CQ Hams Still Groovin' In The 60's
 

Did You Know .......?

Did you Know - Archives 2008

  THE BRASS RING
                                                                                                                      (The Band You Really DO KNOW!)
 

 

 

 

This is the biography of The Brass Ring, the 1960s instrumental group whose music was part of the briefly popular style known as "The Now Sound". When asked, the majority of sixties music listeners probably would not be able to identify the group.....but, most in fact, undoubtedly DO KNOW this band from New York City from their two hits that not only made Billboards Top 40 Chart, but more importantly, received huge national attention through film and many well-known television commercials. "The Phoenix Love Theme (Senza Fine)" charted to #32 in April 1966 and was used in the movie, "The Flight Of The Phoenix" starring James Stewart. "The Dis-Advantages Of You" reached inside the Top 40 peaking at #36 in March 1967 and was the music used for the amusing series of very popular commercials for Benson & Hedges cigarettes. Read on as you learn about the group you really DO KNOW, but just couldn't place until now!

To understand the story about The Brass Ring and "The Now Sound", it is important to know about the group's leader, Mr. Phil Bodner. The busiest reed man of the space age pop era, Phil Bodner played on many of the albums recorded in New York studios beween the mid-1950s and early 1970s. Bodner met the essential prerequisite of superb technical proficiency on his instrument.....in his case, the whole gamut of woodwinds. After studying music at New York University, he began working as a professional musician in New York City in the mid-1940s. Bodner then spent most of the next three decades running in and out of recording studios, as he became a highly sought-after session musician. He played with Benny Goodman's small combo of the early 1950s and recorded five albums for MGM as a member of the Metropolitan Jazz Quartet.

Bodner was one of the mainstays of Enoch Light's Command label and later became the leader of the successful "Now Sound" instrumental group, The Brass Ring. He was also a favorite of many Madison Avenue jingle composers, and played behind hundreds of television and radio advertising spots.

Phil Bodner emerged from the anonymity of sessions when he began recording for ABC's Dunhill label as the head of The Brass Ring. The band specialized in "The Now Sound" musical style which was largely instrumental, adapting Herb Alpert's hugely successful Tijuana Brass sound and softening it by giving the melody to the reeds and loosening the rhythm to a light swinging groove. The result was the signature instrumental style of the mid-late 1960s - "The Now Sound", although the twin-sax sound more closely resembles Billy Vaughn whose biggest hits were in the 1950s.

Madison Avenue paid Bodner its highest compliment and brought The Brass Ring to popular attention when it appropriated their tune, "The Dis-Advantages Of You" as the jingle for what would become the humorous series of very effective TV commercials for Benson & Hedges. Numerous other singles hit Billboard's Easy Listening Chart, and a non-chart single, "Love In The Open Air", is prized by collectors as it is a cover of a little known composition by Paul McCartney. Between 1965 and 1970, The Brass Ring recorded eight LPs including "The Now Sound Of The Brass Ring", "Lara's Theme", "Love Theme From The Flight Of The Phoenix", their highest charting album, "Sunday Night At The Movies", "The Dis-Advantages Of You", "Gazpacho: Brass Ring Featuring Phil Bodner", and others. The Brass Ring recorded until at least 1972 on Enoch Light's Project 3 label. After 1970, three additional CDs were released bringing the groups grand total to eleven.

After "The Now Sound" became "The Then Sound", Bodner continued to maintain an active calendar of bookings in the studio business. However, he began to taper off in the late 1970s, and by 1981, was appearing regularly in New York City clubs as a memeber of a swing quartet. Phil Bodner died on February 24, 2008 in New York City at the age of ninety.

  

 

 "AN EASY LISTENING POP GROUP - LOST, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN"

(The Biography of The Sandpipers)

 

The Sandpipers first foray into the national easy listening pop music spotlight came in 1966 with their cover version of "Guantanamera" (#9), a Latin folk song adapted from a poem by Cuban writer Jose Marti. Three months later, the male vocal trio made the Top 40 with their version of "Louie, Louie" (#30), the controversial, but high charting song popularized by The Kingsmen in 1963. There would be a four year gap before the group hit the Billboard Chart again with "Come Saturday Morning" (#17), a song used in the movie "The Sterile Cuckoo" starring Liza Minnelli. This is the legacy of The Sandpipers, not a super group with lots of top charting Gold Singles and media exposure, but a group that does deserve to be remembered for their contribution to the easy listening music genre of the sixties decade. This is their story including several issues that developed over the years that may or may not have impacted their ultimate degree of success, but from a historical perspective, leaves one to wonder.

Before forming their own group, the three young men from Los Angeles, Jim Brady, Mike Piano, and Richard Shoff, first performed together in California's Mitchell Boys Choir. A short time later, they began their music career as "The Four Seasons", a name that was quickly pointed out to them was already being used by a group in New York. They promptly changed their name to "The Grads", however, this name would not last long, either.

Although The Grads did not set the charts on fire with their early recordings, they performed well enough to secure a residency in a Lake Tahoe nightclub where a friend brought them to the attention of trumpeter, composer, and owner of A&M Records, Herb Alpert. The musician extraordinaire was impressed enough to give The Grads a shot, but after a few singles without success, the group agreed upon a name change to "The Sandpipers". Though it did not cause a problem, this name, like their original name, was also being used by another group....., this time by a girl trio in Florida. After the name change, their producer, Tommy LiPuma, recomended they record the Cuban anthem, "Guantanamera". Once released in 1966, "Guantanamera" became a major transatlantic hit, reaching the Top 10 in both the United Sates and Britain. The boys finally had their first hit, except they were no longer just 'boys' and no longer a trio. Along with the name change came a fourth member, supporting female vocalist, Pamela Ramcier. She contributed ethereal, wordless vocals to the group, never singing as harmony, but functioning in a similar role to the strings that comprised the group's instrumental backing. For some unknown reason, Ramcier was always kept in the background during concerts and was never credited on the group's albums despite becoming an integral part of The Sandpipers sound. In fact, her voice was one of the most distinctive elements of the group's music. This natural attribute along with wearing mini-skirts and go-go boots during concerts often made her more noticeable than the actual Sandpipers.

The foursome managed to follow "Guantanamera" with several minor hits, including their own version of "Louie, Louie" and "Kumbaya". Then it would be four years before the group charted again in 1970, this time with "Come Saturday Morning". Like with "Guantanamera", the group distinguished itsself with light, breezy harmonies along with Ramcier's vocals drifting in and out of the music. "Come Saturday Morning" was used in the hit movie, "The Sterile Cuckoo", nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Liza Minnelli) and Best Music, Song ("Come Saturday Morning"). The group also contributed the title song to the musical comedy film, "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls" directed by Russ Meyer.

By 1970 The Sandpipers had secured seven separate LP entries on the US Billboard 200 Chart. Though the group continued to record well into the seventies, their audience declined with each successive year. After spending five years without having any hits, The Sandpipers finally broke up in 1975. One possible partial explanation for the groups lack of success in the second half of the sixties was confusion that may have existed between themselves and the "psychedelic" pop band, The Lemon Pipers. The latter group overlapped The Sandpipers' years of success, particularly during 1967-1968. The Lemon Pipers are known primarily for their song "Green Tambourine" which reached #1 in the US in 1968 and has been credited as being the first bubblegum #1 hit, ushering in the bubblegum pop era. Despite group name problems, the unknown issue surrounding Pamela Ramcier, and potential confusion with the Lemon Pipers, The Sandpipers did carve a niche for themselves in the world of 1960s easy listening pop music. 

 

 

  "THE 123 MAN"

The Biography of Len Barry

 

 

 

His real name was Leonard Borisoff and he was one of many outstanding recording artists in the 1960s to come out of the "City of Brotherly Love", Philadelphia. Most '60s music afficionados know Borisoff better as Len Barry, most notably for his huge hit from October of 1965, "1-2-3" that charted all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart where it remained in the Top 40 for ten weeks. Barry's musical career, however, begins long before 1965 and the overwhelming popularity of "1-2-3".

The blue-eyed white soul vocalist from west "Philly" first debuted his musical talents as the lead vocalist on The Boss-Tones 1958 single "Mope-Itty Mope". A year before, however, Barry formed the group that became The Dovells and was lead singer on their 1961 hit record "The Bristol Stomp" that reached #2 on the Billboard Chart. He also sang lead on the band's #3 charting hit, "You Can't Sit Down" in 1963. Barry quit The Dovells, though in late 1963 and soon signed with Decca Records as a solo artist.

In 1965, Barry's single "1-2-3" became a major hit, just missing the #1 spot on the pop charts. In the United Kingdom, "1-2-3" climbed to #3 on the UK Singles Chart. His early 1966 follow-up hit, "Like A Baby" peaked at #27 in the US, while in Britain it reached #10. Both songs were partly composed by Barry and David White (first tenor), one of the original Juniors from Danny & The Juniors, another rock group from Philadelphia. It was on "1-2-3" and the similarly paced "Like A Baby" that Barry's white soul vocals were best exemplified. In April 1966, Len Barry would score his second and final follow-up hit record, "Somewhere" (the "West Side Story" anthem) that topped out at #26 on Billboard. Unfortunately for Barry, "Somewhere" had already charted in the UK by virtue of one P.J. Proby.

Despite his sharp suits and clean-cut image, Barry seemed a Philadelphia teen-idol chronologically cut adrift already in 1965, and his contention that long-haired groups were on the way out caused a few ripples in the pop press. Hopes of a top-rated singing career waned greatly during the psychedelic boom of the late '60s and with hits drying up, Barry went out of fashion and gradually toned down his lively stage act for cabaret purposes. By the end of the decade and through the 1970s, Barry moved into songwriting and production work with WMOT Productions.

From 1965 through 1982, Len Barry recorded and released four albums, his first, "1-2-3" in 1965. This LP was followed in 1967 with "My Kind Of Soul", and later in 1972 with "Ups & Downs". His final long-playing vinyl disc would come out in 1982, entitled "More From The 123 Man".

Len Barry, part of the dominant Philadelphia rock music machine of the 1950s and 1960s, has certainly left his mark in '60s rock music history. Besides his three Top 40 hit records, his legacy includes:


* The song "1-2-3" was featured on the soundtrack for the highly acclaimed film, "Mr. Holland's Opus"

* "1-2-3" was one of the songs that appeared in John Lennon's jukebox.

* In December 2005, Welsh singer-songwriter Cerys Matthews recorded a new version of "1-2-3" in Nashville, Tennessee

 

 UPDATE ON THE EXPORTS

The ExportsEarly in 2008 I wrote an article entitled, "HELP SOLVE A 60s ROCK GROUP MYSTERY" (Who Were The Exports?). Despite many hours of research, I had been unsuccessful in finding out and learning more about this 1960s instrumental rock group that had recorded one of my all-time favorite instumentals from the period, "Car Hop". My thought was that by soliciting help via The 60s Official Site, perhaps someone might come forward with the information I was seeking, or at least provide a lead in helping solve this mystery. It would not be too many months later that I received a tip from someone who had read the article that would ultimately

  Howie Friedman, drummer of the Exports

lead me to Ron Jongsma, one of the founding members of the band. After several telephone conversations with Ron, not only was the mystery of "Who Were The Exports?" solved, but I would be able to write the first-ever biography of this talented band from Chicago. It should be noted that though "Car Hop" never charted nationally, it was very popular and charted in the Top 10 on many radio stations throughout the Midwest and in southern Canada and now is part of the body of classic hot rod instrumental music from the 1960s. The history of The Exports does not end here, however; lets fast-forward to late summer, 2009.

Recently I was surprised to receive additional biographical information on The Exports by the only other remaining and original member of the group, Mr. Howard "Howie" Friedman, the band's drummer. Somehow Howie had learned about the initial article and subsequent follow-up/biography, "MYSTERY SOLVED! (Who Were The Exports?)", and wanted to provide some added information on the band he helped found. Here are the new details chronicling the story of The Exports.


