Faye Adams

Faye Tuell was born in Newark, New Jersey, in May of 1923. Her father, David Tuell, was a singer of gospel music and, from the age of five, Faye joined two of her older sisters in the singing of spirituals.

Faye married Tommy Scruggs, in 1942, and under her married name performed in nightclubs in New York. In 1952, she became the vocalist in a band led by Joe Morris. It was to be her recording of the song, “Shake A Hand”, under the name of Faye Adams, that was to give her her initial and largest hit. “Shake A Hand”, Joe’s own composition, spent ten weeks atop the rhythm and blues chart, in the latter half of 1953.

Before the year had ended, “I’ll Be True” had followed it; also bound for No.1. Almost a year later, “Hurts Me To My Heart” spent five weeks at No.1. In 1955, Faye Adams appeared in the film, ‘Rhythm And Blues Revue’.

At the time of writing Faye is ninety-four years of age.

The Ames Brothers

This quartet of brothers hailed from Malden, Massachusetts. The brothers’ parents, David and Sarah Urick, had emigrated from the Ukraine, and had nine children in all.

Only Ed Ames, who was born in July of 1927, survives at this time of writing. Joe (1921-2007), Gene (1923-1997) and Vic (1925-1978) were this vocal group’s other members.

Having moved to New York, in the late 1940s, it was decided that their collective name should be changed from The Amory Brothers to that of The Ames Brothers. The brothers became the first artists to record for Coral Records, a label that, in the late 1950s, was to become synonymous with the recordings of Buddy Holly.

Success was not long in coming, as “Rag Mop” reached No.1 in the early months of 1950.

The Ames Brothers became extremely popular, not only on the radio and television but in nightclubs, as well. Hit after hit followed “Rag Mop”, with “Sentimental Me” also reaching the covetted No.1 position, and, later in that year “Can Anyone Explain? (No, No, No)” ascended to No.5.

In 1951, “Undecided”, which was recorded with Les Brown and his Band of Renown, reached No.2. Nevertheless, the four had to wait until 1953 to savour their biggest success of all, “You You You”, which was to remain atop the hit parade for eight weeks. The Ames Brothers had just switched to recording on the RCA Victor label and were hence now accompanied by Hugo Winterhalter and his Orchestra.

The cleverly written “The Naughty Lady Of Shady Lane”, released in late 1954, climbed to sit at No.3. In total The Ames Brothers had forty-nine recordings enter the American charts. There, the quartet’s other recordings to enter the Top 10 were “Tammy” and “Melodie D’Amour”, both of which peaked at No.5, in 1957.

http://youtu.be/_M1SVioazHs

“Pussy Cat” climbed to No.3 in Australia, in 1958, and remained on the chart for twenty weeks.

When The Ames Brothers disbanded, in 1960, Ed Ames pursued a career as an actor; in conjunction with that as a solo recording artist. He is perhaps best remembered, as an actor, for his portrayal of ‘Mingo’, an American Indian, in the television series, ‘Daniel Boone’, which ran from 1964-1970.

As a solo performer, Ed’s most notable recording is ‘My Cup Runneth Over’, which reached No.8, in 1967.

My favourite recordings by The Ames Brothers are “You You You”, “The Naughty Lady Of Shady Lane”, “Melodie D’Amour”, “Pussy Cat” and, from 1956, “It Only Hurts For A Little While”.

All of the above five can be found on my list of favourite recordings, located in the suggested playlists. Perhaps you shall notice that in this list I have shown preference to Debbie Reynolds’ version of “Tammy”. It spent five weeks atop Billboard’s pop chart, in 1957, and features in the film, ‘Tammy And The Bachelor’, in which Debbie also stars.

Stan Freberg

Stanley Victor Freberg was born in August of 1926, in Los Angeles. He was the only son of a Reverend Victor Freberg, a minister in the Baptist Church.

As a young lad he worked for his uncle, a magician, however, as it was the golden age of radio the prospect of him working in that industry appealed to him more than the desire to follow in his uncle’s footsteps.

