Saturday, November 27, 2021


Last Monday, November 22nd, marked he 58th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy in Dallas.

Robert Feder ran his annual CBS / Walter Cronkite timeline (I remember it SO clearly, even after all these years … and being only ten years old at the time.  We were dismissed early from school and the only thing on TV, on every channel was coverage of this sad, sad event.  The whole country was grieving and bewildered … none of us had ever seen something like this happen before.  Even at the age of ten you couldn’t help  but be affected.)  kk

November 22, 1963: ‘Here is a bulletin from CBS News’ - Robert Feder


Sad day! I was standing on Jackie’s side and watched the motorcade go by. After I saw them, I went into a store to buy something and minutes later, I heard the commotion. We all know the rest.

Brian Hyland

I remember writing a piece on this years ago from the perspective of some of the artists who were there that day, scheduled to perform that evening as part of one of Dick Clark’s Caravan Of Stars extravaganzas.  Shocking to say the least.

(I seem to remember Tommy Roe being there, too, although his name is not on the poster … maybe it was just something he was telling me one day … but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find it in time to include in today’s piece.)  kk

Forgotten Hits: 50 Years Ago Today (


And then, of course, this is also the night that Brian Wilson and Mike Love (who ended up performing that night after all, after threats of their concert being cancelled ran throughout the day), returning to their hotel room and polishing off “The Warmth Of The Sun,” while grieving for our fallen President.  (kk)

Forgotten Hits - The Story Behind The Beach Boys' Classic "The Warmth Of The Sun"


From Jay Siegel … 

This is terrific, Kent ... Enjoyed reading this.

Happy Holidays,



Some additional info you may already know about the song THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT ...

The group Darrell and the Oxfords had a less than minor hit with A PICTURE IN MY WALLET in 1959 on Roulette Records. Also, I don't know if it charted nationally, but in 1961 the Playmates of BEEP BEEP fame, recorded WIMOWEH on Roulette Records. That particular version made our local survey with the flip being a song called ONE LITTLE KISS. Finally, a group known as the Romeos in 1961 had the answer to THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT with a song called THE TIGER'S WIDE AWAKE on Amy Records.



And on D.B. Cooper …

(Which makes me wonder …

If he made it and landed safely, shouldn’t there have been a LOT more D.B. Cooper Burger King sightings than Elvis sightings over the past fifty years???)  kk


So this guy stole the money and probably botched the landing (?)

I think we should all move on from this one (!)







Chuck Buell thinks he's uncovered the herebefore secret answer to the story I posted Wednesday!  (kk)

>>>50 Years Ago … November 24, 1971 … a man known only as D.B. Cooper hijacked an airplane that he then parachuted out of (over Southwestern Washington State) carrying a briefcase filled with $200,000 and disappeared.  (kk)

CB ( which stands for "Conspiracy Boy!" )


Wow, still amazing … no trace of him was ever found?


Yeah, it’s like on the one hand, he got away with it … but in reality, got away with nothing at all! 

When you consider the planning that HAD to go into something like this, you’ve really got to wonder what he was thinking … yet no body, no money and no parachute were ever found … so where the heck did he go?!?!?  (kk)


About three years ago as we were boarding a nighttime flight departing Seattle, I asked the gate agent if Mr. Cooper had checked in for the flight. None of the gate agents knew what I was talking about, although a couple of passengers standing nearby did.


Hey, I woulda laughed!!! (lol)  kk


Hey Kent,
I know you're working hard my friend ... so I hope you can have a warm, blessed, and relaxed Thanksgiving.
I remember that Thanksgiving in 1967 ... "Snoopy's Christmas" broke on the Mike Douglas Show. Man, we had to sing live, with our track because the sound stage was pretty bad. Pretty scary for a bunch of kids ... lol 

Hope ya get a chuckle or two.

Eat, drink, and sleep ... then repeat!  lol

Love ya, man -

This is great … thanks so much for sending!  (And I guess now we let the Christmas Season begin!)  kk


What would American Pie sound like if written today?  No idea, but the below song that came out three years after American Pie blew me away as if the SECOND COMING of American Pie.  Not only do I love it 50 times more than Don Mclean's song, but it got me to become a big Cotton fan.  Yeah, it's an obscure type lyric ala McLean's, but such a catchy thing that shoulda put Gene on top.  IF you have not heard this and loved Pie, this is for you!

Taxi was an awesome record, but Sequel fell way short.  I DO like it, but it just doesn't work somehow for me.

I like the new doowoppy American Pie, but after five minutes I had to stop.  ;)

Clark Besch

I agree, some of these song lengths have become a factor in my patience for hearing them.  I have a REAL hard time even making it thru “Hey Jude” these days.  (In fact, truth be told, I probably turn it of 7 times out of 10, just because they play it so often … and it is SO long to sit thru all the way to the end.)  “American Pie” has elicited that reaction from me for decades now … so I’m a bit surprised I find the doo-wop version so refreshing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to it already!  (kk)


Speaking of which …


Thanks a million for posting that song by James Holvay, SWEET SOUL SONG. I can't tell you how many times in a row I have played that video. In fact, it's playing now in the background as I send you this email


And then …


In a previous email, I asked you a somewhat rhetorical question of how many times do you think I've played James Holvay's SWEET SOUL SONG. Well, I am going to ask you how many times do you think I've played it today (Tuesday).

I'll give you a hint ...

Kent, you can't count that high. (lol)).

Also, I have gotten out Arthur Conley's SWEET SOUL MUSIC and played several times.


It’s catchy as hell and SO authentic sounding … James really outdid himself with this one … and I had to tell him so … I can’t stop playing it!!!  (kk)


A big THANK YOU, Kent. 

I need all the help I can get.

I wish had the $$$ to press some 45’s up. (ha, ha)



One other you might try that also captures a very authentic feel of this era is Mayer Hawthorne’s “The Walk” …

This one never got played on the radio (because of the language) … and it’s a very sexy (and violent video) … but it’s an INCREDIBLE track that works hand-in-hand with James’ latest track.  (kk)


Tom Cuddy

A very impressive list indeed … although I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that Taylor Swift is now considered to be a bigger act than Elvis, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, The Eagles, The Bee Gees, The Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac, Aretha Franklin (!), Hall and Oates, Led Zeppelin, Diana Ross and Bob Dylan … and that’s just in The Top 50.

And I’m not quite sure how Barbra Streisand’s chart performance ranks a #6 showing either … Mariah Carey (#4) has earned her status with nearly twenty #1 hits … but Babs???  Wedged in between Madonna and Michael Jackson?

As usual, some of “the new kids” are earning their points in a distorted reality … but why go thru all of that again?  That being said, I’m both shocked and pleased to see Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Monkees and Three Dog Night make The Top 100 … because these acts, huge as they were, rarely show up on these kinds of lists … especially when artists like Drake, Eminem, Adele, Jay-Z, Nickelback, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Nelly, The Black Eyed Peas, R. Kelly, Tim McGraw, Chris Brown and Linkin Park earned a Top 100 rating.

Still, we all love lists like these … and the fact that The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Elton John occupy the Top Three slots is quite impressive.  Kudos, too, to Stevie Wonder at #9, Chicago (as Tom noted) at #10, Paul McCartney (solo) at #12 and Herb Alpert (who I think should have ranked MUCH higher … he absolutely dominated the charts back in the mid-‘60’s) at #21.  (kk)

Also from Tom …

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Announces ROCK 'N REMEMBER LIVE!

Have you seen the commercial on television for Alexis where the two teens (boy and girl) are dancing to the song I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU and in the next scene, it is some 62 years later and they are still dancing to the same song? How about the commercial for a type of liquor where BAREFOOTIN' is playing, not the Bobby Parker version?


Yes, lots of great oldies are being used in commercials right now … and on television shows, too!  (I just heard “Oogum Boogum” in an ad right after typing this!) 

