Saturday, August 31, 2013

Shelter Records: I'm On Fire

We finish off our Fourth Week Label feature of Shelter Records with a 1975 single by the Dwight Twilley Band. “I’m on Fire” would be the world’s introduction to the band which was generally considered a duo. Twilley played keyboards, guitar, and sang while Phil Seymour contributed vocals, bass, and drums. Credited as their lead guitarist, Bill Pitcock was not considered an official member of the band.

“I’m on Fire” peaked at #16 during August 1975 and would later appear on the band’s debut album, “Sincerely,” released in 1976. Oister, listed as producer, was actually Twilley and Seymour and was the band's name in an earlier incarnation.  Seymour left Dwight Twilley to pursue a solo career in 1978 and had moderate success with the song “Precious to Me” in 1981.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Shelter Records: Going Down

Freddy King, one of the “Three Kings of the Blues,” had a musical career that spanned from 1956 until his untimely death in 1976. His performance at the Texas Pop Festival brought him to the attention of Leon Russell and he was signed as an early artist to the fledgling Shelter Records after his contract with Atlantic’s Cotillion subsidiary was fulfilled in 1970. In all, King recorded three albums for Shelter.

His first Shelter LP was “Getting Ready,” and to provide King the proper atmosphere for this release, Shelter booked him into the legendary Chess Studios at 2120 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Although King hadn’t had a charting single since 1961, Shelter continued to issue 45s in hopes that his new rock-tinged version of the blues would catch on with the record buying public. Unfortunately, they didn’t.

Photo on the outside of the Chess studios in 2006

King’s first single for Shelter was “Going Down,” which was written by label mate Don Nix. Nix and Russell produced the recording. As you will discover (if you haven’t already), “Going Down” rocks.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Shelter Records: Crazy Mama

A little over a month ago, the world lost a unique and talented musician, J.J. Cale. Although he had recorded at least six singles between 1958 and 1966, he hadn’t had any major musical success until Eric Clapton recorded one of his compositions, “After Midnight,” in 1970. At the urging of a friend, he recorded his first album “Naturally” in 1970 and 1971 to capitalize on his new found fame.

Released on Shelter Records in 1972, the album featured three singles “Magnolia,” “Crazy Mama” and his second recording of “After Midnight.” Several of the LP’s cuts would later be covered by other artists and included “Call Me the Breeze” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Clyde” by both Dr. Hook and Waylon Jennings, and “Bringing it Back” by Kansas.

“Crazy Mama” was released twice – first as the flip side of “Magnolia” in September 1971; neither side charted at that time. This particular single listed the yet unreleased album under its working title of “The J.J. Cale Album” and identifies Cale’s songwriting credits under his legal name of John W. Cale. “Crazy Mama” was later re-released as an “A” side in January 1972. The second time around it peaked at #22 and remains Cale’s only Top 40 single. The second release listed his songwriter credits under his stage name of John J. Cale.

“Crazy Mama” was recorded in September 1970 and features Cale on guitar and vocals, Mac Graydon on the wah-wah slide guitar, Carl Radle on bass, Karl Himmel on drums, and Diane Davidson on background vocals.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shelter Records: Poetry Man

Day four of our Fourth Week Label Special highlighting Shelter Records takes us back to 1974 and Phoebe Snow’s debut single “Poetry Man.” Released late in the year, the single would eventually place at #5 on the Hot 100 in April 1975. It simultaneously topped the Adult Contemporary chart.

Following the song’s release, a rumor persisted that Snow wrote the song about Jackson Browne, but this was unfounded and was probably connected with Snow touring for Browne while the song was still popular. Although Snow had several other charting singles, none measured up to the popularity of her first.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Shelter Records: Duppy Conquerer

Day three of our look at Shelter Records takes us to the island of Jamaica where Shelter picked up the rights to release Bob Marley and the Wailers’ first American single release. The single was released in October 1971 and was given the wrong title on the singles. “Duppy Conqueror” was inadvertently released in the US as “Doppy Conquer.” It was Marley’s only release on Shelter and the incorrect title may have deterred Marley from further distribution of his records by the label.

The term “duppy” is found throughout the Caribbean and it refers to a legend that if precautions in burial are not taken, a spirit of the recently departed haunts the earth for three days and then ascends to heaven. When one has power over a “duppy,” he becomes a “duppy conqueror.” It is said this tradition entered the Caribbean from West Africa.

Not only was the single the first American release by Marley, it may be one of the few or even the only single that was not an original Shelter production.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Shelter Records: Breakdown

Our second day of looking at Shelter Records features “Breakdown” – the first single by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Released from their 1976 self-titled debut album, “Breakdown” just sneaked into the Top 40 by charting at the #40 position in 1977. It also appeared in the film “FM” making it an additional choice as a Media Monday selection.

There are several aspects that make this song a classic – the electric guitars of Mike Campbell and Jeff Jourard, and Benmont Tench’s liberal use of a Wurlitzer electric piano. I used to have one – they were great little instruments.

In addition, the back-up vocals were handled by Dwight Twilley and Phil Seymour of the Dwight Twilley Band – who were also signed to Shelter. “Breakdown” was composed solely by Tom Petty. Nice stuff from a heretofore unknown band from Gainesville, Florida. A good start to a stellar career.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Shelter Records: Roll Away The Stone

Active from 1969 to 1981, Shelter Records was the brainchild of Leon Russell and Denny Cordell. While featuring a number of artists from the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, Shelter Records was not limited to that geographic region. The label was originally distributed by Blue Thumb Records. In 1970, both Blue Thumb and Shelter switched distribution to Capitol Records and Shelter came out from the Blue Thumb umbrella.

During 1974 and 1975, MCA took over distribution until the label was picked up by ABC from 1975-1977. It was during this period that Russell and Cordell became estranged and Russell left the label. From 1978 until the label’s demise in 1981, Arista distributed the majority of Shelter’s product.

Leon Russell’s “Can a Blue Man Sing the Whites?” was the working title for Shelter’s first album and was advertised as such in a full page ad in Circus Magazine during early 1970. I have never seen a copy of this album with this title, as they all were simply called “Leon Russell.” Sometimes called the “blue album,” Leon’s first solo album and his third project overall is a real gem.

The cast of characters that participated in the recording of this album were a veritable who’s who of the 1970 music scene and include, but are not limited to, the following: Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Joe Cocker, and many others.

“Roll Away the Stone” draws from gospel influences, but it is far from being a gospel song. It is the official last track of the album; however, an uncredited version of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” appears at the end of the album prior to the run out on side two. It was an early vinyl “Easter egg” that is relegated to a bonus track on the CD even though it appeared on the original album.

In addition to appearing on the album, “Roll Away the Stone” was Leon and Shelter’s first single release. A live version of the recording would resurface as the flip side of “Queen of the Roller Derby” single. Both songs were from “Leon Live” in 1973. The original studio recording failed to break into the Hot 100 and charted at #109.

1970 Studio Version

1973 Live Version

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Linda Ronstadt: Silver Threads and Golden Needles

Yesterday, an AARP Magazine interview revealed that Linda Ronstadt was diagnosed eight months ago with Parkinson’s disease and since has lost the ability to sing. In the interview she stated, “No one can sing with Parkinson’s disease, no matter how hard you try.”

Her career began with The Stone Poneys which evolved into a successful solo career. During her peak, she earned the following for her US recordings:
  • one platinum single,
  • two gold singles,
  • seven multi-platinum albums,
  • six platinum albums,
  • five gold albums,
  • one #1 single,
  • three #1 albums, and
  • eleven Grammy awards.

Today’s Bubbling Under Hit is honor of Linda Ronstadt. The single “Silver Threads and Golden Needles,” although a country hit peaking at #20, failed to crack the mainstream Top 40 and only peaked at #67. Written by Jack Rhodes and Dick Reynolds, “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” was first recorded by Wanda Jackson in 1956 and was a later hit for The Springfields in1962.

Linda recorded the tune twice – originally in 1969 on her first solo album, “Hand Sown . . . Home Grown.” The single version came from her 1973 album “Don’t Cry Now” and was released as a single in early 1974.

It’s a sad day when a voice as lovely as Linda Ronstadt’s is silenced.

1973 (Single) Version

1969 Version

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Yardbirds: You're A Better Man Than I

One of my favorite Yardbirds’ songs is “You’re a Better Man than I.”  A cut that many Americans may have never heard, as it wasn't issued as single in the US and was relegated to only be an album cut. I first got acquainted with the song from its appearance on the rare album “Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page.” On that version, Page played the lead guitar as the song was teamed with “Heart full of Soul” in a medley. On the studio version that appeared on the 1966 North American album, “Having a Rave Up with The Yardbirds,” Jeff Beck played the lead.

It is the studio version that we feature today. Notice that I stated that it never made it to a 7 inch release in the US; then why on earth am I featuring it as my Friday flip side? It’s because it was the “B” side the British release of “Shapes of Things” – and it’s my blog, so I’ll feature what I darn well please – so there.

Now back to the show. The message about the evils of prejudice course through the lyrical veins of “You’re a Better Man than I” and it would have been a perfect anthem for the turbulent ‘60s. I have no idea why Epic Records failed to use it for an American single release. “Shapes of Things” was issued twice in the US with two different “B” sides: “I’m Not Talking” and “New York City Blues.”

“You’re a Better Man than I” was written by brothers Mike and Brian Hugg. Mike Hugg is best known as the drummer in Manfred Mann. “You’re a Better Man than I,” or as it was sometimes titled as “Better Man than I,” was covered by a couple of American bands: The New Colony Six from Chicago, which failed to chart; and Terry Knight and the Pack out of Flint, Michigan who went national with the tune, but it peaked horribly at only #125.

Besides Jeff Beck on killer lead guitar on this record, the lineup of The Yardbirds consisted of Keith Relf on vocals, Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar, Paul Samwell-Smith on bass, and Jim McCarty on drums.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Glen Campbell: Gentle On My Mind

It is said that John Hartford was inspired to write the song “Gentle on My Mind” after seeing the film Dr. Zhivago. He utilized his personal experiences to complete the song’s storyline and a popular hit was born. When Glen Campbell heard Hartford’s version, he assembled the famed Working Crew session musicians and recorded his own rendition.

When the song was released initially in 1967, it didn’t fare too well on the pop charts and only peaked at #62. It did twice as well on the country charts but stalled at #30. After Campbell had several other hit records, Capitol took a chance on re-releasing “Gentle on My Mind” 13 months later in 1968.

