Posts Tagged ‘Chubby Checker’

Lost On Campus

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 29, 2009

I was seven or eight years old when I had my first great adventure on the campus of St. Cloud State College (as it was titled then). If I were eight at the time, then it took place in mid-summer of 1961, and from this long distance, that’s close enough for our purposes.

I wrote a little earlier this summer about attending summer classes at the Campus Lab School at St. Cloud State, spending mornings there so the college’s education students had someone to teach as they pursued their college degrees. If I recall correctly, on most days, my dad would be waiting when I left the school, and I’d ride home with him in his beloved ’52 Ford. Then came the day of the all-college picnic.

Think about this for a moment, as this is – at least for me – a quintessential 1960s event: A summertime picnic on the lawn, open to all students, all faculty and staff members, and all of their family members. The college was, of course, a much smaller place than is today’s sprawling institution, and then, summertime enrollment is always less than during other quarters. But still, a college-wide picnic! Barbecued chicken and beans and cole slaw for how many? Maybe five hundred people? It was a tradition that wouldn’t last much longer, as I don’t recall such picnics taking place during the summers I was a student on campus.

It was a different era, of course, one of freshman beanies and letter sweaters, with the young men mostly wearing dress slacks or khakis and the young women almost always wearing dresses, kind of like Faber College in Animal House (without the fascists or the slobs). I recall during one of those annual picnics looking across the street at a battered wooden building. It housed the campus bookstore and a student hangout called the Chatterbox.

The Chatterbox, probably ca. 1960. (SCSU Archives)

I asked a family friend, one of my dad’s student workers, what it was like inside, and he said it was crowded and noisy. He said they sold burgers and fries and coffee and malts. It was an honest-to-god malt shop! Except for the coffee, it sounded pretty good to a preteen whiteray, and I asked him if he’d take me in there someday. He shook his head no. A few years later the Chatterbox was gone, razed to make way for the new student center.

Anyway, on the day of the all-college picnic in 1961, I was supposed to meet my mom outside the Campus Lab School and we’d walk the three or so blocks or so to the picnic. I went out the door where I usually found Dad in his car. No Mom. I waited a few minutes, wondering what to do. And when she hadn’t shown up in ten minutes, I set out across campus, heading for Dad’s office. I wasn’t at all sure of the campus’ geography, but I knew Dad’s office was in the basement of the library, and if I could find the library, then I was in good shape.

So every once in a while, I asked a passing student where the library was. The college men chuckled at me, and one asked if I were going to do research for a term paper. The college women told each other I was cute, and a couple of them wanted to know if I wanted them to take me to the library. No, I said, I could find it myself, as long as I had good directions. And I did find it. And I found the stairs down to Dad’s office. The door was locked and the dark basement corridor was a little spooky.

I wasn’t sure what to do, but sitting in a dark basement corridor was kind of scary, and it wasn’t getting me any chicken. I clambered up the stairs, and went to the picnic. And that’s where I found my folks, who were of course, quite worried. (Though perhaps not as worried as parents in similar circumstances might be today; although a good portion of today’s horrors also existed back then, they were not placed nearly so firmly on our minds’ center stage then as they are today.) My mom told me she’d waited at the front door of the lab school for a fair amount of time; I told her dad had been picking me up at the side door.

And after a few minutes more of discussion, we got in line and filled our plates.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, June 26, 1961)
“Quarter to Three” by Gary U.S. Bonds, Legrand 1008 (No. 1)
“Every Beat of My Heart” by the Pips, Vee-Jay 386 (No. 8)
“Peanut Butter” by the Marathons, Arvee 5027 (No. 23)
“Let’s Twist Again” by Chubby Checker, Parkway 824 (No. 62)
“Theme from ‘Goodbye Again’” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists 319 (No. 85)
“Rainin’ In My Heart” by Slim Harpo, Excello 2194 (No. 99)

A couple of these are pretty well known: “Quarter to Three” and “Let’s Twist Again” are staples on any self-respecting oldies radio station, and they deserve to be so (although Checker’s original “The Twist” is a better single than “Let’s Twist Again”). Both of them, at the right moments, can get you out on the dance floor, and thus, they remain among the best that not only 1961 had to offer, but the entire era post-Holly and pre-Beatles. “Quarter to Three” spent two weeks at No. 1, and “Let’s Twist Again” peaked at No. 8 later in the summer.

