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.

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“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.

Lloyd Price

Lloyd Price is a songwriter, talented performer, bandleader, arranger and an astute businessman, who was born in New Orleans, in March of 1933. He was one of eleven children, whose parents were devout Baptists.

The thirteen lived in the suburb of Kenner, where his mother owned a small restaurant. When patrons activated its juke box, Lloyd found himself exposed to the music of Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five, Amos Milburn, and Joe and Jimmy Liggins, as well as many others of their ilk.

A local disc jockey, Okey-Dokey Smith, used the expression, ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, and, after he and a younger brother, had formed a band, Lloyd set about developing a tune to this saying. Once lyrics were added the song caught the attention of bandleader, Dave Bartholomew, who had the nowadays famous Fats Domino devise an introduction to it on the piano, and, in 1952, the single became a national hit. It spent seven weeks atop Billboard’s rhythm and blues chart, on which it would remain for six months.

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That following year, Lloyd was drafted into the United States’ Army, in spite of the fact that five of his brothers were apparently already in it. There supposedly was a rule that not more than five members of any one family would be required to enter the military simultaneously.

Lloyd was shipped to Korea, in 1953, but had the good fortune to be moved to Japan where he was assigned to a unit that specialised in entertaining soldiers who were stationed there.

Upon his release from the Army, in 1956, Lloyd based himself in Washington D.C. where, with a promoter by the name of Harold Logan, he formed KRC Records. In 1957, Lloyd recorded “Just Because”, however, its success was moderate when compared to that of “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”.

ABC-Paramount Records engulfed KRC and Lloyd’s first single on this label was his own composition, “You Need Love”, which contained “Stagger Lee” on its reverse. The latter song contained lyrics put to traditional folklore in New Orleans. In 1950, a local musician, Leon T. Gross, under the pseudonym, Archibald, had released his version of ‘Stackolee’, calling it “Stack-A-Lee”.

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Whilst “You Need Love” did not succeed, “Stagger Lee” certainly did! It stood atop Billboard’s pop chart for four weeks, following its release in late 1958. However, when television’s censors would not permit Dick Clark to play the recording’s graphically violent lyrics on ‘American Bandstand’, a diluted version was recorded especially for television.

Nineteen fifty-nine marked the climax of Lloyd Price’s recording career: “Stagger Lee”, spent its four weeks at No.1 from February; “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)? reached No.23; his self-penned — he included Harold Logan’s name on the labels of his recordings merely out of his sheer respect for the man — “Personality” became his largest-selling single, in spite of it reaching its zenith at No.2; “I’m Gonna Get Married” ascended to No.3 and “Come Into My Heart” rose to peak at No.20. “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)? reappeared, in 1999, when it was included in the soundtrack to the film, ‘Runaway Bride’, only on this occasion it was performed by Billy Joel.

In Britain, “Stagger Lee” peaked at No.7; “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)?”, No.15; “Personality”, No.9; and I’m Gonna Get Married”, at No.23. Whilst in Australia, Lloyd’s only three hits, full stop, were “Stagger Lee” (No.4), “Personality” (No.1) and I’m Gonna Get Married” (No.4).

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Unlike in the current era where fans are seemingly entertained by a plethora of recordings thatĀ  bear warbling, electronically altered voices that monotonously echo the often same scant lyrics to an equally monotonous unchanging electronic beat, fans demanded change and freshness and artists who could not or would not offer this often rapidly fell by the wayside.

Nineteen sixty marked the beginning of the end of Lloyd’s meaningful entries to the charts. “Lady Luck” reached No.14 and “Question” No.19. He left ABC-Paramount and recorded for a succession of labels without achieving mentionable success.

After Harold Logan was murdered, in 1969, Lloyd decided to move to Africa. He worked at assisting American companies to invest in his adopted continent. A fan of boxing, in 1974, Lloyd partnered Don King in promoting the ‘Rumble In The Jungle’, in Zaire, between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, as well as the ‘Thrilla In Manila’ between Ali and Joe Frazier, in 1975.

