Friday, 31 August 2012

Bobby Vee - Suzie Baby

On this day 31st August 1959, Bobby Vee appeared on the music charts for the first time as "Suzie Baby" debuted.

Robert Thomas Velline (born April 30, 1943), known as Bobby Vee, is an American pop music singer. According to Billboard magazine, Vee has had 38 Hot 100 chart hits, 10 of which hit the Top 20.

Born in Fargo, North Dakota, he had his first single with "Suzie Baby", an original song penned by Vee that nodded towards Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" for the Minneapolis-based Soma Records recorded June 1st 1959. By the end of the summer, "Susie Baby" had reached number one on all the local stations in the upper mid-west and major record companies were calling with interest in signing this new young singer. Bobby Vee and the Shadows signed with Liberty Records in the fall of '59 and the band continued on until 1963.

On June 1, 1959, the Shadows went to Minneapolis for their first recording session. The deal was with Soma Records to record at Kaybank Studios from nine in the morning to twelve noon. They cut four instrumentals and added Bobby's vocals to two of them before the money/time ran out. The records were credited to Bobby Vee and the Shadows. The A-side of the single was "Suzie Baby," which was a direct descendant of Holly's "Peggy Sue." Loma had local ties with the local record distributor and the record quickly began receiving air play in the upper Midwest becoming a best selling single in the area. Joe Sadd Liberty's regional promotion man heard the band while "Suzie Baby" was number one in Minneapolis. Doing his job, Sadd sent a copy to Hollywood.

Liberty offered to release the single nationally on its own label with an option for a second single. The understanding was if the records were successful there would be a long term contract. Liberty released "Suzie Baby" in the first week of August, 1959. It quickly moved into the lower part of the Pop charts by the end of the month. Vee was offered a one year contract with Liberty and as were the Shadows. Then, nothing happened. With "Susie Baby" fading from memory, Vee was rushed to Los Angeles to record under the direct supervision of Liberty's staff. Supervising Vee was Producer Thomas "Snuff" Garrett. Garret was a 19 year old hip producer from Lubbock, Texas, by way of Dallas. Garrett had moved to Los Angeles and Liberty Records in 1958. A singer named Adam Faith had come up with an imitation of Holly's style and had recorded What Do You Want? in the UK. Bobby Vee was given the assignment of covering the song to sell in the US market, but his recording did not meet with success.

Garrett's formula was to pick up songs from the prolific songwriters in New York City's Brill Building, and to make certain that the words to the songs were sung in such a way that they could be heard clearly and understood. The breakthrough song for Bobby Vee was Devil Or Angel, one that made it to the top ten late in 1960, when Vee was only seventeen. He followed it a short time later with another top ten tune Rubber Ball, which had been co-written by Gene Pitney. Rubber Ball also served to introduce Bobby Vee to rock-and-roll fans in the UK, where it reached number four.

Recording for Liberty in the early 60's, Bobby Vee became one of rock-and-roll's biggest stars on both sides of the Atlantic.

(Info mainly History Of Rock)

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Paris Sisters - I Love How You Love me

On the 30th August 1961, The Paris Sisters released the single "I Love How You Love Me".

"I Love How You Love Me" was an American 1961 Top Ten hit for the Paris Sisters which inaugurated a string of elaborately produced classic hits by Phil Spector. The song has been recorded by many other artists including Bobby Vinton for whom it was a Top Ten hit in 1968.

"I Love How You Love Me" was written by Barry Mann and Larry Kolber (aka Kolberg) when both were staffwriters at Don Kirshner's Aldon Music near the famed Brill Building. Kolber had written the lyrics on a restaurant napkin within five minutes. The song was intended for Tony Orlando to be arranged in the same upbeat style as Orlando's precedent hits "Bless You" and "Halfway to Paradise".1 However Phil Spector discovered the song on a visit to Kirshner's Aldon offices and persuaded Kirshner that the song would have more potential if rendered by a female act. Spector then recorded "I Love How You Love Me" with The Paris Sisters.

Spector's interest in the song was occasioned by its structural similarity to "To Know Him Is to Love Him", the No. 1 hit that Spector's group, the Teddy Bears, had scored in 1958. Annette Kleinbard who'd been the Teddy Bears' vocalist, would weep upon hearing The Paris Sisters' "I Love How You Love Me" on her car radio: "Before [Priscilla Paris] sung five words I knew it was Phil's was just the most beautiful record, but I loved it and I hated it at the same time; it felt like Phil had taken my voice and passed it on to someone else".

However Priscilla Paris would opine: "My sound was not like Annette's - she had a very thin type of little girl voice. I have a heavy roque - that's a French word meaning very heavy, husky - voice. I think Phil fell into something he wanted to do, added extra ingredients, and ended up with something different."

Spector recorded the Paris Sisters' "I Love How You Love Me" at Gold Star Studios in the autumn of 1961. The group vocalized repeatedly to a piano accompaniment until Spector was satisfied with the balance between the voices, after which a string arrangement which Spector worked on over several days with Hank Levine was added.

According to Lester Sill, with whom Spector was then staying, Spector would bring the tapes for "I Love How You Love Me" from Gold Star Studios every evening to review in his room: "he would wake me up at three or four in t
he morning, listening to [the song] over and over again at a very low level." Sill says Spector "must have remixed the strings on that song thirty times; then listened to it for another four or five days before he was sure it was right. Then finally when the record was pressed he listened to the pressing for another two or three days before he gave it an approval."

The song featured a spoken recitation by one of the sisters, speaking the first half of the repeated first verse.

Entering the Top 40 in October 1961, "I Love How You Love Me" reached #5 that November.(Info Wiki)

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Honeycombs - Have I The Right

On the 27th August 1964, The Honeycombs topped the U.K. chart with "Have I the Right".

"Have I the Right?" was The Honeycombs' debut single and biggest hit. It was composed by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, who had made contact with the Honeycombs, a London-based group, then playing under the name of The Sheratons, in the Mildmay Tavern in the Balls Pond Road in Islington, where they played a date. Howard and Blaikley were impressed by the group's vocalist, Dennis D'Ell and the fact that they had a girl drummer, Ann (‘Honey’) Lantree. The group were looking for material to play for an audition with record producer Joe Meek, and they played the songs Howard and Blaikley had just given them. Meek decided to record one of them, "Have I the Right?", there and then. Meek himself provided the B-side, "Please don’t pretend again".

Meek used his apartment at 304 Holloway Road, Islington as a recording studio. Three UK #1 hits were produced there: "Johnny Remember Me" by John Leyton, "Telstar" by The Tornados and the last of them, "Have I the Right?".

Conspicuous in "Have I the Right?" is the prominent part of the drums that carry the song. Their effect was enhanced by making the members of the group stamp their feet on the wooden stairs to the studio. Meek recorded the sound with five microphones he had fixed to the banisters with bicycle clips. For the finishing touch someone beat a tambourine directly onto a microphone. The recording was somewhat sped up, reportedly to the singer’s (Dennis D'Ell) grief, who regretted that he could not reproduce this sound on stage.

"Have I the Right?" was presented by Meek to several major labels, who turned it down. It was released in June 1964 on the Pye record label (Pye 7N 15664). Louis Benjamin (1922–1994), Pye’s later chairman, rechristened the group The Honeycombs, a pun on the drummer’s name and her job as a hairdresser's assistant. The single’s sales started slowly, but by the end of July the record started to climb in the UK Singles Chart. At the end of August the record reached #1. Outside the UK "Have I the Right?" was a big success too. The song became #1 in Australia, Canada and Sweden. In the US the record reached #5 and in the Netherlands #2. "Have I the Right?" sold worldwide about two million copies within a year.

The Honeycombs also recorded a German version of the song: "Hab ich das Recht?" (Deutsche Vogue, DV 14210). Both the English and the German version reached #21 in the German charts: the English one in October, the German one in November 1964. The German version was recorded without the group’s stamping their feet on the stairs and without speeding up. On the other hand one line was left out, so the German version is shorter than the English one after all. The effect of speeding up can be measured by comparing the B-sides: "Du sollst nicht traurig sein" is 20 seconds longer than its English counterpart "Please Don’t Pretend Again".

