Artist Profiles, Broadcasting, Music, Radio, Retro Rock, Virginia Artists

Tommy Holcomb: Roanoke’s Marvelous Music Man

All photos on this message are courtesy of Tommy Holcomb.

If you have lived in central or southwestern Virginia over the past 50 plus years, chances are you have heard music written by Tommy Holcomb. The Roanoke, Virginia native has created hundreds of musical TV/radio commercials, which have been aired throughout Roanoke/Lynchburg media markets, as owner of Tommy Holcomb Productions.

Holcomb musical talent is much more than just creating ads for clients. He is also a founding member of two successful Roanoke pop/rock/folk bands during the 60s, 70s and 80s: The Vikings and Woodsmoke.  Holcomb’s journey creating music is renowned among those associated with history of the rich Roanoke music scene.

Tommy Holcomb performing in Atlanta, Georgia 1975
When Glen Campbell came to Roanoke. From left: Tommy Holcomb, Rita Matthews, Glen Campbell, Nancy Holcomb Fisher and Jack Fisher.

I had an opportunity to conduct a phone interview with Holcomb earlier this month, as we discussed a musical career spanning over 60 years. I have known Tommy since 1975.  We first met at WROV 1240 AM Roanoke, when Holcomb was delivering a commercial that he produced to the radio station where I was employed.

Vikings cover of Simon & Garfunkel song, “Keep the Customer Satisfied.”

Holcomb’s musical roots started the summer before his senior year at Patrick Henry High School in 1961. Tommy started a band named the Vikings, along with his fellow classmates Allen Nelms and Lane Craig.

The Vikings band as a trio. Sometime in early 60s.

After Nelms and Holcomb graduated from high school, the young adults left Roanoke to attend the University of Virginia (UVA). The Vikings occasionally played gigs together, when Nelms and Holcomb were in college at UVA between 1962 and 1966.

Vikings cover of Linda Ronstadt & Stone Poneys song, “Some of Shelly’s Blues.”

Upon graduation from college in 1966, Holcomb and Nelms returned to Roanoke and resurrected their Vikings band. One of the guys joining this new version of the band was the legendary WROV 1240 AM DJ Fred Frelantz.  Another prominent person that was added to the Vikings was Joy Ellis in 1969.

The Vikings Band in 1972.

For the next 7 years, the Vikings became the house band for the historic Coffee Pot Roadhouse restaurant and concert venue.  The band signed a recording contract with London records during 1967.

During the early 70s, Holcomb’s Vikings band recorded a couple of albums before the group broke up in 1975.  Forward to 1982, the Vikings came back together again and held a series of reunion concerts at Caesar’s Club in Roanoke. After the success of those shows, the band decided to resume performing live concerts.

Vikings band continued playing shows during the mid 80s, and the group changed their name to “Roanoke” when they signed a record contract in 1984.  The following year, two singles were released but received limit airplay locally on the biggest Top 40 station in the Roanoke Lynchburg market: K92 FM 92.3. Consequently, these songs did not chart nationally.

The Vikings band at Caesar’s Reunion 1982

The final ending for the band became reality in 1986, with the tragic, untimely death of group member Fred Frelantz.  For a complete history of the Vikings band, I am providing a link to an article that Holcomb wrote for the Roanoker Magazine in 2006, that is reprinted via the WROV History Online Website.

Fred Frelantz and the Vikings: Mr. Bojangles (Video produced after his death)
Woodsmoke band during mid 70s.
Medley of Woodsmoke songs.

The other band that Holcomb was associated with during the 70s is Woodsmoke. Along with Joy Ellis, the band was formed in 1975 and attracted a younger audience than patrons who came to attend Holcomb’s original Vikings band shows.

The Vikings performing at Festival in the Park concert, Downtown Roanoke.

While Holcomb is known for his singing and playing in Roanoke bands since the 60s, he is not just a one trick pony.  Equally as impressive is his creative talent writing music with Tommy Holcomb Productions.

Vikings cover of Kingston Trio song, “Scotch and Soda.”

In the field of advertising, Tommy has created hundreds of commercials featuring his musical genius. Before starting his own ad agency, Holcomb joined fellow Vikings band member Fred Frelantz, to work at Creative Advertising in Roanoke.

During his time at Creative, Holcomb wrote a musical jingle for Smartwear clothing store. Tommy enlisted his Vikings bandmates playing music and utilized Joy Ellis on vocals for the spot.

Smartwear music jingle ad 1971

Much to the surprise of Holcomb, his Smartwear commercial actually won a national ad agency award in 1971.  After his multiple success writing musical spots at Creative, Holcomb decided to launch out with his own ad agency.

Over the years, Holcomb has created many wonderful, catchy musical ads.  Below is a Roanoke jingle medley, a compilation of various musical ads that Holcomb has produced.

Roanoke Jingle Medley of Tommy Holcomb created musical ads.

Three years ago, Holcomb was honored by the Roanoke chapter of the American Advertising Federation (AAF), with its Silver Medal Award.  This AAF 2019 achievement recognized Tommy’s “outstanding lifetime contributions to advertising furthering the industry’s standards, creative excellence, and responsibility in areas of social concern.”

Tommy Holcomb doesn’t just write music for advertising.  He also has written songs about and for the city of Roanoke.

Vikings cover of Nilsson song, “Without You.”

Roanoke’s centennial happened in 1982 and Holcomb was commissioned by the Virginia City to write a song for the 100-year celebration. The composition is called “Roanoke Shining Through.” A YouTube video of this tune features paintings by Eric Fitzpatrick and photographs by Terry Aldhizer.

Another excellent tribute to Roanoke is a song written and performed by Holcomb called “Looking Back.”  Tommy fondly remembers living in the “Star City of the South” during younger years.

During 2011, Holcomb tried his hand in radio and hosted a show called Retro Roanoke Radio (RRR) on Sunny FM 93.5. The format of the weekly program had Holcomb playing 60s/70s oldies, talking about Roanoke in the 20th Century, airing musical spots he created and interviewing pop/rock artists.

Some of the artists that Holcomb interviewed on RRR were Davy Jones, Melanie, Petula Clark, Anne Murray and Robbin Thompson.

Compilation of Retro Roanoke Radio Interviews by Tommy Holcomb 2011.

For the past 15 years, Holcomb has been the Music Producer for the Miss Virginia Pageant. Seven years ago, Tommy wrote an orchestra score for one of Virginia’s official state songs: “Our Great Virginia” written by Mike Greenly. Miss Virginia contestants performed this arrangement during the 2015 pageant.

Woodsmoke band in the mid 70s.

An excellent podcast I want to recommend is episode 3 of the Larry Dowdy Mic Side podcast, where the retired popular Roanoke area DJ interviews Holcomb.  There is superb interchange of information provided by Dowdy and Holcomb with this Mic Side episode.

Last official Vikings photo prior to Fred Frelantz death.

It is clear to me that Holcomb exemplifies humility, as he has woven an awe-inspiring tapestry of living experiences within the area of music.

Vikings cover of Tanya Tucker song, “Delta Dawn.”

As I reflect upon Holcomb’s music legacy, he has enriched the lives of countless Roanoke residents with musical magic. For over 60 years, Holcomb has continued to share his music talent with folks all across the Roanoke Valley and Southwestern Virginia.

Without a doubt, Roanoke continues to be blessed, receiving wonderful gifts of harmonies and melodies by this marvelous music man:  Tommy Holcomb.

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Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1972: Outstanding One Hit Wonders

Photo above by Julianne Woodson

I am amazed by the popularity of one hit wonders, and how the topic brings back nostalgic memories for many folks. Three articles that I have written over the past couple of years, about 1969, 1970 and 1971 one hit wonders, are among my most viewed messages of all-time.

With this edition of my musical musings, I am concentrating on the best “one hit wonders” of 1972.  I will be counting down the top songs in this category from 50 years ago.

WROV Roanoke DJ Staff Summer 1972. Photo courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett

I have fond memories listening to Top 40 radio during 1972.  I turned 17 that year and lived in Roanoke County, Virginia. During daytime hours, I was a regular listener to a couple of local Top 40 AM radio stations:  WROV and WBLU.

My go to station was legendary WROV 1240 AM, which was the top-rated radio outlet in Roanoke. The WROV DJs that I remember during 1972 include Bart Prater, Larry Bly, Dan Alexander, Ron Tompkins, Phil Beckman and Charlie Bell. 

DJ Bart Prater WROV Roanoke: July 10, 1972

WBLU 1480 AM was the other Top 40 outlet in the Roanoke radio market. The only times that I listened to WBLU was traveling via school bus to and from Glenvar High School, and during an afternoon art class that I took during my junior year.

At sundown, WROV reduced their power and WBLU signed off the air, so I tuned in radio stations located hundreds of miles away from my Virginia home. Since radio waves changed on a nightly basis, I would listen to a variety of 50,000-watt, clear channel AM stations on any given night.

There were three main stations that I listened to during the nighttime:  WLS 890 AM Chicago, WCFL 1000 AM and WABC 770 AM New York. On the Big 89 WLS, I remember DJs John Records Landecker, Fred Winston, Chuck Buell and JJ Jeffries.  When tuning in WCFL, I would listen to Larry Lujack, Big Ron O’Brien and Bob Dearborn.  With WABC, I regularly heard Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow) and Dan Ingram.

WCFL Chicago Survey August 26, 1972. Courtesy of Pete Battistini: Author of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem (The 1970’s).


A Top 40 radio station that is memorable to me in 1972 was WAPE 690 AM Jacksonville.  My family was on vacation in Florida during July ’72 and I talked my parents into letting me visit the WAPE studios that was located in Orange Park. Since it was my dream to become a DJ once I graduated from high school, getting to visit the “Big APE” was extremely exciting for me.

 During my tour of WAPE, I got to meet music director and afternoon DJ Cleveland Wheeler, who gave me a quick look around the station. Then before leaving, Wheeler allowed me to view the “Big APE” main studio, where Larry Dixon was working his midday DJ shift.

 My visit to WAPE was influential in my pursuit to make radio a career. Less than two years later, I landed a job with WROV Roanoke in April 1974. I was thankful that I had the opportunity to tour the “Big APE” during the summer of 1972.

WAPE Jacksonville Survey February 16, 1972: Courtesy of Daniel McCarthy: Top 40 Radio Surveys Worldwide

What exactly is a “One Hit Wonder?” The basic definition: An artist has only one hit song on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart during their career. This music blog message pertains solely to hit songs within the United States.

To avoid any confusion, here are the criteria that I am using to define a one hit wonder:

  • No other songs from an artist ever peaking at number 40 or higher on the Billboard National Pop Chart. (Chart positions from number 40 to number 1).

  • One hit wonders vary from country to country. An artist may have just one hit in the United States but may have multiple hits in another country.

  • Regional hits are not taken into account: A second song must be a national hit and chart within the Billboard Top 40 pop survey.

  • Any songs peaking outside of the Top 40, are always excluded for consideration.

  • Songs that peak from numbers 41 through 100 on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart are never considered as second hits.

All documentation of chart positions I share below in this article comes from The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn.  I proudly own a hard copy of this excellent reference manual, which I consider to be the ‘bible” handbook for music history with Top 40 radio.

When I started researching the topic of 1972 one hit wonders, I found some interesting data. There happened to be no artists with only one hit, among the 20 biggest songs from 50 years ago. Below are the top records for 1972, according to Billboard magazine:

1          “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”            Roberta Flack

2          “Alone Again (Naturally)”       Gilbert O’Sullivan

3          “American Pie”           Don McLean

4          “Without You”               Nilsson

5          “The Candy Man”       Sammy Davis Jr.

6          “I Gotcha”       Joe Tex

7          “Lean on Me”  Bill Withers

8          “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me”      Mac Davis

9          “Brand New Key”        Melanie

10        “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast”        Wayne Newton

11        “Let’s Stay Together”  Al Green

12        “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”  Looking Glass

13        “Oh Girl”         The Chi-Lites

14        “Nice to Be with You” Gallery

15        “My Ding-a-Ling”        Chuck Berry

16        “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right”  Luther Ingram

17        “Heart of Gold”           Neil Young

18        “Betcha by Golly, Wow”         The Stylistics

19        “I’ll Take You There”   The Staple Singers

20        “Ben”   Michael Jackson

Before I start sharing my 1972 one hit wonders countdown, I need to correct inaccurate information on the topic.  Some Internet sites erroneously give 1972 one hit wonder status to songs and artists with multiple Top 40 hits. Clearly, the two singles listed below ARE NOT 1972 ONE HIT WONDERS:

  1. Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)—Looking Glass 

One of my all-time favorite epic story songs from the 70s is actually a two-hit wonder. During the summer of 1972, “Brandy” was a number 1 song.   Looking Glass had a follow up hit in 1973 with “Jimmy Loves Mary Ann” which peaked at number 33 on the Billboard Hot 100. If “Brandy” had truly been the only hit for Looking Glass, it would have made #1 on my 1972 one hit wonder countdown.

  • Layla—Derek & the Dominoes

It is absurd to place Eric Clapton as a one hit wonder. Clapton is the writer, singer and lead guitarist for the song “Layla” which was recorded under his band’s name of Derek & the Dominoes. The only 3-time member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, had 16 Top 40 solo hits, including covering his song “Layla” in 1993. The legendary guitarist also charted multiple top 40 hits, as a member of Cream and the Yardbirds. Absolutely, Eric Clapton is NOT a one hit wonder.

As I surveyed all true one hit wonders from 1972, I found 13 high quality singles that are on my countdown. These are songs that I deem to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. Ahead of my countdown beginning, I want to share some extra songs that didn’t make my Baker’s Dozen listing.

Amazing Grace by Royal Scots Dragoon Guards peaked at #11 on Billboard Hot 100 in 1972

Novelty records that were one hit wonders in 1972:  

•          Jungle Fever—The Chakachas

•          How Do You Do—Mouth and Macneal

•          The Delegates—Convention 72

Six-extra ’72 one hit wonders. These selections are all quality songs, that fell just outside of my Baker’s Dozen countdown:

  • White Lies Blue Eyes—Bullet
  • Small Beginnings—Flash
  • Easy Livin’—Uriah Heap
  • Run Run Run—Jo Jo Gunne
  • Hallelujah—Sweathog
  • Suavecito—Malo

Without further ado, here are what I consider to be the 13 best one hit wonders from 1972. My Baker’s Dozen countdown starts now:

13. Hot Rod Lincoln—Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100: #9, 69th Biggest Hit of 1972

Novelty tune. Commander Cody’s band combines country, rock, pop and western swing genres of music. Lyrics describe illegal auto racing in California.

12. Popcorn—Hot Butter

Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100: #9, 28th Biggest Hit of 1972

First of two instrumental tunes on the countdown. Music composed by Gershon Kingsley.  Conductor Stan Free utilizes a Moog synthesizer on this song.

11. Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues—Danny O’Keefe

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #5 Adult Contemporary #9 Hot 100 in 1972

Folk singer-songwriter from Spokane, Washington. Danny O’Keefe has written hundreds of songs recorded by other artists: most prominent include Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, John Denver, Jackson Browne and Glen Campbell.