Stan became recognised as an outstanding debater, in California, while still in his teens. He turned his back on a scholarship in drama and, instead, went to Hollywood where he auditioned at Warner Bros. Cartoons. There, directors were sufficiently impressed as to put him to work alongside the legendary Mel Blanc whose voice provided those of a number of animated characters.

Before long Stan was impersonating celebrities on a popular local radio show, all of the while developing voices that would continue to stand him in good stead for his career in cartoon, radio and recording.

Nevertheless, Stan’s career was to be interrupted by his induction into the Army, in 1945. Upon his discharge, in 1947, Stan began working in the fledgling industry of television; helping to devise and produce what was to become an extremely popular children’s programme.

Circa 1950, Stan was signed to a recording contract by Capitol Records and, in early 1951, his release, “John And Marsha”, a satire on soap operas, became an instant hit.

Stan lampooned Johnnie Ray’s huge hit, “Cry”, when he released “Try”. However, his biggest hit, “St. George And The Dragonet”, came in 1953 when he parodied television’s police series, ‘Dragnet’. The track has Stan as Sergeant Joe Friday — played in the series by Jack Webb — and a young actor, Daws Butler, as his junior police partner, Frank. Daws was later to provide the voices of Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound in the cartoons of the late 1950s. “Little Blue Riding Hood” was on the reverse of the single, which was to spend four weeks at No.1. In all, it sold two million copies.

In 1957, Stan wrote and performed “Tele-Vee-Shun”, an early commentary on the quality of television and how it was affecting the populace.

Stan continued to send up successful records, throughout the decade. Fans of Jason Derulo’s “Don’t Wanna Go Home”, in 2011, will recognise his sampling of Harry Belafonte’s classic, “Banana Boat (Day-O)”, which was another parodied by Stan. In 1958, he received a Grammy for ‘The Stan Freberg Show’, a comical series of programmes on the radio.

In this same year, Stan released his most controversial work, “Green Chri$tma$”, an assault on the over-commercialisation of a time viewed to be of such religious significance.

Despite this, Stan Freberg turned his hand to producing humorous advertisements for radio and television. His campaigns, in terms of sales, were extremely successful and his talents, in this regard, became eagerly sought after. Stan steadfastly refused to have anything to with the promotion of products related to alcohol or tobacco.

Nineteen eighty-nine saw the publication of Stan’s autobiography, ‘It Only Hurts When I Laugh’.

My favourite recording of Stan Freberg’s is “The Lone Psychiatrist”, from 1955, in which he parodies ‘The Lone Ranger’, a popular western hero of the time.

“The Lone Psychiatrist” has been included in the list of my favourite recordings, which can be located in the suggested playlists.

 

Bill Doggett

The era that was rock and roll did not have to wait for long before the emergence of its first truly outstanding instrumental. It arrived in the form of “Honky Tonk (Parts 1 & 2)”.

William Ballard Doggett was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in February of 1916. His mother was a pianist and it was she who introduced him to the piano.

Bill Doggett’s career included stints with Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra, The Ink Spots and the 1940s’ most popular exponent of rhythm and blues, Louis Jordan. It was whilst playing with Louis’ backing group, The Tympany Five, that Bill was introduced to playing the Hammond organ.

Bill formed his own trio, in 1951, and was signed to record for King Records. Nevertheless, it took him until 1956 to find gold. “Honky Tonk (Parts 1 & 2)” had been co-written by Bill and guitarist, Billy Butler. The recording, which features saxophonist, Clifford Scott, rightfully created such an impression that it topped Billboard’s rhythm and blues chart for thirteen consecutive weeks, while on the pop chart it spent three weeks at its peak of No.2.

http://youtu.be/StNiPBC8GxQ

“Honky Tonk (Parts 1 & 2)” has since been revived by the likes of The Ventures and George Thorogood and The Destroyers. Among Bill’s other successful recordings are “Slow Walk” (1956), “Ram-Bunk-Shush” (1957), “Soft” (1957) and “Hold It” (1958).

http://youtu.be/ZLlmpqw8At4

Bill Doggett left us in November of 1996.

Needless to say, I have added “Honky Tonk (Parts 1 & 2)” to my list of favourite recordings. This can be found in the suggested playlists.

Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton

Until a decade or so ago I had believed that Elvis Presley’s incredibly successful recording of “Hound Dog” was the original. It was then that I came across Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton’s recording of this number, and realised that it was not!

Willie Mae, a rhythm and blues singer and songwriter, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in December of 1926. Her mother sang in the Baptist Church where her father was the minister.

Following the death of her mother, Willie Mae moved to live in Houston, Texas, in 1948. It was there, three years later, that she began her career as a recording artist when she was signed to Peacock Records.

The prolific composers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, afforded Willie Mae the opportunity to record “Hound Dog”. The single spent seven weeks atop the rhythm and blues charts, in 1953, although she was reportedly to see little of the royalties from its success.

Among Willie Mae’s other recordings was the self-penned “Ball N’ Chain”. It was revived by Janis Joplin, in the 1960s.

http://youtu.be/n-rNX1DKuMI

Willie Mae witnessed the self-inflicted death of blues singer, Johnny Ace, in 1954. Johnny had been playing Russian roulette, with the revolver’s cylinder containing just a single bullet.

Her career began to wane from the late 1950s and she moved to live in San Francisco. Willie Mae’s recordings became intermittent and she earned a living from touring, singing in clubs and at blues festivals. She remained active until her death, from a heart attack, in Los Angeles, in July of 1984, at the age of fifty-seven.

Jerry Leiber died last month (August of 2011) at the age of seventy-eight.

 

Ruby Murray

Ruby Florence Murray was born, in March of 1935, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Ruby first appeared on television at the age of twelve.

After being signed to record for Columbia Records she was to become one of the most popular singers in the United Kingdom and Ireland; in the second half of the 1950s.

Ruby’s first hit, “Heartbeat”, entered the charts in the United Kingdom, in December of 1954 and peaked at No.3. It was quickly followed by her largest success, and only No.1, “Softly Softly”. Other releases followed in quick succession: “Happy Days And Lonely Nights”, “Let Me Go, Lover” ( a cover of Peggy Lee’s hit from the previous year), “If Anyone Finds This I Love You”, “Evermore” and “I’ll Come When You Call”. In fact, at one stage, in 1955, five of her hits were in the Top Twenty in the one week.

http://youtu.be/IaPpxT2nuXA

http://youtu.be/1EOA3xyWoD4

Ruby’s immense popularity led her to be granted her own television show. She appeared in a Royal Command Perfomance, also in 1955.

Virtually as the year ended, Ruby Murray’s entries to the charts evaporated. She did, however, secure her one and only screen role when she was cast to appear in the film, “A Touch Of The Sun”, in 1956, opposite Frankie Howerd and Dennis Price. Her only entry to the charts that year was a minor one, namely “You Are My First Love”.

In late 1958, Ruby reappeared on the charts via the single, “Real Love”. A further six months were to pass before, her last entry, “Goodbye Jimmy Goodbye”, peaked at No. 10.

Ruby Murray married twice. She moved to live in England, finally settling in Torquay, in Devon. Her life had developed into an enduring battle against alcoholism; a battle she was to lose, in December of 1996, when she died from cancer of the liver.

Marie Jones, a playwright from Belfast, wrote a play, ‘Ruby’, about the singer’s life. It opened in Belfast in 2000.

“Softly Softly” can be found in my list of favourite recordings, which is located in the suggested playlists.

 

Jackie Wilson

Thirty years after it had firstly entered the charts, Jackie Wilson’s “Reet Petite” was brought to the listening pleasure of a new generation, in countries such as Great Britain and Australia, in 1986. As it was, indeed, a posthumous hit, the video clip featured rubbery figures ‘singing’ to Jackie’s original recording.

Jack Leroy Wilson was born, in Detroit, in June of 1934. His father, an alcoholic, introduced him to alcohol when he was still a boy. “Jackie” was to spend two periods in juvenile detention and it was during his second stint that he was introduced to the sport of boxing.

