Posts Tagged ‘Glen Campbell’

‘If You See Your Brother . . .’

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

So Glen Campbell’s journey has ended. The Arkansas-born musician – and how slender a reed that word seems, given Campbell’s accomplishments! – died Tuesday in Nashville from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81.

As happens when someone of Campbell’s stature passes, it’s all over the news, and there seems to be no point in my repeating what others have reported at venues with wider reaches than this one. The New York Times’ coverage is here, and the report from Rolling Stone is here.

And I guess I’ll share here a link to the piece I wrote the day after the Texas Gal and I saw Campbell and his band at the Paramount Theatre here in St. Cloud. The show took place in May 2011, after Campbell had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but before that diagnosis was made public. When Campbell and his family made the public aware of his illness the next month, the Texas Gal and I both nodded, recalling moments during the show when Campbell has seemed a little confused.

Beyond the memories of that wonderful evening at the Paramount, I have plenty of Campbell’s music around: A total of 103 tracks on the digital shelves encompassing the four great 1960s albums, Gentle On My Mind, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Wichita Lineman and Galveston plus his 1968 album of duets with Bobbie Gentry and some other bits and pieces. And rummaging through them this morning, one of them brought me an “Oh, yes,” moment.

I have no idea what Glen Campbell would want for his musical epitaph, maybe something from his last album, Adiós, released earlier this year, or maybe something else from the final cluster of albums released since his condition was made public. But one of the tracks on my digital shelves spoke to me this morning. It went to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1969, peaked at No. 2 on the magazine’s country chart and was No. 1 for a week on the easy listening chart. Here’s “Try A Little Kindness.”

‘Sitting At No. 100 . . .’

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

It’s time for a little bit of chart digging. We’re going to look at four Billboard Hot 100 charts released on July 8 over the years – 1967, 1972, 1978 and 1989 are the years that come up when I sort out the files (well, so do 1995 and 2000, but I’m not interested) – and see what records sat at No. 100 on those four dates. If there was a Bubbling Under section, we’ll take a quick look at what record brought up the rear and see what we can find out about that.

Right off the top, we get a classic. Sitting at No. 100 on July 8, 1967, was “Gentle On My Mind” by Glen Campbell. It was the first week in the chart for Campbell’s cover of John Hartford’s tune, and the record would stall out four weeks later at No. 62 (No. 30 country). Capitol re-released the single a little more than a year later, and in November 1968, the record hit No. 39 (without re-entering the country Top 40). I’ve always tended to think of “Gentle” as Campbell’s first big hit, but by late 1968, the singer had already hit the Top 40 (and No. 2, 1 and 3, respectively, on the country chart) with “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “I Want To Live” and “Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife.”

Sitting at the very bottom of the chart and bubbling under at No. 135 on that July day forty-seven years ago was the original version of “My Elusive Dreams” by Curly Putman. The Alabama singer-songwriter’s version would go one notch higher, but a little higher on that same chart (and eventually peaking at No. 89), was a version of the tune by David Houston and Tammy Wynette that would go to No. 1 on the country chart. Sadly, I can’t find a version of Putnam’s original single; he seems to have re-recorded it in recent years, but I’m not interested in that. (Bobby Vinton in 1970 and Charlie Rich in 1975 would release versions of “My Elusive Dreams” that each hit the pop, country and adult contemporary charts.)

When we dig into the very bottom of the Hot 100 from July 8, 1972, we run into a band that’s been mentioned at least twice in this space over the years, now with a slight change of name. Sitting at No. 100 is “Country Woman” by the Magic Lantern. The band from Warrington, England, had previously called itself the Magic Lanterns and had hit No. 29 in late 1968 with “Shame, Shame.” “Country Woman” came out on Charisma, the band’s third label; previous releases had come out on Atlantic and Big Tree. The record, the last the band would get into the chart, peaked at No. 88.

My files show no Bubbling Under section in the July 8, 1972, Hot 100.