While it barely made it into the Top 40 at #39, its country showing the second time around did worse by charting at #44. The 1968 release also made it to #8 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. The “Gentle on My Mind” album, however, did quite well charted at #5 on the Top 200 Albums chart as well as being a #1 country album release.

In addition, “Gentle on My Mind” won two Grammys in two different genres by two different artists. Hartford had the best folk performance Grammy and Campbell received the best solo male country artist accolade. So important was the song for Campbell’s career, he used it for the theme of “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lindsey Stirling & Pentatonix: Radioactive

This past weekend I was searching for Imagine Dragon’s hit “Radioactive” and I stumbled on a fantastic cover of the song. This collaboration between violinist Lindsey Stirling and the a cappella group Pentatonix provides an excellent interpretation of this post-apocalyptic tune.

I love the harmonies in this version. Pentatonix’s Scott Hoying sings the lead and is joined by Kirstie Maldonado and Mitch Grassi on harmony vocals. Avi Kaplan sings the bass parts while Kevin Olusola simultaneously plays the ‘cello while performing as a human beat box. Olusola named the band as a play on the pentatonic scale in music. The scale contains five notes and is used in many musical genres. A “C” pentatonic scale consists of C-D-E-G-A-C.

This is a great recording and Stirling’s and Olusoa’s respective performances on the violin and ‘cello qualify this interpretation of “Radioactive” as being worthy as our Wooden Music Wednesday selection.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Grand Funk Railroad: E Pluribus Funk

Today we begin a new series called Atypical Tuesday which will explore album packaging that is a little different than the norm. I had been toying with this thought for about a year when my friend Greg Rector resurrected the idea to feature albums that had unusual packaging. In fact, Greg selected the first choice – Grand Funk Railroad’s “E Pluribus Funk.” As I had several things already planned, I appreciate his patience with me being able to get to it at this late date.

The album was released in 1971 and had a die cut cover that resembled a US coin. The album had five aspects to it that increased the cost of its production: its cover was circular and not the typical square pattern that was used 99.9% of albums, the inner sleeve was also circular, it used custom label blanks and not the typical green Capitol label of the period, it sported a shiny silver foil on both the obverse and the reverse of the jacket, and the cover was embossed to look like a real coin.

Producer Terry Knight envisioned the idea for the cover and its design was fulfilled by Craig Braun. The front cover depicted the three band members: Mel Schacher, Mark Farner, and Don Brewer. The reverse depicted New York’s Shea Stadium, as the band had eclipsed The Beatles previous record for selling out the venue in less than 72 hours.

The only down side of the cover was that the foil scratched easily and tended to wear off in the embossed areas. Thus, it took on the appearance of a circulated coin. Because it was circular, sometimes the album would roll off of a shelf when pulling out an adjacent album. The title was a play on one of the mottos of the US, “E Pluribus Unum” – one out of many. “E Pluribus Funk” = funk out of many.

It was the last album that Terry Knight produced for Grand Funk, as the band would fire Knight as their manager and producer. “E Pluribus Funk” peaked at #5 in 1972 and eventually was awarded platinum certification by the RIAA.

“E Pluribus Funk” produced three singles: “Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother,” which failed to chart; “Footstompin’ Music” that peaked at #29 in 1972, and “Upsetter” that only made it to #73 position. As requested by Greg, I’m featuring the driving “Footstompin’ Music.”

Although Grand Funk was often panned by the critics, this recording should dispel any rumor that this band lacked talent. For three guys, they produced a lot of sound. I love Mel Schacher’s driving bass and Mark Farner’s fantastic organ chops – not to mention his tasty leads. Lest we forget, Don Brewer holds down the beat and provides the needed harmonies to Farner’s lead vocals.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gus Black: Don't Fear The Reaper

Last year I feel asleep watching one of the movie channels and I awoke at 3:00 AM to the sound of an unusual version of Blue Öyster Cult’s 1976 hit “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” I didn’t finish the movie, which by the way was “Scream,” but I noted the song for future inclusion on this blog. That time has arrived.

Recorded by Gus – Gus Black that is – it’s slower paced, deep acoustic rendition is haunting. While his guitar is about a quarter tone flat, it is tuned to standard tuning more or less. I would have thought that it was in a dropped tuning, but it is not and the bass response on his acoustic guitar is accentuated. I can see why the produced procured this cut for the movie.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

B4 3 Dog Nite: Black and White

I decided to extend our second week special on songs that were eventually recorded and made hits by Three Dog Night and feature one more song. “Black and White” was probably the oldest song that Three Dog Night tackled as the song was composed in 1954 by David I. Arkin and Earl Robinson. The song was written to commemorate the landmark Supreme Court decision in the anti-school segregation suit of Brown v. Board of Education.

The first recording of the song came two years later in 1956 by Pete Seeger and was tackled by Sammy Davis, Jr. in 1957. While there were two early U.S. recording s of the song in the 1950s, the direct influence for Three Dog Night’s recording of the song came from a U.K. reggae band Greyhound. Greyhound and a Jamaican reggae group, The Maytones, simultaneously released the song in 1971.

