April 20, 2018

705 Chuck Berry (1926-2017) “You Never Can Tell” 1964

The scandal and jail time of the previous years “devastated Berry. He had fallen out with his family, and was left with a strong distrust for the legal system as well as for the media that had hounded him. Once jovial and relaxed, he was now bitter and mistrustful. Yet in the end the scandal ruined neither his family life nor his career. Soon after his release…he began touring and recording again. While in prison, he had written a spate of new songs, some of which became hits in 1964 and 1965. Among these were … ‘You Never Can Tell’” (Contemporary Musicians, 2002).

Chuck Berry “You Never Can Tell”

704 Chuck Berry (1926-2017) “No Particular Place to Go” 1964

“I would often have to sing aloud while arranging these songs and sometimes I would look around and find an audience of two or three guys listening to my practicing. Once, while improvising in the gang shower where I was granted the privilege to practice, I looked up and saw the Birdman of Alcatraz standing watching me strum. I’d seen him in the corridor walking to and fro but had never exchanged words with him. I said, ‘Hi, Birdman,’ addressing him as I’d heard other do. He just smiled, then turned and walked away” (Chuck Berry: The Autobiography, 1987).

Chuck Berry “No Particular Place to Go”

703 The Beau Brummels “Laugh, Laugh” 1964

“The Beau Brummels made their earliest recordings in San Francisco in 1964 with Sylvester Stewart (later Sly of Sly and the Family Stone) producing. They were the first American band to meet the challenge of the early English invasion, and particularly the challenge posed by the Beatles, with an American version of the English rock sound. Their mid-1960’s recordings, with their jangling, deftly layered guitar parts, melodious songs and chiming vocal harmonies, set the stage for the folk-rock style that flowered in the next few years” (Robert Palmer, The New York Times, 4/3/1983).

The Beau Brummels “Laugh, Laugh”

702 The Beatles “Eight Days a Week” 1964

“Contrasting the Beatles For Sale sessions with the burst of creativity that yielded the all-original A Hard Day’s Night, it is difficult not to regard the group’s revival of its Liverpool and Hamburg repertory of covers as a sign of fatigue.” (Allan Kozinn, The Beatles, 1995).

The Beatles “Eight Days a Week”

701 The Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night” 1964

“During all the shouting and screaming and boasting of their record-breaking tours in Britain and America, the Beatles were crouching somewhere inside the giant piece of machinery which was transporting them round and round the world. They’d retreated inside it in 1963, forced by all the pressures, and remained there, hermetically sealed, as if on a desert island, from all life and reality” (Hunter Davies, The Beatles, 1996).

The Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night”

April 13, 2018

700 The Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” 1964

“Elvis Presley’s press conferences were all deferential: he even called reporters sir and ma’am. The Beatles were not that way. Asked to sing, they refused. Pressed by a reporter who said there was doubt that they could sing, Lennon said drily, ‘we need money first’. Asked why their music excited teenagers, McCartney deadpanned, ‘we don’t know, really’, to which Lennon added, ‘if we did we’d form another group and be managers’” (Allan Kozinn, The Beatles, 1995). 

The Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love”

699 The Beatles “I Feel Fine” 1964

“by late 1963, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah’…had become a cliché. By the October 1964 recording of the bridge of ‘I Feel Fine,’ the Beatles’ shouts and endlessly repeated syllables and phrases were for the most part toned down into joyful yet Apollonian ‘ooh’s in sustained backing vocals. The Beatles had begun to seek other means of expressing excitement, involving both instrumental and vocal techniques. In ‘I Feel Fine,’ powerful joy is celebrated both in the opening, in which Lennon creates feedback in his own guitar from the open A on McCartney’s bass, and in the rhythmically emphasized three-part choral declamations ‘I’m so glad’ and ‘she’s so glad’” (Walter Everett, The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarry Men through Rubber Soul, 2001). 