10. Motorcycle Mama—Sailcat

Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100: #12, 89th Biggest Hit of 1972

Southern rock band from Alabama. Song written by Sailcat member John Wyker. The group decided to break up in 1973, after “Motorcycle Mama” was their only Billboard Hot 100 chart success.

9.   Day by Day—Godspell

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #8 Easy Listening, #13 Hot 100 in 1972

Cast from the Off-Broadway musical Godspell, are featured on this folk-rock ballad. Parables from the biblical book of Matthew provide lyrical content for this successful anthem.

8.   Beautiful Sunday—Daniel Boone

Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 #15, 42nd Biggest Song of 1972

English pop musician. Daniel Boone named “Most Likable Singer” by Rolling Stone magazine in 1972. According to Wikipedia, “Beautiful Sunday” is the biggest selling single by an international artist in modern Japanese musical history.

7.   Thunder and Lighting—Chi Coltrane

Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 #17, Cash Box #15, Record World #12

Pianist, singer-songwriter with rock and gospel music genres. American Chi Coltrane was known as “The First Lady of Rock” in the United States and the “Queen of Rock” throughout Europe during the 70s.

6.   Sunshine—Jonathan Edwards.

Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 #4, 37th Biggest Song of 1972

Country folk-rock song.  Jonathan Edwards was born in Aitkin, Minnesota. Opened up tours for the Allman Brothers Band and B.B. King after “Sunshine” became a hit tune.

5.   Joy—Apollo 100

Peak Positions on Billboard Hot 100 #6, 71st Biggest Song of 1972

The second instrumental song on the countdown.  “Joy” It is an up tempo contemporary rendition of a 1723 composition by Johann Sebastian Bach called “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

4.   Precious and Few—Climax

Peak Position of Billboard Hot 100 #3, 30th Biggest Song of 1972

Soft rock band from Los Angeles, California. Lead singer of Climax was Sonny Geraci, who also provided lead vocals on the song “Time Won’t Let Me” from his former band the Outsiders during 1966.

3.   Bang a Gong (Get It On)—T. Rex

Peak Position of Billboard Hot 100 #10, 56th Biggest Song of 1972

Originally named Tyrannosaurus Rex, the English glam rock band shorten their name to T. Rex in 1969. Song written by front man Marc Bolan. Among one of the best glitter rock singles from the 70s.

2.   The City of New Orleans—Arlo Guthrie.

Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 #18, 45th Biggest Song of Year

Late singer-songwriter Steve Goodman portrays a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans on the Illinois Central Railroad and their legendary “City of New Orleans” rail line.  The song was written in 1971, after Amtrak took over servicing the famous railroad route from Illinois Central. Arlo Guthrie’s biggest Top 40 hit.

  1. Hold Your head up—Argent

Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 #5, 50th Biggest Song of 1972.

As a founding member of the Zombies, Ron Argent was keyboardist and a chief song-writer for his British rock band.  He penned 3 of the Zombies biggest hits:  “She’s Not There”, “Tell Her No” & “Time of the Season.”  

In 1969, Ron Argent left the Zombies and formed a new rock band, named after himself:  Argent. Three years later, the band released the album “All Together Now” which featured Argent’s only song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100: “Hold Your Head Up.”

Here is what legendary keyboardist Rick Wakeman proclaims in a Louder Sound Dot COM quote: “Rod (Argent) is a good friend, and I’m not just picking people because they’re my mates, I’m picking this because it’s brilliant. The organ solo in “Hold Your Head Up” is, for me, one of the finest organ solos on a record. It’s brilliantly put together, and from an era where you couldn’t go back and correct notes and redo things. It’s a true solo. A little work of art, so it has to go in. It’s just brilliant, so good.”

The first time that I heard Argent’s song was via radio, on WAPE Jacksonville and the Big APE played it multiple times the week I was on vacation in Florida (July ’72).   I loved the song when it was a hit and still have fondness for the tune nearly 50 years later.  Without a doubt, my top number 1 outstanding one hit wonder from 1972 is “Hold Your Head Up” by Argent.

Now that I have humbly submitted my countdown of 1972 one hit wonders, I am curious to find out your opinion on this topic. Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique.  The songs that you feel are the best may be completely different from my selections.

 What do you consider to be the best one hit wonders from 1972?  There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.

I leave you with lyrics from a 1972 Mac Davis authored song, “I Believe in Music” that pop rock band Gallery covered during 1972: “Music is the universal language, and love is the key, to peace hope and understanding, and living in harmony.”   Rock on!

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Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

Supreme Disco Hits of the 70s

Photo above by Julianne Woodson

Over the years, I have had many conversations about 70s disco music with friends or acquaintances. At some point during those types of musical discussions, I will ask the question: “What do you consider to be the best Top 40 disco hits of the 70s decade?”

Responses to my inquiries about the greatest disco hits will vary but many folks will choose multiple songs by the same artist, when selecting their favorite 70s disco tunes.

While there isn’t anything wrong with picking multiple songs from the same artist in a listing of the best disco songs from the 70s, I am choosing different methodology in coming up with my own compilation of superior disco singles.

Eagles had a number 1 hit in 1975 with “One of These Nights” which features a disco beat.

For this music blog message, I will be counting down what I consider to be the 20 best disco singles by 20 different artists. Here are the rules and criteria that I have set forth for this musical exercise:

  •  Each artist, group, band or singer will have just one song listed on the top 20 countdown.
  • All selections were hits on Top 40 radio and charted at number 20 or lower on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • I deem each of my selections to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant.
  • Song charted nationally on Billboard Hot 100 between 1975 and 1979.
Kiss had a top 10 disco hit in the summer of 1979 with “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.”

The term “disco” is shorthand for the word discothèque, a French word for “library of phonograph records.”

Please note that I will not be giving a complete history of disco music with this message. For those who long for more information, there are multiple books, articles and links via the Internet on this topic.

Electric Light Orchestra reached #8 on Billboard Hot 100 in 1979 with “Shine a Little Love.”

Genesis of disco music wasn’t instantaneous but evolved during the first years of the 70s.

Below is a partial listing of Top 40 hits that were precursors to the formation of disco between 1971 and 1973.

  • Theme from Shaft—Isaac Hayes
  • Funky Nassau—The Beginning of the End
  • Rock Steady—Aretha Franklin
  • Jungle Fever—Chakachas
  • Soul Makossa—Manu Dibango
  • Superfly—Curtis Mayfield
  • Papa Was a Rolling Stone—The Temptations
  • Masterpiece—The Temptations
  • Love Train—The O’Jays
  • The Love I Lost—Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

During the first few months of 1974, a couple of proto-disco songs became hits on top 40 radio. Both tunes reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100:

  • Love’s Theme—The Love Unlimited Orchestra (Barry White)

  • TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)—MFSB and the Three Degrees

During April 1974, I landed my first job in radio, working for Top 40 WROV Roanoke (1240 AM). For the next 18 months, I witnessed firsthand the tremendous growth of disco music at Roanoke’s top rated Top 40 outlet.

Dave Woodson playing records at Top 40 WROV Roanoke remote broadcast. Discount Records Tanglewood Mall.

One of the most popular songs that I played during the summer of 1974 on WROV is “Rock the Boat” by the Hues Corporation. This up-tempo classic R&B/Soul tune was number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is considered by some music historians as the earliest disco song to be a mainstream hit.

Another landmark recording of disco music from the summer of 1974 is “Rock Your Baby” by George McCrae.  Co-written and produced by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch of KC & the Sunshine Band, the song sold over 11 million copies worldwide.

Other Top 40 disco hits in 1974:

  • Never Can Say Goodbye—Gloria Gaynor
  • You’re the First, The Last, My Everything—Barry White
  • When Will I See You Again—Three Degrees
  • Kung Fu Fighting—Carl Douglas

It was during the summer of 1975 that I realized that disco music was going to be huge, when “The Hustle” by Van McCoy was the number 1 song in Roanoke and nationally on the Billboard Hot 100.

My radio station WROV had a remote broadcast at the Kings Inn, a nightclub on Salem Avenue in downtown Roanoke.  I was engineer for this 3-hour remote and spun 45-rpm singles, which included all of the top 10 songs from the WROV playlist.

When I played Van McCoy’s number 1 hit during the first 15 minutes on the Kings Inn remote, just about every patron at the nightclub went on the dance floor to “do the hustle.” Because of the overwhelming positive response when I played the disco hit, Kings Inn management requested that I spin “The Hustle” a few more times before the remote was scheduled to end.

After I consulted with my fellow WROV staff members, I broke the station’s format and played “The Hustle” two other times that evening.  Close to 100 percent of everyone in the building danced on my second and third plays of Van McCoy’s hit.  Needless to say, disco music was alive and well in Roanoke that night at the Kings Inn.

The Royal Kings were the house band for Roanoke’s 70s premier nightclub, the Kings Inn. Photo is a scan from a Roanoke Times newspaper article, provided to me by band member Larry Wheeling, who is pictured above.

Other Top 40 disco hits in 1975:

  • Pick Up the Pieces—Average White Band
  • Lady Marmalade—LaBelle
  • Express—BT Express
  • That’s the Way (I Like It)—KC & the Sunshine Band
  • Fly, Robin, Fly—Silver Convention
  • Jive Talkin’—The Bees Gees

My time playing disco records ended in November 1975 as I accepted a full-time radio job with AM/FM combo WRIS 1410 and WJLM 93.5 Roanoke.  However, I still tracked the genre of music listening to various Top 40 stations including WROV, WLS Chicago and WABC New York.

Before I reveal my countdown of supreme disco hits, I am sharing ten songs that I considered for the Top 20 but didn’t make the cut.  These selections are listed in random order with no repeat artists:

  • Disco Inferno—The Tramps
  • Car Wash—Rose Royce
  • Miss You—Rolling Stones
  • Don’t Leave Me this Way—Thelma Houston
  • I Love the Nightlife—Alicia Bridges

  • Knock on Wood—Amii Stewart
  • Who Loves You—The Four Seasons
  • Turn the Beat Around—Vickie Sue Robinson
  • Ain’t No Stopping Us Now—McFadden & Whitehead
  • Ring My Bell—Anita Ward

All documentation of chart positions I share below, comes from The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn.  I proudly own a hard copy of this excellent reference manual, which I consider to be the “bible” handbook for music history with Top 40 radio.

I now present what I consider to be the top 20 best disco songs from the 70s. As Casey Kasem used to say on his American Top 40 show, “Now on with the countdown.”

20.  Best of My Love—The Emotions (1977)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 3rd Biggest Song of 1977

Written by Maurice White and Al McKay of Earth Wind & Fire.  Won Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance. Billboard proclaims “Best of My Love” at number 1 on the “Top 40 Biggest Girl Group Songs of All Time” list.

19.  More, More, More—Andrea True Connection (1976)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #4 Hot 100, 17th Biggest Song of 1976

Signature song for Andrea True. International hit. Excellent horn section on tune. Canadian alternative rock duo Len sampled “More, More, More” on their 1999 hit “Steal My Sunshine.”

18.  Got to Give it Up—Marvin Gaye (1977)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 20th Biggest Song of 1977

Marvin Gaye’s first recording of disco. Falsetto vocals. Outstanding percussion instrumentation with R&B/Funk guitar riffs. Worldwide smash. Number 1 song on 3 Billboard charts.

17.  Love Hangover—Diana Ross (1976)

Peak Positions on Billboard Hot 100: #1 Hot 100, 15th Biggest Song of 1976

Superb bass line. Tempo of song starts as ballad, changes to fast groove. Motown’s first disco hit.  Fourth Billboard Hot 100 number 1 hit for Diana Ross as a solo artist.

16.  Boogie Nights—Heat Wave (1977)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #2 Hot 100, 93rd Biggest Song of 1977

Funk/Disco international band. Two members from United States, three from European Countries and one Jamaican. “Always and Forever” and “The Groove Line” were two other smash tunes by Heat Wave.

15.  Dancing Queen—ABBA (1977)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 12th Biggest Song of 1977

ABBA’s most recognizable and popular song. Inducted into Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015. Melodic tune and excellent vocal harmonies by Swedish quartet. Reached number 1 in 14 countries around the world.

14.  Lowdown—Boz Scaggs (1976)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #3 Hot 100, 49th Biggest Song of 1976

Co-written by Boz Scaggs and David Paich. Song is categorized in multiple musical genres. R&B, Disco, Jazz and Yacht Rock. Won a Grammy Award for best R&B song.

13.  Got to Be Real—Cheryl Lynn (1979)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #12 Hot 100, 69th Biggest Song of 1979

Considered a one hit wonder. Cheryl Lynn was former gospel singer. Discovered on the Gong Show in 1976. Song inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

12.  Ladies Night—Kool & the Gang (1979)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #8 Hot 100, 35th Biggest Song of 1979

American Funk/R&B band. First of 3 top 10 hits for group during 1979/1980. An anthem for disco bars and nightclubs. Promoting female patrons to venues all across America.

11.  We Are Family—Sister Sledge (1979)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #2 Hot 100, 53rd Biggest Song of 1979

Siblings Debbie, Joni, Kim and Kathy Sledge from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Lyrics express family solidarity. Signature song and biggest hit for Sister Sledge.  Selected by the National Recording Registry/Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant” in 2017.

10.  Shake Your Groove Thing—Peaches & Herb (1979)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #5 Hot 100, 31st Biggest Song of 1979

A reformed Peaches & Herb duo formed in the 70s with new singer Linda Greene joining founding member Herb Fame. “Shake Your Groove Thing” and “Reunited” were mega hits for the R&B/disco pair during 1979.

9.    Shame—Evelyn “Champagne” King (1978)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #9 Hot 100, 64th Biggest Song of 1978

 Singer born in The Bronx, New York City. Evelyn King had four Top 40 hits. None bigger than “Shame.” Song features excellent saxophone section and superb bass line. R&B/Funk smash single.

8.    Get Down Tonight—KC & the Sunshine Band (1975)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 64th Biggest Song of 1975

The first of 5 number 1 hits on Billboard Hot 100 for South Florida band. Fast tempo. Excellent guitar solo.  Superb mixture of R&B, funk and disco.

7.    I Will Survive—Gloria Gaynor

Peak positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 6th Biggest Song of 1979

Lyrics have become an anthem for female empowerment. Inducted into Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2016.  “I Will Survive” received a Grammy Award for “Best Disco Recording.”

6.    Good Times—Chic (1979)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 20th Biggest Song of 1979

Written by Chic band members Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers. Song has legendary bass line riff and is one of the most sampled tunes in music history. 

Backing track from “Good Times” was used on the first Top 40 hip-hop hit, “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang.  Comes in at number 68 on Rolling Stone “Greatest Songs of All Time” list.

