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.