Dad’s 45s, Part 9: Obscurities

While a substantial majority of the slabs in my father’s 45 stash are songs I know at least a little bit, there are several that are completely unfamiliar. I’d venture that a few are likely unknown to very many folks today, either. Here are four that didn’t come close to scoring big nationally–only one of them even sniffed the Hot 100. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to say, though.

Ralph Marterie and his Orchestra, “All That Oil in Texas”

Marterie was a big band conductor, born in Italy but living most of his life in the States. This is from 1954, so I can’t tell for certain that it didn’t chart, though I’m not finding it in any mentions of his band’s work. To my ears, the music isn’t that far off from what Bill Haley was doing.

Why is it here? I have a theory. My father’s maternal grandfather bought a plot of land not far from Lubbock, TX way long ago–probably in the latter years of the 19th century. It stayed in the family until maybe 15-20 years ago, split among around a dozen heirs. Oil companies drilled on it for several decades, to no avail. It wouldn’t surprise me if the title just happened to catch Dad’s eye in the record store one day.

Two other notes:
–the flip side is the band’s take on the March from Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges;
–the disk is notably heavier than the typical 45 made a few years later.

Jerry Lee Lewis, “Cold Cold Heart”

I’m not wholly certain that this cover of the Hank Williams classic is actually the A-side; Discogs lists the other song, “It Wouldn’t Happen with Me,” first more frequently. The latter has more of that Jerry Lee bravado you expect, comparing himself favorably to Elvis, Jackie Wilson, and Fabian, but I can understand why neither song charted.

While we were living in Stanford in the early 70s, Lewis made an appearance at a tiny theater in Crab Orchard, another small town tucked away in a corner of the county. Dad always regretted not driving down the road fifteen minutes to check out the Killer (Lewis receives mention in the linked article).

The Grandison Singers, “Little Liza”

There’s very little out there about the Grandison Singers. Depending on where you look, they’re either a trio or a quartet, originally a Black gospel group. This is the standard better known as “Little Liza Jane,” and it’s pretty rousing, decidedly informed by the group’s gospel roots (unfortunately, I can’t find anything from the Grandisons on YouTube). The flip is “Grandison Twist,” an attempt to cash in on the dance craze of the day (the single appears to be from 1962). It’s not bad at all, name-checking “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” and “Willie and the Hand Jive.” I want to know more about what happened to the folks in the group; based on this single, I’d like to hear more of their music, too.

Dr. Feelgood and the Interns, “Doctor Feel-Good”

Willie Lee Perryman was better known as Piano Red, with a career that began in the 30s; that linked Wikipedia page indicates he had a couple of songs make the national R&B charts in the 50s. Somewhere along the way Perryman also acquired the moniker Dr. Feelgood. He and his band reached #66 in June 1962 with this song, which one might consider to be in the vein of “Baby Got Back” (the opening lines are “Hey all of you women, now don’t come around unless you weigh around four hundred pounds”). As with the others featured today, I’m really curious how this wound up in Dad’s collection.

The B-side is the original recorded version of “Mr. Moonlight,” later covered by the Fab Four.

Dad’s 45s, Part 8: 1970-71

Let’s wrap up the 70s portion of this series with the last seven singles from that decade. For some now unknowable reason, my father pretty much stopped buying 45s around the end of 1971 (though there are a few from later–“Crocodile Rock,” “Annie’s Song,” “Back Home Again,” and “I Can Help”–that wound up in the kids’ stash). I’m surprised to see a couple of these here.

Johnny Cash, “What Is Truth” (#19, May 1970)
Next-to-last Top 40 hit for the Man in Black. Honestly, I was unfamiliar with this one, but I can see why Dad might have liked it.

Ray Stevens, “Everything Is Beautiful” (#1, May/June 1970)
This one stirs old, old memories–it had to have gotten decent play in the house. I know that Stevens and I don’t remotely see eye to eye on any number of things, but I’ll admit to being a fan of both of his #1 hits.

Ray Price, “For the Good Times” (#11, January 1971)
Very nice song; it’s another one, though, that just doesn’t match what I’d consider the Platonic ideal of an IRH fave. Fifty years ago this week, it was already on the way down, at #16.

Elton John, “Your Song” (#8, January/February 1971)
Another one that was charting half-a-century ago, sitting at #11. Dad liked quite a bit of Reg’s catalog, so I can’t be shocked that he got on board from the very start.

