American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/12/76: Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, “Dance Wit Me”

My family attended Cincinnati Reds games regularly throughout the 70s, maybe four or five times a year for a while (we benefitted from the “Straight A Program,” where kids with good grades got discounted tix to up to—I believe—three games each  season). Both of my parents had grown up as serious fans, and they certainly worked on passing that on to their kids. My sister and I wound up completely spoiled, as the best run in the franchise’s history (by far) occurred during our youth. At some point, the two of us began lobbying to attend a doubleheader; our wish was granted on June 13 of 76, a Sunday afternoon.

RedsTix061376

Section 338 was in the upper tier (the red seats) of Riverfront Stadium, a little to the left-field side of center; row 8 wouldn’t have been all that high up. Check out the price—$3.50 a ticket! If only one could do that today…

I recalled only that the opponent was the St. Louis Cardinals, but through the magic of baseball-reference.com I can tell you a bit more. The teams split. The home nine won the opener 4-0 behind the pitching of Fred Norman and Will McEnaney (who recorded a three-inning save). The Cards outslugged the Reds 12-9 in the nightcap. It featured HRs by backup catcher Bill Plummer, Pete Rose, and Tony Perez (my main man) for the good guys, while the other side countered with knocks from former Cubs Lou Brock and Don Kessinger (who hit only 14 over his entire career). There were over 51,000 in attendance that day, and they completed the two games in five hours and fifteen minutes. Times have certainly changed—teams now play two only when weather dictates, and often they empty the stadium between games. A single contest can go over four hours.

A 1:15pm first pitch meant that we didn’t get back to the car until well after the 6pm starting time AT40 had on WSAI, even if we didn’t stay for the last out of Game 2. As I’ve already noted any number of times, the previous week’s show had been the first one I’d written down and while I couldn’t know yet how obsessed I was to become, I expect I was pretty insistent on turning Casey on as soon as possible. We picked it up midway through “Show Me the Way,” which was #33 in its final week; next was the highest debut, Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend.” So, I had seven songs to fill in. When I listened the following Sunday, it was easy to determine six of them, along with what I believed were their spots the previous week (turned out I was wrong about position in one case). Debuting had been “I’m Easy,” “Making Our Dreams Come True,” “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker,” “Let Her In,” and “Today’s the Day.” “That’s Where the Happy People Go” was in its second week. These days, determining the remaining song would take a quick web search, but no such luck back then. Throughout the 80s I’d occasionally check public libraries to see if they kept old Billboards on microfiche, but to no avail. It would take about fifteen years to learn the identity of that seventh tune.

I’d always assumed it was one of two songs on their way down, either “Strange Magic” or “Young Blood,” since they’d both been close in position to Peter Frampton on 6/5. It hadn’t really occurred to me it might be a one-week wonder. But at some point in the early 90s, perusing through the 4th edition of Joel Whitburn’s The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (I’d received it as a birthday gift in 90 from my officemate Paul and his wife Sue—it was perfect), I was paging through the R’s and noticed this:

RufusTop40

Mystery abruptly solved. I hadn’t heard “Dance Wit Me” in the 70s, and it was probably a few years beyond this discovery until I did. It’s pretty groovy, and I’m definitely sorry I’d missed it.

Another thing I hadn’t done back in the day was watch Soul Train. That was an error—it would have been awesome to witness Don Cornelius introduce dancing like we see in this clip each week. A commenter on the video below says that’s Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel of eventual Shalamar (and for Jody, solo) fame a little over a minute-and-a-half in.

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