Posts Tagged ‘Sir Douglas Quintet’

Tales From The Stage

May 16, 2012

Originally posted April 8, 2009

As seventh grade entered its home stretch in early 1966, I tried out for the school play. I’m not sure what prompted me to do so, but I ended up with a role in a comedy titled No More Homework!

I recall almost nothing about the play’s plot. I do recall the names of a few of my fellow cast members. And I remember very clearly that I played the role of Faversham Lightly, Jr., a less-than-dedicated student whose main pleasure was sleep. In the play’s first act, Faversham goes into the supply closet in search of something, and a ruckus in the hallway draws the attention of the faculty, the staff and the audience. Some hilarity and mild suspense ensues.

Near the end of the third act, the suspense leads one of the faculty members to gingerly enter the supply closet. And she runs from the closet back into the office, screaming about a ghost. At which point, young Faversham emerges rubbing his eyes, having slept away the day (and the entire second act, if I am recalling this correctly). Faversham’s sleepy reappearance from the closet got the largest laugh each of the two nights we presented the play.

There’s nothing quite like drawing laughter and applause when one is being purposefully funny. It’s intoxicating and addictive. So through ninth grade, I was a regular on stage at South Junior High. I had a bit role in the next year’s production, a musical entitled Plenty of Money, and as a ninth-grader, I had the comedy lead in On With The Show, a musical that takes place in a circus. I made the local daily, as the St. Cloud Times ran a picture of me being terrified at the sight of Tina the Snake Charmer’s pet.

The production being a musical, I even had a song to perform solo. I still remember most of the words to “Let Me Live the Life of a Clown.” (There are those, I imagine, who would claim that I’ve met that goal, albeit not in the sense the song had in mind, with floppy shoes and a big red nose.)

And then, it was over. During high school, I moved my extracurricular efforts to the locker room as an athletic manager. About half-way through my senior year, encouraged by friends who were auditioning, I did try out for a role in a Woody Allen play, Don’t Drink the Water, and I was cast as the comedy lead. The director and the wrestling coach were both cooperative, each allowing me an occasional absence so I could take part in both activities at the same time. And I enjoyed the rehearsals and the two or three performances. But the rush wasn’t there.

And even though the roles I had as a senior and in ninth grade were larger and more challenging, I don’t think I’ve ever drawn a louder round of laughter and applause than I did when Faversham Lightly, Jr., stumbled sleepily back on stage in the spring of 1966.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, April 9, 1966)

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by Otis Redding, Volt 132 (No. 34)

“I Hear Trumpets Blow” by the Tokens, B.T. Puppy 518 (No. 36)

“The Rains Came” by the Sir Douglas Quintet, Tribe 8314 (No. 52)

“Rhapsody in the Rain” by Lou Christie, MGM 13473 (No. 55)

“Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)” by Edwin Starr, Ric-Tic 109 (No. 62)

“Dirty Water” by the Standells, Tower 185 (No. 120)

By using horns in place of Keith Richards’ thick guitar lick, Otis Redding turns “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” into an R&B anthem and almost steals the song away from the Rolling Stones. Redding’s version had peaked at No. 31 – his second Top 40 hit – and was heading back down the chart by the second week of April; he’d have eight more Top 40 hits, four of them coming after his death in a December 1967 plane crash.

“I Hear Trumpets Blow” is an odd single, one that I’d not been familiar with until recently. The Tokens had reached No. 1 in 1961 with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” but the best they could do five years later with “Trumpets” was No. 30. It turned out to be the only hit the Tokens had on their own record label, B.T. Puppy. They returned to the Top 40 in the spring of 1967 with “Portrait of My Love,” which went to No. 36, and three of the four Tokens formed Cross Country and took a cover of “In The Midnight Hour” to No. 30 in 1973. (As long as I’m sort of on the topic, my blogging colleague Any Major Dude recently posted a fascinating account of the long and sometimes unsavory history of the “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Check it out.)

“The Rains Came” is another record that I’d not known until recently. The name of the Sir Douglas Quintet might have fooled a few listeners into thinking the group was part of the British Invasion, but – to a discriminating listener – the music is nothing but Tex-Mex, with that organ part chirping all the way through. Leader Doug Sahm and his pals took “The Rains Came” as high as No. 31, the group’s second of three hits. “She’s About A Mover” went to No. 13 a year earlier, and “Mendocino would reach No. 27 in the spring of 1969.

