Posts Tagged ‘Sir Douglas Quintet’

Saturday Single No. 247

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Yesterday’s post about the Billboard Hot 100 of July 24, 1965, featured “The Tracker” by the Sir Douglas Quintet.  As I researched that post this week, I started digging – not for the first time – for traces of the Sir Douglas Quintet in my memory and on my bookshelves and my record shelves.

I recall hearing “She’s About A Mover” at the time it was heading to No. 13 in the spring of 1965, but beyond recalling the record – with its insistent organ riff – there was nothing special about it; it was just another one of the records on the radio that the other kids were listening to and I wasn’t. I remember hearing the name of the group – the Sir Douglas Quintet – and vaguely thinking that it sounded like another of the English groups that all my friends were listening to: Herman’s Hermits, Freddy & The Dreamers, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and more.

I was wrong, of course. But I didn’t notice the SDQ’s follow-up hits – “The Rains Came” went to No. 31 in early 1966 and “Mendocino” went to No. 27 in early 1969 – and so I didn’t think about the band and my assumption of its British origins for years. I’ve mentioned at least once the LP bonanza that came my way in March 1991: The student radio station at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri – where I was teaching journalism – cleared its shelves of unwanted albums and offered those albums in boxes outside the station’s studios. Very few of the young women who passed by were interested in the records, and eventually, the station’s faculty adviser told me that I might as well take everything in the two boxes.

One of those records was Border Wave by the Sir Douglas Quintet, and the first track was a cover of a tune I knew I’d heard before: “Who’ll Be The Next In Line.” It took me a little digging to find out that the tune had originally been recorded by the Kinks and had gone to No. 34 in September 1965. But as Border Wave played on, something else was nagging at me, something I’d read about the Sir Douglas Quintet in recent years.

I liked what I was hearing on the album, so I let it play on as I rummaged through my music reference library, and I finally got to a 1989 volume I’ve mentioned in this blog many times: The Heart of Rock & Soul by Dave Marsh. In his piece on “She’s About A Mover,” Marsh notes that the British Invasion of 1964-65 was tougher on some types of American music than on others, specifically “the marginal, the regional and the eccentric.”

He relates the tale of Huey Meaux, a man of Cajun descent whom Walsh describes as “a barber, promotion man, independent producer, label owner, talent scout, and prison inmate.” By the time of the British Invasion, Marsh notes, Meaux had already made successful records with Dale & Grace and Barbara Lynn and would go on to make records with Roy Head, the Hombres and Archie Bell & The Drells.

“So,” writes Marsh, “when Meaux found a new group from San Antonio, a batch of rowdy Tex-Mex border types whose hair was longer than the worst dreams harbored by the parents of Rolling Stones fans, he knew just what to do: Give ’em a vaguely English-sounding name and call their sound Merseybeat, no matter what it really was.”

The ruse worked, obviously, with “She’s About A Mover” going to No. 13. Marsh adds: “Merseybeat, my ass – “She’s About A Mover” just juices up norteno’s two-step polka beat; what counts is Doug Sahm singing the hell out of it alongside Augie Meyer’s ultrainsistent organ riff.”

Sitting at the desk in my dining room/study in Columbia, I put down Marsh’s book and went to the stereo. I picked up the Border Wave jacket and scanned the credits. Sahm was there of course, and so was Augie Meyer. (So, for that matter, was drummer Johnny Perez, who was also an original member of the group.) And after the record played through, I shelved it, moved on to other music and thought about it very little.

But this week, I looked over that Billboard chart from July 1965 and saw the Sir Douglas Quintet at No. 118. As I dug into that chart, I also dug into the stacks and my reference library (both appreciably more crowded than they were in 1991). And I found Border Wave and then looked to see what All-Music Guide had to say about it.

The opening sentence of the AMG review of that 1981 album reads: “How someone as old wave as Doug Sahm hooked into the new wave of the 80s is not exactly so mysterious if one examines the rich stylistic makeup of the Sir Douglas Quintet repertoire, and how so many of these grooves were finding their way into the sounds of the so-called new wave era.”

As Dave Marsh might say, “New wave, my ass!” Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers, Johnny Perez and the new guys sound like the classic Sir Douglas Quintet from the 1960s. And that’s why the quintet’s version of “Who’ll Be The Next In Line” is today’s Saturday Single.

Peak chart position for “She’s About A Mover” corrected after original posting.

Chart Digging: July 24, 1965

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Sometimes plans just kind of wither away, leaving empty spots in, well, in the blog. I had a topic for this morning on which I planned to muse for a while and then link to music, as I often try to do, but that topic has proved less hardy than an ice cube on the sidewalk.

But I still have the Billboard Hot 100 from July 24, 1965, the summer of preparation that I mentioned yesterday. So let’s look at the summer music that was entertaining the hipper kids I’d encounter that autumn at South Junior High as I listened to Al Hirt play “Malibu” and pondered the changes to come.

The Top Ten for this week forty-six years ago was:

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones
“I’m Henry The VII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits
“I Can’t Help Myself” by the Four Tops
“What’s New Pussycat” by Tom Jones
“Cara, Mia” by Jay & The Americans
“Yes, I’m Ready” by Barbara Mason
“What The World Needs Now Is Love” by Jackie DeShannon
“Seventh Son” by Johnny Rivers
“Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds
“You Turn Me On (Turn On Song)” by Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville

I’m a little chagrined to realize that the first title out of those ten that I’d ever own would be “I’ve Henry the VIII, I Am,” which was the featured title on a Herman’s Hermits album my sister would give me for my birthday in early September of 1965. If it had been my choice, based on my memories of an about-to-be-twelve whiteray, I think I would have selected an album by the Byrds, whose sonic attack interested me. Either that, or something by Tom Jones, whose bombast intrigued me.