Others include the Pilot hit “Magic” (sung as Ozempic in their drug ads), “I Got You Babe,” “From Me To You” (a rare Beatles track being used in a commercial, albeit sung by one of those girl indie singers who all sound exactly the same) and perhaps the two most over-played of all, “You Make My Dreams” by Hall and Oates and “I Want It That Way” by The Backstreet Boys, part of Kohl’s new holiday campaign.

This weekend we heard “Runaway” by Del Shannon and “All I Have To Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers on the new episode of “Dexter: New Blood” … and then “Only You” by The Platters on “Big Sky” as well. 

Previously this season, “Dexter” has featured “Burnin’ For You” by Blue Oyster Cult and “Heart Of Glass” by Blondie … and an Iggy Pop song called “The Passenger” that I wasn’t familiar with but fits the theme of the show perfectly … and we’re only three episodes into the season!  (Ironically, “The Passenger” was also used on an episode of “Big Sky: … where I’ve already heard alternate versions of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” “The House Of The Rising Sun,” “Spirit In The Sky” and “Bad Moon Rising” as well as “Happy Together” by The Turtles “It’s All Over Now” by The Rolling Stones,” “Mannish Boy” by Muddy Waters, “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, “Top Of The World” by The Carpenters, “Blue Bayou” by Roy Orbison, “Somethin’ Stupid” by Nancy and Frank Sinatra, “High Hopes” by Frank Sinatra, “Yummy Yummy Yummy” by The Ohio Express, “Let It Be Me” by The Everly Brothers, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” by Stevie Winwood, “Louisiana Woman, Louisiana Man” by Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, the Joan Jett version of “Crimson And Clover,” “Crazy On You” by Heart, “The Girl From Ipanema” by Getz and Gilberto and “Chances Are” by Johnny Mathis on “Big Sky” over the past dozen episodes or so … so they’re definitely keeping in step with the music format!  (Typically, their television ads feature a popular tune, too!)  I think it’s great!  (kk)


Billy Hinsche had the musical chops and was keenly aware of pop sensibility. Brian Wilson really dug him, too.  I had never have seen this visual or label copy for the tune he wrote with Brian, recorded by Dino, Desi and Billy.

photo courtesy of Gary Pig Gold

I faintly remember hitch-hiking around Sunset Blvd. in 1967 or '68 ... maybe I was walking on Sunset ... and Billy had a yellow Sting Ray car and honked. He also took this photo earlier of Dylan and Rodney B. at The Trip in 1966 with Rodney's Brownie camera. I put it in one of my books. For decades no one would mention his name from my books in reviews and more than once I tried to actually do an interview or big piece on him for UK magazines and websites. All met with silence. His year, 1965-1966 is the stuff of pop music dreams. And he remained a top-notch musician for a half a century.  

photo courtesy of Rodney Bingenheimer, who is now heard as a deejay on SiriusXM's Little Steven's Underground Garage Channel

Billy took this photo of Bob Dylan and Rodney with Rodney's own camera. 

It was outside The Trip nightclub in 1966, a venue on Sunset Blvd.  

It was published in my 2009 book "Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon."  

I encountered Billy in 2002 when he helped produce and book acts for a series of shows to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Whisky A Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. In 2006 at the House of Blues on Sunset Blvd., he hosted  Rickenbacker International Guitar's 75th anniversary. Even after leaving Los Angeles and residing in Las Vegas, Billy still had roots in West Hollywood. 

Harvey Kubernik

Not a bad song at all … too bad it never charted.

Nationally, Dino, Desi and Billy only had two Top 40 Hits … “I’m A Fool” (#12, 1965) and “Not The Lovin’ Kind” (#23, 1965) … but here in Chicago they also scored with “Please Don’t Fight It” in 1966 and “Two In The Afternoon” in 1967.

Very cool photo … thanks for sharing.  (kk)


Billy indeed had many, practically life-long ties with the Beach Boys, Brian and especially Carl of course.

He was a mainstay of the band's 1970s tours (he's all over 1973's "Beach Boys In Concert" album for starters), and don't forget, he and big brother Bri wrote DD&B's final Reprise release, Lady Love.