5.    Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough—Michael Jackson (1979)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 91st Biggest Song of 1979

Produced by Quincy Jones and written by Michael Jackson.  It was the biggest solo hit of the 70s by the “King of Pop.”  Musically, it features a six-piece horn ensemble of saxophones, trumpets and trombone.  A sterling string section also adds to the rich sound on this tune.

“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” was a world-wide hit, and helped pave the way for Jackson’s superstar status during the 80s.  The singer received a Grammy Award for “Male R&B Vocal Performance” with this popular disco smash.

4.    Heart of Glass—Blondie (1979)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 18th Biggest Song of 1979

 Brilliant “New Wave” meets “Disco” mix by New York rock band. Magnificent combination of synthesizers, drum machine and guitar. Blondie’s singer Debbie Harry shines on vocals.

“Heart of Glass” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015. It was the first of 4 number 1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 for the 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band.

3.    September—Earth Wind & Fire (1979)

Peak Positions of Billboard Charts: #8 Hot 100, 78th Biggest Song of 1979

“September” is a quintessential song with multiple genres of music:  R&B, Soul, Funk, Jazz, Disco and Yacht Rock.  Upbeat, feel-good groove. Philip Bailey and Maurice White share lead vocals on this successful song.

Highlighted by transcendent saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar and keyboards. Earth Wind & Fire’s most beloved song, was added to Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry list of sound recordings in 2018. 

2.    Stayin’ Alive—The Bee Gees (1978)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 4th Biggest Song of 1978

Coming in second on the countdown is my selection by the Bee Gees. Written by brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, biggest song from the “Saturday Night Fever” motion picture soundtrack. Great guitar hook with a pulsating beat.

“Stayin’” Alive” is one of the most iconic disco songs from the 70s. Rolling Stone ranks it at number 99 on their “Greatest Songs of All Time” listing. Placed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. This signature song from the Bees Gees, is my second-best disco single of the 70s.

  1. I Feel Love—Donna Summer (1977)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #6 Hot 100, 96th Biggest Song of 1977

When I think of the greatest disco artist from the 70s, there is only one person who fits that bill: Donna Summer.  The “Queen of Disco” was one of the leading female vocalists during the disco era of music and then extending into the early 80s.

“I Feel Love” is one of the most influential songs of the 20th century.  Music historians believe that the 1977 disco hit, had a major impact in the development of electronic dance music (EDM).  Many who chronicle music history, consider the Donna Summer single to be the first ever recorded EDM song.

Summer’s ground breaking song also had a significant impact with other genres of music, such as New Wave, Punk Rock, Synth-Pop, House, and Disco, during the late 70s, early 80s and beyond. 

Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte produced and co-wrote “I Feel Love” along with Donna Summer.  The use of a Moog synthesizer, with a repetitive beat, gives the tune a hypnotic, rhythmic feel, that was popular on disco dance floors all across America.

Without a doubt, I proclaim that “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer is the most supreme disco hit from the 70s.

After I finished compiling information for the 20 songs listed above, I realized an interesting fact. Over the past 5 years, I have regularly played many of these songs at wedding receptions, class reunions and other similar events where I am hired for DJ gigs.  My 20 selected disco tunes are still popular with those who want to dance.

Now that I have humbly submitted my countdown of the top 20 supreme disco songs of the 70s, I am curious to find out your opinion on this topic. Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique on what I consider to be the best disco songs. The songs that you feel are the best may be completely different from my selections.

I am asking for your opinion: What do you consider to be the best disco songs from the 70s? There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.

If you are a fan of 70s disco music, I welcome your comments below.  I leave you with these lyrics by Alicia Bridges and Susan Hutcheson: “I love the nightlife, I got to boogie on the disco ’round.” Disco on!

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Music

Best Epic Story Songs from Top 40 Radio Golden Age

What do you consider to be the best 45-rpm single in the category of epic story song during the golden age of Top 40 radio?

Many would select “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin as it is arguably one of the greatest classic rock songs of all-time.  However, the most iconic tune from the “Led Zeppelin IV” album was never released as a 45-rpm single.

Another tune that some music critics would point out as the best epic story song would be “A Day in the Life” from the Beatles.  Of course, there were no 45-rpm singles released from the 1967 legendary Fab Four, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.

Although, “Stairway to Heaven” and “A Day in the Life” are outstanding epic songs that tell a story, neither song meets the criteria of being released as a 45-rpm single.  Both legendary songs were only available for purchase on “long play” 33 1/3-rpm record albums.

The golden age of Top 40 radio (1965 to 1980) is the time period that I am using for selecting the best epic story songs. All selections were hits on Top 40 radio and charted at number 30 or lower on the Billboard Hot 100.

I will be counting down my favorite epic story songs into two silos.  My first list will feature songs less than 5 minutes long. The second countdown will consist of selections over 5:00 in length.

In the early days of Top 40 radio, 45-rpm singles generally averaged under 3 minutes long. Eventually, record companies started releasing singles longer in length. “Like a Rolling Stone” from Bob Dylan was the first 45-rpm single over 6-minutes long and the iconic tune peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965.

Three years later in 1968, there were two smash hit singles that broke the 7-minute mark. “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris at 7:21 in length, peaked at number 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

Then came the first 7-minute long single to reach the number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100: “Hey Jude” by the Beatles.  The song spent 9 weeks at the top spot in America and was the biggest selling single of 1968.

As the 70s decade started, some of the biggest top 40 hits were story songs that were 5-minutes or less in length.

  • Tie a Yellow Ribbon round the Old Oak Tree—Tony Orlando & Dawn
  • Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia—Vicki Lawrence
  • Me and Bobby McGee—Janis Joplin
  • The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down—Joan Baez
  • Bad Bad Leroy Brown—Jim Croce

Some of the most superb epic top 40 hits during the 70s, just didn’t develop a good story line. Eric Clapton’s song “Layla” falls into this category.  The Derek and the Dominoes summer of 1972 hit has excellent guitar playing but contains weak lyrical content.

For the remainder of this message, I will be counting down two sets of epic story songs.  My first listing will be songs that are all 5-minutes in length or less. The second list will be comprised of singles over 5-minutes long.

All documentation of chart positions I share below in this article, comes from The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn.  I proudly own a hard copy of this excellent reference manual, which I consider to be the ‘bible” handbook for music history with Top 40 radio.

With my two countdowns of epic story songs, I am sharing my personal favorites. Songs which I deem to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. Now it is time to reveal my first countdown: Best epic story songs that are less than 5 minutes in length:

10.  In the Ghetto—Elvis Presley

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1969:  #1 Hot 100:  35th Biggest Song of Year

Describes the vicious cycle of poverty, violence and despair.  With an inner-city Chicago newborn, growing to adulthood.  Comeback hit for the “King of Rock and Roll.”

9.    Take the Money and Run—Steve Miller Band

Peak Position on Billboard Charts for 1976:  #11 Hot 100: 98th Biggest Song of Year

Message about two bandits being pursued by a detective.  Couple heads to El Paso and then south, possibly to Mexico or beyond.  Lead single from the “Fly Like an Eagle” album.

8.    Eleanor Rigby—The Beatles

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1966:  #1 Hot 100:  90th Biggest Song of Year

Baroque Pop. John Lennon and Paul McCartney lyrics are commentary on loneliness, isolation and despair. Double A-side single with “Yellow Submarine.”

7.    You’re So Vain—Carly Simon

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1973:  #1 Hot 100:  9th Biggest Song of Year

The signature song of Carly Simon. Describes a former lover who has a narcissistic personality disorder: Self-centered with vanity issues. Received Grammy Hall of Fame award in 2004. 

6.    Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)—Looking Glass

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1972:  #1 Hot 100:  12th Biggest Song of Year

Elliot Lurie of Looking Glass has an engaging story:  Brandy works in a seaport harbor town as a barmaid and the man she loves is a sailor. Unfortunately for Brandy, the seaman is never in port and honestly declared to her before leaving for the last time: “But my life, my lover and my lady is the sea.”

5.   City of New Orleans—Arlo Guthrie

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1972:  #18 Hot 100:  45th Biggest Song of Year

Late singer-songwriter Steve Goodman portrays a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans on the Illinois Central Railroad and their legendary “City of New Orleans” rail line.  The song was written in 1971, after Amtrak took over servicing the famous railroad route from Illinois Central. Arlo Guthrie’s biggest Top 40 hit.

4.   Harper Valley PTA—Jeannie C Riley

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1968: #1 Hot 100:  17th Biggest Song of Year.

Country singer-songwriter Tom T Hall created a most unusual story for this crossover Top 40 hit. The Harper Valley PTA meeting was a wild and wacky affair as an “unfit mother” addresses her concerns about the hypocrisy of multiple other members with the school organization.

3.   A Boy Named Sue—Johnny Cash

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1969:  #2 Hot 100:  36th Biggest Song of Year

Shel Silverstein’s lyrics about a father abandoning his son at age 3, with only a guitar and naming the boy Sue, became the biggest hit song for Johnny Cash.  The Man in Black sings a colorful story line of the boy seeking revenge, fighting his father in a bar, and then finally making peace with his dad.

2.   Cat’s in the Cradle—Harry Chapin

Peak Position on Billboard Chart 1974:  #1 Hot 100:  38th Biggest Song of 1975

Grammy Hall of Fame award 2011.   Harry Chapin’s signature song gives a sorrowful picture of a father neglecting his son as a child. When the son becomes an adult, he actually neglects his father, in the same exact way that his father treated him during childhood. This folk-rock song gives a baleful warning with outstanding lyrics.

  1. Ode to Billie Joe—Bobbie Gentry

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1967:  #1 Hot 100:  3rd Biggest Song of Year

My number 1 selection for short epic story songs goes to “Ode to Billie Joe” written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry.

Lyrics for “Ode to Billie Joe” are written in the form of first-person narrative, by a Mississippi Delta teenage daughter.  The song begins on the 3rd of June, with the narrator having mealtime conversations with her parents and brother.

While most of the dinner conversation is on mundane activities and events, the mother shares the big news from Choctaw Ridge: “Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

The dinner conversations continue with various unrelated dialogue but an important fact is revealed.  The daughter and Billie Joe may have been in a relationship and both may have been together “throwing somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge” just before Billie Joe’s death?

Bobby Gentry provided brilliant lyrics on “Ode to Billie Joe” and it is my favorite epic story song that is under 5 minutes long.

The ten songs from my first countdown above, include some of the most beloved hits from the golden age of Top 40 radio. Now is it time for my second countdown.  These are the best epic story songs over 5 minutes in length:

10.  Space Oddity—David Bowie

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1973:  #15 Hot 100:  97th Biggest Song of Year

First released as a single in July 1969, same month as Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon.  Before the creation of Ziggy Stardust.   Story of Major Tom alone on a malfunctioning spacecraft, failing to receiving communications from ground control. Lost in space.

9.  Papa Was a Rolling Stone—The Temptations

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1972:  #1 Hot 100:  It was #100 on Top Song Chart for 1973

With outstanding instrumentation by the Funk Brothers Motown band, the Temptations shine with this 1972 tale. A set of brothers ask their mother pointed questions on the topic of a dead father: The siblings never knew their father and have only heard bad things about the man’s character. Won 3 Grammy Awards in 1973.

8.  Same Old Lang Syne—Dan Fogelberg

Peak Position on Billboard Chart 1980:  #9 Hot 100: 79th Biggest Song of 1981

Dan Fogelberg wrote an autobiographical account of a Christmas visit to his parents’ home during the mid 70s.  While shopping at a grocery store on Christmas Eve, Fogelberg meets an old girlfriend by chance and the two ex-lovers spend an afternoon drinking a 6-pack of beer and exchanging information on their separate life paths.

7.  Taxi—Harry Chapin

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1972:  #24 Hot 100:  85th Biggest Song of Year

This fictional narrative written by Harry Chapin involves a taxi driver on a rainy night in San Francisco. With the last fare of the night, the cabbie picks up a fancy woman, who requests to be driven to an affluent home.  Eventually, the driver recognizes his passenger as an ex-lover. Interesting conversations ensue until completion of the fare.

6.  Piano Man—Billy Joel

Peak Position on Billboard Chart:  #4 Adult Contemporary: #25 Hot 100

Signature song for Billy Joel.  Verses of the song are observations about the life of a piano player at a night club lounge bar.  The narrative describes various patrons, most living with disappointment or unfulfilled dreams. Folks coming to hear a piano man and “to forget about life for a while.”

5.  The Boxer—Simon & Garfunkel

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1969:  #7 Hot 100:  42nd Biggest Song of Year

Paul Simon’s authored an excellent lament of a boxer living in New York City.  Lyrics depict the struggles to overcome poverty and loneliness as well as the desire to succeed as a professional boxer. Rolling Stone ranks “The Boxer” as the second-best Simon & Garfunkel song of all-time.

4.  Bohemian Rhapsody—Queen

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1976 & 1992:  #9 Hot 100 & 18th Biggest Song of 1976:  #2 Hot 100 & 39th Biggest Song of 1992:

Rock opera suite written by Freddie Mercury. Queen’s composition is about a young man who accidentally killed a man and is facing pending execution. While waiting for the death sentence to be carried out, the murderer mourns on being haunted by demons and selling his soul to the devil.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” is considered one of the greatest classic rock songs ever made.  

3.  Hotel California—Eagles

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts 1977:  #1 Hot 100:  19th Biggest Song of Year

One of the most iconic rock songs from the 20th Century is “Hotel California.”  Co-written by Don Felder, Glenn Frey and Don Henley, the words depict both literal and symbolic interpretations of Southern California lifestyles from the 70s.  Themes of good vs evil and light vs darkness are developed throughout the song. Eagles won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1977 with the band’s signature recording.

2.  American Pie—Don McLean

Peak Position on Billboard Charts 1972:  #1 Hot 100:  3rd Biggest Song of Year

“American Pie” is perhaps the most mis-interpreted song in pop/rock music history. This much we know: The 1959 plane crash deaths of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens, is “the day the music died” according to Don McLean’s written masterpiece.

The author goes on to explore cultural changes within rock ‘n roll, proclaiming philosophical angst, disillusionment and disappointment with rock music created after 1959. McLean also includes the mention of multiple political events with his complex lyrics. “American Pie” comes in as my second favorite epic story single that is over 5 minutes long.

  1. Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald—Gordon Lightfoot

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #2 Hot 100:  36th Biggest Song of Year

Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot comes in with my number one epic story song of all-time with “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” 

The topic that Lightfoot wrote about is based on an actual historical event.  On November 10, 1975, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald ship sank during a storm on Lake Superior, with the entire 29-man crew dying that day.

One of two lifeboats found from the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I took this photo in July 2014 at Museum Ship Valley Camp, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

After reading an account of the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking in a Newsweek magazine article from 11/24/75, Lightfoot came up with the lyrics to what became his biggest record.  The song paints a haunting and poignant picture of the last voyage with the Great Lakes freighter.

Without any doubt, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot is my number 1 favorite epic story song from the golden age of top 40 radio.

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on the best epic story songs, I am curious to find out your opinion on this topic.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique on what I consider to be the best epic story songs of all-time. The songs that you may feel are the best, maybe be completely different from my selections.

