Archive for the ‘1960’ Category

Saturday Single No. 310

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Oak leaves lay thick on our sidewalk yesterday afternoon, reminding me of something I wrote a while back. With many years of writing and more than five years of blogging in the rear-view mirror, it’s not at all surprising to find that the things that come to mind have already been put on the page. So here – modified slightly – is a piece that ran in this space two years ago.

Autumn  is the season when the ending becomes clear. Like the plot point in the movie that foreshadows the climax and the untangling of plot strands, autumn shows the way to the end: the end of the warm times, the end of the year and – metaphorically – the end of our time here.

Autumn has also always been a season of beginnings, and that’s clearly tied with the first weeks of school, bridging the time between late summer and early autumn. Having been a student or teacher for twenty-six of my fifty-eight autumns and a reporter – small-town newspapers are tied closely to the schools everywhere I know in this country – for another ten of those autumns, the days of September and October seem like a time of new starts as well as a time of preparation for endings.

When one is not involved in the doings of schools, though, it’s easier in autumn to see endings than it is to see beginnings. When I walk past our flower beds on the way to the mailbox these days, the returns are mixed. The marigolds and petunias are still blooming, as are the coral impatiens and the begonias; I wonder how many more days that will be true, as the temperature dropped to 36F sometime early this morning, only a few degrees away from freezing. Around the front of the house, at the northeastern corner where there is little sunshine, the lilies of the valley are already brown and bedraggled, leading the other flowers in the dance of decay that comes every year at this time. Very soon, the rest will follow.

Some will be back next year. We planted some bronze bugleweed along the walk this year, and being a perennial, it will return next spring, as will the red nancy a little further down the walk. And the lilies will crowd their sunless corner again, as well. As fragile as those lilies look, they retreat and get through the winter to come back every spring.

Metaphors abound, of course. And I wonder about my long-time romance with the fall. All my life, I’ve waited through the other seasons for the first signs of autumn: the slight chill in the air of a late summer morning, the first hint of leaves turning orange or yellow, the first photo in the newspaper of anyone – from peewees to pros – in football gear. And every year, it’s been in October that my infatuation with autumn fully blooms.

Yesterday marked the first time this year that I had to kick leaves lightly out of my way as I headed down the sidewalk to the mailbox. As I did, I glanced at the oak trees lining the walk; they have plenty of leaves still on their branches, so we are some days away from raking and from climbing the ladder and cleaning the gutters. So, free for a while yet from those mundane chores, I kicked leaves with the joy of the seven-year-old I once was, delighting for an instant in the rustle of leaf on leaf on leaf.

And yet, autumn always ends. It will end this year almost certainly as it has other years, in a four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind. My romance with the season begins every year with joy and sunlight, bright colors and smiles, and it ends every time with grim and grey days and colder and colder nights. No matter how many years we’ve counted, the last weeks of autumn are a hard ending. If our lives followed that pattern of the season, living would be a grim business indeed. But most of our lives, I like to think, reject that pattern. I know that not all of us are so favored, but I’d hope that most of us have sources of joy and colors and smiles in our lives all year ’round, thus magnifying the beauty of autumn’s beginning and providing a counterbalance to the bleakness of its ending.

That is the case with me, of course. I can pull out of my autumn reverie and know that my Texas Gal is here, along with all the other things that ease my life. I am reasonably certain at the age of fifty-seven that I have more autumns behind me than I do ahead of me, but that’s a good thing to know, as I think it helps me to appreciate more the passing of all our seasons, not just autumn.

But as much as I may appreciate all the seasons, autumn will remain my favorite, and it will always bring with it that slight sense of melancholy, a sense of endings approaching, of business left undone and dreams left behind. I don’t immerse myself in those feelings as I kick the leaves, but at fifty-seven, I know they’re there.

Two years later, as I wander through my sixtieth autumn at the age of fifty-nine, things are much the same. Most of this year’s flowers are gone although the marigolds still hang tough at the southwestern corner of the house. The bugleweed has struggled these past two years, and the red nancy is gone. The lilies, hardy as always, thrived during the spring and summer and have now taken their leave. And I am in the midst of my autumn reverie, kicking the leaves, absorbing the last bits of color on the trees and feeling the wind as it shifts direction. Not far off is the day when those cool winds become cold.

Here’s “Early Autumn,” a 1960 track by Stan Getz. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Edited slightly since first posting.

‘I Got A Gypsy Woman Givin’ Me Advice . . .’

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

As the RealPlayer wandered randomly through the mp3s the other day, it settled on an acoustic version of “Got My Mojo Working” by John Hammond, found on his 1976 album Solo. As Hammond ran through the classic blues song, accompanying himself on harmonica, I wondered how many versions of the song are out there. And before I got into that question, I found myself wandering through the history of the song.

The bare bones of the tale are pretty well known to blues fans: A singer named Ann Cole was on tour in 1956 with Muddy Waters’ band, and for their performances, she taught Waters and his band a song she was planning to record, “Got My Mo-Jo Working (But It Just Won’t Work On You).” Waters liked the song – written by Preston Foster – and when he got back to Chicago, he changed up some of the lyrics and recorded the tune for Chess.