Speaking of that era of American pop, the one that began with the plane crash in Iowa and ended with the Beatles playing on Ed Sullivan’s show: I’ve seen that era written off entirely. Now, it’s true there was a lot of bad pop and faux R&B being played on radio and racked in the stores – Fabian, anyone? – but there was still more good music than a lot of post-Sixties critics have recalled over the years. Some of the other records on that week’s Hot 100, stuff that I could have shared, were: “Tossin’ and Turnin’” by Bobby Lewis, “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, “Hello Walls” by Faron Young, “Cupid” by San Cooke, “I Like It Like That (Part 1)” by Chris Kenner and “Mama Said” by the Shirelles. And that’s just a quick glance.

Now, there’s no doubt that pop music slumped a little in those years, but my point is that it wasn’t quite the desert that some writers have claimed it to be.

There’s a riddle surrounding “Every Beat of My Heart.” It’s listed twice on the Hot 100 for this week: Vee-Jay has a release credited only to the Pips (before Gladys Knight got top billing) at No. 8, and it’s also listed at No. 60 as a release on Fury Records, credited to Gladys Knight and the Pips. From everything I know, I have the Vee-Jay release here, but if anyone out there knows any better, let me know, please. According to The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, the Vee-Jay version peaked at No. 6, while the Fury version failed to make the Top 40.

Regarding “Peanut Butter,” writer Dave Marsh notes the strange tale: The Olympics and their producers, Fred Smith and Cliff Goldsmith, sold the single to Argo, a subsidiary of Chicago’s Chess Records. But as the group was still under contract to Los Angeles-based Arvee, the record was credited to the Marathons, a not-too-subtle change from the Olympics. And the song had a strong resemblance to the Olympics’ 1960 hit, “(Baby) Hully Gully.” So, without too much ado, the record wound up on the Arvee label anyway, and went to No. 20. Now, the tale is told quite a bit differently by Joel Whitburn in The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Whitburn says that with the Olympics on tour, Arvee brought in the Vibrations to record “Peanut Butter.” But the Vibrations were under contract to Chess/Checker, which stopped the Arvee release and then had the Vibrations record a version of the song for Argo, the Chess subsidiary. At which point, Arvee brought in another group – evidently neither the Olympics nor the Vibrations – to record “Peanut Butter” yet again. That third release, I guess, is what is offered here. And none of that matters when the lead singer calls out “Scarf now!”

The Ferrante & Teicher record was in its third week in the Hot 100 this week. It would linger in the lower levels one more week before falling off the chart. And in August, the piano duo would have their first Top 40 hit with the “Theme from The Apartment,” which would peak at No. 10.

“Rainin’ In My Heart” would eventually rise from the depths of the Hot 100 to become one of two Top 40 hits by Slim Harpo, whose real name was James Moore. “Rainin’ In My Heart” would rise to No. 34, and five years later, his “Baby Scratch My Back” would go to No. 16. Those were Harpo’s only Top 40 hits, but he may be better known for two songs covered by the Rolling Stones: “I’m A King Bee,” which was on the album The Rolling Stones in 1964 (and was covered by many others as well, including Muddy Waters), and “Shake Your Hips,” which wound up on 1972’s Exile on Main St. (Oddly, the Exile on Main St. jacket listed the song as “Hip Shake,” but the label on the record had the correct title.)

A Dose Of Voodoo From 1962

August 24, 2011

Originally posted October 15, 2008

Some of the folks from Bookcrossing, our book club, stopped by last evening for a soup dinner. The five of us filled ourselves on a Mexican rice and beef soup and a cabbage/potato/sausage soup – both creations by the Texas Gal – as well as an assortment of chips, dips and so on. And we talked for a couple hours about books and other stuff.

