Archive for the ‘1961’ Category

Saturday Singles No. 402 & 403

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

The tale of the Cash family and the song “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” feels to me this morning like something that might have been told by a country radio version of the recently departed Casey Kasem.

Having come to an appreciation of country music by a roundabout way and not via the radio, I can only assume that there is or was a country radio show similar to Kasem’s American Top 40. If that’s the case, then the tale has to have been told. But it was new to me this morning.

Johnny Cash wrote the tale of the boy and his guitar:

In a little cabaret in a South Texas border town
Sat a boy and his guitar, and the people came from all around.
And all the girls from there to Austin
Were slippin’ away from home and puttin’ jewelery in hock.
To take the trip, to go and listen
To the little dark-haired boy that played the Tennessee flat-top box.

And he would play: [Instrumental]

Well, he couldn’t ride or wrangle, and he never cared to make a dime.
But give him his guitar, and he’d be happy all the time.
And all the girls from nine to ninety
Were snappin’ fingers, tappin’ toes and beggin’ him: “Don’t stop.”
And hypnotized and fascinated
By the little dark-haired boy that played the Tennessee flat-top box.

And he would play: [Instrumental]

Then one day he was gone, and no one ever saw him ’round.
He’d vanished like the breeze, and they forgot him in the little town.
But all the girls still dreamed about him,
And hung around the cabaret until the doors were locked.
And then one day on the Hit Parade
Was a little dark-haired boy that played a Tennessee flat-top box.

And he would play: [Instrumental]

Cash recorded the song in Hollywood on July 19, 1961, fifty-three years ago today. Released as a single, “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” went to No. 11 on the Billboard country chart and to No. 84 on the magazine’s Hot 100.

Fast forward twenty-six years to 1987, when Cash’s daughter Rosanne was putting together her sixth album, King’s Record Shop. According to Wikipedia, it was at the urging of her then-husband Rodney Crowell that the younger Cash recorded “Tennessee Flat-Top Box.” When she recorded the song, Wikipedia says, Rosanne Cash was unaware her father had written it; she thought the song was in the public domain.

Released as a single in late 1987, Rosanne Cash’s version of “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” went to No. 1 on the county chart, the third of four country No. 1 records from King’s Record Shop. (The others were “The Way We Make A Broken Heart,” “If You Change Your Mind” and “Runaway Train.”) According to a note in the 2001 edition of the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, the younger Cash’s success with “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” “marked a healing of her strained relationship with her dad.”

That healing probably wasn’t as easy as that makes it sound, but never mind. And the tale is probably not unique; I imagine there are other examples of families’ later generations finding success with remakes of earlier generations’ works. (I’m not going to dig for them today, but I imagine I’d find some.)

But it’s still a nice story, with two versions of the same song that are both worth hearing. That’s why Johnny Cash’s 1961 recording of “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” (offered above) and Rosanne Cash’s 1987 cover of her father’s song (below) are today’s Saturday Singles.

‘That Big Eight-Wheeler . . .’

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

So what other covers did I run across this week as I dug into Hank Snow’s 1950 classic song “I’m Movin’ On”? Well, using the list at Second Hand Songs and the list of performers available at BMI, I found a bunch that I thought were interesting and a couple that I really liked.

My favorite? Well, that can wait for a bit, but second place goes to the version that Leon Russell released in 1984 recording as his alter ego, Hank Wilson. Here’s that rollicking cover, from Hank Wilson Vol. II.

As I dug, I was particularly interested in giving a listen to the first cover listed at SHS, a performance by Hoagy Carmichael, but I think that’s an error, maybe a different song with the same (or a similar) title, as Carmichael is not included in the BMI list of performers who’ve recorded the song. Given that, it seems – and I’m not at all certain, as the BMI listings don’t include dates – that the first cover of “I’m Movin’ On” came in 1955 from Les Paul and Mary Ford.

In 1961, a rockabilly musician named Dick Hiorns – whose resume included a couple of daily performances during the early 1950s on WBAY in Green Bay, Wisconsin – recorded a version of Snow’s song for the Cuca Record Company of Sauk City, Wisconsin. A year later, Jerry Reed – at the time a session guitarist in Nashville – teamed up with some background singers who were called the Hully Girlies for a version of Snow’s tune, and a few years after that, in 1965, the Rolling Stones took on the tune and released it on the EP Got Live If You Want It!