Greyhound’s version charted at #6 in the UK, but it was not released in the U.S. From what I can discern, The Maytones’ version was released after Greyhound’s first stab at a reggae style recording of the song. Two years later, Three Dog Night recorded the song for their “Seven Separate Fools” album. Sung by Danny Hutton, the song was a double number one record for the band – on the Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary charts. As for now, here’s Greyhound’s version of the tune.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

B4 3 Dog Nite: Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)

Prolific New Orleans songwriter and performer Allen Toussaint wrote the song “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues),” but did not formally release the tune until he recorded a live version in 1976. In 1973 the song was shopped to several artists, but the first to record it was Sylvester and the Hot Band for their second release on the Blue Thumb label. The album was named “Bazaar” after the magazine and Sylvester James is on the cover in all of his, eh, flamboyant androgyny.

It may be theorized that had not Aretha Franklin been given the title of “Queen of Soul” Sylvester might have been a good candidate. But that was Sylvester – an excellent interpreter of soul, funk, and blues numbers; however, he was unable to sustain his short run of three singles on the Hot 100. His performance on the Dance charts, however, netted him 21 popular dance numbers that included three number one songs.

Sylvester’s dance hits came over four years after he formed and released two albums fronting the Hot Band in 1973. The Hot Band consisted of James Q. Smith on guitar, Kerry Hatch on bass, Travis Fullerton on drums, and Bobby Blood and Chris Mostert on horns. Smith played the slide guitar on the cut which no doubt influenced Mike Allsup’s use of the slide guitar on Three Dog Night’s version – which was a little more imaginative than Smith’s simple slides on the Sylvester’s release.

Following Sylvester’s 1973 recording, other artists clamored to perform the song, and in 1974 – not one, not two, but five versions of the song were issued. Besides Three Dog Night, the tune was recorded by Maria Muldair, B.J. Thomas, James Montgomery, and Frankie Miller. Miller’s version was the only one besides Three Dog Night’s rendition to be issued as a single in ‘74.

Cory Wells sang the lead on Three Dog Night’s interpretation. It was the third single from their “Hard Labor” LP, but it only made it to the #33 slot on the Hot 100. It was the band’s next to the last single to chart and signified their drop in popularity, as musical tastes in the mid 1970s were beginning to change. Here’s the first commercial release of “Play Something Sweet” by Sylvester and the Hot Band from 1973.

Friday, August 16, 2013

B4 3 Dog Nite: Joy To The World

Hoyt Axton actually wrote two Three Dog Night hits that appeared on his January 1971 album, “Joy to the World” – the title cut and “Never Been to Spain.” The story is told that while recording his latest album for Capitol, Axton was trying to convince the label to let him record a new song he was writing. He had the tune, but not the lyrics. He was encouraged by the engineers to sing some nonsensical lyrics so that an arrangement could be built around the tune and then later he could record the real lyrics.

The nonsensical lyrics stuck – with some tweaking mind you – and his most famous composition was born. Three Dog Night would take “Joy to the World” to the #1 slot during the spring of 1971. While the band was not keen on the tune, Chuck Negron convinced the rest of the band to record it. Negron sang lead and all of the other members of the band, including the instrumentalists, sang back-up. Here’s the original by Hoyt Axton.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

B4 3 Dog Nite: Shambala

Sometimes song publishers and authors play two ends against the middle by shopping a song to a multiplicity of artists. On the surface, that’s what happened in 1973 with Daniel Moore’s composition “Shambala.” Simultaneously, two versions of the song were on the charts – B.W. Stevenson’s country tinged interpretation and the hit version by Three Dog Night.

The tale of the two versions may not have been that jaded, as Moore and Stevenson were songwriting partners and the two penned Stevenson’s biggest hit “My Maria.” Moore was also signed to ABC Dunhill as an artist and a songwriter to their house publishing company. Since Three Dog Night also recorded for ABC Dunhill, their knowledge of the song may have come directly from ABC.

Stevenson’s recording was released exactly one week before Three Dog Night’s single and the race up the charts began. You know the rest of the story – Three Dog Night’s version won the contest and peaked at #3. Stevenson’s single stalled at #66 and stayed on the charts a total of eight weeks.

“Shambala” was Three Dog Night’s sixth million selling single and appeared on their 1973 album “Cyan.” Cory Wells sang the lead on the hit version, but today we provide the alternate B.W. Stevenson recording.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

B4 3 Dog Nite: Pieces Of April

In February 1972, Vanguard Records released songwriter Dave Loggins’ debut album “Personal Belongings.” While the label was not a hotbed for hit records, it provided a springboard for artists to further their careers to the next level – a major label deal. Laura Nyro had recorded one album with Vanguard prior to signing with Columbia; and likewise, Dave Loggins’ first album was on Vanguard and he subsequently signed to Epic and had the one-hit wonder with “Please Come to Boston” in 1974.

Although producing only one hit as a singer, he made his mark as a songsmith and would later be inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Vanguard issued Dave Loggins’ version of the song as a single in early ‘72, but it failed to chart. While Vanguard was the home for a number of folk oriented artists, its biggest US hits of the ‘70s were few and far between.

These included Joan Baez’s interpretation of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” that peaked at #3; the re-release of Benny Bell’s 1946 novelty record “Shaving Cream,” which made it to #30; and Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Mister Can’t You See” that squeezed into the #38 slot. In the 1960s, The Rooftop Singers’ “Walk Right In” was the label’s only number one record.

