On this day in music history: September 22, 1969 – The music series “The Music Scene” premieres on the ABC television network. The debut episode of the weekly show (hosted mostly by comedian David Steinberg) features Crosby Stills Nash & Young, James Brown, Three Dog Night, Buck Owens & The Buckaroos, Tom Jones, and Oliver. Promotional film clips of The Beatles’ “The Ballad Of John And Yoko” and John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance” are also shown in the episode. In spite of good reviews, it only fares modestly in the Nielsen ratings, when it is put up against major ratings draws such as the long running “Gunsmoke” on CBS and “Laugh-In” on NBC. “The Music Scene” runs for only seventeen episodes before it is canceled, with the final program airing on January 12, 1970.
On this day in music history: September 21, 1968 – “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Country singles chart for 3 weeks on September 28, 1968. Written by Tom T. Hall, it is the biggest hit for the country and gospel singer born Jeanne Carolyn Stephenson. Born and raised in Stamford, TX in 1945, Stephenson marries Mickey Riley and give birth to a daughter, before moving to Nashville to work as a secretary at the offices of music publisher Passkey Music. While working at the publisher that Riley sings on numerous song demos, one of which is heard by Mercury Records staff producer Shelby Singleton. Believing in her potential, Singleton signs her as the first artist on his newly established Plantation Records imprint through Mercury. Written by country music legend Tom T. Hall, the songs narrative is about a young widowed mother in a small southern town, being berated by the local P.T.A. (Parent Teachers Association) at her daughter’s school, when they don’t approve of her manner of dress and supposed “loose” morals. The woman stands up to the people, pointing out their shortcomings and exposing their great hypocrisy. Released as a single in late July of 1968, it is an immediate smash, selling 1.7 million copies in just two weeks, and quickly rising up the country and pop singles charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #81 on August 24, 1968, it rockets to the top of the chart four weeks later. At the time of its release, it takes the single largest leap up the Hot 100 when it moves from its debut position of #81 to #7 in its second week. Jeannie C. Riley becomes the first female country artist in history to top both the pop and country singles charts at the same time. This does not occur again until 1981 when Dolly Parton tops both charts simultaneously with “9 To 5”. Riley also wins a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1969. “Harper Valley P.T.A.” later inspires a hit television movie starring actress Barbara Eden (“I Dream Of Jeannie”). The movie is spun off into a TV series running on NBC in 1981-82. “Harper Valley P.T.A.” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 21, 1963 – “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the Easy Listening chart for 8 weeks on September 7, 1963. Written by Lee Morris and Bernie Wayne, it is the second chart topping single for the pop vocalist born Stanley Robert Vinton, Jr.. Written in 1950, the song is a hit for singer Tony Bennett the following year, peaking at number sixteen on the Billboard Best Sellers chart. It is also recorded by R&B/Doo Wop vocal group The Clovers in later 1954. Their version peaks at number fourteen on the Rhythm & Blues chart in February of 1955. Vinton’s version is recorded at Columbia Studios in Nashville, TN in just two takes at the end of the session. The song features such top studio musicians as Floyd Cramer, Boots Randolph, Grady Martin, and Charlie McCoy. Released in late July of 1963, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #78 on August 10, 1963, it races to the top of the chart six weeks later. Bobby Vinton’s recording of “Blue Velvet” in part inspires David Lynch’s 1986 film of the same name, and is heard several times throughout, by Vinton and is sung by actress Isabella Rossellini. “Velvet” becomes a belated hit in England in 1990 when it is featured in a commercial for Nivea body lotion. The re-release hits number two on the UK singles chart, also peaking at number seven in Australia and number nine in Korea.
