We just can’t say enough nice things about B.J. Thomas …
Here are a few more …
Nice tribute to BJ Thomas, but I saw no mention of “Eyes Of A New York Woman” so I will mention it. Classic!
A #28 hit in 1968, this one always felt like a “Hooked On A Feeling” wannabe / clone to me … which isn’t really fair because it actually came first … so B.J. was definitely headed in the right direction … and then REALLY hit his mark when “Hooked” was released as his follow-up single and went all the way to #5.
Both songs were written by Mark James who, one year later, would give Elvis his first #1 hit since 1962’s “Good Luck Charm” when “Suspicious Minds” topped the chart. It has since become radio’s most-played Elvis tune for the past 40 years. (Unfortunately, it’s also about the ONLY thing you hear by The King these days, despite an incredible 116 Top 40 Hits.)
Of course, Billboard has seen fit to “disqualify” 25 of those since they charted before they officially renamed their chart The Hot 100 in August of 1958. Those 25 include TEN #1 Hits … songs like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog,” “Love Me Tender,” “All Shook Up,” “Teddy Bear” and “Jailhouse Rock” … all bonafide rock and roll classics that helped define the genre … but I digress … we’re supposed to be talking about B.J. Thomas here.
That being said, the very first time I heard “I Just Can’t Help Believin’,” I thought, “Man, this would have been the PERFECT song for Elvis to sing.” He was just at the beginning of his big Vegas comeback at the time … and it just sounded SO Elvis-like. (I guess Elvis thought so, too … and was apparently a little miffed that the song reached B.J. before he ever had the chance to record it. In fact, he used to give B.J. some grief over “stealing” his next #1 song … all in a sort of fun way.)
Elvis would go on to record the tune … and it became a big part of his live act.
Years later, B.J. Thomas would tell this story in concert … but then end it with “Yeah … but I’ve got the gold record hanging on MY wall.” (kk)
You posted some great videos today of B.J. Thomas. If I may, some quick thoughts I had concerning today's posting ...
First, I enjoyed the tributes and remembrances of B. J. Thomas from other readers. As for other artists having records on other labels, I had forgotten in a sense Donovan with a record or two on Hickory. I always enjoyed the earlier recordings of Neil Diamond when he was with Bang Records. I am not sure, but I believe his first record came in 1962 on Columbia.
Now don't get mad at me, but I always liked the version HOOKED ON A FEELING with the OOGA-CHOOGA'S.
Gary Theroux said that ROCK AND ROLL LULLABY was done asn a collaboration between a few artists that included the Blossoms When I saw that group mentioned, I assumed that this was the same group that recorded, in 1961, SON-IN-LAW (Challenge), the answer to Ernie K-Doe's big hit MOTHER-IN-LAW (?)
The Blossoms were one of the most used back-up singing groups back in the day … and (since we were just talking about Elvis) performed with him on stage for many years. (They also did background vocals for Paul Anka, Bobby Darin, Dionne Warwick and many, many others.) They were part of the “house band” on the TV Series “Shindig” … and also contributed vocals on recording sessions held by The Righteous Brothers, The Mamas and the Papas, The Beach Boys, Duane Eddy, Herb Alpert, Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Tom Jones and, again, many, many more.)
They were led by Darlene Love (who you may have heard of! Lol) and, under the wing of Phil Spector, were the REAL singing group on the hits “He’s A Rebel” (#1, 1962) and “He’s Sure The Boy I Love” (#11, 1963), although the record label showed the artist as “The Crystals.”
Darlene Love was none to happy with this arrangement, as the credit for these hit records was going to someone else. (La La Brooks, the name most commonly associated with The Crystals, didn’t join the group until 1962 … AFTER their first big hits. Yet SHE is the one who has been touring for DECADES capitalizing on their fame.) Another name you may recognize as the lead singer of The Crystals is Barbara Alston … she sang The Crystals’ first two hits, “There No Other (Like My Baby),” #18, 1962, and “Uptown,” #10, 1962.