Many accounts say that Waters recorded the song after Cole recorded it with the backing group called the Suburbans, but the notes in the Muddy Waters Chess Box say that Waters recorded the tune on December 29, 1956, while Cole – according to Black Cat Rockabilly – cut the song on January 27, 1957 (in New York City, according to a source I’ve seen but cannot find this morning). Those dates, then, say that Waters recorded it first, but I’m not certain. (I’m pretty confident the Waters date is correct, but I don’t know the source of the date I’ve seen for Cole’s recording.) In any event, both recordings were released as singles, and the confusion continues: I’ve seen some accounts that say that both were Top Ten singles, but neither version is listed as having made the charts in Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits or his Top Pop Singles. The only version of the tune mentioned in either book as having made the charts is the cover by jazz organist Jimmy Smith, whose “Got My Mojo Working (Part I)” went to No. 51 on the pop chart and to No. 17 on the R&B chart in 1966.

As to the origins of the song itself, both Waters and Foster claimed to have written the song. There were some lyrical differences, which I’ve seen attributed to Waters’ being unable to correctly remember the words Cole sang on tour, but according to Black Cat Rockabilly, “Eventually the matter went to court, where it was ruled that Foster was the composer. But the two versions are still separately copyrighted.” I dug into my Waters collection to check the composer credit. The Chess box set, released in 1989, credits Waters by his real name, McKinley Morganfield, as does a 1984 anthology of Waters’ work titled Rolling Stone. The Fathers and Sons album, however, tells the tale differently: The 1969 vinyl release credits both Morganfield and Foster, while the 2001 CD release credits Foster alone.

Anyway, here’s Cole’s very good version:

Waters’ studio version was good, too, but it pales in comparison to the version he and his band offered up at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960, a two-part performance released on the 1960 album At Newport and happily preserved on film:

Getting back to the question I started with, fifty-two groups or performers are listed at Second Hand Songs as having recorded versions of  “Got My Mojo Working,” ranging from the versions by the Nightcaps and by Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in 1962 to  Johnny Winter’s cover of the song on his album Roots in 2011. I have sixteen versions of the tune in the mp3 library (and probably a few more on vinyl that have not yet been ripped to mp3s), including a version by Long John Baldry from his 1964 album, Long John’s Blues. Digging around for a video of that track this morning led me to the following fascinating video from an April 28, 1964 taping of a British television program called Around the Beatles:

(Despite the comments from the original YouTube poster, I saw no Rolling Stones there, and the website The Beatles Bible does not list them as being guests on the program. The guests were P.J. Proby, the Vernons Girls, Long John Baldry, Millie, The Jets, Cilla Black and Sounds Incorporated. The show was aired in Britain on May 6, 1964, and in the U.S. on November 15, 1964.)

Other noteworthy versions of “Got My Mojo Working” on my dusty shelves come from Manfred Mann, Canned Heat and Etta James and from Levon Helm and the RCO All-Stars. Others from the list at Second Hand Songs that I’d like to hear are the previously mentioned cover by Johnny Winter and versions by Pinetop Perkins, Magic Sam, Ike & Tina Turner. (One version that I heard for the first time this morning that’s likely to get a fair amount of play here is, oddly, by Melanie.)

One version not listed at Second Hand Songs is one that I saw mentioned as I stumbled through some research this morning and that I managed to find at YouTube. It’s a smoldering take on the tune by a singer whose name I first came across at the very end of Dave Marsh’s listing of the 1,001 best singles, The Heart of Rock & Soul. Marsh tells the tale of Michael Goodwin and a long-buried tape from Goodwin’s college radio station days. Listening to the tape years later, Goodwin came across a unidentified song that – after much searching – was found to be “No Way Out” by Joyce Harris, a piece of New Orleans-inflected rockabilly that’s as incendiary as anything I’ve ever heard.

“No Way Out” was recorded for the Texas-based Domino label, and I learned this morning that Harris also took on “Got My Mojo Working” for Domino, recording a track in 1960 that wasn’t released until 1998 (evidently on the import package The Domino Records Story). It’s not my favorite version of “Got My Mojo Working” – that would be Waters’ performance at Newport – but it’s pretty high on the list.

‘And Sitting At No. 87 . . .’

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

It’s another edition of “Games With Numbers,” this time turning today’s date, August 7 into No. 87 and seeing what records occupied that spot in the Billboard Hot 100 on this date during six years in the 1960s and 1970s.

We’ll head back to August 1960 and start there, landing on “You Mean Everything To Me” by Neil Sedaka. A mostly minor key outing, the tune would – I think – rapidly become wearisome. Enough listeners liked it, however, for the record to make it to No. 17 (while the flipside, “Run Samson Run,” got to No. 28). The two sides are sandwiched in the Sedaka listing in Top Pop Singles between two of Sedaka’s bigger hits: “Stairway to Heaven,” which went to No. 9, and “Calendar Girl,” which went to No. 4. The final tally shows Sedaka with thirty-seven records in or near the Hot 100 between 1958 and 1980.