Genius organist Jimmy Smith took a whack at the tune in 1967, and two years later, Elvis Presley included it on his From Elvis in Memphis album. In 1978, New Orleans’ Professor Longhair (aka Henry Byrd) took Snow’s song, altered the verses and made it into a Crescent City shuffle. It’s included on Big Chief, a 1993 Rhino album. (And I have no idea if the fourteen tracks on Big Chief were released during the intervening fifteen years).

There were others, of course: Versions that I didn’t track down or that didn’t grab me came from, among other, Del Reeves, Clyde McPhatter, Timi Yuro, Connie Francis, Johnny Nash, Burl Ives, the Box Tops, Sammy Kershaw, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Mickey Gilley, Loggins & Messina and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

But after all of that, I think my favorite cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” that I found this week was actually a rediscovery. Rosanne Cash included the tune on her 2009 CD The List, an album of songs pulled from a list her famous father once gave her of essential American music. I’ve often thought that too many versions of the song – Snow’s included – have sounded almost celebratory. Not Cash’s. She pulls the tempo back, and amid a nest of atmospheric guitars and percussion, she makes the song something closer to a dirge, and that fits.

Survey Digging: April 29, 1961

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

It’s a rainy day – the third such in a row here in St. Cloud – and there are rumors of snow in the weather forecast. That’s not likely to make me any more enthusiastic about the day. But instead of spending the first portions of the morning moping – there will be time for that type of indulgence later in the day, if I wish – I thought I’d take a look at a long-ago radio station survey from an April 29.

I had no specific station in mind when I searched at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, so I was pleasantly surprised when the first page of listings offered surveys from April 29, 1961, from both WDGY and KDWB in the Twin Cities. I went with KDWB and its Fabulous Forty. Here’s the station’s Top Ten from fifty-three years ago today:

“Running Scared” by Roy Orbison
“Bumble Boogie” by B. Bumble & The Stingers
“Runaway” by Del Shannon
“Blue Moon” by the Marcels
“Hello Mary Lou” by Ricky Nelson
“I’ve Told Every Little Star” by Linda Scott
“Just Call Me Lonesome” by Eddy Arnold
“Mother-In-Law” by Ernie K-Doe
“Trust In Me” by Etta James
“On The Rebound” by Floyd Cramer

Well, that looks like your average schizophrenic mix from the early 1960s: A little bit of what I would now call country-tinged pop rock, a doo-wop classic, some sweet pop and country, a New Orleans novelty, once very nice R&B ballad and a Nashville-tinged instrumental. Then there’s “Bumble Boogie” by B. Bumble & The Stingers, a group of Los Angeles session men who took Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight Of The Bumblebee” and turned it into a boogie-woogie session that went to No. 27 in the Billboard Hot 100.

Familiar names stud the rest of the KDWB survey, for the most part: Elvis Presley, Steve Lawrence, Arthur Lyman, Brenda Lee, Ferrante & Teicher, Ray Charles, Marty Robbins and the Everly Brothers are the ones that pop out at me. Finding all those folks on the same survey is one more indication of how broad a swath Top 40 cut in those days.

There were a few unfamiliar names in the station’s survey. The Cajun duo named Rusty & Doug and their take on “Louisiana Man” baffled me for a few moments until I realized they were the Kershaw brothers. Their version of Doug’s “Louisiana Man” – which Second Hand Songs says is the first version recorded – is actually pretty good, and it did well on the country chart, reaching No. 10; it bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 104. It eventually reached No. 2 on KDWB, which seems like an anomaly: Of the Top 40 stations whose charts are available at ARSA, the only place where the Kershaw’s “Louisiana Man” did any better was at stations in Houston and San Antonio.

The variety of records listed in that survey from April 29, 1961, makes for some interesting juxtapositions: Adam Wade’s lush “Take Good Care Of Her” at No. 26, just below guitarist Al Caoila’s take on the theme from the TV show Bonanza is one. Another comes at the bottom of the survey, where Presley’s “Surrender” sits at No. 39 and the No. 40 record is Lawrence Welk’s version of the theme from the TV show My Three Sons. It peaked at No. 55 in Billboard.