Lloyd Price returned to live in the United States, in the early 1980s. In the 1990s, he returned to the stage, touring with other vintage rock stars, such as Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, James Brown, Dion, The Righteous Brothers, Wilson Pickett, Conway Twitty, Ricky Nelson, Tommy Roe, Joe Cocker, Neil Diamond and Nick Cave are just some of the recording artists to have covered material written and recorded by Lloyd Price.

 

Alvin Stardust

Bernard William Jewry was born, in September of 1942, in London. While he was still a child, his family moved north to live in Nottinghamshire.

Bernard was a roadie with the group, Shane Fenton and The Fentones, and when Shane Fenton (nee John Theakstone) died, as the result of having rheumatic fever as a child, he was invited to become the new Shane Fenton.

The combination had four relatively minor hits covering a period of twelve months from October of 1961. The last of these, “Cindy’s Birthday”, was also the largest, ascending to No.19 on the singles chart in Britain. It was actually a cover of Johnny Crawford’s recording that had risen to No.8 in America, just a few months earlier. Johnny played Mark McCain in the highly popular television series, ‘The Rifleman’. In the series, his father, Lucas McCain, was portrayed by Chuck Connors; back in what truly was the golden age of television.

Once Shane Felton and The Feltones had disbanded, little was heard of Bernard. That is, until the early 1970s when he re-emerged having acquired the persona, Alvin Stardust, in the era of glam rock.

Alvin’s first single, “My Coo-Ca-Choo”, entered the British chart in November of 1973 and, in spite of peaking at No.2, was to spend some five months there.

Nineteen seventy-four was to be Alvin’s most successful year. He took “Jealous Mind” to No.1, “Red Dress” to No.7, “You You You” to No.6, and “Tell Me Why” to No.16.

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Alvin’s only real achievement, in 1975, was to have “Good Love Can Never Die” reach No.11. Thereafter, a hiatus of some six years ensued before “Pretend” rose to No.4. The song had been a hit for Nat ‘King’ Cole, in 1953, and Gerry and The Pacemakers, in 1965.

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Three more years passed before “I Feel Like Buddy Holly” (No.7) established him as an extant recording artist, yet again.

In late 1984, “I Won’t Run Away” followed, reaching its zenith, at No.7, in early 1985.

In Australia, Alvin’s “My Coo-Ca-Choo”, was virtually his only hit, having risen to No.2, as it had in Great Britain. To my knowledge, he remains an unknown to the vast majority of Americans.

Charles Boyer

Charles Boyer was a suave French actor who was born in August of 1899 and died, in Phoenix, Arizona, in that same month, in 1978, at the age of seventy-eight.

Charles appeared in more than eighty films between 1920 and 1976. Many of these had him cast opposite some of the world’s leading actresses. I best remember him in ‘Gaslight’, from 1944.

Even more memorable to me was his part in the television series, ‘The Rogues’, in which he appeared with David Niven, Gig Young, Robert Coote and Gladys Cooper; in the mid-1960s.

Each time I watch the much more recent British series, ‘Hustle’, I remark to Tiki, “This reminds me of ‘The Rogues’!” She must be tired of me saying it.

Anyway, in what must have been 1965, in Australia, Charles Boyer released the single, “Where Does Love Go”, on the Stateside label. I was enamoured of it from the first time I heard it, as were quite a few others for it rose to No.2 on the chart, having entered it in January of 1966.

http://youtu.be/N3Aky8vLgFQ

It should go without saying but you can find “Where Does Love Go” on the list of my favourite recordings, located in the suggested playlists.

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.

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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.

 

The Easybeats

The members of The Easybeats first met as they were being accommodated in a hostel for migrants, at Villawood, a western suburb of Sydney.

