These guys were one of the very few groups that could still successfully release hits against the British Invasion. Jerome “Anthony” Gourdine, known as Little Anthony had a unique voice and several incredible songs. Picking three was not easy, but let’s begin…
“Going Out of My Head” would be on everyone’s list, so take a minute to remember how great this song is.
Not so obvious is one of my favorites entitled “Take Me Back”. This is a remarkable melody, with terrific lyrics.
One of the interesting things I note about this group is that although The Imperials were ‘only’ the back up singers, they were a very important part of the act with their very involved vocals and their fantastic dance routines. Watch these videos and enjoy their moves.
Another ‘love gone wrong’ tune is my favorite named, “Tears on My Pillow”. This one really shows Little Anthony’s range. EMJOY, and excuse while I go seek out “Hurts So Bad” and “I’m on the Outside” to complete my collection.
During the summer of 2018, I was fortunate enough to attend the Happy Together Tour, starring The Turtles and featuring The Association, among others.
I mention The Association because they stole the show. The vocal talents of Terry Kirkman and Larry Ramos were unmatched during the 60’s and 70’s and have not diminished since.
The entire audience knew all the lyrics and calmly sang along to their beautiful ballads. If you look up ‘soft rock’ in the dictionary, surely this group’s picture would appear!
My 3rd Pick from The Association is Everything That Touches You. Enjoy the harmonies during this song. My eighth-grade experience was made better by this group and this song – slow-dancing was nerve-wracking but, in the end, worth it.
My 2nd Pick is this group’s biggest hit, Cherish (Is the Word). A simple love song of longing for the unobtainable, the use of chimes lending it an ethereal feel. The word ‘cherish’ is a beautiful term of endearment and the song Cherish lives up to that description.
My Number 1 Association Pick is Never My Love. This song was the second most played song during the 20th century! The studio band behind this song was The Wrecking Crew. Do yourself a favor… go see the documentary on Amazon Video called The Wrecking Crew. (I just gave you the hint of the year! Don’t miss this.)
Meanwhile, Never My Love was recorded by 16 different artists within a few years of its release. Everyone, including The Association, knew it was an easy hit.
The Association is touring and the details are available here…
I’ve been stressing out over this long enough so I’ve decided that I’ll pick 4 (that’s called “the power of the pen!”)
If music is supposed to be fun, then this is it… No big drama, just fun music to sing along to. Have some fun with these picks.
I saw Gary last summer at the Melody Tent in Hyannis on Cape Cod. He was part of the Happy Together Tour featuring The Turtles, The Association and Three Dog Night. Needless to say, a really fun night. Well, Gary’s voice has lost a little, but he was still rated an 8, down from the 10 we knew in the 60’s. BUT, his music still gets a 10 for fun to sing along with. You may be surprised that you know all the words of his songs!
Notably, in my top 4 picks, Gary does not fair very well in the game of love.
Okay, tied for number 3 are Woman, Woman and Young Girl. In one, his woman is cheating on him and in the other, the girl is too young… bad luck, bad love. BUT, great sounds. Listen to the very beginning of Young Girl and you will appreciate what a great voice he has… just silky smooth.
In second place, my pick from these guys is Over You. (Another sad love song.) BUT, again a lovely melody and strong vocals by Gary. You’ll enjoy this one a lot!
My number 1 pick from GP and The Union Gap is Lady Willpower… no surprise!
At the concert at the Cape last summer, Gary never sang the word WILLPOWER… He didn’t have to since 2200 of us handled that part of the song… LOUD AND CLEAR. Gary really showed his showmanship during this performance. He was focused on the audience, not himself, and wanted to ensure we all had a great time. The song still has plenty of energy and we all shared ours during this song.
By the way, at least in this song he has a chance for romance!
I have so many stories about THE DUPREES, but one of them is really special so that’s the one I’ll share…
I was working for Digital Equipment Corp in Boston and I had a small team in DC focused on the Federal business (Joan, Joel and Dennis). We were recapping the Super Bowl the first time the Giants beat my Patriots. Two of my reps in DC were ecstatic by the Giants win and I wondered why they weren’t Redskin fans.
As it turns out both were from the Jersey area originally. As we talked, Joel Kelly mentioned that his Dad was a singer in a Doo Wop group in the Jersey area in the early 60’s and had some success. He finally mentioned the group’s name – The Duprees – and that his Dad was Mike Kelly. I knew the group so well and within 30 seconds I had a YouTube up and running featuring Mike Kelly singing lead on a stool (see below).
Years later, Mike Kelly was very sick and Joel went to see him for the last time. During the visit, Joel asked his Dad to sign an autograph for a very passionate fan (me). It was Mike Kelly’s last autograph and is now one of my treasures! Thank you Joel and Mike! Two of my all time favorites!
Back to the music… My Number 3 from the Duprees is Have You Heard. Obviously this poor guy is still hung up on his old girlfriend and wonders what anyone knows about what she’s been up to. Long, sad story, but a great song. Many, many groups have recorded this song, but none better than these guys!
My number 2 tune from the Duprees is Goodnight My Love, a very pretty song with high energy mixed in. This is a wonderful song with some incredible lyrics. Just enjoy… and smile.
My Number 1 choice, You Belong To Me, is SPECIAL. It is in my TOP TEN all time! It is in the ‘perfect song’ category and has proven to be timeless. The lyrics, the melody and the vocals combine for perfection. The harmonies are almost haunting. This song is really the sound of the 60’s, with a touch of Doo Wop. You can sing along with this one… Enjoy.
Record companies, not to mention insurance companies, have long recognized the link between motor vehicles, teenage operators, and unfortunate results. For the insurance guys this has resulted in higher rates & claims. For the record industry it’s led to a bunch of hit records, particularly in the late ‘50s & early ‘60s.
For oldies aficionados, few names evoke a more immediate response than J. Frank Wilson – “the Last Kiss guy”. Not much of a recording career, but when you place #2 on the Billboard Top 100 for 1964, who cares – this song is the KING of the ‘Crash & Heartbreak’ segment forever. BTW, the line “I gotta be good so I can see my baby when I leave this world” has always frightened me a lot – jeez, I hope that’s not how it works. Anyway, here’s J. Frank and his biggest hit:
The next selection is designed to wring every ounce of teenage angst out of the listeners and it clearly succeeded because when it was released in 1959 it was actually banned on a host of radio stations because it was “too sad”. It eventually fought its way through to the top of the Billboard Charts but wow, “too sad” to play??? Speaks to the era, I guess.
Teen Angel is a simple story song with a tragic plot: car stalls on the railroad tracks, boy & girl make it out safely, girl gets creamed when she goes back to fetch his HS ring. Hey look, people die all the time trying to save pets, so who are we to judge her motive (I’m sure it would have taken months to get the ring replaced & by then – who knows – he might have moved on). Anyway, grab some tissues and listen up:
Although it’s clear that guys are always driving (I mean, we’re talking ‘50s-‘60s) so far it’s been the girls who’ve paid the price. Now it’s time to turn the tables with the Shangri Las’ ballad about that bad boy, The Leader of the Pack.
Pretty thin story line but it’s tough to convert a modern-day tragic tale (good girl, motorcycle hood, dad hates him, skid, crash) into Romeo & Juliette…UNLESS someone has overlaid the song onto video from Marlon Brando’s Wild One movie. The song’s still a top pick but the video makes it better (listen but don’t watch if you’re a purist):
Interesting history of Jay & The Americans… it does not matter which Jay you are talking about (there were three of them), the vocals of this group have been rated with the very best in the history of rock and roll. Cara Mia has always been a fan favorite as Jay holds that famous high note to cheering audiences.
Originally, John “Jay” Traynor started the group, but he left before the group had their biggest hits. David Black came in to replace him and changed his stage name to “Jay” Black and led the group to several megahits. Finally in 2006, John “Jay” Reincke joined the group and did a lot of touring with the group. Jay Black also tours singing the hits he made famous!
I got to see these guys at a corporate Holiday party and they led off with Roy Orbison’s Crying (my favorite song), which they did to perfection. They continued to impress throughout the entire show…BTW, the horn section was outstanding!
My first pick from Jay & The Americans should be no surprise… Walking in the Rain. Everyone knows the lyrics and is ready to sing along, without much prompting needed. It is fun, light and romantic. What’s not to like? I hope you’ll enjoy this song.
My second pick is another of the group’s classic hits,,, This Magic Moment. This song from 1969 was their last top ten hit. Jay Black continues to sing this in his live appearances, but the original recorded version is still the very best.
My third pick may be a surprise… Some Enchanted Evening, originally from the Broadway & Hollywood classic, South Pacific. I really enjoy Jay’s rendition of this song and the accompanying video has some scenes that capture the essence of the lyrics. Once again the vocals of this group carry the day. I think you’ll love this version, especially if you’ve ever seen the play or movie!