Ron Jongsma and Howie Friedman knew each other since junior high school days in Hammond, Indiana. It was Ron's second Cousin, Tom Barnhart and his boyfriend, George Felaney who comprised and were the original members of The Exports. The band was at their best in playing insturmental tunes that included many by The Ventures. One day George came up with a guitar lick that sounded very cool to the rest of the group. Each of the members then proceeded to craft their own parts of the song until they were all pleased with the end result - "Car Hop". The "B side" tune, "Seat Belts Please", came about with the same method of creation. "Seat Belts Please" received a lot of air play in Chicago on the predominately black radio stations. Unlike "Car Hop" and many other rock n' roll tunes, "Seat Belts Please" had a funkier, almost R&B feel to it that included some syncopated passages.

Tom and George were in a National Guard unit during those turbulent days of the Viet Nam War and were required to fulfill their active duty status at the same time as the band was playing booked engagements in the Chicagoland area. Ron and Howie decided to honor the bookings with substitute musicians for Tom and George. One of the replacement players was Rick Grigsby who lived across the street from Ron; the other was a good friend of Rick named Greg Scott. The two new additions were both killer lead guitar players. It was at this point that Ron and Howie had a friendly parting of the ways with Tom and George and left The Exports. The quartet of Ron, Howie, Rick and Greg formed a new band called The Kritters, a very successful regional band that played together for several years.

Interestingly, after the recording sessions and many, many engagements had all come to an end, nearly all of The Exports and The Kritters would have successful careers in the music industry (see "Mystery Solved!") including Greg from The Kritters who relocated to Florida to pursue a full time music career. As previously mentioned, Howie was offered a good job in Texas where he represented Fender Musical Instruments for nearly 30 years. It was only of recent that he retired, but continues to live in the Dallas area. According to Howie, "Ron, Rick and I remain best of friends more than 40 years after our fifteen minutes of fame". Though Ron and Rick have left careers in the music business, the two childhood friends continue to work together, both in the wine cellar business.

Through the worldwide reach of the Internet and the popularity of The 60s Official Site, another part of 1960s rock n' roll history has been written for all to read, ponder and enjoy. Much has been written about the super groups of the sixties, but we must not forget the many musical contributions other groups such as The Exports have made to the sum total of music now known as classic rock and roll, or "oldies". The Exports and other 1960s groups like them are the glaze on the aggregate of music that defines this decade and makes it so very, very special, especially for the millions of Baby Boomers around the country and around the world.


{Writer's Note}: It has been personally gratifying to not only have solved the mystery of an outstanding instrumental rock band, but to write the story of this once popular group from Chicago whose music provided me and many thousands of others with much enjoyment during the decade of America's greatest music - the 1960s. In his e-mail to me, Howie Friedman thanked me for my interest "in one of the happiest times in my life". To this end may I say, "Thank you, Howie, Ron, Tom, George , Rick and Greg for giving us some of the very best musical memories one can have from those special years growing up in the 1960s. It truly has been my pleasure"!

 

 

AND NOW THEY'RE ROCKIN' IN HEAVEN

                                                                                                                           As an aging '60s "Baby-Boomer", I have become more aware of my increasing age as well as those who influenced my life through their rock and roll music in the 1960s. Its a sad day when I hear that another '60s rock artist has passed on and is now "rockin' in Heaven". I keep trying to think that all of us who grew up in this most dynamic decade of all time and listened to the greatest music ever made, would always continue to be young, but I guess that isn't the case. Well, anyway, I'm going to at least keep trying and hope for the best.

My realization of getting older led me to think about the hundreds and hundreds of rock and roll artists who have all contributed in their own unique, special way to the body of music commonly now referred to as "Oldies". In researching those recording artists that have passed, I was amazed at two striking facts: the unusually high number, many at very young ages, and the myriad of causes leading to their passing. The list of medical diseases alone that caused so many deaths reads like a shopping list for a large family at Christmas time. And then there are all the other causes such as auto accidents, airplane crashes, murder, drug overdoses, electrocution, etc.

I have listed below a comprehensive list of '60s artists that have passed, including for many, the cause of death. If in the process of researching this topic I have missed or overlooked a musician, please let the Webmaster know so the person may be included in the list. May God Bless those who have left us and may they be at peace, rockin' in the biggest rock and roll venue anywhere, HEAVEN.

 

Jan Berry (JAN & DEAN): one-half of the duo of Jan & Dean, passed away on March 26, 2004 after suffering a seizure at his home. Together, the pair sold more than 10 million records and
placed 14 hits in the U.S. Top 40. Jan was just one week away from his 63rd birthday at the time of his death


"LITTLE EVA" BOYD: her version of "The Loco-Motion" went all the way to #1 in the U.S. in 1962. She passed away on April 10, 2003 at the age of 59 from cervical cancer


Brian Cole (THE ASSOCIATION): bass guitarist and vocalist with The Association, died of a heroin overdose in Los Angeles on August 2, 1972 at the age of 28


Keith Relf (THE YARDBIRDS): former lead singer for The Yardbirds was electrocuted on May 14, 1976 while tuning his guitar at home. He was 33 years old


Ron Townson (THE FIFTH DIMENSION): vocalist with The Fifth Dimension, died in his home in Las Vegas on August 2, 2001 at age sixty eight. He suffered renal failure after a four-year battle with kidney disease.


Florence Ballard (THE SUPREMES): one of the original members of The Supremes, Ballard died of a heart attack on February 22, 1976 at the age of thirty two. After being dismissed from
the group, Ballard separated from her husband and went on welfare after losing an $8.7 million suit for back royalties against Motwn Records


Paul Atkinson (THE ZOMBIES): a guitarist with The Zombies, Atkinson died April 2, 2004 after losing his battle with liver and kidney disease. He was 58 at the time of his passing. The band's biggest hits included "She's Not There", "Tell Her No", and "Time Of The Season"


JANIS JOPLIN: passed away on October 4, 1970 from an overdose of heroin at the very young age of 27. The white, blues-rock singer originally from Texas, joined the San Francisco group
Big Brother & The Holding Company in 1966, but left in 1968 to go solo. Her biggest hit came in February 1971 when "Me And My Bobby McGee" charted to #1 on the
Billboard Chart 100.


Bruce Palmer (THE BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD): bassist for The Buffalo Springfield on their classic protest song "For What It's Worth", died on October 11, 2004 of an apparent heart attack.
Palmer was 58 at the time of his death


ALLAN SHERMAN: recorded the novelty hit, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh", died of respiratory ailments at the age of 48 on November 21, 1973


Mike Smith (THE DAVE CLARK FIVE): the keyboard player and lead vocalist for The Dave Clark Five, died of pneumonia on February 28, 2008, less than two weeks before the band was to   be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was 64 years old


Skip Spence (JEFFERSON AIRPLANE): the original drummer for Jefferson Airplane who left to form Moby Grape, died of lung cancer on April 16, 1999 at the age of fifty two


Zal Yanovsky (THE LOVIN' SPOONFUL): guitarist for The Lovin' Spoonful, suffered a fatal heart attack on December 13, 2002 at his Kingston, Ontario, Canada farm at the age of fifty eight


Ron Wilson (THE SURFARIS): the drummer for The Surfaris who recorded rock and roll's most influential drum solo on "Wipe Out", died of a brain aneurysm on May 19, 1989. Wilson was 49
at the time of his death


Erik Braunn (IRON BUTTERFLY): the lead guitarist on Iron Butterfly's 1968 classic rock anthem, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", died of cardiac arrest on July 25, 2003 at the age of fifty two


DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: scored ten Top 40 hits during the 1960s and perhaps is best remembered for "Wishin' And Hopin'", "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me", and "Son-Of-A Preacher Man". Springfield passed away March 2, 1999 at the age of 59 after a five year battle with cancer


Greg Arama (THE AMBOY DUKES): bassist for The Amboy Dukes on their 1968 hit, "Journey To The Center Of The Mind", was killed in a motorcycle accident on September 18, 1979. He
was only 29 years old at the time of his passing


Bernie Dwyer (FREDDIE and THE DREAMERS): drummer for Freddie and The Dreamers, died on December 4, 2002 at the age of sixty two


Barbara Lee Jones (THE CHIFFONS): member of the mid-60s girl group, The Chiffons, died of a heart attack on May 15, 1992. Jones was 44 at the time of her death


Peter Lucia (TOMMY JAMES and THE SHONDELLS): the drummer for Tommy James and The Shondells, died of a heart attack while on a golf course in Los Angeles in 1987. He was only 40 years old at the time of his passing


PEGGY LEE: jazz vocalist who reached the pop charts with "Fever" and "Is That All There Is", died of a heart attack on January 21, 2002 at the age of eighty one


Don Murray (THE TURTLES): drummer for The Turtles, died on March 22, 1996 at the age of fifty


Dennis Payton (THE DAVE CLARK FIVE): saxophonist for The Dave Clark Five, died of cancer on December 17, 2006 at the age of sixty three


LA VERN BAKER: R&B singer who placed 7 songs in the US Top 40 in the mid-1950s and early 1960s, including "Tweedlee Dee" and "I Cried A Tear", died of heart failure on March 10, 1997
 at the age of sixty seven


Steve Caldwell (THE SWINGIN' MEDALLIONS): sang "Double Shot Of My Baby's Love" with The Swingin' Medallions, died of pancreatic cancer at the age of fifty five


Leroy Fann (RUBY and THE ROMANTICS): of Ruby and The Romantics, died in November 1973 at the age of just thirty seven


Janet Ertel (THE CHORDETTES): of The Chordettes, died of cancer on November 22, 1988 at the age of seventy five. The group made the Billboard Chart nine times between 1954 and
1961 with songs such as "Mr. Sandman" and "Lollipop"


Al Jackson Jr. (BOOKER T. & THE MG's): drummer and founding member of Booker T. & The MG's, was murdered in his home by an unknown assailant on October 1, 1975. Jackson was
only 39 at the time of his death


DORIS TROY: the big-voiced singer of the 1963 hit, "Just One Look", died of emphysema on February 16, 2004 at the age of sixty seven


Eldee Young (THE RAMSEY LEWIS TRIO; YOUNG-HOLT UNLIMITED): bass player with The Ramsey Lewis Trio on the instrumental smash hit, "The In Crowd" in 1965 and who later formed Young-Holt Unlimited and reached #3 with "Soulful Strut" in 1968. Young died of an apparent heart attack on February
February
   12, 2007 in Thailand where he was performing. He died at the age of seventy one


FRANK ZAPPA: died of prostate cancer on December 4, 1993 at the age of fifty two


DEE CLARK: best known for his hit, "Raindrops", suffered a heart attack and died on December 7, 1990 at the age of fifty two


Mama Cass Elliot (THE MAMAS and THE PAPAS): standout vocalist of The Mamas and The Papas, succumbed to a heart attack on July 29, 1974


Edward Farran (THE ARBORS): of The Arbors, died of kidney failure on January 2, 2003 at the age of 64. The group reached #20 on the Billboard Chart in 1969 with their version of "The
Letter"


George Harrison (THE BEATLES): lead guitarist for The Beatles, lost his battle to cancer at the age of 58 on November 29, 2001. The world's #1 rock group had 44 Top 40 hits in the US
 between 1964 and 1969 including such mega hits as, "I Want To Hold Your Hand", "She Loves You", "Please Please Me", "Love Me Do", "A Hard Day's Night", "Help", "Yesterday", "Penny Lane", and many, many more


Gene Hughes (THE CASINOS): lead singer of The Casino's on their #6, 1967 hit, "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye", passed away February 3, 2004. Hughes was 67 years old