Janis Joplin, “Me and Bobby McGee” (#1, March 1971)
Our second Kristofferson-penned piece. It would debut on the Hot 100 at the end of January. A true, pure classic; glad to find it here.

Lou Rawls, “A Natural Man” (#17, December 1971)
I love Rawls’s voice, but I did not expect this at all. Kudos, Dad.

Don McLean, “American Pie” (#1, January/February 1972)
Part II is on the flip side, of course. I remember one morning a few years later hearing an interpretation of “American Pie”‘s lyrics on WLW’s James Francis Patrick O’Neill show, while eating breakfast–whatever ‘expert’ was in the studio with JFPO simply talked over the record as it played. I presume the commentary was at least semi-accurate–I’m pretty sure that’s when I learned that Bob Dylan was the Jester.

I’d say there are maybe four installments to go; hope you’re ready for lots of 60s action.

Dad’s 45s, Part 7: Early 60s Minor Hits

It wasn’t just big sellers in my father’s 45 collection (though there are still more of those to come). Here are a few songs that only made the lower reaches of the Top 40 in the first half of the 1960s. We’ll start with the most famous one.

Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, “The Twist” (#28, September 1960)
Last month we saw two of Chubby Checker’s other hits in this space. It’s at least somewhat curious to me that Dad bought the original rather than the cover (which peaked at #1 the very week this reached its high spot). I don’t know about you, but I might like this take better. Ballard’s “Finger Poppin’ Time” was on the chart at the same time.

Bobby Freeman, “(I Do the) Shimmy Shimmy” (#37, October 1960)
Sandwiched between Freeman’s two #5 hits, “Do You Wanna Dance” and “C’mon and Swim.” I was today years old when I learned about the role that Cincinnati’s King Records played in promoting country and R&B records in the 50s and 60s, including getting James Brown’s career off the ground.

Wanda Jackson, “Let’s Have a Party” (#37, October 1960)
That’s not a typo–Freeman and Jackson occupied #37 on consecutive weeks. This was the first of three trips that the Queen of Rockabilly would make to the Top 40. Wikipedia says she’s still around, and was performing up until last year. Her voice is going to have to grow on me, though.

Stan Kenton, “Mama Sang a Song” (#32, December 1962)
Yes, my father was a minister for quite a few years, but I don’t recall country-flavored gospel (or is it gospel-flavored country?) being among his musical loves. Though I could see him digging on Kenton’s jazz, I’m wondering if one of his parishioners from Bromley gave this 45 to him. It was nominated for Best Documentary or Spoken Word Recording the following spring.

Millie Small, “Sweet William” (#40, September 1964)
The arrival of a certain bundle of joy seven months earlier is no doubt the reason for this record’s presence in the collection. This was Jamaica native Small’s second and final U.S. hit, a follow-up to the #2 “My Boy Lollipop.” She passed away in Britain just this past May, at age 72.

Dad’s 45s, Part 6: Double-Dips

A few artists (in addition to the Beatles) have multiple representatives in my father’s 45 collection. We won’t see a couple of them in this post (I showed you records from Gary U.S. Bonds and Joey Dee and the Starliters early on; a second from each will crop up some other time). Here are the other four acts whose work Dad dug twice.

Chubby Checker, “The Fly” and “Let’s Twist Again”

You might be as surprised as I am that CC’s biggest hit isn’t here–it was my father’s #15 song of all time. Instead, we get two Top 10 hits from the summer and fall of 1961, right around the time that my parents met. Pretty sweet sleeves.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Down on the Corner” and “Run Through the Jungle”

Two double-sided hits–“Fortunate Son” and “Up Around the Bend” are on the flip sides here.

Johnny Rivers, “Rockin’ Pneumonia-Boogie Woogie Flu” and “Sea Cruise”

I’m not sure how much of a fan Dad was overall of Rivers’s 60s hits (though I’m pretty sure he liked “Secret Agent Man”), but he definitely jumped on board in the 70s when Johnny started doing covers of early rock-era hits. It wouldn’t have been a shock to come across “Help Me Rhonda” in his stash. This is not a PastBlast post, but I’ll note that “Rockin’ Pneumonia-Boogie Woogie Flu” is debuting at #38 on this weekend’s 11/11/72 rebroadcast.

Nilsson, “Everybody’s Talkin'”and “Without You”

Eight-year-old me loved “Without You,” but somehow it escaped me for eons that Dad had bought the single back then. These are both quality picks.