The version of “Rhapsody in the Rain” offered here is the original version, the one that got parents and radio stations all heated up in the spring of 1966. Harry Young, who wrote the liner notes of Lou Christie’s greatest hits album, Enlightningment, says: “‘Rhapsody in the Rain’ . . . had the honor of being banned. Why? Because, as WLS Program Director Gene Taylor put it in Time magazine, ‘There was no question about what the lyrics and the beat implied – sexual intercourse in a car, making love to the rhythm of the windshield wipers.’” Young adds, “The lyrics only said ‘We were making out in the rain’ and ‘Our love went much too far.’ Nevertheless, the ‘dirty’ lyrics were changed to ‘We fell in love in the rain’ and ‘Our love came like a falling star.’” Young also noted that the bowdlerized version of the single was slower and lower-pitched. The record, which would become Christie’s fourth Top 40 hit, was heading up the chart in the second week of April and would eventually peak at No. 16.

“Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)” didn’t quite get Edwin Starr into the Top 40; the record had peaked at No. 48 a couple of weeks earlier. Writer Dave Marsh called “Stop Her On Sight” “one of the best non-Motown Motown discs ever cut.” Marsh also says that even though Starr’s first hits came on Ric-Tic – a “minor league” Detroit label – “every inflection established that Motown was embedded in the grooves of [Starr’s] destiny.” In just a few years, Starr’s Motown work would hit the Top Ten, with “Twenty-Five Miles” reaching No. 6 in 1969 and “War” topping the chart for three weeks in 1970.

There are only a few things to note about the Standells’ “Dirty Water.” First, it had a long climb ahead of it, as it eventually reached No. 11. And then, it’s got one of the great – and sometimes overlooked – opening riffs in rock history, and it’s a great record beyond that riff. Finally, a record this good has to be in the running for the title of greatest one-hit wonder of all time. Maybe not the top spot – I’d have to think about it – but in the running.

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Sir Douglas, Johnny, Flirtations & Waldo

March 16, 2012

Originally posted March 5, 2009

I found some interesting stuff at YouTube this morning:

Here’s a video of a live performance of “Mendocino” by the Sir Douglas Quintet. The viewer who posted it simply said it was from 1970. That’s close, but it’s actually from an episode of Playboy After Dark that was taped January 25, 1969. I had an inkling that it was from PAD just from the visual style, but a few glimpses of Barbi Benton throughout the video and the sight of Hugh Hefner dancing with Barbi in the last seconds clinched it.

(The Quintet also performed “She’s About A Mover” on the show. The rest of the show had Dr. George R. Bach, a psychologist who in 1969 published the book Intimate Enemy: How to Fight Fair In Love and Marriage; actor Michael Caine; actress and singer Meredith MacRae, who would perform “Goin’ Out Of My Head;” actor Greg Mullavey, who was in the 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice; comedian Mort Sahl; comedian Sammy Shore; and the Clara Ward Singers, who would perform “Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”)

I couldn’t find any video of Johnny Rivers performing “These Are Not My People,” but here’s Rivers doing a pretty decent version of “Secret Agent Man” on a David Letterman episode that looks to have taken place while Letterman was at NBC years ago. (One note at YouTube says this performance was part of the July 19, 1989 episode on NBC. In the absence of anything else, I’ll accept that.)

Although I can’t post it here, I found an interesting video put together for the Flirtations and their hit, “Nothing But A Heartache.”

And I found a video with a very limited visual but an audio track that has Waldo de los Ríos doing for the Fourth Movement of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World” that he did for Mozart in the single I posted Tuesday. It comes from de los Ríos’ 1970 album, Sinfonias.*

Tomorrow, we’ll either dig into the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1977 or else take a look at another album by Jim Horn. In addition, I’m planning to repost a number of albums, based on some request I’ve gotten. If you have any requests, go ahead and leave them, and I’ll put them on the list. This is something I hope to do periodically. (Due to requests from some performers and/or copyright holders, there are some albums I will not repost.)

*The Waldo de los Ríos video posted here is different from the video originally posted. The visuals are less limited but nevertheless are rather odd. Note added March 16, 2012.

Some Tunes From Forty Years Ago

March 16, 2012

Originally posted March 4, 20009

It’s one of those days.

