Posts Tagged ‘Ian Thomas’

Chart Digging: November 10, 1973

November 10, 2011

The ill health theme of the past few weeks continues: The Texas Gal will attend a couple of meetings by phone from home this morning and then spend her second day dealing with autumn crud, a malady being passed around her office (and around numerous other offices in St. Cloud, according to reports from friends and acquaintances). I’m in a little better shape than that, which is good, as it means that someone in the house can make sandwiches. In the meantime, we cope.

One of my ways of coping, of course, is to dig into music, and three names caught my attention while I was passing the time by scanning the Billboard Hot 100 for this date in 1973:

When writing about Jimmy Durante about eight weeks ago, I referred to Canadian performer Ian Thomas and his 1976 tune “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash.” His name popped up again today as I scanned the Hot 100 from November 10, 1973: “Painted Ladies” was sitting at No. 80 on its way to No. 34. This is one of those Top 40 hits I had to learn about after the fact because I was out of the country when it was on the radio. It’s become a mild favorite in the past few years, and I think that’s mainly because it sounds a lot like the records the group America was putting into the charts at the time. In Canada, Thomas has had a fair amount of chart success, both on his own and with several groups. That success includes “Painted Ladies,” which went to No. 4 on the RPM 100 – the main Canadian pop chart – and to No. 5 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. On this side of the border, however, “Painted Ladies” marked Thomas’ only appearance in the Hot 100.

Another name that kind of jumped out at me from the November 10, 1973, chart was that of Johnny Mathis, as I’d been listening to a bit of Mathis’ work yesterday: his 1959 album Open Fire, Two Guitars and his stellar 1977 cover of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.” His 1973 entry on the charts – “I’m Coming Home” – wasn’t near as memorable as 1977’s “Night and Day,” but I still find a quiet charm in the track. Thirty-eight years ago today, “I’m Coming Home” was at its peak of No. 75, but the record spent a week on top of the Adult Contemporary chart. It was the forty-seventh of an eventual fifty-three hits in or near the Hot 100 for Mathis, a run that included two No. 1 hits: “Chances Are” in 1957 and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” with Deniece Williams in 1978.

The third name that drew my eyes was that of Nino Tempo. He and his sister, April Stevens, had a No. 1 hit in 1963 with their cover of “Deep Purple,” a song written in 1923 by Peter DeRose that became a big band standard after Mitchell Parish added lyrics in 1938. As a duo, Tempo and Stevens had fifteen other records in or near the Hot 100 between 1962 and 1973. In the autumn of 1973, however, Stevens evidently wasn’t involved when “Sister James” – credited to Nino Tempo and 5th Ave. Sax – was on the charts. A nifty, slightly funky record, “Sister James” was sitting at No. 74 after peaking at No. 53 during the last week of October. It was the last time Tempo made the charts; Stevens – billed only as “April” – would reach No. 93 with “Wake Up And Love Me” during the summer of 1974.

‘Good Night, Mrs. Calabash . . .’

September 20, 2011

Being unsure which era to select this morning for a bit of chart digging, I began shuffling years in my head (and then looking to see how recently I’d visited those years). It had been a while since I’d tackled anything from the 1950s, so I started with the Billboard Hot 100 from September 21, 1959, fifty-two years ago tomorrow.

As the computer searched for that file, I wandered to the kitchen to refill my coffee cup, thinking: What do I recall or know about mid-September 1959? Well, I was in first grade, and it was about that time that Miss Rodeman had to be wondering how to engage a daydreaming boy who could already read at about a third-grade level.

A pretty slender thread, I thought, as I sat down and looked at that Hot 100. Well, there doesn’t always have to be a story. A vague link to a recent post is sometimes enough. And that’s what started our digging today, because the No. 1 record in Billboard on September 21, 1959, was “Sleepwalk,” which was the Saturday Single the last time I popped into the Echoes In The Wind studios.

So it seemed like a fine idea to stay right there and see what was lurking in the lower portions of the Hot 100 during one of the two weeks that Santo & Johnny’s instrumental topped the chart. Then, one of those records and a YouTube clip caught my attention, and that’s all we’re going to dig into this morning in kind of a disjointed, attention-shifting manner.

Between August 1957 and May 1958, Jimmie Rodgers had been about as hot as a recording artist not named Elvis Presley could be: “Honeycomb” was No. 1 on the pop chart for four weeks, No. 1 on the R&B chart for two weeks and went to No. 7 on the country chart. “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” went to No. 3 on the pop chart, No. 8 on the R&B chart and No. 6 on the country chart. “Oh-Oh, I’m Falling In Love Again” went to No. 7 on the pop chart, No. 19 on the R&B chart and No. 5 on the country chart. “Secretly” b/w “Make Me A Miracle” went to No. 3 on the pop chart, No. 7 on the R&B chart and No. 5 on the country chart. And “Are You Really Mine” went to No. 10 on the pop chart and to No. 13 on the country chart.

The more I re-read that preceding paragraph, the more astounding that nine-month sequence seems. And Jimmie Rodgers seems pretty much forgotten these days.

Anyway, by the time September of 1959 rolled around, Rodgers had tumbled some. Nothing he’d released since the previous August had hit the country or R&B Top 40s, and although he’d hit the pop Top 40 with a few records – “Bimbombey” had done the best, going to No. 11 – the general trend was downward. His September 1959 single, “Tucumcari” – featuring a pretty generic lyric of love lost and won over what sounds like a Bo Diddley beat – didn’t change that, peaking at No. 32. But it did provide a pretty cool television clip for those intrigued by American pop culture before rock ’n’ roll.

The clip, according to information harvested from tv.com and the Internet Archive, came from a December 6, 1959, episode of NBC’s series of specials titled Sunday Showcase. Besides Rodgers, those joining Durante during the show were Jane Powell, Ray Bolger and Eddie Hodges. (The special was televised in color, but only a black and white kinescope survives.)

I actually recall seeing Jimmy Durante on television more than once around that time, possibly even during this show. As I wrote in 2007, when Ian Thomas’ tune “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash” popped up during a random Baker’s Dozen:

“The title [of Thomas’ song] comes from a phrase used by Jimmy Durante (1893-1980), a singer, comedian and actor whose career began in vaudeville and continued through numerous radio and television shows and movies. Durante invariably closed his radio and television performances with the phrase, ‘Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.’ He never explained who Mrs. Calabash was, and – having seen Durante on some television shows as a young child – I always thought that was kind of neat and maybe even poignant.”

As it happens, Durante did explain his exit line in 1966, according to Wikipedia. On NBC’s Monitor, Durante revealed that the line was a tribute to his first wife, Jeanne, who died in 1943: “While driving across the country, they stopped in a small town called Calabash, which name she had loved. ‘Mrs. Calabash’ became his pet name for her, and he signed off his radio program with ‘Good night, Mrs. Calabash.’ He added ‘wherever you are’ after the first year.”

Here’s Durante closing that Sunday Showcase from December of 1959:

A Baker’s Dozen from 1976, Vol. 2

May 25, 2011

Originally posted December 12, 2007

I’m gonna talk football a little bit today. A while back, I assessed the on-going season of the Minnesota Vikings – a team I’ve rooted for since its inception in 1961 – as pretty dismal. The boys in purple had been thrashed 34-0 by the Green Bay Packers the day before I wrote, an outcome that left many Minnesotans resigned to another season of mediocrity.

Something unforeseen has happened since then. The Vikings have won four games in a row and now have a 7-6 record. Tavaris Jackson, the young quarterback whom I dismissed as being too raw and maybe not being good enough for the pro game is beginning to look like a decent quarterback. I’m even beginning to think that the second-year coach, Brad Childress, might have had an idea of what he was doing all along.

