Will You Love Me Tomorrow by The Shirelles

June 28, 2014


“Wonderland By Night” by Bert Kaempfert had ruled the American singles charts for three weeks. Its reign came to an end when “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by The Shirelles ascended to the top position January 30, 1961 and remained there for two weeks.

Shirley Owen, Doris Coley, Beverly Lee, and Addie Harris formed The Shirelles in 1958. The group name came from the words Shirley being combined with the Chantels who were a Doo-wop group of the day.

The four girls first performed at a high school talent show. It would be a first stop on a journey that would end with their induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1996. They would place 26 songs on The United States Singles Charts 1958-1967. Their “Soldier Boy” would also hit number 1 during 1962. They were one of the first black vocal groups to consistently cross over onto the primarily white pop charts.

“Will You Love Me Tomorrow” was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. King would include it on her legendary Tapestry album. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it as one of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

The song would be banned on a number of radio stations because the lyrics were considered suggestive. It was the early 1950s and people did not talk about the morning after. Still, enough stations did play the song to enable it to become one of the best-selling singles of the year.

One final tip of the hat to The Shirelles who 50 years ago ruled the music world with one of the memorable songs of the early 1960’s.

Wonderland By Night by Bert Kaempfert

June 27, 2014


“Are You Lonesome Tonight” by Elvis Presley was the number one single in the United States for six weeks. It dominated the pop chart from Thanksgiving of 1960 through the first week of 1961 but was finally replaced by Bert Kaempfert’s instrumental hit “Wonderland By Night,” which had a three-week run at the top beginning January 9, 1961. It propelled the album of the same same to the number one position for five weeks.

I haven’t researched the topic but I’m willing to wager Bert Kaempfert was the only musician to play in the German Navy Band during World War II and later top the American Pop chart.

Kaempfert did not write lyrics, but he composed the music for some of the more memorable pop/easy listening songs of the era. He was responsible for such hits as “Strangers In The Night,” “Spanish Eyes,” “Wooden Heart,” and “Danke Schoen.” His greatest rock ‘n’ roll claim to fame was as the producer of “My Bonnie” by Tony Sheridan. He was responsible for hiring The Beatles as the backup band.

Kaempfert released over 50 albums of easy listening and light jazz during his career, which sold tens of millions of copies. He only had one more Top 20 single however, when “Red Roses For A Blue Lady” reached number 11 during 1965.

“Wonderland By Night” was one of those memorable instrumentals that comes along every once in awhile that catch the American record buyers’ fancy and becomes a huge commercial success. Other examples are “Theme From A Summer Place” by Percy Faith, “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat, and “Music Box Dancer” by Frank Mills. The memorable trumpet solo was played by Charly Tabor.

Bert Kaempfert may not have been a rock star and was an odd person to ascend to the top of the pop charts but nevertheless, Just over 50 years ago this week “Wonderland By Night” ruled the music world in the United States.

Are You Lonesome Tonight by Elvis Presley

June 26, 2014

“Are You Lonesome Tonight” had a long history before Elvis Presley ever got a hold of the song. It was written by Lou Handman and Roy Turk during 1926. Handman recorded his own version in 1927, with him playing the piano and his sister Edith as the vocalist. Blue Barron, whose real name was Harry Freidman, was an orchestra leader during the big band era. He had a hit with the song in 1950, reaching number 19. Al Jolson recorded a version of the song that same year.

Elvis Presley was released from the Army, March 2, 1960. He was greeted by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, who ushered him into the recording studio in early April. He recorded a number of singles which were not issued on an album plus the tracks for his Elvis Is Back release.

The session produced two number one singles. “It’s Now Or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” were vastly different in style but both would signal a more pop direction for the maturing Elvis. Both songs would also top The American singles charts. It’s Now Or Never” would have a five week run at the top during the summer of 1960 and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” would begin its six week stay at the top beginning November 28, 1960. They would rank as the 10th and 8th most popular singles of the decade.

Elvis’ version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” would become one of his signature songs. He would pattern the music after the Blue Baron interpretation but the vocal would be taken from Al Jolson. It was Elvis’ emotional dialogue that won over many of his fans.

This slow ballad remains instantly recognizable over a half century ago was responsible for Elvis truly being the king.

