roll record, it thrust rock and roll into the mainstream of pop music.

April 13:
Only three weeks after its debut on the Billboard Hot 100, Bobby Goldsboro's recording of Bobby Russell's "Honey" hit No. 1 on the chart on April 13, 1968. Former Kingston Trio member Bob Shane recorded the song first. Goldsboro admired Shane's singing, but thought the arrangement was lacking. "I really believe if Bob Shane had sung my version, and I sang his, he would have had the hit. My version had a great arrangement that Don Tweedy wrote. He was as much responsible for it as I was," Bobby told us for "Where Have All the Pop Stars Gone? -- Volume 2." His recording of "Honey," which displaced Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" from the top spot, remained No. 1 for five consecutive weeks, until "Tighten Up" by Archie Bell and the Drells unseated it. "Honey," on the United Artists label, remained on the chart for a total of 15 weeks. It also topped the country and adult contemporary charts, was No. 1 in Canada, and hit No. 2 in the United Kingdom. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) awarded a gold record for the single “Honey” in April 1968, and certified Bobby’s "Honey" album as gold that November.

April 13:
Singer Ray Stevens had been absent from the charts for two and a half years when he took notice of a new fad that emboldened people to bare their souls -- as well as all their clothes as they "streaked" through restaurants, hotel lobbies, sporting events and other public gatherings. The fad prompted Ray to write "The Streak." It was a hot topic when it hit the charts on April 13, 1974, less than two weeks after a streaker dashed across the stage at the Academy Awards presentation during a live telecast on NBC. Ray's recording of "The Streak," on the Barnaby Records label, dislodged Grand Funk's version of "The Loco-Motion" from the No. 1 position, and held onto that ranking for six weeks until "Band on the Run" by Paul McCartney and Wings replaced it. "The Streak" remained on the chart for 17 weeks -- four months -- and became Ray's third RIAA gold record. The success of the record inspired the name of one of Ray's publishing enterprises: Lucky Streak Music.

April 14:
The Recording Industry Association of America awarded gold record status to the Herman's Hermits single "There's a Kind of Hush" on April 14, 1967, only two months after the song had premiered on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The recording, released by MGM Records in the United States, rose to No. 4 and remained on the Billboard chart for 12 weeks. It was the band's third RIAA-certified gold record. "There's a Kind of Hush" was written by Les Reed and Geoff Stephens, who also teamed to write "Here It Comes Again," with which the Fortunes scored a hit. Stevens is best known for creating a group composed of studio musicians, which he dubbed the New Vaudeville Band, to record his autumn 1966 novelty hit "Winchester Cathedral." As a teenager, Hermits rhythm guitarist Keith Hopwood had taken classical guitar lessons. "Qt that time I was about 14, and playing classical music wasn’t really where I wanted to be going. I wanted to play rock and roll, so I left and found a sort of informal tutor -- the guy down the road who knew three chords. So we took it from there," Keith told us for the Hermits chapter in "Where Have All the Pop Stars Gone? -- Volume 1" (

April 15:
On April 15, 1963, a group called El Riot and the Rebels performed at the Riverside Dancing Club in Tenbury Wells, about 40 miles southwest of Birmingham near the border of Wales. The lead singer of El Riot was Ray Thomas, who later would form the Moody Blues with keyboard player Mike Pinder. The bass player for El Riot and the Rebels was John Lodge, another future Moody Blues member. The other members of El Riot and the Rebels were lead guitarist Bryan Betteridge, rhythm guitarist Mike Heard and drummer Ricky Wade. Calling himself El Riot, Ray dressed in a green satin Mexican toreador suit and began his trademark entrance of sliding across the stage on his knees. The group landed several spots on "Lunch Box," ATV’s popular midday entertainment show. "In Birmingham, they have these huge assembly rooms that they open on Friday and Saturday nights when the guys get paid, and they’d take their wives there. We used to rent these rooms and stage our own shows. John [Lodge] and I had the cheek of the devil, and we would go in and ask, 'Can we hire your room on a Tuesday or Wednesday?' So they would make 100 pounds on the bar, which was a huge amount of money then, because all of the people who came to see us play drank a lot of beer, including us," Ray Thomas told us for "Where Have All the Pop Stars Gone? -- Volume 2." At that gig on April 15, 1963, El Riot and the Rebels were the opening act for a band from Liverpool -- the Beatles.

