Monday, February 24, 2014

Uni Records: Grazing in the Grass

Only four singles issued on Uni Records made it to the #1 spot on the Billboard charts. Uni’s first number one was The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints” in 1967. The last two were recorded by Neil Diamond: “Cracklin’ Rosie” in 1970 and “Song Sung Blue” in 1972. Sandwiched in between was “Grazing in the Grass” by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela.

This 1968 instrumental was composed in the studio by South African actor Philemon M. Hou who was a personal friend of Masekela and Miriam Makeba. Not only was “Grazing in the Grass” number one on the pop charts for two weeks, it also hit the top spot on the R&B chart and held down that position for four weeks.

In addition to its chart success, the single sold four million copies in 1968. Unfortunately that success wasn’t translated in his own country, as Masekela’s music was banned on South African radio. Being that “Grazing in the Grass” has been used in a number of motion pictures, it will serve double duty as our Media Monday selection. On this song, drummer Chuck Carter uses cowbell to the extreme – therefore, it isn’t necessary to shout “More cowbell!”

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