As happens when we all get together at someone’s home, our visitors scanned our bookshelves. It’s a cliché – one based in some truth, I suppose – that one can get to know a person by a close examination of his or her books. Given the mélange of titles on our shelves, I would guess that the only things that can be deduced about the Texas Gal and me is that we’re interested in a wide range of topics, both fiction and nonfiction, and that we dearly love books. (Both true, of course.)

But as our friends scanned our shelves, I noticed a title that I thought might be of some interest, so I pulled from the shelves and handed to them Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians, a 1961 volume by Mary Nash, reprinted in 1962 by the Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club.

How many folks out there remember the Weekly Reader? I was surprised this morning to learn that it still exists. According to Wikipedia, the Reader was acquired in 2007 by The Reader’s Digest Association and continues publication. Wikipedia notes that the first edition of the Weekly Reader, for fourth-graders, came out in 1928, and by 1959, there were editions for kindergarten through grade six.

Wikipedia describes it thus: “The editions cover curriculum themes in the younger grades and news-based, current events and curriculum themed-issues in the older grades.” I recall seeing the Reader regularly during my days at Lincoln Elementary. I enjoyed it, I think, but then, I’ve always enjoyed reading almost anything.

And that includes the books I got through the Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club. I probably still have ten I got through the club, some of which I remember quite well. One of those is Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians. The Mrs. Coverlet of the title is the housekeeper for the three young Malcolm children, and the reader learns that in an earlier title, while their father – evidently widowed – was out of the country on business, Mrs. Coverlet was also called away. Instead of staying with a neighbor as instructed, the children stayed in their own home, with some mild adventure ensuing.

In Magicians, the sequel, the Malcolms’ father is still away, and, after young Molly Malcolm secretly enters Mrs. Coverlet in a recipe contest, the housekeeper is offered a chance to compete in the contest finals in New York City. Determined that her charges be better supervised during her absence, Mrs. Coverlet arranges for spinster Eva Penalty to move into the Malcolm home.

All three children are stifled by the dour Miss Penalty, none more than the youngest, six-year-old Toad. Some time earlier, having found a comic book of horror stories, Toad had clipped a coupon and sent off for a book of magic spells. With Miss Penalty running the house rigidly, Toad devises what is basically a voodoo doll and confines Miss Penalty to her bed for the remainder of Mrs. Coverlet’s absence. Mishaps ensue, but things turn out well, of course. Scanning the book this morning, I remember enjoying the story. When I pulled the book off the shelf to show it to our friends last evening, however, one thing popped into my head:

How would parents react these days to a novel for children based on the ideas of magic spells and voodoo dolls? I would guess that there would be an effort to ban Weekly Reader and its book club from the classroom.

As far as I recall, no one blinked back in 1962.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1962, Vol. 2
“Up On The Roof” by the Drifters, Atlantic 2162 (No. 120, “bubbling under” the Billboard Hot 100 as of October 13, 1962)

“409” by the Beach Boys, Capitol 4777 (No. 76)

“Leah” by Roy Orbison, Monument 467 (No. 74)

“Stormy Monday Blues” by Bobby “Blue” Bland, Duke 355 (No. 54)

“Beechwood 4-5789” by the Marvelettes, Tamla 54065 (No. 32)

“Popeye the Hitchhiker” by Chubby Checker, Parkway 849 (No. 24)

“I Left My Heart In San Francisco” by Tony Bennett, Columbia 42332 (No. 23)

“It Might As Well Rain Until September” by Carole King, Dimension 2000 (No. 22)

“Only Love Can Break A Heart” by Gene Pitney, Musicor 1022 (No. 13)

“If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)” by Peter, Paul & Mary, Warner Bros. 5296 (No. 10)

“Green Onions” by Booker T and the MG’s, Stax 127 (No. 6)

“Ramblin’ Rose” by Nat King Cole, Capitol 4804 (No. 3)

“Sherry” by the Four Seasons, Vee-Jay 456 (No.1)

A few notes:

“Up On The Roof” was the third Top Ten hit for the Drifters (“There Goes My Baby” in 1959 and “Save The Last Dance For Me” in 1960 were the first two), but the first since Ben E. King left the group and was replaced by Rudy Lewis. “Up On The Roof” eventually went to No. 5.