So I am asking for your opinion: What do you consider to be the best epic story songs from 1965 through 1980?  There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.

Listening to music from the golden age of Top 40 radio will always have a special place in my heart. I fondly remember and cherish all of the epic story songs that I shared with you on this music blog message.  Rock on!

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AT40, Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

Totally Tubular MTV Videos and Songs:  Aired During First Year 1981-1982

Photo above by Julianne Woodson

What are the best videos and songs that Music Television cable channel (MTV) aired during their first full year of operation?  Obviously, there are no definitive answers to my question.

However, I will be sharing what I consider to be the top 20 MTV songs and clips broadcast by the pioneer 24 hour-a-day music channel during their premiere year (August 1, 1981 – July 31, 1982).

During the first full year of MTV’s existence, the music video channel struggled as it was not available on most cable providers in the United States. It wasn’t until the third year of MTV that it became a major force and revolutionized the music industry.

MTV was launched the first day of August 1981.  The new cable channel played music videos 24 hours-a-day and featured hosts known as video jockeys (VJs).  These individuals gave information on the music clips played and provided news about the artists that aired on MTV.

The programming that MTV utilized during the first year was similar to AOR (Album Oriented Rock) or Top 40 radio formats. Initially, MTV played established artists but later became a venue for many new pop rock bands during the second and third years of operation.

According to Wikipedia, here are the first 10 videos aired by MTV on August 1, 1981:

* “Video Killed the Radio Star” The Buggles

       *   “You Better Run” Pat Benatar

       *    “She Won’t Dance With Me” Rod Stewart

       *   “You Better You Bet” The Who

       *   “Little Suzi’s on the Up” Ph. D.

       *   “We Don’t Talk Anymore” Cliff Richard

       *   “Brass in Pocket” The Pretenders

       *    “Time Heals” Todd Rundgren

       *    “Take It on the Run” REO Speedwagon

       *    “Rockin’ the Paradise” Styx

Videos for songs played within the first year of MTV must be judged differently than clips made during the 1983 to 1985 time period.  Many of the early clips aired on MTV were of concert footage or live show performances. The production of concept videos soared after MTV’s debut and was a mainstay for the music TV cable channel during the 80s decade.

By 1985, there were many excellent created videos that made the MTV hot rotation.  “Take On Me” by the Norwegian synth-pop band A-ha had a superb clip. The award-winning video used pencil-sketched animation and live-action footage combination called rotoscoping.

Another bodacious video clip from 1985 is “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits. Opening lyrics on the song are provided by guest vocalist Sting singing the promotional phrase of the video channel, “I Want My MTV.”  The ground breaking clip was MTV’s, “Video of the Year” in 1986.

When MTV started on 8/1/81, the music TV channel aired many existing videos of songs that had been top 40 hits from either 1980 or the first 7 months of 1981. 

Of the top 10 biggest records from 1981, only half of the songs had videos available that could be aired by MTV. Below are the Billboard top-rated songs of 1981:

1          “Bette Davis Eyes”      Kim Carnes

2          “Endless Love” Diana Ross & Lionel Richie

3          “Lady” Kenny Rogers

4          “(Just Like) Starting Over”      John Lennon

5          “Jessie’s Girl”  Rick Springfield

6          “Celebration”  Kool & the Gang

7          “Kiss on My List”         Hall & Oates

8          “I Love a Rainy Night” Eddie Rabbitt

9          “9 To 5”           Dolly Parton

10        “Keep on Loving You” REO Speedwagon

After the launching of MTV, most every major record company would produce some type of music video for new song releases.  These record companies hoped that MTV would add their new song to its regular rotation of music clips.

Below are the ten biggest singles of 1982 according to Billboard and a selection from the videos MTV aired on their network:

1          “Physical”        Olivia Newton-John

2          “Eye of the Tiger”       Survivor

3          “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”    Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

4          “Ebony and Ivory”       Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder

5          “Centerfold”    The J. Geils Band

6          “Don’t You Want Me” The Human League

7          “Jack & Diane” John Cougar

8          “Hurts So Good”         John Cougar

9          “Abracadabra” Steve Miller Band

10        “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”           Chicago

One of the chief criticisms of MTV during its first 18 months of operation was the lack of music by Black artists being played on the cable TV channel.  It wasn’t until March 1983, that Michael Jackson’s video for “Billie Jean” was added and became the first video by a Black artist to be aired in heavy rotation on MTV. Without a doubt, “Billie Jean” is the best video from the second year of MTV.

For the rest of this message, I will be counting down what I consider to be the best songs and videos that were aired on MTV during the first 12 months.  My selections all were top 40 radio hits and peaked at number 20 or lower on the Billboard Hot 100 between August 1981 and July 1982.

Please note:  I am not declaring that my picks are either the “best or greatest” that MTV played during its first year.  The song choices are my personal favorites from this time period. I deem the top 20 songs to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant.

Chart information for my favorite Top 20 MTV song of the countdown comes from, “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits” by Joel Whitburn. I consider Whitburn’s publication to be the “bible” of Top 40 music reference and still proudly own a hard copy of this excellent music guide.

As legendary DJ host Casey Kasem used to proclaim on his weekly American Top 40 show, “Now on with the countdown.”

20.  Don’t Stop Believin’—Journey

Peak Positions of Billboard Charts:  #9 Hot 100: 73rd Biggest Song of 1982

First of two Journey songs on countdown. Arena rock anthem of the 80s.  Ranked at number 133 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” listing.

19.  Leader of the Band—Dan Fogelberg

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 AC: #9 Hot 100: 35th Biggest Song of 1982

Dan Fogelberg wrote “Leader of the Band” as a tribute to his father Lawrence Fogelberg. One of two songs on my countdown by the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who died in 2007.

18.  Waiting for a Girl Like You—Foreigner

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #2 Hot 100: 19th Biggest Song of 1982

This power ballad spent 10 weeks in the number 2 position on the Billboard Hot 100 without ever reaching the top of the chart.  Thomas Dolby plays synthesizer on record-setting track.

17.  The Night Owls—The Little River Band

Peak Position on Billboard Charts: #6 Hot 100:  #9 Top Rock Tracks

Biggest Top 40 hit in the 80s for Australian rock band.  “Man on Your Mind” and “Take It Easy on Me” were two other hits Little River Band had during the first year of MTV.

16.  Who’s Crying Now—Journey

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #4 Hot 100:  56th Biggest Song of 1981

Written by Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain. First single released from the Journey’s most successful album “Escape.”  Perry’s vocals are outstanding.  Second song from the arena rock band on my countdown.

15.  Heat of the Moment—Asia

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #4 Hot 100: 40th Biggest Song of 1982

Debut single from English progressive rock supergroup. Band members John Wetton and Geoff Downes wrote the signature song for Asia.

14.  The Break Up Song (They Don’t Write Em)—Greg Kihn Band

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #15 Hot 100: 47th Biggest Song of 1981

Power pop rock band.  First of three Top 40 hits. Greg Kihn Band also scored with “Jeopardy” and “Lucky” during the 80s on MTV.

13.  Empty Garden—Elton John

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #13 Hot 100: 76th Biggest Song of 1982

Composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.  Tribute song to John Lennon, who was assassinated in New York City on December 8, 1980. Elton was friends with the former Beatle member, prior to Lennon’s death.

12.  The Voice—The Moody Blues

Peak Position on Billboard Charts:  #1 Mainstream Rock: #15 Hot 100

Second top 15 in 1981 hit for English progressive rock band. Along with “Gemini Dream” single, “The Voice” came from the Moody Blues comeback album, “Long Distance Voyager.”

11.  Young Turks—Rod Stewart

Peak Position on Billboard Charts:  #5 Hot 100:  48th Biggest Song of 1982

Rod Stewart changed musical sound on this hybrid pop/new wave/synthpop tune. “Young Turks” holds the distinction of being the first video aired on MTV containing breakdancing.

10.  Fire and Ice—Pat Benatar

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #2 Mainstream Rock #17 Hot 100

Pre-eminent rock singer of the early 80s. Pat Benatar won a Grammy award in 1982 for Best Female Rock Performance with “Fire and Ice.”

9.    Shake It Up—The Cars

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #4 Hot 100: 23rd Biggest Song of 1982

Danceable power pop rock describes the song written by Ric Ocasek. “Shake It Up” was one of the Cars biggest singles during the 80s.

8.    Chariots of Fire—Vangelis

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100: #1 Hot Soul Singles: 12th Biggest Song of 1982

“Chariots of Fire” was an unlikely instrumental Top 40 hit.  The song score was written by Vangelis and is featured in the British historical sports film Chariots of Fire. Melodic tune has been used on multiple Summer and Winter Olympic Game broadcasts since 1984.

7.    Edge of Seventeen—Stevie Nicks

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #4 Mainstream Rock: #11 Hot 100:

Stevie Nicks wrote the song sub-titled “Just Like the White Wing Dove” as a result of two events happening the same week in December 1980:  The death of her uncle Jonathan and the assassination of John Lennon.  It is the first of two songs on my countdown by the Fleetwood Mac singer.

6.    I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)—Hall & Oates

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100:  15th Biggest Song of 1982

Daryl Hall and John Oates: Biggest duo of the 20th Century. Their song topped both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles charts in 1982.  Knocked off “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John” out of number 1 position after a 10-week run.

5.    867-5309/Jenny—Tommy Tutone

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #4 Hot 100: 16th Biggest Song of 1982

Tommy Tutone is a two-hit wonder. “Angel Say No” peaked at number 38 on Billboard Hot 100 in 1980.  867-5309 was a popular phone number of music fans throughout the 80s decade.

4.    Run for the Roses—Dan Fogelberg

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #3 Adult Contemporary #18 Hot 100

My second Dan Fogelberg countdown selection is a melodious song about various aspects of horse racing.  “Run For the Roses” is from “The Innocent Age” album and is now considered as an unofficial theme song for the Kentucky Derby, which happens the first Saturday of May each year.

3.    Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around—Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #3 Hot 100: 59th Biggest Song of 1981

The coming together of Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty provided musical magic with their rock duet. From the debut Nicks “Bella Donna” solo album, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” was actually the 25th video played on MTV’s first day of operation, August 1, 1981.

2.    Our Lips Are Sealed—The Go-Gos

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #20 Hot 100: 63rd Biggest Song of 1982

  Debut single for 2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band.  Rolling Stone ranks 57th greatest pop song of all time.  From the Go-Gos “Beauty and the Beat” album. “Our Lips Our Sealed” is my second favorite power pop rock single of the 80s.

1.    Every Little Thing She Does is Magic—The Police

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #3 Hot 100: 79th Biggest Song of 1982

 My top selection was written by the Police front man/bassist Sting in 1976 but wasn’t recorded until 1981 for the “Ghost in the Machine” album.  The song is unique among Police music as the tune features Jean Alain Roussel on piano and synthesizer. Andy Summers, Stewart Copeland and Sting blend together a perfect pop song, that is truly magic for me.  “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” is my pick for best song and video aired by MTV during the first year in business.

Now that I have my countdown of favorite first-year MTV songs and video that were hits on Top 40 radio, I am curious to find out your thoughts on this topic.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with the critique of my favorite MTV videos and songs from 1981-1982.  Your top selections maybe be completely different than my choices.  There are no right or wrong answers, just various opinions about the music song videos MTV played during their first year in business.

“I Want My MTV” was the main promotional slogan from the music TV cable channel in the early 80s.  MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore but I still can enjoy watching video clips 24/7 via YouTube and or the Internet. 

I still have fond memories of MTV songs and videos from the first year:  1981-1982.  Rock on!

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Broadcasting, Music, Radio

Jack Fisher: Looking Back at Renowned Roanoke Radio Broadcaster

Jack Fisher in front of WROV station building during 1965. Photo courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

How many individuals in America can claim the following: Being a teen dancer on American Bandstand when the show was aired from Philadelphia, and years later as a DJ, meeting the Beatles backstage at the band’s first American concert in Washington D.C. during February 1964?  The only person that I know who fits this bill is Jack Fisher.

So just who is Jack Fisher?  Born in Wilmington, Fisher is most prominently known as a premier DJ with WROV 1240 AM Roanoke, Virginia during the golden days of Top 40 radio. I consider the legendary WROV announcer to be among the “Mount Rushmore” of radio personalities who worked in the Roanoke radio market during the 60s and 70s.

I first met Fisher almost 46 years ago when I worked for WROV during 1975.  I reconnected with him earlier this month and interviewed Fisher via phone from his current home of Spartanburg, South Carolina. 

Fisher was born in Wilmington, Delaware and was involved with a variety of athletic sporting activities during high school.  He also loved listening to rock ‘n’ roll, dancing and attending concerts.  His first taste of glory came during Fisher’s teen years at a TV show called Bandstand in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

During the early 1950s, WFIL TV in Philadelphia broadcasted a live daily program called Bandstand. During 1956, Dick Clark became permanent host of the program and in 1957, ABC picked up the show for its television network. Clark’s show was renamed American Bandstand with ABC’s distribution of the program for a national audience.

Within the first year of ABC’s takeover of American Bandstand, the show had a national teen dance contest.  Fisher was a regular dancer on Clark’s TV show, and he entered the dance competition with a partner. The couple placed 4th place in the national dancing event.

Dick Clark and Jack Fisher on American Bandstand set 1957. Photo courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

The radio career of Jack Fisher started in the early 1960s at a small station in Georgetown, Delaware. Next up, Fisher moved to Portsmouth, Ohio and honed his skills at a bigger radio station. In late 1963, Fisher landed a major market job at Top 40 WEAM 1390 AM Washington, D.C.

On February 11, 1964, the Beatles performed their first American concert at the Washington Coliseum. Each of four DC Top 40 radio stations sent one of their DJs to emcee this debut Beatles show. With Fisher being the newest DJ hired at WEAM, he was “stuck” being the station’s representative for this historic concert event.

WEAM DJ Jack Fisher got to meet the Beatles backstage prior to this legendary first American concert. Fisher told me during our phone conversation that John, Paul, George and Ringo were all respectful to him.  The Fab Four were also friendly to the other Washington DJs and media members before they embarked on stage for their DC show.

Obviously, meeting the Beatles was the most memorable event of Fisher’s employment in the DC radio market.  Less than a year after starting at WEAM, Fisher was let go by the station.  While searching for DJ jobs in major markets, it was actually in Roanoke, Virginia where Fisher finally found a permanent home for his radio career. In November 1964, Fisher was hired at work at WROV 1240 AM.

WROV dominated the Roanoke radio market. The station was small in radio power: transmitting only 1,000 watts in the daytime and 250 watts at night.  Even though WROV’s coverage area was only 25 miles wide, the station totally controlled radio listenership within the Roanoke Valley.

Starting on the 7 pm to midnight DJ shift, Fisher quickly became one of WROV’s most beloved on-air personalities.  Early in 1965, Fisher moved to the afternoon slot (2pm to 7pm) and he continued in that capacity for the next seven years.