Our first two stops at No. 100 found records on the way up; when we look at the Hot 100 from July 8, 1978, we find a record about to leave the chart: George Benson’s “On Broadway” had peaked at No. 7 (No. 2 R&B and No. 25 AC) in mid-June and had then tumbled back down the chart. Benson’s cover of the Drifters’ 1963 hit was the second of his eventual four Top 10 singles: “This Masquerade” went to No. 10 (No. 3 R&B and No. 6 AC) in 1976, “Give Me The Night” would go to No. 4 (No. 1 R&B and No. 26 AC) in 1980, and “Turn Your Love Around” would go to No. 5 (No. 1 R&B and No. 9 AC) in 1982. Benson’s last chart presence came when 1998’s “Standing Together” bubbled under at No. 101, giving Benson a total of twenty records in or near the Hot 100.

There were only ten singles bubbling under that July 7, 1978, chart, and sitting at No. 110 was “I Just Want To Be With You” by the Floaters. The Detroit R&B group had hit big a year earlier when “Float On” went to No. 2 (No. 1 for six weeks on the R&B chart), but the second time was no charm, as “I Just Want To Be With You,” which actually sounds pretty good to me this morning, bubbled under for five weeks and got no higher than No. 105. (I have to be honest: I don’t remember “Float On” at all. As large as its national profile was, the record either did not dent the playlists of the stations I was listening to that summer of 1977, which were KDWB in the car and WJON in the evenings, or it just made no impression on me.)

And as we get to the Billboard Hot 100 from July 8, 1989, we again find a week when nothing bubbled under. And the last entry in the chart, No. 100, is the last presence in the charts for the London trio Wang Chung: “Praying To A New God.” The record had peaked at No. 63 and would be gone by the next week’s chart. The group is far better remembered, of course, for its three Top 20 hits: “Dance Hall Days,” No. 16 in 1984; “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” No. 2 in 1986; and “Let’s Go,” No. 9 in 1987. I was familiar with those three, likely because I was in grad school at Missouri and teaching and working at St. Cloud State during those years. But I don’t at all remember “Praying To A New God,” and I think that’s okay. Here’s the official video for the record:

‘She’ll Just Hear That Phone . . .’

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

As most readers know, I’m always looking for an interesting cover of a familiar song. And I found one this morning. On this date in 1969, a cover of “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” by a group called the Mad Lads was sitting at No. 90 in the Billboard Hot 100:

It turns out that the Mad Lads recorded for Volt in Memphis. Originally from Detroit, the lads got three singles into the lower reaches of the Hot 100, starting in 1965. But after “Phoenix” peaked at No. 84 in 1969, the Mad Lads were gone from the charts and, one would guess, were mostly forgotten.

Tthe song certainly wasn’t. According to Second Hand Songs, more than ninety artists or groups have covered Jimmy Webb’s tune since 1966, when Johnny Rivers included it on his album Changes. A year later, Glen Campbell saw his version of the tune go to No. 26. And after that came Floyd Cramer, Johnny Mathis, Henson Cargill, Larry Carlton, O.C. Smith, Burl Ives and more, right down to singer Carol Welsman earlier this year. (It’s interesting to note that the next-to-last version of the tune listed is the one by Webb and Campbell from Webb’s 2010 album Just Across the River.)

The vast majority of covers of “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” came early, with forty-six versions listed in 1968 alone, including versions I’d love to hear by saxophonists Ace Cannon and King Curtis. I can probably get by without the version by Ray Conniff and the Singers, though. As often happens, a foreign language version of the tune intrigues me, this one a 1969 cover of the tune in French – “Le Temps Que J’arrive à Marseille” – by Claude François. (Both videos available of François’ version, sadly, chop off the last few seconds.)

