Posts Tagged ‘Fats Domino’

Chart Digging, July 25, 1964

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Looking into the records in the higher portions of the Billboard Hot 100 from July 25, 1964 – fifty years ago today – is fun but unsurprising, like reading a favorite novel for the fifth time. I’ve been known to do that, read books five times or more, but I also read stuff I’ve never read before, combing the shelves at the local library for authors and titles new to me.

The parallel here is, of course, to go deeper into the Hot 100 from fifty years ago and find tunes that I’ve never heard (or may have heard but have since forgotten). Today’s exploration brings up six records from that long ago chart’s Bubbling Under section.

Parked at the very bottom of the Bubbling Under section, at No. 135, is one of those oddities: A performer’s only listed record sitting in the lowest position possible for one week only. After giving it a listen, I might think that “A Casual Kiss” by Leon Peels, an R&B singer born in Arkansas and raised in California, might have deserved more attention. It’s a pretty record, but it’s offered in a doo-woppish style that likely sounded out-of-date by mid-1964. It would have made for a great slow dance, though. And it’s interesting to note that a few years earlier, Peels was the lead singer of the Blue Jays, who were themselves a one-hit wonder, with “Lover’s Island” going to No. 31 in 1961.

Sitting at No. 129, we find a record I have heard, although I didn’t recall it until this morning. “The Seventh Dawn” by Ferrante & Teicher is one of the movie themes the piano-playing duo frequently recorded, and it’s one of the 175 F&T tracks on my digital shelves. The 7th Dawn was a 1964 film about the Communist insurgency in Malaya after World War II; it starred, among others, William Holden and Susannah York. I don’t know about the movie, but the F&T single is actually kind of blah, and its chart performance reflects that. In four weeks of bubbling, the highest the record got was No. 124, a great distance from the duo’s best charting singles: “Exodus” went to No. 2 and “Tonight” from West Side Story went to No. 8, both in 1961.

With Fats Domino’s unmistakable voice and the R&B sax break, “Mary, Oh Mary” has some of the elements of Domino’s classic New Orleans work from the 1950s. But as good as the single sounds today – and it’s pretty darn good – it wasn’t what the marketplace was looking for in July 1964. “Mary, Oh Mary” was bubbling under at No. 127 fifty years ago; it would stay there one more week and then disappear. It was the 74th single Domino put in or near the pop chart since 1955. He would have three more records reach the Hot 100, but just barely, with two records going to No. 99 later in 1964, and his cover of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” reaching No. 100 in 1968.

Jerry Wallace’s name showed up here once before, when I wrote about his 1972 hit (No. 38 pop, No. 2 country, No. 9 AC), “If You Leave Me Tonight I’ll Cry,” which was used as a plot device in a January 1972 episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. This morning, we’re listening to “It’s A Cotton Candy World” from its perch fifty years ago at No. 126. Three weeks later, the record, which is pleasant but no more than that, slipped into the Hot 100 and spent one week at No. 99. It was one of seventeen records the Missouri-born performer placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1958 and 1972. From 1965 into 1978, he placed nineteen records in the country Top 40, starting with “If You Leave Me . . .” and including its follow-up, “Do You Know What It’s Like To Be Lonesome,” which went to No. 2 on the country chart.

Moving up ten slots in that long-ago Bubbling Under section, we find at No. 116 an updated version of a famed American song. “Frankie & Johnnie” was likely a Nineteenth Century folk song but its origins are misty, says Wikipedia. (For those interested in popular music history, the story of the song, as told at Wikipedia, is fascinating.) Either way, the tale of Frankie and her two-timing man showed up in the Hot 100 five times between 1959 and 1966, with the best-performing version being Sam Cooke’s 1963 take, which went to No. 14 (No. 4 R&B). The version we’re interested in this morning is, as the record label says, “The New ‘Frankie and Johnnie’ Song” by the Greenwood County Singers. One of two charting records for the California-based group, which included a young Van Dyke Parks, the record would move into the Hot 100 a week later and eventually climb to No. 75 (No. 15 AC).

You might remember the nursery rhyme:

Bobby Shafto’s gone to sea,
Silver buckles at his knee;
He’ll come back and marry me,
Bonny Bobby Shafto!

Well, fifty years ago this week, Bobby Shafto was Bubbling Under, with “She’s My Girl” sitting at No. 105. The English singer, about whom even Joel Whitburn seems to know little, was, one would think, stage-named after the subject of the nursery rhyme, who was likely, says Wikipedia, “a resident of Hollybrook, County Wicklow, Ireland, who died in 1737.” Or the singing Shafto could have been stage-named for Robert Shafto, an Eighteenth Century member of the British Parliament. Or the singer’s parents might have actually carried the surname Shafto and decided to saddle their son from his birth with that burdensome name. I don’t know, but I lean toward its being the silly brainstorm of the singer’s manager or some promotions person employed by the Rust label. In any case, the record was not bad, but it really went nowhere, spending one week at No. 99 before bubbling back down to where we found it. It was Shafto’s only charting single.

Fats & His Monkey

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

I love unlikely cover versions, pairings of song and artist that make me go “Huh?” And looking back over the past few weeks of posts here, I realized that I’d mentioned for the second time – without ever posting it – one of the most intriguing and unlikely covers I know about: Fats Domino’s take on the Beatles’ “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey.”

Domino recorded the tune for Reprise in 1968, but a single release didn’t hit the charts. The track was supposed to show up on an album, but I don’t think it did. The liner notes of the sampler titled The 1969 Warner-Reprise Record Show – which is where I found the track – say that “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide . . .” is on the album Fats Is Back, but the 1999 CD release on the Bullseye Blues label omits the track. So I checked a couple of discography sites, and neither the track listing at Discogs nor the listing at Both Sides Now show “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide . . .” as being on Fats Is Back.

It’s possible, I suppose, that both discography sites are relying on the track listing from the Bullseye Blues release, but I kind of doubt it. I think that, despite its being promoted in the Warner-Reprise sampler, the track was omitted from Fats Is Back when it was released in 1968. And that makes me wonder what happened.

Anyway, here’s Fats and Reprise 0843 : “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey.”

The track has since shown up on a CD released last year in Britain: Come Together: Black America Sings Lennon & McCartney. The album includes twenty-three other tracks; at least one of those – Chubby Checker’s take on “Back In The U.S.S.R.” – has been featured in this blog.

Saturday Single No. 286

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Earlier this week, my pal jb, proprietor of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, reminded his readers of a (sometimes sad) truth. Musical memory is ephemeral:

There was a time when Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” was bred into the DNA of music fans. You couldn’t help knowing it. The record was one of several that symbolized what the 1950s sounded like, it was anthologized everywhere, and as a result, people who hadn’t been born when it was a hit could sing along with it, or the first line, in perfect Fats Domino cadence: “I found my thrill . . . .” (In the 70s, on the TV show Happy Days, it was shorthand for gettin’ lucky, or the promise of gettin’ lucky.) 

“Blueberry Hill” is not universally familiar anymore, though. Oldies radio left the 50s behind a long time ago, and 50s music is no longer a staple of that great cultural leveler, the wedding reception playlist. So it’s doubtful that your average person under the age of 30 would know “Blueberry Hill.” For those of us who do know it, the song is so closely identified with Domino that it’s surprising to learn that A) he wasn’t the first to record it and B) he wasn’t the last, either.

From there, jb went on to talk about earlier and later versions of “Blueberry Hill.” As he did and I nodded along, the undercurrent of my mind was recalling a two-LP set that came my way in early 1973 from a fellow student at St. Cloud State. Bruce, who worked in the same office as I did in the learning resources center (better known as the library), said he liked it, but he’d gotten tired of it. So I stopped by his house on the way home from school one day and paid something like two bucks for a package of Fats Domino’s hits, a 1971 United Artists release in its Legendary Masters Series.

Like all the others of our generation that jb mentions in the above paragraphs, I knew “Blueberry Hill,” and yes, I likely still know it well enough to “sing along with it . . . in perfect Fats Domino cadence.” But I didn’t know any of the rest of Domino’s amazingly deep catalog. With its twenty-eight tracks – along with a ten-page insert with photos, an appreciative essay and a discography – the two-LP package introduced me to, among others, “The Fat Man,” “Ain’t That A Shame,” “My Blue Heaven,” “Blue Monday,” “Whole Lotta Loving,” “I Wanna Walk You Home” and so much more.

