Posts Tagged ‘Ian Thomas’

Chart Digging: November 10, 1973

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

The ill health theme of the past few weeks continues: The Texas Gal will attend a couple of meetings by phone from home this morning and then spend her second day dealing with autumn crud, a malady being passed around her office (and around numerous other offices in St. Cloud, according to reports from friends and acquaintances). I’m in a little better shape than that, which is good, as it means that someone in the house can make sandwiches. In the meantime, we cope.

One of my ways of coping, of course, is to dig into music, and three names caught my attention while I was passing the time by scanning the Billboard Hot 100 for this date in 1973:

When writing about Jimmy Durante about eight weeks ago, I referred to Canadian performer Ian Thomas and his 1976 tune “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash.” His name popped up again today as I scanned the Hot 100 from November 10, 1973: “Painted Ladies” was sitting at No. 80 on its way to No. 34. This is one of those Top 40 hits I had to learn about after the fact because I was out of the country when it was on the radio. It’s become a mild favorite in the past few years, and I think that’s mainly because it sounds a lot like the records the group America was putting into the charts at the time. In Canada, Thomas has had a fair amount of chart success, both on his own and with several groups. That success includes “Painted Ladies,” which went to No. 4 on the RPM 100 – the main Canadian pop chart – and to No. 5 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. On this side of the border, however, “Painted Ladies” marked Thomas’ only appearance in the Hot 100.

Another name that kind of jumped out at me from the November 10, 1973, chart was that of Johnny Mathis, as I’d been listening to a bit of Mathis’ work yesterday: his 1959 album Open Fire, Two Guitars and his stellar 1977 cover of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.” His 1973 entry on the charts – “I’m Coming Home” – wasn’t near as memorable as 1977’s “Night and Day,” but I still find a quiet charm in the track. Thirty-eight years ago today, “I’m Coming Home” was at its peak of No. 75, but the record spent a week on top of the Adult Contemporary chart. It was the forty-seventh of an eventual fifty-three hits in or near the Hot 100 for Mathis, a run that included two No. 1 hits: “Chances Are” in 1957 and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” with Deniece Williams in 1978.

The third name that drew my eyes was that of Nino Tempo. He and his sister, April Stevens, had a No. 1 hit in 1963 with their cover of “Deep Purple,” a song written in 1923 by Peter DeRose that became a big band standard after Mitchell Parish added lyrics in 1938. As a duo, Tempo and Stevens had fifteen other records in or near the Hot 100 between 1962 and 1973. In the autumn of 1973, however, Stevens evidently wasn’t involved when “Sister James” – credited to Nino Tempo and 5th Ave. Sax – was on the charts. A nifty, slightly funky record, “Sister James” was sitting at No. 74 after peaking at No. 53 during the last week of October. It was the last time Tempo made the charts; Stevens – billed only as “April” – would reach No. 93 with “Wake Up And Love Me” during the summer of 1974.

‘Good Night, Mrs. Calabash . . .’

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Being unsure which era to select this morning for a bit of chart digging, I began shuffling years in my head (and then looking to see how recently I’d visited those years). It had been a while since I’d tackled anything from the 1950s, so I started with the Billboard Hot 100 from September 21, 1959, fifty-two years ago tomorrow.

As the computer searched for that file, I wandered to the kitchen to refill my coffee cup, thinking: What do I recall or know about mid-September 1959? Well, I was in first grade, and it was about that time that Miss Rodeman had to be wondering how to engage a daydreaming boy who could already read at about a third-grade level.

A pretty slender thread, I thought, as I sat down and looked at that Hot 100. Well, there doesn’t always have to be a story. A vague link to a recent post is sometimes enough. And that’s what started our digging today, because the No. 1 record in Billboard on September 21, 1959, was “Sleepwalk,” which was the Saturday Single the last time I popped into the Echoes In The Wind studios.

So it seemed like a fine idea to stay right there and see what was lurking in the lower portions of the Hot 100 during one of the two weeks that Santo & Johnny’s instrumental topped the chart. Then, one of those records and a YouTube clip caught my attention, and that’s all we’re going to dig into this morning in kind of a disjointed, attention-shifting manner.

Between August 1957 and May 1958, Jimmie Rodgers had been about as hot as a recording artist not named Elvis Presley could be: “Honeycomb” was No. 1 on the pop chart for four weeks, No. 1 on the R&B chart for two weeks and went to No. 7 on the country chart. “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” went to No. 3 on the pop chart, No. 8 on the R&B chart and No. 6 on the country chart. “Oh-Oh, I’m Falling In Love Again” went to No. 7 on the pop chart, No. 19 on the R&B chart and No. 5 on the country chart. “Secretly” b/w “Make Me A Miracle” went to No. 3 on the pop chart, No. 7 on the R&B chart and No. 5 on the country chart. And “Are You Really Mine” went to No. 10 on the pop chart and to No. 13 on the country chart.

The more I re-read that preceding paragraph, the more astounding that nine-month sequence seems. And Jimmie Rodgers seems pretty much forgotten these days.

Anyway, by the time September of 1959 rolled around, Rodgers had tumbled some. Nothing he’d released since the previous August had hit the country or R&B Top 40s, and although he’d hit the pop Top 40 with a few records – “Bimbombey” had done the best, going to No. 11 – the general trend was downward. His September 1959 single, “Tucumcari” – featuring a pretty generic lyric of love lost and won over what sounds like a Bo Diddley beat – didn’t change that, peaking at No. 32. But it did provide a pretty cool television clip for those intrigued by American pop culture before rock ’n’ roll.

The clip, according to information harvested from and the Internet Archive, came from a December 6, 1959, episode of NBC’s series of specials titled Sunday Showcase. Besides Rodgers, those joining Durante during the show were Jane Powell, Ray Bolger and Eddie Hodges. (The special was televised in color, but only a black and white kinescope survives.)

I actually recall seeing Jimmy Durante on television more than once around that time, possibly even during this show. As I wrote in 2007, when Ian Thomas’ tune “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash” popped up during a random Baker’s Dozen:

“The title [of Thomas’ song] comes from a phrase used by Jimmy Durante (1893-1980), a singer, comedian and actor whose career began in vaudeville and continued through numerous radio and television shows and movies. Durante invariably closed his radio and television performances with the phrase, ‘Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.’ He never explained who Mrs. Calabash was, and – having seen Durante on some television shows as a young child – I always thought that was kind of neat and maybe even poignant.”

As it happens, Durante did explain his exit line in 1966, according to Wikipedia. On NBC’s Monitor, Durante revealed that the line was a tribute to his first wife, Jeanne, who died in 1943: “While driving across the country, they stopped in a small town called Calabash, which name she had loved. ‘Mrs. Calabash’ became his pet name for her, and he signed off his radio program with ‘Good night, Mrs. Calabash.’ He added ‘wherever you are’ after the first year.”

Here’s Durante closing that Sunday Showcase from December of 1959: