‘If Someone Comes Along . . .’

April 17th, 2014

I dug around last week into the origins of “Get It While You Can,” noting that it was written by Jerry Ragovoy and Mort Shuman and originally recorded by soul singer Howard Tate. My familiarity with the song, I noted, came from Janis Joplin’s cover on her posthumous 1971 album, Pearl.

I’ve continued to dig, looking for more covers. There are a few out there, but there are also a few other songs with the title “Get It While You Can,” and that complicates things. A jazz guitarist named Norman Johnson did a sweet version of a song with the same title, a track that I liked a great deal, but it wasn’t the same song, so I noted his name for later and moved on.

I did eventually find some more covers of the Ragovoy-Shuman song – not as many as I thought I would – and I thought a few of them were pretty good. Sadly, the one additional cover that was already on the digital shelves here in the EITW studios is not one of those: Koko Taylor covered the song for the 1990 tribute Blues Down Deep: Songs of Janis Joplin, but I’ve never cared for the track, even though I’ve enjoyed much of Taylor’s work over the years.

One version that did work was by the Hudson River Rats, which offered the song as the title track of a 2007 album. The band is led by singer and harp player Rob Paparozzi and includes well-known drummer Bernard Purdie.

I also came across covers – or portions of them at Amazon – by performers that perhaps I should know, among them Big Joe Fitz, Carolynn Black, B.J. Allen & Blue Voodoo, and Peter Malick & Amyl Justin. There was also female impersonator Paul Capsis, who channels Janis pretty well, if that’s your thing.

Then I found Zoe Muth & The High Lost Rollers, a country band from Seattle that recorded “Get It While You Can” for its 2012 EP, Old Gold. On the band’s website, Muth notes that she gets asked all the time how a kid growing up in Seattle in the 1980s ends up playing country music.

She writes: “Growing up we were raised on the classic rock and roll, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan . . . . I didn’t learn about the really old stuff until high school when my fascination with the labor movement and the histories that never got brought up in textbooks led me to seek out the roots of all that music. The field recordings of Alan Lomax and Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music had just been rereleased and I devoured it all. . . . I traveled in my mind down the roads of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and the Carter Family, weaving elements of history and traditional country and blues into my music and lyrics.”

Muth adds, “Somehow, the country sound just lends itself to the way I feel, and the stories I want to tell. Tired workers and lovelorn losers with a folk intellect, not the jet set but the old Chevrolet set.”

Here’s Muth and the High Lost Rollers covering “Get It While You Can.”

Jesse Winchester, 1944-2014

April 15th, 2014

The broad outlines of Jesse Winchester’s life and work are pretty well known:

Born in Louisiana in 1944, raised in Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. Grew up playing music. Moved to Montreal after receiving a military draft notice in 1967. Met musicians there, including Robbie Robertson of The Band, who produced Winchester’s 1970 self-titled debut album. Became a Canadian citizen. Continued to record regularly into the early 1980s and performed regularly and recorded occasionally since. Moved back to the U.S. in 2002, settling in Virginia. Passed away last Friday, April 11, 2014.

In my brief post about Jesse Winchester Saturday, I wrote: “While regret and loss are part of any songwriter’s toolkit, they were perhaps sharper in Winchester’s toolbox than in the kits of most other songwriters.”

And where did those senses of regret and loss come from? Well, just as in literature, sense of place and a resulting appreciation of home are among the main themes of song, whether one is at home, going home or displaced from home. And in Jesse Winchester’s music I hear displacement – with those resulting senses of regret and loss – as a constant current. Part of that might simply have been his demeanor. A good portion of it is likely something Southern. And the largest part of that presence came, I would guess, from his status as an exile from his homeland.

Whatever the sources, that current runs true from his self-titled debut in 1970 to his last album, Love Filling Station, which was released in 2009. Here’s maybe the most overt expression of that displacement, “Mississippi, You’re On My Mind,” from the 1974 album, Learn To Love It.

For me, it was Winchester’s second album, Third Down, 110 To Go, that introduced me to his music. I remember liking the album a great deal when I heard it across the street at Rick and Rob’s house one evening in 1972. I thought I should maybe get my own copy, but I had other music in my sights at the time. Then Rob moved to Colorado, I went away for a while, and I saw the two brothers only sporadically for a few years. And I forgot about Jesse Winchester until the early 1990s when one of my twice-weekly stops at Cheapo’s brought me a vinyl copy of Winchester’s 1970 debut album. When I saw it and as it played it on my turntable, I thought about Third Down, 110 To Go and began to look for it and Winchester’s other work.