Loggins’ first major break was when Three Dog Night recorded “Pieces of April” within a month of his album release. “Pieces of April” would be the follow-up single to their number one, gold certified hit “Black and White”; however, it just barely made it into the Top 20 where it peaked at #19.  It, however, ended at #6 position on the Adult Contemporary chart. Both songs appeared on the album “Seven Separate Fools.”

Part of what may have stalled the single was its release in December 1972. Single releases at that time of the year tended to perform badly as radio was enthralled with playing Christmas music and many records got lost in the shuffle. The song eventually peaked during the first part of 1973. Chuck Negron sang the lead on Three Dog Night’s rendition and I do prefer it to the original which is below. In 1979, Loggins re-recorded “Pieces of April” and Epic released it as a single, but it also failed to chart.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

B4 3 Dog Nite: Mama Told Me Not to Come

In 1970, Three Dog Night scored a number 1 hit record with Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come.” It was the first of two charting singles from their “It Ain’t Easy” album. Although songwriter Randy Newman also recorded the song in 1970, it was not his version that provided the inspiration for the arrangement of the Three Dog Night hit. They were influenced by the first recording of the tune from 1966.

Newman wrote the song for a planned solo album by Eric Burdon, as the line-up of The Animals was in flux. Rather than listing the album as a solo project, the LP “Eric is Here” was issued only in the US by MGM under the name of Eric Burdon and The Animals – although only two members of the band, Burdon and drummer Barry Jenkins, are known to have appeared on the album. Session musicians were drafted to be vicarious members of The Animals – a band that no longer existed at the time the album was recorded.

MGM had planned to release “Mama Told Me Not to Come” as a single in March 1967; however, it shelved the idea and released a new recording by Eric Burdon and a reconstituted Animals lineup. “When I was Young,” a single only release, did quite well at the time and peaked at #15 in the US. It did not fare as well in the UK where it only scratched the surface at #40.

I wonder what would have happened if “Mama Told Me Not To Come” had been released as a single by Burdon. Would it have charted? If so, would it have affected Three Dog Night’s climb to the top with the tune three years later? Comparing the two versions, clearly Cory Wells and Three Dog Night’s interpretation was the superior version, and a song about a wild party was probably better fodder for the public in 1970 than it would have been in March of 1967.

Monday, August 12, 2013

B4 3 Dog Nite: Eli's Comin'

Recorded in 1967 and released on Laura Nyro’s second album, “Eli and the Thirteenth Confession,” “Eli’s Comin’” is a pop anthem where one woman warns another about the dangers of a womanizer named Eli. While it was from Nyro’s first release on a major label (Columbia), the single flopped and failed even to make the bubbling under charts in Billboard when it debuted in 1968.

While Nyro multi-tracked her vocals on her version, the three vocalists in Three Dog Night plied their talents for their take on the song. Cory Wells sang the lead vocals with Chuck Negron and Danny Hutton joining in on the chorus. It was their second of three Top 20 singles from the LP “Suitable for Framing”; “Eli’s Comin’” peaked in 1969 at #10.

While Nyro was relegated to a cult following for her numerous recordings, her songs gained her widespread acclaim, as they were performed by some of the top artists of the time. Some of her better known compositions include “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Stoned Soul Picnic” for The 5th Dimension; “And When I Die” for Blood, Sweat, & Tears; “Stone End” by Barbara Streisand; and of course “Eli’s Comin’” as interpreted by Three Dog Night.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

B4 3 Dog Nite: Liar

Every second week of the month I feature something that ties a group of songs together. It may be a common songwriter, a common session musician, common instrumentation, a specific theme, or even the same chart position. Three Dog Night was notorious for covering other artists’ songs and making these sleepers into big hits. This week, we are going to look at B4 3 Dog Nite – songs that others did before Three Dog Night made them into hits.

The musical heir apparent of The Zombies was Rod Argent’s band simply christened in his honor as Argent. Their debut single, “Liar,” was released late in 1969 on a minor label owned and operated by CBS – Date Records. Although the band’s predecessor, The Zombies, had a posthumous hit on Date Records earlier the year with “Time of the Season,” CBS felt that the lack of movement on “Liar,” as it failed to chart, may have been due to their being an unknown band on a tertiary tiered label.

CBS quickly moved Argent up to their secondary tier subsidiary of Epic Records for their self-titled debut album release in January 1970; but alas, it would be 1972 before Argent would have a hit record with “Hold Your Head Up” – their only hit. Three other singles charted at #102, #106, and #114 completely missing the Hot 100.  Adding to the misfortune, Argent’s debut album failed to chart in both the US and the UK.

Russ Ballard wrote “Liar,” sang lead on the tune, and he was the band’s guitarist. What makes Argent’s version of the song interesting is Rod Argent’s keyboard work. Through most of the song, he plays an electric piano that interplays mostly with Ballard’s finger picked electric guitar. About midway into “Liar,” a grand piano is added – something you won’t find in the Three Dog Night mix, which follows the Argent arrangement closely with the exception of the guitar lead.

Although Ballard and Argent had a great tune, it took Three Dog Night with Danny Hutton on lead vocals to make it a hit. They released it on their “Naturally” album in November 1970. “Liar” was Three Dog Night’s third hit from the album and it charted at #7 in 1971. Hope you like the original version below.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Procol Harum: Song for a Dreamer

I’ve been in several conversations during the past few weeks where 8-track recordings were discussed. It wasn’t the ideal technology, but many ‘60s and ‘70s autos were outfitted with this technology that was invented by the same guy who invented the Learjet – William P. Lear. I had a 1976 Monte Carlo equipped with an AM radio/8-track player and although I hated the technology, I succumbed to the craze in a minimalistic sense.