Nilsson is also on the 11/11/72 show, and I’m hoping to put together a little something about that in the next few days.

Dad’s 45s, Part 5: The EPs

For a few years at the beginning of the rock era, extended play 45s were a reasonably popular item. A quick jaunt through the Billboard archives at worldradiohistory.com indicates that for just about exactly three years (October 1957-October 1960, as best I can tell without heavy digging), they published a list of the Top 10 Selling Pop EPs. My father apparently was not immune to the charms of this format; let’s take a tour of the four I discovered in his collection.

Here’s Little Richard, Part 1

The twelve tracks on Richard Penniman’s debut album were also broken up into three EPs, SEP-400, -401, and -402. The same photo appears on the cover of each, with orange, yellow, and red backgrounds, respectively. This one contains his biggest hit, the #6-peaking “Long Tall Sally,” along with “Miss Ann” ( the B-side to “Jenny, Jenny”), “She’s Got It,” and “Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave.”

Dave “Baby” Cortez, The Happy Organ

We had an organ not entirely unlike the one pictured above, though I never heard either of my parents give it a whirl. Forced to guess, I’d say my father was responsible for its presence; maybe Cortez’s #1 hit was the inspiration?

“Love Me As I Love You” was the B-side of the original 45, which had been released on Clock Records.

The Kingston Trio At Large, Part 1

This one was on the Pop EP chart in the final months of its publication. “M.T.A.” had reached #15 the year before. “All My Sorrows” was the B-side then–perhaps it was a standard practice to supplement the original single with two extra tracks?

I think I have vague memories of my father singing (along with) the chorus of “M.T.A.”

Elvis Presley, A Touch of Gold Volume 1

My dad liked early Elvis plenty (rockin’ edition, anyway), so perhaps it’s a little surprising this will be our only encounter with the King in this series. Presley released a slew of EPs at the beginning of his career, but neither volume entitled A Touch of Gold charted. Two of these songs hit #1–not bad for approximately $1.29 (that’s the price I found on the backs of the Cortez and Kingston Trio jackets). I’m going to embed the one he almost certainly enjoyed less.

Dad’s 45s, Part 4: The Fab Four

My Dad liked the Beatles quite a bit. Not a “played them frequently in the house while the kids were growing up” like; it was more of a “make your kids aware of how good they are when a song of theirs comes on the radio” like. I believe there were Beatles LPs among his collection that I carted off to the Cincinnati Public Library, though I couldn’t tell you now which ones or how many. I do know there were several of their biggest albums on CD in the box under the bed in their townhouse basement, as I used some to fill gaps in my collection.

As for singles he purchased that featured one or more of John-Paul-George-and-Ringo, I found five. Here’s a quick tour.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand”/“I Saw Her Standing There”
The one that kicked off Beatlemania here in the States. I never thought to ask my father if there was any connection between his love for these and the fact that the A-side was #1 when I was born. I’ve noted before that he rated these #3 and #2, respectively, on his all-time hit parade.

During winter break of my junior year in college, I must have come across his collection of 45s, as I borrowed this for a few weeks, and played “I Saw Her Standing There” on the radio show I recorded for my cousin.

“Hey Jude”/“Revolution”
This is one that Dad did play for us, at least in the late 60s/early 70s when we were living in Stanford. Like “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” it’s a song that feels like it’s always been a part of my life. I definitely dig the sleeve; the next entry has one just like it, too.

“Come Together”/“Something”
So, he had their first, biggest-selling, and last double-sided U.S. singles. Not bad.

George Harrison, “What Is Life”
I love this song, too, and wish I could talk with him now to learn what endeared him to it.

Paul & Linda McCartney, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”
Another delight to discover here. When I think of Dad and McCartney singles, though, it’s the Wings Over America version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” that comes to mind first. He’d quit buying singles long before the spring of 1977, however.

Dad’s 45s, Part 3: 1968

I was too young in 1968–four years old–to be aware of the King and Kennedy assassinations, the Chicago Democratic National Convention, Nixon’s election, the unrest over the Vietnam War, or any of the other events from that tumultuous year. (I suspect my parents did what they could to shield my young ears from the news on the television.) The major thing that happened in my own life was our family’s move from La Grange to Stanford, as Dad had found a new pastorate there; September 4, a Wednesday, is the date that stuck in my head long ago for when that occurred.

