Posts Tagged ‘Tommy McLain’

How Far Down?

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

So I glanced at the Billboard Hot 100 from July 23, 1966 – forty-nine years ago today – and the Top Ten was familiar, as it was during that long-ago summer:

“Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells
“Wild Thing” by the Troggs
“Lil’ Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs
“The Pied Piper” by Crispian St. Peters
“You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield
“Paperback Writer” by the Beatles
“Hungry” by Paul Revere & The Raiders
“Red Rubber Ball” by the Cyrkle
“I Saw Her Again” by The Mamas & The Papas
“Sweet Pea” by Tommy Roe

I still wasn’t much of a fan back then, but summertime mean more time hanging around with the other kids, and someone back then always had a radio, so the hits of summertimes from, oh, 1964 through 1969 are more familiar to me than the hits that came along when school was in session.

And I liked some of the records in that Top Ten, notably “Hungry.” “The Pied Piper,” “I Saw Her Again,” and best of all, “Paperback Writer” (chiefly for what I later learned was Paul McCartney’s amazing bass line).

I ran down the second twenty records on that chart, and there were a couple that I wouldn’t have known back then: “Love Letters” by Elvis Presley and “You Better Run” by the Young Rascals. And I wondered how far down the chart I’d have to go to find a record that remains unfamiliar almost fifty years later.

As it turns out, not far. Sitting at No. 26 was “Sweet Dreams” by Tommy McLain, released on the MSL label, a record I’d never heard of or heard before:

It was a cover of Don Gibson’s 1956 release on the Jockey label, which went to No. 9 on the country chart. (Gibson re-released the record on RCA Victor in 1960, and it went to No. 6 on the country chart and to No. 93 on the Hot 100.) The more memorable cover these days, however, might be Patsy Cline’s 1963 effort – titled “Sweet Dreams (Of You)” – not only because it went to No. 5 on the country chart (as well as to No.44 on the pop chart and No. 15 on what is now called the Adult Contemporary chart) but because Sweet Dreams was the title of the 1985 biopic about Cline starring Jessica Lange.

McLain’s cover of the tune didn’t do that well. It did climb to No. 15 in the Hot 100, but it never made the country Top 40. And McLain – a native of Jonesville, Louisiana, described in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles as a “white ‘swamp-pop’ singer-songwriter” – never showed up in or near the Hot 100 again.