Saturday Singles Nos. 67 & 68

Originally posted April 19, 2008

In anyone’s collection of anything, I imagine, odd little artifacts somehow creep in.

One such artifact in my music collection is a 45-rpm single that, until yesterday, was played maybe once. It’s a record by a group called the Swingers, and the A Side is a tune called “Bay-Hay Bee Doll.” The flip is an instrumental version of the same tune.

I remember getting the record during a summertime shopping trip to the Twin Cities. It was Mom, my sister and I heading down the highway about seventy miles to one of the major malls in the suburbs. A vague memory tells me that it was the mall north of St. Paul called Rosedale. (And an earworm pops up: “Traveling Riverside Blues” by Robert Johnson: “Lord, I’m goin’ to Rosedale, gon’ take my rider by my side . . .”)

The date on the record says it was 1966, which means I was preparing to go into eighth grade, and I think the summertime trip to the mall was aimed at supplying my sister and me with clothes enough for at least the first portion of the school year. Which means I spent a good portion of the shopping day trying to dissuade my mom and my sister from selecting for me the newest, coolest and hippest clothing the mall had for thirteen-year-old boys: Let me not stand out, I tried to tell them without actually saying so. If I could have found a way to go to school dressed as a bookcase, I would have.

Eventually, we made our way to J.C. Penney, an emporium that to this day supplies a large portion of my wardrobe. I don’t remember what we bought there – maybe those collarless shirts – one blue, one burgundy, both with white trim – that were called surfer shirts. (For a couple of years, everyone my age had to have something that had the adjective “surfer” attached to it; never mind that we were more than a thousand miles from the nearest surf.) But we bought something, and at the cash register, the clerk reached under the counter and handed me a copy of “Bay-Hay Bee Doll” by the Swingers.

I pondered the record and its jacket on the drive home. The front of the sleeve proclaimed, in typefaces that still clash like medieval armies, “The Swingers & BAY-HAY BEE DOLL.” Fine print said, “Words and music by Warren Parker, Copyright 1966, J.C. Penney Co., Inc.” The front also had a catalog number: JCP 100.

On the back was an ad, copy above and below one of those wonderful Sixties drawings of clean-cut boys playing guitar, drums, saxophone and banjo (?) while around them dance other clean-cut boys and very nicely dressed girls. The copy read: “Get into The Swingers, Penney’s color coordinated sportswear. Dig spring-summer’s cool color combos of Fortrel polyester ’n cotton from our 333 and Picket ’N Post collections . . . All to the sweetest sounds you’ll ever hear . . . Penney prices.”

I played the record when we got home. The A-side, with the vocals, was pretty bad, especially the parts where one of the singers goes into a off-key falsetto to sing “Bay-Hay Bee Doll.” He does so frequently enough that, in a home where the record got regular play, the repeating falsetto would drive adults mad. The B-side, the instrumental version of the A-side, was innocuous but nothing that grabbed me.

As I’ve noted before, I wasn’t truly plugged into rock and pop music until 1969, three years later than this. But the music was all around me, and I knew what the current sounds were. At a guess, let’s call it early August. Here’s the Billboard Top Five for the second week of August 1966:

“Summer in the City,” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
“Lil’ Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
“They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa” by Napoleon XIV
“Wild Thing” by the Troggs
“The Pied Piper” by Crispian St. Peters

An interesting Top Five, at the least, but discounting the novelty of “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa,” there are some distinct sounds there, some pop-folkish sounds and a bit of real rock. And I knew that The Swingers and “Bay-Hay Bee Doll” didn’t fit into any one of those sounds.

(The very fact that Penney’s was still handing out records that touted its spring/summer wardrobe at a time when spring was a memory and summer was beginning its slow fade – I can’t imagine our going shopping for school clothes any earlier than August or maybe late July – tells me that the record was a promotional idea that didn’t work at all. It seems to have been one more example of adults trying – and failing – to be hip, cool, with it or whatever other term we used back then. I think marketing has gotten more savvy over the years, but I would bet that a lot of campaigns aimed at the younger sets still bring eye-rolls from them. Am I right, parents?)

So the record went back into the jacket and the jacket went on the shelf, and about fifteen years ago, I took out of my parents’ house a few remaining records of mine, including “Bay-Hay Bee Doll.” I stuck it into a carrying case for 45s that I bought at a garage sale and forgot about it. Something reminded me of it yesterday, and I did a little digging online. There’s still no indication of exactly who Warren Parker or the Swingers were, but they were likely just some studio musicians making a buck.

And it’s still not a very good record. In fact, one forum where I found a reference to it had nominated “Bay-Hay Bee Doll” as the worst record of 1966. In a year that includes “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa,” that’s quite a feat.

So here are both sides of “Bay-Hay Bee Doll,” today’s Saturday Singles.

The Swingers – “Bay-Hay Bee Doll” [1966]

The Swingers – “Bay-Hay Bee Doll” (Instrumental) [1966]

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One Response to “Saturday Singles Nos. 67 & 68”

  1. Listen To The Train Wreck « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] membership to both sides of the Swingers’ “Bay-Hay Bee Doll,” which I shared about a year ago and to Ray Conniff’s rendition of “Photograph,” which I shared two weeks […]

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