On this day in music history: December 15, 1958 – “Lonely Teardrops” by Jackie Wilson hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 5 weeks, also peaking at #7 on the Hot 100 on February 9, 1959. Written by Berry Gordy, Jr., Tyran Carlo and Gwen Gordy, it is the first chart topping single for the R&B vocal icon from Detroit, MI. Having first established himself as the lead singer of Billy Ward & The Dominoes following the departure of Clyde McPhatter to join The Drifters in 1953, Jackie Wilson enjoys some success with the group before leaving for a solo career in 1957. Signing with Chicago based Brunswick Records, Wilson has hits right out of the box with the single “Reet Petite” and the follow up “To Be Loved”, both written by fellow Detroit natives Berry Gordy, Jr. and Roquel Billy Davis (aka “Tyran Carlo”). Friends since childhood, Gordy and Davis write “Lonely Teardrops” with Berry’s older sister Gwen. While coming up with song ideas for Wilson, Berry writes down the phrase “my eyes are crying”. Feeling that the line is “too common”, he changes it to “my heart is crying…”, after that, the rest of the song quickly falls into place. Recording a demo of the finished song, Gordy flies to New York City, and plays it for Jackie’s producer and arranger Dick Jacobs, who senses it’s a hit immediately. The track is cut live in the studio with Wilson singing with the orchestra, and is completed in a few takes. Released as a single on November 17, 1958, “Lonely Teardrops” is an instant smash, racing to the top of the R&B singles chart within a months time, then crossing over and hitting the top ten on the pop chart shortly after. “Teardrops” gives Jackie Wilson his first million selling single, becoming his signature song. Berry Gordy takes part of his earnings from the song to start his own label Motown Records in January of 1959. “Lonely Teardrops” also entails some sad irony, when it becomes the last song Wilson ever performs on stage. While performing on Dick Clark’s “Good Ol’ Rock and Roll Revue” at The Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, NJ on September 29, 1975, the singer suffers a heart attack and collapses after singing the lyric “my heart is crying”. People initially think it is part of the act until the band leader notices Wilson is not breathing. Paramedics are able to revive him, but the singer slips into a coma, and remains in a semi comatose state for the last nine years of his life. Committed to a nursing home full time, Dick Clark pays for Wilson’s medical care until the singer’s passing in January of 1984. A month later at the 26th Annual Grammy Awards, pop music superstar Michael Jackson acknowledges Jackie Wilson as a major influence, and dedicates one of his Grammy wins that evening to the late singer. Wilson’s original recording of “Lonely Teardrops” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1959 – “Time Out”, the twenty seventh album by The Dave Brubeck Quartet is released. Produced by Teo Macero, it is recorded at Columbia 30th Street Studios in New York City from June 25, July 1 and August 18, 1959. Born in Concord, CA in 1920, Dave Brubeck begins taking piano lessons from his mother as a youth. Later studying veterinarian medicine at the University Of The Pacific, one of his professors urges him to change his major to music. After graduating college, Brubeck is drafted into the Army. In 1944, he meets saxophonist Paul Desmond, who later becomes a member of The Brubeck Quartet, when it is formed in 1951. By 1958, the band’s best known line up consisting of Brubeck, Desmond, Joe Morello (drums) and Eugene Wright (bass) is set. While on a tour sponsored by the US State Department, hearing a band of Turkish street musicians play in 9/8 time, is initial inspiration for an album that changes the face of jazz music. Presenting his idea to Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson, the executive agrees, but only if they consent to recording an album of traditional American songs first. Quickly cutting the requested album, the quartet move on to the next project. Original songs written for what become “Time Out” include the Dave Brubeck penned “Blue Rondo à la Turk”, which moves back and forth between 9/8 and 4/4 time. However, it is a Paul Desmond song that becomes its centerpiece. “Take Five” written in the unusual time signature of 5/4, giving the tune its name. Initially released as a single in September of 1959, i fails to make much of an impact. It becomes a hit more than a year and a half later in 1961. “Five” (#25 Pop, #5 AC) hits the Top 30 on the pop chart, propelling album in the top five, making it the first jazz recording to sell over a million copies. Even the albums’ abstract impressionist art cover, painted by artist S. Neil Fujita becomes iconic. The success of “Time Out” turn The Dave Brubeck Quartet into international stars, with “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo à la Turk” both become jazz standards and are widely covered. The album also spins off the successful sequel “Time Further Out” in late 1961. Regarded as one of the most influential jazz albums of all time, “Time Out” is selected for preservation by the National Recording Registry, by the Library Of Congress in 2005. It is also inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2009. Following his death in 1977, Paul Desmond wills the publishing rights for “Take Five” to the American Red Cross, which to this day earn an average of $100,000+ a year in royalties. Long a favorite of audiophiles, “Time Out” has been reissued numerous times over the years, including a three CD Deluxe Edition with previously unreleased outtakes and live recordings from the era. “Time Out” peaks at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
Born on this day: December 12, 1915 – Pop vocal icon Frank Sinatra (born Francis Albert Sinatra in Hoboken, NJ). Happy Birthday to “The Chairman Of The Board” on what would have been his 103rd Birthday.
