‘Life’s A Circle After All . . .’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6 Responses to “‘Life’s A Circle After All . . .’”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    “1927 Kansas City” got a fairly substantial amount of airplay in the Twin Cities in 1971, but only on KRSI. The station’s music director gave me an extra promo 45 on one of my numerous visits. Those “1900 Yesterday” coattails it rode in on weren’t quite long enough to sustain the brief turn-of-the-century invasion.

    To say that the clip’s audio quality isn’t the best is being much too diplomatic. It flat out sucks… the life right out of the vinyl record. Noise reduction can a useful tool, but not when it’s applied with such a three-ton iron fist.

  2. […] Echoes In The Wind Hear that music in the distance? So do I. « ‘Life’s A Circle After All . . .’ […]

  3. Yah Shure says:

    Thanks for the kind afternote, whiteray; I’m more than happy to share the upgraded audio. I’d initially attempted to digitize this song years ago after getting a request for it on Napster. Had the record been pressed at a better manufacturing plant, it would have been a simple, five-minute project. Given the affordable digital tools available at the time, I wasn’t keen on devoting the many hours needed to fix the defects. Improved software and editing skills made the job a comparative breeze this time around.

    In fairness to the person who’d done the audio dub on the original YouTube clip you’d posted, they were forced to deal with both a poorly-pressed and a significantly worn copy of the 45. But at some point when using noise reduction, the user has to trust their ears in determining when too much baby is being thrown out with the bath water.

  4. David Lenander says:

    thanks! i never heard this before, and I liked it. What was the format of the radio station KRSI–vaguely familiar call letters but I don’t remember it.

  5. Yah Shure says:

    David, St. Louis Park’s KRSI (950 AM/104.1 FM) was known as “Request Radio” when it went to a rock ‘n’ roll oldies format in early 1968 (for the first ten years of its existence, it had been the “Memory Music” station, playing mostly old middle-of-the-road hits.) The format shift came after Red Owl Stores, Inc. – which had signed KRSI on under its Radio Suburbia, Incorporated subsidiary – neglected to notify the FCC of the change of control of the company when it was acquired by Gamble-Skogmo in 1967. The FCC denied the license transfer and ordered the sale of its stations. In order to fetch a better asking price, KDWB Music Director Tac Hammer was hired as Program Director, and Request Radio was born. Ironically, the station’s studios and offices were located at 4500 Excelsior Blvd., which is now the site of a Trader Joe’s store.

    Request Radio was oldies based, with every sixth record being a current. A request line was set up to take and record listener requests, which were often played back along with the requested song. The harder stuff tended to be dayparted to nights, leaving room for more housewife-friendly MOR-leaning titles like the Reilly record during daylight hours. Bread’s first single, “Dismal Day,” was another current title played locally only by KRSI.

    Roy H. Park Broadcasting, which had bought the stations from Gamble-Skogmo, was notoriously cheap, and the sale sparked what would prove to be a decades-long “format of the month” programming approach. KRSI’s Request Radio format was initially very successful, but a *very* gradual shift from oldies to album rock was initiated in 1971. By 1973, the AM had switched to an automated country format and the FM, under new call letters KFMX, competed with KQRS for the album rock crowd for a couple of years.

    KRSI wasn’t blessed with the best facilities: its modestly-powered 1,000-watt AM signal was aimed northeast across the metro area from a swamp in Eden Prairie. The FM’s signal from atop one of the comparatively short AM towers in that same swamp was hard to hear clearly even in St. Louis Park. That the Request Radio format managed to crack the top five in its brief time was quite an accomplishment.

  6. Oscar says:

    The best song , unforgettable, Early 1971, Iwas in high school and 13 year old..im peruvian south america…

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