On this day in music history: August 18, 1979 – “Good Times” by Chic hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the R&B singles chart for 6 weeks on July 28, 1979. Written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it is the second chart topping single the New York City based R&B band led by musicians Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers. One of the first songs completed for Chic’s third album “Risque”, the song was not originally Atlantic Records choice for the first single. The label actually preferred the song “My Feet Keep Dancing”. The label quickly presses singles and has them ready to ship, when Edwards and Rodgers have a disagreement over the labels choice, resulting in the two not speaking to each other for several days. When they both realize that they don’t want the song to be the first single, they quickly call a meeting with Atlantic label execs asking that “Feet” be withdrawn, and “Good Times” be released instead. The decision proves to be a wise one with “Good Times” rising to the top of the pop and R&B singles charts quickly. Entering the Hot 100 at #72 on June 16, 1979, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “My Feet Keep Dancing” is eventually issued as the third and final single from “Risque” in late 1979, peaking at #42 on the R&B singles chart and Bubbling Under the Hot 100 at #101. “Good Times” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 18, 1973 – “Touch Me In The Morning” by Diana Ross hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 1 week on July 28, 1973, and peaking at #5 on the R&B singles chart on August 4, 1973. Written by Ron Miller and Michael Masser, is the the second solo chart topper (fourteenth overall) for the singer and actress from Detroit, MI. Following her Academy Award nominated performance as Billie Holiday in the biopic “Lady Sings The Blues”, Diana Ross shifts her attention back to her music career in the Spring of 1973. Looking to give his biggest star artist a boost after her Oscar loss, Berry Gordy looks to put Ross back on the top of the charts. Gordy and Motown A&R chief Suzanne dePasse puts together a team to write a big hit for the Motown superstar. Songwriter and producer Ron Miller, best known for writing classics like “For Once In My Life” and “Heaven Help Us All” for Stevie Wonder, is given the assignment to work with Ross. At this time, Gordy and dePasse discovers a former stockbroker turned songwriter named Michael Masser to collaborate with Miller. The pair hit it off instantly and write the sultry “Touch Me In The Morning” for Ross. The recording session are rough going when Ross has a difficult time with the complexly structured song. Running through twelve takes of the song, the singer still feels unsatisfied with her performance after working on her vocals all night. Miller and Masser spend 300 hours in the recording studio editing Diana Ross’ final vocal performance together on “Touch Me In The Morning” from those takes. Released as a single on May 3, 1973, the single does not initially have an easy climb up the charts, actually losing its bullet as it climbs the pop singles chart. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on June 2, 1973, it climbs to the top of the chart eleven weeks later. The huge success of “Touch Me In Morning” not only restores Diana Ross back on the top of the pop chart for the first time in nearly two years, it marks the beginning of Michael Masser’s hugely successful career as a songwriter and producer. Masser and Ross collaborate several more times over the years scoring another number one hit with “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” and the top ten film theme “It’s My Turn”.
On this day in music history: August 18, 1956 – “Don’t Be Cruel” / “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 11 weeks. Written by Otis Blackwell / Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it is third chart topping single for Presley. Penned by songwriter Otis Blackwell (“Great Balls Of Fire”, “All Shook Up”, “Return To Sender”), “Cruel” is recorded at RCA Studios in New York on July 2, 1956, with the master version being the twenty eighth take. The flip side “Hound Dog”, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952 for R&B legend Big Mama Thornton, is recorded by Presley during the same session. A big fan of Big Mama’s version as well as the answer record “Bear Cat” by Rufus Thomas, Presley decides to record “Hound Dog” after an ill fated performance engagement in Las Vegas. While playing an two week stint in Las Vegas during the Spring of 1956, Elvis sees the lounge act Freddie Bell And The Bellboys performing a comedy burlesque cover of “Hound Dog” in their show. Liking their arrangement, Presley decides to record himself. Elvis and his band along with vocal group The Jordanaires record thirty one takes of the song before finally capturing the master take. The single is released eleven days later on July 13, 1956, and is an immediate smash. Technically the B-side of the single, it is listed along with “Hound Dog” beginning the week of August 11, 1956 when the it reaches #2, then topping the chart the following week. The double A-sided singles run at the top of the charts is unprecedented in the rock era. The record remains unbroken until 1992 when “End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men holds the number one spot for 13 weeks beginning on August 15, 1992, thirty six years to the week that Presley hits number one. “Cruel” returns to the Billboard top ten thirty two years later, when Cheap Trick’s cover version peaks at #4 on October 8, 1988. “Don’t Be Cruel” is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002.