By early 1999, I had good copies of everything he’d recorded up through 1981’s Talk Memphis. I’ve since added his three last studio albums (but none of the several live albums). And listening to his work as a whole – as I have for a few hours over the course of the past weekend – I’m struck even more strongly by those qualities of regret and loss that seem to underlie even the lighter and sometimes humorous songs. (As an example, listen to “Snow” from 1970’s Jesse Winchester, which to me asks “How did I come to live in a place so different from my home?”)

Winchester might in the end be better remembered as a songwriter. There’s a long list at Wikipedia of folks who’ve recorded his work. And some of those covers are impressive. That especially holds true for the work on the 2012 album Quiet About It: A Tribute to Jesse Winchester, which includes covers from Rosanne Cash, Jimmy Buffett, Allen Toussaint, Vince Gill and others. But as good as those versions are – and I do enjoy Quiet About It – it’s hard to surpass Winchester’s versions of his own songs.

And we’ll close today with the gentle and lovely “Eulalie” from Winchester’s last album, the 2009 release Love Filling Station.

Saturday Single No. 388

April 12th, 2014

Jesse Winchester, one of my favorite singer-songwriters, passed on yesterday morning at his home in Virginia. He was 69. Rumors of his death had been flitting around Facebook and other social media sites for about a week, and yesterday they came true.

I’ll write a bit more about Winchester and his music early next week; things are a bit rushed this morning, and I want to let the mud settle down in the water before I write about someone whose music I enjoyed as much as I did his. But I also wanted to note his passing.

While regret and loss are part of any songwriter’s toolkit, they were perhaps sharper in Winchester’s toolbox than in the kits of most other songwriters. That’s evident in the melancholy strains of “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz” from Winchester’s self-titled 1970 album, released after he left the U.S. for Canada as a draft resister.

Oh my, but you have a pretty face
You favor I girl that I knew
I imagine that she’s back in Tennessee
And by God, I should be there too
I’ve a sadness too sad to be true

But I left Tennessee in a hurry dear
In same way that I’m leaving you
Because love is mainly just memories
And everyone’s got him a few
So when I’m gone I’ll be glad to love you

At the Brand New Tennessee Waltz
You’re literally waltzing on air
At the Brand New Tennessee Waltz
There’s no telling who will be there

When I leave it will be like I found you, love
Descending Victorian stairs
And I’m feeling like one of your photographs, girl
Trapped while I’m putting on airs
Getting even by saying, Who cares

At the Brand New Tennessee Waltz
You’re literally waltzing on air
At the Brand New Tennessee Waltz
There’s no telling who will be there

So have all your passionate violins
Play a tune for a Tennessee kid
Who’s feeling like leaving another town
But with no place to go if he did
Cause they’ll catch you wherever you’re hid

At the Brand New Tennessee Waltz
You’re literally waltzing on air
At the Brand New Tennessee Waltz
There’s no telling who will be there

And “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz” by Jesse Winchester is today’s Saturday Single.


April 10th, 2014

I wrote very briefly in December about the life-altering surgery undergone by an old friend. I didn’t name him, as I did not have permission to do so at the time. That friend, as some might have guessed, was my pal Rob, who had a cancerous portion of his jaw replaced with a piece of titanium in December and went through a long bout of radiation therapy in the early portion of this year.

Yesterday, he and I met at the little burg of Big Lake southeast of here, rode the Northstar light rail down to Target Field in Minneapolis and watched the Minnesota Twins play the Oakland Athletics. Never, in the fifty-seven years I’ve known Rob, have I been as glad to see him as I was yesterday. As we sat in the sun in the outfield seats and sipped a couple of pale ales, yesterday afternoon was a time to be grateful for friendship, for years, for modern medical technology and for the simple joys of baseball, sunshine and beer.

He has hurdles ahead of him yet. Eating solid food remains on the horizon, as does dental work and frequent examinations to check for the return of the disease. But he’s come through so far with his sense of humor and joy in living intact. If things can be arranged, he and his brother Rick and our pal Schultz will show up here on a Saturday next month to play some Strat-O-Matic baseball, probably with a heightened awareness that our time here is temporary and a renewed appreciation of the sweet things in life.