I’ll be back with some videos tomorrow, and Friday, we’ll see what the sunrise brings. There will be words and music, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s some tunes – some certainly familiar, some likely not – from this week in 1969.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, March 8, 1969)
“The Worst That Could Happen” by the Brooklyn Bridge, Buddah 75 (No. 22)
“Cloud Nine” by Mongo Santamaria, Columbia 44740 (No. 32)
“Mendocino” by the Sir Douglas Quintet, Smash 2191 (No. 45)
“These Are Not My People” by Johnny Rivers, Imperial 66360 (No. 64)
“Nothing But A Heartache” by the Flirtations, Deram 85038 (No. 93)
“As The Years Go Passing By” by Albert King, Atlantic 2604 (No. 137)

The Brooklyn Bridge was an eleven-member group that I’ve seen called a “horn band.” There were saxophones and a trumpet in the group, but to me the sound isn’t quite what I’d call a horn band. Maybe I need to listen to the group’s entire first album again, see what I hear. Anyway, lead singer Johnny Maestro had found some earlier success with the Crests (seven Top 40 hits including “Sixteen Candles,” which went to No. 2) before fronting the Brooklyn Bridge. “The Worst That Could Happen” went to No. 3.

I’ve posted a couple of Mongo Santamaria tracks before; I find his combination of hit songs – in this case, from the Temptations – and Latin rhythms fascinating. “Cloud Nine” was his second and – as it turned out – last Top 40 hit; it peaked at No. 32. His earlier hit was a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” which had gone to No. 10 in 1963.

“Mendocino” was the third and last Top 40 hit for the Sir Douglas Quintet. It peaked at No. 27, not as good as the group’s first hit, “She’s About A Mover,” which had gone to No. 13 in 1965, but better than second, “The Rains Came,” which stalled at No. 31 in 1966. The quintet’s moving force, Doug Sahm, went on to a long career as a guitarist, composer, arranger, performer and music historian before passing on in 1999.

As far as I can tell, the Johnny Rivers track never appeared on an album, but I could be wrong. Written by Joe South (and included on his great 1968 album, Introspect), the song sounds almost Dylan-esque in its lyric and arrangement. I keep hearing echoes of “Positively Fourth Street” and “Like A Rolling Stone” as I listen, and the arrangement owes a little bit, in spots at least, to Blonde on Blonde. Wherever the inspiration came from, it’s a great song and a great single. Few others heard it that way, and the record peaked at No. 55.

The Flirtations had a fairly long and active recording career in the 1960s and 1970s, according to All-Music Guide. A good deal of their success evidently came in England, where I think they were well-favored (or “well-favoured,” as it would have been) among devotees of the genre tagged Northern Soul and wound up on the Deram label. “Nothing But A Heartache” had some success on both sides of the Atlantic, peaking at No. 34 in the U.S. and giving the Flirtations their only Top 40 hit.

“As The Years Go Passing By” is a classic blues song, and Albert King – about as good a bluesman as you could find, especially on guitar – does it well. The song is sometimes credited to King, but its listed composer is Deadric Malone. That turns out to be a pseudonym for blues and R&B producer and writer Don Robey, who founded the Peacock record label in Houston, Texas, and later merged it with Memphis-based Duke Records. King’s version of “As The Years Go Passing By” was pulled from his 1967 album Born Under A Bad Sign, which came from various sessions at Stax with Booker T & the MG’s and the Memphis Horns. The single stayed at No. 132 for two weeks, never even cracking the Hot 100.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Moving

May 28, 2011

Originally posted December 24, 2007

Although many people in the U.S. and the rest of the world that observes Christmas are now at their destinations, I’d wager that nearly as many are still in motion, heading toward their holiday celebrations with that odd mixture of anticipation, anxiety and exasperation that holiday travel brings.

When I was a kid, our holiday traveling was simple: driving about a hundred and thirty miles from St. Cloud to my grandfather’s farm near the small southwest Minnesota town of Lamberton. Some years, we’d go down to the farm a week or so before Christmas, and then – during my teen years and later – we’d head down on Christmas Eve.