Derek Leckenby (HERMAN'S HERMITS): lead guitarist for Herman's Hermits, died of cancer on June 4, 1994 at the age of fifty one


HARRY NILSSON: remembered for "Everybody's Talkin' At Me", died peacefully in his sleep of heart failure on January 15, 1994. Nilsson was 53 years old at the time of his death


Bill Pinkney (THE DRIFTERS): the last surviving member of the original Drifters passed away on July 4, 2007 from unknown causes. He was eighty one


MINNIE RIPERTON: died of breast cancer on July 12, 1979 at the young age of 31, four years after her #1 hit, "Lovin' You". She had also been a member of Stevie Wonder's backup group,
                             Wonderlove


TIMI YURO: was just 18 years old when she reached #4 on the US charts in 1961 with a song called, "Hurt". She succumbed to brain cancer on March 30, 2004 at the age of sixty two


Bill Albaugh (THE LEMON PIPERS): drummer for The Lemon Pipers on their 1967 US #1 single, "Green Tambourine". Albaugh died onJanuary 20, 1999 at the age of fifty three


Alan Caddy (THE TORNADOES): guitarist for The Tornados on their 1962 hit, "Telstar", passed away on August 16, 2000 at the age of of sixty


Bobby Fuller (THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR): the 24 year old leader of The Bobby Fuller Four, who scored a huge hit in 1966 with, "I Fought The Law", was found dead on the front seat of his
 mother's Oldsmobile parked outside of a Los Angeles apartment building on July 18, 1966. His death was ruled accidental even though gasoline was found on his body and in his lungs


Eddie Kendricks (THE TEMPTATIONS): formerly of The Temptations before launching a solo career, died of lung cancer on October 5, 1992 at the age of fifty two


Nick Massi (THE FOUR SEASONS): of The Four Seasons, died of cancer on December 24, 2000. Massi was 73 at the time of his death


THE SINGING NUN: the lady whose given name was Jeanine Deckers, committed suicide on March 23, 1985 after the center for autistic children in Belgium that she helped to found, closed due to a lack of funds. Her 1963 hit, "Dominique", went to #1 in the US and sold over 1.5 million copies, winning a Grammy Award for the year's best gospel song. At the time of her death she was fifty two years old


Tony Williams (THE PLATTERS): of The Platters, died of emphysema at the age of 64 on August 14, 1992. He sang most of the group's hits up until 1961 when he was replaced by Tony Turner


Fred Marsden (GERRY and THE PACEMAKERS): drummer for Gerry and The Pacemakers, died of cancer on December 9, 2006 at the age of sixty six


OLIVER: singer of Top 10 hits, "Good Mornin' Starshine" and "Jean", died of cancer at the age of 54 on February 13, 2000


Rod Allen (THE FORTUNES): lead singer of The Fortunes, who reached the US Top 10 in 1965 with, "You've Got Your Troubles", died on January 11, 2008 at the age of 63 after a short
battle with liver cancer


HARRY CHAPIN: singer/songwriter who recorded a #1 Gold Single with, "Cat's In The Cradle", was just 38 years old when he was killed in a car accident in New York on July 16, 1981


Spencer Dryden (THE JEFFERSON AIRPLANE): drummer for The Jefferson Airplane from 1966-1970, passed on January 10, 2005 after a brief battle with colon cancer. He was sixty six


MARK DINNING: whose only record, "Teen Angel", a #1 hit Gold Single, was banned from many radio stations who called it "a death disc", died of a heart attack on March 22, 1986 at the
                         age of fifty two


Jerry Garcia (THE GRATEFUL DEAD):  leader of The Grateful Dead, died of a heart attack on August 9, 1995 at the age of fifty three


RICHARD HARRIS: actor/singer who took "MacArthur Park" to #2 on the Billboard Chart in the US in 1968, died of cancer on October 25, 2002. Harris was 72 years old


Allan Ramsay (GARY LEWIS and THE PLAYBOYS): the original bassist for Gary Lewis and The Playboys was killed in a plane crash on November 27, 1985 at the age of forty two


Mary Ann & Marge Ganser (THE SHANGRI-LAS): Mary Ann died of encephalitis in 1971 at the very young age of twenty three. Her twin sister and bandmate, Marge, developed breast cancer and passed away in 1996 at the age of forty eight. The girls sang back-up vocals on the rock rebel classic, "Leader Of The Pack"


David Martin (SAM THE SHAM & THE PHARAOHS): bass player for Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs, died of a heart attack on August 2, 1987 at the age of fifty. Martin co-wrote the group's #1 hit, "Wooly Bully"


Georgeanna Tillman (THE MARVELETTES): of The Marvelettes, who scored a #1 hit with, "Please Mr. Postman" in 1961, died on January 6, 1980 of sickle cell anemia at the age of thirty five


Barry Wilson (PROCOL HARUM): drummer for Procol Harum, died on October 8, 1990 after months in a coma following a car accident. He was forty three at the time of his passing


Dewey Martin (THE BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD): drummer for The Buffalo Springfield, died January 31, 2009 in his Van Nuys, California apartment at the age of sixty eight. The cause of death
has yet to be determined. Martin sang background vocals on the group's only Top 40 hit, "For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey What's That Sound)"  that charted to #7 in 1967  

                                                    
FARON YOUNG: who reached #12 on the US pop chart in 1961 with the country cross-over hit, "Hello Walls", died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on December 10, 1996 at the age of
sixty four


Craig Atkinson (COUNT FIVE): drummer for Count Five on their 1966 #5 hit, "Psychotic Reaction", died on October 13, 1998 at the age of fifty


Gene Clark (THE BYRDS): lead vocalist of The Byrds, died of a heart attack on May 24, 1991 at the age of forty nine
 

Jon Paulos (THE BUCKINGHAMS): drummer for The Buckinghams on their string of 1967 hits, including "Kind Of A Drag" and "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", died of a drug overdose on March 26,
1980. Paulos was only 32 at the time of his death


Randy Hobbs (THE McCOYS): bassist for The McCoys on their 1965 #1 hit song, "Hang On Sloopy", passed away on August 5, 1993 at the age of forty five


LEE DORSEY: scored a pair of Billboard Top 10 hits with "Ya Ya" (#7-1961) and "Working In The Coal Mine" (#8-1966), died of emphysemaon December 1, 1986, just three weeks shy of
his 62nd birthday


EDDY ARNOLD: a country artist who placed four songs on the Billboard Pop Chart, including the 1965 hit (#4), "Make The World Go Away", died of natural causes on May 8, 2008, one  
week before his 90th birthday


Mike Stewart (WE FIVE): guitarist for We Five on their 1965 , number 1 hit, "You Were On My Mind", died November 13, 2002 at the age of fifty seven


Paul Williams (THE TEMPTATIONS): of The Temptations, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on August 17, 1973 at the young age of thiry four. Williams had left The Temptations in 1971
because of poor health


Paul "Oz" Bach (SPANKY and OUR GANG): bassist for Spanky and Our Gang, died of cancer on September 21, 1998 at the age of fifty nine. The band is most often remembered for their #9
hit record of 1967, "Sunday Will Never Be The Same"


SLIM HARPO: sang the 1966 hit, "Baby, Scratch My Back", suffered a fatal heart attack on January 31, 1970 at the age of forty six


Jackie Landry (THE CHANTELS): of The Chantels, who placed four songs on the Billboard Top 40 between 1958 and 1961, including "Maybe", died of cancer on December 23, 1997, at the
 age of fifty six


Ronnie Bullis (THE TROGGS): drummer for The Troggs on their 1966 hit, "Wild Thing", died on November 13, 1992 of an undisclosed illness at the age of forty nine


Keith Moon (THE WHO): drummer for The Who, died of an overdose of the sedative Heminevrin on September 7, 1978, at the age of thiry one


Levi Stubbs (THE FOUR TOPS): lead singer of The Four Tops, died after a long series of illnesses including cancer and a stroke on October 17, 2008 at the age of seventy two


Kurt Winter (THE GUESS WHO): guitarist who replaced Randy Bachman in The Guess Who, died after a longtime illness of complications from bleeding ulcers. He is best remembered for his contributions and writing credits on the hits, "Clap For The Wolfman", "Hand Me Down World", and "Rain Dance"


Stuart Sutcliffe (THE BEATLES): played bass guitar for The Beatles before Paul McCartney took over in 1961. After leaving the group, he died on April 10, 1962 of a brain hemorrage in
Hamburg, Germany. Sutcliffe was only 22 years old at the time of his death


TERRY STAFFORD: whose Elvis-like voice helped make a hit out of "Suspicion" (#3) in 1964, died March 17, 1996 at the age of fifty four


Floyd Butler (THE FRIENDS OF DISTINCTION): of The Friends of Distinction, died of a heart attack on April 29, 1990, at the age of forty nine.The band is most often remembered for two
Top 10 hits, "Grazing In The Grass" in 1969 and "Love Or Let Me Be Lonely" in 1970


Denny Doherty (THE MAMAS and THE PAPAS): the angelic voice that carried the '60s folk-pop group The Mamas and The Papas through such memorable hits as "California Dreamin'" and
"Monday, Monday", died January 19, 2007, after suffering an aneurysm in his abdomen. Doherty was sixty six


Dino Martin Jr. (DINO, DESI and BILLY): of Dino, Desi and Billy, was the son of crooner Dean Martin, died when the Air National Guard jet he was piloting crashed into a mountain on March
21, 1987. Martin was only 35 at the time of the accident


EDWIN STARR: soul singer who had hits with "War", "Agent Double-O Soul" and "Twenty-Five Miles", died of a heart attack on April 1, 2003 at the age of sixty one


LONNIE DONEGAN: called "the king of skiffle" and best known for the Top 10 hits, "Rock Island Line" and "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Over Night", died
November 3, 2002 at the age of 71, midway through a tour of the United Kingdom


ROGER MILLER: rose to fame in the mid 1960's with hits like "King Of The Road" and "Dang Me", died of lung cancer in Los Angeles on October 25, 1992 at the age of fifty six


Michael Clarke (THE BYRDS): drummer for The Byrds and later Firefall, died of liver failure on December 19, 1993. He was 47 years old


Freddie Garrity (FREDDIE and THE DREAMERS): lead singer of the 1960s pop band Freddie and The Dreamers, died on May 19, 2006 at the age of 65 after receiving treatment for what
 were described as "circulation problems"


ROY ORBISON: one of classic rock's greatest voices was silenced when the 52 year old Orbison died of a heart attack the night of December 6, 1988. Orbison had 22 Top 40 hits from 1960-1966, but will most likely be remembered for his first charting record, a #2 and Gold Single, "Only The Lonely (Know How I Feel)", and his #1 Gold Single, "Oh, Pretty             Woman"


Dick St. John (DICK & DEEDEE): half of the singing team of Dick & DeeDee who recorded such hits as, "The Mountain's High" (1961), "Young And In Love" (1963), and "Thou Shalt Not
Steal" (1965), died on December 27, 2003 from complications suffered in a fall from the roof of his home two weeks earlier. The 63 year old singer had                                           continued to record and performed regularly until his death


BOBBY DARIN: actor and singer whose hits included, "Splish Splash" and "Mack The Knife", died December 20, 1973 after unsuccessful heart surgery at the age of thirty seven


Barbara Cowsill (THE COWSILLS): mother and vocalist for the family band, The Cowsills, who scored a Billboard #2 hit with "The Rain, The Park And Other Things" in 1967, died of
emphysema on January 31, 1985 in Tempe, Arizona at the age of fifty four


Barry Cowsill (THE COWSILLS): bass guitarist for The Cowsills, died on or about September 1, 2005 from injuries believed to be caused by Hurricane Katrina. His body was recovered
December 28, 2005 from the Chartres Street Wharf in New Orleans. Cowsill was fifty one at the time of his death