Gary Pig Gold


Hello Kent,

I am saddened to hear the news of the passing of our wonderful friends and musicians, Keith Allison and Billy Hinsche.

Here are a couple of photos taken by Henry Diltz of Keith at the Columbia Ranch during a break from filming "Monkees Marooned" on May 16-18, 1967.

Gary Strobl

Also, check out this video and you will see Billy at 1:57 …

Part of an actual news clip that ran in 1983.

Please share these with your readers.

Healthy & Happy Days Ahead,



How did you miss The Hollies’ "reunion" tour back around 1982?

I've seen the band twice. The first time was somewhere around the time of "The Air That I Breathe." Graham Nash was not there, although I've seen Graham with David Crosby a couple of times, as well with Crosby, Stills & Young.

All I remember about the 1982 show was that Graham kept babbling about how "magical" it was.

As far as the current line up, I'm a bit surprised that Terry Sylvester isn't there. I would not have expected Allan Clarke ... all recent footage I've seen shows his voice is gone (too bad).

What does that say about your band when Graham Nash is NOT the lead singer?

I don't think it's a question of having any major projects getting in the way, I think it's more of there's nothing left to prove. Still if I were physically able to make the trek to Chicago, I'd probably want to go.


Nope, I missed the 1982 reunion tour (although I’ve heard the live tapes from this and, truthfully, they’re a bit underwhelming) … but still, this is The Hollies (!), one of the most revered bands of the ‘60’s, with a hit list a mile long.

I’m most surprised that Terry Sylvester isn’t onboard for this as he seems to attach his name to virtually ANYTHING Hollies-related.

Graham reportedly had a blast doing the early ‘80’s reunion (which even resulted in a brand new album and a Top 40 Single with their remake of the Motown / Holland-Dozier-Holland hit, “Stop! In The Name Of Love” … not exactly Hollies material in my book!)

As for Allan Clarke, I’m perplexed …

He made a big major statement that he wasn’t going to be performing and singing anymore because his voice had become unlistenable … and then two years later he released a brand new solo album … so who knows what’s really going on with him!

Still, The Hollies are not going to sound like The Hollies without some of those key voices onboard … so I think I’m going to sit this one out.  (kk)


I admit it … we’ve been pushing the new ABBA release quite a bit here in Forgotten Hits … but the numbers don’t lie … #1 in England, #1 in Australia and #2 here in The States, all right out of the box … and now a first-ever Christmas single … AND their first-ever Grammy nomination for “I Still Have Faith In You” in the Record Of The Year category.  (ABBA has been releasing music for 49 years and … and were the top-selling act on the planet for YEARS … yet this is their first EVER Grammy nomination!!!)  So, once again, Hail to the world’s Super Group … ABBA!!!  (kk)


Also nominated (for a couple of Grammys, no less!) is Paul McCartney for his McCartney III album.

The album is up for Best Rock Album … and the song “Find My Way” has been nominated for Best Rock Song.  (Not bad for an old guy, eh???)

While I don’t think anybody expects him to win in either category, it is quite an honor to be nominated nearly sixty years after releasing his first recording with The Beatles in 1962.  (I’d say that makes for quite a career!)  kk


With his new lyrics book out just in time for Christmas, McCartney has had a pretty good year after lockdown!  (kk)


From Tom Cuddy …

Beatlemania 50 Years Later: Paul McCartney Scores 2 Grammy Noms, Sells 50K Copies of $100 Memoir in two Weeks

Yeah, I think this kid’s gonna do all-right for himself!

