A Bunch Of ‘Sorry’ Songs

April 24th, 2014

The Texas Gal and I have a friend who’s been looking for a used printer, and I told that friend Sunday that I’d send her the phone number and email address of Dale the Computer Guy down on Wilson Avenue.

I forgot.

I sent the info yesterday in an apologetic email, and this morning, I got back a kind email saying my delay was not a problem. But it got me to wondering how many recordings among the 75,000 currently logged into the RealPlayer have the word “sorry” in their titles.

I was surprised. There are only thirty-eight such recordings (and one album: the Gin Blossoms’ 1996 effort Congratulations I’m Sorry). Those recordings span the years, however, starting with the 1935 single “Who’s Sorry Now” by Milton Brown & His Musical Brownies and ending with a 2013 version of the same song recorded by Karen Elson for the HBO show Boardwalk Empire.

Here’s the western swing version from Milton Brown & His Musical Brownies:

It’s worth noting that “Who’s Sorry Now” seems to be a pretty sturdy song. Written by Ted Snyder, Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, it was first recorded in 1923 by a number of folks including Isham Jones (whom we met here last autumn when we were listening to versions of “I’ll See You In My Dreams”), and according to the information at SecondHand Songs, it’s been recorded several times in every decade since then except the 1930s (and I’ll bet there are recordings from that decade that have not yet been listed at the website). The most recent version noted there before Elson’s 1920s-styled take on the tune is one from Mary Byrne, a 2010 contestant in the United Kingdom’s version of the singing contest, The X Factor.

But what else did we find when searching for “sorry”? Well, the second-oldest recording stashed here in the EITW studios with “sorry” in its title is from 1951, when Johnny Bond saw his “Sick, Sober & Sorry” go to No. 7 on the Billboard country chart. And the second most-recent is from quirky singer-songwriter Feist, whose “I’m Sorry” was released on her 2007 album, The Reminder.

Looking chronologically, and picking one track from each decade from the 1950s on, we find some gems: “I’m Sorry” by the Platters went to No. 11 on the Billboard jukebox chart and to No. 15 on the R&B chart in 1957. (And yes, we doubled up on the 1950s, considering we’d hit the Johnny Bond record, but it’s worth it for the Platters.) From 1962, we find “Someday After Awhile (You’ll Be Sorry)” by bluesman Freddy King (a departure from his normal “Freddie” spelling).

In the 1970s, we find the funky “Both Sorry Over Nothin’” from Tower of Power’s 1973 self-titled album. The pickings in the files from the 1980s are pretty slender, so we’ll skip over one track each by the Moody Blues and the Hothouse Flowers and head to the 1990s. And that’s where we find the atmospheric “Not Sorry” by the Cranberries from their 1993 album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?

And we have one more stop with “sorry,” heading back to 1968 and the regrets expressed by the HAL 9000 computer in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

From Bang To Armageddon

April 22nd, 2014

Sitting at nearly the lowest level of the Billboard Hot 100 released forty-two years ago today, on April 22, 1972, we find a release titled “Questions” by a Florida trio named Bang. The record is at No. 99. (I was going to start with the record at No. 100, but even after more than four decades, I want nothing to do with Wayne Newton’s “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast.”)

“Questions” thrums along like the early heavy metal it is, bottom-heavy with oddly declaimed vocals. Its debt to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” is audible. It didn’t do so well in the chart, hanging around for another five weeks and peaking at No. 90. And it was the only thing that Bang ever got into the chart.

So why are we listening to it this morning? Because I needed a jump-off point for some YouTube link exploring, a little journey to find other records not known to me (or to many, one might think, but even Bang’s “Question” spurs pleasant nostalgia among some commenters at YouTube). So having given Bang a listen, what does the website’s algorithm suggest as one of our next stops?

Well, at the bottom of the column of suggestions, we find a link to a track titled “Thousand Days of Yesterdays (Time Since Come and Gone)” from the band Captain Beyond. The band, Wikipedia tells us, was formed in 1971 by singer Rod Evans, a former member of Deep Purple, and drummer Bobby Caldwell, who’d played with, among others, Johnny Winter; they were joined by a couple of former members of Iron Butterfly. In 1972, Capricorn released the quartet’s self-titled Captain Beyond, which was dedicated to the memory of Duane Allman.

