This Diamond Ring By Gary Lewis And The Playboys

August 18, 2015

Sometimes life is a lot easier when you have a famous parent, which brings us to Gary Lewis, the son of comedian Jerry Lewis.

Gary Lewis and The Playboys experienced success right from the start of their career. An appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show propelled their first single release, “This Diamond Ring,” to the top of the BILLBOARD Pop Chart on Feb. 20, 1965, where it remained for two weeks.

Lewis produced a simple but melodic brand of pop and his first seven releases all made the top ten. “Count Me In” and “Save Your Heart For Me” just missed the top of the chart stalling at number two.

The band had ten hits within a two year span but Lewis was drafted in late 1966. When he returned from his military service, his career never regained its momentum. He still appears in concert from time to time but never had another chart entry.


Ballads of the Green Berets by SSGT. Barry Sadler

December 22, 2012

During the mid-1960s the Vietnam War and the anti-war protest movement were gearing up. Dozens of artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs were producing music that supported this movement. Into that vortex stepped SSgt. Barry Sadler. His Ballads of the Green Berets topped the American charts for five weeks and the title song was the number one single release of the year. His music honored those who fought in Vietnam, which set it apart from most of what was being issued at the time. Real Gone Music has now reissued Ballads of the Green Berets.

Barry Sadler was a member of the United States Special Forces who was wounded in Vietnam during mid-1965. By January 30, 1966, he had recovered and debuted his hit song on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Ballads of the Green Berets is an album of its time as the music pertains to heroism, service, courage, and death during the Vietnam War. While the Patriotic nature of the music may still have appeal, it is very much an album of the 1960s.

The lyrics were straightforward stories, which are supported by simple melodies. It can best be described as a cross between pop and folk. The title song had a precise military beat as it told about the death of a soldier and the effects upon his wife and son. “The Soldier Coming Home” and “The Trooper’s Lament” are also ballads about the ultimate sacrifice.

“Salute to the Nurses” was an upbeat interlude with a shuffle beat that was a tribute to the nurses who sometimes are forgotten. The humorous “Saigon” and “The Paris of the East” were about the joys and follies of leave away from the battlefield.

The only bonus track is “The A-Team,” which was his only other hit single. It was a tribute to the members of a Green Beret unit and is more sophisticated than most of his music as it has a smooth, mid-tempo pop feel.

The sound is clear and is superior to the original vinyl release. There is a booklet that provides a good biography of Sadler plus notes about the music.

Sadler would have little commercial success apart from his chart topping album. He would write a series of successful novels but would be tried for murder and die of complications from being shot in the head during a robbery in Guatemala City at the age of 49.

His lasting claim to fame was his Ballads of the Green Berets. It is music that inspired both pro and con emotions at the time of its release and in its own way was just as controversial as much of the anti-war music of the day. It remains a heartfelt tribute to the armed services and the people who served.

Article first published as Music Review: SSgt Barry Sadler – Ballads of the Green Berets on Blogcritics.


The Ed Sullivan Show: The Classic Performances by Elvis Presley

September 6, 2009

And now ladies and gentlemen, Mercury and Lincoln automobiles present The Ed Sullivan Show.

The year was 1956 and sixty million Americans—those are Super Bowl numbers—tuned in to each of Elvis Presley’s three appearances on Ed Sullivan. These performances have now been reissued in all their black and white magnificence.

Elvis Presley was a musical phenomenon in 1956 and, despite having vowed never to have him appear on his program, Sullivan could smell the ratings. He paid Elvis the unprecedented sum of $50,000. 82% of all televisions in the United States tuned in, making Elvis a bargain at any price.

His first appearance, on September 9, 1956, was probably his best and most interesting. First, the performance took place in Hollywood as Elvis was busy filming Love Me Tender. Second, Sullivan had been involved in a serious auto accident and missed five shows in succession. Phil Silvers, Kirk Douglas, Red Skelton, Patti Page, and, for this broadcast, Charles Laughton filled in for him.

Accompanying Elvis were guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, drummer D.J. Fontana, and of course The Jordanaires—and they all look so young.

The Hollywood performances are tight and Elvis seems relaxed. “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” “Hound Dog,” and especially “Ready Teddy” are all presented with enthusiasm. If you are going to perform before sixty million people, this is the way to do it.

The October 28, 1956 performance is probably the weakest of the three. He repeats “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Love Me Tender,” and “Hound Dog.” Plus, he has trouble with lyrics of “Love Me Tender” and makes fun of “Hound Dog.” Both of these issues inevitably continued for years. He is at his best on “Love Me,” which was performed with some passion.

Presley’s final appearance occurred January 6, 1957. His opening medley is sloppy and another repeat of “Don’t Be Cruel” is tiresome. The final three songs, however, save the set. “Too Much” and “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again” are both excellent. Concluding with “Peace In The Valley,” Elvis always sounds at his best when performing gospel. It is an emotional presentation and he is suitably serious and reverent throughout.

The special features are only for the Elvis historian. A silent home movie catches him performing August 7, 1955 in Houston and marks his earliest complete performance on record. Also included are home movies of Elvis and Priscilla, which are interesting but interviews with Sam Phillips and Wink Martindale are too brief.

The Ed Sullivan Show: The Classic Performances by Elvis Presley should appeal to his vast legion of fans or, simply, for the curious. These performances are now part of music history as they catch Elvis—young and raw—at the beginning of his career.