The Beatles “I Feel Fine”

698 The Beach Boys “All Summer Long” 1964

“by 1964, the Beach Boys were firmly entrenched as one of the most successful American pop groups. The band had come a long way from Brian Wilson and Al Jardine’s original dream. ‘when the Beach Boys started, I wanted us to be a folk group,’ Jardine said. ‘As it turns out, the group has become America’s balladeers regarding music; the folk myths, the experience of this country’” (Charles Granata, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, 2003). 

The Beach Boys “All Summer Long”

697 The Beach Boys “I Get Around” 1964

Mike Love “picked up on the morbid frustration of Brian’s basic lyrics, on which Brian bluntly divulged ‘getting bugged’ driving up and down the same old streets while pining for exotic places in which to spend the ‘real good bread’ he was earning” (Timothy White, The Nearest Faraway Place, 1994). 

The Beach Boys “I Get Around”

696 The Beach Boys “Don’t Worry Baby” 1964

Brian Wilson was “floored by the songs Phil Spector was making…he noticed how the young producer was beginning to use the recording studio as an instrument unto itself. It was the sound that did it for Brian (Peter Carlin, Catch a Wave, 2006). After hearing Phil Spector’s record of the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” Brian Wilson told his girlfriend, Marilyn, “I can’t do that. Not that great. Not ever.” She replied, “Don’t worry, baby. You will.” He “learned every note, every sound, the pulse of every groove” of the record, then collaborated with lyricist Roger Christian and “wrote a lush ballad whose title and chorus came directly from Marilyn’s comforting words, ‘Don’t Worry, Baby’” (Brian Wilson, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, 1991). 

The Beach Boys “Don’t Worry Baby”

March 29, 2018

695 Shirley Bassey (1937- ) “Goldfinger Theme” 1964

“producer Harry Saltzman complained about the song, phoning John Barry saying it was terrible and asking if it could be replaced. After the song soared to Number One, Saltzman had to eat his words…The song was also a triumph for Shirley Bassey—she was catapulted into super-stardom” (Jack Becker, et al, James Bond in World and Popular Culture, 2011).

Shirley Bassey “Goldfinger Theme”

694 Joan Baez (1941- ) “Birmingham Sunday” 1964

“Inspired by the deaths of four Negro schoolgirls when a white racist firebombed a church during services in September 1963, the song is neither a straightforward reportorial account nor a protest anthem but a gently poetic evocation of a tragedy…derived from the traditional Irish love song ‘I Once Loved a Lass.’ (Langston Hughes would describe it as ‘musically so beautifully understated…a quiet protest song.’)” (David Hajdu, Positively 4th Street, 2001).

Joan Baez “Birmingham Sunday”

693 Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) “Hello, Dolly” 1964

Armstrong’s recording “became the best-selling single in America, leaping past the Beatles’ ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret?’ to reach the top of Billboard’s pop chart. It would be the last jazz record, and the next-to-last show tune, to do so. When Armstrong’s ‘Hello, Dolly!’ was replaced by Mary Wells’s ‘My Guy’ a week later, an era—the one that has since come to be known as the ‘golden age’ of American popular music—ended. Rock and roll, the preferred music of the baby boomers, thereafter supplanted golden-age popular song as the linqua franca of pop music in the U.S. and Europe” (Commentary, 2016).

Louis Armstrong “Hello, Dolly”

692 The Animals “The House of the Rising Sun” 1964

“Out of all the groups swept along with the 1964 British invasion, the Animals were the most deeply bluesy. Eric Burdon, born on May 11, 1941, in the industrial/mining town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northeast England, combined his ravaged ‘wish-I-was-black’ vocals with the surging organ of fellow Newcastle native [Alan] Price to define the sound of the group…Burdon recalls with undisguised bitterness that the arrangement to House was a group effort, but that when it came time to issue the record, he was told there would be room for only one name for the arrangers’ credit, and he foolishly agreed to let it be Alan Price’s. This meant that…Price received all the royalties from the record’s sales” (Steve Sullivan, Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, 2013). 