But no one, I’m sure, could match what Isaac Hayes did with Webb’s song, stretching it for more than eighteen minutes and most of the second side of his great 1969 album, Hot Buttered Soul. For nine minutes, over a quiet but insistent beat, Hayes tells the back story of the song, the tale of the man who’s driving toward Phoenix and away from the woman who’s broken his heart over and over. Then he breaks into the song. Some strings sweeten it, and horns, piano and then organ provide punctuation as the track pulls the narrator toward Albuquerque and Oklahoma and, finally, home.

(An edit of Hayes’ long version was released as a single and went to No. 37. I’ve never heard the edit, and I think I’d like to. I saw several edits available for purchase online this morning, but I have no idea which one, if any, is true to the 1969 single. Even when I finally hear it, though, I doubt that it could be any better than Hayes’ original version.)

Love Means What?

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Forty-one years ago this week, a sweet little ditty occupied the No. 45 spot on the Billboard Hot 100: “Love Means (You Never Have To Say You’re Sorry)” by the Sounds of Sunshine. The Sounds of Sunshine were actually three brothers from the Los Angeles area – Walt, Warner and George Wilder – and the sound they offered on their only hit record owed a lot to the Lettermen and the Sandpipers (and probably a few other vocal groups that don’t come to mind at the moment).

For a one-shot hit, the record did pretty well, peaking at No. 39 in the Hot 100 and at No. 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The album from which the single was pulled got to No. 187 on the Billboard 200.

The source of the song – written by Warner Wilder – is, of course, the most famous line from the movie Love Story, a 1970 film “about a girl who died” co-starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. Here’s the scene in which the impossibly young McGraw delivers that line:

The line became the 1970s equivalent of a meme: It was impossible to avoid and to ignore. The same was true of the movie’s theme, of course (“Where do I begin . . .”). The theme made the Hot 100 in versions by Andy Williams, Henry Mancini, Tony Bennett, the duo of Nino Tempo and April Stevens and its composer, Francis Lai. It was a pretty tune, very hummable and generally inconsequential. The famous line of dialogue offered by McGraw (and originated by Erich Segal, who wrote the screenplay and the novel on which the film is based) is, however, bullshit.

Now, pop culture offers all sorts of twaddle to its audiences as wisdom. Listeners, viewers and readers can, if they are so moved, pull epigrams or advice on living well from almost any bit of pop culture ephemera. (Well, “Disco Duck” might be a stretch.) And if those epigrams help those pop culture consumers make their ways through the crabgrass of life, that’s just fine.

But I think that a large swath of the Baby Boomer demographic closed Segal’s book or walked up the theater aisle during the closing credits of the movie with the thought circling through their minds that maybe love really does mean never having to say you’re sorry. I wonder how many college relationships foundered because one or the other of the individuals involved held to the wisdom of Segal and McGraw during a disagreement when a simple “I’m sorry” would have repaired a lot of damage.

Well, maybe not all that many. I don’t know. I’m sure there were those who thought “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” was a sweetly romantic idea, but I’d also like to think that most of those folks realized that what works in the movies rarely works in real life. For my part, I was not all that experienced in what worked in love at the time, but even at seventeen, I knew that a philosophy of no apologies would be more nearly lethal than nurturing to a romantic coupling.

Ah, well, it’s a line from a movie that inspired Warner Wilder to write a pretty song. If we dismissed all the songs based on bullshit, then the pop charts would be a lot shorter and not nearly as much fun.

So what else was going on in the Hot 100 during the week that the Sounds of Sunshine saw their single sitting at No. 45? Here’s the Top Ten:

“It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King
“Indian Reservation” by the Raiders
“You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor
“Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
“Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
“Mr. Big Stuff” by Jean Knight
“Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Draggin’ The Line” by Tommy James
“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” by the Bee Gees
“That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” by Carly Simon

The only one of those I would wince at as it came out of the speakers today would be the Bee Gees’ record; I didn’t like it that much when it came out, either (and I would have guessed its time in the Top Ten to be much closer to February 1972 than the summer of 1971). I’ve written about “It’s Too Late” and “Treat Her Like A Lady” before (and they both popped up this week on the little mp3 player that holds the Ultimate Jukebox), but there are three other records here I like nearly as well: “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be,” “Don’t Pull Your Love” and “Draggin’ The Line,” and my regard for that last record is a surprise to me. It must be the purple flowers.

