Archive for the ‘1965’ Category

Saturday Single No. 680

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

This will be quick and easy this morning, as I am late getting going. I’ve not said much – if anything – about it, but both the Texas Gal and I have been battling colds pretty much since the beginning of the year, feeling fine for two days and then feeling utterly miserable for the next two. Anyway, miseries led us to sleep in today, and I have an appointment very soon with bacon and pancakes.

So I’m going to head to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and look at the “Fabulous Forty” survey from the Twin Cities’ KDWB for the first week in March 1965, fifty-five years ago. We’ll look at the top five, and then play Games With Numbers on today’s date – 3-7-20 – and fall onto the No. 30 record in the survey for our listening this morning.

So, fifty-five years ago this week, here was KDWB’s top five:

“This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by the Righteous Brothers
“King Of The Road” by Roger Miller
“Downtown” by Petula Clark
“The Jolly Green Giant” by the Kingsmen

I was in sixth grade at the time, and I recall hearing all of these coming out of various radio speakers. I wasn’t really listening, but I couldn’t help hearing. And I liked them all except for the Kingsmen’s record, which I thought was really dumb. And all of those top four are among the 3,900-some tracks on the iPod, which puts them in my day-to-day listening even after fifty-five years.

Okay, so let’s head to No. 30 on that long-ago survey. And we find a record that, to be honest, should be among my regular listening: “Hurt So Bad” by Little Anthony & The Imperials. I first knew the song via the 1969 cover by the Lettermen. (Their album, Goin’ Out Of My Head, was one of my sister’s records.) And as I sit here more than fifty years removed from both versions, I have to say that Little Anthony takes the song to levels of despair that the Lettermen likely couldn’t approach. Still, I prefer the cover. (It could be that I want my suffering to be at least a little stoic and not so demonstrative.) But there’s no denying that the original is a great record.

I’m not going to sort out where the Little Anthony record peaked on KDWB, but it went to No 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 3 on the magazine’s R&B chart. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 100? (January 1965)

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

I thought that today we’d venture fifty-five years back and look at the Billboard Hot 100 from the last week of January 1965, checking out the Top Ten and then dropping down to the last spot in the chart.

Here’s the Top Ten:

“Downtown” by Petula Clark
“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by the Righteous Brothers
“The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis
“Love Potion Number Nine” by the Searchers
“Hold What You’ve Got” by Joe Tex
“How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” by Marvin Gaye
“This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“Come See About Me” by the Supremes
“Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun)” by Del Shannon
“All Day And All Of The Night” by the Kinks

Well, I was eleven and in sixth grade when these records ruled, and there are only three of those ten that I can say with certainty I remember from the time: “Downtown” was pervasive; whether one liked it or derided it, you knew the hook. “This Diamond Ring” for some reason wended its way into my memory. I still like both of those. And I recall “The Name Game,” which I detest. I suppose I heard “Greg, Greg, Popeg . . .” once too often (though I have no direct memory of the event).

Six of the other seven, I’ve learned about over the years. The one exception, the one record I had to seek out today to see if it were familiar, is “Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun).” It turns out to be on the digital shelves, and it’s not an awful record, but it’s not at all familiar, except for the sound of the cheesy organ solo.

So, using as our measuring stick the 3,900-odd tracks in the iPod, do any of those records matter today?

It turns out that four of them do: “Downtown,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “This Diamond Ring,” and “Come See About Me.” And I don’t see that I’d add any of the other six to the device.

But what about our other business here? When we drop to the bottom of the Hot 100 from the last week of January 1965, what do we find?

Well, we find a version of a favorite tune that I did not know about until this morning: “Goldfinger” by Jack La Forge, His Piano & Orchestra. The record was in its first week on the chart, and it would hang around for another four weeks, peaking at No. 96 (and reaching No. 20 on the magazine’s easy listening chart).

It was the only charting record for LaForge, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. His entry at discogs.com lists eighteen singles, most of them on the Regina label. Joel Whitburn tells us in the 2009 edition of Top Pop Singles that LaForge was born in 1924 in Manhattan. Neither Whitburn nor discogs list a death date, and a little bit of digging this morning yielded nothing. The man would be ninety-five today.