Stay by Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs

June 21, 2014


Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs main claim to fame occurred November 21, 1960 and lasted for one week, when their single “Stay” topped The American singles chart for one week. It almost went unnoticed as it was tucked away between the number the one hits, “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” by Elvis Presley.

The song also is an answer to a music trivia question as it remains the shortest song ever to top the charts, as it clocked in at only 1:37.

Maurice Williams formed the Royal Charms during the mid-fifties. By 1957 he had formed The Gladiolas with Earl Gainey, William Massey, Willie Jones, and Norman Wade. They were a typical doo-wop group of the day. They produced one big hit as “Little Darlin’” reached number 11 on the rhythm & blues charts in The United States and also climbed to number 41 on the pop charts. The white Canadian group, The Diamonds, would cover or steal the song, and take it to number two on the pop charts where it remained for eight weeks.

“Stay” would be the only top forty hit of their career. The Four Seasons (1964) and Jackson Browne (1978) would both produce versions of the song that would reach The American top 20.

Despite a lack of hits, Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs have continued to record and tour down to the present day. They were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall Of Fame in 2007. They released the album, Merry Christmas, several months ago.

“Stay” may have been a short song but a half century ago it ruled The American music world.

Georgia On My Mind by Ray Charles

June 19, 2014


“Georgia On My Mind” was written in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorell. The song was about and named for Carmichael’s sister Georgia. His recording that year would be the first of dozens for the song during the next three decades. It would become a well respected but minor jazz classic.

All that would change in 1960 when Ray Charles recorded it for his The Genius Hits The Road Again album. The track would be released as a single in late September and on November 11, 1960, topped The American singles chart for one week. It was the first number one pop hit of Ray Charles’ career. Rolling Stone Magazine would rate it at number 44 on their list of The Greatest Songs Of All Time. The state of Georgia made it their official song in 1979.

His version is just laid back and flows easily along. It remains one of the best performances of his career or anyone else’s for that matter.

It was also an important song as it helped to integrate the pop charts as Charles was known for being a rhythm & blues artist at this point in his career but now had taken a big step toward mainstream success.

“Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles remains an iconic performance and deservedly ruled the American music world for one week beginning November 11, 1960.

Miles At The Fillmore (Box Set) by Miles Davis

June 18, 2014


Shortly after releasing Bitches Brew, Miles Davis and his band began a four night stand at the Fillmore East on June 17, 1970. Bitches Brew had signified a new direction for his career. Lengthy solos were being replaced by an ensemble sound as he was taking his cues from the rock and funk music of the day. While he was still grounded in jazz, his new fusion style and sound began attracting rock fans.

His backing band at the Fillmore was one of the best of his career. Sax player Steve Grossman, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette, percussionist/vocalist Airto Moreira, pianist Chick Correa, and organist Keith Jarrett were some of the best jazz musicians available and formed a tight and talented unit. Jarrett and Correa would carry and change the melody while Dejohnette and Holland provided a foundation.  This allowed Davis and Grossman to weave in their sounds. They would constantly change direction and add new textures to the performances.

Back in the days of vinyl, a two disc set was released. It consisted of four medleys of material, one to each side. Remarkably the rest of the music sat in the vaults until now.

Miles At The Fillmore – Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3 is a four CD box set that contains all four complete concerts. It all adds up to over 100 minutes of unreleased music. Also included as bonus tracks are three performances from their April 11, 1970, concert at The Fillmore West, which means another 35 minutes of unreleased material. The band is the same except Keith Jarrett was not present. The three songs, “Paraphernalia,” “Footprints,” and a thunderous rendition of “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down” all clock in at over ten minutes and were not performed at any of the Fillmore East concerts.

The sound has been remastered from the original tapes. Both Fillmore’s had excellent recording equipment for the day and modern technology has created a pristine sound. Each musician is distinct, which increases the listening experience. A 32-page booklet not only gives a history of the concerts but provides a context for the music in so far as the era and Davis’ career are concerned. They also made the wise decision to place each night of music on its own disc. This enhances each individual concert experience.

Songs such as “Directions,” “The Mask,” “It’s About Time,” and “Bitches Brew” appear on all four discs. It is interesting to compare the performances and note not only the obvious but subtle changes as well.

The second performance of June 18 contains a surprise. Davis rarely performed an encore but here they played a ten minute “Spanish Key” from Bitches Brew. It was the only time the song was performed during his four night stay.

