From Late October, 1967

Originally posted October 29, 2008

As November nears, football seasons accelerate: High schools here in Minnesota will play section championship games this weekend, winnowing the field in all six enrollment classes from sixteen to eight. College football – both for major universities and small colleges – is at the point where a single bad Saturday can end championship hopes. And the professionals in the National Football League near mid-season, with the outlines of stories beginning to take shape.

And as those things happen, I find myself pondering lessons football has taught me. Taught me as a spectator and a fan, that is; I never played organized football. (With a nod to Will Rogers, neither have some of the teams I’ve followed.) Chief among those lessons, of course, is that teams I follow never win the big game, at least as long as I’m in the vicinity. The football Tigers at St. Cloud Tech, where I went to high school, have had some good years but have never won anything greater than a conference or section title. Similarly, the Huskies at St. Cloud State, where I was an undergrad, have had good seasons but never advanced very far in the playoffs.

Being a Minnesotan, I follow the fortunes of the University of Minnesota’s Golden Gophers. It’s been forty-one years since the Rampaging Rodents claimed a share of the Big Ten title, and it’s been forty-six years and counting since the U of M’s team played in the Rose Bowl. The team is improved this season – it almost had to be, since the Gophers lost eleven of twelve games last year – and there may yet be hope on the campus, but we will see.

Then there are the Vikings of the NFL, who seem no better than mediocre this season. When I was in high school and college, they seemed destined to win a Super Bowl. They had four chances over an eight-season period and failed four times. Thus, I learned as a young adult that it gets easier to handle disappointment the more practice you get.

There has been a bright spot, at least regarding a team I now follow from a distance: When I was a reporter in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie, the high school football staff there – headed by Mike Grant, the son of legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant – was putting a program in place. I left the paper in 1995, and the team won its first state title in 1996. In the last twelve seasons, Eden Prairie’s football team has lost a total of eight games, has won six (I think) state titles and is the two-time defending state champ.

Of course, I’ve watched all that from a distance, which is not quite as satisfying.

All of these thoughts this week reminded me of the first team I paid attention to at close hand: the 1967 edition of St. Cloud Tech’s Tigers.

My sister was a senior at Tech that fall, and many of her friends were on the team, of course. I was in ninth grade at South Junior High – it would be three years until freshmen attended Tech instead of South – but my parents and I went to all of Tech’s home games that season, and at least two games on the road. It was – for eight weeks – a magic season. By the middle of the season, Tech was ranked as the top team in the state by the Minneapolis Morning Tribune. As Tech did not belong to a conference but played an independent schedule, and as there was no state playoff system in place, a high ranking in the newspaper’s weekly coverage was the Tigers’ goal every season.

And with one game remaining – right about this time forty-one years ago – Tech was a victory over South St. Paul from claiming the top spot in the final ranking of the season and the mythical state title that went with that ranking. It was a rainy Friday, and my parents and I stayed home; my sister took an activities bus the eighty or so miles to the game.

Dad and I listened to the game on radio as the rain and the muck slowed the Tigers’ quick-strike passing game. Tech lost 14 to 7 and finished something like ninth in the newspaper’s final rankings. Not long afterward, the football team’s cheerleaders got together and bought a small trophy. They had the plate engraved: “1967: The Best Team Tech Ever Had” and presented it to the captains. I wonder if it’s still in the school’s trophy case.

There is, I know from my experience as one of Tech’s football managers a few years later, no place quite as quiet as a team’s bus on the way home after a tough loss. At least for an hour or so. Then the talk begins, softly at first. And after a while, someone turns on the radio. What would the Tigers have heard on their way home from South St. Paul that sad evening?

Here was the top ten on Twin Cities-based KDWB, pulled from its “Big 6 Plus 30” survey of October 28, 1967:

“To Sir With Love” by Lulu
“The Letter” by the Box Tops
“Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)” by the Buckinghams
“How Can I Be Sure” by the Young Rascals
“Never My Love/Requiem For The Masses” by the Association
“The Rain The Park & Other Things” by the Cowsills
“It Must Be Him” by Vikki Carr
“Expressway To Your Heart” by the Soul Survivors
“Let It Out” by the Hombres
“Gimme Little Sign” by Brenton Wood

At No. 20, we find “The Last Waltz” by Engelbert Humperdinck and at No. 30, there’s “San Franciscan Nights” by Eric Burdon & the Animals.”

Shifting to the Billboard listings of that week to round out the top fifty singles (KDWB’s survey ends at No. 36), we find “Lazy Day” by Spanky & Our Gang at No. 40 and “Boogaloo Down Broadway” by the Fantastic Johnny C. at No. 50.

Well, that’s not awful. The Top Ten is a little ballad-heavy with Lulu, the Young Rascals, the Association and Vikki Carr. And I’ve never cared much for the Buckinghams. The Hombres’ single – which peaked in Billboard at No. 12 – was weird but fun. The only other thing that stands out from the Top Ten is the listing of “Never My Love/Requiem For The Masses” as a two-sided single. I’ve never seen the B-side listed before.

A little deeper into that Billboard chart of October 28, 1967, we find a song that reached its peak, rising to No. 68 from No. 70 the week before. It would be in the Hot 100 one more week before falling off. A gritty record, Laura Lee’s “Dirty Man” (Chess 2103) sounds to me more like Memphis than Chicago. Four years later, recording for Hot Wax, Laura Lee would reach the Top 40 for the only time with “Women’s Love Rights.” That’s a good single, but it’s nowhere near as good as “Dirty Man.”

“Dirty Man” by Laura Lee [1967]

The track is available on a few anthologies, but I don’t know how easily those can be found. Check it out here.

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One Response to “From Late October, 1967”

  1. Chart Digging: September 30, 1967 « Echoes In The Wind Says:

    […] was the success already unfolding for three football teams I followed that autumn: The St. Cloud Tech Tigers would go 8-1 and finish in the state’s Top Ten, the St. Cloud State Huskies would go 8-1 and tie […]

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