Overall, that’s a good slice of listening. Eight of those ten would be tolerable coming from the radio speakers. I’ve never cared for “Cara, Mia” or for much else by Jay & the Americans except 1969’s “Walkin’ In The Rain.” (And that record’s attractions paled once I heard the Ronettes’ original.) The Whitcomb record is a goof but not one I enjoy.

So what do we find as we leave the Top Ten and the Top 40 and begin digging a little bit lower in that chart of July 24, 1965?

The first thing that catches my eye is a bit of down-home soul. Little Milton – born James Milton Campbell in Inverness, Mississippi, in 1934 – had reached the Top 40 earlier in 1965 with “We’re Gonna Make It,” which went to No. 25; on the R&B chart, it was No. 1 for three weeks. “Who’s Cheating Who” (the clip is from a television performance with Little Milton lip-synching) was his follow-up, and during the week in question, it was at No 49 and was on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 43; it went to No. 4 on the R&B chart. Although he had six more records reach the Hot 100 into 1972 (and four that bubbled under), Little Milton would never reach the Top 40 again. On the R&B chart, as might be expected, he remained vital, notching Top 40 singles into 1976, with six of his twenty-one charting singles reaching the Top Ten.

From there, we drop a long way in the Hot 100, down to No. 73, where “Candy” by the Astors was moving up the chart. The Astors were an R&B vocal group from Memphis, and “Candy” was their only charting single, peaking at No. 63. As happened with Little Milton (and so many more R&B acts), the Astors did appreciably better on the R&B chart, with “Candy” reaching the Top 20 and peaking at No. 12. In The Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits, Joel Whitburn notes that “Candy” was based on the On The Trail movement of the Grand Canyon Suite, a 1931 piece by American composer Ferdie Grofé. The words to “Candy,” on the other hand, were written by Isaac Hayes.

Moving to No. 82, we find a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” from Gloria Lynne, whom Whitburn calls a “jazz-style vocalist.” Born in Harlem in 1931, Lynne had nine records in the Hot 100 or in the Bubbling Under section between 1961 and 1965. Of those, “Only Love” would be the only record to reach the Top 40, peaking at No. 25. (“Only Love,” which Whitburn notes was a French tune from 1946 with English lyrics added in 1955, reached No. 3 on the R&B chart.) “Watermelon Man” would be Lynne’s last charting record, eventually peaking at No. 62 on the pop chart and at No. 8 on the R&B chart.

Earlier in 1965, the Sir Douglas Quintet had a No. 13 hit with “She’s About A Mover.” That summer, “The Tracker” was the follow-up, and on July 24, it was sitting at No. 118 in the Bubbling Under section of the Billboard Hot 100. It would peak at No. 105. But the quintet – about which I’m planning to write more tomorrow – would rebound early in 1966 with “The Rains Came,” which went to No. 31, and three years later, after a switch from the Tribe label to Smash, the group would have its largest hit with “Mendocino,” which went to No. 27. But all that was yet to come. In the summer of 1965, the Sir Douglas Quintet was trying to get “The Tracker” up the charts, and they “performed” their new record on the July 21, 1965, episode of the TV show Shindig. Here – clipped a little at both ends – is that “performance.”

Nina Simone’s eclectic – and from this chair, eccentric – approach to her jazz stylings must have left producers, promotion men and the listening public wondering what the heck she was going to do next. Every time I listen to Simone’s work, I hear something I’ve not expected to hear. That’s fine with me; for the most part, I like listening challenges. But it must have been difficult for those aforementioned producers and promotion men to dent the charts. I don’t know what charts Simone might have done best on; I assume there’s a jazz chart where Simone’s music might have found a home, whatever it was be called. (These days, there is a chart for Smooth Jazz Songs, but I doubt that’s where one would find Simone’s work.) Anyway, Simone’s take on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” was sitting at No. 123 in the next-to-last week of July in 1965. It would peak at No. 120, which is unsatisfying; I think it’s a great version of that spooky song. Simone – who was born Eunice Waymon in South Carolina in 1933 and crossed over in 2003 – would end up with ten records in the Hot 100 or Bubbling Under between 1959 and 1969. Her 1959 version of “I Loves You, Porgy” from Porgy and Bess went to No. 18, by far the best result on the pop chart in her career. (During those same years, five of her records reached the R&B Top 40, with “I Loves You, Porgy” reaching No. 2 for a week in 1959. “I Put A Spell On You” got to No. 23 on the R&B chart.)

Jimmy McCracklin is a blues singer and harmonica player from Helena, Arkansas, a place-name that conjures up musical memories for a lot of folks, me included. Images of Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Levon Helm of The Band immediately come to mind. But as far as I know, I’d never heard of McCracklin until I saw his “Arkansas” – listed by Whitburn as “Arkansas, Part 1” – in the Hot 100 of July 24, 1965. Maybe I should have known of him, as McCracklin’s “The Walk” had gone to No. 7 in early 1958. None of his other releases reached the Top 40; seven of them – including “Arkansas” – reached the Hot 100 or Bubbled Under. On the R&B chart, McCracklin had seven records reach the Top 40: “Just Got To Know” reached No. 2 while “The Walk” went to No. 5. “Arkansas” didn’t hit the R&B chart, and it didn’t stay long on the pop chart. On July 24, 1965, the up-tempo record was at No. 132 in what turned out to be its only week on the chart.

Peak chart position for “She’s About A Mover” corrected after original posting.