Miles At The Fillmore – Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3 finally resurrects one of the historic series of concerts in American music history. While they are emblematic of a certain period in the career of Miles Davis, they hold up well 44 years later. A must listen for any fan of Davis or jazz music.

I Want To Be Wanted by Brenda Lee

June 17, 2014


Brenda Lee placed 37 songs on the American singles charts during the 1960s making her one of the top selling solo female artists of the decade.

She was born Brenda Mae Tarpley December 11, 1944 in Lithonia, Georgia. She has been a professional singer since the age of six and signed a contract with the Decca Label in 1957 at age 12 when she issued her first chart single. Her nickname is Little Miss Dynamite because of her diminutive stature and was taken from her rockabilly hit “Dynamite.”

Her most memorable hits are her number one song “I’m Sorry,” “Dum Dum,” “All Alone Am I,” “Break It To Me Gently,” “Fool Number #1,” and the perennial Christmas favorite “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.” When her pop hits ran out at the end of the sixties she would re-invent herself as a country singer which eventually led to her induction into The Country Hall Of Fame in 1997. She would enter The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame at their 2002 induction ceremony.

For one week, October 24, 1960, she toped the Billboard Magazine Pop Charts for the second and last time. “I Want To Be Wanted” would spend one week on top of The United States music world replacing The Drifters “Save The Last Dance For Me” which would then ascend the summit again for two more weeks.

It was a ballad of teen angst as were most of her big hits of the day. It was a subject she knew alot about as she was still in her mid-teens when the song was released. It would remain on the charts for 15 weeks and even reach number seven on the rhythm & blues charts which was quite a stretch.

Now near 70 years old, Brenda Lee continues to perform and record plus has been married to the same person for 47 years which is a rare feat for the music world.

Brenda Lee’s legacy is secure and so one last tip of the hat to her number one song of a half century ago, “I Want To Be Wanted.”

Save The Last Dance For Me by The Drifters

June 16, 2014

It is difficult to know how many members have passed through the Drifters. The original Drifters formed around former Dominoes lead singer Clyde McPhatter. The next lead singer  was Ben E. King. His first lead vocal was on “There Goes My Baby,” which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100.

They finally reached the top of the pop charts when on October 17, 1960, “Save The Last Dance For Me” reached number one, fell out of the top spot and then returned to number one for two more weeks. It also reached the top of the R&B Chart.

A little over a year later King left for a solo career and was replaced by Rudy Lewis (“Up On The Roof”) and then Johnny Moore (“Under The Boardwalk”). The Drifters would place 36 singles on the Hot 100 but “Save The Last Dance For Me” was their only chart topper.

Mr. Custer by Larry Verne

June 15, 2014


Please Mr. Custer, I don’t want to go, Forward Ho!

Larry Verne was working in a photo studio when three songwriters approached him about recording a song they had written. “Mr. Custer” was released during the late summer of 1960 and became the number one song in The United States for one week, beginning October 10, 1960

It was one of those novelty songs that resonated with the record buying public. It really was one of the better comedy singles to be released.

Larry Verve would only have one more chart hit. “Mr. Livingston” would reach number 75 late in the year, leaving “Mr. Custer” as his one shining and memorable moment.

My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own by Connie Francis

June 15, 2014


Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero, better known by her professional name Connie Francis, was one of the most successful female singers of the fifties and sixties placing 59 songs on the American singles chart between 1957 and 1969. Fifty years ago this week her second of three number one hits, “My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own,” was the number one song in The United States, September 26, 1960 for two weeks.

Oddly, it is some of her non number one releases that remain her signature songs. “Who’s Sorry Now,” “Lipstick On Your Collar,” “Where The Boys Are,” and “Stupid Cupid” are all nice slices of a pop world long gone.

Connie Francis’ formula was to switch back and forth between emotional and agonizing songs of love’s yearnings and catchy tunes with somewhat inane but ultimately mesmerizing lyrics that would stay in your mind for days, which was an important component for success in the days of early sixties AM singles radio.

“My Heart has A Mind Of Its Own” certainly falls into the sappy emotional category but it does stay with you. While her career faded with the advent of the seventies, her catalogue had withstood the test of time better than many of her contemporaries.

Despite personal problems and four short marriages she has continued to perform and record down to the present day. She has also become a fixture in Vegas.

Very few performers have had the commercial success of Connie Francis and a half century ago this week she ruled the American singles charts.