I found a few other surprises looking further down in the Billboard Hot 100 from July 17, 1971. We’ll jump off from No. 45, where we found the Sounds of Sunshine’s single, and drop down from there.

Finding an Elvis Presley record I’ve never heard before isn’t all that startling. My Elvis listening has focused mostly on the work at Sun Records in the 1950s and in Memphis in 1969 (with a little bit of digging into a few of the soundtracks from the early 1960s). So until this morning, I’d never heard “I’m Leavin’,” which was sitting at No 59 during this week in 1971. It’s a record with a different (some might say “odd”) sound to it; the original poster at YouTube had some comments about that. “I’m Leavin’” was heading to a peak at No. 36 and a surprising (to me, anyway) peak of No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Someday, I’m going to burn myself a CD of covers of Gordon Lightfoot’s songs. One of the tunes on that CD will be “The Last Time I Saw Her” as performed by Glen Campbell. It’s a very good version of a song I know much better from Lightfoot’s 1968 album, Did She Mention My Name. Campbell’s version was at No 69 forty-one years ago this week; it peaked at No. 61 on the pop chart and went to No. 21 in the country chart.

The Continental 4 was an R&B vocal quartet from Pittsburgh, and during this week in 1971, their only hit was sitting at No. 84. “Day by Day (Every Minute of the Hour)” is a sweeping piece of Philadelphia-style soul that didn’t sound a lot different than a lot of other records fighting for airplay at the time. Still, the record got to No. 19 on the R&B chart even as it stalled at No. 84 on the pop chart.

Sorting out the history of the Nite-Liters, a group started in Louisville, Kentucky, by Harvey Fuqua and Tony Churchill, is a little confusing. Joel Whitburn says in Top Pop Singles that the project evolved to include seventeen people in three groups: the vocal groups Love, Peace & Happiness and the New Birth as well as the band still called the Nite-Liters. All of that was yet to come during mid-July 1971, when the Nite-Liters’ “K-Jee” was sitting at No. 92.  The record, the first of ten in the Hot 100 for the Nite-Liters and the New Birth, peaked at No. 39 and made it to No. 17 on the R&B chart.

When I glanced at Sonny James’ entry in Whitburn’s Book of Top 40 Country Hits, I did a double-take. Between November of 1964 and July of 1972, James had twenty-five consecutive records reach the top three spots on the country chart; one of those peaked at No. 3, three of them went to No. 2, and the other twenty-one records, including a remarkable sixteen in a row, went to No. 1. Those years were, of course, only a portion of James’ long career: Between 1953 and 1983, he placed sixty-four records in the Country Top 40. His presence on the pop chart was a little less daunting but still notable: Twenty-six records in or near the Hot 100 between 1956 and 1972. He’s here today because forty-one years ago, his “Bright Lights, Big City” was sitting at No. 100. It would peak at No. 91 on the pop chart, and it was the fifteenth of those sixteen consecutive No. 1 hits on the country chart.

Watching A Legend At Work

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

So when Glen Campbell wants to close the show – at least the main portion of the show, just before the two scheduled encores – what does he do?

Well, those who’d been keeping track of the hits he’d performed last night at St. Cloud’s Paramount Theatre had a pretty good idea. And they were right, as Campbell’s seven-person band – four of them his children – launched into “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

It made sense. “Rhinestone Cowboy” was No. 1 for two weeks in 1975, and it was the biggest hit of Campbell’s career, a career that dates back to 1961 as a singer and back into the 1950s as a session guitarist. It’s a catchy tune, but it never caught on with me back then, and – although I knew I would hear it Tuesday evening – it wasn’t one of the songs that drew me to the Paramount.