A while back, in reference to my aching elbow (it’s much better now), I shared Jimmy McGriff’s version of “Healin’ Feeling” from 1972. Today, for Rob and all of his family and friends, I offer Richard “Groove” Holmes’ single version of the same tune, this time titled “That Healin’ Feeling.” It was released on the Pacific Jazz label in 1961.

‘Don’t You Turn Your Back On Love . . .’

April 8th, 2014

Long, long ago, as I was about to graduate from high school, my sister asked me to give her a list of things – records, books and so on – that I might want as graduation presents. I gave her a brief list, and on graduation night, I learned that the list had not been for her – she gave me an Alvarez classical guitar – but for the man she’d been dating for about a year and who, in another year or so, would become my brother-in-law.

From my list, he selected two records: Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney and Janis Joplin’s posthumous Pearl. My placing the latter album on the list was no doubt spurred by hearing Janis’ No. 1 hit, “Me & Bobby McGee,” rolling out of the radio many times earlier that year. And, I think, there was an awareness that Janis had been an important artist, and it was time to learn more about her.

I loved – and still love – Pearl. I loved Ram, too – and still like it – but I knew I would; I wasn’t certain I was going to even like Janis’ album when I put it on my list. But Janis and her band – Full Tilt Boogie – cooked at the right spots and they caressed at the right spots. And two of the tracks spoke to me: Bobby Womack’s “Trust Me” and “Get It While You Can” by Jerry Ragovoy and Mort Shuman.

As I listened to Pearl that summer, the two songs seemed to be two halves of a lesson about girls: Embrace love when it comes, but let it grow in its own time. (At seventeen, I needed all the lessons I could get, but I look back and can see that those lessons, in my life at least, could only successfully be applied after at least one failure to heed them, another reminder that we learn better through experience than we do through even very good lyrics.)

I’ve written about Womack at various times, and I included Joplin’s version of “Trust Me” in my Ultimate Jukebox a few years ago. Today, it’s time to take a listen to “Get It While You Can.” (In the autumn of 1971, the track was released as a single and went to No. 78.)

So why write today about something that happened over the course of the summer in 1971? Because until today, I’d never wondered about where the song “Get It While You Can” came from. It is, as I noted above, a Jerry Ragovoy-Mort Shuman composition, and these days, those names on a label would grab my immediate attention. (So, too, would the name of Bobby Womack.) But not so in 1971. I had much to learn.

That was underlined this morning when I was scanning the Billboard Hot 100 from April 8, 1967. As is usually the case, most of the records at the top of the list were familiar, and many in the lower regions were not. And then, at the bottom, bubbling under at No. 134, was a familiar title: “Get It While You Can” by one Howard Tate.

That sweet record, I learned from some digging, is the original version, arranged and produced by Ragovoy. But as good as it is, it did next to nothing on the Hot 100. After bubbling under for one week, the record was gone. (It was one of six records Tate placed in or near the Hot 100; he had six in the R&B Top 40, as well, but the two lists are not identical: “Get It While You Can” did not hit the R&B chart, while “Baby, I Love You” touched the R&B Top 40 but not the Hot 100 during the summer of 1967. Tate’s best performing record was his first in either chart: “Ain’t Nobody Home,” went to No. 63 on the Hot 100 and to No. 12 on the R&B chart in 1966.)

Would I have liked Tate’s version of “Get It While You Can” if I’d heard it in 1967? Probably not. I wasn’t listening much, and the record’s soul aesthetic was far different than the little bits of pop, rock and light R&B that I was hearing when I did pay attention. I do like it this morning, and there are a few other versions out there that I like a little (I hope to write about those sometime in the next week or so), but when I think of the song, it’s always going to be Janis’ version I hear.

Saturday Single No. 387

April 5th, 2014

When I discovered music blogs in June 2006, I was overwhelmed. The sharing of music at blogs and boards was, perhaps, at its height, and I was startled and amazed at the wide variety of music available. (I’ve noted before that I’m able to date my discovery of music blogs because that was the week that Billy Preston passed on, and many of the blogs I visited that week published tributes to Preston.)

Lots of the music being shared, of course, was current and/or recent, and I didn’t spend much time digging into that; I soon developed a list of blogs that were sharing mid- to late 1960s stuff I’d never heard, and it turned out that a lot of that music was British folk. Some of what I found was, to be honest, music I’d want to hear in small doses. Take, as an example, the Incredible String Band: The group’s music is, all at the same time, spare, inspired, intriguing and a little bit demented.