"Have I The Right?" was covered by Petula Clark on her 1965 album, The International Hits. The song was also covered in 1977 by The Dead End Kids. Their version peaked at #6 in the UK pop charts. The song was covered by the Dead Kennedys on the 1979 live album, Live At The Deaf Club and by Les Fradkin on his 2006 album Goin' Back. American indie pop act Casper & the Cookies covered the song on its 2006 EP Overly Optimistic, and Brooklyn indie-rock band Vampire Weekend included a version on its 2010 iTunes Session EP. (Info Wiki)

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Roy Orbison - Oh Pretty Woman

On 26 August 1964, Roy Orbison released the single "Oh Pretty Woman".

"Pretty Woman" is a song, released in August 1964, which was a worldwide success for Roy Orbison. Recorded on the Monument Records label in Nashville, Tennessee, it was written by Roy Orbison and Bill Dees. The song spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. "Pretty Woman" was also Orbison's third single to top the British singles chart (for a total of three weeks).

The previous Orbison singles to reach No.1 in the UK were "Only the Lonely" in 1960 and "It's Over" earlier in 1964. There were three guitar players on the session, Billy Sanford, Jerry Kennedy and Wayne Moss. Billy Sanford, who later played session for everybody from Elvis to Don Williams (and took to the road with Don in the 1990s) did the kick-off. Williams introduced him as a kid who had just arrived Nashville, with a borrowed guitar, who heard Orbison was minus a guitar player, who went over and got the gig.

Although the official recording appeared in August 1964, the Beatles recalled Orbison having written and performed the song during a mid-1963 tour of the UK on which both acts performed.

Five years after its release, in 1969, the single was awarded gold record by RIAA.

Orbison posthumously won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his live recording of the song on his HBO television special Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night.

In 1999, the song was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and was named one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #222 on their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time." (Info Wiki)

Friday, 24 August 2012

Bob.B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans - Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah

On the 24th August 1962, Producer Phil Spector recorded a "wall of sound" version of "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" with Bobby Sheen doing the lead vocal with former Capitol Records singing group The Blossoms (Darlene Wright [soon to be renamed Darlene Love], Fanita James, and Gloria Jones) doing backup vocals. When the track is released it was credited to Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans.

Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans was an early 1960s vocal group produced by Phil Spector, and was initially conceived as a vehicle for the lead vocals of Bobby Sheen, who took the stage name Bob B. Soxx. The Blue Jeans were backing vocalists Darlene Love and Fanita James, both of whom were also members of the then girl group The Blossoms.

Despite Sheen's status as group leader, by the time the trio entered the recording studio, Spector was often using Love as the group's primary vocalist. Sheen sang lead on the group's first hit, 1962's "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" (originally from the 1946 Disney movie, Song of the South). It debuted on the Billboard pop chart on Nov 17, 1962, peaked at #8 (in 1963) & charted for 13 weeks. It also debuted on the Billboard R&B chart on Dec 8, 1962, peaked at #7 (in 1963) & charted for 9 weeks.

Love, meanwhile, handled the lead vocals on Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans' two follow-up singles, 1963's "Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts?" and "Not Too Young to Get Married".

Sheen and Love shared vocal duties on the only album the group ever recorded, Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah (1963).

Sheen can be heard as lead vocalist on the group's final recordings, "The Bells of St. Mary's" and "Here Comes Santa Claus", two tracks on the Spector-produced album, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963), on which Love also appears as a solo artist. On the cover of this album, a group portrait shows Sheen with two Blue Jeans vocalists, who have been identified as James and yet another Blossoms member, Gloria Jones.

After 1963 the group was dropped by Philles Records and effectively ceased to exist. Sheen went back to using his real name, recorded some tracks for Capitol Records in the mid 1960s, and later joined a touring version of The Coasters, which featured original bass singer Bobby Nunn. Sheen had previously been a member of The Robins, joining in 1957. Love recorded a few solo hits, but, more memorably, was the lead vocalist on at least two hit records by The Crystals. It is also established that Sheen, Love and Wright were the voices on The Crystals' hit, "He's a Rebel". (Info Wiki)

Monday, 20 August 2012

The Four Seasons - Sherry

On this day in 1962 the 4 Seasons released the single "Sherry".