Three years later, we find an early Tamla single sitting at No. 87, with the Marvelettes admitting in the tumbling “Daddy Knows Best” that all the advice a young girl gets from her father may make some sense. The record was the sixth by the girls from Inkster, Michigan, to hit the Hot 100, and it went to No. 67. The Marvelettes would continue to put records into and near the Hot 100 into 1969, but none of the other twenty-four records ever equaled the performance of their first hit, 1961’s “Please Mr. Postman,” which went to No. 1 (No 7 on the R&B chart).

Traditional pop shows its head as we look at early August 1966, with Al Martino’s “Just Yesterday” sitting at No. 87. I’ve never heard the record before, but as I listen this morning, I hear what are to me unmistakable echoes – melodically, harmonically and thematically – of Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers In The Night,” which had gone to No. 1 just a month earlier. Martino’s single peaked at No, 77, one of forty singles he placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1959 and 1977. The best-performing of those was 1963’s “I Love You Because,” which went to No. 3 on the pop chart and No. 2 on the adult contemporary chart (although I have a fondness for some reason for 1967’s “Mary In The Morning,” which went to No. 27).

Sitting in the No. 87 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 8, 1969 was a single that featured names that in a few years would be among the best-known in R&B. “One Night Affair” was the ninth single by the O’Jays to show up in or near the Hot 100. The previous eight had been on the Imperial and Bell labels; this one was on the Neptune label (a division of GRT Records), which called itself “The Sound of Philadelphia.” The label’s founders – who also wrote the song and produced the record – were Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who in a few years would spread the Sound of Philadelphia all around the world on their Philadelphia International label. And the record’s arrangement came from Bobby Martin and Thom Bell; I don’t know what happened to Martin, but in the 1970s, Bell – who’d already struck gold working with the Delfonics – would arrange and produce numerous hits for the Spinners, the Stylistics and more. “One Night Affair” peaked at No. 68 (No. 15 R&B), but in three years, the O’Jays – by then recording for Philadelphia International – would see “Back Stabbers” go to No. 3, and six months later, in early 1973, “Love Train” would go to No. 1.  The O’Jays would end up with thirty-three records in or near the Hot 100 between 1963 and 1997.

In the early days August of 1972, the No. 87 single was one of the slightest hit singles Neil Diamond had to that point placed into the Hot 100. “Play Me” would eventually rise to No. 11, the thirty-first of an eventual fifty-six singles Diamond would place in or near the Hot 100. At the time, I thought “Play Me” was an insubstantial piece of fluff as it trailed in the wake of Diamond’s earlier work like “Sweet Caroline,” “Solitary Man,” “Kentucky Woman” and more (including the album track “Done Too Soon,” which remains my favorite Diamond track). But listening to “Play Me” this morning, and looking at the hits that came later – records like “Love On The Rocks,” “Heartlight” and “America” – I find myself liking “Play Me” a lot more than I did forty years ago. It’s still not a great record; but it’s better than I remembered.

Larry Graham was the bass player for Sly & The Family Stone until 1972. A year later, says All Music Guide, he joined an Ohio R&B/funk band he’d been producing and renamed it from Hot Chocolate to Graham Central Station. In early August of 1975, a single from the group’s third album was sitting at No. 87, on its way to No. 38 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart. “Your Love” is a sleek and only occasionally funky piece of work that turned out to be the best-charting of the four singles Graham Central Station got into the pop chart; as a solo artist, Graham placed five records in or near the Hot 100 and had a No. 9 hit (No. 1 R&B) in 1980 with “One In A Million You.”

‘There’s A Man Down There . . .’

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Well, you got me stranded, baby, on the second floor.
You keep tellin’ me, baby, I got to walk out that door.
Uh-uh, baby! Girl, I ain’t walkin’ out that door.
’Cause there’s a man down there, maybe your man. I don’t know.

So sang G.L. Crockett on the record that was bubbling under at No. 130 on the Billboard Hot 100 forty-seven years ago today. Crockett’s 1965 single – on the 4 Brothers label – had been bubbling at No. 111 a week earlier in its first appearance on the chart. It would eventually rise to No. 65 (and to No. 10 on the R&B chart), making Crockett a one-hit wonder on both charts.

So who was G.L. Crockett? Joel Whitburn says in Top Pop Singles that he was born George Crockett in 1928 in Carrollton, Mississippi, and he passed on in 1967. Wikipedia adds that he was also known as G. “Davy” Crockett and that he passed on in Chicago. There’s more information in a biographical sketch at Black Cat Rockabilly Europe, and a couple of his records show up occasionally in anthologies. (Interestingly, even though Crockett is tabbed as a blues singer, an alternate take of his first single, “Look Out Mabel,” recorded in 1957, showed up in the rockabilly series That’ll Flat Git It.)

