On this day in music history: October 15, 1968 – “Polk Salad Annie” by Tony Joe White is released. Written by Tony Joe White, it is the seventh single release and biggest hit for the singer and songwriter from Oak Grove, LA. The youngest of seven children, Tony Joe White begins performing in the early 60’s, making a living playing clubs. In 1967, White relocates to Nashville to land a record deal. Originally the home of Roy Orbison and other legends including Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton and Ray Stevens, Monument Records signs White. He works with producers including Stevens and Dan Penn, but are unable to get a hit on him. White is paired up with label mate Billy Swan (“I Can Help”) to produce him. During this time, White reaches back to his roots to write a new song. Inspired by Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe”, he spins a tale about a poor young girl, whose family harvests a type of greens called pokeweed or “polk sallet”, that grow wild in the swamp lands. Similar to a turnip green and tasting a bit like spinach when cooked, many poor families subsisted on them (which had to be cooked since they were potentially poisonous if consumed raw) when there was nothing else to eat. White and Swan cut the song titled “Polk Salad Annie” at RCA Victor Studio B in Nashville, TN on May 16, 1968. It features musicians Norbert Putnam (bass), Jerry Carrigan (drums), David Briggs (organ) and White himself (vocals, guitar, harmonica). It’s released as a single in the Fall of 1968, to virtually no response. Undaunted, White returns to the road to promote it. While performing in Texas, “Annie” gets a big response from audiences who begin clamoring for the record. Having written it off as a failure, Monument begins sending White promo copies to sell at shows, when the meager supply of stock copies run out. The musician has to black out the “Disc Jockey – Not For Sale” text on the label with a marker, in order to supply local record stores with stock to sell. This continues for several months as “Polk Salad Annie” grows in popularity through the south. It seems like it will remain a regional hit only, when a radio station in Los Angeles begins playing it in the late Spring of 1969. From there, it goes national. Finally entering the Hot 100 at #86 on July 5, 1969, it peaks at #8 seven weeks later on August 23, 1969 over ten months after its released. Though it is his only major pop hit, “Polk Salad Annie” firmly establishes Tony Joe White as one of the main purveyors of “swamp rock”. It is covered by a wide variety of artists including Elvis Presley, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Clarence Reid (aka “Blowfly”) and Tom Jones. That same year, R&B singer Brook Benton lands a smash with the White penned “Rainy Night In Georgia”, and is also widely covered by other artists. Years later, Tony Joe re-records “Polk Salad Annie” for a television commercial for McDonald’s, advertising the chains’ McRib sandwich.
On this day in music history: October 12, 1984 – “Big Bam Boom”, the twelfth studio album by Daryl Hall & John Oates is released. Produced by Daryl Hall, John Oates and Bob Clearmountain, it is recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City from June – August 1984. After the release of their first greatest hits album “Rock ‘N Soul Part 1” in the Fall of 1983, Hall & Oates return to the studio the following Summer to begin working on the official follow up to “H20”. Having co-produced the new tracks “Say It Isn’t So” and “Adult Education” for the hits compilation, producer and recording engineer Bob Clearmountain work with the duo on their new studio album. Influenced by dance music and the latest musical technology of the day, including the Synclavier II and Fairlight CMI sampling keyboards, Hall & Oates look to incorporate these new elements into their established sound. They also invite top DJ/remixer and producer Arthur Baker as well as drum programmer Jimmy Bralower and keyboardist Robbie Kilgore (Shannon, Man Parrish, Tina B., Xena) to lend their musicianship and technical know-how to the sessions. The end result adds a modern cutting edge dance groove to the duo’s distinctive pop and blue eyed soul sound, and the subsequent 12" dance remixes (edited by The Latin Rascals, but uncredited) of the singles. The album is very well received by the public, spinning off four singles including “Out Of Touch” (#1 Pop, #24 R&B, #1 Club Play), “Method Of Modern Love” (#5 Pop, #21 R&B, #18 Club Play) and “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” (#18 Pop, #85 R&B). The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2004, with the original 12" dance mixes of “Out Of Touch”, “Method Of Modern Love”, “Possession Obsession” and “Dance On Your Knees”, as added bonus tracks. Unavailable on vinyl since 1989, it is remastered and reissued by Megaforce Records in August of 2018. The new reissue is packaged in a gatefold sleeve, rather than a single pocket LP jacket and inner sleeve lyric sheet, like the original release. The inner sleeve contents are printed on the inside of the gatefold instead. “Big Bam Boom” peaks at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 6, 1979 – “Sad Eyes” by Robert John hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #10 on the Adult Contemporary chart on September 1, 1979. Written by Robert John, it is the biggest hit for the singer and songwriter born Robert Pedrick, Jr.. Musically inclined from an early age, John has his first chart