"Sherry" is a song written by Bob Gaudio and originally recorded by The Four Seasons. It was their first nationally-released single and also their first number one hit, initially reaching the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 on September 15, 1962. It remained at number one for five consecutive weeks, and number one on the R&B charts for one week. The song appears on the soundtrack of 2011 film The Help.

According to Gaudio, the song took a
bout 15 minutes to write and was originally titled "Jackie Baby" (in honor of then-First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy).

At the studio, the name was changed to "Terri Baby", and then eventually to "Sherry", the name of the daughter of Gaudio's best friend, New York disc jockey Jack Spector. One of the names that Gaudio pondered for the song was "Peri Baby," which was the name of the record label for which Bob Crewe worked, named after the label owner's daughter.

The single's B-side was "I've Cried Before". Both tracks were included in the group's subsequent album release, Golden Hits of the 4 Seasons (1963).

A version of the song was later recorded and released by British singer/songwriter Adrian Baker. It was released in July 1975 along with "I Was Only Fooling" on the Magnet Records label (MAG 34). Another version was recorded by British pop group Dreamhouse, which appears on their debut album, released in 1998. (Info Wiki)

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Platters - My Prayer

On this day in 1956 one of the great early songs of the Rock Era, "My Prayer" from the Platters, was #1 on the U.S.R&B chart.

"My Prayer" is a 1939 popular song with music by the famous salon violinist Georges Boulanger and lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy. It was originally written by Boulanger with the title "Avant de Mourir" in 1926. The lyrics for this version were added by Kennedy in 1939. Glenn Miller recorded the song that year for a #2 hit and The Ink Spots' version featuring Bill Kenny reached #3 as well that year.

It has been recorded many times since, but the biggest hit version was a revival in 1956 by The Platters on Mercury Records reaching #1 on the Billboard Top 100 number-one singles chart. It was featured in the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The Ink Spots' version of the song was featured in the 1992 movie, Malcolm X. The song also became a tango in the Italian version by Norma Bruni and Cinico Angelini's orchestra (1940), "Sì, voglio vivere ancor!".

The Platters were one of the most successful vocal groups of the early rock and roll era. Their distinctive sound was a bridge between the pre-rock Tin Pan Alley tradition and the burgeoning new genre. The act went through several personnel changes, with the most successful incarnation comprising lead tenor Tony Williams, David Lynch, Paul Robi, Herb Reed, and Zola Taylor. The group had 40 charting singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1955 and 1967, including four # 1 hits. (Info Wiki)

Friday, 17 August 2012

Martha & The Vandellas - Dancing In The Street

On this day in 1964, Martha & The Vandellas released the single "Dancing In The Street."

"Dancing in the Street" is a 1964 song first recorded by Martha and the Vandellas. It is one of Motown's signature songs and is the group's premier signature song.

Produced by William "Mickey" Stevenson and written by Stevenson and Marvin Gaye, the song highlighted the concept of having a good time in whatever city the listener lived. The idea for dancing came to Stevenson from watching people on the streets of Detroit cool off in the summer in water from opened fire hydrants. They appeared to be dancing in the water. The song was conceived by Stevenson who was showing a rough draft of the lyrics to Gaye disguised as a ballad. When Gaye read the original lyrics, however, he said the song sounded more danceable. With Gaye and Stevenson collaborating, the duo composed the single with Kim Weston in mind to record the song. Weston passed on the song and when Martha Reeves came to Motown's Hitsville USA studios, the duo presented the song to Reeves. Hearing Gaye's demo of it, Reeves asked if she could arrange her own vocals to fit the song's message. Reeves recounted that she initially regarded the song as too repetitive.

