Posts Tagged ‘Murry Kellum’

Chart Digging: January 18, 1964

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

There was a hint. For an astute observer, one who’d followed what was going on over in Britain, there was a one-line clue in the Billboard Hot 100 that was released forty-seven years ago today, on January 18, 1964.

I’m not sure who saw that clue and understood what it meant. I imagine that someone in the radio and music trades – many someones, I would guess – took note of the line in the Hot 100 and saw it as one more bit of momentum toward the revolution that had been rumored for some time.

Those who listened to Top 40 radio would soon notice and would approve. The approaching musical tidal wave would even be large enough to catch the attention of a ten-year-old Midwestern boy who had no clue there was anything called the Top 40.

The bit of information to which I refer noted that a record on the Capitol label titled “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by a group called the Beatles had jumped from outside the Hot 100 of the previous week – it hadn’t even been listed in the Bubbling Under section, which ran to No. 126 – and was now sitting at No. 45, the Beatles’ first Hot 100 hit. A week later, in the January 25 Hot 100, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” would be at No. 3, making the record the first of the group’s eventual thirty-four Top Ten hits. And a week after that, the record would begin its seven-week stay at No. 1, the first of what would be twenty No. 1 hits for the band.

The success of Capitol’s “I Want To Hold Your Hand” on the chart followed an earlier attempt by Vee-Jay, which had released “From Me To You” during the summer of 1963. The record spent three weeks Bubbling Under and got to No. 116. Vee-Jay re-released the record with a new catalog number in early 1964, after the tidal wave hit, and “From Me To You” got to No. 41.

At the wave’s remarkable peak – in the Hot 100 released April 4, 1964 – the Beatles had the top five records, had ten singles in the Hot 100 and had recorded their third consecutive No. 1 single, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” which succeeded “She Loves You,” which had itself succeeded “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”

That remarkable April chart was still two-and-a-half months away, but it was coming. And that one line in the January 18, 1964, chart foreshadowed it. Otherwise, that January 18 chart was generally unremarkable. Here’s the Top Ten:

“There! I’ve Said It Again” by Bobby Vinton
“Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen
“Popsicles and Icicles” by the Murmaids
“Forget Him” by Bobby Rydell
“Surfin’ Bird” by the Trashmen
“Dominique” by the Singing Nun (Soeur Sourire)
“Hey Little Cobra” the Rip Cords
“The Nitty Gritty” by Shirley Ellis
“Out of Limits” by the Marketts
“Drag City” by Jan and Dean

That’s an interesting mix. Rydell, in my book, is an example of an archetype – the manufactured teen crooner – that was weeks away from major limitations. The formula he represented didn’t cease to exist (Shaun Cassidy, anyone?), but the room on the charts for its exemplars was greatly diminished for some time to come.  And Rydell – who’d had twenty-six records in the Hot 100, six in the Top Ten – was pretty well done by this time; “Forget Him” was his last Top 40 hit, though he had four more records reach the Hot 100 into 1965.

At first thought, I was tempted to stick Vinton into the same pigeonhole, but that’s likely not fair, as Vinton had far more success in the years to come (and had far more talent, as I see it). He reached the Hot 100 thirty-five more times into 1980 and was frequently in the Top 40, and one of his four additional Top Ten hits – “Mr. Lonely” – went to No. 1 in December 1964.

Beyond the Vinton and Rydell records and the one-off oddness of “Dominique,” that’s a pretty good Top Ten, with a good R&B selection, a couple of car songs, a girl group hit, an edgy instrumental and the joyous anarchy of the Kingsmen and the Trashmen.

And, as is generally the case, there are some good things further down in the chart.

The Cookies are best known these days for “Chains,” which went to No. 17 in 1962 (and which was covered by the Beatles) or for “Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby),” which went to No. 7 in the spring of 1963. The record they had in the chart in mid-January 1964 was, viewed from today, a little bit odd. “Girls Grow Up Faster Than Boys” has the singer putting the moves on her big sister’s ex-boyfriend:

Girls grow up faster than boys do
So, baby, I’m old enough for you
Once you used to date my big sister
Now, baby, she’s too old for you

 Beyond that seeming a little creepy, there’s also the bizarre ideal feminine figure cited at the end of a couple of verses: “Thirty-six, twenty-one, thirty-five.” Talk about wasp-waisted!