Roy Orbison’s “Leah” is an odd record. With its other-worldly sound, I’m surprised it got into the charts at all. It’s simply spooky, and the fact that it went to No. 35 still startles me. I mean, I like it, but I wouldn’t have thought the record marketable.

While Bobby “Blue” Bland never had a major hit, “Stormy Monday Blues” was released in the middle of a period when his records were at least reaching the Top 40. “Turn On Your Love Light” had gone to No. 28 in January of 1962, and the double-sided single, “Call On Me/That’s The Way Love Is” would reach Nos. 22 and 33, respectively, in early 1963. “Stormy Monday Blues,” while a good record, wasn’t quite as good as those. “That’s The Way Love Is” is a great record, and I think it’s nearly forgotten. (“Stormy Monday Blues” is tagged as a 1961 record because that was the session date, but it was in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962.)

Chubby Checker’s “Popeye the Hitchhiker” was another attempt to launch a dance craze, with the dance in question, I believe, based on extending one’s thumb and cocking one’s arm, as if hitching a ride. (Sadly, there seem to be no examples of the dance on YouTube.) “Popeye,” which went to No. 10, was the B-side to “Limbo Rock,” which I shared here in August.

“It Might As Well Rain Until September” was a pretty slight record, but it fit right in during 1962 and got as high as No. 22 on the charts. The artist, Carole King, showed up on the charts nine years later, of course, with “It’s Too Late” and was a presence on the charts into the 1980s.

I’ve always loved “Ramblin’ Rose” for some reason. It’s a pretty song, and of course, Nat King Cole had a great voice. This certainly wasn’t his best performance – that would have come on one or more of his jazz/R&B sides, but something about the song grabbed the nine-year-old whiteray in a way that none of the other records in this Baker’s Dozen ever has.

Celebrating Vinyl At 45 RPM

July 27, 2011

Originally posted August 12, 2008

I thought hard as this summer meandered, trying to decide how to mark Vinyl Record Day 2008, the 131st anniversary of the invention of the phonograph by old Tom Edison. (A reminder: You can find updates on all the posts in today’s blogswarm at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, whose proprietor, JB the DJ, organized the event this year and last. Thanks, JB!) The vast majority of my record collection is LPs, but I took an exhaustive (and likely exhausting, for many readers) tour through the albums last year, so finding a new hook for a post based on LPs seemed difficult at best.

Besides, as I’ve mentioned before, we’re planning to move, and I anticipated that the LPs would be packed before August 12. (And so they have been, filling about sixty liquor boxes.)

So I turned to the poor stepchildren of my record collection: my 45s. My singles are split into three groups: There are the four singles by the Beatles whose B-sides weren’t released on the original albums by the Fab Four on Capitol/Apple (a state of events I discussed during the celebration of last year’s Vinyl Record Day). There are about fifteen other singles that I prize for various reasons; they include a Danish 45, my copy of the Mystics’ 1969 regional hit, “Pain,” and some other stuff that rarely gets played but has sentimental value. And then there are the two carrying cases.

Those metal cases, eight-inch cubes with handles on top, are home to about a hundred singles. Some are remnants of my sister’s small collection in the early 1960s. Some of them were gifts from Leo Rau, the jukebox operator who lived across the alley when I was a kid. Some of them I got at a south Minneapolis garage sale during the 1990s when I bought one of the two carrying cases; I bought the case for a quarter and got about twenty 45s that were still inside. And some I got in one of those sequences that sometimes happen to collectors.

While I was working for the Eden Prairie newspaper during the early 1990s, I was assigned to write a story about a local organization called Bridging Inc. Its founder, a retired fellow named Fran Heitzman, showed me around a warehouse filled with furniture, household goods, clothing and more. The idea, he told me, was to provide a figurative bridge between folks in the generally well-off southwest suburbs who had things to donate and organizations elsewhere in the Twin Cities that served folks who needed things. Donations came into Bridging for a number of reasons: from people who redecorated and had used but good furniture to give away, from people who moved and had to downsize their household holdings, and – frequently – from sons and daughters whose parents had passed on and whose households were being dissolved.