Throw in the Disney+ premier of the “Get Back” film and I feel like no time has passed at all!  (Unless, of course, I have to move!!!)  kk


The Rolling Stones closed their No Filter Tour Tuesday Night with an intimate show at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.  Based on all the publicity and excellent reviews surrounding this tour … not to mention a TON of money … I can’t imagine that they won’t be planning another one in the not-too-distant future … perhaps tying in with a brand new album release.  (There is still the issue of carrying on without Charlie Watts, however … but I think if the demand … and the desire … is there, The Stones WILL be back again!)  Stay tuned for more details!  (kk)


The set list from The Stones’ final show in Florida, November 23rd:


Street Fighting Man (from Beggars Banquet, 1968)
Lets Spend The Night Together (from Between The Buttons, 1967)
19th Nervous Breakdown (single 1966)
Tumbling Dice (from Exile On Main Street, 1972)
You Can’t Always Get What You Want (from Let It Bleed, 1969)
Living In A Ghost Town (single 2020)
Start Me Up (from Tattoo You, 1981)
Honky Tonk Women (single, 1969)
Connection (from Between The Buttons, 1967)
Slipping Away (from Steel Wheels, 1989)
Miss You (from Some Girls, 1978)
Midnight Rambler (from Let It Bleed, 1969)
Paint It Black (from Aftermath, 1966)
Sympathy For The Devil (from Beggars Banquet, 1968)
Jumping Jack Flash (single, 1968)

Gimme Shelter (from Let It Bleed, 1969)
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (from Out Of Our Heads, 1965)


More on the finale:



Really enjoyed FH this Monday morning.

Clark mentioned the Carpenters' SUPERSTAR ... what a record ... one of my all time favorites by that singing twosome.

He also mentioned DESIDERATA. Remember the novelty record that came out lampooning that song? It was called DETERIORATA by a group called National Lampoon on Banana Records.

Larry Neal

It’s funny because at the time, I never knew “Deteriorata” was an “answer record” … Les Crane’s “Desiderata,” despite being a National Top Ten Hit, never got played here in Chicago.  “Deteriorata,” however, was a regular fixture on The Dr. Demento Show, which I listened to faithfully at the time.  (National Lampoon, of course, was a MAJOR publication at the time … so their foray into the music business was quite a surprise … several other releases by them also exist.  Then again, it wasn’t all that unusual for Alfred E. Newman to stick a flexi-disc in the middle of the pages of “MAD Magazine” either … that’s where this great “It’s A Gas” classic came from back in the day!  (kk)


And after running his pre-Thanksgiving Turkey Prep piece on Tuesday, Chuck Buell has now blessed us (cursed us???) with this Post-Thanksgiving wrap-up …


And now, this Personal Holiday Special Chuck Buell Post-Thanxgiving Report!


Oddly memorizing.

CB ( which stands for "Cornbread Boy!" )



(or, in THIS case … HELPING OUT OUR WRITER … which would be me!!!):

We have got ALL kinds of new features planned for 2022, having partnered with Writers Jeff March and Marti Smiley-Childs, WRCO Disc Jockey Phil Nee, former Top 40 Jock (from The Top 40 Era) Johnny Holliday, Archivist Gary Strobl, Author Harvey Kubernik, ARSA (the ultimate Top 40 radio survey site), Survey Collector Frank Merrill and more to bring you a series of regular features each month to enhance the Forgotten Hits experience …

But now we need YOUR help!!!

In addition to bringing back our SWEET 16 feature (from 2016), spotlighting sixteen songs of a similar theme each month, we will also be running Top 40 Surveys from across the country … one from every state, spanning 50 of the 53 weeks we’ll be covering (including TWO Chicagoland charts, one each from powerhouses WLS and WCFL) plus a CHUM Canadian chart as well as a chart from Washington, D.C.

However, we’ve run into a snag …

We have been unable to find a copy of a Vermont chart from 1972!!!  So we need your help.

If you happen to have … or know someone who might have … a ’72 Vermont Top 40 Chart, we need it to complete our 2022 run.

Now, in an absolutely PERFECT world, that chart would cover the date of August 14th … but we realize how unrealistic that request might be …

So right now we’ll take ANY chart from March – December, 1972, and shuffle around the rest of what we’ve got in order to slip this in and make it work, creating the perfect storm of 1972 Top 40 surveys.

Please contact me as soon as you possibly can if you have something that we can use.

And then get ready for one heck of a ride as we unveil Forgotten Hits, 2022 … our 23rd year!!!  Thank you for your support.  (kk)


Friday, November 26, 2021

A Token Of Our Appreciation

As we begin our 23rd year of producing Forgotten Hits, we are happy to share this '60's FLASHBACK ...