Even if I haven’t taken many deep dives into the music of 1968, my impression of its pop scene is pretty positive. A few of the singles my father bought back then are amazing, while there’s one that doesn’t exactly strike me as one of the year’s best. I wish I could talk with him now to argue over (erm, I mean discuss) that selection.

Roger Miller, “Little Green Apples” (#39, April)

It’s funny. I’ve known the line, “It don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime,” for seemingly forever, but there isn’t a recording of this song that I recognize as being something I heard growing up. Miller’s version, in which he manages to sound both sleepy and lecherous, made the charts first, with a run that included three weeks at #40 and then three weeks at #39. O.C. Smith would reach #2 six months later. Martha says the take by the guy with the next song in this post is the one familiar to her. Bobby Russell won a Song of the Year Grammy for it.

But what’s up with that second verse? Guy begs for a lunch date with his wife, “knowin’ she’s busy,” and then makes her wait for him? Big power play there, but I guess maybe small potatoes compared to what Russell came up with in…

Bobby Goldsboro, “Honey” (#1, April)

Goldsboro had a syndicated television variety show for a couple of years starting in 1973. It was on for a while in the Cincinnati market–I believe it ran on the NBC affiliate between 7 and 8pm one night a week–and that may well be how I first encountered him. These years I think about him only when a rebroadcast is playing either “Watching Scotty Grow” (I confess that one can make me tear up a little) or “Summer (The First Time)” (ugh).

According to Wikipedia, “Honey” was the top-selling single worldwide in 1968; looks like the Harris household contributed to that ignominious result. I know mores and norms change, but there’s WAY too much laughing at, ignoring of, and crying by Honey–am I the only one who’s thinking she must have committed suicide?

Russell’s other big songwriting success was the highly illogical “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” (he was married to Vicki Lawrence at the time it was a hit). He died in late 1992, in Nicholasville, KY, which is about as far south of Lexington as Georgetown is north.

Percy Sledge, “Take Time To Know Her” (#11, May)

This was Sledge’s second biggest hit on the pop charts, though it’s not familiar to me at all. Our narrator’s mother and even the minister at the wedding could see trouble coming, but he didn’t suss it out until it was too late. Another one that doesn’t quite match what I thought was my father’s style, but I’m learning…

Mason Williams, “Classical Gas” (#2, August)

Nice piece. Might have been in college before I really gave it much mind. The flip side is the #96-peaking “Baroque-a-Nova,” which sounds at least a little like Williams’s big hit.

Jeannie C. Riley, “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (#1, September)

Jim Bartlett has written before (I’m paraphrasing) about songs that have just always been there in your life. “Harper Valley P.T.A.” is one of those for me (we may meet a few others along the way in future installments). This could well be because of Dad playing this 45 multiple times on our console hi-fi, but whatever the reason, hearing it still transports me to times and sensations of long, long ago. I 100% adore it: Riley’s twang and righteous anger, the details behind each board member’s waywardness, the multiple modulations. Phrases like “little nip of gin” and “the day my mama socked it to…” have never not been a part of my consciousness.

I won’t be able to keep up semi-themed posts in this series forever, but I think I have still got a few more to go before we get to the hodgepodge entries.

Dad’s 45s, Part 2: 50s Greats

Last month, I took a first dive into the singles my father had purchased over the years that Amy and I hadn’t confiscated. I’d found them in a cabinet drawer at my parents’ townhouse as I began to clear it out five years ago. While I’m not currently planning on going in rough chronological order, this time we are seeing the remaining 45s in the set that hit the charts before the calendar turned over to 1960. Peak positions, unless otherwise noted, are from the Hot 100.

Boyd Bennett and His Rockets, “Seventeen” (#5 Best Sellers, August 1955)

The oldest hit I found, and even though the sleeve is close to falling apart, I can’t pin down exactly when my father bought it. Don’t know that Dad ever referenced this song in my presence, but it’s a rockin’ little tune.

Bennett seems to be have been based around Louisville in the early 50s. He wasn’t quite a one-hit wonder; the very similar “My Boy Flat Top” reached #39 a few months later. Covers of “Seventeen” by the Fontane Sisters and Rusty Draper charted simultaneously, peaking at #6 and #18, respectively. It was the last Top 10 hit for the Fontanes.

Bill Haley and His Comets, “See You Later, Alligator” (#6 Best Sellers, February 1956)

Maybe I should be a little surprised that “Rock Around the Clock,” Dad’s #1 song of all time, wasn’t in his collection, while this one is (it was his #18 song). Pretty sure I came across a Haley LP, though.