Any write up about Jay & The Americans would be incomplete without a mention of their other super songs, Cara Mia, She Cried and Come a Little Bit Closer. All classics and fun to hear and sing along with, anytime!
Flight of Fancy – imagine that in the late 1800s all promising British authors were funneled into a single publishing house – Londontown – because no one else would take a chance on Brits. Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Hardy, Conan Doyle, Stevenson, Kipling, Stoker, Wells, Verne, Wilde. And Londontown pumped out bestsellers at a pace theretofore unequaled because it ignored the prejudice against Brits, focused on the talent, and people LOVED it.
Fast-forward to the 1960s–90s and the real-world, real-company that created the real-funnel of incredible black talent into their studios – Motown. Londontown didn’t happen because it wasn’t necessary – Motown did happen because it was necessary – and, man, was it good at focusing on the talent.
Just like the Brit authors, it’s pretty much impossible to “rate” Motown artists – so for me at least it all comes down to memories & the songs that pop to mind right this minute.
‘My Girl” by the Temptations will always be #1 on my Motown list. Memory: junior year at college, 8 am Sunday morning before Temptations afternoon concert, all alone standing behind David Ruffin to buy a newspaper at the quad. Tall, slim, shades and wearing a leather jacket with fringe – absolutely the coolest guy I’ve ever seen. And then, later that afternoon he stepped forward & sang this.
Smokey Robinson is the quintessential Motown artist, i.e., the best – song writer, producer, performer – the perfect representative. His songs cut through macho bravado and address feelings that guys actually have but never express – tough terrain. I think the best of his very long list of great tunes is “Just To See Her”.
One of the first & most unforgettable Motown songs from my youth was a boy-girl duet that continues to make the rotation on pop stations to this day. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, is classic Motown R&B and is certainly on the short list of most important records produced by the label. Plus, of course, it’s a really cool song.
Thanks, Motown, for creating such a great platform for the dozens of artists you sponsored through the years – unbelievable variety of talent, unforgettable list of songs.
The better the performer(s), the tougher the challenge to PICK 3! That is the case with the Everly Brothers. Don and Phil teamed up for so many hits starting in the late 50’s with Bye Bye Love (1957) and leading to On the Wings Of A Nightingale in 1984, which was a song written by Paul McCartney. Who can forget Cathy’s Clown and All I Got To Do Is Dream among many others?
Paul Simon, who was influenced by their music and a huge fan said: “… they witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll.” John Lennon and Paul McCartney were influenced by these guys and referred to themselves as “the English Everly Brothers”. In fact, for Please Please Me they based the vocal arrangement on Cathy’s Clown.
The brothers were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. Along the way, they had their issues, but still produced some of the very best music for 50 plus years. Phil died in 2014 from lung disease and Don has retired to a quieter life.
My number 3 pick is Walk Right Back… I love how you know the song right from the very first note, then their harmonies take over. My favorite part of the song is the change of tempo halfway through the song. I love the line…”Bring your love to me, don’t send it.” Very cool lyrics. I am sure you’ll enjoy this golden oldie…
My number 2 pick is Let it be Me. The opening line says… “I bless the day I found you.” What more can you say? This is a love song of the highest order. This was the song that The Everly Brothers usually used to close their shows, except for their very last show when they closed their very last performance with Sam Cooke’s You Send Me. The rendition I attached here really shows the emotion that they intended us to experience. This from their show in Melbourne, Australia. Enjoy!
As difficult as it was to pick 3 from The Everly Brothers, picking number 1 was easy! No doubt about it… Crying in the Rain. One of my TOP 10 of All Time! My only complaint is that it is too short, so whenever I put it into a playlist I need to enter it twice, back to back!
You will love the version that I offer here since it was from the Ed Sullivan Show when the guys were in their marine uniforms. The vocals in this recording might be overlaid from the actual recording because it sounds every bit as good.
Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley joined voices to form The Righteous Brothers back in 1962. Their musical style was soon dubbed ‘blue-eyed soul’ and they delivered that smooth, soulful sound throughout their entire careers. Sadly Bobby past away in 2003 in a Vegas hotel room during a tour. Bill continues to perform their classic hits for audiences throughout the country, with emphasis on Las Vegas market.
Picking 3 from their portfolio was fun for me. I’ve always had some favorites and I’m happy to share with you Pick #1… “Just Once in My Life”. This song features Bill’s deep baritone voice, perfectly complimented by Bobby’s alto during the chorus that softens the melody perfectly. My favorite lines are:
“I’ve given up on schemes, ’cause all of them fell through
I’ve given up so many things, don’t ask me to give up on you.”