Gaye and Stevenson agreed and including new Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter adding in musical composition, the song was recorded in two takes. The interesting loud beat of the drums in its instrumentation can be attributed to Hunter, who banged on a crowbar to add to the drum beat led by Gaye, who was often a drummer on many of Motown's earliest hits.

"Dancing in the Street" peaked at number two on the U.S. Billboard Pop Singles chart when it was originally released as the group's third album Dance Party's first single in 1964, with "There He Is (at My Door)" included as a B-side. The song also reached the top 5 on the UK pop charts peaking at #4 in a 1969 release after initially peaking at #28 on the chart and helped to revive the Vandellas' success in England.

On April 12, 2006, it was announced that Martha and the Vandellas' version of "Dancing in the Street" would be one of 50 sound recordings preserved by the Library of Congress to the National Recording Registry. Lead singer Martha Reeves said she was thrilled about the song's perseverance, saying "It's a song that just makes you want to get up and dance". (Info Wiki)

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Ricky Nelson - Be-Bop Baby

On this day in 1957, 17-year-old Ricky Nelson recorded "Be-Bop Baby" and "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?"

Ricky Nelson (1940-85) rose to fame in the 1950's as a rock & roll teen idol. Through his exposure on the family TV series 'The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet', Nelson launched a long and successful career, aided by his ace guitarist James Burton.

Ricky first entered the recording scene in May of 1957 with the release of his first record, “A TEENAGER’S ROMANCE” as the “A” side and a cover of Fats Domino’s, “I’M WALKIN’” as the “B” side. Both sides of the record were huge hits. “A Teenager’s Romance” climbed the Billboard Top 100 to #2 and had a 19 week run on the chart. “I’m Walkin’” peaked at #4 and enjoyed 17 weeks on the Top 100. Ricky’s first record was on the Verve Record label, where he signed a one record deal. He also recorded one other side for Verve and that record was “YOU’RE MY ONE AND ONLY LOVE”. Because of the great record sales of his first record, Verve decided to release “You’re My One And Only Love”, but they didn’t have a “B” side, so Verve Records had orchestra leader Barney Kessel cut a rock instrumental number “HONEY ROCK” as the “B” side. In August of ’57 Ricky entered the Top 100, “You’re My One And Only Love” was a good follow up, as it stayed in the Top 100 for 12 weeks and peaked at #14.

During this time Ricky signed a long-term recording deal with Imperial Records a Los Angeles based independent record label that had the great Fats Domino among others under contract. Lew Chudd owner of the label had Ricky in the studio on August 16, 1957. The first song he recorded was “HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY THAT I LOVE YOU”, a song that Gene Autry had recorded in 1946. The next song recorded was his classic recording of “BE-BOP BABY”.

Both songs entered the Billboard Top 100 on October 7, 1957. Ricky’s first Imperial single was a huge hit. The “B” side “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” with The Jordanaires on backing vocal charted at #29. The “A” side “Be-Bop Baby” was a huge hit, climbing the Top 100 to #3 and staying on the chart for 20 weeks. “Be-Bop Baby” became Ricky Nelson’s first million selling single record and Ricky was awarded a “Gold Record”. This would be just the beginning of long string of hits on Imperial, 36 charted single records, that would place Ricky Nelson right at the top with the great artists in “The golden era of rock and roll.” (Info mainly from Joe Troiano's blog)

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Elvis Presley - It's Now Or Never

On this day in 1960, Elvis Presley started a five week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with 'It's Now Or Never', also No.1 in the UK.

"It's Now or Never" is a popular song recorded by Elvis Presley and published by Gladys Music, Elvis Presley's publishing company, in 1960. The melody of the song is adapted from the Italian standard, "'O Sole Mio", but the inspiration for it came from the song, "There's No Tomorrow", recorded by U.S. singer, Tony Martin, in 1949. The lyrics were written by Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold.