The Tokens' version of "Portrait of My Love," which Steve Lawrence had recorded in 1961, premiered on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 15, 1967. Matt Monro and the Lettermen also recorded versions of the song, which was written in 1960 by musical theater conductor, arranger and composer Cyril Ornadel and lyricist David West. The Tokens produced their "Portrait of My Love" session through their company, Bright Tunes Productions, with musical arrangement by Jimmy Wisner. The recording marked the Tokens' debut on the Warner Bros. label, reached No. 36 and remained on the chart for eight weeks. In their version of "Portrait of My Love," the harmonies of the Tokens were somewhat reminiscent of the Lettermen, who also recorded the song. Perhaps that’s what inspired Tokens member Hank Medress to produce the Lettermen in the 1980s and prompted Lettermen member Tony Butala to invite Tokens lead singer Jay Siegel to join the group. "I had to decline because the Lettermen stay on the road so much and I didn’t think I was ready to do that, considering my family and kids," Jay Siegel told us for our first book, "Echoes of the Sixties" (

Not since 1967 has the song "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" had such a revival as this month! Sure wish it was the 5th Estate version!

Clark Besch 

>>>Your reader mentioned that sometimes people in the business who are compiling greatest hits of various artists or groups, sometimes grabs the first recording they come upon to include it in the collection, maybe not knowing if it's the original as it came out on 45 rpm. This reminded me of something. For about a year or so, whenever I hear Bobby Bloom's MONTEGO BAY on the radio, the TOC, they play an extended version where at the end he sings or says, "Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, etc etc). Where did this come about? Was this an album version? And also, on Bobby Lewis' TOSSIN' AND TURNIN' ... for years the beginning of the record you heard on the radio was different than the one on the original 45, that being Bobby would start out by talking for a few seconds and then belting into "I couldn't sleep at all last night" Anyone out there know the real story behind these recording? Also, the other morning our local "oldies" DJ played SPEEDY GONZALEZ by Pat Boone but it wasn't the original version as it came out on 45. I like to think that my ear for this music is still good. (Larry Neal)

>>>Unfortunately just another downside to all this material being reissued on CD by people who weren't around when this music first came out ... and it's only going to get worse. The "Montego Bay" thing has bugged me for quite some time ... but unfortunately, it's the only version available on CD. Another one like that, with an extended ending, that immediately comes to mind is the Shirley Ellis hit "The Name Game" ... it goes on WAY past the fade-out of the original 45. "Life Is A Rock" by Reunion suffers from a similar fate. For a while there Dick Bartley was putting out a CD series that featured the original 45 mix of each single it featured. I have been pushing for ten years now to get the labels to reissue their catalog in compilation CDs that give the consumer the music the way we originally heard it. You can always include these extra mixes as bonus tracks ... but they should clearly be identified as such. I'm not sure about "Speedy Gonzales" ... one of the first 45's I ever bought with my own money. I'm sure over the years Pat has rerecorded his biggest hits, too, as most of the '50's and '60's artists have. I'm shocked you heard the song at all! Radio has LONG forgotten about this track, despite it's Top Ten showing in 1962. Maybe we're just supposed to appreciate the fact that they played it at all. To ME, it should be the sole objective of an oldies station to play the original versions of these hits. Some go so far as to dig out their own 45s and play them on the air. But again, some of the deejays are now younger than this music, too. This is, of course, when there ARE still deejays playing the music rather than programmed automation. I remember a few years ago when Jeff James yanked an Everly Brothers record right off the air because the copy the station had in its library was a Warner Brothers re-recording of one of their original Cadence hits. He basically said "I can't play this" ... and brought the REAL record in the next day to play instead. Who knows how many more cases like this happen every single day? It's a shame. (kk)
Yes, that Montego Bay that you hear on the radio today is the album version. The original single master is lost. ERIC Records put the song out recently on their Hard To Find 45s on Cd Volume 11: Sugar Pop Classics, and to re-create the single version, they took the album master and edited the end off, which they spliced on from the cleanest 45 dub they could get ahold of, resulting in what is essentially the 45 version on cd.
As for Tossin' and Turnin', I like the long intro on it, but more often than not, copies of that song on cd with the intro fade out well before the 45 does ... some copies on cd without the intro run longer than the 45 does too ... and I'm not entirely sure if there are actually any copies with the real original single version on cd or not. That intro was on the session tape and was cut off for the 45 release. By the way, I just saw Bobby Lewis perform that song at the All Star Doo Wop Weekend in Hauppauge, NY. From the stage Bobby claimed he is 88 years old, but that may not be true as apparently somewhere about a decade ago Bobby decided to add 8 years to his age ... prior to that, he always said he was born in 1933. I told another singer who also appeared at the concert but had missed Bobby's appearance that Bobby said he was 88 and the reply I got from him was "hell no he's not 88! He's 80, at best ... I used to play golf with him all the time. He is only a couple of years older than I am".
The guy that posted this video says its the same as the mono 45 but that this came off a various artists LP, it does sound right to me:
Tom Diehl