Jack Fisher during early days at WROV (Mid 60s). Courtesy WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

One of the first bits that Fisher created after coming to WROV was a big promotional campaign to have the Beatles perform a concert in Roanoke.  According to the WROV History online website, “Fisher embarked on a campaign to bring the Beatles to Roanoke. Though several local businessmen were eager to sponsor the event, it never came to be. But, the attempt gained Jack much notoriety in the market.”

Below is a WROV aircheck of Fisher making a phone call on air to try and speak to George Harrison of the Beatles. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

For a short time period in 1966, Fisher was paired with another popular WROV DJ Fred Frelantz and the two announcers shared co-hosting duties with an afternoon show. The “Fisher & Frelantz Fling” team were a dynamic duo: complimenting each other well, writing humorous skits and creating memorable parodies on their daily radio show.

Fred Frelantz at WROV Studio. Photo courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

From the WROV History website and Pat Garrett: below is a Jack Fisher/Fred Frelantz aircheck of the fictitious beautiful downtown Bonsack Christmas parade. Fisher and Frelantz are the emcees for this “event.”

The Fisher/Frelantz duo were also heavily involved within the Roanoke community representing WROV at numerous events. Between the two of them, they emceed nearly every music concert that was held in the Roanoke Valley during the mid to late 60s.

WROV sponsored concerts were normally held at one of two locations during Fisher’s first years employed by the station: Victory Stadium or the Salem Civic Center.  During our phone conversation, Jack shared with me the most notable shows that he emceed were Paul Revere and the Raiders, James Brown, the Temptations, the Beach Boys, Wilson Pickett, Glen Campbell and Herman’s Hermits.

When Glen Campbell came to Roanoke, Jack Fisher met the singer. From left: Tommy Holcomb, Rita Matthews, Glen Campbell, Nancy Holcomb Fisher and Jack Fisher. Photo courtesy of Tommy Holcomb.

I found it interesting that when Herman’s Hermits first came to Roanoke for a concert, Fisher formed a bond with the band’s lead singer Peter Noone.  Fisher and Noone stuck up a friendship and they continue to communicate with one another on a regular basis, 56 years after their first meeting in Roanoke.

The most memorable WROV event that Fisher participated in came during the summer of 1969. June is National Dairy Month and Fisher had lunch with a cow in the parking lot of Crossroads Mall in Roanoke.

Pat Garrett from the WROV History Online Website, describes Fisher’s event: “Jack arrived in a limousine decked out with a tuxedo, for his lunch with the cow. Jack remembers “A large long table was set up with the cow on one end and me on the other, the cow ate hay, I of course dined only on dairy products. Several thousand people attended this event.”

Jack Fisher having lunch with a cow, Crossroads Mall Roanoke in June 1969. Photo Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

For almost 7 years, Jack Fisher was a prominent radio voice with WROV.  By 1971, Fisher decided to switch careers.  He left WROV to work for Brand Edmonds advertising agency.  Even though Fisher no longer was employed by WROV, he left the station on good term.

Since Fisher was still in good graces with WROV station owner Burt Levine, he was asked occasionally to work some part time weekend gigs with WROV throughout the mid to late 70s. It was during one of these temporary gig jobs with WROV, that I first met Jack Fisher.

At WROV, I was hired to be a remote engineer by the Top 40 radio station.  My responsibilities at the station included setting up equipment for remote broadcasts, running the soundboard and playing records, while a WROV DJ was in charge of announcing duties.

On Labor Day 1975, I was the engineer for a remote at Lowe’s and the DJ assigned to work with me was Fisher.  It was a “solid gold holiday weekend” and I played all 50’s and early 60’s songs that day.  I grew up listening to Fisher on WROV when I was younger, so it was a thrill being able to work with the legendary Roanoke DJ at that remote broadcast.

Dave Woodson working WROV remote broadcast at Discount Records Tanglewood Mall Roanoke in 1974.

Into the 80s, Fisher continued to be associated with WROV with various assignments. By this time, ratings for the once dominant Roanoke Top 40 station had fallen and WROV owner Burt Levine hired two of his former DJs for help:  Jack Fisher and Fred Frelantz.

Starting in March 1981, the dynamic duo of Fisher and Frelantz were back on the air at WROV:  Hosting an “oldies” show once a month on Saturday afternoons. Fisher would begin the broadcast at 12 noon, and then Frelantz would join his DJ partner at 2 pm to close out the 6-hour show.

When Frelantz moved out of Roanoke in 1982, Fisher assumed hosting the once-a-month oldies show by himself.  Three years later, Frelantz moved back to Roanoke and the “Fisher/Frelantz Fling” was back as a two-man-operation.

Aircheck of Jack Fisher & Fred Frelantz oldies show on WROV Roanoke during the 80s. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Unfortunately, the Fisher/Frelantz DJ partnership ended in June 1986, when Fred Frelantz died in an apartment fire.  After this tragic death, Fisher once again hosted the oldies show as a solo DJ.

The WROV oldies show was continued by Fisher until he signed off for the last time on October 26, 1991.  Below is an aircheck of Fisher’s final words on his oldies show.  The clip is courtesy of the WROV History Online Website/Pat Garrett.

Once Fisher’s radio days had ended, he became involved in a project about American Bandstand.  As the executive producer of the 1997 PBS TV documentary called “Bandstand Days”, Fisher utilized his knowledge about the dancers featured on Dick Clark’s TV show.

Nominated for an Emmy, Bandstand Days explores the origins, history and memorable experiences of dancers who performed during the Philadelphia days of American Bandstand. The documentary has footage of the TV show from 1957 and interviews some of the dancers from that era of the teen music program.

Photo from Bandstand Days PBS Documentary produced by Jack Fisher.

Jack Fisher has not slowed down during his retirement years.  In 2016, Fisher co-wrote a book with Susan A. Sistare called “Blue Skies and Green Lights.”   Fisher’s fictional account is billed as “a tale of music and magic of the 50s and 60s” and is loosely based on his real-life experiences with American Bandstand, the Beatles and radio stories about WROV Roanoke.

If you are looking for a light, easy and good read, I would recommend Fisher’s book. I enjoyed reading “Blue Skies and Green Lights” during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.   It is available for purchased through Amazon.

One other activity that Fisher has been involved with since 2015 is teaching a class at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.  As part of the Furman adult continuing education program, Fisher’s, “Music and Culture of the 60s” class explores how music and culture are tied together during the 60s decade.  If I lived anywhere near South Carolina, I would love to take Jack’s course.

Jack Fisher (left) working a WROV remote broadcast at Sunoco gas station on Franklin Road Roanoke. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

As I mentioned above, I spoke with Jack Fisher during a phone conversation earlier this month. After my interview with Fisher, I emailed the former DJ a list of six questions about important aspects of career and life experience highlights. Fisher’s responses to my questions are found below:

DJ Dave: What is your most memorable encounter with Dick Clark and your days as a dancer on American Bandstand as a teen?

Jack:   “Bandstand was local TV show in Philadelphia from 1952 until it went national on ABC-TV in 1957, becoming American Bandstand.  Dick Clark staged a jitterbug contest that was designed as a way to test the national TV audience response. There were many at ABC who thought a bunch of kids dancing on TV for two hours every afternoon would not work.

On the first day with in studio judges, my partner Dottie Horner and I won. There were 10 couples in a dance off over several weeks. Millions of votes by postcard came in proving that American Bandstand was a hit. Despite getting over a million votes, Dottie and I came in fourth.”

DJ Dave: Please describe what it was like meeting the Beatles backstage at their first American concert in Washington D.C. on February 11, 1964?

Jack: “The Beatles did their famous appearance on the Sullivan Show, Sunday February 9th, 1964. Two days later, the band performed their first live American show in Washington DC. I was doing 7 to midnight DJ shift on WEAM AM, the only 24-hour rocker in Washington. I along with 3 other jocks with other D.C. stations were invited to be at the concert.

They gave each of us Beatle Wigs and we stood at corners on the stage with the Beatles prior to the show. Backstage before the show we had access to the Beatles. Jack Alex from WEEL and I were talking to John Lennon, who said to us “we hope we can get two years out of this.” Knowing the fickle nature of the music business we replied “we hope so, it’s a tough business.”

DJ Dave:  Working with fellow WROV Roanoke DJ Fred Frelantz must have been special?  What made your broadcasting partnership flourish over the course of 20 plus years, until the untimely death of Frelantz in 1986?

Jack:  “On the Fisher and Frelantz DJ partnership:  This was a perfect pairing of two radio personalities. We instinctively were on the same page and we both were writers who created memorable bits. Just like the “Bonsack Christmas parade” segment we broadcasted together and is still talked about to this very day. Fred and I were just a great pairing. My friend and partner passed away in a fire during 1986. He was the best!”

Fred Frelantz and Jack Fisher during the 60s. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

 DJ Dave: During the summer of 1969, you were part of a legendary DJ staff at WROV, working with Bart Prater, Fred Frelantz and John Cigna.  Before leaving the station in 1971, you also worked with Larry Bly and Dan Alexander.  How did a small station like WROV attract and keep legendary DJ talent during the golden age of Top 40 radio?

Jack: “1969 was a memorable year of course for music and news, men landed on the moon and of course there was Woodstock. The lineup that year at WROV was as good of a DJ staff that was ever assembled for the Roanoke radio market.

John Cigna, who came from 50k watt WOWO Fort Wayne, Indiana, held down morning drive. Fred Frelantz was doing mid days, I worked afternoon drive and Bart Prater had the 7 to midnight shift. Come on man, that was entertainment. Why did so many talented DJs like this lineup and later jocks like Larry Bly and Dan Alexander work at WROV? It was Burt Levine, the owner of the station. Burt spotted talent and let it happen.”

WROV Roanoke Super Summer Survey 8/24/69. Courtesy WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

DJ Dave:   What are two or three events, concerts or remote broadcasts that you participated in while working at WROV, that still are enduring or meaningful to you in 2021?

Jack:  “During my full-time employment with WROV, I worked at most every event that was sponsored by the station. I had a great time with Beach Boys, Wilson Pickett, and let’s not forget the bomb with Tiny Tim!  One of my favorites was the Temptations. After I introduced the Motown vocal group, bass singer Melvin Franklin took my microphone and thanked me for playing “My Girl” at the end of my WROV oldies show every week.  That was special.”

Jack Fisher with singer Bobby Darin in 1959 (Prior to Fisher coming to Roanoke). Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

DJ Dave: Can you tell me about the class that you have been teaching since 2015 at Furman University about the history of rock and roll?

Jack: “Currently I teach a class at Furman’s Life Long Learning class. THE MUSIC AND CULTURE OF THE 60S. During class time, I focus on a different year, discussing the music and major events that happened during that particular year. Each class demonstrates how music and culture influenced each other during the 60s decade.”

Jack Fisher at a WROV staff reunion event during the 00s. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

As I have chronicled highlights of Fisher and his important life events, it is clear he has woven a wonderful tapestry of living experiences within the rock and roll genre of music. Fisher’s stories of American Bandstand and the Beatles, as well as eventful radio DJ years with WROV Roanoke are fascinating, interesting and legendary.

Listening to WROV and Jack Fisher every afternoon when I was a teen still has a special place in my heart.  I cherish and fondly remember Fisher as an excellent DJ during the golden age of Top 40 radio. Without a doubt, Jack Fisher remains a legacy within Roanoke radio history here in the 21st Century. Rock on!

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Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

Best Sunshine Pop Singles of the 60s

Photo above by Julianne Woodson

What do artists like the Beach Boys, the Mamas & the Papas, the Association, the Turtles and the 5th Dimension all have in common?  Each of these Southern California groups were hit makers during the mid to late 60s, with a refreshing brand of music called Sunshine Pop.

With my latest edition of DJ Dave’s Musical Musings, I will be counting down what I consider to be the best Sunshine Pop Top 40 singles from the 60s decade. My selections were all hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, during the golden age of Sunshine Pop (1965-1969).

What is Sunshine Pop?  Wikipedia describes the type of rock music as, “cheerful, upbeat music which is characterized by warm sounds, prominent vocal harmonies, lush vocals, light arrangements and sophisticated productions. Rooted in easy listening and advertising jingles, sunshine pop acts combined nostalgic or anxious moods with an appreciation for the beauty of the world.”

Originating in California during the mid 60s, Sunshine Pop combined segments of folk-rock, soft pop, progressive rock, Baroque pop and Psychedelia.  Some tunes in this category are slow grooves, but most songs featured breezy, up-tempo beats.

The term Sunshine Pop did not exist during the 60s so it is difficult to pin-point an exact beginning to this sub-genre of pop rock music.  It appears that Sunshine Pop happened because of multiple musical influences as a wide range of musicians and record producers converged together around Los Angeles, California, during 1965 and 1966.

My dog Penny Lane and I with a vinyl copy of “Pet Sounds” album by the Beach Boys. The album was a Father’s Day gift to me in 2016, on the 50th anniversary of “Pet Sounds” LP release.

Some of the more instrumental players in the development of Sunshine Pop include:

  • The Beatles and “Beatlemania” permeates America in 1964
  • British Invasion bands other than the Beatles (1964-1965)
  • Folk rock bands like the Byrds/Roger McGuinn
  • Phil Spector Wall of Sound record producer
  • John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas
  • Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys
  • Pet Sounds album by the Beach Boys
  • Curt Boettcher Record Producer
  • The Wrecking Crew: Los Angeles session musicians

The Beatles are the most influential band of the rock era and they changed the course of musical history during the 60s.  The band’s impact on all types of pop/rock music is legendary and their musical fingerprints are all over what now is called Sunshine Pop. “Good Day Sunshine” from the Beatles “Revolver” album is noteworthy for being influential with the California pop/rock sounds coming out of Los Angeles during this time period.

Obviously, the Beatles are not considered a Sunshine Pop band.  However, the Fab Four did record similar types of songs during their career.  Two examples that come to my mind are George Harrison’s, “Here Comes the Sun” from the Abbey Road album and the 1967 Baroque Pop masterpiece from Paul McCartney, “Penny Lane.”

One other major influence of Sunshine Pop is the Brian Wilson produced album, “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys.  Rolling Stone magazine ranks Wilson’s 1966 project as the number one, “greatest rock album of all time.” The album incorporates rock, pop, and jazz with vocal harmonies and is considered a template for the genre of Progressive Rock.  “God Only Knows” is a gem from the superb album.

The peak for the first wave of Sunshine Pop happened during the “Summer of Love” in 1967.  Young people flocked by the thousands to the San Francisco, California neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury, searching for peace, love and tranquility. Music played a huge part of this cultural revolution. 

During the spring of 1967, John Phillips wrote and produced a song called, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” that his friend Scott McKenzie recorded as a single. The song immediately became a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and was an inspiration for those creating Sunshine Pop music in the 60s.