When I traded my 1973 Olds Omega in 1981 for the Monte Carlo, I succumbed to the temptation to buy about a dozen 8-track tapes. One of these was my favorite album by Procol Harum: “Broken Barricades.” It was the last Procol Harum album that featured the original guitarist Robin Trower before he embarked on a fairly successful solo career.

Trower and lyricist Keith Reid penned one of the two tunes on the album in which Trower sings “Song for a Dreamer.” The tune is replete with a variety of effects and was a tribute to Jimi Hendrix who had died six months before the album was recorded in 1971. “Song for a Dreamer” is different enough from the standard fare for Procol Harum, as it did not feature Gary Brooker’s characteristic vocals and was not written around piano and organ as was so many of the better known Procol Harum songs.

I am not sure if “Song for a Dreamer” received much airplay, but I like it nonetheless and I’ve selected it for our Saturday Bubbling Under cut. The album by the way, charted at #32 on the Billboard Top Album chart.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Raiders: Terry's Tune

It’s Friday and it’s time for our weekly flipside feature. Today we feature an instrumental from The Raiders that appeared as the “B” side to their only #1 record: "Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)." “Terry’s Tune” was composed by the band’s lead vocalist Mark Lindsey, and although I cannot find any definitive reference for the inspiration for the title, I believe it was named in honor of Terry Melcher.

Melcher, a Columbia record producer (and the son of Doris Day), helped redefine the sound of Paul Revere and The Raiders and produced most of their records. He was not, however, the producer of either “Indian Reservation” or “Terry’s Tune.” That honor fell to Mark Lindsey. The single was certified gold in 1971 and later was upgraded to platinum status in 1996.

“Terry’s Tune” liberally uses as organ with a Leslie rotating speaker and a guitar that appears to be equipped with a Parsons/White B-Bender. Invented by Gene Parsons for fellow Byrd Clarence White, the B-Bender was installed in a Fender Telecaster guitar and allowed the picker the opportunity to mimic a pedal steel guitar.

To accomplish this, two channels were routed into the body of the guitar. One in the instrument’s back housed the spring loaded mechanism. The other channel was routed on the top side of the guitar so the mechanism could be manipulated by pulling on the guitar’s strap. When the guitarist pulled the guitar down, the strap button connected to the mechanism changed the pitch of the B string up a semitone – perfect for suspended 4th chords – a neat invention to say the least.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band: On The Dark Side

Today’s Thursday Repeats and Threepeats selection takes back to 1983 and 1984 to a single that was released twice – John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band’s “On the Dark Side.” I missed the song the first time it charted in October 1983 as I was working at album formatted WOAY-AM/FM in Oak Hill, West Virginia. To my knowledge, the song was not promoted to album radio and we didn’t play it.

Later the next spring, we went over to the dark side of Contemporary Hit Radio – and I must take the credit/blame for that move (depending on how you personally viewed it). It was really a good business decision, however, as our Arbitron ratings nearly tripled, our revenues increased, and we became a CHR reporting station for Radio&Records, Billboard, Cashbox, and The Gavin Report – and thus were immediately noticed by the record companies.

We began doing all kinds of promotions during that period and one was the Y-94 Hitmen. We urged businesses to write in and tell us that they were listening to the station at work and if we visited your business location and you were listening to the station – you got lunch from Pizza Hut and albums for up to 10 of your employees. We did our “hits” on the businesses about two or three times every week and I was pleased that most people we visited were actually listening to the station.

The problem with this was that our album stash was getting extremely low, so I asked the record companies to send me anything – good, bad, and indifferent recordings. CBS Records, which distributed the Scotti Brothers’ label, sent me two boxes of 25 copies of the Eddie and the Cruiser’s Soundtrack. The film was released the previous year and had bombed at the box office.

I hadn’t seen the movie at the time and didn’t know the premise of the storyline, but I found that when I visited a business and gave the employees a choice of albums — they were selecting the Eddie and the Cruisers’ soundtrack. I finally asked a young lady in Summersville, WV why she wanted that album over better known releases and I found out why. The movie was playing on HBO and it was becoming a sleeper hit on cable TV. While it did not generate much action in the theaters, it had now developed a cult-like following.

I researched the album and started playing “On the Dark Side” and it blew out the station’s phones anytime we played it. It was already well known from the movie and people wanted to hear it more frequently. Although it charted at #64 in the previous year, no one in our market heard the tune until the movie played the following summer on HBO.

The author & John Cafferty, 1986

This was not an isolated event, as the same thing occurred in other markets and Scotti Brothers re-released the single. Nearly a year later in September 1984 “On the Dark Side” was in the Top 10 having peaked at #9. Had the single gone gold, I am certain I would have received a gold record for it, but alas it didn’t and I didn’t. I got to see and meet John Cafferty during the summer of 1986 in Indianapolis. He was a pretty nice guy and I enjoyed the show.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Des Horsfall's Kuschty Rye: Long Long Time

Today’s Wooden Wednesday feature is a new one for me this week that my brother Chuck passed on to me earlier in the week. Des Horsfall was looking to create a new sound and he stumbled upon a very pleasing old sound that was inspired by the late Ronnie Lane. Lane, who left us in 1997, was the bassist for the Small Faces and the Faces and fronted his own band Slim Chance. Lane also collaborated with Pete Townshend as well as others during his short musical journey.