Whether best listened to in large swaths or smaller doses, a lot of Brit folk (and a good deal of American folk and Danish folk from the same era) came my way, and it pops up occasionally on the RealPlayer when I’m wandering at random around my musical universe. I was doing so on a small scale this morning, letting the player jump around in the seventy-five mp3s that are tagged “Saturday,” and a minor oddity showed up: “Saturday Gigue” by the Roundtable.

The Roundtable was a group of British folk musicians who, from what I can tell, recorded one album of current pop songs in a baroque style. The blogger(s) at ProgNotFrog, where I no doubt found the album in 2007, were highly impressed with the 1969 album Spinning Wheel, and offered a brief review. The commentary, which I’ve edited for style, was pulled from another source (obviously a British one), but I can’t decipher the citation except for the date of February 11, 1970:

“If you like a combination of jazz, folk, baroque, gospel and blues – kind of medieval music with pop influences – injected into eight well-known numbers and performed by a group of superb musicians playing such ancient instruments as shawms, crumhorns and regals, then you MUST buy this album. The stars are David Munrow (also on descant recorder) and Chris Hogwood (harpsichord), two highly-respected interpreters of medieval sounds, but the effect achieved when they mix with three flugelhorns, two woodwinds, piano, organ and a driving rhythm section powered by two drummers is quite amazing. You will hardly recognise Laura Nyro’s ‘Eli’s Coming,’ Lennon & McCartney’s ‘Michelle,’ or Blood Sweat And Tears [sic] ‘Spinning Wheel.’ ‘Scarborough Fair’ and ‘This Guy’s in Love With You’ are also gems and the arrangements are so complex that it will take you a dozen plays to pick out everything that is going on. It is impossible to describe the beauty or fascinating rhythms on paper. All I can say is that it is one of the finest albums I have ever recommended.”

Not mentioned in the review was “Saturday Gigue,” the track that popped up this morning. It was released as a single in the U.K. in 1969 and then used in 2004 as the B-side of a limited U.K. vinyl release of “Eli’s Comin’.”

A gigue, says Wikipedia, is “a lively baroque dance originating from the British jig.” I hadn’t known that, and learning something new is as a good a reason as any to share a record. So, from the Roundtable’s 1969 album Spinning Wheel, here is “Saturday Gigue,” today’s Saturday Single.

Note: I acknowledged in Thursday’s post about Mike Reilly’s 1971 single “1927 Kansas City” that the audio offered at YouTube was poor. Long-time reader and good friend Yah Shure noted that I was too diplomatic. He then spent a good portion of yesterday digitizing and cleaning up his promo copy of “1927 Kansas City” and sent the results to me yesterday afternoon, an act of friendship for which I am very grateful. I’ve since replaced the video with one featuring Yah Shure’s copy of the single. You can also go to the video right here.

‘Life’s A Circle After All . . .’

April 3rd, 2014

I suppose that if I’d been a bigger fan of Pure Prairie League, I’d have heard of Mike Reilly before this morning, but I’ve never paid all that much attention to PPL, at least not enough attention to know the names of the band’s members.

Reilly came to the band in 1972, says Wikipedia, just after the band has finished recording its second album, Bustin’ Out, and he’s been with the band – mostly a touring group now, with only two albums released since 1981 – ever since, with a two-year break from 2006 to 2008 for a liver transplant.

But it’s not Reilly’s membership in Pure Prairie League that brought him to my attention this morning. It was, rather, a 1971 single that caught my eye. Forty-three years ago today – on April 3, 1971 – Reilly’s single, “1927 Kansas City” was in its fourth week in the Billboard Hot 100, sitting at No. 94. It would last another couple of weeks and peak at No. 88.

Until this morning, the record – like Reilly, who wrote the song – had escaped my attention. So had the only covers of the tune I’ve seen mentioned: one by David Soul on his 1976 self-titled debut album and two live versions from the 1990s by Glenn Yarbrough. It turns out that Soul’s 1976 album has been in my stacks since December 1987, and that means I played it once, but his cover of “1927 Kansas City” clearly didn’t impress me.

I’m not sure that I would have given much attention to Reilly’s original had I heard it on my radio in 1971. I almost certainly didn’t hear it. The record didn’t show up in the 1971 surveys from the Twin Cities collected at Oldiesloon (which has every KDWB survey from 1971 and most of those from rival WDGY).

