June 30, 2017

530 Ben E. King (1938-2015) “Stand By Me” 1961

“‘He was one of the greatest singers of all time,’ says Steve Van Zandt. ‘He carried on the gospel soulfulness of Sam Cooke and had a really unique sound’...the Beatles and the British Invasion squeezed singers like King down the charts. ‘He wasn't the least bit bitter about that,’ says Van Zandt. ‘He was literally the nicest guy in the world’ (Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 6/4/2015). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Ben E. King “Stand By Me”

529 Chris Kenner (1929-1976) “I Like It Like That” 1961

“‘I always wondered why Chris had them hits,’ said Kenner’s booking agent in 1982. ‘He couldn’t sing, he couldn’t dance, he dressed raggedy, he didn’t have any showmanship.’…Kenner’s career suffered when [recording partner Allen] Toussaint was drafted into the army in 1963…He squandered a great deal of money and wound up doing prison time in Angola after being sent up on a statutory rape charge” (Jeff Hannusch, Offbeat, 2006). 

Chris Kenner “I Like It Like That”

528 Ernie K-Doe (1933-2001) “Mother-in-Law” 1961

“Born Ernest Kador Jr. in the city's Charity Hospital, K-Doe authored his hit single and other lively R&B tracks for local Minit Records, but a follow-up smash proved elusive. While he maintained a hometown profile as a hardworking performer in the James Brown/Joe Tex mold, K-Doe was best known for years as a DJ on New Orleans' WWOZ. There, his lunatic manner, unique lexicon and stream-of-consciousness raps cemented his status as a NoLa institution. Megalomania, alcoholism and a propensity for professional bridge-burning left him virtually homeless by the late '80s” (Ben Sandmel, Kirkus Reviews, 2012). 

Ernie K-Doe “Mother-in-Law”

527 Elmore James (1918-1963) “Shake Your Moneymaker” 1961

“Elmore James is one of the foremost architects of the electric blues and rhythm-and-blues music emerging from postwar Chicago, and he may well be the most influential electric slide guitarist in blues history. He played with great virtuosity, embellished by his fierce, heartfelt vocals…He was also an accomplished bandleader. His Broomdusters band was perhaps second only to the Muddy Waters bands among Chicago electric blues groups” (Howard Bromberg, Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2009). 

Elmore James “Shake Your Moneymaker”

526 Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976) “The Red Rooster” 1961

He was named after President Chester Alan Arthur who “had helped desegregate New York’s streetcars and railroads. The child’s maternal grandfather gave him the nickname ‘Wolf’—as part of a recurring family jest, derived from the Little Red Riding Hood story”  (Ted Gioia, Delta Blues, 2008).

Howlin’ Wolf “The Red Rooster”

June 23, 2017

525 The Highwaymen “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” 1961

Lead singer “David Louis Fisher was born in 1940 in New Haven, Connecticut. He formed the Academics, a vocal group in the doo-wop style of the mid-1950s, while still at school. Drawn to folk music after hearing Pete Seeger and the Weavers, he formed the Highwaymen in 1958…The group was initially called the Clansmen, and Fisher later confessed that in their naivety, they had been unaware of the racist connotations the name had in the South. Once this was pointed out, they turned for inspiration to Alfred Noyes's 1906 poem The Highwayman” (The Times London, May 15, 2010). 

The Highwaymen “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”

524 Carolyn Hester (1937- ) “She Moves Through the Fair” 1961

Born in Waco, Texas, Hester learned her craft from musicians such as Johnny Giles and folk recordings at public libraries. She was a friend of Buddy Holly, who helped arrange some of her music and surprised her in a 1958 London concert by bringing her onstage to play piano. “By the age 21, Hester was the leading lady of the folk circuit” (C. Ross Burns, East Texas Historical Journal, Fall 2013). 

Carolyn Hester “She Moves Through the Fair”

523 Slim Harpo (1924-1970) “Rainin’ in My Heart” 1961

“On top of being a musician and business owner, Harpo strived to be a good father and family man, even through the lean times. Often Harpo was forced to work straight jobs, including operating a trucking business. ‘He worked hard,’ says [Harpo’s stepson, William Gambler]. ‘He was always looking for a way to make things better for us.’ Still, despite the financial hardships, day jobs and grueling gig schedule, Harpo loved what he did—playing the swamp blues and representing his hometown—and that enthusiasm rubbed off on those around him” (Ryan Whirty, Louisiana Life, Jan/Feb 2010).