Leading guitarist, Harry Vanda (22nd of March, 1947) and bassist, Dick Diamonde (28th of December, 1947) were Dutch, while vocalist, ‘Little Stevie’ Wright (20th of December, 1948), rhythm guitarist, George Young (6th of November, 1947) and drummer, Gordon ‘Snowy’ Fleet (16th of August, 1945) were British.

George Young, a Scot, is the older brother of AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm Young.

The Easybeats formed in 1965 and tasted immediate success when “She’s So Fine” went to No.1 on the Australian pop charts. Before year’s end “Wedding Ring” (No.6) and “Sad And Lonely And Blue”/”Easy As Can Be” (No.9) had followed it into the Top Ten.

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Nineteen Sixty-Six was even more sensational for the group, for in the first six months it had racked up three consecutive number one hits: “Women (Make You Feel Alright)”, “Come And See Her” and the 45 r.p.m. EP (extended play), “Easyfever”, which included “Too Much” and “I’ll Make You Happy (Just Like Your Mama Wants)”.

http://youtu.be/KgDM3PfPP_s

Understandably, The Easybeats decided that it was time to spread its wings and the band was soon en route to England. Meanwhile, “Sorry” reached No.4 on the Australian charts.

It did not take long for The Easybeats to realise that it had gone from being a big fish in a small ocean to being a small fish in a big one. Nonetheless, Harry Vanda and George Young managed to pen “Friday On My Mind”, which symbolised the thoughts of many teenagers in the rebellious ‘Swinging Sixties’.

Recorded in London, the single occupied six weeks at No.1 back in Australia, and entered the British charts, peaking at No.6. It even received airplay across the Atlantic, where its zenith was to be No.16.

However, the excesses that could become available to those who achieved success were starting to take their toll on at least one of the group’s members. Homesickness for Australia, and the fame that that country had represented, also became a factor in the unease that had developed within the group, and it was eventually decided that the five should return.

Even there, things were not as they had been and the best result the group achieved, during its remaining three years as an entity, was that of taking the double A-sided compositions of Vanda and Young, “Heaven And Hell”/”Pretty Girl”, to a height of of No.11, in mid-1967.

Harry Vanda and George Young formed their own group, Band Of Hope, and, in 1972, Marcus-Hook Roll Band. Neither was noticeably successful, however, the pair was to become notable as producers of records. In 1974 and 1975 they produced the first two albums by AC/DC: ‘High Voltage’ and ‘TNT’.

They formed and wrote for another Australian group, Flash And The Pan. It experienced two hits in Australia, “Hey St. Peter” (No.2, in 1977) and “Down Among The Dead Men” (No.8, in 1978). Then, quite out of the blue, the band found success in the United Kingdom, when, in 1983, “Waiting For A Train”, reached No. 7.

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In 1974, Vanda and Young resurrected Stevie Wright’s recording career when, as a solo artist, he took “Evie (Part 1)” to No.1 and “Guitar Band” to No.16. In fact, the pair’s compositions were recorded by many Australian artists; with one further example being that of John Paul Young’s international hit, “Love Is In The Air”, which climbed as high as No.7, in the United States, in 1978.

http://youtu.be/f6L0D0SSmKU

You will find “She’s So Fine” on my list of favourite recordings, located in the suggested playlists. I remember turning the volume on my radio up, to make the single’s introduction as loud as possible.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Bobby Rydell

Robert Louis Ridarelli was born in Philadelphia, in April of 1942. He wanted to be an entertainer from an early age and took to playing the drums, having become a fan of Gene Krupa, a legendary drummer in the era of jazz. In fact, it was an early pioneer of jazz, orchestra leader Paul Whiteman, who first noticed his potential.

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Nevertheless, it was as a singer, and bearing the new name of Bobby Rydell, that ‘Robert’ was to make his mark. At a time when teenage heart-throbs were selected as much for their looks, as their ability to sing, Bobby began a long series of entries to the charts, in 1959, that was to last until the middle of the 1960s. He would appear quite regularly on Dick Clark’s televised dance show, ‘American Bandstand’, and was to make his debut in a major film when he appeared as Hugo Peabody in ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, the musical which stars Ann-Margret.