But back to The Blossoms …
Darlene Love, Fanita James (Ronnie Spector’s sister, back when they both still had the last name Barrett) and Gloria Jones were also members of Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans (who scored the Top Ten Hit version of the Disney tune “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” in 1963, another record produced by Phil Spector. (You guys have REALLY got to read our Phil Spector Series … you’ll find ALL kinds of FASCINATING facts like this!!!)
Anyway (damn, I’m having a hard time staying on track today!!!) Spector LOVED the song “He’s A Rebel” and really wanted to record it with The Crystals … but they were out on tour at the time, so he would have had to wait until they got back in town to do the session. In the meanwhile, he caught wind that Vikki Carr had recorded the tune … so he knew he needed to beat her to the punch and rush-release the Wall Of Sound version that he heard in his head.
So, he brought in The
Blossoms to cut the track … but then released it under the much more familiar
name, The Crystals, figuring that that recognition would earn it immediate
airplay. The trick worked … “He’s A
Rebel” went straight to #1, The Crystals were able to complete their tour (and
then get credit for a record they had nothing to do with) and Phil Spector had
another huge it. (The only one unhappy
with the arrangement was Darlene Love … and understandably so.) It wouldn’t be the last time Spector would
take advantage of her talent without issuing credit. Love finally put her foot down and demanded
that Phil record something under her own name.
The result was “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” which became a
#35 SOLO Hit for Darlene in 1963. (By the way, if you're wondering, the Vikki Carr version rode The Crystals' version's coattails and peaked at #61 in Music Vendor before it fell off that chart's shared position, while it only managed to "bubble under" in both Billboard and Cash Box.)
When Elvis resumed his performing career ... (how'd we get back to ELVIS?!?!) ... The Blossoms became a big part of his Las Vegas nightclub act and also accompanied him on tour. (They would do the same for Tom Jones, of whom Elvis was a huge fan.)
So … to answer your EARLIER question (you know, from about four and a half hours ago!), YES, The Blossoms had the #78 Novelty Hit “Son-In-Law” in 1961, the “answer record” to the #1 Ernie K.Doe hit.
(Harry Nilsson used to say, “To make a long story even longer …” … we certainly have accomplished that today!!!) kk
Ok, now who are we spotlighting here today?
Oh yeah … B.J. Thomas …
So let’s get back to it, shall we???
One final comment about B.J. …
My middle daughter was born January 3rd, 1970. "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" rose to #1 the day she was born.
Years later at B.J.'s last performance at City Winery, Dan Conroe brought my Guitar backstage to him prior to his performance. I had included a note telling him how much his first big hit "I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry" meant to us G.I.'s fighting in Vietnam.
I was sitting in the first row wearing my Vietnam soft cap. As he took to the stage, he stopped where I was seated, addressed me BY NAME, shook my hand and told me, " Jim, when I do that song tonight, I'll be singing it for you."
True to his word, midway through his set he spoke of the history of the song and its significance during the war. He then acknowledged all of the vets in the audience. As the band’s intro began, he turned to me and asked, "Were you in the Army, Jim.?" Nodding yes, he continued, "So was my dad." He concluded, "Jim, this is for you."
Guitar Jim Nowoc
By the way, I share B.J.’s story and many others in my book, "No Strings Attached" - My Life Growing Up With The Birth of Rock and Roll."
Continued success, Kent.
The man was a jewel … he will be missed. (kk)
And let’s not forget the fact
that B.J. Thomas used to come into our living rooms every week to sing the opening theme to the hit television series “Growing Pains!”
And this just in from our buddy Chuck Buell, who just happened to do the voiceovers on a couple of Coca-Cola commercials that B.J. recorded …
The preceding B. J. Thomas Forgotten Hits Special has been brought to you in part by Coca Cola!
( Hit the commercials! )