The way it worked, Fran told me, was that an organization, maybe the Salvation Army in north Minneapolis, might need a double bed and two twin beds help to re-house a family. Workers at the Salvation Army would call Bridging, and Bridging would check its warehouse and – more often than not – be able to fill those needs. Fran had started Bridging on his own, and I marveled as we walked through the warehouse at the good work that one determined person can do. (In the fifteen or so years since then, the organization has grown, as one can see at its website.)

As we walked, I noticed several boxes of records, mostly LPs but some 45s. “People send you records?” I asked.

“Sometimes people clean out entire houses,” he said, “and we get everything they’ve got, including records. We can’t use them, of course.” I must have looked at him with a question on my face because he explained: “Well, the Salvation Army never calls us and says, ‘We have a family that needs some records.’”

“So what happens to them?”

He shrugged. “We throw them out.” I tried not to wince. I was there on assignment, after all. But Fran noticed. “You want them?”

I nodded, told him I was a collector, and he said that anytime Bridging got records in, he’d call me at my office. And for about four years – until shortly after I left the Eden Prairie paper and Fran cut back his hours at Bridging – I’d get a call every couple of months and stop by Bridging and pick up a box or two of records.

Mostly, it was LPs. Generally, about one-third of the records I got were things that I wanted for the collection, a third I already had, and a third didn’t really interest me. I’d pull out the stuff I wanted, sell a few things at Cheapo’s and then donate the remaining records to the Salvation Army store near my home. And along the way, I ended up with another metal carrying case and some 45s that came with it.

So, for this year’s celebration of Vinyl Record Day, I thought I’d dig through those two cases of 45s and see what might be interesting. As it turned out, some of the most interesting records are so hacked up that they’re unplayable: They include a four-song EP by Chuck Berry released on the Chess label in 1958 and a Fats Domino EP on Dot from 1957. But as I sorted through the boxes, I did find some stuff that was interesting. Some of it pleased the ear, and some of it brought winces.

So here’s a Baker’s Dozen of 45s, all ripped from vinyl, of course. There will be some noise here and there, but I think it’s worth it.

I have quite a few Herman’s Hermits’ singles in the boxes, most likely from the records I got from Leo Rau. I like a few of the band’s singles when they’re mixed in with other oldies, but Herman’s Hermits always seemed kind of lightweight. And then I flipped over one of the most lightweight singles the band ever did, “Dandy.” And I was pleasantly surprised. Speed on!

“My Reservation’s Been Confirmed” by Herman’s Hermits, MGM 13603, 1966

Another Rau record was one of those traditional pop numbers that sometimes showed up in the mid-1960s, this one squeezing its way onto the charts to No. 10, where it sat between Martha & the Vandellas and Gerry & the Pacemakers.

“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Vic Dana, Dolton 304, 1965

One of the silliest records in my collection – which I ripped some time ago when I moved it from the carrying case to the “sentimental favorites” shelf – was one my sister owned, having found it in one of those “ten 45s for $1.29” deals in 1963 or so. It spent two weeks at No. 2.

“Limbo Rock” by Chubby Checker, Parkway 849, 1962

And as long as we’re talking silly, here are the two of the numerous records by the Royal Guardsmen that were inspired by Snoopy the beagle, one of the central characters in Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, which was quite likely the most popular comic strip in the world in the mid-1960s. The first was No. 2 for four weeks and the second reached No. 15.

“Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie 3366, 1966

“The Return of The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie 3379, 1967

Here’s another pair, two sides of a Beach Boys’ 45. The sound on these is not all that good, but I couldn’t resist sharing them anyway, as this might be the worst pair of songs ever released by a major band on one record. “Wild Honey” was the A-side and went to No. 31.

“Wild Honey” by the Beach Boys, Capitol 2028, 1967

“Wind Chimes” by the Beach Boys, Capitol 2028, 1967

I know it’s been released on CD, but I’m not sure that the B-side of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was ever released on an LP. (This was a Leo Rau record; sorry about the noise near the end.)