It’s a decent easy listening version of the song.

‘An Odd & Overlong Joke’?

Friday, September 20th, 2019

Musically here, it’s still, for the most part, all Moody Blues, all the time, as I continue to move through the band’s immense catalog, starting with the British debut album The Magnificent Moodies (and the additional early tracks that came with the CD reissue, four of which showed up as substitutes on the group’s first U.S. album Go Now). I’ve also been rotating the band’s later albums in and out of the car as I run errands around town, re-familiarizing myself with them as albums instead of single tracks that pop up on random.

(Not surprisingly, I know the work from the 1970s and very early 1980s better than I know the work from the late 1960s or from the later 1980s and beyond. And as I add additional hearings on to the pile, I am beginning to notice some things that, well, they don’t surprise me, but maybe reaffirm in unexpected ways my thoughts on the band.)

One thing that has not surprised me is wide and varied critical reaction to the band. Writer David McGee, in the 1992 edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide, wrote:

“No major band has so relentlessly parlayed nonsense as have the Moodies; were it not for their titanic success, in fact, they might easily be dismissed as an odd and overlong joke . . . but it’s the artsiness of their symphonic rock that’s truly crass, and their self-importance that’s offensive. Gods of ’70s FM radio, they invented a sort of easy-listening psychedelia that resolutely combined the worst of both worlds. Long since their heyday, they’ve continued to produce mild echoes of that stuff.”

McGee goes on to praise the band’s early work on The Magnificent Moodies, calling the single “Go Now!” a “ballad version of the British Invasion pop they were masters of,” noting as well the band’s facility at performing “credible Sonny Boy Williamson numbers and R&B fare along the lines of a sweeter Spencer Davis Group.”

But head back in time to 1979, when writer Alan Niester took on the topic of the Moody Blues for the first edition of the Rolling Stone guide. Assessing the album Go Now, Niester writes:

This 1965 album is now interesting mainly for the wonderful hit single “Go Now” and its near-hit follow-up “From The Bottom Of My Heart.” The other ten songs are as thin and inept as anything by the Dave Clark Five. But as a souvenir of young adolescence, this timeworn LP is irreplaceable magic.

Well, I have always thought the Dave Clark Five was low-rent, but “thin and inept”? That’s harsh. Anyway . . .

“From The Bottom Of My Heart (I Love You)” scraped the bottom of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 93 in June 1965, four months after “Go Now!” had reached No. 10. To my ears, neither one of those owes much to Sonny Boy Williamson or Spencer Davis Group Lite. Instead, I hear hints of what would happen to the group when Denny Laine and Clint Warwick left and Justin Hayward and John Lodge joined up with Mike Pinder, Graeme Edge and Ray Thomas.

Here’s “From The Bottom Of My Heart (I Love You).” I think in the next week we’ll spend one more post looking at the pre-psychedelic Moodies and then jump into the era I know better (and like a lot more). I hear hints of that era here.

The Sound Of Sorrow

Friday, June 28th, 2019

The forlorn melody of “None But The Lonely Heart,” Wikipedia tells us, was written in late 1869 when Piotr Tchaikovsky created a set of six romances for voice and piano. The lyrics came, the website says, from “Lev Mei’s poem ‘The Harpist’s Song,’ which in turn was translated from Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.”

Here’s the English translation that gives the piece its familiar title:

None but the lonely heart
Can know my sadness
Alone and parted
Far from joy and gladness
Heaven’s boundless arch I see
Spread out above me
O what a distance drear to one
Who loves me
None but the lonely heart
Can know my sadness
Alone and parted far
From joy and gladness
Alone and parted far
From joy and gladness
My senses fail
A burning fire
Devours me
None but the lonely heart
Can know my sadness

I first came across the song, as was the case with so many tunes, through Al Hirt, who included it on his 1965 album That Honey Horn Sound:

Hirt’s take is evocative enough, though I think his improvisations take away from the sadness that the title and the lyrics imply. And I think the background vocals of the Anita Kerr Singers make the final moments of the track sound almost triumphant with what a long-ago teaching colleague of mine called an “MGM ending.” (I certainly didn’t verbalize those thoughts back in 1965 when I heard the track for the first time, but I do recall that the second half of the track didn’t pull me in like the opening portions did, and I wondered why.)