Des Horsfall decided to create a trilogy of albums based on Lane’s Slim Chance recordings to which he named the project “Kuschty Rye,” which so happened to be the title of  the 1997 compilation album of  Lane's single releases.

Horsfall attempted to enlist many who had played with Ronnie as well as relying heavily on multi-instrumentalist Andy McKerlie for this recording. “The Good Gentleman’s Tonic” was released during the fall of 2011. Prior to its debut, Horsfall even had the opportunity to play the final mix for Pete Townshend -- who responded with a jubilant, “This is a killer record.....KILLER!”

I’ve liked what I’ve heard thus far, but I’ve been a fan of Ronnie Lane’s work for a long, long time and this album follows in Ronnie's footsteps.  Most of the songs on the CD were written by Horsfall including today’s feature cut “Long Long Time.”

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Moody Blues: The Story In Your Eyes

Probably one of my favorite songs by The Moody Blues is “The Story in Your Eyes.” Released in 1971 as single from their album “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,” it charted on the Hot 100 at #23. The album, by the way, did much better by peaking at #2.

Incidentally, the album’s title was named from the British mnemonic to remember the lines on the treble staff in musical notation. In America, the popular version of the mnemonic was Every Good Boy Does Fine – at least that is how I learned it during three and half years of piano lessons.

The song features the fantastic guitar work from Justin Hayward who plays both the acoustic and electric guitars. Hayward, who penned the tune, also sings lead and is joined on backup vocals by Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas, and John Lodge. The vocals are also accentuated by orchestral and choir voicings on the Mellotron at the hands of Pinder – who also plays the rollicking piano part.

Lodge provides the driving bass line – and you don’t hear someone say this too often, but I think his bass runs are absolutely beautiful. Graeme Edge handles the drums and percussion and Thomas adds the tambourine. I would imagine that Hayward is playing one of his Gibson ES335 electrics on this song, but I cannot find anything to corroborate this. Every live cut I’ve seen of this song, however, has him playing his red 335.

Original Version

Here’s a longer alternative version that was not released until the remastered edition of “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” was issued in 2008. The vocals and the overall mix are different as well.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cowboy Junkies: The Water is Wide

I was watching the 1994 dramatic thriller The River Wild the other night and noticed that throughout the film’s score were various instrumental interpretations of the 17th century English folksong “The Water is Wide.” At the end of the movie, a version by the Cowboy Junkies played over the credits.

In addition to its feature in the movie, the song later appeared on the band’s 1999 compilation album “Rarities, B-Sides and Slow, Sad Waltzes.”  The Cowboy Junkies put a unique and interesting spin on this classic folk tune. The haunting vocals, slow tremolo guitar, and mandolin add to this version's mystique.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stone the Crows: Blind Man

Here’s a little something different from the British blues/rock band Stone the Crows. Formed in Glasow, Scotland by guitarist Les Harvey and vocalist Maggie Bell as The Power, the band was named Stone the Crows.

This name is totally lost on American audiences, as its origin is probably Australian and it is used as an exclamation of surprise. It is said that when Peter Grant, the manager of Led Zeppelin, initially heard the band – the first thing out of his mouth was “Stone the Crows.” The name stuck and Grant became their co-manager.

The band had only a cult following in the US, and they were never popular here – which is unfortunate as American audiences tend to be ignorant of the guitar wizardry of Les Harvey and the expressive vocal talents of Maggie Bell. She might be considered a cross between her contemporaries Janis Joplin and Rod Stewart.

The band released four albums from 1970 to 1972. Stone the Crows disbanded after the tragic death of Harvey when he was electrocuted when he touched a badly grounded microphone with wet hands. Keith Relf of the Yardbirds would have a similar fate in 1976 while playing his guitar at his home.

Today’s Spiritual Sunday song is somewhat of a prayer or petition of a “Blind Man.” Blues singer Josh White wrote the tune and Stone the Crows’ version features a long acoustic guitar intro by Harvey before he gets into the song proper. It comes from the band’s self titled debut album that was released on January 1, 1970. Good stuff – check them out.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Grateful Dead: Sugar Magnolia

For our Bubbling Under Hit this Saturday, we turn to a group with immense popularity but who had only one Top 40 hit. The Grateful Dead is not typically known as a singles band. Of the several singles the band had released, “Touch of Grey” not only broke into the Top 40, but it also was a Top 10 release in the US.

Five additional singles charted within the Hot 100 and today we are featuring the one that preformed the worst of that number peaking at #91. Ironically, it was the second most often performed song by the Dead and is a favorite among fans. While it appears on a number of bootlegs and commercial releases, two versions are notable: its initial studio version from “American Beauty” and a live version that was edited for single release from the triple album set “Europe ’72.”

It is that particular version that we will initially feature as it was the single edit that charted. The longer album version featured here was recorded on May 4, 1972 at the Olympia Theatre in Paris. Because the vocals on the original live recordings were often problematic, the band overdubbed their harmonies direct to the same track that held their vocals. “Europe ’72” was the last LP to feature Ron “Pigpen” McKernan as he would die in 1973.