Healing

Thursday, 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.

One Chart Dig: March 27, 1961

Thursday, 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!”

‘One Day I Awoke . . .’

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Last Saturday, after I shared Ella Washington’s cover of “He Called Me Baby” as a Saturday Single, a reader named Larry provided a link to Candi Staton’s superb cover of the Harlan Howard song, which Staton recorded at Rick Hall’s Fame studios in Muscle Shoals. I’d heard it before, but it never hurts at all to hear it again. In 1971, it went to No. 52 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 9 on the R&B chart.

That might be the definitive version of the song; its country roots are clearly audible beneath the R&B. The opposite – R&B audible beneath the country – is what I hear when I listen to the Harlan Howard original, which Second Hand Songs says was released in September 1961. In 1963, Bobby Bare did an up-tempo version of the song, and Skeeter Davis and Patsy Cline covered it as well; Cline’s version went to No. 23 on the country chart a year later, after her death.

Two other versions made the country Top 40: Carl Smith had one of his sixty-nine hits on the country Top 40 when his cover of “She Called Me Baby” went to No. 32 in 1965, and Charlie Rich’s cover went to No. 1 on the country chart and to No. 47 on the pop chart in 1974:

There are a few other covers listed at Second Hand Songs and a few more listed as well in the catalog at Amazon: Ernest Tubb, Ferlin Husky, Billy Swann, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Waylon Jennings, Glenn Campbell, Nancy Wilson and Jessi Colter are the names I recognize; there are many I don’t recognize, which tells me the song continues to be vital.

As usual, when I look at covers, this is in no way a comprehensive listing; these are the versions I either already had in my mp3 files or found by stumbling through a few websites. And we’ll close today with a version I found during that stumbling: Jeannie Newman’s 1967 cover on the Memphis-based Goldwax label. I’ve read that Newman was about the closest to a country artist that R&B-centered Goldwax had on its roster, and her take on “He Called Me Baby” tends to support that.

‘Stewball Was A Race Horse . . .’

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Now, about the song “Stewball.” We offered in this spot yesterday the version of the song recorded in 1940 by Lead Belly and the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet for the Victor label. Pretty much a work song, that was the second of several iterations of the folk song that arose in England in the late Eighteenth Century.

Second Hand Songs notes: “Skewball, born in 1741, was a racehorse bred by Francis, Second Earl of Goldolphin. The horse, a gelding, was purportedly the top earning racer in Ireland in 1752, when he was 11. The song apparently originated as a ballad about a high stakes race occurring in the Curragh in Kildare, Ireland, in March 1752, which Skewball won.” The website gives a date of 1784 for the song, noting that the date “is for the oldest broadside identified of the ballad . . . held by the Harding Collection of the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford.”

The webpage continues, “According to John and Alan Lomax in American Ballads and Folk Songs, the ballad was converted into a work song by slaves – which is supported by the version of the lyrics published in their book. ‘Skewball’ apparently became ‘Stewball’ after the song migrated to the United States.”

Beyond the work song version of “Stewball,” the original story-song continued to be recorded. A 1953 recording by Cisco Houston is the earliest listed in the on-going project at Second Hand Songs, but Woody Guthrie recorded the tale of the horse race in 1944 or 1945. His version was released in 1999 on Buffalo Skinners: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 4 on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

Then came along the Greenbriar Boys. A trio made up by 1960 of John Herald, Ralph Rinzler, and Bob Yellin, the group, says All Music Guide, was “[o]ne of the first urban bands to play bluegrass” and was “instrumental in transforming the sounds of the hill country from a Southern music to an international phenomenon.” The Greenbriar Boys released their first two albums of bluegrass tunes in 1962 and 1964, but of more import for us today is a tune that showed up on New Folks, a 1961 sampler on the Vanguard label. Herald, Rinzler and Yellin set the words of “Stewball” to a simple, folkish tune (written by Yellin, according to website Beatles Songwriting Academy) and recorded the song as their contribution to the album:

After that, covers of the new version followed: From Peter, Paul & Mary in 1963 (a single release went to No. 35 and is the only version to chart), from Joan Baez in 1964 and from the Hollies in 1966, according to Second Hand Songs. And I know there are many other covers. Most of those take on the Greenbriar’s Boys’ version (including one by Mason Proffit on its 1969 album Wanted), but there are other covers of the early folk version and the work song version as well. I didn’t go digging too deeply, though, because something else about the song grabbed my attention this week.