Bill Cowsill (THE COWSILLS): lead singer for The Cowsills, died February 17, 2006 at the age of fifty eight. He had been suffering from emphysema, osteoporosis and other ailments. News
of his death came just after a memorial ceremony honoring his younger brother, Barry


John Stewart (THE KINGSTON TRIO): singer/songwriter who was a member of The Kingston Trio in the early 1960s, but more often remembered for writing The Monkees' huge hit,
"Daydream Believer", died following a brain aneurism on January 19, 2008. Stewart also had a successful solo career which included four dozen
albums and a Billboard #9 hit single, "Gold" in 1979


Cor van Beek (THE SHOCKING BLUE): drummer for The Shocking Blue on their 1969 #1 hit, "Venus", died on April 2, 1998. He was forty nine


JOHNNY CASH: died on September 12, 2003 due to complications from diabetes which resulted in respiratory failure. He was 71 years old. Cash began his career as a rock-a-billy artist at
Sun Records in Memphis along with Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. Though some of his hits charted high on both the Pop and Contemporary Adult charts,
Cash was truly a country music artist who went on to win 11 Grammy Awards and was selected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980. He was also inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992


BETTY EVERETT: best remembered for her 1964 hit, "The Shoop Shoop Song", was found dead at her home in Beloit, Wisconsin on August 19, 2001. Everett was sixty one


O'Kelly Isley (THE ISLEY BROTHERS): of The Isley Brothers, died of a heart attack on March 31, 1986 at the age forty eight


BOOTS RANDOLPH: saxaphone player best known for the 1963 hit, "Yakety Sax", died from a cerebral hemorrhage on July 3, 2007 at the age of eighty


Dave Prater (SAM and DAVE): of the soul duo Sam and Dave, was killed in a car accident in Georgia on April 9, 1988. Prater was 50 years old


Mike "Smitty" Smith (PAUL REVERE and THE RAIDERS): drummer for Paul Revere and The Raiders during their prime hit making years, died of natural causes at his home in Hawaii on March 6, 2001 at the age of fifty eight


AL WILSON: soul singer/songwriter who had a number of US hits including, "The Snake" in 1968 and the Billboard #1 smash hit, "Show And Tell" in 1974, died of kidney failure on April 21, 2008. Wilson was sixty eight


Renaldo "Obie" Benson (THE FOUR TOPS): bass vocalist for the legendary Motown singing group, The Four Tops, died of lung cancer on July1, 2005 at the age of sixty nine


Buddy Miles (WILSON PICKETT; THE DELPHONICS; THE INK SPOTS; THE ELECTRIC FLAG; BAND OF GYPSYS): who played drums for Wilson Pickett, The Delphonics and The Ink Spots before founding The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield and later joined Jimi Hendrix in          Band  Of Gypsys, died on February 26, 2008 from congestive heart failure.   Miles was 60 at the time of his death.

                                                                                                                                                            Shirley Brickley (THE ORLONS): of The Orlons, was shot to death on October 13, 1977 by an intruder in her home in Philadelphia. She was only 35 at the time her death


Tony Jackson (THE SEARCHERS): bass player for The Searchers, a Liverpool band best known for the 1964 song, "Needles and Pins", died August 18, 2003 of cirrhosis of the liver. He was
sixty three


DEAN MARTIN: recorded such standards as, "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime", died at the age of 87 on December 25, 1995 of acute respiratory failure


RICK NELSON: scored a lengthy string of hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s including, "Hello Mary Lou", "Poor Little Fool", and "Travelin' Man", was killed on December 31, 1985 when a private plane he was aboard caught fire and crashed. Nelson was 45 years old at the time of the crash


Nick Reynolds (THE KINGSTON TRIO): a founding member of The Kingston Trio who jump-started the folk music scene of the late 1950s with their US #1 hit, "Tom Dooley" and continued with a string of hits into the 1960s, died of acute respiratory disease on October 1, 2008. Reynolds was seventy five


John Fred Gourrier (JOHN FRED and HIS PLAYBOY BAND): who led John Fred and His Playboy Band to Billboard's #1 spot in December 1967 with "Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)", died April
15, 2005 after a long bout with kidney disease. Gourrier was 63 at the time of his passing


Malcolm Hale (SPANKY and OUR GANG): guitarist with Spanky and Our Gang, reportedly died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty space heater on October 31, 1968 at the age of
27. Hale's death has also been attributed to bronchopneumonia. The group placed five songs on the Billboard Top 40 between 1967 and 1968 including, "Sunday Will Never Be The Same" and "Lazy Day"


CHRIS KENNER: who reached #2 in 1961 with, "I Like It Like That, Part 1", suffered a fatal heart attack on January 28, 1976


Barry Pritchard (THE FORTUNES): vocalist and guitarist for The Fortunes, died of heart failure on January 12, 1999. The group reached the Billboard Top 20 with, "You've Got Your Troubles"  in 1965 and "Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again" in 1971


DEL SHANNON: died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound on February 8, 1990 at the age of fifty five. Shannon had eight Top 40 hits from 1961-1965, most notably, "Runaway", a #1 Gold
Single, and "Hats Off To Larry" that charted to #5


Philippe Wynne (THE SPINNERS): former lead singer of The Spinners, suffered a fatal heart attack while on stage in Oakland, California on July 14, 1984. Wynne was 43 years old


Tommy Boyce (TOMMY BOYCE & BOBBY HART): singer/songwriter who teamed up with Bobby Hart on the #8 hit, "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" in 1968, died of a self-inflicted gun
shot wound on November 23, 1994. Boyce was fifty five


Bryan "Chas" Chandler (THE ANIMALS): bassist of The Animals and Jimi Hendrix manager, died of an aortic aneurysm on July 17, 1996 at the age of fifty seven


Marlena Davis (THE ORLONS): of The Orlons, lost her battle with lung cancer on February 27, 1993 at the age of forty eight


Addie "Micki" Harris (THE SHIRELLES): of The Shirelles, died of a heart attack after a performance in Atlanta, Georgia on June 10, 1982. She was only forty two


Marvin Inabnett (THE FOUR PREPS): of The Four Preps, died of a heart attack on March 7, 1999 at the age of sixty. The group placed seven songs on the Billboard Top 40 between 1958 and 1961, including "26 Miles (Santa Catalina)", a #2 hit in 1958


ERNIE K-DOE: remembered for his 1961 novelty hit, "Mother-In-Law", died of liver failure on July 5, 2001 at the age of sixty five


Clyde McPhatter (THE DRIFTERS): died of a heart attack on June 13, 1972 at the age of thirty nine. He had been the original lead singer with The Drifters before having solo hits like, "A Lover's Question" and "Lover Please"


Ian Stewart (THE ROLLING STONES): played piano in the original line-up of The Rolling Stones and predates both Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts as a member of the band. Because the
 group's manager, Andrew Oldham did not think Stewart's looks were right for publicity purposes, Stewart officially "left the group", but continued to                                       work with them as a road manager and played keyboards on most of the Stones' essential albums from the 1960s until the 1980s. While waiting to
see a doctor about respiratory problems, Stewart suffered a heart attack and died in the waiting room on December 12, 1985


MARY WELLS: known for her hits, "My Guy" and "You Beat Me To The Punch", died of cancer at age 49 on July 26, 1992


Sonny Bono (SONNY and CHER): of the sixties duo Sonny and Cher, died in a skiing accident on January 6, 1998 at the age of sixty two


Carl Wilson (THE BEACH BOYS): lead guitar player of The Beach Boys, died of cancer with his family at his bedside on February 7, 1998. He was fifty one


Dennis Wilson (THE BEACH BOYS): drummer for The Beach Boys, jumped overboard from his yacht at Marina Del Rey Harbor in Los Angeles and drowned on December 28, 1983. Wilson
 was only 39 at the time of his death


Tammi Terrell (MARVIN GAYE & TAMMI TERRELL): sang many duets with Marvin Gaye, died of a brain tumor on March 16, 1970 at the age of just twenty four


Rushton Moreve (STEPPENWOLF): bassist for Steppenwolf who co-wrote "Magic Carpet Ride" with John Kaye, was killed in a car crash on July 1, 1981. He was thirty two


John Lennon (THE BEATLES): murdered by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980. Lennon was 40 years old when he was killed


Vincent Crane (THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN): former keyboardist for The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, died on February 14, 1989 of an overdose of painkillers


Tom Fogerty (CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL): guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival, died on September 6, 1990 of respiratory failure at the age of forty eight


John Bonham (LED ZEPPELIN): the 32 year old drummer for Led Zeppelin, passed out and choked on his own vomit on September 25, 1980 following an all-day drinking binge. In December 1980, Led Zeppelin announced they were disbanding, saying that they could not continue without Bonham


Mike Clark (TOMMY ROE; BILLY JOE ROYAL; JOE SOUTH; RAY STEVENS; ROY ORBISON): for many years he played drums with such popular 1960's artists as Tommy Roe, Billy Joe Royal,
Joe South, Ray Stevens, and Roy Orbison, died on February 1, 2007 after an 8 month illness.
He was sixty three. He was also the Owner/Manager of Atlanta's Southern Tracks Recording  Studio and was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1999

                                                                                                      
Melvin Franklin (THE TEMPTATIONS): singer for The Temptations, died of a brain seizure on February 23, 1995 at the age of fifty two


Lowell George (THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION; LITTLE FEAT): slide guitarist who left The Mothers of Invention to form Little Feat, died of a massive heart attack on June 29, 1979 at the age of thirty four
                                                                                           


Bobby Hatfield (THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS): of The Righteous Brothers, died November 5, 2003 at the age of sixty three. His was the voice that was featured on the 1965 hit, "Unchained  Melody"


Doris Kenner-Jackson (THE SHIRELLES): of The Shirellles, whose soaring harmonies can be heard on "Soldier Boy" and a number of other hits in the early 1960s, died of breast cancer on  February 4, 2000 at the age of fifty eight


J. FRANK WILSON: one of rock's eeriest stories began on October 23, 1964. While his teenaged death song, "Last Kiss" was in the US Top 10, Wilson, his bandmates and the record's producer, Sonley Roush, were involved in a head-on collision that killed Roush. Wilson never recorded a hit song again and died in a nursing home on October 4, 1991, a
few months shy of his fiftieth birthday


Alan Blakely (THE TREMELOES): rhythm guitar player for The Tremeloes who scored a pair of 1967 hits, "Here Comes My Baby" and "Silence Is Golden", died of cancer on June 1, 1996 at
the age of fifty four


Jim Grant (The Five Americans): bassist for The Five Americans, a Dallas, Texas band during the 1960s who had four Top 40 hits, most notably, "Western Union". This huge hit charted all
 the way to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1966. After the group disbanded in 1969, Grant formed his own successful logo company in Dallas. One of
his designs is the Chili's Restaurant logo, a huge restaurant chain in the Southwest. Grant died on November 29, 2004


G.C. Coleman (THE WINSTONS): drummer for the Washington D.C. based group, The Winstons, who reached #7 on the Billboard Pop Chart with "Color Him Father", died in September 2006 at the age of sixty two. Coleman is also remembered for recording what is known as the "Amen Break", a drum solo from the song "Amen, Brother",                          which has been sampled and used in thousands of hip-hop, pop, drum, bass and jungle tracks


Jerry Edmonton (STEPPENWOLF): drummer for Steppenwolf during their hit making years, was killed in a car crash not far from his Santa Barbara, California home on November 28, 1993.
Edmonton was forty seven


Claude Johnson (DON and JUAN): "Juan" of Don and Juan, who reached #7 with "What's Your Name" in 1962, died on October 31, 2002 at the age of sixty seven


Audrey Brickley (THE ORLONS): of The Orlons, who placed five songs in the Billboard Top 20 in the early 1960s, died of acute respiratory syndrome on July 3, 2005 at the age of fifty eight