On this day in music history: August 17, 1991 – “Can You Stop The Rain” by Peabo Bryson hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #52 on the Hot 100 on August 3, 1991. Written by John Bettis and Walter Afanasieff, it is the second chart topping single for the R&B/Pop vocalist from Greenville, SC. First establishing himself as a major R&B star beginning in 1978 with “Reaching For The Sky”, his major label debut for Capitol Records. Scoring three Gold albums (including duets with Natalie Cole and Roberta Flack) and string of hit singles, Peabo Bryson experiences a period in the early 80’s when the hits become less frequent. He bounces back in a major way in 1983 when he reunites with Roberta Flack on the album “Born To Love”, landing a multi-format smash with “Tonite I Celebrate My Love” (#5 R&B, #16 Pop, #4 AC). In 1984, Bryson leaves Capitol for Elektra Records which pays immediate dividends with the album “Straight From The Heart” and the single “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again” (#6 R&B, #10 Pop, #1 AC). However, after three more top 40 singles, the hits trail off, with the singer releasing three more albums over the next four years before parting ways with Elektra. Re-connecting briefly with Capitol in 1989, Peabo scores his biggest solo hit to date in early 1990 with a cover of Al Wilson’s classic “Show & Tell” (#1 R&B). In spite of the “All My Love” album spinning off one more hit with the title track (#6 R&B), Bryson leaves Capitol in late 1990, signing with Columbia Records. The singer is paired with several producers for his first album for the label including musician Walter Afanasieff. Working previously as a session musician with producer Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Sister Sledge), Peabo Bryson is the first major artist Afanasieff works with as a producer. Producing two tracks for the album, Afanasieff writes the music for what becomes the ballad “Can You Stop Rain”, with lyricist John Bettis (“Human Nature”, “Top Of The World”) writing the words. Track is recorded with the producer playing all of the instruments, with Claytoven Richardson, Jeanie Tracy, Kitty Beethoven, Melisa Kary, Sandy Griffith on background vocals. The title track from Bryson’s fifteenth album, “Can You Stop The Rain” is released on May 4, 1991. The single quickly becomes and R&B, Quiet Storm and Adult Contemporary smash, propelling the album to Gold status in the US. The success of “Can You Stop The Rain” puts the veteran R&B singer back on solid ground, leading to future smash duets with Celine Dion and Regina Belle with “Beauty & The Beast” (#9 Pop) and “A Whole New World” (#1 Pop, #21 R&B) from the Disney animated classics “Beauty & The Beast” and “Aladdin”. Both singles earn Peabo Bryson Grammy Awards for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal in 1992 and 1994.
On this day in music history: August 17, 1983 – “Delirious” by Prince is released. Written and produced by Prince, it is thirteenth single release for the singer, songwriter and musician from Minneapolis, MN. Prince records the basic track (playing all of the instruments himself) for “Delirious” at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood on May 9, 1982, with additional overdubs recorded at Prince’s home studio outside of Minneapolis, MN. The song is a substitution for “Turn It Up” which was recorded earlier during the “1999” sessions. Prince feels that “Delirious” is a much stronger track than “Turn it Up” which is bumped from the final running order of the album and to this day remains unofficially released, but has surfaced in bootleg form. The US pressing of the single is issued with a limited edition poster sleeve that unfolds into a calendar that becomes a collector’s item. The single also includes the non-LP B-side “Horny Toad”. Issued as the third single from the “1999” album, “Delirious” becomes Prince’s second top 10 pop single in the US, peaking at #8 on the Hot 100 on October 22, 1983 and #18 on the R&B singles chart. Originally clocking in at 3:56 on the album, the single is released with some pressings containing the album version, and another edited down by over one full minute to 2:36. In recent years, a significantly longer version of the master take running just over six minutes surfaces, circulating as a high quality bootleg among fans.
On this day in music history: August 16, 1962 – “I Call It Pretty Music, But… (The Old People Call It The Blues) Pts 1 & 2”, the debut single by Little Stevie Wonder is released. Written by Berry Gordy, Jr. and Clarence Paul, the young singer and musician (born Stevland Hardaway Judkins) is brought to Motown founder and chairman Berry Gordy’s attention by Miracles member Ronnie White after his brother Gerald sees Stevie perform at a friends house. White is so impressed, that he arranges for the then eleven year old to audition for Gordy. Motown quickly signs Stevie and pairs him with Motown staff producer and songwriter Clarence Paul. It is Paul that gives the singer his professional surname after hearing someone exclaim, “that boy is a wonder!” Paul and Gordy co-write Wonder’s debut release, which features another newly signed Motown artist named Marvin Gaye playing drums on the song. Motown initially markets the twelve year old singer as “a young Ray Charles”. The two sides of the single stand in stark contrast from each other, with part one having a straight ahead uptempo R&B sound, while part two is slower and has a more traditional blues feel. Initial pressings of the 45 are issued in a picture sleeve showing Wonder singing into a microphone. Though “I Call It Pretty Music, But… (The Old People Call It The Blues) Pts 1 & 2” bubbles under the Billboard Hot 100 peaking at #101, and does not chart on the R&B singles chart, it marks the beginning of Stevie Wonder’s over fifty year association with Motown Records.
On this day in music history: August 15, 1981 – “I’m In Love” by Evelyn (“Champagne”) King hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #40 on the Hot 100 on September 12, 1981. Written by Kashif, it is first R&B chart topper for the Philadelphia, PA born R&B vocalist. The title track and first single from her fourth album, “I’m In Love” is the beginning of a major career resurgence for King, whose career has experienced a major down turn following her initial success with the million selling hit singles “Shame” and “I Don’t Know If It’s Right”, from her Platinum selling debut album “Smooth Talk”. Paired with producer Morrie Brown and songwriter/musicians Kashif and Paul Laurence Jones III, the production team and singer hit it off immediately and begin working together. “I’m In Love” goes on to be highly influential during the 80’s and beyond, marking the beginning of a major shift in the way that R&B and dance records are produced. With record company budgets tightening during this period, self contained R&B bands begin to fall by the wayside, in favor of producer/musicians often playing many of the instruments themselves. Kashif and Jones pioneer this movement, by combining live instrumentation and programmed elements such as drum machines and synthesizers, creating a unique musical hybrid. “I’m In Love” is later sampled as the basis of the song “R&B Junkie” by Janet Jackson in 2004.