entry at twelve years old (in 1958) with the Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman penned “White Bucks and Saddle Shoes”. John meets producer George Tobin (Kim Carnes, Smokey Robinson, Tiffany) in 1978, inviting him to move to California and work with him. The singer is signed by Ariola Records and release a couple of singles before being dropped by the label. The president of EMI Records hears those records and offer John a record contract, though it takes six weeks for him to actually make contact. Tobin’s secretary doesn’t realize who the exec is, and his calls go unreturned until the producer answers the phone himself. “Sad Eyes” is released in April of 1979 from John’s self titled album, with EMI-America Records editing down the four minute plus track down to an even three and a half minutes for single release. Entering the Hot 100 at #85 on May 19, 1979, it makes a very slow and steady climb up the chart, reaching the top twenty weeks later. It ends up tying with Nick Gilder’s “Hot Child In The City” for the slowest ascent to number one on the Billboard pop singles chart, also reaching number one in its twenty-first week on the chart. “Sad Eyes” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 4, 1982 – “H2O”, the eleventh album by Daryl Hall & John Oates is released. Produced by Daryl Hall, John Oates and Neil Kernon, it is recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City from Spring – Summer 1982. Following the multi-Platinum success of their previous album “Private Eyes”, Hall & Oates continue their hot streak on the charts. Prior to the recording sessions, bassist Tom “T-Bone” Wolk and drummer Mickey Curry become full time members of the Hall & Oates band, both becoming essential elements to the duo’s sound. With only a few months to finish the album before going out on the road again, engineer Hugh Padgham (The Police, Genesis) is brought in to mix the finished tracks. The end result becomes Hall & Oates most commercially successful album. It spins off three top 10 singles including “One On One” (#7 Pop, #8 R&B), “Family Man” (#6 Pop), and “Maneater” (#1 Pop), the latter becoming their biggest single. The albums front and back cover photos are taken by famed Japanese-American fashion photographer Hiro (born Yasuhiro Wakabayashi). The original LP labels distinctive “water atom” graphic symbols (also used on the 12" singles for “One On One”, “Family Man”, and the 2004 CD album reissue) are designed by artists Geoffrey Kent (aka future Warner Bros Records, Virgin Records USA, The Work Group label exec Jeffrey Kent Ayeroff) and Mick Haggerty. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2004, featuring three additional bonus tracks. It is also remastered and reissued as a limited edition numbered hybrid SACD by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in 2013. It is released as a 180 gram vinyl LP by MFSL in 2014. “H2O” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 28, 1979 – “Keep The Fire”, the third solo album by Kenny Loggins is released. Produced by Tom Dowd, it is recorded at Filmways/Heider Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA and Santa Barbara Sound Recording Studios in Santa Barbara, CA from May – July 1979. Coming off the success of his first two solo albums, Kenny Loggins hires veteran recording engineer and producer Tom Dowd (The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rod Stewart), looking to change his sound from his previous work. Kenny is backed by his touring band featuring Mike Hamilton (guitars, backing vocals), George Hawkins (bass, backing vocals), Brian Mann (keyboards) and Tris Imboden (drums, percussion). The project also features a number of prominent studio musicians and high profile artists including Little Feat guitarist Fred Tackett, future Mr. Mister lead vocalist Richard Page (backing vocals), Michael Brecker (saxophone), Milt Holland (percussion), and Paulinho Da Costa (percussion). During the sessions, Loggins also contacts Michael Jackson who is just wrapping up work on “Off The Wall”, and asks if he is interested in singing on a track. Jackson says yes, providing backing vocals on the song “Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong”, co-written by Kenny and Richard Page. Another major artist who becomes involved is Loggins’ friend Michael McDonald of The Doobie Brothers. Having recently penned the smash “What A Fool Believes”, the pair decide to write again together. “This Is It” (#11 Pop, #19 R&B), inspired by an event out of Loggins personal life. His father is very ill, and is pondering whether to have surgery that potentially can save his life, or die. He chooses to have the surgery, making a full recovery. Relaying the story to McDonald, they finish the melody and lyrics. Michael plays keyboards, also adding his distinctive backing vocals to the song. Issued as the first single, “This Is It” is an across the board hit, cracking the top 20 on the pop, AC and most surprisingly on the R&B singles chart, becoming a career defining song for Loggins. It also wins him his second Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male in 1981. The song is also later sampled by Nas on “We Will Survive”, and is featured in the film “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” in 2013. The album is also another major success, topping the million mark in sales and spinning off a second single in the title track (#36 Pop, #40 AC). The albums distinctive cover artwork designed by Scott Thom (cover