In today's FH, you mentioned the passing of Philip Margo of the Tokens. It got me to thinking of how maybe the name, Tokens, came about.

I believe there was a group earlier called the Tokens. They had a record in 1957 called DOOM-LANG / COME DANCE WITH ME on Gary Records and a record in 1956 called WHILE I DREAM / I LOVE MY BABY on Melba Records with Neil Sedaka. Through the years, some people have confused the two groups thinking they were one and the same. I have copies of both records and just now got them out to play since I haven't heard them in years.  I was just wondering of the Margo Brothers and how they came about to use the name Tokens.

Larry Neal


Here is my understanding of how The Margo Brothers joined the group that in 1961 became known as The Tokens …

If anyone out there can add more to the story, we’d love to hear from you.


As Larry mentioned, there was an earlier vocal group called The Tokens that was formed in Brooklyn, New York in the mid-to-late ‘50’s.  (They were first known as The Linc-Tones, named after Lincoln High School, which they all attended.)  It consisted of Hank Medress, Neil Sedaka, Eddie Rabkin and Cynthia Zolitin.  They would perform at after school functions, sock hops, dances and bar mitzvahs.  They also used to sing in the subway stations (great echo!) for tips and, as has always been the common practice, tokens were needed to ride any of the subway trains, so this is where the name change originally came from.  (I’ve heard other variations of this story … but this one seems to be the most common.  In fact, as you'll see in our '60's FLASHBACK below, The Margo Brothers offered me a different explanation altogether!)

The group was signed to the small Melba Record Label in 1956, with Sedaka still onboard.  (“I Love My Baby,” as mentioned above, was one side of that record.) 

Before the year was over, Rabkin left the group and was replaced by Jay Siegel, who still performs as The Tokens to this day.  (We were fortunate to meet Jay a few years back at the Freddy Cannon show here in Chicago at The Arcada Theatre … great guy … and he has participated with Forgotten Hits from time to time as well.)

Anyway, Sedaka and Zolitin left the group in 1958, Sedaka going on to have his own mammoth solo recording career.

At this point, the group essentially disbanded, and Medress and Siegell went on to form Darrell and the Oxfords, another doo-wop group that recorded and performed for the next couple of years without much success.

In 1960, Medress decided to reform The Tokens and this is when Phil and Mitch Margo joined the group.  They were first signed to Warwick Records and had a #12 hit in 1961 with “Tonight I Fell In Love,” a song written by Medress, Margo and Margo.

Before the year was over, they jumped ship to RCA, where they recorded the monster smash “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” an across-the-boards #1 Hit that has never left radio since.  (The song itself dates back to the 1930’s when it was first recorded as an African folk song titled “Mbube” by Solomon Linda.  The Weavers got ahold of it in the early ‘50’s and recorded it as “Wimoweh” with some success … but it was The Tokens’ version that became the definitive one, resurrected countless times for film, tv and commercial advertisements, including ads for Burger King and inclusion in the films “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “The Lion King.”) 

The group was then brought in to produce a new act for Laurie Records called The Chiffons, and another string of hits ensued.  With Jay Siegel back in the fold, they formed B.T. Puppy Records and signed and produced a string of hits for The Happenings, in addition to continuing to hit the charts under their own name.  (“B’wa Nina,” #46, 1962; “He’s In Town,” #43, 1964; “I Hear Trumpets Blow,” #28, 1966; “Portrait Of My Love,” #25, 1967, “It’s A Happening World,” #69, 1967 and “She Lets Her Hair Down,” #59, 1970.)  They even recorded a version of The Beach Boys’ classic “Don’t Worry Baby” that hit #71 in 1970 … and, in 1994, took “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” back to #51, thanks to its use in the very popular money-making film “The Lion King.”

Medress left in 1970 to produce Tony Orlando and Dawn and Siegel, Margo and Margo did a one-off hit single under the name Cross Country, which reached #18 in 1973 when they did a slowed-down version of the old Wilson Pickett track, “In The Midnight Hour.”  (Medress also produced the #2 Hit remake of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” recorded by Robert John in 1972.)