American Beauty

“Sugar Magnolia” was written by Bob Weir and Robert Hunter and was inspired by Weir’s longtime girlfriend Frankie. The song was originally released on the 1970 studio album “American Beauty.”

Although “Truckin’”/“Ripple” was the single release from the album, “Sugar Magnolia” received a considerable amount of album rock airplay. “Sugar Magnolia” was also featured on a five song EP that Warner Brothers issued for jukebox play.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mose Allison: I Don't Worry About a Thing

Back in the early 60s, my brother Chuck attended Kentucky Christian College in Grayson, KY. A friend of his during those years, Russ Hatter, worked at the local radio station – WGOH. Occasionally the station would receive promotional copies of singles that didn't fit its format and Russ would pass these onto Chuck who brought them back to Pennsylvania to me. Of that cache of singles were quite a few jazz releases on the Riverside and Pacific Jazz labels.

The only jazz single from a major label in that grouping was a promo copy of Mose Allison’s “Your Mind is on Vacation” backed with “I Don’t Worry About A Thing.” I listened to these records from time to time, but I hadn’t really developed an ear for jazz until the mid 70s when I was a student at KCC.

During that period, I was the program and music director of the college station WKCC. From 1976 to 1978, I hosted a jazz program on Wednesday nights and I brought this and my other jazz singles back from Pennsylvania for the show. The single was returned to its original hometown of Grayson to be played on another radio station in the market. While I favored the “A” side due to its humorous lyrics, I also played Allison’s “I Don’t Worry About A Thing.”

While neither song charted, and to my knowledge, the single was never released commercially, it put Mose on the proverbial map as a unique performer. His album “I Don’t Worry About A Thing” was released by Atlantic in May 1962. Reviewer Scott Yarrow said of its Rhino reissue that it was “one of Mose Allison’s most significant recordings.”

The song features Allison on piano and vocal and is backed by Addison Farmer on bass and Osie Johnson on drums as part of the Mose Allison Trio.  “You know I don’t worry about a thing cause I nothing's going to be all right.”

Thursday, August 1, 2013

In Memory of the TL Sound

Growing up in the Pittsburgh market, I was exposed to quite a few first-class radio stations and an even greater number of excellent radio personalities. Of those I remember from my youth, several names come to the forefront and include the following:
  • WAMO’s Porky Chedwick
  • KQV’s Chuck Brinkman
  • WZUM’s “Mad” Mike Metro, and
  • WMCK’s Terry Lee.
I got word today that Terry Lee had passed away on Tuesday at the age of 70 from a long fight with lung cancer. Terrance Trunzo (as he was legally known), got his start in radio at WESA in Charleroi at the age of 16. After stints at WESA, Carnegie’s WZUM, and Canonsburg’s WARO; Terry was hired by WMCK in McKeesport in 1964.

Located at 1360 on the AM dial, the station’s 5,000 watt signal was a contender in the Pittsburgh market with a strong daytime signal. At night, not so much, as WMCK operated with a reduced power of 1,000 watts with a four tower directional array – still enough power to cover the boroughs east of Pittsburgh.

When WMCK became WIXZ, they became serious about competing with their biggest rival KQV. This lasted until WJAS became 13-Q and the Top 40 wars on the AM dial were on with 13-Q taking the lead Top 40 spot in Pittsburgh. Decades later, Lee would host a weekend show on WJAS.

It was during Terry Lee’s years at WMCK/WIXZ that he became the quintessential local media star and music entrepreneur. His years in the business went far beyond turntables and cart machines. He was a mobile deejay and his dances attracted teens from all over the area. Soon he turned his talents to concert promoting and the managing and producing local bands.

He used his forum at WMCK/WIXZ to promote some of the bands that recorded for his own labels: Sherry Records and Stone Records. One of the local bands he promoted and produced was named The Larks who he rechristened as The Fantastic Dee-Jays. During 1965 and 1966, The Fantastic Dee-Jays recorded one album and five singles that were only distributed in the Pittsburgh region. The Fantastic Dee-Jays even opened for The Rolling Stones when they played locally in 1966.

Along with The Fantastic Dee-Jays, Terry managed and produced the Arondies, the Swamp Rats, and the Racket Squad. He also was a night club owner and hosted a music TV show, “Come Alive,” on Pittsburgh’s channel 11 – WIIC. He would also have TV shows on KDKA-TV and WPGH-TV. When he left Pittsburgh for Phoenix, Lee hosted a syndicated radio program bringing the “TL Sound” to a national audience.

Over the years, he also owned several radio stations but had divested his interest in these outlets a number of years ago. In 2008, he returned to Pittsburgh audiences where he hosted record hops and hosted several radio shows. Lee was still performing up to several months ago until his lung cancer forced him to retire from the music scene.

I remember listening to Terry Lee during his evening shift at WMCK/WIXZ and can honestly say he influenced me to try my hand at broadcasting – a career that I had for 20 years. To honor TL, we leave you with a song he produced for The Fantastic Dee-Jays: “Love is Tuff” from 1966. Rest in Peace Terry – old DJs never die, they’re just potted down.

By the way, I must give credit where credit is due.  While I have my memories of Terry, many of the specific facts for this post came from a web page about Terry Lee on the Pittsburgh Music History site at The author gives a great amount of detail concerning the life and career of TL. Check it out.