It generally doesn’t take an awful lot for those of us who follow the Vikings to poke our heads out of our burrows with a sense of optimism. I’m being cautious, though, which only makes sense when one is a Vikings fan. After all, the Vikings share the record for the most Super Bowls lost, four, with the Denver Broncos, but the Broncos also have two Super Bowl victories to their credit. And we fans remember the two times we had great teams that didn’t make it to the Super Bowl: in 1975 through a blown call and in 1998 through what I still think was poor coaching. Then add 2000, when a fairly good Vikings team lost what appeared to be a winnable playoff game through what looked to fans like simple disinterest.*

So I’m being careful, at least a little bit, this time. During the successes of the past month, I’ve spend a fair amount of time trying to decide whether the improvement I see in the Vikings is real or whether it’s a confluence of luck and schedule, making the seeming resurgence one of the cosmic jokes that the football gods sometimes play.

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know one thing that makes me nervous: People around the National Football League are starting to take the Vikings seriously. Peter King at Sports Illustrated put the Vikings into the seventh slot in his top fifteen this week. I heard someone say on television this week that the Vikings are the kind of team that no other team would want to play in the playoffs right now. And NBC has decided that the game between the Vikings and the Washington Redskins is significant enough to be the Sunday evening game on Dec. 23.

I’d rather no one noticed that the Vikings seem to be turning into a pretty good team. I’d prefer that the Vikes continue to sneak up on people. But visibility and relevance are nice worries to have, as it seemed just a month ago that the last weeks of the season would mean nothing at all here in the Northland. And, given the pleasant anxiety I and the rest of the Purple Faithful are beginning to feel, it seemed only right to share a Baker’s Dozen from 1976, which marked the last time the Vikings went to the Super Bowl.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1976, Vol. 2
“You Take My Heart Away” by DeEtta Little & Nelson Pigford from the soundtrack to Rocky

“Jeans On” by David Dundas, Chrysalis single 2094

“Lord Grenville” by Al Stewart from Year of the Cat

“Long May You Run” by the Stills-Young Band from Long May You Run

“Ride Me High” by J. J. Cale from Troubadour

“Show Me The Way” by Peter Frampton from Frampton Comes Alive

“Life Is What You Make It” by Side Effect from What You Need

“Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash” by Ian Thomas from Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash

“Cherchez La Femme/Se Si Bon” by Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, RCA single 10827

“Rocky Mountain Music” by Eddie Rabbitt, Elektra single 45315

“Dance the Body Music” by Osibisa from Ojah Awake

“Sheldon Church Yard” by Larry Jon Wilson from Let Me Sing My Song to You

“Tuscumbian Lover” by Pete Carr from Not A Word On It

A few notes on some of the songs and artists:

“You Take My Heart Away” was used as source music in Rocky. During a love scene between Adrian and Rocky in his apartment, this is the song that’s playing on the radio. It was released as a single (United Artists 941) but didn’t make the Top 40. I think it’s a nice track, but then, I’ve long thought that Bill Conti’s soundtrack to Rocky was one of the better soundtracks ever written.

“Jeans On” is a nice little bit of fluff that provided David Dundas with his only hit. The record reached No. 17 after moving into the Top 40 in late November 1976. I recall hearing it that winter, my first winter on my own, as I lived in an old house without central heat on the north side of St. Cloud. For that reason and no other, the sound of Dundas’ voice gives me chills.

Finding both Peter Frampton’s “Show Me The Way” and Dr. Buzzard’s “Cherchez La Femme/Se Si Bon” in this random list is entirely appropriate. The first of the two went to No. 6 in the spring and was the first of three Top 40 hits for Frampton in 1976. The Dr. Buzzard track hit the Top 40 in December and reached No. 27 in early 1977. A juxtaposition of the two gives one a pretty good idea of the range of sounds on radio that year, as disco was beginning to dance its way into the mainstream.