Now, I’ve heard the version of “Stewball” using the Greenbriar Boys’ melody several times over the years, notably the versions by Mason Proffit and Peter, Paul & Mary. Heck, I even sang it along with Peter Yarrow at a concert a year-and-a-half ago. But I’d never noticed or thought about the tune’s similarity to another famous song until this week.

Last Tuesday, I ran past Second Hand Songs while looking for an interesting cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1971 single “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, and when the results came up that put the Lennon/Ono tune in the adaptation tree for “Stewball,” I did a mild double-take. And then I thought about it, running the two tunes through my head. And yeah, John (and Yoko, to whatever degree she was involved in the writing, listed as she is as a composer) lifted the melody and chord structure from the Greenbriar Boys’ version of “Stewball.” There were a few changes, notably a key change and the addition of the “War is over if you want it” chorus, but it was essentially the same song.

And I’m not at all sure why Herald, Rinzler and Yellin didn’t complain. Does anybody know?

‘A Restless Wind . . .’

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

While I was multitasking the other evening – checking out Facebook, listening to music and keeping half an eye on a football game – the RealPlayer selected from its 70,001 mp3s a track I hadn’t heard for a long, long time: “The Wayward Wind” by Gogi Grant, a record that spent eight weeks at No. 1 during the summer of 1956.

It was the second hit in the career of the woman who began life as Myrtle Arinsberg and went through several name changes before an A&R man from RCA named her Gogi Grant, if I’m reading things right in Fred Bronson’s Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Grant first reached the Top Ten in late 1955, when “Suddenly There’s A Valley” went to No. 9. I’d never heard “Valley” until this morning, and my sense is that it’s just standard mid-1950s pop.

Grant’s take on “The Wayward Wind,” however, is a sweeping and dramatic record, and I got to wondering how the song – written by Stan Lebowsky and Herb Newman – fared in the hands of folks who covered it. So I went digging. There are twenty-one other versions of the song listed at Second Hand Songs  and numerous other versions listed at Wikipedia and at All Music Guide. Two covers made the Billboard pop chart: a version by Tex Ritter entered the chart about two months after Grant’s did and climbed to No. 28, and in 1961, a cover by Frank Ifield bubbled under at No. 103. (Grant’s version was re-released in 1961 and went to No. 50.)

In the five years between the Ritter and Ifield covers, there were plenty of folks who took a stab at “The Wayward Wind.” Among those listed were Jimmy Young, Shirley Bassey, Gene Vincent, Patsy Cline, Sam Cooke, rockabilly singer Carl Mann, the Everly Brothers, Pat Boone, Eddy Arnold and Rikki Henderson. The most interesting of those might be the 1961 cover by the Everly Brothers, just for their well-known close harmony. The quasi-rockabilly take from 1960 by Carl Mann (almost certainly recorded at Sam Phillips’ studio in Memphis) has its moments, and I also like 1963’s bare bones country version from Eddy Arnold. But too many of those early covers try to replicate the epic (in the original sense of the word) sound of Grant’s original.

It’s also mildly interesting to check the lyrical approach: Grant sang the song in third person, about the man who wandered. Mann gender-flips, singing about the girl who wandered. The Everlys sing the song in the first person, as do Ritter, Ifield and Arnold.

After Ifield’s version bubbled under in 1963, covers came from the Browns, Hank Snow, Mary McCaslin, Connie Smith, Connie Francis, Crystal Gayle, and in 1985, from Neil Young with Denise Draper, a countryish version that leads off his Old Ways album. Since then, the various lists include versions by the Lazy Cowgirls, Lynn Anderson, Anne Murray, Logan Wells, Barbara Mandrell & Friends and Carol Noonan.

Even combining the three lists doesn’t provide a comprehensive account. I found versions as well by Slim Whitman and Frankie Laine, and a version that I like a lot that paired 1980s country singer Sylvia Hutton with flautist James Galway for the title track of Galway’s 1982 album, The Wayward Wind.