In the late 1950s,
while stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army, Presley heard Martin's recording. According to The New York Times, quoting from the 1986 book Behind The Hits, "he told the idea to his music publisher, Freddy Bienstock, who was visiting him in Germany...Mr. Bienstock, who many times found songwriters for Presley, returned to his New York office, where he found songwriters, Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold, the only people in that day. The two wrote lyrics in half an hour. Selling more than 20 million records, the song became number one in countries all around and was Presley's best selling single ever...a song [they] finished in 20 minutes to a half hour was the biggest song of [their] career."
In 1960, "It's Now or Never" was a number-one record in the U.S., spending five weeks at number one and the U.K., where it spent eight weeks at the top in 1960 and an additional week at number one in 2005 as a re-issue, and numerous oth
er countries, selling in excess of 25 million copies worldwide, his biggest international single ever. Its British release was delayed for some time because of rights issues, allowing the song to build up massive advance orders and to enter the UK Singles Chart at number one, a very rare occurrence at the time. "It's Now or Never" peaked at number seven on the R&B charts.
Barry White heard this song in 1960 when he was in jail for stealing tires. The song had such an impact on White that it convinced him to pursue a career in music.

A live version featuring "O Sole Mio" is available on the 1977 live album Elvis in Concert. "O Sole Mio" is sung by tenor Sherrill Nielson.

In early 2005, the song was re-released along with the other Presley singles in the UK, and again reached number one on the UK Singles Chart for the week of February 5, 2005. The song also appears in the TV mini-series Elvis.(Info Wiki)

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Bobby Darin - Lazy River

On this day in 1960, Bobby Darin recorded "Lazy River."


"(Up A) Lazy River" is a popular song by Hoagy Carmichael and Sidney Arodin, published in 1930. The song is considered a jazz and pop standard, and has been recorded by many artists. Bobby's swing ability is on full display with with a powerful, fully orchestrated arrangement by Richard Behrke. Darin turned it into a number that really shook, reaching the Top 20 in the U.S. and confirmed his status as one of the great singers of swing.

Darin recorded this song as a single in 1960 and it was released on February 6th 1961. (US Atco 6188 UK London 9303) The flip side was "Oo-e-Train."
Bobby Darin started as a songwriter for Connie Francis, and recorded his own first million-seller "Splish Splash" in 1958. This was followed by "Dream Lover," "Mack the Knife" and "Beyond the Sea," which brought him world fame. In 1962, he won a Golden Globe for his first film Come September, co-starring his wife Sandra Dee.

Through the 1960s he became more political, and worked on Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign, being present on the night of his assassination. This affected him and sent him into a period of seclusion.

Although he made a successful television comeback, his health was starting to fail, as he had always expected, following bouts of rheumatic fever in childhood. This knowledge had always spurred him on to exploit his musical talent while still young. He died at 37, following a heart operation in Los Angeles. (Info mainly Wiki)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Crests - 16 Candles

On this day in 1958 The Crests recorded "16 Candles".

The Crests were a New York R&B doo-wop group of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their most popular song was "16 Candles", written by Luther Dixon and Allyson R. Khent, which rose to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1959 and number four on the R&B charts in 1958.

They recorded the song when Johnny Maestro was only nineteen years old. It sold over one million copies, earning a gold disc.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Perez Prado & His Orchesttra - Patricia

On this day in 1958 "Patricia" by Perez Prado was #1 on the American R&B chart.

"Patricia" is a popular song with music by Pérez Prado and lyrics by Bob Marcus, published in 1958. The song is best known in an instrumental version by Prado's orchestra that became the last record to ascend to #1 on the Billboard Jockeys and Top 100 charts, both of which gave way the next week to the then newly introduced Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song was also number one on the R&B Best Sellers for two weeks. Prado re-recorded and re-charted the song in a 1962 "twist" version. The tune in Perry Como's "Patricia" in 1959 bears no resemblance to any version of Prado's.

Universally known as the King of the Mambo, Pérez Prado was the single most important musician involved in the hugely popular Latin dance craze. Whether he actually created the rhythm is somewhat disputed, but it’s abundantly clear that Prado developed it into a bright, swinging style with massive appeal for dancers of all backgrounds and classes. Prado’s mambo was filled with piercing high-register trumpets, undulating saxophone counterpoint, atmospheric organ (later on), and harmonic ideas borrowed from jazz. While his tight percussion arrangements allowed for little improvisation, they were dense and sharply focused, keeping the underlying syncopations easy for dancers to follow.