The song has popped up over the years, and I’ve always liked it. But even though I’ve known for more than fifty years that the melody came from Tchaikovsky, I’d never thought much about the piece. Even with all my gathering of music over the past twenty years, only three other versions showed up on the digital shelves: Instrumental versions by violinist Isaac Stern and easy listening maestro Franck Pourcel and a turgid vocal version by Frank Sinatra (from his 1959 album No One Cares, which is a hard listen).

Then, just more than a year ago – and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to write about this – the Texas Gal and I watched the finale of the FX series The Americans, the tale – set in the 1980s – of two married Russian KGB agents sent to live in the United States as Americans, working covertly for the Soviet Union. In that finale, the two agents face arrest by U.S. authorities and flee. The last portion of their trip home is by car through Eastern Europe and the western portions of the Soviet Union, much of it shot from above.

The music backing that sequence is an orchestral version of “None But The Lonely Heart.” I recognized it from the first notes. (And if I recall things correctly, I gasped as those first notes aired, prompting a “What?” from the Texas Gal. I just shook my head, choosing not to explain at the moment.) As the journey and the episode and the series ended that evening, I thought the use of Tchaikovsky’s piece was a brilliant touch.

Afterward, I spent some time searching for the version of the tune used in the show. It turned out to be a performance by violinist Takako Nishizaki with Australia’s Queensland Symphony Orchestra; it was included on a 2001 album – conducted by Slovak director Peter Breiner – titled Tchaikovsky: None But The Lonely Heart with the subtitle “Favourite Songs for Violin and Orchestra.” And, as it should be, it’s the sound of sorrow:

‘You May Be High . . .’

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

When the Rolling Stones recorded “You Got To Move” and released it on Sticky Fingers in 1971 (with the title offered as “You Gotta Move”), they credited the song to Fred McDowell, a Tennessee-based farmer and blues singer who’d somehow been given the name of Mississippi Fred McDowell. It was not an unreasonable decision, as McDowell had recorded the tune in 1965 for his second album on the Arhoolie label, which was released a year later and listed him as the song’s writer.

Here’s that version by McDowell:

(It’s worth noting that McDowell was an anomaly in the blues revival of the late 1950s and the 1960s: He’d never recorded before, while many of the blues artists celebrated during that revival had recorded in the 1920s and 1930s. Whether that made McDowell’s previously unrecorded music more “authentic” – as I’ve seen written in at least a couple of places – is for others to judge. It was certainly new to listeners, and, despite McDowell’s frequent use of an electric guitar, clearly linked to the Delta tradition.)

But McDowell did not write the song. Second Hand Songs lists the song as “traditional,” noting four recordings that predate McDowell’s 1965 recording. (McDowell’s 1965 recording is not listed at all; his 1969 live version with the Hunter’s Chapel Singers is listed, another reminder that as useful as the website is, it’s not complete.)

Those four earlier listed recordings came from the Willing Four in 1944, the Two Gospel Keys (Emma Daniels and Mother Sally Jones) in 1947, Elder Charles Beck & His Religion In Rhythm in 1949, and Blind Gary Davis with Sonny Terry in 1953. One can assume two things, I think: There were other recordings as well before McDowell recorded his 1965 version, and the song no doubt predates the Willing Four’s version. By how much, who knows?

And I’m going to make a third assumption: That crediting the song’s creation to McDowell on his 1966 album was an error by someone at Arhoolie. McDowell would certainly have known that he’d learned the song elsewhere, and everything I’ve read about McDowell tells me that he was an unassuming, almost humble man. I have my doubts that he’d have claimed the song as his.

(At Second Hand Songs, “You Got To Move” is called “traditional,” and on the CD version I have of Sticky Fingers, it’s credited to McDowell and Davis. I don’t know what credits there are on more recent versions of the CD or the LP.)

McDowell recorded the song at least a couple more times: The previously mentioned 1969 recording with the Hunter’s Chapel Singers for an album titled Amazing Grace, and in a 1971 performance in New York City that was released as a live album two years later.