Joey Vann (THE DUPREES): of The Duprees, died on February 28, 1984 at the age of forty. The group had four Top 40 hits including "You Belong To Me" in 1962


Ed Cobb (THE FOUR PREPS): of The Four Preps, died of leukeumia on September 19, 1999 at the age of sixty one. The group placed seven songs on the Billboard Top 40 between 1958
and 1961 including "26 Miles (Santa Catalina)" and "Big Man"


FRANKIE LAINE: suffered complications after hip-replacement surgery and died February 6, 2007 at the age of ninety three. The big-voiced singer sold over 100 million records and placed seven songs on Billboard's Top 40 between 1955 and 1969, including "Moonlight Gambler" and "Love Is A Golden Ring"


JIMMY SOUL: whose real name was James McCleese, hit #1 in 1963 with the tune, "If You Wanna Be Happy", died of a heart attack on June 25, 1988. He was forty five


Eustace Britchforth (Lefty Baker) [SPANKY and OUR GANG]:played guitar and banjo for Spanky and Our Gang, died August 11, 1971


JACKIE WILSON: passed away on January 21, 1984 in Mount Holly, New Jersey at Burlington County Memorial Hospital at the age of forty nine. He had suffered a heart attack while singing  "Lonely Teardrops" at the Latin Casino in New Jersey during a performance in 1975 and hit his head in the fall. Wilson suffered brain damage and required permanent care
the rest of his life


Heinz Burt (THE TORNADOES): the bassist for The Tornadoes, died on April 7, 2000 at the age of fifty seven after a long battle with a motor neuron disease. The group's biggest hit was the
1962 instrumental, "Telstar" that was a #1 hit


Billy Guy (THE COASTERS): of The Coasters, died of a heart attack on November 5, 2002. Guy was sixty six


Brian Jones (THE ROLLING STONES): the original lead guitarist of The Rolling Stones, drowned in his swimming pool on July 3, 1969


SAM COOKE: shot and killed by the manager of the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles on December 11, 1964. The manager claimed she acted in self-defense after Cooke raped a 22-year-old  woman and then turned to attack her. The shooting was ruled a justifiable homocide. Sam Cooke was one month shy of his 34th birthday


JIMI HENDRIX: the legendary psychedelic-blues guitarist and one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time, died September 18, 1970 from what the coroner's report called, "inhalation of vomit after barbiturate intoxication". Hendrix was just twenty seven when he passed away


Jamie Lyons (THE MUSIC EXPLOSION): lead singer of the Mansfield, Ohio quintet, The Music Explosion, died of a heart attack on September 27, 2006 at the age of fifty seven. The band is most often remembered for their garage-band classic, "Little Bit O'Soul", a #2 Gold Single which spent 13 weeks on the Billboard Pop Chart in 1967


BOBBY "BORIS" PICKETT: whose Boris Karloff impression propelled the Halloween anthem, "The Monster Mash", to the top of the Billboard Pop Chart in 1962, died of leukemia on April 25,
2007. He was sixty nine


TOMMY TUCKER: who hit #11 in 1964 with "Hi-Heel Sneakers", died of poisoning on January 22, 1982 at the age of forty two


Samuel George Jr. (THE CAPITOLS): lead singer of The Capitols who had a 1966 hit with "Cool Jerk", died in Detroit after being stabbed with a knife during a family argument on March 17,
1982. He was 39 years old


Steve Wahrer (THE TRASHMEN): drummer and vocalist for The Trashmen on their 1964 hit, "Surfin' Bird", died of throat cancer on January 21, 1989, at the age of forty seven


JAMES BROWN: known by all as the Godfather of Soul, died of pneumonia on December 25, 2006 at the age of seventy three. He recorded more than 50 albums and had well over 100
songs that hit the US charts including, "I Got You", "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag", "Cold Sweat", "Sex Machine", plus many, many more


Frankie Garcia (CANNIBAL and THE HEADHUNTERS): lead singer for Cannibal and The Headhunters on their #30 Billboard Pop Chart hit, "Land Of 1000 Dances" in April 1965, died on January 21, 1996 at the age of forty nine


FLOYD CRAMER: pianist who scored a Top 10 hit with "Last Date", a #2 and Gold Single in October 1960, passed away at the age of 64 on December 31, 1997. Cramer also had a #4 hit in 1961 with "On The Rebound" and a #8 hit record the same year with "San Antonio Rose"


Junior Walker (JR. WALKER & THE ALL STARS): formed the popular R&B group in South Bend, Indiana and had twelve Top 40 hits from 1965-1970 including a pair of #4 super hits,"Shotgun" and "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)". Walker died of cancer November 23, 1995 at the age of sixty four


Dave Guard (THE KINGSTON TRIO): of The Kingston Trio, died of lymphoma on March 22, 1991 at the age of fifty six. The Trio landed ten songs on the Top 40 between 1958 and 1963
including "Tom Dooley" and "Reverend Mr. Black"


JOE JONES: a musician-turned producer who sang the 1961 Billboard #3 hit, "You Talk Too Much", and went on to become an independent music publisher and advocate for Black artists'
rights, died on November 27, 2005. Jones was seventy nine


Bryan MacLean (LOVE): guitarist and singer-songwriter for the 1960s rock band Love, died of an apparent heart attack on Christmas Day in 1998 at the age of fifty two. The band is mostly  remembered for their hits, "My Little Red Book" (#52) and "7 And 7 Is" (#33)


Rudy Lewis (THE DRIFTERS): lead singer of The Drifters on their hits, "On Broadway" and "Up On The Roof", died under mysterious circumstances on May 20, 1964, the night before the
group was set to record "Under The Boardwalk". Lewis was 28 years old


DON GIBSON: known mainly as a country artist, he also placed four songs on the US Pop Chart including the #7 single, "Oh Lonesome Me" in 1958 and "Sea Of Heartbreak" (#21) in 1961. Gibson died of natural causes on November 17, 2003 at the age of seventy five


Will "Dub" Jones (THE COASTERS): of The Coasters, died on January 16, 2000. He was seventy one


Jim Morrison (THE DOORS): lead singer of the legendary group, The Doors, died July 3, 1971. The 27-year-old was found dead in his bathtub. Speculation abounded as to the exact cause of death, but no autopsy was performed. His 27 year old widow, Pamela, died of a heroin overdose in April, 1974. The Doors had eight Top 40 rock hits between
1967 and 1971, most notably, "Light My Fire", a #1 hit and Gold Single, "Hello, I Love You", also a #1 Gold Single, and "Touch Me", a #3 Gold Single


Chris Curtis (THE SEARCHERS): drummer and vocalist for the 1960s pop group, The Searchers, passed away on February 28, 2005 at the age of sixty three. His band placed seven songs
on Billboard's Top 40 including, "Love Potion Number Nine" and "Needles and Pins"


Clint Warwick (THE MOODY BLUES): the original bass player for The Moody Blues, died from liver disease on May 18, 2004 at the age of sixty three. Warwick left the band in 1966 after
playing on their only #1 hit, "Go Now"


Brian Epstein (THE BEATLES): the manager of The Beatles who took the band from a quartet of rough-necks to being "the most successful rock band  in history" in just over two years, died of a drug overdose on August 27, 1967, three weeks short of his 33rd birthday


Johnny Moore (THE DRIFTERS): lead singer for The Drifters on their 1960s hit, "Under The Boardwalk", died December 30, 1998 at the age of sixty four


DESMOND DEKKER: Jamaican reggae pioneer, famed for his worldwide hit, "Israelites" (#9), died of a heart attack at his home in England on May 26, 2006. He was sixty four


MARVIN GAYE: shot and killed by his father during a family dispute on April 1, 1984, one day short of age forty five. Gaye had thirty three Top 40 hits from 1963 to 1982, most notably,
his #1 hit of 1968, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine". Other major hits included, "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You" (#6), "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" (#4), "That's The Way Love Is" (#7), plus many others


Mariska Veres (THE SHOCKING BLUE): lead singer of the Dutch rock quartet The Shocking Blue on their mega hit, "Venus", died of cancer on December 2, 2006 at the age of fifty nine.
"Venus" was one of the last #1 hits of the decade of the 1960s


Manuel Fernandez (LOS BRAVOS): founding member and organist for the rock quintet Los Bravos, a group consisting of four members from Spain and one from Germany, committed
suicide on May 20, 1967. Fernandez was just 23 years old at the time of his death.  The group is remembered for their #4 pop hit, "Black Is Black" from  September 1966


Roland Trone (DON & JUAN): "Don" of Don & Juan, a black vocal duo from New York City who reached #7 with "What's Your Name" in 1962, died in May 1982 at the age of forty five


John Entwistle (THE WHO): bassist for The Who, died of a heart attack on June 27, 2002 at the age of fifty seven


PERCY FAITH: led his Percy Faith Orchestra to the top of the US chart with "The Theme From A Summer Place" (#1 and a Gold Single) in 1960, died of cancer on February 9, 1976. Faith
as sixty two


Gram Parsons (THE BYRDS; THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS): one time member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, became a cult figure who influenced countless musicians.
Parsons was found dead at Joshua Tree, California on September 19, 1973 of an alcohol and drug overdose at the age of twenty seven


OTIS REDDING: was killed in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. Four members of his backup band, The Bar-Kays, were also killed. Between 1965 and 1968, Redding had eleven Top 40
hits; however, he will always be remembered for his sensational #1 hit record of February 1968, "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay"


Joe Schermie (THREE DOG NIGHT): original bassist of Three Dog Night, died of a heart attack on March 26, 2002 at the age of fifty five


JOHNNIE TAYLOR: best remembered for his 1968 hit, "Who's Makin' Love To Your Old Lady?", died of a heart attack on May 31, 2000, shortly after his 62nd birthday


William Powell (THE O'JAYS): an original member of The O'Jays, died at the age of 35 on May 26, 1977, after a long bout with cancer


Ed Roberts (RUBY and THE ROMANTICS): of Ruby and The Romantics, died of cancer on August 10, 1993. He was fifty seven


Domenic Troiano (THE GUESS WHO): guitarist for The Guess Who and The James Gang, died of cancer on May 25, 2005. Troiano was fifty nine


Ronnie White (THE MIRACLES): of The Miracles, died of leukemia on August 26, 1995. He was fifty six


RAY PETERSON: who scored a pair of US Top 10 hits with "Tell Laura I Love Her" and "Corinna, Corinna" in 1960, died of cancer on January 25, 2005 at the age of sixty nine


KYU SAKAMOTO: the first Japanese artist to have a #1 hit in the United States with "Sukiyaki" in June 1963, was killed in a Tokyo commercial airplane crash on August 12, 1985. He was forty three


Dave Rowberry (THE ANIMALS): keyboardist who joined The Animals in May 1965 and played on several major hits including, "We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place", "It's My Life", and "Don't
Bring Me Down", passed away of an apparent heart attack on June 6, 2003, one month shy of his 63rd birthday


ELVIS PRESLEY: the King of Rock and Roll, died of heart failure at his Graceland Mansion on August 16, 1977. Between 1956 and 1981, Presley amassed an incredible total of 114 Top 40
hits, starred in 31 feature movies, won the Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1971, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was the first rock and roll artist to
be honored by the U.S. Postal Service with an Elvis Presley commemorative stamp in 1993. Major hits of Elvis during the decade of the 1960s include, "Surrender", "Good
Luck Charm", "Return To Sender", "Crying In The Chapel", "In The Ghetto", and "Suspicious Minds"


Joe Santollo (THE DUPREES): of The Duprees, suffered a fatal heart attack on June 3, 1981 at the age of thirty seven.The group is most often remembered for their 1962 hit, "You Belong
To Me"


David Ruffin (THE TEMPTATIONS): former lead singer of The Temptations, died of an overdose of crack cocaine on June 1, 1991 at the age of fifty


John Phillips (THE MAMAS and THE PAPAS): leader of The Mamas and The Papas, died of heart failure on March 18, 2001 at the age of sixty five. The Mamas and The Papas had ten Top 40 hits from 1966-1968 including, "California Dreamin'", "Monday, Monday", "Words Of Love", "Dedicated To The One I Love", "Creeque Alley", etc.