Bobby’s last sizeable hit was “Forget Him”, which was written by Briton Tony Hatch. Ironically, it was the British Invasion, led by The Beatles, that was to bring an end to the recording careers of many American artists, and Bobby Rydell’s was no exception.

When the producers of the overwhelmingly popular musical, ‘Grease’, wanted to pay tribute to the era of the clean-cut teenage idol, they named the high school, in the film, after none other than Bobby Rydell.

The titles of more hits by Bobby Rydell can be located in the suggested playlists. Whilst there, why don’t you peruse the list of my favourite recordings? I shall be adding to it from time to time.

Rosemary Clooney

In the first half of the 1950s Rosemary Clooney vied for popularity with such other leading female recording artists as Doris Day, Patti Page, Jo Stafford, Kay Starr and Peggy Lee. Rosemary had been born in Kentucky in May of 1928. By the time she was fifteen her parents had separated and she and her mother opted to live in California.

Although Rosemary had been recording on the Columbia label since 1946, her career as a solo artist did not really materialise until “Come On-A My House” spent eight weeks atop the American charts, in 1951. Similarly successful hits followed. These included “Half As Much”(1952), “Botch-A-Me (Ba-Ba-Baciami Piccina)”(1952), “Hey There”(1954), “This Ole House”(1954) — revived by the Welsh rocker, Shakin’ Stevens, in 1981 — and “Mambo Italiano”.

“Mambo Italiano”, written by the prolific Bob Merrill, has been covered by numerous artists over the years. One of the later versions is by Lady Gaga. Madonna performs “Come On A-My House” to her ‘master’ whilst they are marooned onĀ  an island in ‘Swept Away’, a film produced in 2002. A modernised version of the song also accompanies the ‘Girls Of The Playboy Mansion’ television series.

Rosemary also tasted success with “Too Old To Cut The Mustard”, a duet recorded, in 1952, with Marlene Dietrich. In 1954, she appeared in the film, “White Christmas”, with Bing Crosby,who had had the smash single of the same name twelve years earlier.

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Rosemary, while she continued to record and perform, became increasingly dependant upon pills. Nevertheless, it was to be lung cancer that eventually claimed her life, in June of 2002, at the age of seventy-four.

The names of Rosemary Clooney’s other hits can be located in the suggested playlists. While you are there, you may care to peruse the list of my favourite recordings. I will be adding more to it from time to time.

Connie Stevens

Concetta Rosalie Ann Ingoglia was born in August of 1938, in Brooklyn. Her father, a musician, had adopted the stage name of Stevens and Concetta was to do likewise.

When her parents divorced, Connie moved in with her grandparents. At the age of twelve she happened to witness a murder and, as a result, was sent to live with friends of the family in Missouri.

In 1953, she moved again, this time to live in Los Angeles, with her father. Connie’s career as a singer was already starting to develop. Following a short stint with The Foremost she joined The Three Debs as a replacement. In addition she began appearing in films, as an extra, however, it was not long before the attractive Connie was signed to a contract by Warner Bros.

Nevertheless, the role that was to make her famous came via television, in the form of the series, ‘Hawaiian Eye’. In it she plays nightclub singer, Cricket Blake. The series ran for four years from 1959 and continued parallel to her singing career.

Connie also appeared in several programmes of another popular series of the time, ’77 Sunset Strip’, and one of her hit singles was recorded, in 1959, in duet with one of its stars, Edward Byrnes, who played Kookie, a car-parking attendant who was renowned for almost continually combing his hair. It was a novelty song titled “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)”. Connie’s other major hit was “Sixteen Reasons”, in 1960.

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Eddie Fisher, a popular singer in the 1950s, became Connie’s second husband. Although the pair was only married from 1967 until 1969, she bore him two children. Connie remained active in film and television into the new millennium.

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