Pick #2 is Ebb Tide. This song is all about Bobby. His range is unmatched and his tone is haunting. No one has ever recorded this song any better. This is the perfect match of performer and track.
Thanks, Bobby, R.I.P.
Before I share the last pick in this sequence, I would encourage you to experience “I Believe” by these guys. You will not be sorry.
Pick #3 was easy… Unchained Melody. This might be the perfect song! It was written in 1955 by Alex North and Hy Zaret and recorded by hundreds of artists. These guys did it in 1965 and had great success with it, but when it came out as the score for the movie “Ghost” it became immortal.
I needn’t say more… this is Bobby at his very best. Listen up.
With some artists, Picking 3 is difficult because you do not want to discredit all your other favorites from that artist. That is the case for me with Gene Pitney. Next to Roy Orbison, Gene has been one of my favorites since eighth grade. Gene’s voice is so distinctive and his lyrics so crystal clear that you can’t help but enjoy the stories he tells in every song.
While his career got derailed by the ‘British Invasion’ of the mid 60’s, Gene found enthusiastic audiences in the UK and Australia that extended his career into the 90’s. In fact, one of his best songs, “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart” was recorded in 1989! Despite declining popularity in the US, I’m delighted to report that Gene was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, an honor he richly deserved.
My first pick from Gene is the song that defined his career and will forever be his flagship recording… “Town Without Pity”. Most people over 50 know the words and everyone over 50 knows the story line. You can’t listen to it without swaying back and forth just a little. It’s a true masterpiece with a fun melody and perfectly articulated lyrics. My favorite line is “Before this gray and granite planet falls apart”.
“Half Heaven Half Heartache” is my second choice… my favorite part of this song is the violins and the background instrumentals. This song features Gene’s distinctive voice and again some superb lyrics.
To fully appreciate my third pick, “I’m Gonna Be Strong”, you need to listen to it all the way to the very end! You will not hear many singers ramp up four octaves to exit a song like Gene does in this one. Throughout this tune, Gene builds the intensity and drama until his unforgettable conclusion! ENJOY!
QUICK PITNEY ANECDOTE: For years I was convinced that Gene Pitney must have moonlighted and sang the lead on the song “Black is Black” by Los Bravos. I would scour the internet, trying to confirm my suspicions. BUT, alas, I could not find any evidence that my “scoop” had any validity. Still, I always wondered if I would ever learn more…
Roll the tape forward another five years…
I was driving and listening to an Oldies station and there was a taped interview with Gene Pitney playing. He relayed this story… He was driving in his car and he heard the song “Black is Black” on the radio. It caught his attention and he turned the volume up. Then he immediately called his manager and asked him, “When did I record this song? I don’t remember doing it.” Clearly he was wrong!
Clearly, I was wrong too, but at least I was in very good company!
The challenge to Pick 3 from Lesley Gore turns out to be easy for me… how about “You Don’t Own Me” three times! If anyone has a cutting-edge song, it would be Lesley and this defiant, quasi-threatening proclamation of female independence from the early 1960s.
This song, with lyrics ranging from a relatively quiet “you don’t own me” to a more definitive ‘DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO” was her very best recording, and it served as an early harbinger that times were-a-changin’ – women were drawing lines. Leslie’s not saying ‘leave me alone’, she’s simply saying, quite clearly, ‘hold on there, buster’. Just listen…
At 16 years old, Lesley’s talent caught the attention of Quincy Jones at Mercury Records. He produced her first hits (‘It’s My Party’ and ‘Judy’s Turn to Cry’) as well as ‘She’s a Fool’ and finally ‘You Don’t Own Me’ – all of which were million sellers. Add ‘Maybe I Know’ to this list and you have her best 5 recordings.
Lesley was a super star during the early American Bandstand days, and everyone knew and sang the lyrics to all her songs. If you grew up during the period, then you fully understand how her music was an absolute ‘must’ for a properly designed dance party or, more specifically, Make Out Party.
Even though Lesley was a teen sensation at 16, she was smart, independent, and headed off to complete her college education. She attended the exceptionally rigorous & academically challenging all-girls (at the time) Sarah Lawrence College. I have no idea what her major was but I suspect it included at least a dash of Finance, since million sellers tend to require familiarity with figures.
While all of her five best recordings speak of conflicted relationships, it seems likely that Lesley left any and all conflicted relationships behind her once she met Lois Sasson, her long term partner.
