Saturday Single No. 386

Today’s a good day to poke into a radio station survey from the Airheads Radio Survey Archive in search of a good single. Obviously, we’ll look at a March 29 survey, and we’ll do 1969 just because I want to.

That leads us neatly to a survey from WDGY in the Twin Cities. As I’ve no doubt related before, in St. Cloud in those days we listened to the Twin Cities’ KDWB because WDGY didn’t come in well, if at all (because of its signal strength or direction or both). The only time Rick and I and our pals ever heard WDGY was when we went to the State Fair and might spend a few minutes listening to the music on the speakers outside the station’s fair booth.

Much of the music, of course, was the same as what was on KDWB (and much of it was also played in the evenings on St. Cloud’s WJON just across the railroad tracks), but it still felt odd to have it underlined at the State Fair that that kids in the Twin Cities had more choices than we did up in the Cloud.

So what was it that the Cities kids were listening to on WDGY this week forty-five years ago? The top ten in the station’s “30 Star Survey” were:

“You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” by Blood, Sweat & Tears
“Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In” by the 5th Dimension
“Dizzy” by Tommy Roe
“Time of the Season” by the Zombies
“Indian Giver” by the 1910 Fruitgum Co.
“Hot Smoke & Sassafrass” by Bubble Puppy*
“Galveston” by Glen Campbell
“Only the Strong Survive”**
“Rock Me” by Steppenwolf”
“Baby, Baby Don’t Cry” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Only one of those Top Ten records seems to be much out of line with how they rated nationally. The Bubble Puppy record, which eventually went to No. 5 on WDGY, peaked at No. 14 in Billboard. And there are a couple records a little lower down that did better on WDGY than they did in the Hot 100 (although more of the records listed could certainly have done so in the weeks to come):

Brenda Lee’s “Johnny One Time” was at No. 14 on WDGY (and eventually went to No. 12) but peaked at No. 41 in Billboard, and “May I” by Bill Deal & The Rhondels was at No. 29 on WDGY (eventually rising to No. 15) but peaked at No. 39 in the Hot 100.

(All three of the over-performing records from this particular WDGY survey also had a higher profile at the Twin Cities’ KDWB than they did in the Hot 100: According to what I see at the Oldiesloon, “May I” and “Hot Smoke & Sasafrass” peaked at No. 9 on KDWB, and “Johnny One Time” peaked at No. 15.)

And at No. 22 in the WDGY survey, I came across a record I’d never heard before, and that makes selecting a single for this morning very easy. I know, of course, the Box Tops’ No. 1 version of “The Letter” from 1967, and I know the No. 7 version by Joe Cocker with Leon Russell from 1970, but until this morning, I’d not heard the somewhat softer and (in its later portions) rather trippy version of the record by the Arbors, which went to No. 20 in the Hot 100. I featured the group’s “Symphony For Susan” not quite four years ago, but this morning, the quartet’s cover of “The Letter” is today’s Saturday Single.

*The WDGY survey misspelled “sassafras,” but then, so did Bubble Puppy, which spelled the word “sasafrass” in the song’s title.

**There was no performer listed for “Only the Strong Survive” on the WDGY survey, but I think one can safely assume it was the Jerry Butler record.

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3 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 386”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    Great choice! At my place, WDGY’s nighttime signal sounded exactly like the phase parade at the end of the Arbors record. Why does the stereo album version switch to mono just as the fun begins?

    Steppenwolf’s “Rock Me” always skipped in the same spot whenever KRSI played the 45 (whoops, yet another Twin Cities station not heard in St. Cloud.) The station actually used to get calls from a local Bubble Puppy Fan Club for a few years after the “Smoke” had cleared. Their meetings must’ve been… short.

  2. Paco Malo says:

    I cut my teeth on the Cocker Power single and this new discovery is a fine one — nice George Martin-esque strings and jet-trail outro.

  3. Steve E. says:

    The Arbors’ take on “The Letter” hit big on KHJ in Southern California, peaking at No. 2 on March 12, 1969. It was topped only by “Dizzy” that week on the Boss 30. The record caught on fast and then faded fast. Its chart path went 28-23-15-10-2-15 and then was gone, although that wasn’t so odd in those days. My 11-year-old ears loved the mellow yet psychedelic take on the Box Tops’ hit. And I agree with Yah Shure that it’s a letdown that the stereo version goes mono when the phasing comes in. KHJ played the Arbors’ follow-up, a cover of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “I Can’t Quit Her,” a few months later, although it never got higher than a Hitbound.

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