But when Campbell came out to the lip of the stage as the song’s chorus came around the second time, he pointed his microphone at the audience and asked all 600 or so of us to sing with him. And just like the other folks in the audience, I found myself singing along from my seat in the balcony: “Like a rhinestone cowboy, riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo . . .”

And I was having a great time as I did.

But that’s what great entertainers do: They charm their audiences, pull them in and then send them home humming songs they’d perhaps never much cared for or maybe never even heard before. Glen Campbell did all that last night at the Paramount, and more.

Many performers start a show with one of their hits, and the Texas Gal and I shared guesses as we waited for the show to start. I continued to ponder the question a little bit as I listened – more and more intrigued and interested – to a five-song set by Instant People, an alt country/folkish group made up of three of Campbell’s children and two other musicians.

By the time a couple of other musicians had joined those already on stage and introduced Campbell, I’d decided that he’d likely open with “Gentle On My Mind.” It was, after all, his first major hit, going to No. 39 in 1968. And it was, in fact, his opener last evening, followed by the powerhouse pair of “Galveston” and “By the Time I Get To Phoenix.” I’ve seen a fair number of concerts over the years, but I’d be hard-pressed to remember an opening salvo like that.

From there, Campbell and his band made their ways through his career, touching on other hits – “It’s Only Make Believe,” “Try A Little Kindness,” “True Grit” and more – and then visiting some other friends in the country oeuvre: Campbell gave us “Didn’t We,” a Jimmy Webb song more closely identified with Richard Harris. He and his eldest daughter Debby did a saucy version of “Jackson,” better known as a duet between Johnny Cash and June Carter or Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. And his younger daughter Ashley – a multi-instrumental and member of Instant People – picked up her banjo and joined Campbell up front for a lightning-fast rendition of “Dueling Banjos,” best known from the 1973 hit by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell (and from its inclusion in the 1972 film Deliverance).

For years before he made it as a singer, of course, Campbell was a prominent session guitarist in the Los Angeles area, working many times with Phil Spector, the Beach Boys and many, many others. He showed last night that even at the age of seventy-five, he’s still a dexterous and evocative guitarist. The pure speed demonstrated on “Dueling Banjos” was balanced by the simple and melodic solos he’d added – at that point in the show – to “Galveston,” “By the Time I Get To Phoenix” and a few others. (Some of those solos did evolve into some pretty quick country picking.) I should note that, given his age, Campbell’s voice has also held up well. It’s still rich in the lower register and effective though a bit reedy – almost like Willie Nelson’s – in the mid-range. He reached for very few high notes last evening, although when he reached for them, he got them.

Shortly after performing “Dueling Banjos,” Campbell and his band took us through a rapid but musically brilliant performance of the finale to Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” known more popularly among Baby Boomers as the Lone Ranger’s theme. Coming out of that – Campbell played the last minute or so with his guitar held over his head – he slowed things down with the last of the three great Webb songs: “Wichita Lineman.”

I’ve shared here a couple of times my musical bucket list, my collection of certain songs by certain performers I’d like to hear someday. I’m not sure why it wasn’t, but “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell should have been on that list.

(It’s not like it’s rare or anything, but here’s the original version of “Wichita Lineman.”)

There was more, of course. “Southern Nights,” “Let It Be Me,” a duet from Debby and Ashley on Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide,” the two encores of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (Campbell noted that he played guitar on the Righteous Brothers’ version of the tune in 1964) and the hymn-like “A Better Place.” By the time the lights came up and the Texas Gal and I began to make our ways out of the balcony, I was wondering – out of all the concerts I’ve seen – how many times I have actually seen a legend at work. Whatever the total turns out to be, last night was one of them.

But there was a moment yet to come. After waiting a few minutes in the lobby, the Texas Gal and I went into the theater’s main floor and down to the stage. There, we bought a CD with highlights of Instant People’s album We Must Be Camping and got it signed by both Ashley and Cal Campbell.