And Reilly’s record seemingly made few surveys anywhere; the data available at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive show only seven stations that listed the record on their surveys: It was listed as either as a pick hit or in the low rankings at stations in New Orleans; Omaha; Indianapolis; Jefferson City, Missouri; and Midland, Texas, but there are no surveys available from those stations for the previous or the following weeks, so we can really draw no conclusions from that. It was listed for at least two weeks and ranked as high as No. 17 at WFAA in Dallas; it was gone the following week. The only complete survey data for the single at ARSA comes from WHB in – where else? – Kansas City, where the record got to No. 23 in an eight-week run.

Is “1927 Kansas City” one of the great lost singles? Probably not. But I found it charming this morning, with a tale and theme that likely would not have mattered to me in 1971 but that speak loudly to me now. (The quality of the audio I found at YouTube is not the best, but I still thought the record worth a listen.)

As friend and regular reader Yah Shure noted below, the audio in the YouTube video I originally posted – the only video of the record that was available – was abysmal. I asked if he had a copy of the record in digital form. He did not, but he was kind enough to spend more time than I would have anticipated digitizing a promo copy of Mike Reilly’s “1927 Kansas City.” And the result is almost a different record, one that I’ve posted below to replace the awful version originally put here. Odd and Pop and I thank you, Yah Shure!

‘Switch On Summer From A Slot Machine . . .’

April 1st, 2014

On the way to the library the other day, I heard Cat Stevens’ “Where Do The Children Play” coming from the radio speakers, as if my good friends at WXYG were reminding me that I promised a while back to write a little bit about Stevens and his work.

I haven’t forgotten, but as I dig through Stevens’ work – both as Cat Stevens and as Yusuf Islam – I find myself adrift. With a couple of exceptions, I never paid much attention to Stevens’ music. For about a year, I listened occasionally to the 1971 album Teaser & The Firecat until my sister took it and her other albums with her when she got married. I heard and enjoyed 1970’s Tea For The Tillerman at many friends’ homes from 1970 onward, and finally got my own copy in the late 1970s. A few other Cat Stevens albums came home during my vinyl madness in the 1990s (although I think they’ve stayed on the shelves after being played once). And I’ve gotten digital copies of both Tillerman and Teaser.

Stevens’ pre-1970 work doesn’t interest me. I’ve heard enough of the later 1970s stuff to know that it’s not essential, at least not for me, and I’ve heard both post-2000 albums the singer released under his current name of Yusuf Islam. Those are pleasant, and maybe with enough listenings, they’d find their ways inside me and matter to me. Maybe.

I’m not saying that Cat Stevens’ work after 1971 is without merit. Maybe what’s at work here is the well-known bit about the music of our youth being always more important than the music that comes by later, but I find little in Cat Stevens’ post-1971 catalog that moves me. And even Teaser & The Firecat is an album that I like but don’t love.

Tea For The Tillerman is different story. Over the years, it’s come to be one of my essential albums, one I do love. Part of my affection for the album no doubt is because it reminds me of Easter weekend 1974 in Poitiers, France. (I traveled to Poitiers from Denmark on the invitation of a young lady whom I’d met in Vienna. By the time I got to Poitiers, she’d moved on to Munich, but her friends welcomed me and included me in their Easter celebrations, with Tea For The Tillerman playing frequently in the background.) Part of that affection is that the album sounds like 1970, and that’s musically an important year to me.

Beyond those reasons, I think Tea For The Tillerman matters to me because it’s one of the great singer/songwriter albums and is far and away better than anything else Cat Stevens ever released. (For what it’s worth, those who vote on such things for the various Rolling Stone rankings think so, too: In the magazine’s latest listing [2012] of the 500 greatest albums, Tea For The Tillerman ranks No. 208 and none of Stevens’ other albums are listed.) From the above-mentioned “Where Do The Children Play” through the No. 11 hit “Wild World” on to the closing title track, the album shines.

Here’s “Where Do The Children Play,” and just hearing it this morning makes me want to go cue up the entire album once more. I’ll likely do that later today.

Saturday Single No. 386

March 29th, 2014

Today’s a good day to poke into a radio station survey from the Airheads Radio Survey Archive in search of a good single. Obviously, we’ll look at a March 29 survey, and we’ll do 1969 just because I want to.

That leads us neatly to a survey from WDGY in the Twin Cities. As I’ve no doubt related before, in St. Cloud in those days we listened to the Twin Cities’ KDWB because WDGY didn’t come in well, if at all (because of its signal strength or direction or both). The only time Rick and I and our pals ever heard WDGY was when we went to the State Fair and might spend a few minutes listening to the music on the speakers outside the station’s fair booth.