“Lime Street Blues” by Procol Harum, Deram 7507, 1967

With the remarkable exception of “You Don’t Own Me,” Lesley Gore spent a lot of time in the early 1960s trying to please boys, especially that rat Johnny, who made her cry at her own party and then dropped Judy to slink back to Lesley once she had a hit record. Here’s Lesley’s utterly non-feminist manifesto on how to excuse boys’ bad behavior. It went to No. 12.

“That’s The Way Boys Are” by Lesley Gore, Mercury 72259, 1964

The oldest single I found in those two cases was the most unhip and the most shameful. When rock ’n’ roll hit big in the mid-1950s, too many record companies had their white artists cover songs originally released by artists with darker skins. In this case, it didn’t work entirely: Pat Boone’s version of “Long Tall Sally” went to No. 8 on the fragmented charts of the time, but Little Richard’s original went to No. 6.

“Long Tall Sally” by Pat Boone, Dot 15457, 1956

The Four Aces had used their sweet pop harmonies to score seven hits between 1954 and 1956 on those same fragmented charts. They tried again in 1958, this time using the magic words “rock and roll” in an attempt to be unsquare. It didn’t work; the record did not chart.

“Rock and Roll Rhapsody” by the Four Aces, Decca 30575, 1958

The best record I found in the metal cases – even with a little bit of noise – was a B-side:

“Daddy Cool” by the Rays, Cameo 117, 1957

After I ripped it to vinyl, I noticed something I’d not seen the few other times I’d handled it. There was a name and address stamped on the record: “Clifford J——, 9145 Meadow View Road, Bloomington 20, Minnesota.”

The last name was not a common one. In fact, as I used an online search, I learned that there are only twenty folks listed with that name in Minnesota. One of those listed was Clifford, in the exurban city of Mound, west of Minneapolis. I dithered for a few days, then called Friday evening and left a message.

Saturday noon, I called again and left a more detailed message, explaining that I had a 45 with Clifford’s name on it. Within fifteen minutes the phone rang, and I found myself talking to Lloyd J. He told me Clifford had been his father, gone since 2004, but the record had been Lloyd’s.

“My dad had a stamp with his name and address,” Lloyd said, “and I used to stamp my records before parties and so on.”

I’d done some digging through the other 45s since I’d seen the stamped record, so I asked Lloyd, “Did your sister, Julie, mark hers with her name written on adhesive tape?” He laughed and said she had in fact done so, and I told him I’d found a couple of her records in my collection, too.

He said, “Julie was the one who cleaned out the house in Bloomington when Dad moved out, and I imagine she just gave everything away.”

“To Bridging?” I asked.

“Yes, to Fran Heitzman. He’s a long-time friend of the family.”

I thought to myself, “How circles sometimes close!” And then I asked Lloyd about records and rock ’n’ roll.

“I think between us,” he said, “we had seventy-five to a hundred records. That was when Elvis was big, and I remember the Crew Cuts, but they were a little earlier. I graduated from high school in 1960, and the records were [from when I was in] junior high school and high school, sock hops and so on.”

Now 66, Lloyd has spent his career in banking and stays involved in banks in Mound and in Delano, a small town west of Mound. “It gives me a place to pick up the mail,” he said with a laugh. And he still listens to music.

“I listen to the Fifties on my XM radio,” he said. “It’s still my favorite music. There was a piece on the news the other night about how music brings back memories more than anything, even pictures. And music does jog the memories.”

So what song remains Lloyd’s favorite from the Fifties?

“I don’t recall the title, but it was about the fellow out for a walk and the shades pulled down and he sees the couple inside . . .”

I nodded, and flipped over the 45 that Lloyd had stamped more than fifty years ago. “That’s the A-side of the record of yours that I have,” I told him.

“It’s still my favorite,” he said.

And here it is for you, Lloyd:

“Silhouettes” by the Rays, Cameo 117, 1957

Edited slightly on archival posting July 27, 2011; YouTube videos, which are not my rips, added February 26, 2014.