The record eventually moved up one more slot, peaking at No. 33. It was the Cookies’ fourth and last Hot 100 hit.

 

Murry Kellum was a country musician who was born in Mississippi (not Tennessee, as I wrote earlier; see comment below) and grew up in Texas. He played guitar for a number of groups and musicians (including Carl Perkins and the Grand Old Opry, if I’m deciphering the references correctly at Wikipedia), and co-wrote – with Dan Mitchell – some popular country songs, including Ernest Tubbs’ “If You Don’t Quit Checkin’ on Me (I’m Checking Out on You)” and Alabama’s “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band).” In early 1964, Kellum reached the Hot 100 for the first and only time with the novelty song, “Long Tall Texan.” The record was at No. 62 in the January 18, 1964, chart and would peak at No. 51. (I don’t know how the record did on the country chart. My friends down the street at WWJO radio could only tell me that it didn’t reach the country Top 40; they added that Kellum did have a hit in 1971 with “Joy to the World,” a cover of the Hoyt Axton tune that went to No. 26 on the country chart.)

Moving down to No. 79, we find the original version of the song that brought Manfred Mann a No. 1 hit in October of 1964 with the title of  “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.” But when the Exciters recorded it, it was called simply “Do-Wah-Diddy.” (Despite the visuals in the video below, numerous references – including Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles – list the Exciters’ version with only one “Diddy.”) Written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich and produced by legends Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the record should have been a major hit for the Exciters, whose “Tell Him” had gone to No. 4 in early 1963. But the record peaked at No. 78 and it was left to Mann and his boys to add one more “Diddy” and make the song a hit.

At some point during the recording of the Rolling Stones’ debut album, singer Gene Pitney came into the studio. He ended up playing piano to some extent on that first Stones’ album – The Rolling Stones (England’s Newest Hit Makers) – and somewhere along the line, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards offered Pitney one of their songs. “That Girl Belongs To Yesterday” was a hit in Britain for Pitney and became the first Jagger-Richards song to hit the Top Ten in the United Kingdom. In the U.S., the record didn’t fare quite as well, getting only as high as No. 49. Forty-seven years ago today, “That Girl Belongs To Yesterday” was at No. 87 in its first week in the Hot 100.

I know very little about the Sapphires. The book Top Pop Singles tells me that they were an R&B/pop trio from Philadelphia, and that’s about it. All-Music Guide has a pretty good overview, beginning with the nugget that future producing star Kenny Gamble was “closely associated with the group very early in its history, arranging the vocals on their first album.” And among the musicians on the group’s early singles, says AMG, were Leon Huff and Thom Bell, also among the creators of the Philadelphia sound of the 1970s. The Sapphires ended up with two charting singles: “Who Do You Love,” which went to No. 25 on both the Hot 100 and the R&B chart, and “Gotta Have Your Love,” which went to No. 77 on the Hot 100 and to No. 33 on the R&B chart. (Two other singles stalled in the Bubbling Under portion of the Hot 100.) It was the first of the two hits, “Who Do You Love,” that was in the Hot 100 on January 18, 1964, sitting at No. 99 for the second week. It’s a great record!

I saw this week the sad news that Etta James is ailing from leukemia and dementia. (This morning’s news says that her husband has been granted access to some of her savings to pay for her care; her sons are disputing the decision.) I was lucky enough to see James perform during a blues festival at the Minnesota State Fair during the 1990s, and she’s long been a favorite of mine. Forty-seven years ago, her single, “Baby What You Want Me To Do” – pulled from the live album Etta James Rocks the House – was Bubbling Under at No. 101. An amazing performance, perhaps it was too raw for mainstream audiences, as it would eventually get only to No. 82. (I don’t know how it did on the R&B chart.)

(The Sapphires’ chart history clarified since first posting.)