But if Crockett is less than well-known, the song is not. Most folks my age likely know the tune from the incendiary live version by the Allman Brothers Band called “One Way Out” and found on the 1972 album Eat A Peach. The song began its malleable life, however, as a rollicking tune from the pen of Sonny Boy Williamson II (Aleck Miller) under the title of “One Way Out.” Here’s his 1961 version, released on Checker.

Wikipedia notes, “As with many blues songs, the history of ‘One Way Out’ falls into murk.” From digging through websites and files this morning, it seems that although Williamson wrote the song, he was not the first to record it. Elmore James got hold of “One Way Out” and smoothed some rough edges when he recorded it (likely for either the Fire or Fury label) in New York City in late 1960 or early 1961, according to Wikipedia. At the same time, James and Marshall E. Sehorn (perhaps the session’s producer?) claimed writing credit, an act of appropriation that was common at the time. James’ version of the tune, however, wasn’t released until 1964, when it was used as a B-Side for a single on the Sphere Sound label.

And in 1965, when Crockett’s sly adaptation of the song came out on the 4 Brothers label, he and producer Jack Daniels, in their turn, claimed writing credit. Most sources these days properly credit Williamson (which carries with it some irony, as Williamson, of course, famously appropriated the name of another famous harp-playing bluesman for his own).

From there, the song went on to become a standard of the Allman Brothers Band and to be covered by numerous other bands and performers. The website Second Hand Songs lists sixteen versions altogether (though I suspect there are far more), with the most recent being versions by the San Francisco band Tip of the Top in 2011, by New England blues singer Perry Desmond-Davies in 2009 and by Styx on its 2005 album of covers, Big Bang Theory.

There were, however, a few stops along the way from Crockett to the Allmans. Crockett’s version – frequently said to have been performed in the style of Jimmy Reed – sparked Reed to record “I’m The Man Down There” on Vee-Jay. And Prez Kenneth, about whom I can find little online, recorded “I Am the Man Downstairs” for the Biscayne label.

Finally, Doug Sahm – Texas musician, musicologist and the leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet – released “It’s a Man Down There” on the Tear Drop label in 1966 under the name of Him.

But no matter who sings it or how it’s sung, the dilemma remains:

Uh-uh, baby. Hell, I ain’t goin’ out that door.
There’s a man down there, maybe your man. How do I know?

A Stage Waiting For Actors

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

With the holiday weekend over, we’re on the cusp of summer. Here at the top of the driveway on the East Side, we look forward to green shoots and then blossoms in the gardens, late afternoons in the lawn chairs shaded by the oaks, curling smoke rising from the grill along with the aroma of sizzling burgers and steaks, and so much more. For the most part, we know what to expect.

That wasn’t the case with the summers of my youth, or so it always seemed as they began. The rift in time at ending of the school year and the beginning of vacation carried the promise of  . . . well, of something I’m not sure I can define. It always seemed as if each new summer was going to be full of adventure, crammed with things my friends and I had never before done and sights we’d never before seen (as well as with things we’d done before and would do again).

There were some things we knew we would do, of course, and those changed over the years. Early on, we looked forward to the city’s recreation programs for kids based at Lincoln School, the annual visit of the Shrine Circus and learning to ride a two-wheel bicycle. In later years, we’d plan on riding the city bus system to the new Crossroads mall on the distant west end of town, working at the trap shoot for twelve bucks a day and learning to drive. Beyond those things, all of them things we could predict, we hoped for something more, though what that was we could not say (and I still cannot say today). Sometimes, come the end of August, we felt let down by how the season had spooled out, realizing only in later years how much we’d grown during each of those summers.

But as May turned to June, all of that growth was still ahead of us and those reflections on summers gone still lay years in the future. The stage of summer was in front of us, and all it needed was actors ready to learn their parts. What music would play as we entered? Well, it’s May 29th, so here’s a look at some of the records that were at No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 as summer called us on stage.

As the end of May came by during 1960, the Four Preps held down No. 29 with their bouncy “Got A Girl” telling the tale of a guy whose girl has other guys on her mind:

There was Fabian, Avalon, Ricky Nelson too,
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
Bobby Rydell and I know darned well
Presley’s in there too.

The record had peaked a week earlier at No. 24, the tenth of an eventual fifteen records the Preps would place in or near the Hot 100 from 1956 to 1964. (Their final hit, which went to No. 85, came in early 1964 with “A Letter To The Beatles,” which, paralleling “Got A Girl,” disses the Fab Four because one of the Preps’ girlfriends had succumbed to Beatlemania.)

Three years later, summer vacation began with an underrated record from Dion occupying spot No. 29 on the chart. “This Little Girl” features a swinging lead vocal – with some cool (for the time) “Sha-da-da” background vocals – as Dion tells us his plans for his girl:

Oh, this little girl tries to make every guy her slave, oh yeah,
But this little man is gonna take her by the hand,
And I’m gonna show her the way to behave.

The record had spent two weeks at No. 21 and was on its way back down the chart, just one of thirty-nine records Dion had in or near the chart between 1958 and 1989.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t recall either of those two tunes. But once we get to 1966, we enter familiar territory: During the last days of May in that year, the No. 29 spot in the Hot 100 belonged to Sam & Dave, as “Hold On! I’m A Comin’” was on its way to No. 2. The record was the first Top 40 hit for Sam & Dave. (Earlier in the year, the duo’s first chart hit, “You Don’t Know Like I Know” had stalled at No. 90.) They would end up with sixteen records in or near the Hot 100 between 1966 and 1971.

And as we look at No. 29 in the last week of May 1969, we go into the unknown again, as I come across a record I’m not sure I’ve ever heard before: “Heather Honey” by Tommy Roe. I do recall thinking about that time on the basis of “Dizzy,” “Hooray for Hazel” and “Sweet Pea” – all Top Ten hits, with “Dizzy” spending four weeks at No. 1 – that Roe was kind of a lightweight. (One of my first critical judgments in rock and pop, I’d imagine, and one that remains in place.) Lightweight or not – and I should probably put an exception on Roe’s first hit, “Sheila,” which is a pretty good record in the vein of Buddy Holly – Roe put twenty-seven records onto the chart between 1962 and 1973. “Heather Honey,” a decent enough single if still a little bit feathery, would go no higher.

Millie Jackson might be best known for what All-Music Guide calls her “trademark rap style of racy, raunchy language” that arose in the mid-1970s. I admit I’ve shied away from her music over the years because of that reputation (though I’ve likely heard worse elsewhere). So the only thing I know about “Ask Me What You Want” is that it was sitting at No. 29 as May 1972 came to a close. Turns out that it’s a decent slice of early Seventies R&B. And that tells me that I should probably set aside my reservations and give a listen to at least some of Jackson’s catalog. “Ask Me What You Want” peaked at No. 27, the second of eleven records Jackson would put in or near the Hot 100 between 1971 and 1978.

Three years later, the No. 29 record as May came to a close was a funky piece of brilliance from the Temptations, as “Shakey Ground” was on its way to No. 26. (The link is to a video with what I believe is the album track rather than the single.) Featuring lead guitar by Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel – one of the song’s co-writers – “Shakey Ground” was also a No. 1 hit on the R&B chart, and it was one of an amazing sixty records the Temptations placed in or near the Hot 100 from 1962 to 1998. (Covers of “Shakey Ground” abound, of course, including Phoebe Snow’s No. 70 cover from 1977 and my favorite – spelled “Shaky Ground” – from Delbert McClinton on his 1980 album, The Jealous Kind.)

Saturday Single No. 292

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

In a note I appended to yesterday’s post, I mentioned the Ace Bar & Grill as the site of a minor epiphany. After finishing the note and sending the amended post out through the Intertubes, I realized that it was the second time in six weeks that I’d mentioned the establishment, which is one of the anchors of life here on the East Side of St. Cloud: I noted in a post at the end of March that my mother and I eat lunch at the Ace nearly every Friday.

And I wondered for the third or fourth time in a few weeks: How many other times have I mentioned the Ace? Given that my family has been dining there fairly regularly for more than fifty years, and given that much of my writing here is about the East Side and about the things that connect me with my roots, I must have written something about the pleasant niche in my memories where the Ace sits.

As I said, the question had been hanging around in my head for a while. So late last night I did a search through the EITW archives for earlier mentions of the Ace Bar, the Ace Cafe (which is what we sometimes called it when it was the Ace Bar & Cafe) and the Ace Grill, and there was nothing there. Not a word.

Well, there are some things to write about the Ace, some tales to tell that may not matter to anyone but me and the ghosts of East St. Germain. Given the restrictions I’ve placed on Saturday posts here at EITW, though, this isn’t the day to delve into those veins in the cavern wall. I think I’ll find ore enough there for more than a single post with one song.

Why? Well, I noticed something during the last two lunch stops at the Ace, something that did not surprise me at all. Last week, my mom – who is ninety – and I were seated as usual in the main dining room, a room that’s generally no more than hall-full at that time of day, and we started our lunch the way we almost always do: a glass of chardonnay for her and a pint of Fat Tire for me. As we sat and sipped our drinks, waiting for the waitress to return, I happened to hear the music coming faintly from the speakers in the high ceiling: The theme from “A Summer Place.”

It might have been the hit version by Percy Faith (nine weeks at No. 1 in 1960), but I’m not sure. It was followed by another tune from the early 1960s – I sadly have forgotten which one – also in an easy listening style. And then another. I kind of nodded. It made sense, given the general demographic of the noontime crowd at the Ace, which skews much closer to my mother’s age than mine.

On our visit yesterday, I paid more attention to the music than I had before. And as we ate our lunch, in between conversation with my mom, I heard an instrumental version of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” and after a few more tunes, there came an instrumental version of Peggy Lee’s 1969 hit, “Is That All There Is?” (With its oddly stoic and disaffected lyric removed, the latter turns out to be quite a pretty song.) And all the songs were in a style that could well have aired on the FM side of St. Cloud’s KFAM fifty years ago when that station was the home of what was called “beautiful music.”

There’s a bar room at the Ace, of course. It’s around the corner and down a short corridor from the dining room where Mom and I have lunch. I’ve never spent any time in the bar at the Ace. From what I hear when I walk past that corridor, it’s a little bit louder, which is unsurprising, and I have a sense that a little after five o’clock on a weekday, it gets a little crowded with a mix of folks who work here on the East Side or stop by on their ways home from elsewhere. Now, I’ve got nothing against spending some time in a crowded bar room; I’ve done so on many occasions and will no doubt do so again.

But the bar at the Ace exists in current time. And when I’m at the Ace, that doesn’t feel quite right. The dining room, with its wood and brass and its murmurs of conversation and whispers of beautiful music, feels like elsewhen. Even though the entire place was reconfigured and rebuilt after a disastrous fire about twenty years ago, when I’m sipping my Fat Tire on Fridays, I can see the place as it was between forty and fifty years ago, when a young whiteray thought there weren’t a lot of better places to go in St. Cloud than the Ace Bar & Cafe.

I’ll dig into those memories soon, and we’ll see how much ore there actually is in that vein. In the meantime, let’s go back to the tune that got this slow train of thought moving the other week. Like so much of what shows up in this space – words and music alike – Percy Faith’s 1960 hit “Theme from ‘A Summer Place’” is romantic with hints of melancholy, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Chart Digging: What’s At No. 106?

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

In the midst of busyness, nothing has been planned for this space. So it’s time for Games With Numbers again. It’s October 6 – a date that all J.R.R. Tolkien obsessives will recognize as the day that Frodo was attacked under Weathertop, as I noted in a post three years ago – so I thought I would convert that to one number – No. 106 – and see what records were in that position in the Bubbling Under portion of the Billboard Hot 100 on October 6 through the years.

As we all know, just as odd, wonderful and rare creatures inhabit the deepest portions of the oceans, so do similar records sometimes swim in the Bubbling Under portions of the charts. It may be difficult to find some of the records so listed. Or we may find familiar tunes. Let’s dive and find out. I think we’ll hang around in the 1960s for this one.

Jimmy Jones was an Alabama-born R&B singer, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, who had two songs get close to the top of the chart in 1960: “Handy Man,” which went to No. 2, and “Good Timin’,” which went to No. 3. (The records reached No. 3 and No. 8, respectively, on the R&B chart.) But that was about the extent of Jones’ success. Four other singles listed by Whitburn either stalled in the lower levels of the Hot 100 or Bubbled Under. One of those was a rock ’n’ roll version of “Old MacDonald Had A Farm.” Another was the single that was sitting at No. 106 – its peak – during the first week of October 1960: “Itchin’” would be gone from the chart the next week, and after “I Told You So” went to No. 85 in early 1961, so would Jimmy Jones.

There’s an interesting bit of information on the Top Pop Singles entry on the Wanderers, an early 1960s R&B group. The Wanderers had two singles released on the Cub label in 1961, with “For Your Love” reaching No. 93 and “I’ll Never Smile Again” bubbling under at No. 107. In 1962, “There Is No Greater Love” was released on Cub and failed to reach even the lowest portion of the charts, but then, for some reason, the same track was released on MGM and it pushed a little further in the chart than had the two previous singles. A ballad with an odd introduction and an interesting arrangement, “There Is No Greater Love” was at No. 106 this week in 1962; it peaked at No. 88 and was the last chart appearance by the Wanderers.

It’s always fun to find a nifty track I’ve never heard before, and that was the case with the record that was at No. 106 during the first week of October 1964. Earlier in the year, Roger Miller had a No. 6 pop hit with “Dang Me,” a record that spent six weeks atop the country chart. In September of that year came an answer record, “Dern Ya” by Ruby Wright, who happened to be the daughter of country performers Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright. “Dern Ya” peaked at No. 103.*

The name of P.F. Sloan pops up often enough in tales and discographies from the 1960s that I should know a lot more about the man than I do. I’ve mentioned him four times over the more than four years I’ve been writing this blog: three times in connection with the Grass Roots, which he and Steve Barri created, and once as the writer of Barry McGuire’s 1965 hit, “Eve of Destruction.” Along with everything else, Sloan did have two mid-1960s singles that touched the charts. “The Sins Of A Family” was the first, a preachy attempt at raising social consciousness that was sitting at No. 106 in the Billboard chart for the week of October 9, 1965; the record would peak at No. 87. Sloan’s other chart appearance came in 1966, when “From A Distance” bubbled under for one week at No. 109.