Chuck Berry and His Combo, “Roll Over Beethoven” (#29 Top 100, June 1956)

Answer to a trivia question Casey once answered about one-week wonders: amazingly, this classic debuted on the chart at #29, yet fell all the way to #87 the following week. It waddled around in that neighborhood for three more weeks before falling off. Dad ranked this one at #34.

Jack Scott, “My True Love” (#3, August 1958)

Scott was a native of Windsor, Ontario, and had three other songs go Top 10 over the next couple of years. I confess that the ballad-y style doesn’t really square with what I considered Dad’s musical tastes to be, yet here it is.

This was a double-sided hit; the flip is “Honey,” which reached #11 on the Best Sellers chart. Scott passed away this past December.

Freddy Cannon, “Tallahassee Lassie” (#6, June 1959)

I know 1962’s “Palisades Park” much better (that’s Dad’s #24), but this was the song that got Cannon’s career going. He turned 83 late last year.

To be continued next month…

Dad’s 45s, Part 1: Early #1’s

After my parents passed away, the task of dealing with their townhouse and its contents largely fell to me. To a good extent, this was an artifact of geography: my sister and her family lived many hours away, in Florida. While I didn’t want to rush the job, it was going to be much easier for me to work during the summer months when I wasn’t teaching class. So, as August approached in 2015, I was renting a U-Haul to transport some furniture to my place and making multiple trips to the Habitat ReStore and Goodwill with donations. Another morning I drove in to downtown Cincinnati with a very specific task: to drop off a load of vinyl LPs and CDs with the Cincinnati Public Library, for them to turn around and sell to the public.

Dad’s vinyl collection was more heavily weighted toward classical music/opera, but there was plenty of rock, musicals, and comedy present as well. I pulled out a few representative disks for myself, especially from the comedy, including The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart and Flip Wilson’s The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress. (Alas, I didn’t recognize the treasure I had in Vaughn Meader’s The First Family until I’d already donated it.)

I kept all the 45s, however.

I’ve mentioned previously how a few singles had migrated from his collection to those of his children in the late 70s: among them are “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “Come and Get It,” “Sweet Caroline,” and “Spirit in the Sky.” But I count now around sixty pieces that had remained separate over the decades. It’s a somewhat eclectic mix, spanning about a fifteen-year period. Several are completely unfamiliar to me. A couple make me re-evaluate, maybe even question, my father’s taste in music just a little.

I plan to do the occasional post in the coming months that will highlight a few of Dad’s 45s. The premiere episode focuses on favorites of his from the early years of rock ‘n roll that also topped the charts. I’m listing them chronologically, noting the week each one hit #1, how many weeks it spent there, and where the song ranked in Dad’s pantheon (at least according to the compilation cassettes he recorded in the early 90s entitled IRH’s Rock and Roll Revue). They were all hits when he was between the ages of 25 and 30; the third and fourth ones were popular at the time my parents met.

Buddy Knox, “Party Doll” (3/30/57, 1 week, #10)

Not enough of a rock historian to know whether this was a common styling at the time, but the way Knox crooned “pah-harty” reminds me of how another Buddy sang “Pah-heggy.”

Danny and the Juniors, “At the Hop” (1/6/58, 7 weeks, #7)

This is only one of these five that has a sleeve with any character. The presence of Teddy Randazzo, who didn’t chart with ABC-Paramount until 1960, makes me think this wasn’t purchased in real time. That’s a pretty cool label.

Gary U. S. Bonds, “Quarter to Three” (6/26/61, 2 weeks, #45)

The first time I can remember hearing this song was on AT40‘s 7/3/76 broadcast of the #1 songs from the thirty-nine previous July 4ths.

Bobby Lewis, “Tossin’ and Turnin'” (7/10/61, 7 weeks, #11)

Lewis was Bonds’s successor at #1 that summer.

Joey Dee & the Starliters, “Peppermint Twist – Part I” (1/27/62, 3 weeks, #43)

Joey Dee immediately followed Chubby Checker’s second go-round at #1 with “The Twist.” I can’t know now when Dad purchased any of these singles, but since this Roulette label is the same as that of Knox’s song above, I’m suspecting he didn’t buy “Party Doll” until several years after it was a hit.

There’s another #1 song from this period that will appear in an upcoming post in this series.