The track in the video above is actually the third portion of a three-track suite so the opening is a bit abrupt, but after that, it settles into a groove and approach that to me sounds very similar to what the Minnesota-formed band Gypsy was doing at the time. (There were no doubt a thousand similar-sounding bands out there in those days, but Gypsy came to mind first.) Captain Beyond released two more studio albums, one in 1973 and one in 1977, and a live album was recorded in 1973 but not released until 2002. I like the sound of the track above well enough, but checking this morning, the original album is priced from about $45 to $175 at Ebay, so I doubt I’m going to be in the market for it.

But either way, we must be off, checking the right hand column for a new destination. And we nearly come to a halt, finding lots of suggestions for more Captain Beyond videos and some suggestions for videos of tracks by Grand Funk, Iron Butterfly, Deep Purple and the James Gang, so there’s nothing new there. But we also find a link to a full video of the T.A.M.I. Show of 1964 and single suggestions for tracks by bands called Armageddon and Dark Moor as well as a link to “The Four Horsemen” by the Greek band Aphrodite’s Child. Gloom and apocalyptic visions thus outscore vintage R&B three-to-one, so we’ll go with Armageddon.

And I quickly find the reason for the link: Armageddon’s drummer for its only album, a self-titled 1975 release, was Bobby Caldwell, the one-time member of Captain Beyond. Interestingly, its lead singer was one-time Yardbird Keith Relf. “Buzzard” is the album’s opening track. It’s not quite as dark as the group’s name might suggest or as off-putting as its title might suggest (pending a closer listening to the lyrics), but I don’t find it as interesting as the Captain Beyond track.

Nor, from what I can tell, does the LP command the kind of prices that the Captain Beyond LP does these days. I did get a chuckle, however, at the band’s Wikipedia page, where a wrap-up of the later careers of the band’s members is subtitled “Post Armageddon.”

Saturday Single No. 389

April 19th, 2014

We’ll be brief here this morning, as the Texas Gal and I have a number of errands to run today and not much energy to do so, as we’ve both been a running at a little bit less than 100 percent the past few days.

I was going to use the cherished cliché “under the weather,” but I realized that our weather’s been far too odd in the past week to merit any kind of comparison. The winter storm that came through this week – running from Wednesday afternoon into early Thursday morning – dropped about ten inches of snow here. I’d heard that it would deliver four to five inches, and Wednesday morning, I looked at the two cars and decided that clearing five inches of snow from them the following morning would be do-able. Thus, I did not put them in the garage.

That was a bad call: Not only did I have to clean nearly a foot off the Versa, but having the two cars parked in the driveway blocked the upper portion of the driveway from Steve the Snowplow Man. And the ten inches there became my responsibility. After Steve came through, I moved the Versa to the turnaround Steve plows adjacent to the driveway, shoveled a path from the house to that turnaround, and left the upper driveway – and our little-used Cavalier – to the ministrations of the sun. And this morning, nearly all the snow is gone.

Nevertheless, we’re both stretched a bit thin today, and we do have things to do, so I’m going to quit carping about the weather and get to music for a brief bit.

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the past few weeks absorbing the CD/DVD package titled Love For Levon, documenting the October 3, 2012, concert in East Rutherford, New Jersey, designed as both a tribute to the late Levon Helm of The Band and a fund-raiser to ensure that the storied Midnight Rambles – intimate musical gatherings at Helm’s property in Woodstock, New York – can continue.

The list of performers who showed up – and whose performances are documented on the two CDs and two DVDs in the package – is impressive: Helm’s daughter Amy and the rest of the band that backed her father in the last years of his life, supplemented by a cluster of musicians that included producer/bassist Don Was, all backing performances by, among others, Gregg Allman, Warren Hayes, Jorma Kaukonen, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint, Bruce Hornsby, Jakob Dylan, John Hiatt, John Prine, David Bromberg, Grace Potter, Joe Walsh, Roger Waters, the band My Morning Jacket, and Helm’s long-time Band-mate Garth Hudson. It was a great show.

Also on the program was Marc Cohn. Most of the tunes performed during the show were from Levon Helm’s catalog of songs by The Band or that he’d performed or recorded during his solo career. Cohn’s contribution was different. He offered a song he’d recorded for his 2007 album Join The Parade, a song titled “Listening To Levon.” Although I was unaware of the tune until the Love For Levon package came my way, I’ve listened to it – both the live version from the show and the studio version from 2007 – numerous times since. And I think it’s both a remarkable performance and a remarkable piece of songwriting.

So here’s the 2007 studio version of Marc Cohn’s “Listening To Levon,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘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.

Healing

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.)

Afternote:
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!