Much of the music, of course, was the same as what was on KDWB (and much of it was also played in the evenings on St. Cloud’s WJON just across the railroad tracks), but it still felt odd to have it underlined at the State Fair that that kids in the Twin Cities had more choices than we did up in the Cloud.

So what was it that the Cities kids were listening to on WDGY this week forty-five years ago? The top ten in the station’s “30 Star Survey” were:

“You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” by Blood, Sweat & Tears
“Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In” by the 5th Dimension
“Dizzy” by Tommy Roe
“Time of the Season” by the Zombies
“Indian Giver” by the 1910 Fruitgum Co.
“Hot Smoke & Sassafrass” by Bubble Puppy*
“Galveston” by Glen Campbell
“Only the Strong Survive”**
“Rock Me” by Steppenwolf”
“Baby, Baby Don’t Cry” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Only one of those Top Ten records seems to be much out of line with how they rated nationally. The Bubble Puppy record, which eventually went to No. 5 on WDGY, peaked at No. 14 in Billboard. And there are a couple records a little lower down that did better on WDGY than they did in the Hot 100 (although more of the records listed could certainly have done so in the weeks to come):

Brenda Lee’s “Johnny One Time” was at No. 14 on WDGY (and eventually went to No. 12) but peaked at No. 41 in Billboard, and “May I” by Bill Deal & The Rhondels was at No. 29 on WDGY (eventually rising to No. 15) but peaked at No. 39 in the Hot 100.

(All three of the over-performing records from this particular WDGY survey also had a higher profile at the Twin Cities’ KDWB than they did in the Hot 100: According to what I see at the Oldiesloon, “May I” and “Hot Smoke & Sasafrass” peaked at No. 9 on KDWB, and “Johnny One Time” peaked at No. 15.)

And at No. 22 in the WDGY survey, I came across a record I’d never heard before, and that makes selecting a single for this morning very easy. I know, of course, the Box Tops’ No. 1 version of “The Letter” from 1967, and I know the No. 7 version by Joe Cocker with Leon Russell from 1970, but until this morning, I’d not heard the somewhat softer and (in its later portions) rather trippy version of the record by the Arbors, which went to No. 20 in the Hot 100. I featured the group’s “Symphony For Susan” not quite four years ago, but this morning, the quartet’s cover of “The Letter” is today’s Saturday Single.

*The WDGY survey misspelled “sassafras,” but then, so did Bubble Puppy, which spelled the word “sasafrass” in the song’s title.

**There was no performer listed for “Only the Strong Survive” on the WDGY survey, but I think one can safely assume it was the Jerry Butler record.

One Chart Dig: March 27, 1961

March 27th, 2014

Poking around in a few Billboard charts that were released on today’s date over the years, I pondered for a few moments the Top Ten from March 27, 1961:

“Surrender” by Elvis Presley
“Pony Time” by Chubby Checker
“Dedicated To The One I Love” by the Shirelles
“Apache” by Jorge Ingman & His Guitar
“Don’t Worry” by Marty Robbins
“Blue Moon” by the Marcels
“Walk Right Back” by the Everly Brothers
“Wheels” by the String-A-Longs
“Where The Boys Are” by Connie Francis
“Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)” by Carla Thomas

I know almost all of those ten records now – Marty Robbins’ “Don’t Worry” at No. 5 seems to have escaped my attention for these fifty-three years – but the only one I recall from that time is the Connie Francis single. And the rest of the Hot 100 from March 27, 1961, seems the same way, with almost all of it unknown to the seven-year-old whiteray. That’s not surprising.

Nor is it surprising that even now, there are records in that chart that I do not know, and I think we’ll spend a few days in the next week digging into it. We’ll start by dropping down to the Bubbling Under portion of the chart, and at No. 101, we find a name that’s now familiar: Joe Jones, whose “You Talk Too Much” went to No. 3 (and to No. 9 on the R&B chart) in late 1960.

Jones’ follow-up record was a drum- and horn-driven take on “California Sun,” a tune that the Rivieras would take to No. 5 in a speeded-up and surfed-up (but equally drum-driven) version in 1964. Jones’ version was the original of the Henry Glover/Morris Levy tune, according to SecondHandSongs, and I liked very much one of the comments left about the record at YouTube: “Great record, but no matter how much the lyrics insist he wants to go to California, those horns aren’t going anywhere but New Orleans!”