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Friday, June 13, 2014

BLACK OR WHITE OR WHAT?


This is Part 2 of How the Twist Changed the World.  Watching this PBS program this week, I was sometimes surprised, mostly because I've listened to these '50s/'60s party songs on the radio and many times had no idea how the singers and groups looked.

Take Louie Louie, for example.  Here are the Kingsmen:


The song was written by Richard Berry in 1955, and I recall some arrangement was popular on the Stanford Campus in the later 50's.  But it was the 1963 Kingsmen's cut, in one take, that became popular.  Funny, but the group made two serious errors in the recording, but most future renditions just copied these mistakes.  It only reached #2 on Billboard, but hit #1 on Cashbox.  This song was actually the subject of a 31-month FBI investigation, involving J. Edgar Hoover himself, on the obscenity of the lyrics and was banned in a few states.  Turns out there was an explicit "four letter word" that was expressed, but that came from drummer Lynn Easton who had dropped his drumstick at the 0.54 mark.  A final anecdote is that Paul Revere and The Raiders, in the same studio around that time also recorded this song, but it went nowhere.   There are now more than 1600 versions of this tune.

In 1965 came Wooly Bully.  Here are Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs:


That's Sam in the middle above.  Had the misfortune of contending with the Beach Boys and Supremes, so this song only got up to #2 on Billboard.  This was a silly effort about Hattie, Matty and the American bison, but, it too got, here and there, banned.  You've heard it because Wooly Bully was used in a variety of films  They also had  Lil' Red Riding Hood

Build Me Up Buttercup was made popular by The Foundations. hitting #1 in 1969.  This was an interracial group:


Question Mark and the Mysterians had 96 Tears in 1966.


They still perform today.

Charlie Pride recorded his signature song Kiss an Angel Good Morning in 1971.  He was the first black performer in the modern era of the Grand Ole Opry.  He had 39 #1 Billboard Country hits.


In 1961 the Dovells reached #2 with Bristol Stomp:


In 1963 Little Peggy March, at the age of 14, hit #1 with I Will Follow Him.


It is a myth that Little Eva was discovered while baby sitting for Carole King and Jerry Goffing.  However, after recording The Loco-Motion in 1962, Eva Narcissus Boyd did some nannying for the couple and perhaps earned $50 for the record.  She also created the dance.


Alas, it is true that she descended into darkness and went into a period of menial jobs, but was re-discovered in 1983 and did perform for almost two decades.  The song made it into the Billboard Top 5 three times, the second with Grand Funk Railroad in 1974, and third, Kylie Minogue in 1988--all by different ethnicities.


Fictitious band Steam made Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye in 1969, and it became the last multi-week #1 song for the year.  They eventually hit the road:


Sha Na Na (left--and over time they've seen more than 40 performers in the group) did not get their name from the above song, but from the Silhouette's 1958 Get a Job, which reached #1 on Billboard.

In the mid-70's Maxine Nightingale reached #2 with Right Back Where We Started From:


Dusty Springfield was known as the White Queen of Soul, here with I Only Want to Be with You.


A century ago, Asa Yoelson, more popularly known as Jewish singer Al Jolson, fought against black discrimination on Broadway.  He is credited with helping to introduce African-American music to white audiences:


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