On this day in music history: December 4, 1956 – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis record together at Sun Studios in Memphis, TN. This informal gathering of these iconic rock and roll and country performers takes place during a recording session for Carl Perkins, who is re-recording “Matchbox” and some other new songs. Jerry Lee Lewis, also a Sun recording artist is present to play piano on the session which is being produced by label founder Sam Phillips. Elvis, who by now is signed to RCA and is in the middle of his initial rush of fame, happens to drop by the studio that day to visit Phillips. Presley and Phillips are talking in the control room of the studio, when Johnny Cash (also a Sun artist) also comes by the studio. Eventually, Elvis, Carl, Johnny, and Jerry Lee end up gathering around the piano and begin an informal jam session, performing several gospel, rock and roll and country standards. Sam Phillips has a tape machine running throughout the jam session, capturing the final results on three reels of tape. The recordings are put in the vault and do not see the light of day until twenty five years later when an album titled “The Million Dollar Quartet” is released. An expanded edition of the album is released by RCA Records in 1990 featuring a total for forty six tracks, though most are only song excepts interspersed with studio chatter. Viewed as a once in a life time historic event in music history, “The Million Dollar Quartet” is adapted into a successful stage musical in 2007, with limited runs in Florida and Washington before moving to Broadway in 2010. The musical is a hit on the Great White Way, and is nominated for three 2010 Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical. Actor Levi Kreis receives the Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis.
On this day in music history: December 3, 1956 – “Come Go With Me” by The Del-Vikings is released. Written by Clarence Quick, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the doo wop vocal quintet from Pittsburgh, PA. Formed in 1955, Clarence Quick, Kripp Johnson, Samuel Paterson, Don Jackson, Clarence Harvey Ringo and Bernard Robertson are in the US Air Force when they begin singing together. The first line up changes when Robertson and Paterson are sent overseas to Germany, and are replaced by Norman Wright and David Lerchey. The inspiration for their name comes Quick and Ringo are in the airbase’s library. Either from a book about vikings, a basketball team called The Vikings, or from the book publisher Viking Press. The “Del” portion is added simply because they like how it sounds. The Del-Vikings are also one of the first prominent racially integrated vocal groups, with Lerchey being white, and the other four members are African-American. It isn’t long before they attract interest from local DJ Barry Kaye and Joe Averbach, of local label Fee Bee Records. Initially recording nine songs a cappella in Kaye’s basement studio, They’re re-recorded with Averbach in a studio located in the Sheraton Hotel in Pittsburgh with a band backing them. “How Can I Find True Love” and “Come Go With Me”, are issued as their first single. “Come” takes off locally, and is then picked up nationally by Dot Records in January of 1957. Entering the Billboard Best Sellers chart at #21 on March 2, 1957 and entering the R&B Best Sellers chart at #13 on March 16, 1957. An instant classic, “Come Go With Me” peaks at #4 on the Best Sellers chart and #2 on the R&B chart on May 6, 1957, selling over a million copies. But with success come tensions within the group, splitting them into two factions. When their manager Alan Strauss receives a more lucrative offer from Mercury Records, the four younger members of the group who were all under 21, jump ship. Kripp Johnson who is older, is still bound to Dot at continues to record under The Del-Vikings name with replacement members. Dot issues “Whispering Bells” as the follow up and it too becomes a big hit, peaking at #9 on the Best Sellers chart and #5 on the R&B Best Sellers chart. The other line up are only able to notch one chart single on Mercury with “Cool Shake” (#12 Pop, #9 R&B). Johnson returns to the group and sign with ABC-Paramount, but do not have another hit before breaking up in 1965. Regarded as one of the definitive doo wop records, “Come Go With Me” is covered numerous times including versions by Dion, The Beach Boys, The Fleetwoods, Sha-Na-Na and is also one of the first songs performed on stage by John Lennon and The Quarrymen, on the day he and Paul McCartney first meet in July of 1957. The Del-Vikings original version is later used in the films “American Graffiti”, “Diner”, “Stand By Me” and “Joe Versus The Volcano”. “Come Go With Me” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 2, 1957 – “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 2 weeks, also topping the Rhythm & Blues chart for 6 weeks on November 25, 1957. Written by Sam Cooke, it is the biggest hit for the R&B vocal icon from Clarksdale, MS. Formerly the lead singer of the legendary gospel vocal group The Soul Stirrers, Sam Cooke’s butter smooth tenor voice, natural charisma and movie star good looks make him an immediate stand out from the other members of the group. After enjoying more than five years of