On this day in music history: September 20, 1969 – “Blind Faith” by Blind Faith hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 2 weeks, also peaking at #40 on the R&B album chart. Produced by Jimmy Miller, it is recorded at Olympic Studios in Barnes, London and Morgan Studios in Willesden, London from February 20 – June 24, 1969. The rock “super group” features Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker, and Ric Grech, who begin recording together with the project originally intended to be the first solo project for Clapton, following the demise of Cream. Working with Rolling Stones and Traffic producer Jimmy Miller, the band enter the studio and begin working on the project. Interest from record companies and promoters create a major buzz for the record when people are made aware of who is in the band. Consisting of only six tracks, stand out songs on the album include “Presence Of The Lord”, “Can’t Find My Way Home”, and a groove laden cover of the Buddy Holly & The Crickets classic “Well All Right”. Following the albums release, the band tour briefly before breaking up. The original cover art by photographer Bob Seidemann features a picture of a topless eleven year old girl holding an airplane (actually the hood ornament off of a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air) which is considered “too controversial” upon its release. The cover is switched to an innocuous photo of the band for the US release of the LP. In spite of the album and accompanying tour being very successful, Eric Clapton is unhappy with the outcome. Having wanted to avoid the intense media focus on him since the break up of Cream, he becomes disillusioned when the same thing happens with Blind Faith. The band go their separate ways at the end of the tour, and do not record another album. In 2001, Universal Music Group" releases a two CD Deluxe Edition of the album featuring a remastered version of the original album with bonus tracks, and a second disc consisting of extended in studio jams recorded during the sessions. “Blind Faith” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 20, 1969 – “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim, it is the biggest hit for the fictional cartoon band based on the characters created by comic book artist Bob Montana. Recorded for the Saturday morning cartoon series “The Archies” (produced by Filmation Animation Studios), the project is spearheaded by music publisher Don Kirshner, singers Ron Dante, Toni Wine and songwriter/producer Jeff Barry. The Archies records are released on Kirshner’s Calendar Records imprint, distributed by RCA Records. When the series makes its network debut on CBS in September of 1968, the first two singles “Bang-Shang-a-Lang” (#22 Pop) and “Feelin’ So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y.-D.O.O)” (#53 Pop) are released and perform only modestly on the charts. For “Sugar, Sugar”, Kirshner has his promotion staff play the record for radio programmers without telling them who the group are. The ploy works, and the song is an immediate smash. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #91 on July 26, 1969, it climbs to the top eight weeks later. The single is also a huge hit internationally, topping the charts in the UK, Canada, and Spain. “Sugar, Sugar” is the biggest selling single of 1969, selling over four million copies in the US alone. A instant pop classic, the song has a long life beyond the original cartoon series. Numerous artists record cover versions over the years including Wilson Pickett, Tommy Roe, and Bob Marley & The Wailers. It is featured prominently in the first “Stars On 45 Medley” in 1981, and resurfaced again in 1987 when the track is remixed and released on a 12" single. “Sugar Sugar” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 19, 1967 – “Itchycoo Park” by the Small Faces is released. Written and produced by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, it is the eighth single release and biggest hit for the rock band from London, UK. Guitarist Steve Marriott and bassist Ronnie Lane meet each other in 1965, when Lane walks into J60 Music Bar in Manor Park where Marriott works. Marriott and Lane quickly become friends, and decide to form a band. They recruit Kenney Jones (drums) and Jimmy Winston (keyboards), calling themselves the Small Faces. Signing with manager Don Arden (Black Sabbath, ELO), he assists in getting them signed to Decca Records. The Faces quickly land a hit with “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” (#14 UK), hitting the Top 20. With that success also come problems, with Marriott and Winston fighting over control of the band. Winston is fired and replaced by Ian McLagen. In 1967, the Small Faces part ways with Don Arden and Decca when they have reaped little financial reward. Soon after, they meet former Rolling Stones manager and producer Andrew Loog Oldham who is starting his own label Immediate Records. Oldham signs the band and puts them in the studio. Experimenting with psychedelic drugs like LSD and amphetamines, it begins to influence their work. The Faces first Immediate single “Here Comes The Nice” (#12 UK) becomes a hit, and surprisingly avoids being banned by the BBC for its obvious drug references. For the follow up, Marriott and Lane write “Itchycoo Park”. The initial idea comes from Ronnie Lane borrowing from the hymn “God Be In My Head”, and the lyrics “over bridge of sighs” and “dreaming spires” while passing through the town of Oxford in the English countryside. The title “Itchycoo Park” is the nickname for Little Ilford Park in London, where a flower called a Stinging Nettle grows prominently, which can cause a rash when touched. The lyrics about skipping school to get high and the refrain “it’s all too beautiful” come from Marriott. The track is recorded at Olympic Studios on June 24, 1967, with Glyn Johns and George Chkiantz engineering. During the session, Johns suggests that they add flanging to the song to emphasize its psychedelic theme. The effect is created by synchronizing two copies of the same recording, with one of them slightly out of sync, giving a swirling and swooshing sound which is recorded to a third tape machine. Released in the UK first on August 4, 1967, it becomes a smash, peaking at #3 on the UK singles chart in spite of temporary ban by the BBC. Issued in the US six weeks later, it also hits the charts, peaking at #16 on the Hot 100 on January 27, 1968. The Small Faces original version is re-released in the UK in 1975, hitting the top ten a second time, peaking at #9. Regarded as a psychedelic pop classic, the song makes a lasting impression, also being covered by Rymes with Orange, Tasmin Archer, Blue Murder, Ben Lee and UK dance group M People.