Doug Sahm (SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET): leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet, succumbed to a heart attack on November 18, 1999, just days shy of his 58th birthday. The band had three
Billboard Top 40 hits with "She's About A Mover" (#13), "The Rains Came" (#31), and "Mendocino" (#27)


Mel Taylor (THE VENTURES): long-time drummer for The Ventures, died of cancer on August 11, 1996 at the age of sixty two. He recorded and toured with The Ventures from 1961 until his death and also worked as a session musician, playing drums on "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and "Lonely Bull" by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass


Gary Usher (THE HONDELLS): led the studio group The Hondells to the Top 10 in 1964 with "Little Honda" (#9), died of cancer on May 25, 1990. He was fifty one


GENE PITNEY: who had a string of hits in the early and mid 1960s including, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (#4), "Only Love Can Break A Heart" (#2), and "It Hurts To Be In Love"
(#7), was found dead on April 5, 2006 at the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff, Wales. Pitney was sixty five


James "Shep" Sheppard (SHEP AND THE LIMELITES): of Shep And The Limelites, was found murdered in his car on the Long Island Expressway on January 24, 1970 after being robbed and beaten. The group is best remembered for their 1961 hit, "Daddy's Home"


Walter Scott (BOB KUBAN AND THE IN-MEN): lead singer of Bob Kuban And The In-Men, who scored a 1966 hit with "The Cheater", was reported missing shortly after Christmas, 1983. His
body, however, wasn't found until 1987, floating in a cistern with a gunshot wound to the back. A neighbor named Jim Williams, who had started dating Scott's wife Joanne shortly after the disappearance, was found guilty of murder. Joanne Scott was sentenced to five years for
hindering the investigation


Randy Cain (THE DELFONICS; BLUE MAGIC): an original member of The Delfonics and founder of Blue Magic, was found dead inside his Philadelphia apartment on April 9, 2009 at the age of
sixty three.The cause of death was not determined. All together, The Delfonics notched 16 pop and 20 R&B records including "La-La-Means I  Love You" (#4 pop, #2 R&B in 1968) and "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time" (#10 pop, #3 R&B in 1970) 


WILSON PICKETT: suffered a fatal heart attack on January 19, 2006. During his career, he placed 16 hits on Billboard's Pop Chart, including "Land Of A 1000 Dances" (#6) and "Funky   Broadway" (#8)


Charlie Webber (THE SWINGIN' MEDALLIONS): of The Swingin' Medallions, died of cancer on January 17, 2003 at the age of fifty seven. The group is best known for their 1966 hit, "Double Shot Of My Baby's Love"


TINY TIM: who reached #17 in 1968 with "Tip-Toe Thru' The Tulips", had a heart attack while on stage and died shortly afterwards on November 30, 1996 at the age of sixty three


SAM PHILLIPS: the man who discovered Elvis Presley and owner of the legendary Sun Records, passed away July 30, 2003 at the age of eighty. Phillips also helped launch the careers of Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich, Conway Twitty and Jerry Lee Lewis. He sold Elvis' contract to RCA in November 1955 for $40,000. Sam was inducted into
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986


RUFUS THOMAS: R&B singer whose biggest pop hit was "Walking The Dog" (#10) in 1963, died on December 15, 2001 following a short illness. Thomas was eighty four


Clarence White (THE BYRDS): guitarist with The Byrds, died on July 14, 1973 after being hit by a car in Lancaster, California. He was twenty nine. White joined The Byrds in 1968 after the group had recorded their huge hits "Mr. Tambourine Man", "Turn! Turn! Turn!", and "Eight Miles High"

Kenny Rankin (BOB DYLAN): a well-regarded guitarist, he played in Bob Dylan's backup band on the influential 1965 album, "Bringing It All Back Home". Rankin appeared on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson more than 25 times. Carson was such a fan that he wrote the liner notes for Rankin's 1967 debut LP, "Mind Dusters". Rankin died on June 7, 2009 in Los Angeles from lung cancer

Jeff Winfield (THE LEFT BANKE): a guitarist with The Left Banke in 1966-1967, passed away June 11, 2009 after a long battle with pneumonia

Robert "Bob" Bogle (THE VENTURES): a founding member of the legendary surf instrumental group, The Ventures, Bogle died on June 14, 2009 from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of seventy five. He and Don Wilson founded the group in 1958 and was lead guitarist and later bassist of the band. Bogle's lead guitar on The Ventures' 1960 cover of "Walk, Don't Run" helped to influence the next generation of guitarists including John Fogerty, Steve Miller, Joe Walsh, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. His use of the tremolo arm was particularly notable. 

                                                        


  

    

 

 

 MASHED POTATOES and GRAVY, ANYONE ?

The Biography of Dee Dee Sharp, "The Queen of Philadelphia Soul Music"

 

 

 If you are like me and millions of other Americans, mashed potatoes and gravy is definitely a favorite food dish. Besides being a flavorful and easy-to-eat comfort food, mashed potato(es) and gravy were also the titles of two very popular and high-charting early 1960s soul-pop hits by Dee Dee Sharp. "Mashed Potato Time" ("MPT") went all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in March 1962 and was a Gold Record. On the R&B Chart, it was a #1 hit for four weeks. At the same time, the "Mashed Potato" became a popular dance craze and was danced to songs such as Dee Dee Sharp's "Mashed Potato Time". Also referred to as "mash potato" or "mashed potatoes", the dance move vaguely resembles that of The Twist, by Sharp's fellow Philadelphian, Chubby Checker. Sharp sang on Chubby Checker's huge hit, "Slow Twistin'" that charted to #3 at the very same time "MPT" was on the charts and being played across the country.

Literally three months after "MPT", Sharp had another Billboard Hot 100 hit with "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)" that peaked at #9. This continued her string of successful Top 40 hits in 1962-1963 (noted below) which would eventually earn her the title of, "The Queen of Philadelphia Soul Music". Dee Dee Sharp's rapid rise to fame in the world of pop, R&B, and soul music all began by singing in her grandfather's church. At the young age of 13, Sharp answered a newspaper advertisement for a girl who could read music, play piano and sing. Soon she was singing background vocals on records by Frankie Avalon, Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon, and Chubby Checker. Her first major record came about in singing with Chubby Checker on "Slow Twistin'" in early 1962. It was at this time that Dee Dee took center stage at Cameo Parkway Records when she was asked to record her first solo single, "Mashed Potato Time". The record soared up the pop and R&B charts and was followed by "Gravy", "Ride!" (#5), "Do The Bird" (#10), and "Wild!" (#33); Sharp also had four other records make it on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Sharp and Checker joined together and recorded an album entitled "Down To Earth", one of nine albums by Sharp released by Cameo Records. Along with "Slow Twistin'", Sharp's ten hit singles were all recorded and released in a span of three years from 1962 to 1965.

Only in her teens, Dee Dee Sharp became an international star. She toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe, quite often as part of Dick Clark's "Caravan of Stars". She was also a familiar face in the extremely popular teenage girls publication, "16 Magazine". Her days in the recording studio did not stop here, however, as she recorded three singles from 1966 to 1968 including a duet with Ben E. King on "Whatcha Gonna Do About It". In 1967 she married famed record producer Kenny Gamble. Two more singles appeared on Gamble & Huff's TSOP record label, plus the album, "Happy 'Bout The Whole Thing". She then signed with Philadelphia International Records for five more singles and "Conquer The World Together"", another duet, this time with David Siqler. Sandwiched in between making records and marriage, Dee Dee made many television appearances on such national shows as "The Ed Sullivan Show", the "Tonight Show", "The Mike Douglas Show", "American Bandstand", "Entertainment Tonight", etc.

In the 1970s Sharp headed Huga Management for her then-husband Kenny Gamble. She guided such noted artists as Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, The O'Jays, Billy Paul and Teddy Pendergrass into super stardom. Sharp recorded three albums of her own for the Philadelphia International Record label, criticallty acclaimed and arguably her best.

There were both bad and good times for Dee Dee in the early 1980s. In 1980, Sharp divorced Gamble, but maintained good visibility via television, tours, concerts, and club dates that took her around the world. In 1981 she scored a #1 dance hit on the Hot Dance Club Play Chart with "Breaking and Entering"/"Easy Money" from her album "Dee Dee". Sharp also appeared in films, including "Desperately Seeking Susan", "Don't Knock The Twist", "Hairspray", "Sister Act", and "Troop Beverly Hills".

If you ever have the opportunity to see Dee Dee Sharp in concert, please do. She is, as the saying goes, a "must see"! Her performances are powerful, yet passionate and vesatile and her tantalizing vocals with a sassy style have been Sharp's signature during her nearly forty year career as a song stylist.

Some interesting factoids about Dee Dee Sharp include:


* Sharp was the first black female teen idol

* Despite an incredibly hectic music career, Sharp is a college graduate and holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania

 

 

THE FIVE AMERICANS----THE PRIDE OF TEXAS

The Biograpy of The Five Americans

 

 
The Five Americans on The Steve Allen Show 

Recently on a ham radio net I host, a discussion developed around a 1960s band that, I must confess, I had forgotten about and had not heard their music on the 'oldies' airwaves in decades-- The Five Americans. The group from Dallas, Texas, had four Top 40 hits in 1966-1967, most notably "Western Union" that charted all the way to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in March 1967. One of the net members asked me when I mentioned the name of this major hit if this was the song where the group sings the refrain in "Morse code"-like harmony, to which I replied, "Yes, it certainly is"! Singing in "Morse code"-like fashion, I must assume, was perhaps used to identify/reference the days when Western Union telegrams were indeed sent in Morse code via telegraph.

The members of The Five Americans first met in Durant, Oklahoma at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 1962. Mike Rabon took on the leadership role of the five young college students and formed a group called The Mutineers. Other members of the band included John Durrill on keyboards, Norman Ezell, guitar and harmonica, Jim Grant, bassist, and Jimmy Wright, drummer. The band, with Rabon on lead guitar, played at local beer joints and fraternity dances until the summer of 1964 when Rabon suggested they go to Dallas to try and make enough money to pay for tuition for the following fall semester. The group also made another major decision at this time and that was to change their name. It was in 1964 that the onslaught of the 'British Invasion' was beginning with bands permeating the American pop music scene with strange sounding names. Reflecting on this new music phenomenon, and not wanting to be bugs or beasts of any kind, the college kids from Oklahoma decided they were simply going to be called The Five Americans.

The group with a new name achieved some area notoriety and were subsequently discovered by Jon Abnor, President of a local record label called Abnak Records. Abnor took the group under his wing and provided them the resources to write and practice original songs. In the summer of 1965, The Five Americans released an original tune entitled, "I See The Light". By February of 1966 the song had peaked at #26 on the Billboard Pop Chart and paved the way for a string of hits by the five young men. "I See The Light" was followed by "Evol-Not Love" which topped out at #52 on the pop chart nationwide.

Then came the biggest hit of all, "Western Union". Mike Rabon was lead vocal on the huge hit that was inspired by a Western Union telegram sign. In addition to a #5 ranking on Billboard, "Western Union" went to #3 on the Cashbox Chart and sold in excess of one million records. The highly successful record made it possible for the group to appear on "American Bandstand" twice and on "Where The Action Is" a total of four times. The band also made an appearance on the popular "Steve Allen Show".