success as their frontman, Cooke is anxious to move out of the world of gospel into secular rhythm & blues and pop. At a time when it is deeply frowned upon for a gospel singer to make that move, Sam records his first solo single “Loveable” in 1956, an R&B/Pop flavored remake of the gospel song “Wonderful” under the name “Dale Cook”. It is obvious to all who it actually is and Cooke begins recording under his own name from then on. However, the singer and his producer Bumps Blackwell clash over musical direction with Specialty Records founder Art Rupe, and the abruptly leave the label. Cooke signs with Los Angeles based indie label Keen Records (owned by Bob Keane) in 1957, and begins working on material. Sitting with a guitar, Cooke comes up with the chord progression that becomes “You Send Me”, quickly writing the lyrics. Sam gives the writing credit to his brother L.C. Cook, to prevent his song publisher from collecting royalties on it. The track is cut at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, CA on June 1, 1957 with musicians Rene Hall (arrangement and rhythm guitar), Ted Brinson (bass), Earl Palmer (drums), and Cliff White (guitar). During the same session, Cooke records a cover of the Gershwin classic “Summertime” issued on the B-side of the single. Released on September 7, 1957, “You Send Me” quickly becomes a huge hit. First racing up the rhythm & blues chart, then crossing over to the pop singles chart. Entering the Best Sellers chart at #6 on October 28, 1957, it leaps to the top of the chart five weeks later. The success of “You Send Me” is a watershed moment in music history, both proving the widespread mainstream appeal of R&B music, and ushering in the era in which rhythm & blues genre becomes known as Soul music. An R&B and pop standard, “You Send Me” is covered numerous times over the years, with versions recorded by Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Van Morrison, The Everly Brothers and Rod Stewart to name a few. Sam Cooke’s original recording is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998.“You Send Me” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 1, 1958 – “To Know Him Is To Love Him” by The Teddy Bears hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written and produced by Phil Spector, it is the biggest hit for the Los Angeles, CA based pop vocal trio. Written by a then seventeen year old Phil Spector, the title is inspired by a quote on his father’s epitaph. The group, consisting of Spector and high school friends Marshall Leib and Annette Kleinbard (aka songwriter Carol Connors) record the song at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood in July of 1958 at a cost of only $75. Released on L.A. based indie label Doré Records (distributed by Era Records), it quickly becomes a smash locally before spreading across the country. Entering the Hot 100 at #88 on September 22, 1958, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. The group do not remain together for long. Uncomfortable as a performer, Spector prefers to work behind the scenes, quickly establishing himself as a top notch songwriter and cementing his legendary work as a producer during the 60’s and 70’s. Kleinbard is sidelined from the music industry when she is involved in a serious car accident, requiring several surgeries while she recovers. Changing her name to Carol Connors, she also carves out a formitable career as a songwriter, co-writing such hits as the Oscar nominated “Gonna Fly Now” from “Rocky”, “With You I’m Born Again” (for Billy Preston and Syreeta), and the 60’s hot rod classic “Hey Little Cobra” (for The Rip Chords). A rock & roll classic, “To Know Him” is covered numerous times over the years including a version by Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton that hits number one on the Country chart in 1987. Singer Amy Winehouse also covers the song, with her version appearing on the posthumously released compilation “Amy Winehouse At The BBC” in 2012. “To Know Him Is To Love Him” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 1, 1957 – Buddy Holly & The Crickets make their national television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show on the CBS television network. The band performs their recent number one hit “That’ll Be The Day”. The band also perform Holly’s first solo release “Peggy Sue” on the show. Also appearing on the same program is Sam Cooke (also making his national TV debut) performing “You Send Me” (which hits number one on December 2, 1957) and The Rays performing “Silhouettes”. Holly and The Crickets appear on Sullivan’s show a second and final time on January 26, 1958 performing “Oh Boy!”. Initially, Sullivan does not want the band to play the song, feeling that it is “too raucous”. When Buddy insists, it angers the host and he cuts their performance back to that one song, rather than the originally scheduled two songs. Sullivan also gets back at Holly by deliberately mispronouncing his last name as “Hollet” during his introduction, then instructing the sound people to cut the line feed to Buddy’s guitar mid song. In spite of the attempted sabotage, Holly and The Crickets go over so well, that they’re invited back for the third appearance, but decline when CBS does not offer them enough money to perform again.