Up to this point, our explorations of records at No. 106 have found performers without a great deal of chart success. That changes when we move ahead to 1966: Sitting at No. 106 during the week of October 6 that year was a funky instrumental called “My Sweet Potato” by Booker T & the MG’s. After the No. 3 success of “Green Onions” in 1962 (No. 1 on the R&B chart), the group – essentially the house band from Stax Records – released a series of singles that didn’t come close to reaching the same heights. “My Sweet Potato” was no different, as it peaked at No. 85 (No. 18 on the R&B chart). Eventually, between 1967 and 1969, the group got five more singles into the Top 40, two of them – “Hang ’Em High” and “Time Is Tight” – into the Top Ten. The final total for Booker T & the MG’s? Eighteen singles on the pop chart and twelves in the R&B Top 40.

I do love me some saxophone, so I was very pleased to see the title that was listed at No. 106 during the first week of October in 1968: “Harper Valley PTA” by King Curtis and the Kingpins. I’ve written about Curtis Ousley a few times and mentioned him many times here, so I don’t need to say much more except that, just as it’s fun to discover new-to-me records by new-to-me performers, it’s more fun to discover a new-to-me King Curtis track. “Harper Valley PTA” didn’t do very well in the charts, going to No. 93, but it’s a great slice of soul for a Thursday morning.

*Soon after I posted this, I learned at Any Major Dude With Half A Heart that Wright crossed over on September 27 at the age of ninety-seven. He and Wells were married October 30, 1937, and spent nearly seventy-four years together.

We’re Twenty-Six Days Into Summer

Friday, July 16th, 2010

The summer’s been quiet so far. The Texas Gal has had a break from her studies for the last three weeks, so she’s been focused on those things she does not get to do while school is in session, quilting chief among them. And we’ve spent a few more evenings sitting out on the little concrete patio this year than we managed to do in the first portion of the season last year.

We’ve been more active in the garden this year, as it’s demanded more of our attention. That’s good. If the garden needs work, then the plants are growing. So far, we’ve pulled from the garden four zucchini, about two quarts of broccoli cuttings, maybe three quarts of wax beans, more butterhead lettuce than we could eat and enough peas for a side dish with dinner the other evening. All of those plants except the peas will continue to produce, and we are hopeful about the cucumbers, green beans, carrots and our second try at radishes. And when the tomatoes begin to ripen, we will have more of that red fruit than we will know what to do with.

Then there’s my own eccentric project: eggplant. Four of the plants seem to be thriving, and each of those has at least one of the purplish fruits that will sometime late this summer become participants in my attempts at ratatouille and mousakka. So things will get busier yet in the garden. Along the way, we’ll have to make certain our low fence is maintained, as we’ve both seen a small rabbit in the area; as cute as he is, he needs to learn that there truly is no such thing as a free lunch.

The summer will soon become busier for us beyond the garden fence as well. Our kitchen whiteboard lists several events – friends’ visits, a trip to the Twin Cities, a backyard barbecue – that will begin to fill the summer weekends remaining. And even though the Texas Gal’s coursework resumes Sunday evening, I think we’ll still find numerous evenings when we spend an hour or so on the patio, sipping a beverage and listening to the evening going on around us: the cars whirring by on Lincoln Avenue at the bottom of the driveway, the shouts of neighborhood kids at play, the chatter of a squirrel scolding us because we’re sitting near the flowerpot where he and his kind have lately begun to dig in the dirt, and sometimes, the sound of popular music carried on the wind from a not-too-distant radio.

Sitting quietly and listening to the evening is something my friends and I did at times during summers past, and if the music we heard on the air was different, the rest was pretty much the same on Kilian Boulevard as it is these days on Lincoln Avenue. And as today, July 16, is the twenty-sixth day of summer this year, I thought I’d dig into the charts and find a Six-Pack of records that were ranked at No. 26 on July 16 during some of the years this blog generally covers:

In 1960, the Skyliners’ “Pennies From Heaven” was at No. 26 on its way to No. 24. The song was the third and final Top 40 hit for the doo-wop quartet from Pittsburgh.

 

In 1965, the twenty-sixth spot on the chart on July 16 was occupied by the Dave Clark Five’s cover of a 1961 hit by Chris Kenner. Kenner’s version of “I Like It Like That” had reached No. 2; the cover by the Dave Clark Five peaked three weeks later at No. 7.

In the third week of July 1970, the No. 26 record was “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. We’ll skip past that one, as we only share that record on May 4.

At this time in July 1975, the slightly scandalous – to some, anyway – “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” by Major Harris held down spot No. 26 with passionate coos and moans along with a slick R&B melody. The record, Harris’ only Top 40 hit, had peaked earlier, spending three weeks at No. 5 in late June and early July; the record also spent one week atop the R&B chart.

In mid-July of 1980, Mickey Gilley’s cover of Ben E. King’s classic, “Stand By Me,” was at No. 26. The record, from the soundtrack of the movie Urban Cowboy, would spend the first three weeks of August at No. 22 before falling back down the chart.

In 1985, the No. 26 record in mid-July was Madonna’s sixth Top 40 hit, “Angel,” which had peaked at No. 5 three weeks earlier.

And we’ll close this exercise with a look at 1990: The No. 26 record in mid-July that year was “Jerk Out” by the Time, which would spend the last week of August and the first week of September at No. 9. I couldn’t find a working video of the single edit, but here’s the track from the album Pandemonium.