There are, of course, other covers out there, some by artists I know and others by artists unfamiliar to me: The Party Boys, Mike Cooper & Ian A. Anderson, Mick Taylor, Herman Alexander, the Radiators, Corey Harris, Jorma Kaukonen, Townes Van Zandt, Cassandra Wilson, Aerosmith, and Koerner, Ray & Glover are just some of them.

Most of those are faithful to the Delta sound of McDowell’s version; some of them reach back to what I assume are the song’s Gospel origins; and some are hybrids. Here’s one of the latter, the version offered by Sista Monica Parker on her 2008 album Sweet Inspirations.

No. 54, Fifty-Four Years Ago

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, today checking out the No. 54 record in the Billboard Hot 100 fifty-four years ago, during the first days of April 1965.

That chart, actually released on April 3, fifty-four years ago yesterday, had as its top three records “Stop In The Name Of Love” by the Supremes, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” by Herman’s Hermits, and “I’m Telling You Now” by Freddie & The Dreamers.

Back then, I doubt whether I knew two of the three. I’m sure I knew the Supremes’ record; it was all around. But as the last months of sixth grade were going past, I doubt that I heard either of the other two often enough to recognize them. Later in the year – in September or December – I would get to know the Herman’s Hermits record, as it was the first track on Herman’s Hermits On Tour, which my sister gave me for either Christmas or my birthday that year. (Whichever it was, the other occasion was marked by her giving me Sonny & Cher’s Look At Us, thus providing me my introduction to the musicians of the Wrecking Crew.)

Fifty-four years later, the Supremes’ record still sounds good, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” is pleasant nostalgia, and “I’m Telling You Now” just brings up memories of Freddie Garrity and his mates losing their way (along with any credibility they might have had in the view of a twelve-year-old boy) by doing the Freddie.

So what do we find further down, fourteen places below the Top 40? Well, we find one of the classic middle-of-the-road pop singers of the 1950s and 1960s, Jerry Vale, and his single ‘For Mama.” The Bronx- born Vale first hit the Billboard chart in 1954 with “Two Purple Shadows,” which peaked at No. 20. His take on “You Don’t Know Me” brought him his greatest success on the pop chart when it went to No. 14 in 1956.

And the record that was at No. 54 during the early days of April 1965 was, well, a melodrama in a minor key, kind of a mish-mash that I doubt that I would have liked even in 1965, when traditional pop was my jam. It went no higher in the Hot 100, although it went to No. 13 on the Billboard chart that was then called “Middle-Road Singles.”

Maybe it’s just me, but the tale of Mama’s last request wanders all over the place.

What’s At No. 100? (2-13-1965)

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from this date in 1965, fifty-four years ago today:

“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” by the Righteous Brothers
“Downtown” by Petula Clark
“This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis
“My Girl” by the Temptations
“Hold What You’ve Got” by Joe Tex
“All Day And All Of The Night” by the Kinks
“Shake” by Sam Cooke
“The Jolly Green Giant” by the Kingsmen
“I Go To Pieces” by Peter & Gordon

That’s a very mixed bag. First of all, I have to admit that the only way I remember ever hearing Sam Cooke’s “Shake” is because of the absurdism of “Shake it like a bowl of soup.” And until that line came through the speaker today, I didn’t recognize the record. To give another measure of how unfamiliar I have been with “Shake,” it’s not among the 77,000-some tracks on the digital shelves here.

The same holds true for some others in that Top Ten, too. I never liked “The Name Game,” so it’s not here. I’m not sure why “I Fall To Pieces” is absent, as I’ve generally liked the work of Peter & Gordon, and it’s a decent folk-rock single. And I guess I’ve just ignored the silliness of the Kingsmen, even though Minnesota is the home of the Jolly Green Giant. (A fifty-five foot tall statue of the giant stands along U.S. Highway 169 in the city of Blue Earth, Minnesota.)

That’s four records from that Top Ten that are absent from the digital shelves here. That seems like a lot. I’m not going to take the time to find out, but I wonder how many other Top Ten records from the years 1964-1975 are absent from my shelves. I know of one for certain: Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-A-Ling.” But it’s purposely absent – like “The Name Game” – for reasons of taste, not of lack of thought.