More on the brand new Motown Broadway Musical courtesy of FH Reader Tom Cuddy, by way of the Los Angeles Times:

'Motown: the Musical' — signed, sealed but will it deliver?

The Broadway jukebox show is sure to please baby boomers who loved the record label's sound, but the familiarity of the story and songs could be a problem.

By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times
NEW YORK — The songs are among the most popular of the baby boom era — "My Girl," "I Want You Back," "Dancing in the Streets." They may be the staple of oldies radio; they haven't been part of a big Broadway musical. Now "Motown: The Musical" is about to become this season's big bet on the drawing power of the jukebox.
The show will tell the real story that "Dreamgirls" was merely based on: the life of producer Berry Gordy, a onetime boxer who founded the Motown record label and signed some of the decade's biggest R&B stars, including the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
Gordy wrote the book to the show, drawing on his experiences teaching black recording artists how to behave on the road, playing to racially divided audiences in the South during the civil rights era and romancing Diana Ross of the Supremes. Actors play the part of the Motown stars, with Charl Brown as an uncanny facsimile of Robinson, Valisia Lekae as Ross and Brandon Victor Dixon as Gordy.
It's a time period that audiences can't seem to get enough of: "Dreamgirls," "Hairspray" and "Memphis" all have succeeded on Broadway telling the story of people who use music and dance to overcome racial tensions.
But "Motown" has an added draw, producers say: beloved songs and a story that hasn't been told. President Obama used Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours" during both of his presidential campaigns, and Chrysler recently seized on the popularity of the songs to launch a television ad that featured Gordy, sitting in the back of a 2013 Chrysler 300 Motown Edition, as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" plays.
"Motown music is relevant and contagious," said Kevin McCollum, one of the show's producers, who was also a producer on "Avenue Q" and "Rent." "And it's never been mined from this point of view."
The popularity of the time period can be explained by two words: baby boomers. Older audiences are most able to afford the high ticket prices on Broadway. They grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and want to relive the era.
The show is regarded by Broadway observers as a commercial, if not critical, contender. "Motown: The Musical" cracked the million-dollar mark after its first week of previews, grossing $1.03 million after seven performances at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York. That's the first time a Broadway show has surpassed $1 million in sales without first having an out-of-town tryout.
"We're seeing all kinds of audience, all kinds of groups, booking this show," said Stephanie Lee, president of Group Sales Box Office, which sells tickets to groups. "It's reaching every type of theater-goer and crossing all age and ethnic demographics."
Producers say that audiences want to hear these familiar songs, perhaps more than they ever have. Doug Morris, the current chairman and chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment, who is also a "Motown: The Musical" producer, says shows such as "American Idol" seldom use new work. "You never hear an original song," he said. "There's a reason for that — when they've tried, you hear the television sets going off around the country."
But the show's familiar story line and popular songs could be a blessing and a curse. Many Broadway shows that merely cull together popular music catalogs have flopped along the years, killed by a lack of interesting plot and character development.
For every "Jersey Boys" or similar Broadway musical based on a familiar catalog of songs, there's a "Good Vibrations," a 2005 show about the music of the Beach Boys that closed after just 94 performances.
The difference, critics say, is how well the show translates a musical catalog into a show with a plot and compelling character development — something that can be harder to do when the person whose life the show is based on is the one writing it.
"A Broadway musical has to have a good plot and good characters, otherwise, why would people come to see a bunch of Broadway actors sing songs that they could just sit at home and listen to the original artists sing?" said Michael Riedel, a theater critic for the New York Post who also hosts a weekly show, "Theater Talk," on PBS. "The big question is, 'Is he willing to sell it warts and all?'" Riedel said of Gordy.
The warts could include references to his second wife, Raynoma Gordy Singleton, who wrote a tell-all memoir, "Berry, Me and Motown," portraying Gordy as an ambitious and unfaithful womanizer; and a reported dispute (denied by Gordy) with Marvin Gaye over whether the protest song "What's Going On" was too political. Gordy has also been the subject of lawsuits over royalty payments to his artists.
In a preview of the show in a rehearsal space on 42nd Street, the cast performed four songs from the show in a revue-like presentation. Actors playing the Jackson 5 performed "I Want You Back" on "The Ed Sullivan Show"; the Contours sang "Do You Love Me" to a segregated crowd in Alabama; Gordy and Ross fell in love to "My Girl," performed in Paris. The dialogue didn't sparkle, but it was hard not to bounce along to the songs.
Rick Elice knows the potential pitfalls of the jukebox musical. When producers first approached him and asked him to write what became "Jersey Boys," he turned them down, because the idea of writing a show around a musical catalog was a "creative non-starter," he said.
But then he talked to Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio of the Four Seasons and found that they were willing to share details of their lives they hadn't told anyone, including their involvement with mobsters.
He and co-writer Marshall Brickman acted as journalists at first, he said, drawing out stories from Valli and Gaudio. Then they began writing, thinking of the songs as a prop, rather than a guide, for the book. "We were imagining that we were writing a play and it happened to have a great soundtrack," he said.
Since Gordy wrote the book himself, "Motown" may come together in a different way — he had no outsider coaxing out the pros and cons of his life as a producer.
But he says it's the true story.
"When they see the play, I want people to know what I did, and how I did it, and how I felt doing it, and what were the obstacles," he said. "It's an honest account of how I did it," he said, "and I was the only one there."
We happened to catch about ten minutes of "American Idol" the night they did their annual salute to Motown Records. These songs are timeless and I believe new generations will continue to discover and enjoy them for many, many more years to come. So many kids today know the catalogs of The Four Seasons and ABBA thanks to successful musicals ... if there's a decent story here, I believe this could be the next one in line to do the same.  