photo taken by Ed Caraeff) featuring the musician dressed in a flowing white robe and holding a glowing orb of light, later becomes the subject of a humorous and award winning short film by director Jake Rice called “Behind The Album Cover”. In the film, it depicts a highly fictionalized account of how the cover is created. “Keep The Fire” peaks at number sixteen on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1983 – “Tell Her About It” by Billy Joel hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 2 weeks on the same date. Written by Billy Joel, it is the second chart topping single for the singer, songwriter and musician from Hicksville, Long Island, NY. Wanting to put the experiences of the previous year behind him, by early 1983, Billy Joel looks back to his adolescence to create his next album. Having grown up during the 60’s, Joel becomes nostalgic for the music of his youth, rock & roll, doo wop and R&B. His muse is inspired when he begins dating again after splitting with his first wife and former manager, at first dating model Elle Macpherson and then Christie Brinkley, the latter of which he marries on March 23, 1985. The Motown influenced “Tell Her About It” is one of several songs that are written during a six week burst creativity from the musician. The song’s 60’s R&B feel extends to the songs memorable music video, featuring Joel performing the song on “The Ed Sullivan Show” with actor Will Jordan playing the legendary TV variety show host. Issued as the first single from “An Innocent Man” in July of 1983, it quickly become a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #38 on July 30, 1983, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. “Tell Her About It” is also issued as a 12" single, remixed by John “Jellybean” Benitez.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1969 – “New York Tendaberry”, the third album by Laura Nyro is released. Produced by Laura Nyro and Roy Halee, it is recorded at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City from September 1968 – July 1969. Recorded as an ode to the prolific and gifted singer, songwriter and musician’s hometown New York City, much of the album features Nyro accompanied by her own piano playing. A self taught musician, Nyro relies heavily on co-producer/engineer Roy Halee as a liaison between herself and the other musicians to help her fully realize her musical ideas. This considerably slows down the recording process, and the duo spend over ten months in the studio working on the album. Compared to the previous release “Eli And The Thirteenth Confession”, the material reflects on the darker side of love and relationships, and feature more stripped down arrangements. The album becomes Nyro’s most commercially successful album, yielding a number of classics that are covered by other artists. Among them are “Save The Country” (The 5th Dimension) and “Time And Love” (Barbra Streisand, The Supremes, Melba Moore). Originally released on CD in 1990, the album is remastered and reissued in 2002 with two additional bonus tracks. Out of print on vinyl for nearly three decades, “Tendaberry” is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2008 by UK reissue label Pure Pleasure Records. It is reissued again, as a limited edition 180 gram pressing by Analog Spark Records in 2016. “New York Tendaberry” peaks at number thirty two on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: September 23, 1967 – “The Letter” by The Box Tops hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Written by Wayne Carson Thompson, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the Memphis, TN quintet fronted by lead singer Alex Chilton. Songwriter Wayne Carson Thompson (“Always On My Mind”) is inspired to write “The Letter” when his father comes up with the lyric “give me a ticket for an aeroplane”. Thompson quickly write the rest of the lyrics and melody around that line. Once the song is complete, Thompson takes it to his friend, producer Chips Moman who also own American Recording Studios in Memphis, TN. Moman in turn tells his songwriting partner Dan Penn about the song. Penn is working with a young rock band featuring a sixteen year old lead vocalist named Alex Chilton. Penn hears the song and decide that it is perfect for his young charges first release. Recorded in the Spring of 1967, the band (with songwriter Thompson also playing guitar on the session) cut the track in about eight hours, recording thirty takes to come up with the final master. For the final touch, producer Dan Penn overdubs the sound of an airplane flying over toward the end of the song. When Moman objects to the addition, Penn threatens to cut up the tape with a razor blade rather than remove the sound effect. Moman allows it to remain on the finished record. At the time the band records the single, they do not have a name. One of the members jokingly suggests that people “send in 50 cents and a box top” with their possible group name. From that, the band are dubbed “The Box Tops”. Released in July of 1967 on Bell Records Mala imprint, “The Letter” quickly becomes a huge hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #85 on August 12, 1967, it leaps to the top of the chart six weeks later. The song is covered by a number of artists including The Arbors, The Ventures and Don Fardon. Joe Cocker has the second most successful recording of the song when his version hits #7 on the Hot 100 in June of 1970. “The Letter” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.