So, will I go find the records by Cooke, Peter & Gordon and the Kingsmen? Probably, but they’re not high priority.

What about the other six in that long-ago Top Ten? Well, I like four of them very much. One has a specific memory: “Downtown” takes me across the street to Rick’s house, hanging around on what was likely a Saturday as his older sister and her friends down the hall played the record over and over. And then, the records by the Righteous Brothers, the Temptations and Gary Lewis & The Playboys are just good records.

What about the records by the Kinks and Joe Tex? Those I can take or leave.

That’s pretty well summed up by what’s in the iPod these days. “Downtown,” “This Diamond Ring,” and “My Girl” are among the 3,900 tracks there. I’ll maybe add “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” one of these days.

Having finished with the Top Ten from fifty-four years ago, we can drop to the bottom of the Hot 100 and see what lies there. And we find “Did You Ever,” one of two records by the Hullaballoos to make the Hot 100.

The Hullaballoos, says Wikipedia, “were created in August 1964, but had been working in the UK for over three years under the name of Ricky Knight and The Crusaders.” They were named, according to Wikipedia, for the English city of Hull, not for the American television program. (At least one of the four members of the group was born in Kingston Upon Hull, a port city whose name is generally shortened to Hull.)

Their rechristening as the Hullaballoos was, it seems, a cynical move. Here’s what Richie Unterberger of AllMusic had to say about the group:

[T]he Hullaballoos were arguably the most exploitative act of the first wave of the British Invasion. With their wig-like helmets of bleach-blond hair that vied with the Pretty Things and the Stones in length, they had an immediately striking visual presence. Musically it was another matter, for the Hullaballoos were actually not even stars in their homeland, but packaged for U.S. consumption by Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, notorious vice presidents and A&R directors of Roulette Records. Most of their music was written by hack Brill Building songwriters, who were apparently intent on making the band sound as much like Buddy Holly as possible. Indeed, one of their small U.S. hits was a cover of Holly’s “I’m Gonna Love You Too” (the other, “Did You Ever,” was Holly-esque down to the hiccuping vocal). New York hacks may have devised their Buddy Holly-cum-Merseybeat sound – dominated by driving simple guitar chords and drums – in a superficial manner, but it’s catchy and considerably forceful. The Hullaballoos faded almost immediately after a tiny splash in 1965, but that was probably built into the plan from the beginning.

“I’m Gonna Love You Too” had peaked at No. 56 in early January of 1965, and “Did You Ever” stalled at No. 74 in mid-March. The group had one more single show up in Billboard: “Learning the Game” bubbled under for two weeks in May, peaking at No. 121.

Here’s “Did You Ever,” Hollyesque hiccup and all (including little riffs from what sounds like a recorder or an ocarina):

What’s At No. 100? (August 1965)

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

We’re going to play one of our favorite – and relatively new – games here today: What’s At No. 100? My imaginary tuneheads, Odd and Pop, and I have done this four times previously, but we’ve been headlining those excursions as Chart Digging. That was Pop’s idea.

“Well,” he said during the meeting when the new game was approved, “we don’t want to scare off readers who look for the comfortable and expected.”

“Pshhht!” said Odd. “If they want comfortable and unsurprising, let ’em buy a chair! We need to offer readers stuff they rarely hear anywhere else, stuff that expands their horizons, stuff that makes their musical worlds grow!”

“Really?” asked Pop. “Like ‘Congratulations’ by Cliff Richards?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Odd, shifting uncomfortably in his imaginary chair. “That was unfortunate.” He sighed, then perked up. “But the next time we played the game, we found something by Travis Wammack!”

Pop nodded. “And we’ve heard stuff from the Dells and from Stephen Stills.”

“So you’re both happy as we head into 1965?” I asked.

Pop nodded. Odd chewed his lip. “Well, ‘happy’ is a relative term. Sometimes, I can’t be satisfied.” He paused and then added, “And yes, that’s a Muddy Waters reference.”

