Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Smith & His Pianos’

‘Truck Stop’

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

So, still hanging around in July 1969, here’s the top ten albums from the Billboard 200 from fifty years ago this week:

Blood, Sweat & Tears
Hair, original cast recording
Romeo & Juliet soundtrack
This Is Tom Jones
The Age Of Aquarius by the 5th Dimension
A Warm Shade Of Ivory by Henry Mancini
Tommy by the Who
Crosby, Stills & Nash
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly
Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan

It’s entirely possible I had a copy of the No. 1 album in the house at the time. I had recently acquired my cassette tape recorder, and soon after I did, my sister came home from her waitressing shift at the mall with a gift for me: a cassette of Blood, Sweat & Tears. It had been on sale somewhere at the mall, and knowing I had no music for my new machine, she stepped up.

It’s an interesting ten, and music from four of them – the BST, the 5th Dimension, the Dylan and the CS&N – still show up on the iPod regularly. Eight of those albums would find their ways into the LP stacks over the years, everything except the Iron Butterfly and Tom Jones albums.

Which did I enjoy the most? Probably either the BST or the CS&N. The least? Most likely Tommy, which I got for my birthday in 1988 and played no more than two or three times until I sold it not quite thirty years later. (In fact, I have only two tracks from the album on the wide-ranging digital shelves, the overture and – for some reason – “Hawker.” I suppose I should get “Pinball Wizard” in there, some day.)

But anyway, let’s drop further down that fifty-year-old chart and take a look at the albums at Nos. 40, 80, 120, 160 and 200.

Parked at No. 40, we find another Tom Jones album, Help Yourself, on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 5. It was his first Top Ten album; he’d have three more in the next year or so, but it contained only one hit single, the title track, which had gone to No. 35 in October 1968. Jones’ larger hit during the late summer of ’69 was a re-release of “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” which had stalled at No. 49 in 1967 but entered the Hot 100 in this last week of July 1969 and went to No. 6.

We find another album on its way down the chart at No. 80: Cream’s Goodbye, which had peaked at No. 2. The last studio album for the bluesy and improvisational rock trio, Goodbye featured the perennial “I’m So Glad,” a live cover of the Mississippi Sheiks’ 1930 recording “Sitting On Top Of The World,” and “Badge,” a minor hit (No. 60 on the Hot 100) co-written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison (although Wikipedia notes that Harrison credits an inebriated Ringo Starr with the line about the swans living in the park).

Having never done this kind of digging into the Billboard 200 before, I’m not sure how obscure an album one might find at No. 120 or lower. For the moment, we’re not worried, as the No. 120 album fifty years ago this week was Crimson & Clover by Tommy James & The Shondells. Home to the group’s last two hits – “Sweet Cherry Wine” went to No. 7 and the album’s title track was No. 2 for two weeks – the album was heading out of the chart after peaking at No. 8. It was the only Top Ten album in the group’s history.

We chance on a favorite album of mine when we get to No. 160, where we find King Curtis’ Instant Groove. It showed up in my collection in 2008, when I bought the vinyl version online because it included Curtis’ version of “The Weight” and because Duane Allman was among its studio musicians. The LP was in decent shape, but a few years later, I added the CD version of the album to my stacks. Back in 1969, the album would go no higher than No. 160. Only two of the eight King Curtis albums that Joel Whitburn lists in Top Pop Albums did better: 1964’s Soul Serenade went to No. 103, and the 1971 album Live At Fillmore West went to No. 54.

And speaking of No. 200, the bottom record in the chart at the end of July 1969 was Truck Stop by Jerry Smith & His Pianos. The record by the Philadelphia-born pianist and songwriter – Whitburn calls him “a prolific session musician” – stalled at No. 200 for two weeks and then fell out of the chart. Two singles from the album showed up in Top Pop Singles: “Truck Stop” went to No. 71 and “Drivin’ Home” bubbled under at No. 125. Whitburn notes that Smith also recorded as Papa Joe’s Music Box; as Cornbread & Jerry, he wrote and sang on the Dixiebelles’ No. 9 hit in 1963, “(Down At) Papa Joe’s.” He also recorded as The Magic Organ, and Street Fair, his 1972 album under that name, went to No. 135 on the Billboard 200.

I was leaning toward posting “Badge” for our listening this morning, especially since I discovered that I’ve not mentioned the track even once during more than twelve years of blogging. But I’m fascinated by the weirdness of our final entry and by the multiple guises under which Jerry Smith recorded. And how often do I get a chance to post honky-tonk piano, anyway? So here’s “Truck Stop” by Jerry Smith & His Pianos, a No. 71 single from the No. 200 album fifty years ago this week.