"Western Union" was followed by a less gimmicky and more melodic song entitled "Sound Of Love" that ended up at #36, just inside the Top 40 Pop Chart. The band, bowing to pressure from DJ's around the world to write another 'communication song', then wrote and recorded "Zip Code" that also reached #36 on Billboard. For a short while, the band enjoyed the "high life", touring and making money. However, John Abnor, president of their record label and band manager, was allowed complete control of their money.

 In 1969, The Five Americans would release what would be their final single, "7:30 Guided Tour" which only reached #96 on the Billboard Chart. At this point, the boys simply became weary of touring and of each other and all five went their separate way. The young men from Dallas would each take a different career path thereafter as noted below.


Mike Rabon: had a successful touring career afterwards and released two albums with UNI Records that sold well. Despite hard work and good effort on Rabon's part, most of the promotion and attention went to the only other artist that UNI had signed at the time, one Elton John. Rabon's group, Michael Rabon and Choctaw, went on to become a very successful touring band through the mid-seventies in the southwestern United States. Later Rabon returned to college and acquired a master's degree in public school administration and has been in the Oklahoma public school systems for 28 years

John Durrill: wrote "Dark Lady" for Cher and "Misery And Gin" for Merle Haggard. Durrill was also a member of the touring band of The Ventures, the group that strangely enough influenced The Five Americans in their early years

Norman Ezell: became a public school teacher and minister in northern California

Jim Grant: formed his own successful logo company in Dallas. One of his designs is the Chili's Restaurant logo, a huge restaurant chain in the Southwest. Grant died on November 29, 2004

Jimmy Wright: returned to live in Durant, Oklahoma where The Five got their start and played on commercial jingles from time to time. He would later move to Ohio and became a videographer for Breakthrough Ministries


It should be noted that after Jon Abnor's death in 1996, all rights to The Five American's songs that should have reverted to the group, were purchased by Sundazed Records. That would ultimately change and The Five Americans are now receiving the royalties they so richly deserve. Other noteworthy factoids concerning the band include The Five Americans were the first to achieve what no other group in Texas had done in 5 short years.... selling millions of singles and LPs. In January of 1998, "Western Union" made the one million mark in radio airplay according to BMI, Broadcast Music Incorporated.

The next time you hear a song on your favorite oldies station that includes the sounds of "dits and dahs" (Morse code), you undoubtedly are listening to "Western Union" and The Five Americans, the pride of Texas!

 

 

SUNDAY WILL NEVER BE THE SAME

The Biography of Spanky and Our Gang

 

 

 

For whatever reason(s), some 1960s rock groups never seem to get the attention they so rightly deserve, hence this article on Spanky and Our Gang, a folk-rock band formed in Chicago in 1966 that put five Top 40 hits on the Billboard Top 100 Chart in 1967-1968. The group was led by Elaine McFarlane, nicknamed "Spanky" by one of the band members who, perhaps influenced by her last name, said that she resembled Our Gang (The Little Rascals) star George "Spanky" McFarland. However, before the members of the group even knew each other, McFarlane had been part of an ensemble called The New Wine Singers in 1963 as the folk music scene grew in popularity across the US. It was here that she met multi-instrumentalist Malcolm Hale and was given the name "Spanky".

By the winter of 1965, the New Wine Singers had split and McFarlane headed to Florida where she met Paul "Oz" Bach and Nigel Pickering. While stranded during a hurricane, the trio jammed for three straight days, resulting in her inviting the boys to Chicago. McFarlane was a native of Illinois. Later that year, McFarlane was working as a singing waitress at a club when the owner offered her a chance to form a group to open for his featured acts. She quickly recruited Pickering and Bach. McFarlane played washboard and kazoo while Pickering played guitar and Bach was on bass. The trio jokingly began calling themselves Spanky and Our Gang, playing on their singer's nicknmae. Things went surprisingly well for the trio and after receiving favorable reviews in a local newspaper, the group decided to keep the name. As they progressed, guitarist Malcolm Hale was brought in and they moved up to bigger and better venues.

By late 1966, representatives from Mercury Records took notice and signed the band to a contract. Producer Jerry Ross spent a year polishing their sound before taking them to New York to record. Here they were given a tune, "Sunday Will Never Be The Same" that was a perfect vehicle to showcase McFarlane's powerful voice. One month after the single was released, it peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in June 1967. When the demand for personal appearances started to grow, drummer John Seiter was added to the mix. Spanky and Our Gang were coming into prominence with a sound similar to that of The Mamas and The Papas, who coincidently, were fading in popularity. The group was also helped along by the somewhat similar appearance and vocal style of "Spanky" and Mama Cass Elliot. Like The Mamas and The Papas, the group was becoming known for its vocal harmonies. "Sunday Will Never Be The Same" was the band's first and biggest hit, striking a chord with the record-buying public during the so-called "Summer of Love" and putting Spanky and Our Gang on the pop music map. They continued recording several albums with some of their singles becoming hits, including "Making Every Minute Count" (#31) and "Lazy Day" (#14), both later in that same year.

In early 1968, guitarist and vocalist Lefty Baker was added to the band and his friend Kenny Hodges replaced "Oz" Bach on bass. The band would record and release two more songs, "Sunday Mornin'" that charted to #30 and "Like To Get To Know You" that made it to #17, both major hits for the band. "Like To Get To Know You" was included in the band's second album which lent it's name to the LP. The single brought Spanky and Our Gang back into the Billboard Top 20 in the summer of 1968. This last record, however, would be the final Top 40 entry for the group. In October 1968 the band suffered a tragedy when at age 27, their lead guitarist, Malcolm Hale, died of carbon monoxide poisoning reportedly emanating from a defective space heater. Hale's death has also been attributed to bronchopneumonia. In the wake of his death, the group played out its concert commitments and then took a break to reassess its future. The now 26 year old McFarlane was pregant and decided to quit performing while drummer John Seiter had been offered a chance to play with The Turtles. Rather than reorganize around such key membership changes, the group decided to call it quits.

The group's third album, "Anything You Choose/Without Rhyme Or Reason" was released on the Mercury label in January 1969. It contained two popular songs, "Give A Damn" and "Yesterday's Rain". "Give A Damn" was released as a single in the summer of 1968. In spite of being banned in several states because of the profanity in its title - and in some cases due to the fact that it was a comment on racial equality that became the theme song for the New York Urban Coalition - the song became a regional hit where released and overall made #43 on the charts. It was also performed live on an episode of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, resulting in the CBS Standards and Practices division to receive numerous complaints about the song's title being used during 'family viewing hours'. One such complaint reportedly came from Richard Nixon. Ironically, "Give A Damn" would become John Lindsay's campaign song during his successful run for Mayor of New York.

A second member of Spanky and Our Gang to pass away was Lefty Baker. He died on August 11, 1971. Life, however, continued on for the remaining members of the group. In 1975, "Spankey" and Pickering joined with musicians Bill Plummer, Marc McClure and Jim Moon to form a new band. They recorded on the Epic label, performed on Roger McGuinn's first solo album, and toured until 1980, primarily in Texas. "Spanky" recorded some songs as a solo artist and then in the early 80's joined up with John Phillips and Denny Doherty as the lead singer for a re-formed version of The Mamas and The Papas. McFarlane toured the world with them for over ten years with various lineups. Meanwhile, Mercury continued issuing albums containing the music of Spanky and Our Gang for decades.

Sadly, a third member of the band, "Oz" Bach succumbed to a lengthy battle with cancer in September of 1998. As the years marched on, time and illness have taken their toll. As we all get older, time does seem to go by ever so quickly. In reflecting on this band from the latter part of the 1960s, it's "time in the sun" was very short, like many bands that came before it and like many other bands that came after it. Nevertheless, on a positive note, Spanky and Our Gang continue to be well-remembered by music fans of the 1960s with their legacy firmly established in the rock and roll music history of that incredible decade. Though the '60s are long gone, the music lives on including "Sunday Will Never Be The Same".

 

 

  "Can You Dig It, Baby"?

    (The Biography of The Friends Of Distinction)


 

 For whatever reasons, the summer of 1969 is exceptionally memorable for me including the rock and roll hits I listened to every day on WLS in Chicago. One of those big hits was "Grazing In The Grass" by The Friends Of Distinction, a #3 charting Gold Single for the group from Los Angeles. To this day when I hear "Grazing In The Grass", the record resonates deep within my heart and soul and gives me that good feeling all kids have during the summer - that feeling of being carefree, having fun, staying up late, and not having to worry about going to school the next day. And perhaps, too, its the bright, uptempo orchestration of the song and the rapid syncopation of the chorus that makes this a special 60s "feel good" song for me.

The Friends Of Distinction were one of the most likeable and vocally cohesive singing groups of the late 1960s and early 70s. The soul pop group formed in 1968 and consisted of Harry Elston, Floyd Butler, Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Love. After polishing up their act for six months, the group hit the local tour circuit in Los Angeles and realized immediate success. With well-developed talent and the support of a widely-known manager, former NFL football great Jim Brown, the group signed with RCA Records. In 1969, "Friends" released their first single, "Grazing In The Grass" that reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart where it achieved Gold Single status and graced the R&B charts for 17 weeks, peaking at #5.

The group, whose sound was similar to, and often confused with The Fifth Dimension, had a second major hit on the charts just four months later with "Going In Circles". This brilliant ballad climbed its way to #3 on the R&B charts after a very productive 19 weeks, and reached #15 on the pop charts. Like "Grazing", this record also sold over 1 million copies and was a Gold Single.

Great harmonies and crossover arrangements backed the individually strong lead vocals of the group members. Like The Fifth Dimension, both included tightly harmonizing men and women dressed in late 60s "hip" clothing, though "Friends'" music was generally more soulful. Combined with top notch material, the group sounded like a breath of fresh air on pop radio in 1969.

Three more hit singles charted for the group - "Love Or Let Me Be Lonely" that went all the way to #6 on the pop charts in March 1970, followed by "Time Waits For No One" and "I Need You" - though none were as rewarding as the group's first two hits. The Friends Of Distinction were also quite prolific in the production of LPs from 1969-1971, releasing 5 albums. Unfortunately for the group, the winds of change were beginning to develope in the mid-70s as popular music took a different direction and the "Friends'" fortunes declined. A grueling tour schedule and the lack of a hit for several years led the group to call it quits in 1975.

The Friends Of Distinction had a relatively short life in its original incarnation, but made some of the most memorable soul pop music of all time. In 1990, Elston and Butler decided to bring the "Friends" back together. Tragically, Butler died before the group reunion could be realized. Elson would then spend several years forming a new "Friends" group that currently tours and continues to entertain audiences nearly 40 years after the world first heard The Friends Of Distinction. Isn't it great that we can still hear their music in live concerts and of course on CDs including that all too familiar chorus from "Grazing In The Grass",


"I can dig it, he can dig it, she can dig it, we can dig it, they can dig it, you can dig it
Oh, let's dig it. Can you dig it, baby?
I can dig it, he can dig it, she can dig it, we can dig it, they can dig it, you can dig it
Oh, let's dig it. Can you dig it, baby"?

 

 

 

Society's Child

(The Biography of Janis Ian)

 

 

Janis Ian, like the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League, is someone you either really like or dislike for her pointed handling of heretofore taboo/controversial topics through song. Her outspokenness on such subjects as interracial romance, incest, prostitution, homosexuality, etc. has made her both celebrated and decried by the American public over the years.

Her career in music began at an early age growing up in New Jersey. When just 14 and waiting to meet with her school guidance counselor, Ian wrote and would soon record her first hit single, "Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)" in June 1967. The song is a meditation about an interracial romance forbidden by a girl's mother and frowned upon by her peers and teachers. The girl ultimately decides to end the relationship, claiming the societal norms of the day have left her no other choice. "Society's Child" was too hot for Atlantic records as well at the time. The song was originally intended to be recorded by Atlantic and the label paid for her recording session, however, subsequently returned the master to Ian and quietly refused to release it. The record was banned from airplay on some radio stations and failed to attract much notice until conductor Leonard Berstein invited its writer to perform the song on his television special, "Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution". The ensuing publicity and furor over its subject matter pushed "Society's Child" into the upper rungs of the pop charts where it reached #14. The hit made Janis Ian an overnight sensation and launched her recording career in pop music. In 2001, "Society's Child" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honors recordings considered timeless and important to music history.