Either way, we marked Christmas Eve with a dinner of creamed lutefisk over potatoes. Lutefisk is a Scandinavian dish, one that tends to put off those not raised in the Nordic tradition. It begins with dried whitefish that is then rehydrated in solutions of first, cold water; second, water and lye; and third, cold water again. The rehydrated fish is then baked, flaked and stirred into a cream sauce and served over potatoes. The aroma of lutefisk baking is pungent and distinctive; it is also for me the scent of Christmas Eve at Lamberton. If I ever smell it again, I will in an instant be in that farmhouse two miles outside of town where I spent my first eighteen Christmases.

Looking back, although the times we went to the farm in the days before Christmas were fun – there was always something to explore out in the barnyard, and trips into town with Grandpa almost always resulted in a treat of some kind – my memory tends to settle on those years when we made the three-hour trek to Lamberton on Christmas Eve itself. Each of the small cities on our route had its holiday decorations up, brightening the way through town, and along the way – in the cities and out on the farms that we saw across the snowy fields – houses, other buildings and trees were strung with brightly colored lights.

As we drove through the gathering dark of the late December afternoon, we listened – as did nearly all Minnesotans, as I’ve mentioned before – to WCCO, the Minneapolis radio station. With our headlights slicing through the dimness ahead, we’d hear the announcer note, on a regular basis, that military radar had once again observed the presence of a high-flying object setting out from the North Pole. By the mid-1960s, my sister and I no longer believed in a flesh and blood Santa Claus, but I think that we both smiled every year when we heard the radio bulletin. It was part of our Christmas Eve.

And so was movement. We drove through the late afternoon, heading toward lutefisk and then a church service, then gifts, and the next day, a large family dinner. Christmas itself meant resting in a familiar place, but Christmas Eve meant moving, whether it was the motion of a fictional Santa Claus from the North Pole or the motion of the mid-1960s auto carrying me and my sister toward our place of Christmas rest.

A Baker’s Dozen of Moving
“Diamond on the Move” by Pete Rugolo from Music From Richard Diamond, 1959

“I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town” by Little Milton from We’re Gonna Make It, 1965

“She’s About A Mover” by the Sir Douglas Quintet, Tribe single 8308, 1965

“Move to Japan” by The Band from Jericho, 1993

“I’m Movin’ On” by Elvis Presley from From Elvis in Memphis, 1969

“Train Keep On Movin’” by the 5th Dimension from the Up, Up and Away sessions, 1966 & 1967

“Move ’Em Out” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends from D & B Together, 1972

“We Shall Not Be Moved” by Mavis Staples from We’ll Never Turn Back, 2007

“She Moves On’ by Paul Simon from The Rhythm of the Saints, 1989

“You Got To Move” by Koerner, Ray & Glover from One Foot in the Groove, 1997

“Moving” by Howlin’ Wolf from The Back Door Wolf, 1973

“Never Make A Move Too Soon” by B.B. King, ABC single 12380, 1978

“Something In The Way She Moves” by Matthews’ Southern Comfort from Second Spring, 1969

A few notes on some of the songs and performers:

“Diamond on the Move” is from an album of music from a late 1950s television show. Richard Diamond, Private Detective was on first CBS and then NBC during the years 1957 to 1960, following a stint on radio from 1949 to 1953. I don’t recall ever seeing the show, but I came across a rip of music from the soundtrack some time ago and thought it was kind of cool.

The Sir Douglas Quintet was the vaguely British-sounding name that producer Huey Meaux gave to Doug Sahm and his band in 1965 in order to compete with the vast number of hits coming into the U.S. from England during what was called the British Invasion. There was nothing of the Mersey River in the work of Texans Sahm and his band; their river was the San Antonio. But the song went to No. 13 and musical polymath Sahm had a long career until his death in 1999.

“We Shall Not Be Moved” comes from one of 2007’s greatest albums, Mavis Staples’ extraordinary tribute to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, We’ll Never Turn Back. With help from the original vocalists of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee – called in the 1960s the SNCC Freedom Singers – as well as from South Africa’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo and roots musician extraordinaire Ry Cooder, Staples’ album is both a joy and a moving historical document. “We Shall Not Be Moved” is an adaptation of the old song “I Shall Not Be Moved,” which some sources list as traditional but that other sources credit to the Charley Patton, the Delta bluesman of the 1920s and 1930s. I don’t normally post things recorded so recently, but this is too marvelous to pass by.

The Howling Wolf track comes from The Back Door Wolf, the last album the massive bluesman recorded before his death in 1976.