Slim Harpo “Rainin’ in My Heart”

522 Johnny Hallyday (1943-2017) “Souvenirs, Souvenirs” 1960 and “Viens Danser Le Twist (Let’s Twist Again)” 1961

Born Jean-Philippe Smet in Paris. “What first catapulted Johnny to fame was homegrown fare—Souvenirs, Souvenirs and the romantic Pourquoi Cet Amour, released in June 1960 and making Hallyday a hot item. His French rock worked, he fell on the ground, banked his guitar, sang with urgent vibrato, was handsome, blond, tall… He always tipped his cap to Elvis, Chuck Berry, and other ‘sources’; but he also emulated with original verve. As in seventeenth-century France, M. Hallyday made an art of it!” (Barnett Singer, Contemporary Review, Sept. 2004). 

Johnny Hallyday “Souvenirs, Souvenirs”

Johnny Hallyday “Viens Danser Le Twist” 

521 The Fleetwoods “(He's) The Great Imposter” 1961

The group formed in Olympia, Washington. “Their first moniker, Two Girls And A Guy, was changed by a Seattle record distributor, Bob Reisdorff, who became their manager…In the midst of their success [Gary Troxell] was drafted into the navy, his place being taken when necessary by subsequent solo star Vic Dana” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

The Fleetwoods “The Great Imposter” 

June 16, 2017

520 Lee Dorsey (1926-1986) “Ya Ya” 1961

Dorsey’s family moved from New Orleans to Portland, Oregon, where he was “a successful fighter, one who could floor many a man in a single wallup.” He quit boxing in 1955, “then moved back to his native New Orleans, where he became a popular auto body and fender repairman before hitting the musical big time” (Ryan Whirty, Offbeat, Mar 2013). 

Lee Dorsey “Ya Ya”

519 Dion (DiMucci) (1939- ) “The Wanderer” 1961

“with his transcendent, flexible tenor, and with honest, often confessional lyrics that would give Jim Carroll chills…, Mr. DiMucci showed there was a Cassavetes-like brain throbbing beneath his Fabian-style pompadour. His work was some of the most emotionally conflicted of the era” (D. Strauss, “Dion: He Got Around,” New York Observer, 1/22/2001). 

Dion “The Wanderer”

518 Dion (DiMucci) (1939- ) “Runaround Sue” 1961

“His early hits…adapted Sinatra's streetlight existentialism for the sock-hop crowd. But Mr. DiMucci also had a well-developed taste for the poetry of the dark” (D. Strauss, “Dion: He Got Around,” New York Observer, 1/22/2001). 

Dion “Runaround Sue”

517 Joey Dee (1940- ) and the Starliters “Peppermint Twist” 1961

Dee’s band “took up residency at New York’s famed Peppermint Lounge club in 1960. In late 1961, a year after Chubby Checker’s ‘The Twist’ topped the US chart, the wealthy socialites who frequented the club belatedly discovered the dance. Dee incorporated it into his act and even wrote a special club son, ‘Peppermint Twist’ (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

Joey Dee and the Starliters “Peppermint Twist”

516 Jimmy Dean (1928-2010) “Big Bad John” 1961

“He was raised in what he called dirt-poor surroundings in the small west Texas of Seth Ward, near Plainview. After leaving the armed forces in 1948, Dean began to make his name as a country singer around Washington DC, then a nexus of country music activity…But Dean’s career did not depend on recordings. He was one of country music’s earliest television stars” (Tony Russell, The Guardian, 6/17/2010). 

Jimmy Dean “Big Bad John”

June 9, 2017

515 Dick Dale (1937- ) and the Del-Tones “Let’s Go Trippin’” 1961

“I met a man called Leo Fender, who was the Einstein of the guitar and the amplifiers. And he says, I just made this guitar. It was a Stratocaster. He says, beat it to death and tell me what you think. So when I started playing on that thing, I wanted to get it to be as loud as I could…And at the same time, I was raising 40 different exotic animals—from elephants to lions and tigers and cheetahs and hawks and eagles…So when my mountain lion would scream to me…I would imitate that on my guitar” (Liane Hansen, Weekend Edition Sunday (NPR), Sept. 26, 2010).

Dick Dale and the Del-Tones “Let’s Go Trippin’”

514 Sam Cooke (1931-1964) “Cupid” 1961

“What was most extraordinary about Sam Cooke was his capacity for learning, his capacity for imagination and intellectual growth…he started his own record label and publishing company, probably the first such enterprise fully controlled by a black artist” (Peter Guralnick, Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, 2005). 

