Wandering about the wilderness this morning in search of inspiration, I made my way to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, often a good place to find a nugget that points the way to a vein to be mined.
And I found something. It’s not the mother lode, but it’s something, and it leads the way to a group with a couple of Top 40 hits that has nevertheless managed to remain unmentioned during the nine-plus years I’ve been throwing stuff at the walls in this space.
I decided to scan the lengthy list of weekly surveys issued by the Twin Cities’ WDGY over the years. As I’ve noted before, KDWB was the Cities’ station where I got my fix. The only time I ever heard WDGY was when I wandered by the station’s booth during my youthful trips to the Minnesota State Fair, as we couldn’t hear the station in St. Cloud. The differences between the two stations’ playlists, as I’ve learned from other excursions to ARSA, are generally negligible, but it’s fun to have a doughnut from a different bakery once in a while.
So I scanned the list of WDGY’s survey dates and No. 1 records for early 1964, and saw what would be called an anomaly:
1964-02-01 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-08 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-15 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-15 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-02-22 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-22 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-02-29 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-29 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-03-07 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-03-07 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-03-14 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-03-14 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-03-21 Beatles / She Loves You
1964-03-28 Beatles / Twist And Shout
1964-04-04 Beatles / Twist And Shout
1964-04-11 Serendipity Singers / Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)
1964-04-18 Beatles / Can’t Buy Me Love
1964-04-25 Beatles / Can’t Buy Me Love
1964-05-02 Beatles / Can’t Buy Me Love
1964-05-09 Beatles / P.S. I Love You
1964-05-09 Beatles / Love Me Do
1964-05-16 Beatles / Love Me Do
1964-05-16 Beatles / P.S. I Love You
1964-05-23 Beatles / Love Me Do
1964-05-23 Beatles / P.S. I Love You
The fact that the Beatles dominated the top spot in WDGY’s survey at the time is not remarkable; that was happening all over the country. The fact that a record came along and broke the chain is not remarkable, either. That was bound to happen.
But the Serendipity Singers? Described by Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles as a “pop-folk-novelty group” that hailed from Boulder, Colorado, the Singers, in 1964 and 1965, had two records reach the Billboard Top 40 and three more bubble under the Hot 100. Their music was slickly produced commercial folk, similar to – if less good than – the stuff that the New Christy Minstrels and the Seekers were putting out during pretty much the same time frame.
It’s not bad music, but that’s not the point. It’s just that the band’s appearance in the above list – as the breakers of the streak, as it were – is so unlikely. Given what I know and remember about the early months of 1964, if I’d been asked which record would butt into the Beatles’ long stretch, I’d have offered Louis Armstrong’s “Hello, Dolly!” And if I’d been looking at KDWB’s surveys, I’d have been correct: Armstrong ended a twelve-week Beatles’ streak there in the first week of May 1964.
The other thing that struck me – and that took a bit of digging – was that WDGY was one of the few stations that saw “Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)” reach the top spot in their surveys. From what I could tell this morning – and this ain’t a dissertation, so my research might have missed something – the Serendipity Singers’ record topped surveys that season at just three other stations: WAKY in Louisville, KQV in Pittsburgh and the mighty WLS in Chicago.
As to the national charts, “Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)” went to No. 6 in the Hot 100. (The Singers’ only other Hot 100 hit was “Beans In My Ears,” which went to No. 30 later that same spring.)
So here are WDGY’s Beatle-beaters, the Serendipity Singers, whose “Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)” is today’s Saturday Single.