What Was At No. 81?

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

It’s August 1, but I’m not going to go to Wikipedia to find out what happened on August 1 through the years. It’s not that I’m not interested; it’s just that I’ll likely not find the day owning a pairing of events as nifty as the First Defenestration of Prague and the birthday of Edd “Kookie” Byrnes that showed up Tuesday.

So we going to play with the numbers as we often do. We’ll turn 8/1 into No. 81 and see what we find in six editions of the Billboard Hot 100. Just for grins, we’ll start in an appropriate year that I don’t often visit – 1981 – and go back four years at a time from there. We’ll also note which records were No. 1 at the time.

And as we land on August 1, 1981, we run into a record I don’t know. I evidently did not hear “Summer ’81 Medley” during that season of newspaper work. The medley is a reasonably good rendition of (by my count) nine Beach Boys tunes credited to the Cantina Band. The record was in its second week on the chart; it would last one more week and go no higher. Though it doesn’t say so on the record label in the video, Lou Christie joined in, and in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, the record is credited twice, to Lou Christie and to Meco recording as the Cantina Band. (That moniker is a reference to Meco’s No. 1 hit from 1977, “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band,” the first of eleven records that Domenico Monardo and his friends put on the chart). As for Christie, “Summer ’81 Medley” was the last of eighteen records that he placed in or near the Hot 100 between January 1963 and August 1981. During that same week, sitting at No. 1 for the first of two weeks was Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.”

Natalie Cole holds down the No. 81 spot as we move back to the first week of August in 1977. “Party Lights” boogies nicely but it didn’t do much more than that and it didn’t get much attention, moving up the chart only two more spots during its four-week stay in the Hot 100. (It went to No. 9 on the R&B chart.) Cole was, of course, a reliable chart presence for a decent length of time, notching twenty-two records in or near the Hot 100 between 1975 and 1998. As Cole was heading for the party lights, the No. 1 record was the late Andy Gibb’s “I Just Want To Be Your Everything,” in its second of four weeks on top of the chart (and the first of three straight No. 1 records for the youngest of the Brothers Gibb).

The Eagles don’t often show up here – I’m not entirely sure why that is – but it’s nice when they do. As August began in 1973, “Tequila Sunrise” was making a relatively brief and undistinguished appearance in the Hot 100. Forty years ago this week, the record was at No. 81, retreating from its peak rank of No. 64 (No. 26 on the Adult Contemporary chart). That’s not nearly as high as I would have guessed, given the record’s iconic stature. The Eagles, of course, have been a chart presence for more than forty years, with twenty-four records in or near the Hot 100 between 1972 and 2007. As “Tequila Sunrise” was holding at No. 81, Maureen McGovern’s “The Morning After” was in the first week of its two-week stay at No. 1.

Heading back four more years, we find ourselves in 1969, and sitting at No. 81 during the first days of August was “Simple Song of Freedom” by the late Tim Hardin. The anti-war anthem brought folk singer Hardin his only singles chart presence in a career that lasted from the mid-1960s until his death from a drug overdose in 1980. He’s better known, certainly, as the writer of numerous folk classics, including “If I Were A Carpenter,” “Reason To Believe” and “Lady Came From Baltimore.” The No. 1 record during the first days of August 1969 was Zager & Evans’ “In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus).”

Our next stop is August 1965, and the No. 81 record during that month’s first week is another record I’m not sure I’ve heard before: “He’s Got No Love”by the Searchers. The eleventh of fourteen records the Liverpool group would place in or near the pop chart, “He’s Got No Love” sounds good to these ears almost fifty years on. The record was in its second week on the chart; it would last only one more, rising to No. 79 before falling off. The No. 1 record during the first week of August 1965 was one of the major earworms of its time, Herman’s Hermits’ “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” (“Second verse, same as the first . . .”)

And in the first days of August 1961, twenty years back from where we started, the No. 81 spot in the Hot 100 belonged to Ronny Douglas, whose “Run, Run, Run” was in the second week of what would be a three-week visit to the chart. A decent enough record, it was the only appearance ever on the pop chart for New York singer-songwriter. Sitting at No. 1 during the first week of August 1961 was Bobby Lewis’ “Tossin’ and Turnin’,” in the fifth of seven weeks on top of the chart. (Lewis’ record spent ten weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart.)