In the paragraphs above, jb mentioned oldies radio. In 1973, there was no such animal, at least as we know it today. (I stand corrected; see note below from regular reader Yah Shure.) On occasion, if my memory is accurate this fine morning, one might hear a hit from the mid-1950s on KDWB from the Twin Cities or – more rarely – during the hours that WJON across the tracks in St. Cloud played Top 40. (The more advanced radio geeks among my readers are free to correct me in either direction: That it was unlikely to hear a 1950s record on those stations; or that it was far more frequent than I recall.)

Whatever the case, almost all of the music on Fats Domino, as the two-LP set was simply titled, was new to me. Beyond “Blueberry Hill,” I knew only one other tune on the album – “I Hear You Knocking” – and that was only because Welshman Dave Edmunds’ cover of the song had gone to No. 4 early in 1971. (On that cover, Edmunds gleefully name-checks several of his inspirations from the 1950s, among them Domino and Smiley Lewis, who recorded the original version of “I Hear You Knocking” in 1955.) Beyond that, I got a slight glimmering that if I wanted to truly understand pop and rock music, I was going to eventually have to dig into the music of the 1950s and earlier.

That glimmering got lost in a few months as I began to prepare for my academic year in Denmark, and that year, as I’ve related here before, brought me the music of the Allman Brothers Band and the folks at Muscle Shoals, which determined much of my musical digging for a few years. I eventually did get to the rock ’n’ roll of the 1950s and the R&B that preceded it in the 1940s, and I learned at least a little from that era about the music that moves me.

So I won’t say that the tune I’m presenting today was a major tool as I tinkered with the musical machine; if it was, it took a long time to for me to figure out how to use it. But having been reminded of the Fats Domino two-LP set this week, it seemed right to revisit Fats’ version of “I Hear You Knocking.” Recorded in 1958, it was released in late 1961 as the B-Side to Fats’ cover of Hank Williams “Jambalaya (Down On The Bayou.)” The A-Side went to No. 30. “I Hear You Knocking” went to No. 67, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Six Tunes For A Plugged Head

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Every year in late summer – the first couple weeks of September or so – something in the plant world decides to declare war on me. I don’t know if it’s pollen, but then, I’m no botanist, so I suppose it could be. Whatever it is, though, it doesn’t like me very much. And I spend, usually, a week to ten days with a sinus infection, feeling as if someone has turned my head into a block of concrete. (There are those, I imagine, who will tell me that September is no different, that I am a blockhead the rest of the year, too. Fine. Chuckle away. At least someone is getting something out of this.)

This year, however, my ailment lasted longer than usual, and I began to find myself dragging more and more each day. When I started last Friday on the fourth week of feeling crappy, I decided enough was enough. And though I could not get in to see Dr. Julie yesterday, I did get an appointment with one of her colleagues. He asked me my symptoms and nodded as I listed them. He listened to my lungs, looked in my ears and down my throat. And he told me I have a sinus infection. More importantly, he prescribed an antibiotic. So I should be perkier in a few days.

In the meantime, here are some related tunes.

J.J. Cale’s first album, Naturally, remains one of my favorites, with its slow Okie groove. The best track on the 1972 record is probably “Magnolia,” but this morning, we need “Call the Doctor.”

I won’t call the Bliss Band a favorite – I haven’t listened to the group’s stuff long enough to use the word – but I find that enjoy the group’s late 1970s work when it pops up on the RealPlayer. Here’s “Doctor” from the group’s 1979 album, Neon Smiles. The band sings, “I don’t need you, doctor to make me better . . . I need a shot of rock ’n’ roll!” A good thought.

I have eight versions of the classic R&B song “Sick & Tired” in my collection. Here’s one that I don’t have: Fats Domino’s version of the tune. Domino’s version of the tune peaked at No. 22 in the spring of 1958. The original version, by Chris Kenner, had been recorded and released in 1957.

And of course, perhaps the most appropriate tune for what I’ve been dealing with is the first hit by the Electric Light Orchestra, which went to No. 9 in early 1975: “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head.”

Along with a diagnosis, one thing the doctor provides is hope. And that was the title of a track that showed up on Quicksilver Messenger Service’s 1971 album, Quicksilver.

And of course, in a week or two, with my medicine and rest and other good stuff, I’ll find better days. So here’s the official video for Bruce Springsteen’s “Better Days,” which came from the 1992 album Lucky Town.

That should do it for today. If all goes well, then tomorrow we’ll dig into the final six records in the Ultimate Jukebox.