The Animals “The House of the Rising Sun”

691 Little Stevie Wonder (1950- ) “Fingertips” 1963

At first, Lula Hardaway turned down Motown’s offer to sign her son, Stevie. “When she told Stevie of her decision, he embarked on a resistance campaign that consisted of beating on his drum every moment of the waking day. The incessant pounding finally broke his mother’s resistance, and she agreed to sign…The extra income was a blessing for the Hardaway family, who were struggling to make ends meet in the East Side ghetto” (Craig Werner, Higher Ground, 2004).

Little Stevie Wonder “Fingertips”

March 23, 2018

690 Don Walser and the Texas Plainsmen “Rolling Stone from Texas” 1963

“In his early years he would entertain his childhood friends by composing songs about them and he amazed them with his photographic memory for songs, able to perform any tune after only hearing it once. At 15, he lied about his age to join the Texas National Guard in 1949, leaving the oilfields to go fulltime in 1957 for a 45-year hitch as a recruiter, mechanic and auditor. At 16, he formed his first band with childhood friend, guitarist Billy Richter. He married his wife, Patricia Jane, only a year later. In 1959, the strapping ‘Little Donnie’ Walser and Richter were invited to join the Texas Plainsmen, a local outfit playing a mix of popular dance music of the day. Don became an expert in country & western, Texas swing and cowboy yodel songs” (Mark Rubin, Sing Out!, Winter 2007).

Don Walser and the Texas Plainsmen “Rolling Stone from Texas”

689 Barbara Lynn “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” 1962

“This song was a top-10 hit for Barbara Lynn when it first appeared in 1962. Its success led her to tour with major R and B stars like James Brown and Otis Redding. Lynn appeared on ‘American Bandstand,’ and artists like The Rolling Stones covered her songs…Not only did Barbara Lynn write her own material, which was unusual at the time, she also played electric guitar, and she played it lefty. Lynn didn’t just hold down the rhythm. She played riffs and leads, little bursts of notes that followed the patterns of her soulful singing” (All Things Considered, 11/19/2014). 

Barbara Lynn “You’ll Lose a Good Thing”

688 Marty Robbins (1925-1982) “El Paso” 1959

“Robbins’ grandfather was a former medicine show performer who regaled him with cowboy stories and tales of the traveling show. As a teenager he worked on his older brother’s ranch outside of Phoenix, and ran away from home for a time to hang out with hobos. While serving in the Navy in World War II, he learned to play guitar; upon returning home, he began to perform in local clubs and on radio stations…’At a time when the radio was full of watered-down rock ‘n roll sung by pretty boys bereft of talent, Marty Robbins and El Paso had the narrative arc of an epic film’” (Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, 2013). 

Marty Robbins “El Paso”

687 Lefty Frizzell (1938-1975) “Long Black Veil “ 1959

“Musically, Sonny had been heavily influenced by Ernest Tubb, and especially by Jimmie Rodgers. Personally, he was influenced by movie cowboys, like Gene Autry and Tom Mix, to name a couple. He loved the way they dressed from their hats clear down to their cowboy boots. Sonny wore a handkerchief just like them: first, because that was the cowboy look, second, because it helped to hide the birthmark on his face and neck and, and third, because our mother could sew them for him…Sonny brought in some money which, added to what little Momma took in from washing and ironing, at least put food on the table” (David Frizzell, I Love You a Thousand Ways: The Lefty Frizzell Story, 2011). 

Lefty Frizzell “Long Black Veil”

686 Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown (1924-2005) “Okie Dokie Stomp” 1954

“Gatemouth’s career got started in 1947. He performed as a drummer during a year of Army service, then began taking his guitar playing more seriously after filling in one night for T-Bone Walker in Houston in 1947. Walker, one of the few guitarists he admitted liking, was ill and left the stage mid set. Gatemouth walked onstage, picked up Walker’s guitar and made up a song on the spot he called ‘Gatemouth Boogie.’ He clamed that he earned $600 in tips in 15 minutes…His music was born of the swing era and he became an architect of modern guitar playing and rock ‘n’ roll by bridging the two eras” (Joe Krown, Sing Out!, Winter 2006). 