Chart Digging for No. 52

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Well, having missed May Day once again – this time by intention – I thought we’d open the month by taking a look at the charts on May 2 over a period of years. We’ll start by turning the date of 5/2 into 52, and head back fifty-two years to 1961.

Sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 fifty-two years ago today was Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” in the third week of a four-week stay at the top. Fifty-one places lower down was the second entry ever in the Hot 100 by R&B singer Chuck Jackson, “(It Never Happens) In Real Life.” The record would climb another six spots before peaking at No. 46 (No. 22 on the R&B chart). Jackson is better known, of course for “Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird),” which went to No. 23 on the pop chart and No. 2 on the R&B chart in early 1962. Jackson eventually placed twenty-nine singles in or near the Hot 100, and “(It Never Happens) In Real Life” was one of the good ones.

Three years later, in May 1964, the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” was in its fifth and final week at No. 1. Down in the second half of the Hot 100, the James Brown-produced R&B workout “Baby, Baby, Baby” by Anna King and Bobby Byrd was peaking at No. 52. (It would go to No. 2 on the R&B chart.) Byrd, says Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles, was the founder and leader of Brown’s backing group, the Famous Flames, and he’d have six more hits in the Hot 100, five of which would reach the R&B Top 40. King was a singer with the James Brown Revue, and “Baby, Baby, Baby” was her second hit in the Hot 100; it would also be her last, although later in 1964, her “Make Up Your Mind” reached No. 38 on the R&B chart. (Sadly, King’s brilliant 1965 answer song to James Brown, “Mama’s Got A Bag Of Her Own,” failed to chart).

Early May in 1967 found the No. 1 spot occupied for the fourth and final week by “Somethin’ Stupid,” the duet by father and daughter Frank and Nancy Sinatra. Down at No. 52, we find the biggest hit by the Philadelphia R&B group, Brenda & The Tabulations. “Dry Your Eyes” had peaked at No. 22 (No. 8, R&B) and was on its way down the charts. Although the group would place twelve more records in or near the Hot 100 into 1972 (and nine more in the R&B Top 40 into 1977), nothing ever did as well again. And that’s not surprising, as “Dry Your Eyes” is a lovely and sweet soul ballad.

As we hit 1970, we find the Jackson 5’s “ABC” sitting in the No. 1 spot for its second and final week. Sitting at No. 52 that week is a record I’ve never heard of, much less heard, until this morning: “My Wife, The Dancer” by Eddie & Dutch. The novelty record, which tells the tale of a man who learns his wife is – in today’s terminology – an exotic dancer, would go no higher. The team of Eddie Mascari and Erwin “Dutch” Wenzlaff had hit the charts twice in 1958 and 1959, when they were billed as the Mark IV; “(Make With) The Shake” was a rock ’n’ roll workout with a tongue-in-cheek subtext (at least to these ears) that went to No. 69, and “I Got A Wife” was a novelty record that went to No. 24.

In the first week of May in 1973, the No. 1 record was “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” by Dawn featuring Tony Orlando. The wince-inducing record was in the third of an eventual four weeks at No. 1. Things are better – though decidedly in the middle of the road – at No. 52, where Perry Como’s cover of Don McLean’s “And I Love You So” was making its way up the charts, en route to No. 29 on the pop chart and a one-week stay at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It was the fifty-first of fifty-three records the Pennsylvania-born Como would place in or near the Hot 100 between 1954 and 1974.

In early May 1976, the No. 1 spot was held down by “Welcome Back,” John Sebastian’s theme from the TV series Welcome Back Kotter. Near the top of the chart’s second half, we find the truly abysmal “When Love Has Gone Away” by Richard Cocciante, heading back down the chart after peaking at No. 41. As he half-speaks and half-sings the first portion of the record, Cocciante – born in Saigon in 1946 when Vietnam was still a French colony – sounds a little like a Mediterranean Dylan. When he starts screaming after the overwhelming instrumental bridge, well, the only reason I kept listening was to see how bad it could get. How enough people liked this record so that it even sniffed the chart, much less made it to No. 41, is a mystery.