With the recent passing of Phil Margo, that leaves only Jay Siegel as an original member of the hit-making Tokens left … and I can state from personal experience that he is still in fine voice and puts on a very entertaining and respectful show of this music.  (Mendress died in 2007 and Mitch Margo in 2017.)  kk


We have traced the roots of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” a couple of times now in Forgotten Hits …


But since the topic has come up again … and since it is one of the more unique song history trails … and since we just lost Phil Margo … I figured why not run it one more time.



We first did a piece on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" back in 2006, in which we ran clips of several different versions, including The Weavers' hit, the original Solomon Linda Zulu Chant, the #1 Hit recorded by The Tokens, the Robert John remake hit version from the early '70's and a [then] recent remake by the popular boy-band N*Sync.) 

I have been talking with Mitch Margo of The Tokens recently … and decided to put together a little "background piece" on the group.

The Tokens (first calling themselves The Linc-Tones) were formed in Brooklyn, New York, back in 1955 when Lincoln High Schoolers Neil Sedaka, Jay Siegel, Hank Medress, Cynthia Zolitin and Eddie Rabkin got together to perform at weddings, bar-mitzvahs and school functions.  

Sedaka (who we've covered a number of times before in Forgotten Hits) was considered a child prodigy on the piano ... although he was classically trained (and would eventually attend Julliard), he really loved the new sounds of Rock And Roll and the street-corner harmonies of the up and coming Doo Wop Groups. 

Already writing songs as a teenager, Neil supplied some of the original compositions that this early version of The Tokens performed.  (Because he had a crush on Cynthia Zolitin, the other members of the group felt that he was favoring her by awarding Cynthia all of the lead vocals!) 

Although the other members of the group may have been jealous, they tolerated this arrangement for a while ... after all, Cynthia's Mother knew a man by the name of Happy Goday, who ran a music publishing company in the famed Brill Building (where Sedaka would eventually land as a staff songwriter!) and he just might be their ticket to fame and fortune!  Goday arranged an audition with Morty Craft of Melba Records, who signed the vocal group to their first recording contract.

Still disenchanted with how things seemed to be going, (the Melba recordings failed to chart), The Tokens eventually parted ways, with Sedaka going off on his own to pursue a solo singing (and songwriting) career and Medress and Siegel forming a NEW group (along with new recruits Warren Schwartz and Fred Kalkstein) called Darrell and the Oxfords.

By 1959, The Oxfords had already recorded a couple of flop singles and Neil Sedaka had already had a few solo Top 40 Hits (including one written for his NEW crush, Carole King, called "Oh, Carol," which topped the charts here in Chicago.  (We featured both "Oh, Carol" and Carole King's reply, "Oh, Neil" awhile back in FH). 

Hank Medress and Jay Siegel figured that they could probably do better on their own than with The Oxfords … perhaps even seek out and produce new talent ... so they returned to their old hunting grounds and soon discovered Phil and Mitch Margo, two brothers who were now attending Lincoln High.  (Incredibly, Mitch was only thirteen years old at the time!)  They started rehearsing together and liked the way things sounded.  They quickly dubbed themselves "Those Guys" and auditioned for a couple of different record companies.  Ironically, it was old pal Morty Craft (now running Warwick Records) who signed the boys to a brand new recording contract. 

Their first effort was the song "Tonight I Fell In Love," which would eventually go to #15 in both Billboard and Cash Box Magazine.  Craft HATED the name "Those Guys," however, and persuaded them to go back to calling themselves The Tokens.  Once Dick Clark got behind their new record, things began to happen very quickly.  With a solid hit record now under their belts, they next moved on to RCA Records, home of ... guess who ... Neil Sedaka! … and, working with famed producers Hugo and Luigi, cut remake of a ten year old Weavers folk tune called "Wimoweh."   