Nonetheless, his first love was singing. Jackie, although he was not particularly religious, began attending church for it gave him the opportunity to sing gospel. He became a member in a succession of groups before, in 1953, Billy Ward sought to recruit him into The Dominoes. This group had already spent fourteen weeks atop the rhythm and blues charts, in 1951, with what was to prove to be by far its largest and most controversial success, “Sixty Minute Man”, and so Jackie viewed the opportunity to join it with relish.

This vacancy had been created because Clyde McPhatter was leaving the group to form his own: The Drifters. Prior to his departure, Clyde schooled Jackie on becoming the vocalist that Billy wanted him to be.

Jackie Wilson was blessed with one of the most versatile voices in popular music and, therefore, it came as no surprise when, in 1957, he embarked upon a career as a solo performer. It is almost unbelievable that this same person is singing “Reet Petite” and “Lonely Teardrops”, as is also singing “Night”. “Night”, is a quasi-operatic ballad based upon a classical piece by the French composer and pianist, Saint-Saens.

His dynamism and athleticism on stage endeared his performances to many of those who were fortunate enough to witness them and it was little wonder when these led him to be dubbed ‘Mr. Excitement’. Jackie enjoyed a long association with Brunswick Records and was equally at home singing a wide variety of material, at varying tempos.

http://youtu.be/KLcmy6fsbiM

In 1959, he appeared in the film, ‘Go Johnny, Go’. Jackie was cast alongside a plethora of musical stars of rock and roll. These included Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, Eddie Cochran, Jimmy Clanton, and The Cadillacs.

http://youtu.be/l92oMUNhgng

During 1966, Jackie moved from New York to record in Chicago. It was here that he became exposed to some refreshingly different songwriters. Pop hits, such as “Whispers (Gettin’ Louder)”, “I Get The Sweetest Feeling” and “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher”, emanated from this move.

In September of 1975, Jackie suffered a heart attack whilst performing on stage in Camden, New Jersey. As he collapsed, he struck his head so severely that he was to remain in a virtual coma until his by then merciful death, at the age of just forty-nine, in January of 1984.

In 1977, Rita Coolidge released a cover, titled “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher And Higher” and although it recorded sales in excess of Jackie’s original, music by then had mellowed and , to me, it lacks the vitality expected from one describing the ecstasy of another’s love. Therefore, it is Jackie’s original that is named in the list of my favourite recordings, located in the suggested playlists.

Australian rocker, Jimmy Barnes, also revived “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher”. It is contained on his album, ‘Soul Deep’, which was released in 1991.

Welsh rocker, Shakin’ Stevens, a performer who built a career upon his revival of hits, took “I’ll Be Satisfied” into the British Top Ten, in 1982.

The Dell-Vikings

The Dell-Vikings’ period of success on the charts was as short as it was spectacular. This doo-wop group was formed, in 1955, by members of the United States Air Force.

Stationed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the composition of the quintet was open to change, as members were relocated to serve on other military bases. The Dell-Vikings originally recorded for Dot Records, a small local label. However, once the group had had significant success with its release, “Come Go With Me”, in 1957, it was decided that it should record for the much larger Mercury Records.

The group’s next sizeable hit, “Whispering Bells”, had already been recorded before it had departed from Dot and before 1957 had ended, “Cool Shake”, too, was imposing its popularity on the charts. Unfortunately, for The Dell-Vikings these three hits were to remain its claim to fame and while the group, under numerous changes in personnel, continued to re-form, as the decades past, the transient, heady days of success in the recording studio did not re-emerge.

The Dell-Vikings also remains noteworthy for it was one of the few racially integrated musical groups to achieve notable success, at a time, in America, that was marked by segregation. Furthermore, its hits have been used in films that depict its era. ‘American Graffiti’ and ‘Stand By Me’ are two such films.

http://youtu.be/wA-qJPNJnCE

“Come Go With Me” is included in the list of my favourite recordings. This can be located in the suggested playlists. I shall be adding to this list from time to time and have attempted to make it as diverse, and as entertaining, as possible.

Sandy Nelson

Sander Nelson was born, in December of 1938, in Santa Monica, California. He attended the same high school as Jan Berry and Dean Torrence, who were also to have success in the recording industry, under the name of Jan and Dean.