Prado played the piano, but was often more in his element as the focal point of the audience’s excitement; he leaped, kicked, danced, shouted, grunted, and exhorted his musicians with a dynamic stage presence that put many more sedate conductors and bandleaders to shame. With this blueprint, Prado brought mambo all the way into the pop mainstream, inspiring countless imitators and scoring two number one singles on the pop charts (albeit in a smoother vein than the fare that first made his name) as the fad snowballed. He was a star throughout most of the Western Hemisphere during the ’50s, and even after his popularity waned in the United States, he remained a widely respected figure in many Latin countries, especially his adopted home of Mexico. Prado is often best remembered for his softer, more commercial work, which has an undeniable kitschiness that plays well with modern-day lounge-revival hipsters. (Info edited mainly from Wikipedia &

Friday, 10 August 2012

Helen Shapiro - You Don't Know

On this day in 1961, 14 year old Helen Shapiro became the youngest person to reach # 1 in the U.K. with "You Don't Know".

Helen Shapiro enjoyed phenomenal popularity early in her career. In 1961, at the age of fourteen, she had two number one hits in the UK: "You Don't Know" and "Walkin' Back to Happiness"; and, indeed, her first four single releases all went into the top three of the UK Singles Chart. Her mature voice made her an overnight sensation, as well as the youngest female chart topper in the UK. Before she was sixteen years old, Shapiro had been voted Britain's 'Top Female Singer', and when The Beatles had their first national tour in 1963, it was as her supporting act. During the course of the tour, the Beatles had their first hit single and John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the song "Misery" intended for her, but Shapiro did not record the composition.

By the time she was in her late teens, her career as a pop singer was on the wane.She branched out as a performer in stage musicals, a jazz singer, (jazz being her first love musically), and more recently a gospel singer. She played the role of Nancy in Lionel Bart's musical, Oliver! in London's West End and has appeared in British television soap operas; in particular Albion Market where she played one of the main characters up to the time it was taken off-air in August 1986.

Shapiro retired from show business at the end of 2002 to concentrate on her gospel outreach evenings. She is married to John Judd, an actor with numerous roles in British television and cinema, she resides in the town of Highworth, Wiltshire.

"You Don't Know " was written by John Schroeder and Michael Hawker and released on the Columbia (EMI) label in the United Kingdom on 29 June 1961. "You Don't Know" topped the UK charts for three weeks beginning 10 August.

In Japan, where Shapiro's version also became popular in 1962, the song was covered in Japanese by Mieko Hirota, who had also covered Shapiro's earlier hit "Don't Treat Me Like a Child." (Info edited from various sources)

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Johnny Horton - North To Alaska

On this day in 1960 Johnny Horton recorded "North To Alaska".


John Gale Horton (April 30, 1925 - November 5, 1960), known professionally as Johnny Horton, was an American country music singer who was most famous for his semi-folk, so-called "saga songs" which launched the "historical ballad" craze of the late 1950s and early 1960s. With them, he had several major crossover hits, most notably in 1959 with "The Battle of New Orleans" which won the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. The song won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award and in 2001 was named number 333 of the Songs of the Century. In 1960, Horton had two other crossover hits with "North to Alaska," in John Wayne's hit film, North to Alaska; and "Sink the Bismarck". Horton was also a rockabilly singer, and was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

North to Alaska (German Title: Land der 1000 Abenteuer) is a 1960 comedic western directed by Henry Hathaway and starring John Wayne and Stewart Granger. The film script is based on the play Birthday Gift by Ladislas Fodor.

The film featured Johnny Horton's hit song of the same name. Though Horton had sung several popular movie tie-in songs, this was the first one that actually appeared in the film being sung over the opening titles.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

George van Epps born 1913

George Van Eps (7 August 1913 – 29 November 1998) (often called "the Father of the Seven String Guitar") was an American swing and Mainstream jazz guitarist noted both for his recordings as a leader, and for his work as a session musician.

He was well known as a pioneer of the seven-string guitar, which allowed him to incorporate sophisticated bass lines into his improvisation.

