Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Initial 16: P.J. Proby

One of the things I like about doing this blog is exposing people to artists and songs where there is a certain level of unfamiliarity. With this week’s unusual topic of the initial “P,” I would imagine that all but a couple will be unfamiliar to the majority of those who visit this site. Today’s artist, P.J. Proby, is no exception to that rule.

Although I was familiar with his only US hit, I was not aware of his name until 1971. I was bedridden with the mumps that February and friend dropped off a book about the history of rock ‘n roll which I read voraciously during that week long malady. It was there that I first encountered the name P.J. Proby and wondered why the author went at lengths to talk about someone of whom I had never heard about until then.

P.J. Proby was an American artist, but he failed to become known to any great extent on this side of the Atlantic. In the UK, it was a different story. Proby scored eleven Top 40 hits in Britain and this was largely initiated by his connection to The Beatles, as he appeared on their 1964 TV special. Additionally, he had five Top 40 releases in Canada. After a string of bad luck, his popularity began to wane.

Proby, who was born as James Marcum Smith, had only one US hit. “Niki Hoeky” was released in the US on Liberty Records in 1967 and ascended to the #23 position on the Hot 100. It wasn’t that he didn’t have other singles that charted, none of the others charted very high. For example, “Hold Me,” his second most popular US single, charted at #70; the third most popular, “Somewhere,” peaked at #91.

He had four others to briefly appear as bubbling under hits and they landed between #119 and #135 positions. Essentially, “Niki Hoeky” was the extent of his American recording success – “gonna dig ya on a Scooby-doo.”

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