Lois was the person who was by Lesley’s side at the very end and orchestrated the announcements and final arrangements. No ‘inside’ information here about their relationship, but there is every reason to believe that Lesley and Lois were very happy together.
As far as actually picking Leslie’s top 3, I can’t decide what my second choice would be, so here’s my two choices that are tied for second place… ‘She’s a Fool’and ‘Maybe I Know’. Enjoy them both.
Let me know what you think…Let me know what you remember… Let me know what you feel…
“Oldies” used to signify some kind of ballroom dancing, where the last thing you’d ever hear was “Let’s Go Nuts”.
Sorry if that’s what you’re looking for, but “oldies” to me means “vintage” which means “proven” which means any time in the past 50+ years which, for some of us, means “blow the doors off”. Here’s a taste for the wild-men out there:
“Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. There’s simply no other song that captures its era better – sex, drugs, and rock n’roll – GO FOR IT, BABY!
“Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard. If you don’t think this is among the best R&R songs EVER, we need to talk.
And then we come to Ayl Rose…scary, huh? Makes me uncomfortable too. But this is one kick-ass song! Guns n’ Roses – Sweet Child o’ Mine
Face it, the world would be a much duller (and quieter) place without guitars and skinny, drugged-up guys screaming into a mic. Let me know if you agree (or not).
Pick 3 from Roy Orbison – this is tough for me since he is my ALL TIME FAVORITE singer! No questions! No hesitation! (Feel free to add your two cents.)
The casual fan may think of Roy as the master of ‘love-lost’ ballads, but my first pick, and one of my favorite Roy songs, details how Roy was the big winner in love… RUNNING SCARED. (Roy also wins the girl in “Pretty Woman”.)
I think this song is great as it builds into an enormous crescendo and then “You turned around and walked away with me.” Unbelievable story line, incredible vocals, really remarkable back-up vocals and a bass beat you can’t forget. Roy used to end his concerts with this song because he could leave the stage to that driving beat. Simply fantastic.
My second pick is CRYING. I picked this song simply because I think this is Roy’s best vocal performance ever and the song itself is truly outstanding. Plus, of course, who can forget the eighth-grade make-out parties where this song provided the “slow dance” opportunity to do a whole bunch of first-time stuff with your first-time steady?
“You Got It”
My third pick is YOU GOT IT. Thank you Jeff Lynne for leading Roy back to the recording studio and giving us this key step in Roy’s resurgence in 1987.
This song, along with King of Hearts, Mystery Girl and his work with The Traveling Wilburys put the world on notice that Roy was back, better than ever. And the entire music community eagerly welcomed him with open arms!
Roy died on December 6, 1988… as Michael Jackson said in his song, Gone Too Soon! What 3 would you pick from Roy?
Pick 3 from Brenda Lee – this one is easy for me despite the fact she could break your heart with a rendition of the Marine’s Hymn. My favorites are, in order (give a listen),
I'm Sorry - Brenda Lee
“I Want To Be Wanted”
I Want To Be Wanted - Brenda Lee
“All Alone Am I”
All Alone Am I - Brenda Lee
“The little girl with the huge voice” was the moniker constantly assigned to Brenda Lee, After her father’s death when she was 10, Brenda – and that huge voice – became the primary bread winner in her family.
Her big break came when – at 10 years old -she went to see Red Foley perform in Augusta in 1955. A local disc jockey persuaded Foley to hear her sing before the show, and Foley was as transfixed as everyone else who heard the huge voice coming from the tiny girl so he immediately agreed to let her perform “Jambalaya” on stage that night, unrehearsed.
Foley later recounted the moments following her introduction:
“I still get cold chills thinking about the first time I heard that voice. One foot started patting rhythm as though she was stomping out a prairie fire but not another muscle in that little body even as much as twitched.
“And when she did that trick of breaking her voice, it jarred me out of my trance enough to realize I’d forgotten to get off the stage. There I stood, after 26 years of supposedly learning how to conduct myself in front of an audience, with my mouth open two miles wide and a glassy stare in my eyes.”
The audience erupted in applause and refused to let her leave the stage until she had sung three more songs.
A few months later Brenda signed a contract with Decca records, but it took until 1959 for Brenda to start her string of chart topping hits with “Sweet Nothings”, “I Want To Be Wanted”, “All Alone Am I” and “Fool #1”.
You could say that Brenda Lee was a victim of the English invasion, as the Beatles arrived in 1963 and forever changed the musical landscape of America. But, what a career! From Rock to Country, Brenda Lee has left her mark for all of us to enjoy.