While I was researching information for this topic, I found that there were 12 core bands or groups that are associated with Sunshine Pop of the 60s decade:

  • The Association
  • The Beach Boys
  • The Buckinghams
  • The Cowsills
  • Gary Lewis & the Playboys
  • Harpers Bizarre
  • The Mamas & the Papas
  • The Monkees
  • Spanky and Our Gang
  • Strawberry Alarm Clock
  • The Turtles
  • The Rascals
The back cover of “Pet Sounds” album by the Beach Boys. This photo of my vinyl record, was a 2016 Father’s Day gift to me, by my daughters Amy, Stephanie and Julianne.

Of the 12 artists listed above, many of them recorded more than just Sunshine Pop songs.  There is much musical diversity among these top pop/rock performers.

There are also 6 lesser-known Sunshine Pop bands and groups from this time period.  These artists tended to have regional hits and didn’t chart high enough on Billboard or Cash Box music charts to become major hits on Top 40 radio during the 60s.

  • The Peppermint Rainbow
  • Yellow Balloon
  • The Sunshine Company
  • The Parade
  • Sagittarius
  • The Cherry People

There are also two other artists and songs that I want to highlight, which are actually Baroque Pop but sound similar to 60s Sunshine Pop:

  • Pretty Ballerina—The Left Banke
  • 98.6—Keith featuring the Tokens

Before starting the countdown of my 25 best Sunshine Pop singles of the 60s, I want to share information on how I determined my top songs in this category.

With this article about Sunshine Pop, I am including only American artists who had major hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1965 and 1969. Every song on my countdown peaked at least at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Eleven tunes peaked at number one.

As I surveyed all the top 40 Sunshine Pop hits from the 60s, I found 25 high quality singles that are on my countdown. These are songs that I deem to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant.

Photo of my vinyl copy of “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys.

I submit to you, my top 25 best Sunshine Pop singles.  As Casey Kasem used to say on his weekly American Top 40 show: “Now on with the countdown.”

25. Sunday Will Never Be the Same—Spanky & Our Gang

Peaked at #9 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

Debut single by band. Lead vocals by Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane.  First of two songs on Top 25 countdown.

24. I Saw Her Again—The Mamas & the Papas

Peaked at # 5 Billboard Hot 100: 1966

Song co-written John Phillips and Denny Doherty. Third consecutive Top 5 hit for the group. It is the first of three songs on the countdown.

23.  Grazing in the Grass—The Friends of Distinction

Peaked at #3 Billboard Hot 100: 1969

Vocal remake of South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela’s 1968 instrumental hit. Harry Elston of the group wrote lyrics for the song that repeatedly ask, “Can you dig it?”

22.  Green Grass—Gary Lewis & the Playboys

Peaked at #8 Billboard Hot 100: 1966

Gary Lewis is son of actor/comedian Jerry Lewis. Song was the last of the band’s seven consecutive Top 10 hits.

21.  Good Morning Starshine—Oliver

Peaked at #3 Billboard Hot 100: 1969

Oliver covered a song from the Broadway rock musical “Hair.”  It was the first of two Top 3 hits in 1969 for the singer.

20.  Kind of a Drag—The Buckinghams

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

Band from Chicago, Illinois. Song was first of 3 consecutive top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 during 1967.

19.  Up–Up & Away—The 5th Dimension

Peaked at #7 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

Written by Jimmy Webb. First Top 10 hit by the vocal quartet. Won 6 Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

18.  Windy—The Association

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

First of 3 Association songs on countdown. Second number 1 song for the group. 4th biggest record of 1967.

17.  Monday Monday—The Mamas & the Papas

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100: 1966

Only number 1 song for the vocalists. First song to top the Billboard Hot 100 by a mixed gender group. Second of three songs on the countdown.

16.   Good Vibrations—The Beach Boys

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100: 1966

First of two Beach Boys songs on countdown. Inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Is the 6th biggest song on the Rolling Stone “500 Greatest Songs of all Time” list.

15.  The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)—Harpers Bizarre

Peaked at #13 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

Written by Paul Simon. Harpers Bizarre band from Santa Cruz, California. Song was the biggest hit for the group.

14.  Lazy Day—Spanky & Our Gang

Peaked at #14 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

Third single from debut “Spanky and Our Gang” album. Group performed song on the Ed Sullivan Show. Second song in the countdown.

13.  Incense & Peppermint—Strawberry Alarm Clock

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

Los Angeles, California band. Highest charting single for group. 23rd biggest record for 1967.

12.  Groovin’—The Young Rascals

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

First number 1 hit for New Jersey formed band. Song is in both the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll.”  

11.  Cherish—The Association

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100: 1966

Second of 3 Association songs on countdown. First number 1 song for vocal group. Second biggest record of 1966.

10.  Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In—The 5th Dimension

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100: 1969

A medley of two songs from the Broadway rock musical “Hair.” Second biggest record of 1969. Ranked number 66 on Billboard’s “Greatest Songs of all time” chart.

9.   Summer in the City—Lovin’ Spoonful

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100: 1966

First of two songs on the countdown. Only number 1 record for band. 11th biggest song of 1966. Ranked at 401 on Rolling Stones’ “500 Greatest Songs of all Time” listing.

8.  Happy Together—The Turtles

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

Only number 1 hit for the band. Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan formed a duo called “Flo and Eddie” after breakup of the Turtles. Song is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

7.  Daydream Believer—The Monkees

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

Song written by John Stewart. Last number 1 hit by the band. Davy Jones of the group sings lead vocals on the track.

6.  The Rain, The Park & Other Things—The Cowsills

Peaked at #2 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

Debut smash for Newport, Rhode Island family band. Sold 3 million records. Ties the song “Hair” as the Cowsills’ two biggest hits.

5.  Never My Love—The Association

Peaked at #2 Billboard Hot 100: 1967

Third Association song on countdown. Popular wedding song over the past 54 years. Second most played song on radio and TV during the 20th century according to BMI.

4.   A Beautiful Morning—The Rascals

Peaked at #3 Billboard Hot 100: 1968

Second song on the countdown. 3rd biggest song for the band. Came in at number 35 on the Billboard Top 100 records for 1968.

3. California Dreamin’—The Mamas & the Papas

Peaked at #4 Billboard Hot 100: 1966

Rolling Stone ranks single at number 89 on their “500 Greatest Songs of all Time” listing. Inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame during 2001. “California Dreamin’” is the signature song for the Mamas and the Papas.

2.  Do You Believe in Magic—The Lovin’ Spoonful

Peaked at #9 Billboard Hot 100: 1965

Written by band member John Sabastian. Second selection on countdown.  Rolling Stone ranks song at 216 on their “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” chart.  “Do You Believe in Magic” was the first of 7 consecutive top ten hits for the Lovin’ Spoonful from 1965 through 1967.

1.  Wouldn’t It Be Nice—The Beach Boys

Peaked at #8 Billboard Hot 100: 1966

One of the greatest doubled-sided 45 rpm singles of all time. B-side “God Only Knows.” Brian Wilson’s masterpiece uses the “Wall of Sound” production technique and 18 different instruments played on the track.  The song is considered ground-breaking and influential for future sub-genres of rock music: Power pop and progressive pop.

Pitchfork ranks Wilson’s gem at number 7 on their “200 Best Songs of the 1960s” listing.  Without any doubt, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is my number 1 best Sunshine Pop song of the 60s.

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on the best Sunshine Pop singles from the 60s, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music from that year.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of Sunshine Pop. The songs that you might feel are the best, may be completely different from my selections.

I am asking for your opinion: What do you consider to be the best Sunshine Pop singles of the 60s decade? There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.

Album cover of Chartbusters USA Special Edition: Sunshine Pop

Listening to Sunshine Pop from the golden age of Top 40 radio will always have a special place in my heart.  I cherish and fondly remember all of the wonderful Sunshine Pop songs from my youth.  Rock on!

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Album Review, Artist Profiles, Music, Virginia Artists

Come Home: Album from Bent Mountain: Encouraging Bluegrass Music

The CD cover of Come Home by Bent Mountain. **All photos on this music blog message were provided courtesy of Quigg Lawrence.

In my home state of Virginia, many bluegrass song lyrics are written about topics pertinent to living life in the valleys and mountains of Appalachia.  Besides the universal subject of love, many Virginian bluegrass songs mention hard living, working the land, feeding families with wages below poverty or permanently loosing coal mining jobs.

In contrast to the lyrical content of most traditional bluegrass created within the Appalachian region of Virginia, others are producing music that is full of hope and encouragement. One such project is an album called “Come Home” by Bent Mountain.

The overall message with this new Roanoke, Virginia bluegrass compilation, can be found on the album’s front CD cover, referencing Matthew 11:28 from the New Testament of the Bible: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

The spiritual aspect of this project comes as no surprise, as the genesis for this new 10-track bluegrass music album comes from Dr. Quigg Lawrence, who is senior pastor at Church of the Holy Spirit, an Anglican parish in Roanoke, Virginia. Lawrence has ministered with his Roanoke congregation for 32 years.

Bishop Quigg Lawrence

In addition to his pastoral duties with Church of the Holy Spirit, Lawrence also serves as a Bishop for the Diocese of Christ Our Hope, which is part of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). Lawrence was consecrated Bishop in February 2013.

My family and I have been members with Church of the Holy Spirit (COTHS) since 2002, so I have shared many experiences with Pastor Lawrence over the past 19 years. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Lawrence about his new bluegrass album project.

During the beginning of my first interview with Bishop Lawrence, I asked two main questions:

1. Why was the name Bent Mountain selected?

2. What is the purpose and goal for recording the album?

Scott Mulvahill and Eric Imhof at Church of the Holy Spirit Roanoke during Bent Mountain recording session.

Bishop Quigg replied, “Bent Mountain is not the name of a band but is a collaboration of musical talent by my friends. Those friends include folks from Church of the Holy Spirit, plus musicians from Roanoke, Southwestern Virginia and even Nashville, Tennessee.”

Answering my second question, Lawrence stated the purpose and goal of the album: “It is a bluegrass style offering, created during Covid and a time while I was watching my mom battle cancer and go home to Jesus.

Lawrence continued, “The common theme with the 10 tracks on “Come Home” is death, resurrection and the “life of the world to come.” It is an invitation to come and experience the peace, rest and joy of the Lord”

The Inspiration behind “Come Home.” Quigg Lawrence TV Interview with Lindsey Ward WSLS Channel 10 Roanoke.  Daytime Blue Ridge show. May 24, 2021.

Bluegrass music has always been a passion for Bishop Lawrence.  His fondness for acoustic stringed instrumental music, formulated during his high school years in Richmond, Virginia.

While growing up, Lawrence loved listening to bluegrass records on his parent’s stereo system.  He also showed fondness of watching his father, Quigg Lawrence Senior play bluegrass music.

Lawrence’s dad owned Alpha Audio recording studio in Richmond where albums from many genres of music were recorded.  Quigg Senior also played in his own bluegrass band called BlueRidge.

Photo of Quigg Lawrence Senior and his band BlueRidge during 1982.

Over the years, Lawrence’s father would often have jam sessions and play with other talented bluegrass musicians. Included in the mix of talented performers that Quigg Senior played with are Ben Eldridge, Bill Clifton, Ralph Stanley and the Country Gentleman.

As a side note, Quigg Lawrence Senior once owned a 1954 Martin D-28 guitar back when he played bluegrass music.  The guitar is said to be “one of the best on the planet” according to Bishop Lawrence. Photo below is of the vintage 1954 Martin D-28 guitar.

Just before Quigg Lawrence Senior passed away, he sold his guitar to an unidentified buyer. Eventually, this famous guitar ended up being owned by Chris Eldridge, who is a guitarist and member of Punch Brothers band. Ironically, Eldridge is one of the musicians who performed on the “Come Home” album and he actually played the celebrated 1954 Martin D-28 guitar on many of the album’s tracks.

Chris Eldridge playing the 1954 Martin D-28 guitar during Bent Mountain recording sessions, that had once been owned by Quigg Lawrence Senior, father of Bishop Lawrence.

After graduation from high school, Lawrence attended the University of Virginia for two years and then earned a degree in emergency medicine from Central Washington University.

It was during this time period that Lawrence found his main pathway for living: Becoming a Christian and following Jesus.

 During the summer of 1980, a surfer friend of Lawrence gave him the book, “Basic Christianity” by John Stott.  By reading Stott’s book, Lawrence started understanding things in the Bible and began his journey as a Christian.

Obviously, proclamation of the gospel is important for Bishop Quigg.  He shared with me about his unique album set, “It has been my dream for several years to record the wide breadth of styles of music COTHS uses.  We regularly use banjo, mandolin and cello alongside electric guitars, keyboard, and bass.”

Julie Wright and Scott Mulvahill at Bent Mountain recording session: Church of the Holy Spirit Roanoke.

Two years ago, the COTHS worship team recorded an EP which included 4 original songs (both contemporary and traditional worship in style) and one cover tune. The brand-new Bent Mountain collaboration features a pleasing mixture of bluegrass and Americana genres of music.

Scott Mulvahill singing backup vocals for Bent Mountain album. Church of the Holy Spirit Roanoke.

Producer for the “Come Home” album is Scott Mulvahill, with Quigg Lawrence as executive producer and Evan Sieling handling engineering duties.

Besides Bishop Lawrence, there are four members of his COTHS congregation that contributed to the “Come Home” project:

*Eric Imhof:  Son-in-law of Quigg Lawrence, Worship Arts Pastor/Stewardship Pastor for COTHS.

Eric Imhof, Scott Mulvahill and Julie Wright taking break during Bent Mountain recording session.

*Julie Wright:  Former Worship Arts Pastor at COTHS and a current member of the praise/worship team.

*Ayden Young and Blane Young: The Brothers Young are a sibling bluegrass duo. Ayden is 15 and plays banjo with the COTHS praise/worship team. Blane age 10, is a mandolin player. Last October, I featured the Brothers Young with one of my music blogs here on DJ Dave’s Musical Musings:

Blane and Ayden Young: The Brothers Young duo from Roanoke, Virginia.

The remaining personnel who are part of the Bent Mountain collaboration, are all excellent musicians and performers.  In fact, Bishop Lawrence brought together a world-class, all-star ensemble for his debut compilation.

*Annie Lawrence:   Singer-songwriter who lives Nashville and has recorded multiple albums. She is the daughter of Quigg Lawrence and grew up in Roanoke. Two years ago, I featured Annie Lawrence’s musical story on my music blog:

awrence.

Annie Lawrence performing at Church of the Holy Spirit. Roanoke, Virginia.

*Scott Mulvahiill:  Front man, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and world-renowned upright bassist.  Has played with Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby.  Now has a solo career. Mulvahill is producer of the Bent Mountain album.

Scott Mulvahill with upright bass during recording session for “Come Home” album.

*Junior Sisk:  Lead guitarist, vocalist and front man for the Junior Sisk Band.  Lives in Ferrum, Virginia. His past bands include Rambler’s Choice and BlueRidge.  Sisk has won numerous accolades including the 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Male Vocalist of the Year award.