Sam Cooke “Cupid”

513 Patsy Cline (1932-1963) “Crazy” 1961

“She would tell the audience,” said Barbara Mandrell, “I recorded a song called “I Fall to Pieces,” and I was in a car wreck. Now I’m really worried because I have a brand-new record and it’s called “Crazy”’” (Mary Bufwack, Robert Oermann, Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800-2000, 2003). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

Patsy Cline “Crazy”

512 Patsy Cline (1932-1963) “I Fall to Pieces” 1961

Cline didn’t want to record the song because it didn’t appeal to her honky-tonk preferences, but it became a #1 hit. “For the second time in her career, Patsy was cast as a crossover act, mixing country stops with pop. One day it might be an appearance on ‘Jubilee U.S.A.’, the next day, a sock hop” (Margaret Jones, Patsy: The Life and Times of Patsy Cline,1994). 

Patsy Cline “I Fall to Pieces”

511 The Cleftones “Heart and Soul” 1961

“I [Herbie Cox (1939- )] was a student in Jamaica, Queens, when the group got started. We were all young, 16- and 17-year-old students. Some kids who never won an election thought it would be a good idea if we wrote a campaign song for them. In those days, it was against the rules in our school to play rock 'n' roll music. So we took a rock song and disguised it as the campaign song. It went over big and won the election for the students who had engaged us… In the early stages of our career back in the 1950s, we did get our education, that was important, but the Cleftones spent several years criss-crossing the country working with folks like Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and La-verne Baker, who used to watch over us like a mother. As kids, we were just happy to have our records played on the radio” (Deardra Shuler, New York Amsterdam News, Jan. 17, 2013).  

The Cleftones “Heart and Soul”

June 2, 2017

510 Dee Clark (1938-1990) “Raindrops” 1961

“Born Delecta Clark in Blytheville, Arkansas, in 1938, Dee Clark grew up in Chicago and enjoyed some minor chart successes with the Chicago group the Goldentones.” He left the group and then “returned to Chicago and began to come into his own as a solo artist…After the massive success of ‘Raindrops,’ a number-two hit on the Billboard chart in 1961, Clark was never able to recapture the success of his earlier hits, but he continued to perform into the 1980s. He died of a heart attack at age fifty-two” (Grady Gaines, I’ve Been Out There, 2015). 

Dee Clark “Raindrops”

509 Chubby Checker (1941- ) “Pony Time” 1961

“As a boy he shined shoes, and in high school he worked in a butcher shop plucking chickens. An early indication of his talent came when customers noticed his skill at impersonating the leading vocalists of the early rock and roll era—Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and, above all, a wildly successful New Orleans singer Checker admired, Fats Domino. Soon Checker was interested in music and performing with a street corner-harmony group, the Quantrells” (Contemporary Black Biography, 2001). 

Chubby Checker “Pony Time”

508 Ray Charles (1930-2004) “One Mint Julip” 1961

“On this album [Genius Plus Soul Equals Jazz], like so many others I’d soon record, I found myself in the fortunate position of being able to reconstruct bits and pieces from my childhood—from all those years spent listening to the jukebox at Mr. Pit’s and listening to the radio at school…in many ways the record became a continuation of what we had begun on the big-band side of the Genius album for Atlantic” (Ray Charles, Brother Ray, 1978). 

Ray Charles “One Mint Julip”

507 Ray Charles (1930-2004) “Hit the Road Jack” 1961

“Ray refused to play to a segregated house, so black promoter Sunbeam Mitchell took the risk, and for the first time ever in Memphis, whites and blacks in equal numbers sat peaceably together and the ‘For Colored Only’ signs came down over the rest rooms” (Michael Lydon, Ray Charles: Man and Music, 1998). 

Ray Charles “Hit the Road Jack”

506 Bruce Channel (1940- ) “Hey Baby” 1961

Channel “was eighteen, living in Grapevine, and singing with the Light Crust Doughboys when he began writing songs with veteran songwriter Margaret Cobb; ‘Hey! Baby’ was one of their first. He recorded it in a Fort Worth studio, backed by the Straitjackets, who featured Delbert McClinton on harmonica. Channel’s smooth voice and McClinton’s bluesy harmonica riff carried the song to number one and the two young men to England, where an unknown group called the Beatles opened for them. Backstage one night, John Lennon buttonholed McClinton and asked him to play the harmonica. A few months later, the lads released their first single, ‘Love Me Do,’ the opening notes of which—Lennon’s memorable harmonica part—draw a direct line from a little Fort Worth studio to the dawning of a new age” (Michael Hall, Texas Monthly, Mar 2007). 

Bruce Channel “Hey Baby”