Posts Tagged ‘Sandpebbles’

‘Go Where You’ve Got To Go . . .’

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone from Saginaw. My only knowledge – such as it is – of that central Michigan town comes courtesy of Lefty Frizzell, whose “Saginaw, Michigan” spent four weeks on top of the country chart in early 1964.

But not knowing much about the city didn’t stop me from looking this morning at a radio chart from Saginaw’s WKNX, a chart dated January 26, 1968, forty-four years ago today. And I find a few things that I don’t recall running into before.

That includes the No. 1 record in Saginaw for that week, “Love Power” by the Sandpebbles, a kind of Motown/Stax workout with some nifty call and response vocals, some nice horn parts and a killer instrumental/drum break. The record was on the Calla label, and I have no memory of it at all, even though it went to No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 14 on the R&B chart.

As the music was playing, I did some digging at the Oldies Loon and looked at a few charts for Twin Cities Top 40 from early 1968. “Love Power” went to No. 25 on WDGY, but WDGY’s signal was weak to nonexistent in St. Cloud; my friends – with me as a bystander – listened to KDWB. The only two early 1968 KDWB surveys at the Oldies Loon are from earlier in January and do not list the Sandpebbles hit at all. Given that those weeks were when “Love Power” was climbing the WDGY rankings, I’m assuming that the record got little or no play on KDWB.

(That turns out not to have been the case, highlighting once again the risk of assuming anything: As chart oracle Yah Shure points out in a note below, “Love Power” went to No. 14 on KDWB’s survey, two weeks after peaking at No. 22 on the WDGY survey. Thanks, as always, Yah Shure.)

But back to Saginaw: It was certainly not uncommon, but I think it was still noteworthy for a record to do so much better in a single market than it did nationwide. And there were a few other such entries on the WKNX survey for that last week of January 1968.

Sitting at No. 14 on the WKNX survey was “United, Part 1” – an instrumental version of the Intruders’ “(We’ll Be) United” – by the studio group called the Music Makers. The single went to No. 78 nationally and is worth noting because the Music Makers evolved into MFSB, who hit No. 1 in 1974 with “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia).”

As I write, I’m tempted to guess that the greater success of some records in Saginaw than elsewhere was because Saginaw was at least somewhat a R&B market: The Sandpebbles’ single did better (No. 14, as noted above) on the R&B chart than on the pop chart (No. 22), and the Music Makers’ single went to No. 48 on the R&B chart while reaching No. 78 on the pop chart.

That’s also the case with “Sockin’ 1-2-3-4” by John Roberts, which was a gritty dance workout based on the catch phrase “Sock it to me!” It was at No. 19 in Saginaw during the last week of January 1968; No. 19 is also where it peaked on the R&B chart, while it got only to No. 71 on the pop chart.

Another R&B hit that did better on the WKNX survey than it did on the pop chart nationally was the cover of the movie theme “Born Free” by the Hesitations, a vocal group from Cleveland, Ohio. The record peaked on the pop chart at No. 38, but went to No. 4 on the R&B chart. During the last week of January 1968, the record was at No. 31 on the WKNX chart.

The late Arthur Prysock sang jazz, blues and R&B and did well enough that he placed seven record in the R&B Top 40 and eleven records on or near the Hot 100 (most of them in the Bubbling Under portion). His presence on the late January WKNX survey is kind of an anomaly, as “A Workingman’s Prayer” was a Christmas record; it was sitting at No. 25 on the WKNX survey and it went to No. 74 on the pop chart; it did not make the R&B chart.

But that wasn’t as much of an anomaly to me as the presence of Joe South’s “Birds of  Feather” at No. 26 on the WKNX survey. Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles says that the record was released twice, in 1968 and in 1969. This was the first release, when the single went to No. 106 nationally. (It didn’t do much better in 1969, peaking at No. 96.) I can understand what happened with some of the other records in this brief list, but I have no shred of an idea why South’s record was so popular in Saginaw. Someone, somewhere, must know.

There was one other record on the WKNX survey from January 26, 1968, that ranked far higher than it ever did on the national charts. And it’s no wonder: The Cherry Slush was made up, Whitburn says, of six kids from Saginaw. In 1967, “I Cannot Stop You” was released on the Coconut Grove label; by January of 1968, it had been released on the U.S.A. label. It would spend three weeks bubbling under the Hot 100, peaking at No. 119.

But during the last week of January 1968, “I Cannot Stop You” was No. 6 at WKNX: