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 It’s a pretty record, but it’s offered in a doo-woppish style that likely sounded out-of-date by mid-1964.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.