And we’ll see you tomorrow with a Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 184

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

The nurse seemed to think the story sounded fishy. The doctor was maybe a little less skeptical, but he gave me a look that clearly said, “I think there’s more to the story than you’re telling.” And both reactions were understandable. But the vague tale I was telling was true.

Yesterday was a pretty normal Friday. I kept moderately busy: catching up on the long list of blogs I follow, sorting and tagging some mp3s, putting off doing the dishes and trying to decide what to do at dinnertime with the hamburger I’d thawed the night before. And I was doing three loads of laundry along the way.

I have a vague memory. At some time during my laundry chores, something happened: The ring finger on my right hand got tangled in something. It might have been the clutch of coat hangers I was juggling as I headed downstairs to switch a wet load into the dryer. It might have been a clump of wet towels as I made that switch. Or it might have been a pile of dry towels and socks as I pulled them from the dryer and loaded them into the basket.

But something – and I truly do not recall what it was – got hold of my right ring finger for an instant, and it twisted slightly at the upper-most joint. As silly as it sounds, I recall thinking something like, “Wow, that didn’t feel good.” I looked at my hand, saw no damage to the finger and went about my work.

About two hours later, the finger started to tingle, then to throb, and the tip began to swell slightly. I took off the ring I’d recently begun wearing. (It’s one of my dad’s rings that my mom passed on to me; there might be a blog post in its tale someday.) The throbbing increased, and as it did and as my concern grew, I kept trying to remember how I’d twisted it. The memory remained vague.

The discomfort became anything but vague. The car I normally drive was at the garage down the street in preparation for minor surgery, so I called the Texas Gal, and while she was en route, I called Dr. Julie’s office. She wasn’t in yesterday, so I got an appointment with a physician new to me, Dr. Flores.

“So you really don’t know how it happened?” he asked.

I shook my head. “Something with towels or coat hangers,” I said. “That’s all I can say.”

He nodded and, looking at the results of three x-rays, told me that the finger wasn’t broken. I’d been pretty sure that was the case, but it was good to have it confirmed. He said that I’d stretched and sprained one of the ligaments that connect the fingertip to the next bone; in order to keep from irritating that ligament, he recommended a splint to immobilize that joint. That, and anti-inflammatory medication would have the finger in pretty good shaped in five to seven days.

The finger looks pretty good this morning. The swelling is down, and I’ve learned while writing this that I don’t often use the ring finger on either hand for typing. Still, the splint was getting in the way, so I took it off. (It will go back on as soon as this is posted and shared.)

And when I sat down to write this little tale, I knew there was only one song that could accompany it. During the summer of 1960, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters had a No. 7 hit with “Finger Poppin’ Time,” and that’s today’s Saturday Single.

Tunes To File Tax Returns By

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

During the adult years when I sailed my ship solo – from 1976 into 1978 and then again from 1987 through 1999 – April 15 was a scramble day. Despite my intentions every year, I was never organized enough to get my taxes done with anything more than a day left until the deadline for filing.

It’s not that my tax returns presented any real challenges: There were no deductions beyond the basic, no special forms to fill out, nothing out of the ordinary. I was just – as I have been in many areas all my life – disorganized. So I would generally complete my tax returns the night before and had to make time the next day to photocopy them somewhere and then run them to whichever post office was closest to my place of work.

I always got it done. The returns always made the mail on April 15. But not without a lot of stress and some extra commotion, which was good neither for me nor, I imagine, for my co-workers.

It’s different these days. The Texas Gal and I file our returns electronically, and – due to her organizational skills – generally do so by the beginning of February. It might have been a little later this year due to her schedule. But those tasks were done far in advance of the deadline of midnight tonight. And that’s good. I don’t miss the stress.

Anyway, trying to find something musical out of all that, I got to wondering what songs were at No. 15 on April 15 during some of the years that this blog looks at. I went back to 1960 for my first one, and found a song that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard: “Step by Step” by the Crests. It peaked at No. 14.

 

And then it was on to 1965 and another record that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard. If so, it’s been infrequently and not for a long time: Jack Jones and “The Race Is On,” which during the week of April 15 in 1965 was at its peak position of No. 15.

Five years later, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition were sitting at No. 15 with “Something’s Burning” as Tax Day came in 1970. The record peaked at No. 11.

In 1975, the No. 15 song on April 15 was one that I became tired of hearing probably the second time it came on the radio: Leo Sayer’s “Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance),” a record that unaccountably made it into the Top Ten, peaking at No. 9.

Five years later, Queen’s first No. 1 hit was sitting at No. 15 as Americans were rushing to get their taxes filed. I can’t embed the official video for “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” but you can see it here.

And we’ll close this Tax Day exercise with a look at 1985’s No. 15 song as of April 15. Holding down that position twenty-five years ago today was “Lover Girl” by Teena Marie, a record that went to No. 4.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the purposefully blurry video on that last one gets tiring after about twenty seconds.