Posts Tagged ‘Dinah Washington’

September Songs 2

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

We’re going to pick up where we left off earlier this month, exploring songs on the digital stacks with “September” in their titles. We got not quite halfway through the alphabet last time, ending with a tune titled “Lucy September” by the Dream Academy. On to the letter M and beyond!

Quite a ways beyond, in fact. We have to head into the letter S before we find the next tune, a 1965 single titled “Sad September” by Grady & Brady. “It’s gonna be a sad September” because the guy’s girl – who promised last spring to come back when school started – met someone else and has possibly left town. (The latter is not clear.) The sweet but unimaginative record, which showed clearly that the two had listened to a lot of Everly Brothers tunes, was the third for the duo, the first coming on the Dolton label credited to Grady & Brady Sneed and the other two on Planetary credited to just Grady & Brady. As far as I can see, they got no chart action at all.

Then we come onto two versions of “See You In September.” We have the Tempos’ original from 1959 (No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100), and the Happenings’ cover from 1966 (No. 3). The Tempos were from Pittsburgh, and their version is passable but a little stiff, and it has what a music professor colleague of mine from long ago called “an MGM ending,” which doesn’t seem to work. But maybe it doesn’t work because I remember the Happenings’ version from 1966, which at points could easily be mistaken for the work of the Four Seasons. Closer listening shows that’s not so, but still, there’s more excitement in the Happenings’ version of the tune. And the background chants of “Bye-bye! So long! Farewell!” rule.

There are twenty-one tracks on the digital shelves whose titles essentially start with the word “September.” I count six versions of “September Song,” five of “September In The Rain,” two of “The September Of My Years” (both of those – one live and one in the studio – by Frank Sinatra), and several single versions of tracks that name the month in their titles.

We’ll consider the five versions of “September In The Rain.” The earliest is a 1937 take on the tune by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians, with vocals by Carmen Lombardo. As one might expect, it’s pretty and competent big band music. Twenty-four years later, Dinah Washington made the song the title track of a 1961 album. Her version is more rhythmic but still pretty standard pop jazz, except for the idiosyncratic quality of her voice. It went to No. 23 on the Hot 100 and to No. 5 on both the magazine’s R&B and Easy Listening charts, but it leaves me wanting something more.

In 1963, easy listening maestro Ray Charles took hold of the song, slowing it down a little too much and sanding the rough spots off entirely. The version by his Ray Charles Singers on the album Autumn Moods is a bit smooth and slick for even my easy listening-tolerant tastes. A year later, Chad & Jeremy did a tasteful version of the tune for their album Yesterday’s Gone, a take on the tune that I kind of like, maybe because of the harmonica solo.

And in 1971, a group called Aeroplane released a version of “September In The Rain” on singles in both France and West Germany, according to the website 45cat. Their take on the tune came my way in the Lost Jukebox project that showed up online some years ago (as did the single by Grady & Brady at the top of this piece), and the on-line discography for that venture indicates that the version I have is one of the two French releases on the Pink Elephant label. Aeroplane gives the tune a folk-rock setting that seems to work pretty well.

We’ll leave the rest of the September songs for another day in the next week and take a listen today to the only charting version of “September In The Rain,” Dinah Washington’s 1961 take on the tune:

Saturday Single No. 664

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

When we look on the digital shelves here in the EITW studios for tracks recorded on November 2, we find more than we anticipated as well as a broader variety of styles and genres than might be expected.

Our harvest starts in 1939 with “Jersey Belle Blues” by Lonnie Johnson. The Bluebird release recorded in Chicago was a piano-based blues ostensibly lamenting the loss of livestock:

My nights is so lonely, days is so doggone long
My bedroom is so lonely, every doggone thing is wrong
You know I ain’t had no milk and butter since my Jersey Belle been gone

We shift to New York City in 1954, when Dinah Washington recorded two tracks for the Mercury label that have ended up here: “Teach Me Tonight” and “I Just Couldn’t Stand It No More.” The first of those two was a sizable hit for Washington in early 1955, placing in the top eight on three of the various R&B charts Billboard compiled at the time, with its peak performance being No. 4 on the Best Seller chart. “I Just Couldn’t Stand It No More” wound up as a B-Side to Washington’s “The Show Must Go On,” which did not reach the charts.

Tony Bennett pops up on our November 2 list with “Love Look Away,” recorded in 1958. Released as a single by Columbia, the lush ballad has the velvet-voiced stylist rejecting love: “After you go, I cry too much. Love, look away, lonely though I may be. Leave me and set me free.” The record did not chart.

Country singer Tommy Collins had some sizeable hits for Capitol on the Billboard country chart in the mid-1950s, reaching No. 2 with “You Better Not Do That” and No. 4 with “Whatcha Gonna Do Now” in 1954 and getting to No. 5 with “It Tickles” in 1955. He charted again with a track recorded on November 2, 1965; “If You Can’t Bite, Don’t Growl” – another light-hearted record, this one on Columbia – went to No. 7 on the country chart in early 1966. It bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks, peaking at No. 105.

The insistent “(I Know) I’m Losing You” by the Temptations is another track recorded November 2. Written by Norman Whitfield, Eddie Holland and Cornelius Grant and produced by Whitfield, the record was No. 1 for two weeks on the Billboard R&B chart and peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100. (One of my regrets as a music listener is that the first version I heard of the song was the 1970 cover by Rare Earth instead of the original version by the Temptations.)

The last tune we’ll think about this morning is a Bob Dylan track titled “Nobody ’Cept You.” It comes from the 1973 sessions in Los Angeles that Dylan held with The Band for the Planet Waves album. The box set notes from The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 indicate that “Nobody ’Cept You” was headed for the album but was knocked out at the last minute by “Wedding Song.” To me, that seems like a poor decision, but then, I’ve never liked “Wedding Song” and would have much preferred the sprightly love story of “Nobody ’Cept You” for the admittedly uneven album.

So, seven tracks to consider this morning. I think we can dismiss without quibbles the Lonnie Johnson and Tommy Collins tracks, as well as the Dinah Washington B-side. And as good as the Tony Bennett track is, it is a little overdone. Then, even though the Dylan tune is a bit of a rarity, I likely post his stuff too often, as least as compared with the Temptations and Dinah Washington.

Let’s do some digging: Since moving to my own site in early 2010, I’ve posted two tracks by Washington and eight tracks by the Temptations alone plus four additional tracks by them with the Supremes. In contrast, I’ve posted tracks by Dylan – with and without The Band – twenty-two times.

That decides it. “Teach Me Tonight,” recorded November 2, 1954, by Dinah Washington is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Dream When The Day Is Through’

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

As I scouted out possible post topics for the coming weeks last evening, I checked out the Billboard Hot 100 from May 5, 1962, a date fifty-two years gone yesterday. At the top of the heap was the Shirelles’ “Soldier Boy,” in the first of its three weeks at No. 1. I scanned the rest of the Top Ten and found only one surprise: “Slow Twistin’,” by Chubby Checker with Dee Dee Sharp. Then I headed for the bottom of the chart, where I generally find stuff I’ve never heard before.

That held true last evening. Bubbling under at No. 106, in its first week in the chart, was “Dream” by Dinah Washington. I’m not sure I really love the arrangement, but the vocal is affecting.

I’ve got a few things by Dinah Washington on the shelves: five or so LPs, one CD and a few more things on the digital shelves. But “Dream” was new to me. The version that was listed in the 1962 Hot 100 – the version above – was a remake of a 1954 single. That 1954 version went to No. 9 on the Billboard R&B chart, where Washington had forty-seven hits between 1944 and 1961. On the pop chart, she hit twenty-one times between 1959 and 1963, when she died from a drug overdose.

The 1962 version of “Dream” moved up to No. 92 the following week and then was gone from the chart. One hesitates to read too much into a singer’s interpretation, but in Washington’s delivery of the simple lyric, I hear a weariness, perhaps leavened with hope, but nevertheless there.

We’ll be back Thursday, maybe with another look at that Hot 100 from May 5, 1962.

Roogalators, Quetzals & More

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Today’s a good day to follow up on a few bits and pieces, most of them from Friday’s post.