With that, we turned to the Billboard Hot 100 from August 21, 1965, and its Top Ten:

“I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher
“Save Your Heart For Me” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“Help!” by the Beatles
“California Girls” by the Beach Boys
“Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones
“It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops
“Don’t Just Stand There” by Patty Duke
“I’m Henry The VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits
“Down In The Boondocks” by Billy Joe Royal

The three of us looked at that Top Ten with generally differing thoughts, although none of us were impressed by the Patty Duke single as we listened. I thought it sounded like mediocre Lesley Gore. The two of them agreed.

As to the rest of that Top Ten, Pop was pleased with the remaining nine and giggled happily as he thought about the record by Herman’s Hermits. As I expected, Odd dismissed that single as piffle but acknowledged most of the rest as decent listening. He was a little disturbed by the thought of the record from Gary Lewis & The Playboys, but he was pleased with the presence of the Billy Joe Royal record. “I know it was a pretty good hit back in the day,” he said. “And that was way back in the day,” he added, looking at me. “Even you were young then!”

And he and Pop – whippersnappers that they are – giggled as I gave them my best eye-roll.

“But,” Odd went on, “I can get into a No. 9 hit when it seems to be lost, and ‘Down In The Boondocks’ seems to be very much lost these days.”

Then I asked, “And how about the top of the list, Sonny & Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’?”

“No. 1 for three weeks!” Pop said happily.

“Hal Blaine!” Odd added, just as pleased.

Then we were off for our business at the bottom of the Hot 100.

And we found a master of soul who’s been mentioned only rarely here during these eleven-plus years and who’s been featured only two times: Solomon Burke, whose “Someone Is Watching” was sitting at No. 100 fifty-three years ago this week.

Every time his name pops up in my reading or on the charts I scan, I think to myself that, yes, I need to know more about Solomon Burke, and I definitely need to know his music better. Those are goals that both Odd and Pop agree with, as there’s very little by the man on the physical or digital shelves here. That needs to be remedied.

But for now, here’s “Someone Is Watching,” a nice slice of Atlantic soul. It stalled at No. 89 on the Hot 100 and went to No. 24 on the Billboard R&B chart. Unsurprisingly, it’s nice stuff, with a sax solo that I’d think came from King Curtis.

Catching Up

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

For a few months now, the Texas Gal and I have been talking about taking a look at the NBC television series This Is Us. So this weekend, we did, letting our smart TV find the show’s first season.

We’ve binge-watched other shows, a prime example being Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle. We took care of two seasons of that in just a couple of weeks. And early this year, we took care of the first season of Outsiders on WGN in a week or so, catching up to watch the second – and final – season as it came around weekly.

But it’s turning out to be tough to binge-watch This Is Us. The time-shifting story of family life is one of the best television series I’ve ever watched. Or perhaps I should say that if the rest of the series – the third second season is airing weekly on NBC these days – is as good as the first five episodes have been, This Is Us will rank among the best television series I’ve ever watched.

But it’s hard to binge on.

Why? Because every episode aims at my heart and hits true. And it never seems to go over the top, except in the ways that life itself sometimes goes over the top. Add in the comic moments that seem to be pulled from someone’s life rather than written, and top those off with intelligent casting and production, and you have great TV.

And, in our household at least, damp eyes. As the credits roll to end another episode, the Texas Gal turns to me. “What’d you think?” I shake my head, unable to speak for a few moments, and then maybe we roll another episode. We managed two in a row the first night and two in a row the next. Last night, we squeezed one into our regular viewing. I think two per evening is going to be our limit.

I’m also very aware of the music used in This Is Us, of course. Ranging from the 1960s to today, lots of it is familiar and some is not, and I keep telling myself I need to find out what the unfamiliar stuff is. That’s how I came upon tunefind, a site that catalogs tracks used in movies and television shows. And that’s how I verified that a track used behind an opening montage in the third episode of the series was in fact a 1965 track that’s been hanging around in the digital shelves here for almost ten years.

Here’s the very spare “Blues Run The Game” by Jackson C. Frank.

Saturday Single No. 560

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

In the spring of 1964, when I was ten and in fifth grade, a kindly, older gentleman came to Lincoln Elementary School and asked if anyone wanted to learn to play a band instrument. I was interested, and when I met with that gentleman, he looked at my teeth – which would never need braces – and suggested that I might want to play a brass instrument. He suggested trumpet.

Not long after that, my folks took me on a Friday evening to Weber’s Jewelry & Music, a store on the further downtown reaches of St. Cloud’s St. Germain Street, and we looked at horns. My folks opted to buy me a cornet. It had the same fingering and same scale as a trumpet, but with a slightly different construction, which made it shorter but taller than a trumpet. It also may have made it slightly cheaper; I’m not sure.

My folks laid out $165 for my cornet, which – considering the things that it brought me over the years – was a small investment for a very large return. Actually, it wasn’t such a small investment. Although $165 might not seem like much now, an online inflation calculator tells me that spending $165 in 1964 was like spending a little more than $1,300 today. Nevertheless, the return over the years has been huge.

The kindly gentleman turned out to be Erwin Hertz, the band conductor at St. Cloud Tech High School, and during sixth grade, he stopped by Lincoln School once a week to give me (and the other Lincoln students who’d chosen to play band instruments) lessons, and once a week, as well, we all went over to Tech to be members of a district-wide sixth grade band.

I played my cornet – playing parts written for trumpet, which was in practical terms, the same thing – in band from sixth grade through my sophomore year of high school. I also played in the district’s orchestra program, starting with summer orchestra after eighth grade and continuing during the school year for all three years of high school. I was pretty good, with a good ear, but I didn’t practice near enough, so when I headed to college, I learned after one quarter in band that, like a minor league pitcher moved up to the bigs, I wasn’t good enough anymore.

But that was okay. Those seven years of playing in those large groups had been enough. And along the way, I’d gotten some gifts I’d not at all anticipated. One of them was the music of Al Hirt. His only Top Ten hit, “Java,” went to No. 4 in Billboard in early 1964 and was No. 1 for four weeks on the magazine’s easy listening chart. My appreciation for “Java” led my sister to give me Hirt’s Honey In The Horn for my eleventh birthday in September 1964, when my work on the cornet was only a few months old.

And that album is one of formative albums of my musical life. Among its tracks were the first tunes I remember hearing from what we now call the Great American Songbook: Gershwin & Duke’s “I Can’t Get Started” and Bart Howard’s “Fly Me To The Moon,” along with other tunes like Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On,” Ray Charles’ “Talkin’ Bout That River,” Boudleaux Bryant’s “Theme From A Dream” and more. The next Hirt album I got – That Honey Horn Sound from 1965 – brought me, among others, Rogers & Hart’s “You Took Advantage Of Me,” Chip Taylor’s “Long Walk Home,” Tchaikovsky’s “None But The Lonely Heart” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “Star Dust.”

From there, I dug into the rest of that mythical songbook and then into film scores, learning songs that kept me largely out of step with what my peers were listening to during the mid- to late 1960s. I didn’t always like being out of step at the time, but now – looking back fifty years – I wouldn’t change it.

Playing my horn also brought me a sense of melody that I think informs my songwriting to this day, and it brought me something I didn’t quite understand at first, even as I embraced it: I realized as I listened to Hirt’s records (and others’), that as a melody played, I knew how to finger it on my horn. It wasn’t perfect pitch, but it was close, a gift of relative pitch that I also use to this day.

So all of that is what my 1964 Conn cornet brought me. Now it has the chance to bring its gifts to another student. I took my horn – unplayed for many years – over to St. Cloud Tech yesterday and gave it to the band conductor there, a man named Gary Zwack. He said – confirming something my sister told me last week – that Tech, like almost all high schools in the state, often has students who want to play but who cannot afford an instrument. One of those students will now have a cornet to play.

When I arrived at Tech, Gary took me on a tour of the building. Renovations and additions made portions of the campus unfamiliar, but some doorways and corridors were recognizable. I carried my horn with me through the hallways, as I had done hundreds of times so long ago, and then I left it in the band office, giving its case a final pat and thanking it silently for the gifts it brought me.

And here’s one of those tunes I first heard long ago from the horn of Al Hirt. It’s Tchaikovsky’s “None But The Lonely Heart” from Hirt’s 1965 album That Honey Horn Sound, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.