The title of the Ian Thomas track might need some explanation, though some of this can be inferred from the lyric. The title comes from a phrase used by Jimmy Durante (1893-1980), a singer, comedian and actor whose career began in vaudeville and continued through numerous radio and television shows and movies. Durante invariably closed his radio and television performances with the phrase, “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” He never explained who Mrs. Calabash was, and – having seen Durante on some television shows as a young child – I always thought that was kind of neat and maybe even poignant.

Several of the artists in today’s random selection are pretty obscure. Side Effect was an L.A.-based group that has a lot in common with Earth, Wind & Fire; Osibisa was a group from Ghana that mixed African and Caribbean influences into a fun sound; Larry Jon Wilson was a gritty southern singer-songwriter; and Pete Carr was, among other things, a member of the Hour Glass, Duane and Gregg Allman’s early band, and a well-known session guitarist.

*To that sad litany, Vikings fans can now add the fate of the 2009 team, when an ill-timed penalty for having twelve players in the huddle followed by the interception of an ill-advised pass by quarterback Brett Favre denied the Vikings a chance at a field goal that would have almost certainly put them in the Super Bowl. Note added May 25, 2011.

A Baker’s Dozen For Stu

April 17, 2011

Originally posted March 14, 2007

In my comments about debb johnson and its self-titled album Monday, I mentioned my college friend Stu. Over the years, I’d lost track of him, having last seen him in 1989 and otherwise not having spoken to him since, oh, 1976. I was teaching at a university in North Dakota in 1989, and I visited him and his wife, Nancy, while back in Minnesota during a quarter break.

Last week, when I found the album debb johnson in the stacks, I Googled him and found what looked like a good email address. I shot off a short note and got busy with preparing the album for posting, as well as preparing for my annual hockey day with my trio of friends. (A short note about that: Schultz won for the third year in a row, although I did get one of my teams into the semifinals!) And when I finished posting the album yesterday, I thought about Stu and the email, and I realized that with the generic subject heading of “Hello,” it likely had been caught by his Spam filter.

So I Googled again and came up with a phone number for his office. And he and I spent a delightful twenty minutes or so on the phone, catching up a little bit with news of children, parents and of thirty-one years of living. I explained how he’d come to mind, and he was pleased that his brother-in-law’s music is available again (as limited as the venue might be). I asked if he knew when the album was recorded. He wasn’t sure, but he agreed that my estimate of 1970 was probably pretty accurate. We promised to stay in touch, a promise I intend to keep.

It was wonderful to talk to him. There was no awkwardness, as there sometimes can be when old friends talk for the first time in years. And I thought that to mark that conversation – and what I hope will be a true renewal of a friendship that mattered a great deal to me when I was a much younger man and still does so today – I’d pull this week’s baker’s dozen from the year of 1976, when both of us graduated from St. Cloud State University:

“Beautiful Noise” by Neil Diamond from Beautiful Noise.

“The Final Bell” by Bill Conti from the soundtrack to Rocky.

“Homeward Bound” by Paul Simon & George Harrison on Saturday Night Live, November 20.

“Northbound Bus” by the Flying Burrito Brothers from Airborne.

“The Woman That Got Away” by J.J. Cale from Troubadour.

“Satisfied ’N’ Tickled Too” by Taj Mahal from Satisfied ’N’ Tickled Too.

“12/8 Blues (All The Same)” by the Stills/Young Band from Long May You Run.

“Sand In Your Shoes” by Al Stewart from Year Of The Cat.

“How Deep It Goes” by Heart from Dreamboat Annie.

“Forever Young” by Joan Baez from From Every Stage.

“Come On In My Kitchen” by David Bromberg from How Late’ll Ya Play ‘Til?

“You Can Have My Soul” by Carolyn Franklin from If You Want Me.

“Right Before Your Eyes” by Ian Thomas from Goodnight Mrs. Calabash.