As I wrote Friday, one of the things that caught my eye when I dug into Johnny Rivers’ “(I Washed My Hands In) Muddy Water” was that it had a tune called “Roogalator” as its B-side. I wondered in that post about the connection between Rivers’ B-side – a jam punctuated with shouts of “Roogalator” – and the record that Bobby Jameson made with Frank Zappa, “Gotta Find My Roogalator.”

I got a chance to ask Bobby about it Monday, and he told me: “I got the name ‘roogalator’ from Johnny when we were riding motorcycles in ’66. . . . Don’t know where he got it from.”

I noticed as I was digging that there was also a mid-70s band named Roogalator with several videos posted on YouTube. The persistence of “roogalator” reminds me of the fascination that musicians – mostly on the West Coast, I think – had during the late 1940s and early 1950s with the word “voot.” My collection of mp3s, which doesn’t focus too much on that era, has six songs that use the word in their titles, one of which is “No Voot, No Boot” by Dinah Washington with Lucky Thompson’s All Stars.

In the midst of my thinking about all that over the weekend, I got an email from my pal Yah Shure, who wanted to know if I was aware of WXYG, the new album rock radio station in the St. Cloud market. I wasn’t, but I followed Yah Shure’s lead and checked it out.

The actual radio signal is 250 watts, which is pretty slender, and it turns out that we can’t get it on our radios inside the house because of the presence of WJON less than a block away. But it comes in fine through its website (click the blue “Play” button), and it’s great fun. I looked at the station’s playlist as I’m writing this, and the last five tunes the station has played are “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” by George Harrison, “Tommy Can You Hear Me” by the Who, “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC, “Star” by David Bowie and “Empty Sky” by Elton John. And if I heard correctly over the weekend, the station is commercial-free all summer.

I found WXYG’s Facebook page and left a note saying that the station reminded me of the now-gone show titled “Beaker Street” that aired on KAAY out of Little Rock, Arkansas. And whoever takes care of the station’s Facebook page responded, saying “We like to think of it as ‘Beaker Street’ on steroids.”

“Give It To Me” by the J. Geils band was one of the tunes I listed last Friday, and I mentioned the single edit of the track, a version that edited out Magic Dick’s superb harp solo. In our exchange of emails over this past weekend, Yah Shure recalled that when he went to his local record store to purchase the single back in 1973, he found that some of the singles had the edited version of the track and some had the full-length version of the track. The two versions, Yah Shure said, were the products of two separate pressing plants. I wonder how often that’s happened.

And while Yah Shure told me he had no insight into the above-mentioned “roogalator” question, he said that he’d similarly wondered about the origin of Sonny Bono’s fascination with the word “quetzal.” (According to Wikipedia, “quetzal” refers to “a group of colourful birds of the trogon family found in the Americas. Quetzal is also often used to refer to one particular species, the Resplendent Quetzal.”) Yah Shure listed three titles in which Bono, as producer, used the word. Sadly – having deleted our email exchange – I can only recall one of them this morning. But here’s “Walkin’ the Quetzal,” a brief instrumental that was on the B-side of “Baby Don’t Go” both when it was released and went nowhere in 1964 (as Reprise 0309) and in 1965, when “Baby Don’t Go/Walkin’ the Quetzal” was released as Reprise 0392 and went to No. 8.

Continuing the quetzal quest, I found an interesting site called Probe is Turning-On the People! – evidently a catalog of webcasts, podcasts or actual broadcasts – and an entry there lists eight separate Sonny Bono “quetzal” records and says:

The so-called Quetzal records were a series of B-side instrumental throwaways created by Sonny Bono and his arranger Harold Battiste, in cooperation with Sonny & Cher’s managers Brian Stone and Charlie Greene. Quickly recorded and musically skeletal, the records were designed (in the manner of Bono’s mentor, Phil Spector) to compel radio attention to their respective A-sides. Although the songwriting was invariably credited to Bono, Greene and Stone, the general concensus is that the Quetzal sides were written (to the extent they were written at all) by Battiste.

The note adds, “[T]he word quetzal was an in-joke among Sonny and his friends, chosen most likely simply because they liked the sound of it.”