Ian soon dropped out of high school and recorded three LPs in rapid succession, giving away the money she earned to friends and charities. At age 20 she married Peter Cunningham who she had met at a peace rally, but the marriage failed and Ian would later move to California to hone her writing skills in seclusion. Three years later she would reemerge in the pop music world with the LP "Stars" which featured the single "Jesse", later a Top 30 hit for Roberta Flack.

In 1975, Ian eclipsed all of her previous success with the release of the album "Between The Lines". Not only did the LP achieve platinum status, but the delicate single "At Seventeen" reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and #1 on the Adult Contemporary Chart. The record, a bittersweet commentary on adolescent cruelty and teenage angst, as reflected upon from the maturity of adulthood, received acclaim from record buyers who purchased the single and album in huge numbers. "Between The Lines" topped the charts at #1 and earned a platinum certification for sales of one million copies. "At Seventeen" also earned Ian a 1975 Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance of the year; the high-charting single beat out the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Olivia Newton-John, and Helen Reddy. Additionally, Ian performed "At Seventeen" as a musical guest on the very first episode of "Saturday Night Live". The hit single can also be heard playing in the background in one scene of the 2004 movie "Mean Girls". The movie, like the song, addresses the topic of teenage cruelty and alienation.

Another country where Ian has achieved a surprising level of popularity is Japan. She had two Top 10 singles there and her album "Aftertones" was a #1 bestseller in 1976.

After Ian's phenominal success with "Between The Lines", her next three albums released in 1977, 1979, and 1981 sold poorly and she was dropped by her label. Ian spent much of the 1980s and early 90s without a record deal. Finally, in 1993, Janis Ian would once again resurface with the album "Breaking Silence", its title song about incest. She also came out as a lesbian with that release. In the album, Ian also pulled no punches in tackling material like domestic violence, frank eroticism, and the Holocaust. Similarly, in 1995s "Revenge" album, Ian explored prostitution and homelessness. Two years later she would return with the LP "Hunger", followed by the album "God & The F.B.I." in the spring of 2000.

Janis Ian still tours and has a devoted fan base. Only time and history will decide whether she was courageous and ahead of her time in taking on divisive topics through her songs. One thing that can be said of Janis Ian, though is that she never gave up on her career despite many up and downs and much public criticism. I do not agree with all of her beliefs on societal issues, but I do admire her persistence and determination to be successful in a field that affords her to fully utilize her God-given talent. Janis Ian has achieved the American dream, and it all started in that incredible decade of the 1960s.

 

 

Help Solve A 60s Rock Group Mystery

(Who Were The Mustangs?)
 

I mentioned in a previous article that I love all the rock and roll music of the 1960s, however, I am particularly fond of instrumental rock. One hit record from this genre was "The Dartell Stomp" by a group called The Mustangs. Though I still have my original 45 RPM record of this hit, I have not had a record player to play it on for many, many years; CDs including "Stomp" are few in number and retail for $50.00 or more. Perhaps some day a reasonably priced CD of "The Dartell Stomp" and the "B Side", "Lazy Love", will become available.

In the meantime, I have spent 4-5 hours attempting to learn more about The Mustangs via the World Wide Web, but to no avail. Like the previous instrumental rock group mystery I wrote about concerning The Exports, I am hopeful someone may have the answers as to "who were The Mustangs"?

I have noted below the few bits of information I have been able to find. Based on my experience in solving The Exports mystery, I am guessing that in like manner, The Mustangs were also a regional band and their lone hit single receved airplay only in that region. It may be helpful to know that I purchased the record in northern Indiana which may indicate the group had roots in the Midwest.

I welcome the help of all our wonderful visitors to "CQ Hams Still Groovin' In The 60s" in solving the mystery of The Mustangs; please let me know of any specific information you have via the Webmaster. I will be pleased to credit and recognize whoever is first to factually solve this 60s rock group mystery. Thank you in advance for your help. YOU may hold the key in solving this music mystery!

Here are the scant few details I do know:

* "The Dartell Stomp" was recorded on the PROVIDENCE record label (Release #401), possibly in 1963-64

* The "B Side" of "The Dartell Stomp" was "Lazy Love"

* Two known groups having the same name, The Mustangs, (one from Riverside, CA and the other from Finland), are not The
  Mustangs band in question

* The Dartells recorded a single with the title "Dartell Stomp" that should not be confused with The Mustangs "The Dartell
  Stomp"

 


 

 

The Murmaids

 

During the 1960s there were many "one-hit wonder" groups who left their mark on pop-rock music. Today, some 40-50 years later, the music of these groups are rarely heard and seem hopelessly relegated to the history books of pop music. One group, however, The Murmaids, remains in the forefront of '60s music to this day with their big hit, "Popsicles and Icicles", still frequently played and their name continuously mentioned in '60s music articles.

The Murmaids can safely be classed as "one-hit wonders", but their lone hit record carries special significance to sixties music in that it characterizes an entire innocent era of pop music and the early phase of '60s "girl-group" music. So, who were The Murmaids? The female vocal trio from Los Angeles were sisters Carol and Terry Fischer and their friend Sally Gordon. The girls had grown up together and had begun singing, and when the singing began to show promise in their middle/late-teens, the Fischer sisters' mother brought them into Chattahoochie Records, a tiny Los Angeles-based label, for an audition. The girls had previously sung backgrounds for Mike Post, the Grammy and Emmy award-winning composer of music and theme songs for many of the most popular TV dramas first shown in the U.S. The label's recording manager, Kim Fowley, provided them with a song called "Popsicles and Icicles", composed by David Gates, a young man from Oklahoma with musical aspirations who had been working in Los Angeles several years writing songs and playing session work. (Gates would go on to form the group Bread in 1969, a wildly popular band in the 1970s having a total of twelve Top 40 hits including two Gold Singles). The mix of dreamy melody and ethereal girl-trio voices was a quick chart success with "Popsicles and Icicles" peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in December 1963 where it remained for 11 weeks. The hit reached #1 on The Record World Chart.

The Fischer sisters were 14 and 16 when their record became a hit and Sally Gordon a like age. Their mothers acted together as manager for the teens. When the record was achieving phenominal success, calls were received from every major record company seeking to sign their daughters. The mothers' response to the many offers was, "No, this woman (owner of Chattahoochee Records) took a chance on us and we're gonna stick with her". The girls had no choice but to go along with this decision, one that would ultimately squelch their blossoming career in pop music.

A few weeks after recording "Popsicles and Icicles", the girls went in to Chattahoochee and recorded an album which they never heard then and did not hear until over 40 years later. In fact the group received a billing statement from the record company charging an exorbitant amount of money against royalties. The company said, "You're not geting any money. We don't have it". Interestingly, the recording manager was paid as were the musicians, but the girls were paid nothing. This injustice of not paying the Fischers and Gordon would also contribute to the end of The Murmaids.

From 1964-1968 they cut five singles in an effort to follow up on "Popsicles and Icicles" success, but only "Hearbreak Ahead" in early 1964 managed to get airplay. Without a full-time professional committment to touring, personal appearances and recording for a very small label, December 1963 would be the first time and last time that The Murmaids were to occupy the attention of chart compilers. According to Terry Fischer some four decades later, the girls did not receive any support to promote themselves at the time and never met anyone who were their fans; this remains an oddity as there was, in fact, a large fan base in the '60s and still is today. Another factor that would add to the demise of the trio was that Carol and Terry entered college, which at the time, seemed of much greater concern to them.

Carol Fischer would marry jazz musician John Morell and Terry appeared in nightclubs and recorded albums for twenty years, also appearing on numerous television shows. The Murmaids themselves remain a fixture of early/mid-60s "girl-group" collections. They left behind some very good material which can be heard on two contemporary albums, the 1995 CD "Popsicles and Icicles" (Collectables) and on the 2002 CD, "Murmaids Splash Back" (The Orchard). And by the way, for all of you who are English grammarians and are questioning the spelling of the group's name, it was simply a "typo" that was never corrected.

 

 


 

"HAWAII TATTOO" and THE WAIKIKIS

I was very fortunate to spend Christmas 2008 on the warm, sandy beaches of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, truly one of the most beautiful tropical ocean front areas in the world. It was here on a lazy afternoon, soaking up the sights and sounds of Paradise, that my memory was jogged into remembering an instrumental record I was fond of from 1965, "Hawaii Tattoo" by The Waikikis. Awash in the 'Aloha Spirit' of the Hawaiian Islands, I thought this would be an ideal time to write and reflect on this unique and unusual record that was popular enough to become a Top 40 hit (peaked at #33) during the '60s pop-rock period. Looking back, this was quite an accomplishment given the type record "Hawaii Tattoo" was, an instrumental with a traditional Hawaiian melody; in fact, 1965 was a year dominated by the sounds of 'British Invasion' bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, etc. This was also a year that The Supremes had three #1 mega hit records. Its amazing, though that somehow this now obscure instrumental piece found it's way into pop musics top echelon of hits to compete with the super groups of that year. It is also noteworthy in that the record represents the pop music sub-genre, "Hawaiian" that was very popular in Holland, Belgium, and Germany in the late 1950s and 1960s, but relatively unknown in the United States.

"Hawaii Tattoo" was released on the Kapp label in late 1964 and peaked at #33 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart on January 9, 1965. The instrumental was performed by a Belgian studio band who would over time become mostly known for this one hit single. The record was actually recorded in 1962 in Belgium and spent two months there on the pop chart. It was additionally a huge hit in Germnay, spending 37 weeks in the Top 10 and also reached the Top 50 later in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. As a result of its chart hit status, "Hawaii Tattoo" joined the ranks of such songs as "Sweet Leilani", "Hawaiian Wedding Song", "Tiny Bubbles", and others as a type of "Hawaiian" standard song recorded by many artists and nearly every act recording a "Hawaiian" LP in the 1960s. In 1965 the album "Hawaii Tattoo" by The Waikikis peaked at #93 on the Billboard Hot 200 Chart.

The Waikikis consisted of Jo Van Wetter (composer of "Hawaii Tattoo"), Willy Albimoor, Hans Blum, and Michael Thomas. The success of the group, however, can be attributed to record producer Horst Fuchs, who promoted the band's career and "pulled the strings". Over the years The Waikikis recorded a total of seven albums. The majority of the songs on each of the LPs either had a Hawaiian title or one that referenced something about Hawaii. The band sold their colorful island reveries by the millions and some of their own creations like "Hilo Kiss" and "Hula-Hochzeit" ("Hawaii Honeymoon") even made their way into the charts in several countries.

In writing this article, I must admit that the story about a fairly obscure instrumental single by a "one-hit-wonder" band from Europe will only be genuinely appreciated by die-hard '60s music afficionados, however, it does represent a piece of the overall body of pop-rock music from the 1960s we all know and love as "Oldies". In ending this article, I would like to leave you the reader with three interesting factoids concerning "Hawaii Tattoo" and The Waikikis. Until next time, "Mahalo" (thank you) and "A Hui Hou" (good-bye) for now. I hope YOU had a "Mele Kalikimaka" (Merry Christmas) and "Hauoli Makahiki Hou" (Happy New Year) in 2009!


* "Hawaii Tattoo" seems to be better known outside of Hawaii, where it is seldom heard
* The Waikikis have no obvious connection to Hawaii other than a fascination for the islands and the people
* In 2004, the song "Hawaiian March" by The Waikikis was used for the 'Prince Paul's Bubble Party' track on the "SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" film soundtrack

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