*Chris Eldridge:   Singer and guitarist.  Member of Punch Brothers: A hybrid bluegrass/classical/country/chamber band. In 2018, Punch Brothers won a Grammy for Best Folk Album with “All Ashore.”  Past member of the Infamous Stringdusters bluegrass band. His father is Ben Eldridge, founding member of the Seldom Scene.

*Justin Moses: Dobro maestro and multi-instrumentalist. Prominent Nashville session musician. Versatile musician in all forms of acoustic music. Named Dobro Player of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. Married to singer-songwriter and mandolin player Sierra Hull since 2017.

Justin Moses playing a dobro guitar during Bent Mountain recording sessions.

*Sierra Hull: Virtuoso mandolinist, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.  Debut on Grand Ole Opry stage at age 10, played Carnegie Hall at 12 and had first recorded album at age 13. Married to Justin Moses. Performs and tours with husband as a duo.

*Russ Carson:   Superb banjo player.  Member of Ricky Skaggs’ band Kentucky Thunder. Started picking banjo at age 10. Bluegrass Today online considers Carson to be “among one of the top banjo players in the world.”

Russ Carson playing banjo at Bent Mountain recording session.

*Ryan Ogrodny:  Polka prodigy as a teen and plays the fiddle.  Nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Polka Album in 2004. Ogrodny is a violin/fiddle professor at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

* Doug Bartlett:  Fiddle specialist and multi-instrumentalist, formerly with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. Currently with Junior Sisk band. Received a couple of Grammy nominations in 1999 and 2000 for two separate bluegrass albums.

* Jonathan Dillon: Mandolin is main instrument with exceptional banjo skills.  Plays in the Junior Sisk band. At age 17, Dillon was nominated for “Mandolin Player – Performer of the Year” at the 2013 Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America Awards.

*Heather Mabe: Lead and harmony vocalist. Heather and her husband Tony are members of Junior Sisk Band.  Ms. Mabe is known for excellent harmonies, amazing tones and perfect pitch vocals.

Heather Mabe, Junior Sisk and others playing a bluegrass song.

There are a total of 10 tracks on the Bent Mountain album:

  1. Shoutin’ On the Hills of Glory (Featuring Quigg Lawrence)
  2. The Darkest Hour (Featuring Quigg Lawrence)
  3. Mother’s Only Sleeping (Featuring Eric Imhof)
  4. Little Birdie (Featuring Junior Sisk and the Brothers Young)
  5. Forever Ain’t No Trouble Now (Featuring Quigg Lawrence)
  6. Down the Road (Featuring Quigg Lawrence)
  7. You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive (Featuring Eric Imhof and Julie Wright)
  8. Eulogy for Dr. Ralph Stanley (Spoken by Ricky Skaggs)
  9. Come to Jesus (Featuring Annie Lawrence)
  10.  Softly and Tenderly (Featuring Julie Wright)

Four songs on the album feature vocals by Bishop Lawrence. Eric Imhof and Julie Wright sing on three tracks: Both artists have lead vocals with a single song and the pair also perform a duet together.  Rounding out the singing tracks from the Bent Mountain assemble are vocalists Annie Lawrence and Junior Sisk.  

The tenth selection is not musical but actually the spoken word:  It is a eulogy that country/bluegrass superstar Ricky Skaggs gave at the funeral for the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley, the Southwestern Virginia pioneer of bluegrass and country music genres.

Audio for “Eulogy for Dr. Ralph Stanley” by Ricky Skaggs. From Bent Mountain album.

Inclusion of Stanley’s eulogy on a bluegrass album may seem odd to some. However, Bishop Quigg says of Skaggs’ oratory, “I have never heard a clearer explanation of the Gospel.”

In breaking down the musical tunes from the “Come Home” production, the Gospel message pervades throughout each selection, and proclamation of Christian themes is at the forefront on this project. The musicianship on the album is outstanding.

Since I had an advance copy of “Come Home” last month, I have listened to the album multiple times. Before I heard the four songs where Bishop Quigg performs lead vocals, I was curious how Lawrence would sound, since he is not trained as a singer.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Lawrence’s ease of delivery, showing confidence with his phrasing and comfort within the bluegrass genre of music. Bishop Quigg sounds assured with his debut recordings.

Bishop Quigg striking a pose while recording a song for the Bent Mountain album.

Besides Lawrence’s four tracks, the remaining 5 musical tunes are strong and showcase excellence among the various artists. 

  • You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive:  Duet vocals by Eric Imhof and Julie Wright.  Cover of folk song written by Darrell Scott. The duo harmonize superbly and perform the album’s most melodic tune. Additional backup vocals are provided by Scott Mulvahill.
  • Come to Jesus: Annie Lawrence vocals.  Mindy Smith’s written song was a hit on multiple formatted radio stations in 2004.  Annie’s rendition is compelling and expressive. One of Lawrence’s best vocal performances during her recording career.
  • Little Birdie: Junior Sisk vocals.  Traditional bluegrass song. Most famous cover is by Dr. Ralph Stanley. The Brothers Young play on this tune performing their first recorded song. Sisk’s strong vocals are prominent on this selection.
  • Mother’s Only Sleeping:  Eric Imhof vocals.  Written by Bill Monroe in 1946. Song has been covered by the Stanley Brothers and many other bands. Imhof is effective with his engaging vocals on this traditional bluegrass tune.
  • Softly and Tenderly: Julie Wright vocals.  A Christian hymn composed and written by Will L. Thompson in 1880. The last song on the album features Wright singing a cappella and is absolutely transcendent. This outstanding vocal performance is the crown jewel on the “Come Home” album.

The new Bent Mountain album is now available on all major streaming platforms and can be purchased online at Amazon and Apple itunes.

I highly recommend the “Come Home” Bent Mountain compilation set.  Musically, it is top-notch, with nationally acclaimed instrumental performers.  One would be hard pressed to find a similar grouping of world-class musicians together, on any other music album collection.

The message of “Come Home” encompasses many different attributes:  It is calling, challenging and questioning, but also is hopeful and encouraging.  

Without a doubt, the essential theme for the Bent Mountain album is found within the “Softly and Tenderly” chorus, the traditional hymn that closes this superb album: “Come home, come home, you who are weary come home.”

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Broadcasting, Music, Podcasts, Radio, Retro Rock

Two Larry’s and a Mic: Radio DJs Podcasting for New Audiences

Larry Bly and Larry Dowdy in studio for “Two Larry’s and a Mic” podcast. Photo courtesy of Heather Rousseau/The Roanoke Times.

When DJs retire from radio broadcasting, where do they go?  For Roanoke, Virginia DJs Larry Bly and Larry Dowdy, they have started recording a bi-monthly podcast called Two Larry’s and a Mic. 

Then on alternating weeks, Dowdy produces a separate solo podcast called Larry Dowdy Mic Side.

Over the course of the past 50 years, DJs Dowdy and Bly have been an important part of the Roanoke/Lynchburg radio market. With a wealth of radio broadcasting experiences, each new podcast installment creates unique perspectives by this duo.

I spoke with DJs Bly and Dowdy via phone on April 29, just before they recorded episode 18 of Two Larry’s and a Mic. Their latest podcast features songs that were popular 50 years ago during 1971, along with interesting information about the golden age of Top 40 radio.

The idea for podcasting came from Dowdy, as he retired from radio last summer after hosting WLNI Lynchburg’s Morning Line show for the past five years. You can listen to the final words that Dowdy spoke before retirement on the clip below, along with some conversation with WLNI Morning Line co-host Kenny Shelton.

Above: Aircheck of Larry Dowdy’s last minutes on WLNI 105.9 FM Lynchburg on 7/30/20. Courtesy of Larry Dowdy.

Just after his farewell at WLNI, Dowdy contacted his former mentor Larry Bly about the possibility of recording a podcast together.  The guys quickly formed a plan and the Two Larry’s and a Mic podcast became a reality.

 In addition, Larry Dowdy’s Mic Side podcast was also started during the same time period. Debut of Mic Side occurred August 20 while Two Larry’s and a Mic maiden voyage happened August 25.

My connection with both guys named Larry was with WROV 1240 AM Roanoke when we were all employed at the station during the mid 70s.

I started my first job in radio at age 18, working for WROV during April 1974. I was a student at Virginia Western Community College, obtaining an Associate Degree in Radio & TV Broadcasting.

At WROV, I was hired to be a remote engineer by the Top 40 radio station.  My responsibilities at the station included setting up equipment for remote broadcasts, running the soundboard and playing records, while a WROV DJ was in charge of announcing duties.

Here I am at my first radio job. Sound engineer for WROV Roanoke during 1974.

During my first engineering remote assignment with WROV, I was fortunate to be paired up with Larry Bly. The morning drive DJ spoke words of encouragement, and made me feel comfortable during my first day working at the station.

It was also with WROV remote broadcasts where I first met Larry Dowdy, who was a part time employee like myself.  While I was preforming engineering duties for WROV remote broadcasts, Dowdy would run the main studio board back at the radio station.

Larry Bly and Wolfman Jack at the WROV Roanoke studio in April 1975. Photo courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

The career paths for Bly and Dowdy intersected just once, as they both worked together at WROV Roanoke. However, both guys share similarities with their celebrated broadcasting experiences. Both guys named Larry:

  •  Worked at one major market top 40 station outside of Virginia
  •  Were on TV during 80s and/or 90s
  •  Started radio careers at a young age

Larry Bly’s radio career flourished as a young man when he was an announcer for the Armed Forces Network in South Korea. Once Bly left the military, he took a radio job with WHBG Harrisonburg, which was located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

WROV Roanoke DJ Larry Bly and Music Director David Levine. Photo courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Next in Bly’s radio career was a gig at WWWW (W4) FM Detroit, Michigan. Although W4 was a major market top 40 outlet, Bly wanted to get a job closer to his native home state of Virginia. With the help of his friend Dan Alexander, Bly was hired to work at WROV Roanoke during 1971.

When Bly moved to Roanoke, he didn’t realize it would become his permanent home.  After settling in at Top 40 WROV, Bly spent 3 years full time at the station, starting on the 7 pm to midnight shift and ending up doing the morning show for a couple of years.

Above: Larry Bly aircheck on WROV Roanoke during 1973. Courtesy of the WROV History website/Pat Garrett.

During 1974, Bly became a part time employee at WROV as he started working full time for an advertising agency called System 4. A business he co-owned with Marty Hall, who was a former WROV DJ himself during the 60s.

Even though Bly became a weekend employee for WROV, he continuously worked at the station for 37 years and ended his employment there in 1998. According to the WROV History website: “The last live announcer on WROV-AM was Larry Bly, who ended its final show by playing Don McLean’s hit “American Pie” (with lyrics “the day the music died”).”

Above: Larry Bly aircheck on WROV Roanoke during 1981. Courtesy of Larry Bly.

The other major activity that Bly was involved in during the 80s and 90s was a TV program called Cookin’ Cheap. Hosted by Laban Johnson and Bly for Blue Ridge Public Television in Roanoke, the program became a nationally syndicated cooking show.  

Larry Dowdy’s radio career began in 1973 while he was still in high school at combo WRIS AM/WJLM FM Roanoke. Dowdy moved across town the following year for another part time radio position with WROV.

After high school, Dowdy worked at Beautiful Music station WLRG Roanoke 92.3 FM.  At Midnight January 1st, 1980, WLRG switched call letters and music format, becoming Top 40 K92 (WXLK). Listen to the Music” by the Doobie Brothers was the first song played at K92.

At K92, Dowdy was part of a phenomenal Top 40 outlet which became the number 1 most listened to radio station in the Roanoke/Lynchburg market for next 15 years.  Dowdy spent 3 different times employed at K92:  1980-1983, 1984-1992 and 1997-1999.

In 1983, Dowdy left K92 to land at job at Hot Hits WMAR Baltimore, working the midnight shift for his entire employment at that station. After a year working the overnight hours in Maryland, Dowdy came back to his Roanoke roots and once again played Top 40 hits on K92.

Photo of K92 Roanoke “K Crew” morning drive staff: Larry Dowdy, Mike Stevens & Bill Jordan. Dowdy provided his photo for this blog.

TV was next up for Dowdy, as he transferred his radio skills to a new platform: Early morning television. He spent 5 years with WDBJ7 as host for the station’s Mornin’ Program (1992-1997).

At the end of his employment with WDBJ7, Dowdy jumped back over to radio broadcasting and held down morning drive DJ positions with 4 stations from 1997 until 2015.  The first two stations Dowdy worked for after completing TV duties, were Mel Wheeler Media owned K92 and Star Country (94.9 FM) Roanoke.

Morning radio DJ jobs continued for Dowdy in the 2000s as he moved across town and worked for a couple of stations owned by Clear Channel Communications (Now known as iHeartCommunications). First up was Magic FM (104.9 FM) which featured adult contemporary music.

Above: Aircheck of Larry Dowdy & Cheryl Fender on Magic FM Roanoke during 2003. Courtesy of Larry Dowdy.

The longest time that Dowdy spent with one station happened with Sunny FM (93.5), where he spent 14 years as the morning show host.  Dowdy stayed at the classic hits formatted station until January 2015.

After Dowdy’s departure from Sunny FM, he hooked up with WLNI FM (105.9) Lynchburg. The final radio destination for Dowdy was different for the radio broadcaster: He was host for a news/talk program called Morning Line.  Dowdy completed 5 years at WLNI and his radio career was completed at the end of July 2020.

K92 Roanoke DJs Tripper and Larry Dowdy inside the K92 studio. Dowdy provided his photo for this blog.

In my communications with Larry Dowdy, I asked him to give me a brief description about the topic content of the two podcasts that he is producing. Below are his quotes:

  • Two Larry’s and a Mic: Features Larry Bly and Larry Dowdy discussing what made radio fun to listen to and the incredible music that made it memorable.

  • Larry Dowdy Mic Side:  Is a one-on-one interview with movers and shakers in the Roanoke area and other guests of interest from around the country to podcast listeners.

K92 Roanoke DJ Staff on the cover of Roanoker Magazine. From Left: Bill Jordan, David Lee Michaels, John Berry, Larry Dowdy, Vince Miller and Russ Brown. Photo courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Dowdy also gave me a breakdown on the number of total installments that are now available to download with his two podcasts:

  • Two Larry’s and a Mic:  18
  • Larry Dowdy Mic Side:  22

The aspect that I like most about both podcasts:  A person doesn’t need to be a radio geek to enjoy listening to the duo on “Two Larry’s” or to appreciate Dowdy’s warm and inviting interviewing skills on “Mic Side.”

With any “Two Larry’s and a Mic” podcast, the fellows talk on a featured music topic, that is chock-full of information and is fun-filled with laughter between the duo. On any given segment, one may hear radio airchecks, snippets of Top 40 hits, in-depth musical history and radio tales by “Uncle Lar” Bly.   

Some of the wonderful subjects that Two Larry’s and a Mic have tackled since last August include:

  • One Hit Wonders
  • Great Duets
  • British Invasion
  • Elvis Presley
  • Canadian Invasion Music
  • Powerful Instrumentals on Top 40 Radio
  • 70s Music
  • Love Songs

On “Larry Dowdy Mic Side” podcasts, a single person is interviewed by the host.  The subject matter is wide open and much more than just discussions of radio or music topics.  I appreciate the variety of guests that Dowdy interviews on his solo podcast.

Interviews that I have most enjoyed on Larry Dowdy Mic Side:

  • David Lee Michaels
  • Nelson Harris
  • Bill Jordan
  • Dr. Bob Denton
  • Sammy Oakey
  • Brent Watts
  • Tommy Holcomb
  • Kenny Shelton

Larry Bly and Larry Dowdy in studio for “Two Larry’s and a Mic” podcast. Photo courtesy of Heather Rousseau/The Roanoke Times.

For anyone wanting new listening experiences with podcasting, I highly recommend adding both “Larry Dowdy Mic Side” and “Two Larry’s and a Mic” to your playlist. Here are the main links for these superbly produced podcasts:

I fondly remember the golden days of top 40 radio and I am glad that DJs Larry Bly and Larry Dowdy are bringing back musical memories from many years ago.  It is also heartening to know about Dowdy’s labor of love producing two excellent podcasts for the world to enjoy.

If you are searching for new podcasting suggestions, I strongly advocate adding “Larry Dowdy Mic Side” and “Two Larry’s and a Mic” to your regular listening playlist. The retired DJs from Roanoke will not disappoint.  Rock on! 

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Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1969: Best One Hit Wonders

Photo Above by Julianne Woodson

It appears that folks can’t get enough of the topic “one hit wonders.”

The published music blog that I wrote on “1970: Greatest Year for One Hit Wonders” is my most viewed message of all time.  Following in those footsteps, is the recent success of the “1971: Superb One Hit Wonders” message that is soaring in popularity.

Now I am going for the troika:  1969 one hit wonders.

From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “Good Old Rock ‘N Roll” by Cat Mother & the All Night News Boys and “You, I” by the Rugbys.

With this edition of my musical musings, I am concentrating on the best “one hit wonders” of 1969.  I will be counting down the top songs in this category from 52 years ago.

I have fond memories listening to Top 40 radio during 1969. I turned 14 that year living in Roanoke, Virginia. During daytime hours, I was a regular listener to a couple of local AM radio stations:  WROV and WBLU.

Legendary Top 40 WROV 1240 AM was the top-rated radio station in Roanoke. The DJs that I remember from the station during 1969 include Jack Fisher, Fred Frelantz, Bart Prater and John Cigna.

WROV Roanoke Super Summer Survey 8/24/69. Courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

WBLU 1480 AM Salem was the other Top 40 outlet in the Roanoke radio market.  WBLU DJ’s 52 years ago were Chris Shannon, Les Turpin and Bill Cassidy, while Dave Moran was the general manager of the station.

At sundown, WROV reduced their power and WBLU signed off the air, so I tuned in radio stations located hundreds of miles away from my Virginia home. Since radio waves changed on a nightly basis, I would listen to a variety of 50,000-watt, clear channel AM stations on any given night.

The two main stations that I listened to during the nighttime were WLS 890 AM Chicago and WABC 770 AM New York. On the Big 89 WLS, Larry Lujack, Chuck Buell and Kris Erik Stevens were my favorite DJs. When listening to WABC, Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow) are the two radio DJ voices that I remember.

WLS Chicago Hit Parade Surveys 7/14/69 (“In the Year 2525” is #1) & 12/1/69 (“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye is #1).  Courtesy of Pete Battistini: Author of AMERICAN TOP 40 WITH CASEY KASEM (THE 1970’S).

On nights that WLS or WABC were hard to pick up, I had other clear channel stations that I listened to after dark. Among those other stations: WOWO Fort Wayne, WCFL Chicago 1000 AM, CKLW Windsor, Ontario (Detroit) 800 AM, WKBW Buffalo 1520 AM and WKYC Cleveland 1100 AM.

Because of my love of listening to Top 40 radio during 1969, I set a goal that year of wanting to work as a DJ when I reached adulthood. My desire to work in radio became a reality for me at age 18, when I landed a remote engineer position with WROV Roanoke during 1974.

From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “In the Year 2525” by Zager & Evans and “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker & the Aces.

What exactly is a “One Hit Wonder?” The basic definition: An artist has only one hit song during their career on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. This music blog message pertains solely to hit songs within the United States.

To avoid any confusion, here are the criteria that I am using to define a “one hit wonder”:

  • No other songs from an artist ever peaking at number 40 or higher on the Billboard National Pop Chart. (Chart positions from number 40 to number 1).
  • One hit wonders vary from country to country. An artist may have just one hit in the United States but may have multiple hits in another country.
  • Regional hits are not taken into account: A second song must be a national hit and chart within the Billboard Top 40 pop survey.
  • Any songs peaking outside of the Top 40, are always excluded for consideration.
  • Songs that peak from numbers 41 through 100 on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart are never considered as second hits.

From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “Worst That Could Happen” by Brooklyn Bridge and “Smile a Little Smile For Me” by The Flying Machine.

WROV Roanoke Survey June 29, 1969. Courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

The rule that a second song must be a Top 40 Billboard National pop chart hit was established in 1998, by music historian Wayne Jancik in his definitive work on the subject, “The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders.”

The subject of “one hit wonders” has always been interesting to me: Leading me to research the reasons why some artists have only one hit song. Way before the advent of the Internet, my go to reference for this subject has been “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits” by Joel Whitburn. I consider Whitburn’s book to be the “bible” of Top 40 music reference and still proudly own a hard copy of this excellent book.

Before I start my “one hit wonder” countdown, I am listing the 15 biggest songs of 1969 according to Billboard Magazine. NONE OF THE FIFTEEN SONGS LISTED BELOW ARE ONE HIT WONDERS.

1          “Sugar, Sugar” The Archies

2          “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”  The 5th Dimension

3          “I Can’t Get Next to You”  The Temptations

4          “Honky Tonk Women”  The Rolling Stones

5          “Everyday People”  Sly and the Family Stone

6          “Dizzy” Tommy Roe

7          “Hot Fun in the Summertime”  Sly and the Family Stone

8          “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” Tom Jones

9          “Build Me Up Buttercup”  The Foundations

10        “Crimson and Clover” Tommy James and the Shondells

11        “One”  Three Dog Night

12        “Crystal Blue Persuasion”  Tommy James and the Shondells

13        “Hair”  The Cowsills

14        “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” Marvin Gaye

15        “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet”  Henry Mancini

From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “More Today Than Yesterday” by Spiral Starecase and “My Pledge of Love” by the Joe Jeffrey Group.

As I surveyed all the top 40 hits from 1969, I found 25 high quality singles that are on my countdown of one hit wonders for that year.  These are songs that I deem to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant.

I submit to you, my top 25 best one hit wonder songs from 1969.  As Casey Kasem used to say on his weekly American Top 40 show: “Now on with the countdown.”

From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “When I Die” by Motherlode & “Jesus is a Soul Man” by Lawrence Reynolds. I bought both records during the fall of 1969.

25.  Jesus is a Soul Man—Lawrence Reynolds

Peak Position on the Billboard Hot 100:  #28

Lawrence Taylor was a country singer.  Crossed over to Top 40 radio with a gospel song.

24.  Morning Girl—The Neon Philharmonic

Peak Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #17

Psychedelic pop band led by conductor Tupper Saussy and singer Don Gant.  Song featured the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.

23.  Sugar on Sunday—The Clique

Peak Position on the Billboard Hot 100:  #22

Sunshine pop band from Beaumont, Texas.  Song Written by Tommy James.

22.  In the Year 2525—Zager & Evans

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1, Hot 100:  26th Biggest Hit of 1969

Nebraska folk rock duo. Apocalyptic message.  Peaked at number one: Group never had another song crack the Billboard Hot 100 again.

21.  Israelites—Desmond Dekker & the Aces

Peak Position on Billboard Chart:  #9 Hot 100

Desmond Dekker was a Jamaican ska/reggae singer-songwriter.  Among the first reggae songs to reach the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

20.  Tracy—The Cuff Links

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  # 9, Hot 100:  81st Biggest Hit 1969

Pop rock studio band. Vocals on “Tracy” were by Ron Dante. He also was the lead singer on the song “Sugar, Sugar” by the fictitious group called the Archies.  Both songs spent 3 simultaneous weeks inside the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, during October 1969.

19.  Good Old Rock & Roll—Cat Mother & the All Night News Boys

Peak Position on Billboard Chart   #21 Hot 100

Cat Mother & band covers snippets of these 50s hits: “Sweet Little Sixteen”  Chuck Berry, “Long Tall Sally” Little Richard, “Chantilly Lace”  The Big Bopper, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”  Jerry Lee Lewis, “Blue Suede Shoes”  Carl Perkins, and “Party Doll”  Buddy Knox.

18.  Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’—Crazy Elephant

Peak Position on Billboard Charts:  #12 Hot 100, 89th Biggest Hit 1969

Crazy Elephant was a studio group of musicians created by bubble gum music pioneers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffry Katz.  The tune falls into the category of Frat Rock.

17.  When I Die—Motherlode

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts.  #18, Hot 100. 71st Biggest Hit 1969

Canadian pop rock band from London, Ontario.  Song should not be confused with another fall of ’69 hit: “And When I Die” from Blood Sweat & Tears.

16.  You, I—The Rugbys

Peak Position on Billboard Chart:  #24 Hot 100

Psychedelic hard rock band from Louisville, Kentucky.  Toured with the James Gang, Bob Seger and Grand Funk Railroad before disbanding the early 70s.

15.  Baby It’s You—Smith

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #5 Hot 100, 34th Biggest Hit 1969

“Baby It’s You” was originally recorded by the Shirelles and the Beatles.  Smith’s lead singer Gayle McCormick provides a soulful vocal performance on this blues rock cover.

14.  Did You See Her Eyes—The Illusion

Peak Position on Billboard Chart:   #32 Hot 100

Long Island, New York psychedelic-driving hard rock band.  The Illusion opened up for the Who, Chicago, Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Allman Brothers during the band’s active years.

13.  Birthday—Underground Sunshine

Peak Position on Billboard Chart:  #26 Hot 100

“Birthday” was a cover song from the 1968 Beatles’ “White Album.”  Underground Sunshine was a pop/psychedelic rock band from Montello, Wisconsin.

12.  Hot Smoke & Sassafras—The Bubble Puppy

Peak Position on the Billboard Chart:   #12, Hot 100

Biggest psychedelic rock single of 1969 was “Hot Smoke & Sassafras.”  The Bubble Puppy formed in San Antonio during 1966 and rocks hard on this psychedelia masterpiece.

11.  My Pledge of Love—Joe Jeffrey Group

Peak Position on the Billboard Chart:  #14, Hot 100

Joe Jeffrey and his group were a R&B group from Cleveland, Ohio.  “My Pledge of Love” was a top 10 hit in Canada.

10.  Color Him Father—The Winstons

Peak Positions on the Billboard Charts:  #7 Hot 100, 65th Biggest hit 1969

The Winstons were an unrelated ensemble of guys, who performed soul music.  Their hit “Color Him Father” won a Grammy Award for the “Best Rhythm and Blues Song” fifty-two years ago.

9.    More Today Than Yesterday—Spiral Starecase

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #12 Hot 100,  50th Biggest Hit 1969

Sunshine pop song featuring excellent saxophone.  Band from Sacramento, California known for its horn section.

8.    The Worst That Could Happen—The Brooklyn Bridge

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #3 Hot 100, 74th Biggest Hit 1969

Song written by Jimmy Webb.  Johnny Maestro lead singer of Brooklyn Bridge. A portion of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” is played towards end of the tune.

7.    Black Pearl—Sonny Charles & the Checkmates, Ltd.

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #13 Hot 100,  #66 Biggest Hit 1969

R&B group from Fort Wayne, Indiana and “Black Pearl” was produced by Phil Spector.  Sonny Charles has lead vocals with Checkmates summer hit.

6.    Polk Salad Annie—Tony Joe White

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #8 Hot 100, 77th Biggest Hit 1969

Nicknamed “The Swamp Fox” in his native Louisiana state, Tony Joe White is best known for the genre of music called Swamp Rock. White wrote “Polk Salad Annie” and “Rainy Night in Georgia” which was a top 10 hit for Brook Benton during 1970.

5.    Smile a Little Smile for Me—The Flying Machine

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #5 Hot 100, 76th Biggest Hit 1969

Flying Machine was a British pop group.  Their only hit is a soft rock ballad about unrequited love. The band broke up in 1970.

4.    Love (Can Make You Happy)—Mercy

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #2 Hot 100, 42nd Biggest Hit 1969

The American pop group Mercy came from Florida.  “Love (Can Make You Happy)” was written by band member Jack Sigler, Jr. It features tight harmonies on this melodic soft rock tune.

3.    Get Together—The Youngbloods

Peak positions on the Billboard Charts:  #5 Hot 100, #16 Biggest Hit 1969

 The Youngbloods lead by Jesse Colin Young, recorded one of the best peace songs of the 20th century with “Get Together.”   Originally released as a single in 1967, the song became a hit two years later during the summer of 1969.

2.    I Got a Line on You—Spirit

Peak Position on Billboard Charts:  #25 Hot 100

Formed in Los Angeles, California, Spirit was an underrated band. Combining psychedelic/hard rock with jazz, this group was a pioneer in what became known as progressive rock. “I Got a Line on You” was written by Spirit member Randy California and Jay Ferguson handles vocals on the song. This toe-tapping tune is my second favorite 1969 one hit wonder.

  1. Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye—Steam

Peak Position on Billboard Chart:  #1 Hot 100

“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” was written by Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo and Dale Frashuer in the early 60s.  In 1968, DeCarlo recorded 4 singles for Mercury Records as a solo artist.  One of those singles needed a B-side so DeCarlo brought Leka and Frashuer into the studio to record “Kiss Him Goodbye.”

The trio didn’t have a group name for their newly recorded song, so they came up with the fictitious band they named “Steam.”  “Kiss Him Goodbye” spent two weeks at number 1 during December 1969 and was still a top ten record on the Billboard Hot 100 during January 1970.

My 45 rpm single of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” that I bought in 1969 and still own in 2021.

The popularity of “Na Na Hey Hey” has remained strong since the song was first a hit. The song is regularly heard at many professional, college and high school sporting events during the 21st Century.  There is an excellent chance to hear (Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye) at just about any type of sporting contest conducted in 2021.

Without a doubt, “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)” is the best one hit wonder of 1969.

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on “one hit wonders” of 1969, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music from that year.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of the “one hit wonder” songs from 1969. The songs that you might feel are the best, maybe be completely different from my selections.

From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “Get Together” by the Youngbloods & “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy.

I am asking for your opinion: What do you consider to be the best “one hit wonders” of 52 years ago? There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.

Listening to music from the golden age of Top 40 radio will always have a special place in my heart.  I cherish and fondly remember my favorite “one hit wonders” of 1969.  Rock on!

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