And as we left the theater, we saw the tour’s bus waiting at the curb. We figured that the seventy-five-year-old Campbell was already inside, resting, having already done an afternoon show at the Paramount before taking the stage again for the evening peformance. But we thought we’d hang around for a while and see if anything happened. A few moments later, the bus door opened, and out came two of the younger folks on the tour. One slipped away quickly, and I told the other fellow that they’d all done a great show. He thanked me, and I decided, well, what the hell?

I held out my ticket stub from the concert and asked if Glen was on the bus. The younger fellow nodded, took my stub and turned back to the bus, saying, “I’ll see what I can do.” As you can see from the picture below, he did pretty well for me.

Amended since first posting.

‘You’re The One Who’s Supposed To Know . . .’

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Last year, while sharing here on a weekly basis the records in my Ultimate Jukebox, I kept my pocket mp3 player loaded with only those two-hundred and twenty eight recordings, listening at odd times to the combinations and juxtapositions those songs created on random play.

Those tunes used up about two-thirds of the player’s memory, so when I was finished with the UJ project, I hooked the player up to the computer and loaded into it another one hundred recordings, stuff that I either forgot when I was compiling my list or that just missed the cut.

Among those additions were a couple of tunes from Glen Campbell, who’d been absent from the UJ. And as they’ve popped up now and then in the past few months, I’ve pondered Campbell’s place in the vague and mostly instinctual ranking of performers that whirls around in my head. He seems somehow absent when I think about singers and groups that I’ve enjoyed and respected over the years. But when I think about some of his individual records, there’s a lot there. Anyone who can pull off three records like “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” in less than two years has to be reckoned with.

It’s worth noting that all three of those – and much of the rest of Campbell’s extensive catalog – came from the pen of Jimmy Webb, a writer who I sometimes think has been forgotten.* The richness of the Webb/Campbell collaboration sometimes catches me by surprise, and I’ve spent some time trying to figure out why. And the answer, I think, is timing. Those three records mentioned above did in fact come out in less than two years:

“By the Time I Get to Phoenix” entered the Billboard Hot 100 in late October 1967 and went to No. 26. It went to No. 2 on the country chart.

“Wichita Lineman” entered the Hot 100 in early November 1968 and went to No. 3; it was No. 1 for two weeks on the country chart.

“Galveston” entered the Hot 100 in early March 1969 and went to No. 4. It was No 1 for three weeks on the country chart.

And I began listening seriously to the radio and paying attention to the charts in August of 1969. Although I knew of all three of those Campbell records when they were popular, they don’t seem to attach themselves to a particular time as do a lot of the hits that came along – many of them far less good than the trio by Campbell – during my radio/chart years.

In fact, thinking of Glen Campbell and radio at the same time brings up two later and, to my mind, lesser Campbell singles: “Rhinestone Cowboy” from 1975 and “Southern Nights” from 1977. Both of those went to No. 1 on both the pop and country charts, but I didn’t particularly care for either of them.

So when I was collating the records for the Ultimate Jukebox, Campbell’s work didn’t show up. A track or two likely should have. And one would guess that that track or two would be pulled from the three Campbell-Webb city songs. On the other hand . . .

I wrote a while back about my experiences around 1970 as a bugler for military funerals. The funerals were for members of the Disabled American Veterans, so the men being buried were generally veterans of World War I or World War II. A member of the organization by the name of Axel O. would call me and then drive me to the various cemeteries, where I’d stand some distance from the gravesites and then play “Taps” at the end of the service.

Axel knew I liked music, and one day as he picked me up, he handed me a shoebox full of cassette tapes. “Here,” he said. “These came to me, but I don’t listen to tapes. If you do, you can have them.” I’m guessing, but I imagine that the tapes came to him from the estate of one of the deceased veterans whose funerals Axel helped arrange.