He was a strong influence on later seven-string players such as Howard Alden, Bucky Pizzarelli, and John Pizzarelli (Bucky's son). He is the son of the legendary classic banjo player Fred Van Eps.

When George Van Eps died he left a legacy of phonograph recordings that started in 1934 with the Benny Goodman band (maybe earlier with his father) and ended with his last recording for Concord Records in 1996. During those 62 documented years he made hundreds of recordings as sideman, but only a handful under his own name. And those he made relatively late in his career. Yet, despite this meager output as leading artist, George Van Eps has been revered by every guitar player to come after him. What he did to deserve this acclaim was to single handily create a whole new way to play jazz guitar that brought a complexity, depth and beauty to the instrument that it didn't have before.

George Van Eps grew up in a musical family. His father, Fred Van Eps was a master of the 5-string banjo, his mother was a classically trained pianist and his three older brothers were musicians. George started playing the banjo at age eleven and by age twelve he was out playing professionally with his family. After hearing Eddie Lang for the first time on the radio he made the switch to guitar and by 1934 he was playing with the Benny Goodman band. In that same year he recorded with Adrian Rollini, perhaps recording his first solos on that date on Somebody Loves Me. He then spent several years with the Ray Noble band before moving on to a freelance career in Hollywood.

While in Hollywood, George Van Eps recorded with dozens of artists and every now and then he stepped out front with a solo or showed up as the principal backing for singers like Frank Sinatra. But until the 1960's, Van Eps' primary role was keeping time in a rhythm section. One exception during this period was the series of recordings he made in the mid-1940's on the Jump label with the LaVere Chicago Loopers and as a part of a trio with Eddie Miller and Stan Wrightsman. These recordings put the Van Eps guitar front and center, but due to the limited distribution of the Jump label, did not earn Van Eps much recognition outside of music circles.

Then in the late 1950's and early 1960's he made a series of solo recordings for Columbia and Capitol that featured the unique guitar style of George Van Eps. The first of these recordings was Mellow Guitar, followed by My Guitar, Seven String Guitar and Soliloquy. If George Van Eps had not made another recording, this series of recordings would have secured the Van Eps legend. But, then in the 1990's he made a series of brilliant recordings for Concord Records with Howard Alden that made his music accessible to a whole new generation of jazz lovers. And, once again earned the complete admiration of a whole new generation of guitarists. Even in his 80s, he remained an eloquent exponent of easygoing modern swing., George Van Eps died of pneumonia on November 29, 1998 at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California. He was 85.

A survey of George Van Eps' recorded work shows that as early as 1935 he was already playing in his unique style. The depth and complexity were not fully developed yet, but the unmistakable style was there. Then, after Epiphone made him a seven-string guitar in 1938, he began displaying the depth, richness and complexity that are the hallmarks of the Van Eps sound. The first major recordings with this new instrument were the Jump recordings from the mid 1940's. The solos recorded at that time like I Wrote It For Jo and Kay's Fantasy and Tea For Two have Van Eps playing bass, melody and supporting chords all himself all at the same time. No over dubbing, no multi-track. These recordings led Clive Acker, the producer of Jump records at the time, to say " ...even the untutored ear can tell that playing these solos is not difficult, it's impossible!"

The guitar playing on these recordings amazed the producer and set the guitar playing community on its head and established a whole new standard by which jazz guitar and it's player would be measured and would measure themselves.

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 George Van Eps - George Van Eps' Seven-String Guitar - 1967Capitol ST 2783

Satin Doll
Prelude To A Kiss
A Blues Serenade
The Very Thought Of You
Stop, Look and Listen

Sophisticated Lady
Glad To Be Unhappy
Baubles, Bangles and Beads
A Libra Rhapsody
Come Rain Or Come Shine

George Van Eps - 7-string guitar
Frank Flynn - marimba
Jerry Williams - drums

Here's a great video from YouTube uploader halden7 of Gerge Van Eps and Howard Alden playing the Cole Porter classic Night & Day in Schorndorf, Germany. Oct 1993.