And it's great to see more and more of these old tracks being resurrected again in movies, commercial ads ... whatever ... just to keep them in front of an audience again. I had to whip out my own copy of Rosemary Clooney's "Come On-A My House" tonight after seeing the new Eva Longoria television commercial featuring this track. (Jeez, talk about your desperate housewives ... beautiful Eva is how hawking cat food ... and has one of those God-Awful reality shows coming on about lost loves. That's just WRONG!!!) kk


"We Are the World" is a song and charity single originally recorded by super group 'USA for Africa' in 1985.
A worldwide commercial success, it topped music charts throughout the world and became the fastest-selling American pop single in history.
Fans enjoyed hearing racially and musically diverse recording artists singing together on one track, and felt satisfied in buying "We Are the World", knowing that the money was going to charity.
WOULD IT EVEN BE POSSIBLE TO CREATE AN ICONIC 'HAPPENING' WITH POST-1985 'TALENT'?If you don't include the original super- stars, now over 60 years old (it was 28 years ago), who span many genres of music, who did the original one, are there more than a handful of super-stars, recognize-able to the world by both face and material, who could pull this off to even half the attention ?I THINK NOT ...
Too many sub-genres that hit-the-top in their area, but haven't become worldwide or 'national', across the board, treasures.ADDENDUM
Plus, if you put that many of today's performers in a room that size, with all that
The only thing is they went in and recreated We Are The World a couple of years ago ... and as lame as that sounds (and as lame as I thought it would be) it was actually incredibly good. In fact, they used it to raise money (for Katrina I believe ... nope, it was Haiti) where every time you viewed it thru your cable outlet a donation was made toward the cause.
If you've never seen it, check it out ... you'll be surprised. (And you'll see a few "oldies but goodies" artists up there as well. Over 120 Million people have already watched this:
(You'll be surprised how many of these "new" artists you recognize too!)
It was fine, but DEFINITELY not original ... and it was all 'polished-up' with lower tier celebs.
with songs all have some familiarity with ?(Celine, Tony Bennett & Barbra are 'oldsters' ... and Michael Jackson is dead)WAS THERE MAGIC ?(or was the original a one-and-done?)
And, finally ... this is pretty cool ...
This is a keeper. It gives you the song & the label from the 45.
And here's alook at 40 years of change in the Record Biz in 40 seconds ...
Gary Pike