On this day in music history: September 19, 1960 – “The Twist” by Chubby Checker hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #2 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Hank Ballard, it is the biggest hit for the singer from the Philadelphia, PA based singer. Musician Hank Ballard originally records “The Twist” in 1959, with his version first becoming popular in Baltimore on a local dance show hosted by DJ Buddy Dean. He contacts Dick Clark, the host of American Bandstand, telling him about the record. Clark attempts to book Ballard on Bandstand, but is unable to reach him. Realizing the song’s hit potential, he searches for another artist to record it. Clark finds singer Chubby Checker (real name Ernest Evans), a local performer in Philadelphia. Featured prominently on American Bandstand, Checker’s version of “The Twist” quickly eclipses Ballard’s in popularity and start a worldwide dance craze. Entering the Hot 100 at #49 on August 1, 1960, it climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. The song is also first and only record in Billboard chart history to hit number one in two separate runs on the Hot 100. The dance also becomes popular with adults, sending the single back to the top for 2 weeks in January 1962. Revered as one of the most popular records of the 60’s, “The Twist” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2000. “The Twist” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 18, 1961 – “Take Good Care Of My Baby” by Bobby Vee hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, it is the biggest hit for the pop vocalist from Fargo, ND. Born Robert Thomas Velline, in February of 1959, the then fifteen year old Vee gets his initial big break as a musician under tragic circumstances. His band The Shadows play in place of his idol Buddy Holly along with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, after they are killed in a plane crash while en route to their next tour stop in Fargo, North Dakota. Their performance leads to the band being booked for more performances and landing a recording contract with Minneapolis based Soma Records. After releasing his debut single, the Buddy Holly influenced “Suzie Baby” (#77 Pop), Vee is signed to Liberty Records shortly after. The singer is paired with producer Snuff Garrett (Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Cher), and soon begin turning out hits including “Devil Or Angel” (#6 Pop) and “Rubber Ball” (#6 Pop). While searching for material for Vee, Garrett meet song publisher Don Kirshner in New York City. Kirshner plays him the demo for “Take Good Care Of My Baby” written by the husband and wife songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Garrett likes the song immediately, but nearly passes on it when he discovers that Dion (“Runaround Sue”, “The Wanderer”) has already recorded a version of it. But he changes his mind when Dion decides not to release his recording of it. Vee and Garrett cut the song quickly and it is released in mid-July of 1961. Entering the Hot 100 at #87 on August 7, 1961, it climbs to the top of the chart six weeks later. “Baby” is Goffin and King’s second number one single as songwriters (after The Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”), and Bobby Vee’s lone chart topping single. “Take Good Care Of My Baby” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 17, 1967 – The Who appear on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on the CBS television network, performing “I Can See For Miles” and “My Generation” (taped on September 15, 1967). It is the band’s first US television appearance following their breakthrough live performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June. Prior to the taping, drummer Keith Moon packs one of his bass drums with an explosive charge to set off at the end of “My Generation”. He fails to tell anyone that he has used several times the normal amount of explosives. When Moon detonates the charge, there is a massive explosion that engulfs the stage in smoke, causing one of his drum cymbals to shatter, cutting him on his arm and leg when he is hit by the flying shrapnel. Guitarist Pete Townshend is closest to the blast when it goes off, singeing his hair and causing him significant hearing loss. Actress Bette Davis, one of the other guests on the show that night passes out from shock backstage into actor Mickey Rooney’s arms (also appearing on the show), after witnessing how Keith Moon is injured in the blast.
On this day in music history: September 17, 1967 – The Doors make their first and only appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show performing their recent number one hit “Light My Fire”. Executives from CBS’ Standards & Practices (i.e. network censors) asks the band to change the line “girl we couldn’t get much higher” to “girl we couldn’t get much better”, feeling the original line might be offensive to some parts of the viewing audience. Lead singer Jim Morrison agrees to sing the altered line, but when the band performs the song on the live broadcast, Morrison sings the line as it was originally written, even emphasizing it the second time he sings it. This infuriates Sullivan and the network who had planned to have The Doors make another six appearances on the show, which are immediately cancelled. When a show producer tells them they’ll never appear on the show again, Jim Morrison reportedly tells him, “Hey man. We just did the Sullivan Show.”