Wherever the tapes came from, I was interested. I thanked him, went to the funeral and played “Taps” and then rode home. It wasn’t until I was home that I dug into the box. I don’t recall everything that was there, as most of it was stuff I wouldn’t listen to at the time: Traditional country and easy listening. But there was a two-cassette package of a Glen Campbell live performance, and one of the songs that Campbell performed during that show was a song I’d never heard before.

“Where’s the Playground Susie?” had entered the Hot 100 in early May of 1969 and peaked at No. 26, reaching only No. 28 on the country chart. I don’t recall ever hearing it on the radio, but when I heard Campbell’s live performance of what was another Webb gem, the sweep of its melody, the sadness and confusion in its words and the playground metaphor all made me sit up and take notice.

I do tend to forget the record sometimes amid the presence in Campbell’s catalog of the better-known city trilogy (and his version of John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind”), but I think that if I were to make room in that mythical jukebox for a record by Glen Campbell, it would be “Where’s the Playground Susie?”

*Not entirely forgotten: My friend Dan tipped me off earlier this year to Just Across the River, a collection of thirteen classic Webb tunes performed by a ridiculously rich list of performers, including Campbell and Webb himself.

Chart Digging: January 6, 1962

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

As 1962 was in its first week, your narrator was busy being eight years old and learning third-grade stuff at Lincoln Elementary School from Miss Kelly. She was new at Lincoln that year, and it’s quite likely that she was in her first year of teaching, probably having just earned her degree across the Mississippi River at St. Cloud State College. Whether she was in her first year or not, Miss Kelly was – according to the young whiteray, at least – just about the prettiest teacher you could find.

(Someone else quite a bit older evidently thought the same, as Miss Kelly announced to her class on the last day of school that year that she would be getting married during the summer; she did not return to Lincoln when school convened in September of 1962.)

Beyond enjoying that slight crush on Miss Kelly and reading pretty much anything I could get my hands on, what else was I doing in early 1962? I recall watching some television. My folks, my sister and I sat down each Sunday night for Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Car 54, Where Are You? and Bonanza. I also recall – glancing at the prime time schedule for that season at Wikipedia – watching Top Cat, The Red Skelton Show, 77 Sunset Strip and a few more shows. And I’m sure my dad and I had spent a few hours on January 1 watching the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers defeat UCLA’s Bruins 21-3 in the Rose Bowl. (The Gophers, sadly, have not been invited to the annual game in Pasadena, California, since then.)

And I was aware of at least one of the tunes in the Billboard Top Ten that was released on January 6, 1962, forty-nine years ago today. But then, how could anyone who was sentient in the United States be unaware of “The Twist” by Chubby Checker? We even had a discussion about the record in Miss Kelly’s classroom, followed by a demonstration from some of the girls of the dance that gave the record its title. In that January 6 Top Ten, the record was sitting at No. 2 and would move to No. 1 the following week. The same recording had been No. 1 during September of 1960, making it the only record to reach No. 1 in two separate runs on the charts.

The Twist as a dance was popular far beyond Miss Kelly’s classroom, of course, and other recording artists were getting listeners to swivel their hips, too. Along with Checker’s No. 2 record, there were eight other Twist records in the Billboard Hot 100 (and its Bubbling Under section) during that first week of 1962:

“The Peppermint Twist–Part 1” by Joey Dee & the Starliters (No. 4)
“Rock-A-Hula Baby (‘Twist’ Special)” by Elvis Presley (No. 23)
“Dear Lady Twist” by Gary (U.S.) Bonds (No. 48)
“Twist-Her” by Bill Black’s Combo (No. 52)
“Let’s Twist Again” by Chubby Checker (No. 65)
“Twistin’ All Night Long” by Danny & the Juniors with Freddy Cannon (No. 81)
“The Twist” by Ernie Freeman (No. 93)
“The Basie Twist” by Count Basie (No. 108)

But what else was in the air? Here are the other eight songs in the Top Ten that week:

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens
“Run To Him” by Bobby Vee
“Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley
“Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen” by Neil Sedaka
“Goodbye Cruel World” by James Darren
“Walk On By” by Leroy Van Dyke
“When I Fall In Love” by the Lettermen
“Unchain My Heart” by Ray Charles

Until this morning, I’d never heard the Darren tune, and I likely won’t seek it out again. Nor had I heard Van Dyke’s “Walk On By,” which turns out to be a twangy country tune that might bear closer scrutiny. Those were the only strangers in that week’s Top Ten although the only records I truly like in that list are those by the Tokens, the Lettermen and Ray Charles.

As usual, though, there are some interesting tunes further down in the Hot 100, starting with an answer record. Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road Jack” had gone to No. 1 during in October 1961, and shortly after that, the Chantels – best known for 1958’s gorgeous “Maybe” – released their response to Charles’ record, the saucy “Well, I Told You.” By the beginning of January, the Chantels’ record was at No. 43, having peaked a couple of weeks earlier at No. 29.

 At No. 59, we find “Flying Circle,” the only charting single for Frank Slay and His Orchestra, and I have to admit that I’d not heard of Slay before this morning. But searching his name at YouTube brought up more entries than I could quickly scan. Slay was the writer and producer for the majority of Freddy Cannon’s hits and was involved with many other performers, often working with famed producer Bob Crewe, with whom Slay wrote the classic “Silhouettes.” According to the notes appended to the video I’ve embedded below, Slay and his orchestra released several instrumental singles based on international folk songs. “Flying Circle,” which was on its way to No. 45 as 1962 began, is based on “Hava Nagila.” (The video also includes two other Slay recordings, “The Bullfight” and “East of Istanbul” – neither of which made the Hot 100 – as well as a fourth tune that the original poster acknowledges is likely not Slay’s work.)

I wrote sometime last year about the Vogues’ version of “Turn Around, Look At Me” and learned at the time from regular reader Yah Shure that the original version of the tune had been recorded by Glen Campbell. During the first week of January 1962, Campbell’s version of the song was at No. 66, having peaked a week earlier at No. 62. It was the first of an eventual forty-four Glen Campbell records to reach the Hot 100. It doesn’t sound a lot like Campbell to me, but it’s a very nice version of the tune.

Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck had an obvious fascination with challenging time signatures. In 1961, his “Take Five” – written in 5/4 time – went to No. 25. Brubeck and his quartet followed that in late 1961 with “Unsquare Dance,” written in 7/4 time. One commenter at YouTube said “Sounds like Brubeck took a standard 4/4 12 bar blues progression, lopped off a quarter note every other measure, and turned it into a wonderful, quickly flowing 7/4 thing . . .  Amazing, but typical  Brubeck.” The record, which was used in the video embedded here for a dance duet on an unidentified television show, was – appropriately enough – at No. 74 during the first week of January 1962. It would go no higher.

The Corsairs, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, were an R&B group made up of three brothers and their cousin from La Grange, North Carolina. They had two Hot 100 hits in 1961 and 1962. The first of them, “Smokey Places,” was at No. 83 in the January 6, 1962, Hot 100. It would go all the way to No. 12. The Corsairs’ second charting record, “I’ll Take You Home,” got only as high as No. 68 later in 1962. I don’t know that I’d ever heard “Smokey Places” until this morning, but I like it quite a bit.

Our last stop this morning is at No. 99, where we find the second appearance by Paul Simon in the Billboard Hot 100. (He and Art Garfunkel, recording as Tom & Jerry, had reached No. 49 with “Hey, Schoolgirl” in 1957.) Simon was one of three members of Tico & the Triumphs, whose single “Motorcycle” had just entered the Hot 100 that week. The record spent the next three week in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart and then went away.

Assuming there’s no snow to shovel tomorrow morning, I’ll likely stop by with something brief. Otherwise, I’ll be back in two days with a Saturday Single.