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown “Okie Dokie Stomp”

March 9, 2018

685 Hank Thompson (1925-2007) and his Brazos Valley Boys “The Wild Side of Life” 1952

“Hank Thompson and his Brazos Valley Boys were the most commercially successful Western swing band of the fifties and sixties. Much of their material, however, had a more mainstream country approach and could well be called honky-tonk. In his late teens, Thompson broadcast as a singer-guitarist over the local station WACO in a show called Hank the Hired Hand. After wartime service in the navy, he returned to Waco to work on KWTX and formed the first Brazos Valley Boys to play dances around central Texas. ‘Wild Side of Life’, which shared the melody of Roy Acuff’s ‘Great Speckled Bird’ and sparked Kitty Wells’ answer song ‘It wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels’, was his first No. 1” (The Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music, 2001). 

Hank Thompson and his Brazos Valley Boys “The Wild Side of Life”

684 Peppermint Harris (1925-1999) “I Got Loaded” 1951

“After serving in the Navy in World War II, Harris moved to Houston in 1943. He devoted his full time to music a few years later and became a protégé of Houston blues patriarch Lightnin’ Hopkins, who landed him (as Peppermint Nelson) his first recording session…it was the surprise success of his ‘I Got Loaded’ ode to alcohol…that made him a star, creating a blues subgenre in the process, one Harris repeatedly mined” (Encyclopedia of the Blues, 2006). 

Peppermint Harris “I Got Loaded”

683 Harry Choates (1922-1951) “Jole Blon” 1946

“Born in Rayne, Louisiana (‘the frog capital of the world’), on December 26, 1922, Harry Choates was raised in Port Arthur, Texas, grew up in the east Texas oilfields area, learned to play fiddle, guitar, and steel guitar, and first performed Jolie Blonde during an early stint with [Leo] Soileau’s band. He made his recording debut in February 1940 as fiddler with Happy Fats & the Rayne-Bo Ramblers. By 1946 Choates—known for punctuating songs with exuberant cries of ‘Eh…ha, ha!’—was looking for an opportunity to make records on his own, and got it with Bill Qunn’s fledgling Gold Star label in Houston, which at the time was the only independent label recording Cajun music” (Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, 2013). 

Harry Choates “Jole Blon”

682 Cindy Walker (1918-2006) “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again” 1944

“Cindy Walker was born into a musical family on July 20, 1918, in Mart, Texas…In 1941, Walker’s first trip to Hollywood played like a scene from an old movie. ‘My father was a cotton buyer, and we took a trip to Hollywood to sell some pima cotton,’ she told The Austin Chronicle in 2004. ‘And I saw the Crosby Building, I said ‘Stop, Papa, stop! I’ve got a song for Bing Crosby…I went in and saw [Bing’s brother and publicity director] Larry Crosby there. I told him I was a songwriter. I couldn’t play the piano and didn’t play guitar very well, so I ran downstairs and got mama and made her play piano’” (Bill DeMain, Performing Songwriter, Mar/Apr 2006). 

Cindy Walker “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again”

681 Ella Mae Morse (1924-1999) “Get On Board, Little Chillun” 1942

“When Ella Mae Morse was nine and living in Paris, Texas, she went to the grocery store with her mother and heard someone playing guitar out back. She’d grown up with music—her mother was a singer and her father, who was British, had been a dance-band drummer—but this music was different. Uncle Joe, the blues guitarist she met that day, encouraged her natural talent for blues, as did her mother. Her father had left when she was younger. Soon, she was singing on Paris’s radio station, and in 1936, she and her mother moved to Dallas, where she got another regular radio slot after winning a talent contest” (Fresh Air, 2/21/2011). 

Ella Mae Morse “Get On Board, Little Chillun”