A drummer, Sandy played on many recordings by other artists as well as achieving success in his own right, as a solo performer. Of these, “Teen Beat” peaked at No.4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, in 1959, selling in excess of a million copies.

“Teen Beat” was followed, in 1961, by “Let There Be Drums” (No.7) and “Drums Are My Beat”(No.29). Sandy struggled to chart after that and an accident suffered while riding his motorcycle, did not help. His right foot and a part of that leg had to be amputated.

In spite of this, Sandy continued to record into the early 1970s. In all, he released more than thirty albums.

The names of more of my favourite recordings appear in the suggested playlists. I shall be adding to it from time to time.

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Johnnie Ray

The era of the Big Bands had ended by 1949. This gave way to the rise of the solo vocalist.

In 1951, one such vocalist arrived in the form of Johnnie Ray. Despite having a series of hits in a recording career that lasted for almost a decade, the late, great Johnnie Ray is almost forgotten today.

Mainstream popular music in the early 1950s was staid, reflective of the mores within American culture at that time. So when Johnnie Ray appeared and began delivering performances which featured such a unique style, the teenagers went wild.

Johnnie became the first white artist to remove the microphone from its stand. His presence on stage was both raw and unpredictable. He would remove his shoes, roll on the floor, pound his fist on the piano, and literally cry. Such behaviour, in some quarters, earned him the nickname of the ‘Nawab of Sob’.

Years before James Brown took to collapsing on stage, Johnnie had perfected the art. An attendant would enter from a wing to ‘revive’ him by offering a glass of water. Little did the audience realise, the glass contained not water but vodka.

http://youtu.be/tIhIa72cUXY

Partially deaf as the result of a childhood accident, John Alvin Ray had been born into a deeply religious farming family, in Oregon, in January of 1927. His initial release, “Cry”, in 1951, was such a meteoric and momentous success that no one outside of his record company, Okeh, knew anything about him. Not only did “Cry”, which became his trademark song, spend eleven weeks atop the American hit parade but the record’s B-side, “The Little White Cloud That Cried”, which he had penned himself, occupied the No.2 position, simultaneously. Something that had never been achieved before.

In 1954, Johnnie appeared in the film, ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’, cast as one of Dan Dailey and Ethel Merman’s children. The film also starred Marilyn Monroe, Donald O’Connor and Mitzi Gaynor.

When Johnnie Ray visited Australia for a second time, in 1955, ten thousand fans greeted him at the airport. In fact, he was to tour that country on something like nineteen occasions and with the advent of rock and roll it was to be countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia that continued to support the sale of his records during the latter part of his career.

http://youtu.be/XvB3KbERNP4

Although not all of Johnnie’s recordings suited his style — for example, I much prefer The Drifters performing “Such A Night” to Johnnie’s cover, despite his version having reached No.1 on the British charts, in 1954 — those that did, I regard as classics of his era. “Cry”, speaks for itself as do his revivals of the numbers “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home”, “Here Am I – Broken Hearted” (both from 1952) and “Just Walking In The Rain” (1956). Whilst I am an atheist, as a person enamoured of music I must admit that I truly enjoy listening to his religious releases, such as “Satisfied” (1952) and “If You Believe” (1955); as well as the hits “Yes Tonight, Josephine” and “Look Homeward, Angel” (both from 1957) and perhaps my favourite track of Johnnie Ray’s: “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”, which he wrote and first recorded in 1952 before a much more polished version was released in 1959. While it did little business in America and Great Britain, it reached its zenith at No.1 in Australia.

http://youtu.be/8FGEVLeaDU4

Following the monumental success of his first release, Johnnie Ray was hastily signed to record on the Columbia label. It was there that he also recorded in duet with Doris Day. The most successful of these was the ditty, “Let’s Walk Thata-Way”, in 1953.

Johnnie last appeared on Australian charts in the early months of 1960, when he took “When It’s Springtime In The Rockies” to as high as No.13. His liver finally failed him, in February of 1990, at the age of sixty-three.

For the names of more tracks recorded by Johnnie Ray please consult the suggested playlists, where you shall also find a list of more of my favourite recordings. I shall be adding to this list from time to time.

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