With some quickly-written additional lyrics, The Tokens soon had their first (and only) Number One Hit ... retitled "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," the record raced up the charts.  Collectively, the producers (Hugo and Luigi) and the singers (The Tokens) had come up with a whole new musical style, which caught the ear of virtually all of America ... the record took the country by storm!  It can be said that the combination of the popular new folk trend ... along with their street corner Doo-Wop roots ... made for just the right mixture to create one of the most popular, famous and time-tested #1 Hits of all-time ... but you've also got to give an awful lot of credit to Jay Siegel's soaring falsetto lead vocal ... it simply makes the tune. 

DIDJAKNOW?-1:  Obviously, Brooklyn's Lincoln High School produced some pretty good vocal talent ... but DIDJAKNOW that it was ALSO the setting for the film "The Lords Of Flatbush"???

DIDJAKNOW?-2:  It has been reported for the past forty years that The Tokens took their name from the subway tokens they used to buy in order to ride to Manhattan ... but The Margos told us that their name REALLY came from the expression "A TOKEN Of My Affection."  Cool, huh?!?!?

DIDJAKNOW?-3:  The origin of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" dates back to 1939, when a South African singer named Solomon Linda first recorded a Zulu chant called "Mbube."   Thirteen years later, The Weavers got ahold of the tune and recorded it (with a few new lyrics ... VERY few, in fact) and, as the newly-retitled "Wimoweh," scored a #14 Pop Hit in 1952.  When Hugo and Luigi learned that "Wimoweh" was actually about a lion hunt, they recruited songwriter George Weiss to write new English lyrics and the song became "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which went on to top the U.S. Charts ten years after The Weavers' Top 20 single.  (The following year, that same songwriting trio penned one of Elvis Presley's biggest hits, "Can't Help Falling In Love," this time inspired by an old French tune!!!)

A SPECIAL TREAT:  The Evolution Of A Song:

Thanks to some pretty rare clips tracked down by FH Reader Hil (aka THEONEBUFF), we are now able to track the evolution of the song that we have all come to know and love as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Listen first to "Mbube" by Solomon Linda, a 1939 recording of not much more than a Zulu chant.  


In 1953, The Weavers took it to another level when they added a few lyrics to the African beat and released it as "Wimoweh."  


When The Tokens auditioned for RCA Records with their rendition of "Wimoweh," producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore liked it enough to call in songwriter George Weiss and commissioned him to write a complete new set of English lyrics, taking the song to its final state.  In hindsight, it's truly amazing to think that each enterprising new producer heard enough of a magical melody in the previous rendition to push it to another level ... but "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" has stood the test of time ... it truly is a rock and roll classic!  


Ten years after The Tokens went to #1 with their Pop Hit version of the song, it became a hit all over again for an artist by the name of Robert John … he took his version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" all the way back up the charts to #2 in 1972.  (John would hit the #1 Spot in both Billboard and Cash Box Magazine seven years later when "Sad Eyes" topped the charts.

DIDJAKNOW? - 4:  The Robert John remake of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" was produced by original Tokens Hank Medress and Jay Siegel!!!  How unusual (and intimidating!) it must have been to have your remake of one of the most famous, most popular, best-known songs ever recorded be produced by a couple of the guys who were involved with the recording of the original hit itself!!!

The fact is that after their own successful recording career, The Tokens formed B.T. Puppy Records and, over the years, worked with and / or produced DOZENS of other artists (including recording artists as diverse as The Chiffons, The Happenings, Bob Dylan and Connie Francis) ... and yet STILL found the time to sneak in a comeback record (or two) of their own.  ("I Hear Trumpets Blow" went to #30 in 1966 and "Portrait Of My Love" hit #25 the following year.)

DIDJAKNOW? - 5:  In 1973, Jay Siegel, Mitch Margo and Phil Margo regrouped as Cross County and recorded the absolutely AWESOME, slowed-down, acoustic, harmoniously-rich version of the Wilson Pickett classic "In the Midnight Hour" … which gave them ANOTHER Top 20 Hit. 


AND FINALLY:  Here's one more version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" … 

this one performed by the popular Boy Band N*SYNC.