American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/13/76: Walter Murphy and ??, “A Fifth of Beethoven”

One of the many things that makes listening again to AT40 shows from my chart-keeping years such an incredible treat is I get a chance to pick up on facts and tales I missed back in the day. Occasionally, though, I discover that a closer listen and a closer look reveal that maybe I had been paying some attention after all.

I’ve been listening to rebroadcasts since the summer of 2012, but I think it’s just been the last couple of years that I’ve noticed in July-Nov 76 shows what Casey called the act performing this show’s #21 song: the Walter Murphy Band. This has been jarring to me, being that I’d bought the 45 in its heyday:

Assuming Casey never uttered “and the Big Apple” during “A Fifth of Beethoven”‘s 22-week chart-topping ride, my charts point to when I bought the single: ‘The Big Apple Band’ first appears on my 8/28/76 chart, the eighth time it was played. I’m not quite consistent thereafter, though–it’s just the Walter Murphy Band on 10/16 and 11/27 (I was clearly paying attention to what Kasem was saying on those two occasions).

This week I’ve been pondering the discrepancy. I put a question about it on the AT40 Fun and Games message board, looked at my Whitburn, and performed a modicum of internet sleuthing (often Wikipedia, I confess). I don’t have a completely clear picture of what happened, but here are some things that seem to be the case:
–The idea for the BAB name came via Private Stock, Murphy’s recording label;
–There was another band in New York with that name at the moment;
–“Flight ’76,” the follow-up single, is listed in Whitburn as by the Walter Murphy Band;
–On the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, “A Fifth of Beethoven” is credited simply to Walter Murphy.

The most likely scenario is that BAB got pulled from the name after Private Stock discovered the existence of the other group. Maybe word about that reached the AT40 staff by the time the song hit the show? Regardless, Private Stock didn’t seem to stop from pressing singles with BAB on the label–a search on eBay reveals a few dozen on offer even as I write, with a variety of font types and sizes (indicating multiple pressings, I presume).

Two postscripts:
1) After “A Fifth of Beethoven” fell off the show, Casey had reason to spin it twice more: on 1/1/77, at #10 on the Top 100 of 76, and on 12/15/79, as part of the “#1’s of the 70s” series. I took at look at the cue sheets, available via Charis Music Group. The 79 sheets do actually reference the Big Apple Band.

2) Oh, and that other Big Apple Band? They changed their name right around the time “A Fifth of Beethoven” became a hit, though I’m not absolutely certain it was in response to that. Managed a few big hits not long after–you might’ve heard of ’em.

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