Posts Tagged ‘Jackie Lee’

Saturday Single No. 220

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

I was doing some planning ahead yesterday. (That’s a rare enough occurrence that one could safely characterize what I call planning as “desperate casting about in an attempt to figure out what I would write about in this space.”) And I got to looking at today’s date – January 8, or 1/8, which one can contort into an “18” – and from there I started thinking about today’s position as the second Saturday in January.

The Billboard Hot 100 is released on Saturdays, a serendipitous bit of timing that provides further fodder for a Saturday morning post. What kinds of things can one find on the charts released during the second weeks of years gone by? And to narrow things down further (without fodder, this time), let’s look at those songs sitting at No. 18 in several selected years.

We’ll start with 1956. The first recorded version of one of the great American songs was sitting at No. 18 during this week that year: “Cry Me A River” by Julie London. Wikipedia notes that the song, written by Arthur Hamilton, had been intended for Ella Fitzgerald in connection with a 1955 film set in the Twenties, Pete Kelly’s Blues. But the song was dropped from the film, and London recorded it. Her version was used in the film The Girl Can’t Help It, and the resulting exposure pushed the torchy ballad to No. 9; it was the only Hot 100 hit of London’s long career; during the 1960s, she had three records reach the Bubbling Under section of the chart.

Five years later, in 1961, the No. 18 record and the No. 1 record were the same song, “Wonderland By Night,” which – according to Fred Bronson’s Billboard Book of Number One Hits – had originally been the title theme to a German film about “the dark side of Germany’s ‘economic miracle’.” German bandleader Bert Kaempfert recorded an instrumental version of the theme, and it entered the Hot 100 in November of 1960, and by January 9, 1961, the record began a three-week stay at No. 1, the first of thirteen records in the Hot 100 for Kaempfert. The version at No. 18 came from the talents of Anita Bryant, an Oklahoma gal who’d finished second runner-up at the 1958 Miss America pageant. Her version of “Wonderland by Night” is a okay reading of a good ballad; it entered the Hot 100 a couple weeks later than Kaempfert’s version and would peak – fifty years ago today – at No. 18. Bryant, as many recall, later became widely known for her opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians; she led a successful 1978 attempt to repeal a Dade County ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The resulting news coverage damaged Bryant’s career; her position as a spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission was not renewed in 1979 because of the controversy. Her recording career had already faded by then, at least on the charts: “Wonderland by Night” had been her eighth hit (third in the Top 20); from then through 1964, she had six records reach the chart, although three of them got only as high as the Bubbling Under section.

Jackie Lee, whose name one finds in the No. 18 spot during this week in 1966, was not Jackie Lee. An R&B singer born Earl Nelson, he was actually half of the R&B duo Bob & Earl, which placed four records on the Hot 100 charts between 1960 and 1964. The best-known and most-successful of the four is certainly “Harlem Shuffle,” which went to No. 44 in 1964 (and has been covered by numerous artists, perhaps most notably by the Rolling Stones in 1986). Bob & Earl’s last hit was in early 1964, when “Puppet on a String” reached 111 in a three-week stay in the Bubbling Under section. But in the Hot 100 that was released forty-five years ago this week, Earl – recording as Jackie Lee (a moniker formed by using his wife’s first name and his own middle name) – had the dance record “The Duck” at No. 18, on its way to No. 14. In the next few years, Lee would have three more singles reach the Bubbling Under section of the Hot 100, but none of them cracked the vinyl floor.

I think over the years many folks have assumed a deep connection between Lynn Anderson’s 1970 record “Rose Garden” and the book/film/play based on Hannah Green’s autobiographical 1964 novel, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden. I know I did. But it appears – from gleaning information from Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database – that the only connection is the possibility of songwriter Joe South using the title of the book as a jumping off point for the song (which first appeared on his own 1969 album, Introspect). Of course, the saying “I never promised you a rose garden” seems to me to have been in public currency long before the book came out, and that’s what may have inspired South as well. Anderson’s cover of South’s song was at No. 18 on the chart released forty years ago this week and later spent three weeks at No. 3 and was No. 1 on the Country chart for five weeks. It was the first of ten pop hits for Anderson though none of the others reached the Top 40. On the country charts, however, Anderson had sixty hits between 1969 and 1980. And both singer and songwriter were honored at the 1971 Grammys, South for writing the song and Anderson for her vocal performance.

Far less complicated is the tale of the record at No. 18 as of the second week in January 1976. The Electric Light Orchestra was formed in Birmingham, England, and released its first album of pop music with classical overtones (and a good dose of Beatles influence as well) in 1971. By the time 1976 rolled around, the band had placed eight records in the Hot 100, with one of them reaching the Top Ten. The record we’re concerned with this morning, “Evil Woman,” was sitting at No. 18 during the second week of January and would give the band its second Top Ten hit when it peaked at No. 10 in mid-February. The band would add twenty-one more chart hits between 1976 and 1989, with five more of them reaching the Top Ten.

Five years later, thirty years ago this week, Stevie Wonder’s twenty-second Top Ten hit – of an eventual twenty-seven – was at No. 18, moving down the chart after spending three weeks at No. 5 in December 1980. “Master Blaster (Jammin’),” a tribute to reggae star Bob Marley, not only cracked the pop Top Ten but spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart. (It was, if I count correctly, the fourteenth time Wonder had topped the R&B chart, with five more No. 1 R&B hits to come by the end of 1988.)

So that’s the tale of six No. 18 records from the second weeks of Januarys past. As I wrote, I was sorting out which of those six I should highlight. The easiest elimination was the Bryant ballad, not because of her political involvements but because it just wasn’t that good of a record. All of the other five are pretty darned good, and I dabbled with the idea of selecting Julie London’s “Cry Me A River” because it’s not heard that often these days.

Then I realized if rare hearings of a good record are my deciding factor today, there’s no other choice but “The Duck” by Jackie Lee. So here it is, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.