Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio

1977 Classic Country Crossover Hits

I was employed as a DJ by country formatted WJLM 93.5 FM Roanoke, Virginia in 1977. In early June that year, WJLM program director Gary E. Cooper handed me text for a commercial that he wanted me to create for an upcoming Elvis Presley Roanoke concert, that was scheduled for August 24, 1977.

When I recorded the spot, I used two Elvis songs for a musical bed which I felt like our WJLM listeners would recognize: “Moody Blue” which had been a number 1 hit at my station earlier that year and Presley’s 1956 hit “Don’t be Cruel.”

Forward to August 16, 1977:  I was on vacation in Northern Minnesota visiting relatives, when my grandmother Agnes Burt shared tragic news with me: “Elvis had left the building.”  Obviously stunned, I couldn’t believe that Presley had died at the young age of 42.

Back in 2017, I had my friend David Hollandsworth digitize some of my old WJLM DJ airchecks from reel-to-reel tape to computer files.   Thankfully, the Elvis spot that I recorded was among my saved airchecks and can be heard below; the commercial I created for Presley’s Roanoke show that never happened.

Above is Dave Woodson radio commercial for Elvis Presley concert: August, 24th, 1977. Aired on WJLM Roanoke, June & July 1977.
Photo of my vinyl record album of “Luxury Liner” by Emmylou Harris

Elvis Presley was just one of many crossover artists that we played on WJLM during 1977.  Country radio was evolving and our FM station was on the forefront of airing artists from a wider, more diverse musical mix, compared to existing traditional AM radio country formatted outlets.

With this music blog message, I will chronicle excellent classic country crossover hits from 1977. In this category, I will countdown what I consider to be the premier songs that I played on WJLM 45 years ago.

Above is audio clip of David Woodson WJLM 93.5 Roanoke July 1977 and September 1977.

In laying out parameters on this topic, I must define the term “Country Crossover.”  For purposes of this article, the definition has multiple meanings. 

A “Country Crossover” refers to songs and/or artists from two directions.  First, pop/top 40 artists recording songs that have country music elements and became hits on country radio. Second, proven hit makers within the genre of country music who have hit songs played on pop/top 40 stations and charted on the Billboard Hot 100.

I will be highlighting what I consider to be the best country crossover hits that I played on WJLM Roanoke 45 years ago.

WJLM changed formats in August 1976 from religious programming to playing country music. Our main competition in the Roanoke market was WSLC 610 AM. 

WSLC AM primarily played traditional country songs of the 70s and a heavy dose of 50s/ 60s oldies, with roots within the Nashville and Bakersfield sounds of the country music genre.

Core Artists on WSLC:  Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Bill Anderson, Porter Wagoner.  Their format tended not to play pop, outlaw or progressive county songs.

On WJLM, we played mostly current music or songs that were less than 2 years old. Our format aired traditional Nashville/Bakersfield Sound artists but only if those artists were releasing new singles.  Virtually no country oldies were featured on the regular WJLM rotation.

Differing from WSLC’s format, WJLM achieved a balanced mix of hits: 50% traditional artists, with the other half being in the “Outlaw/Progressive” genre and/or pop artists that recorded songs that had crossed over to country radio.

Besides traditional country music legends like Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, WJLM core artists included Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, David Allan Coe, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Glen Campbell, Olivia-Newton-John, John Denver, B.J. Thomas, Kenny Rogers, Anne Murray and Elvis Presley.

Since WJLM didn’t have a vast library of older hits, the station was billed as “Roanoke’s New FM Country Leader.”  The biggest advantage that we held over WSLC AM: the music sounded better on WJLM as our signal was broadcasted in stereo on the FM band.

When we started playing country music in August 1976, WJLM’s playlist was 100 percent current music. Two of the biggest crossover hits we aired that summer were “One Piece at a Time” by Johnny Cash and “If You Got the Money Honey I’ve Got the Time” from Willie Nelson.

During the remainder of 1976, Gordon Lightfoot’s epic story song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” was my number 1 favorite country crossover that I played on WJLM.

At the beginning of 1977, WJLM rolled out a second slogan for our station: “Your Place in the Country.”  This catchy phrase invited listeners to find a new musical home with 93.5 FM.

Before starting the best 1977 classic country crossover singles countdown, I am listing some notable songs that fell outside of my top 20 tabulation for this category.

  • Sam—Olivia Newton-John
  • You Light Up My Life—Debby Boone
  • Margaritaville—Jimmy Buffett
  • Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow—Tom Jones
  • Torn Between Two Lovers—Mary MacGregor
  • After the Loving—Engelbert Humperdinck
  • How Can I Leave You—John Denver
  • Home Where I Belong—B.J. Thomas

I submit to you what I consider to be the top 20 premier country crossover singles that I played on WJLM Roanoke during 1977. These are songs that I deem to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. 

20.  Right Time of the Night—Jennifer Warnes

Peaked Positions of Billboard Charts:  #6 Hot 100, #17 Hot Country Singles

Written by Peter McCann. Debut Top 40 hit for Warnes. “Right Time of the Night” was the first Arista Records song to chart on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles survey.

19.  It Was Almost Like a Song—Ronnie Milsap

Peak Positions of Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot Country Singles, #16 Hot 100

Peaked at #7 on Billboard’s Hot Adult Contemporary chart.  Was nominated for two Grammy Awards.

18.  Daytime Friends—Kenny Rogers

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot Country Singles, #13 Adult Contemporary, #28 Hot 100

Title track from Kenny Rogers 1977 album. 2013 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee.  Second consecutive number 1 county hit for Rogers in 1977.

17.  Crazy—Linda Ronstadt

Peak Positions on Billboard Chart:  #6 Hot Country Singles

“Crazy” was written by Willie Nelson and was a huge country smash for Patsy Cline in 1962. This cover version is the first of two Linda Ronstadt countdown songs.

16.  Sweet Dreams—Emmylou Harris

Written by Don Gibson and is cover of his 1955 hit.  Emmylou Harris won a Grammy Award for “Best Country Vocal Performance” with this song.

15.  East Bound and Down—Jerry Reed

Peak Positions on Billboard Chart: #2 Hot Country Singles

Theme song for the 1977 film “Smokey and the Bandit” soundtrack. Lyrics deal with CB radios, truck driving, beer and evading law enforcement across the U.S. south.

14.  What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life—Ronnie Milsap

Peak Position on Billboard Chart:  #1 Hot Country Singles

Single was the ninth consecutive number 1 country hit for Ronnie Milsap. Simultaneously, Amy Grant also had a cover version of this song, which peaked at #5 on Christian music radio in 1977.

13.  It’s a Heartache—Bonnie Tyler

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #3 Hot 100, #10 Hot Country Singles, #10 Adult Contemporary

First hit in America for Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler. “It’s a Heartache” sold over 6 million records world-wide.

12.  We’re All Alone—Rita Coolidge

Peak Positions on Billboard:  #1 Adult Contemporary, #7 Hot 100

Boz Scaggs wrote “We’re All Alone.”  Rita Coolidge’s second pop top ten hit in 1977. After “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher” peaked at #2.

11.  Heard It in a Love Song—Marshall Tucker Band

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #14 Hot 100, #25 Adult Contemporary, #51 Hot Country Singles

“Heard It in a Love Song” was the highest charting single in the career of Marshall Tucker Band. Came in as the 57th biggest hit for 1977.

10.  Lay Down Sally—Eric Clapton

Peak Positions on Billboard: #3 Hot 100, #26 Hot Country Singles

From the Eric Clapton album, “Slowhand.” Biggest country hit single for the only 3 time member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

9.   Lucille—Kenny Rogers

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot Country Singles, #5 Hot 100, #10 Adult Contemporary

Second countdown song for Rogers. It was the first solo hit for the singer after leaving band First Edition. “Lucille” came in as the 43rd biggest pop song for 1977.

8.   Southern Nights—Glen Campbell

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot Country Singles, #1 Hot 100, #1 Adult Contemporary

“Southern Nights” was written by Allen Toussaint. Glen Campbell hit the trifecta as his cover hit number 1 on three Billboard charts.

7.   Moody Blue—Elvis Presley

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot Country Singles, #2 Adult Contemporary, #31 Hot 100

Elvis Presley’s last number 1 song on any chart. “Moody Blue” was recorded in the Jungle Room of Presley’s Graceland home in Memphis, Tennessee.

6.   Blue Bayou—Linda Ronstadt

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #2 Hot Country Singles, #3 Hot 100, #3 Adult Contemporary

Second song on countdown by Linda Ronstadt.  Cover version or Roy Orbison’s 1963 international hit.  “Blue Bayou” is now considered a signature song by the 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

5.   New Kid in Town—Eagles

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, #2 Adult Contemporary, #43 Hot Country Singles

New Kid in Town” was pinned by Don Henley, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther.  First single from “Hotel California” album.  Song won a Grammy Award for “Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices.”

4.  (You Never Can Tell ) C’est La Vie—Emmylou Harris

Peak Position on Billboard Chart:  #4 Hot Country Singles

Emmylou Harris covered Chuck Barry’s 1964 hit “You Never Can Tell.” From the album “Luxury Liner.” Ricky Skaggs plays an up-tempo Cajun fiddle on the song.

3.   Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue—Crystal Gayle

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot Country Singles, #2 Hot 100, #4 Adult Contemporary

Crystal Gayle had the second biggest county hit in 1977 with single. “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” won a Grammy Award for “Best Female Country Vocal Performance.” ASCAP ranks Gayle’s hit as one of the ten most-performed songs of the 20th century.

2.   Here You Go Again—Dolly Parton

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot Country Singles, #2 Adult Contemporary, #3 Hot 100

Dolly Parton’s first pop crossover hit. Spent 5 weeks at #1 on county singles chart.  Second biggest county record for 1978. Also won a Grammy Award the same year for “Best Female Country Vocal Performance.”

  1. Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)—Waylon Jennings

Peak Positions on Billboard Hot 100 charts:  #1 Hot Country Singles, #16 Adult Contemporary, #25 Hot 100.

My number 1 song on the countdown is also the number 1 biggest country record for 1977. The Waylon Jennings hit features guest vocals by Willie Nelson on the final refrain of the song.

Lyrics of “Luckenbach, Texas” include country music artists Hank Williams, Mickey Newbury, Jerry Jeff Walker, Waylon, Willie and the title of Nelson’s 1975 hit “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

Without a doubt, “Luckenbach, Texas” is the number 1 country crossover song that I played on WJLM in 1977.

Now that I have submitted my top country songs of 1977, I am curious to find out your opinions on this topic.  What are your favorite songs on my countdown?

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of country crossover songs from 1977. The songs that you might feel are the best, may be completely different from my selections.

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts and comments below on what you consider to be the best country crossover hits from 45 years ago.  I look forward reading your responses. Rock on!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

Standard
Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

Premier Pop Instrumental Hits of the 60s: 1965-1969

During the past 30 to 35 years, it has been extremely rare for instrumental songs to become hits on the Billboard Hot 100.  However, hit songs without singing were commonplace on Top 40 radio from 1960 through 1985. In that time span, there were 18 different instrumental songs all peaking at number one.

The biggest instrumental hit of the 60s is “The Theme from a Summer Place” by Percy Faith and the Orchestra. This monster hit spent 9 consecutive weeks at number 1 and was the biggest record of 1960 according to Billboard.  Faith won a Grammy Award for “Record of the Year” in 1961 for this song.

The summer of 1968 was the pinnacle for instrumental hits on Top 40 radio.  On the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the week ending August 3, there are three instrumentals in the top eight positions: “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams peaked at #2, “Grazing in the Grass” from Hugh Masekela ranked #4 and “The Horse” by Cliff Noble and Co was number 8.

At the end of 1968, Billboard ranked 6 instrumental songs in their “Year-End Hot 100 Singles” chart with Paul Mauriat’s tune “Love is Blue” coming in as the second biggest record for ’68.

With this latest music blog message, I will be counting down what I consider to be the top 10 most significant instrumental singles between the years of 1965 and 1969. This time frame is considered to be part of the “Golden Age of Top 40 Radio.”

Criteria that I am using in this article:

  • Tune charted during the 1965 to 1969 time period
  • Single peaked at number 10 or higher on the Billboard Hot 100 chart
  • Song has NO voices, speaking of words or whistling anywhere on the tune

My favorite instrumental:  Soul Coaxing by Raymond Lefèvre and His Orchestra. Peaked at number 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the spring of 1968.

Instrumentals that are good but not eligible for my countdown because of human voices, brief singing or whistling:

  • Soul Finger—The Bar-Kays
  • The Good, The Bad and the Ugly—Hugo Montenegro
  • No Matter What Shape—The T-Bones
  • I Was Kasier Bill’s Batman—Whistling Jack Smith
  • The “In” Crowd—Ramsey Lewis Trio

Instrumental songs just outside of my top 10

  • Hang ‘Em High—Booker T and the MGs
  • Quentin’s Theme—Charles Randolph Grean Sounde
  • Keem-O-Sabe—Electric Indian

As Casey Kasem used to say on his American Top 40 show: “And now it’s on with the countdown.”

10.  Midnight Cowboy—Ferrante & Teicher (1969)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #2 Easy Listening, #10 Hot 100

Musical score written by John Berry for the 1969 film “Midnight Cowboy.”  The Ferrante & Teicher duo were American piano players who recorded many movie soundtracks, show tunes and light classical music tunes.

9.    Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet—Henry Mancini & His Orchestra (1969)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 15th Biggest Hit of 1969

From the 1969 movie “Romeo & Juliet.” Music written by Nino Rota and rearranged by Henry Mancini, who plays the piano on the tune. Session musician Hal Blaine added drums to this track.

8.    Grazing in the Grass—Hugh Masekela (1968)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 18th Biggest Hit of 1968.

Hugh Masekela was a jazz trumpet player from South Africa. Music was composed by Philemon Hou and features a cowbell.  Tune inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018.

7.    Hawaii Five-0—The Ventures (1969)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #4 Hot 100, 58th Biggest Hit of 1969

Written by Morton Stevens as the theme music for CBS TV series Hawaii Five-O. The Ventures cover version spent 14 weeks on the Billboard chart. One of the band’s biggest hits.

6.    The Horse—Cliff Nobles & Co (1968)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #2, Hot 100, 21st Biggest Hit of 1968

Interesting that Cliff Nobles didn’t perform on the tune credited to him. A group of session musicians jammed in the studio to create the instrumental track. “The Horse” was released as the B-Side of the 45-rpm single “Love is All Right” and is the instrumental version of that tune.

5.    Soulful Strut—Young-Holt Unlimited (1968)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #3 Hot 100, #2 Easy Listening

Young-Holt Unlimited was a jazz trio from Chicago, Illinois. The music ensemble included Eldee Young and Isaac “Redd” Holt who both left Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1966, as well as Ken Chaney who became a member in 1968.

4.    Time is Tight—Booker T and the MGs (1969)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #6 Hot 100, 3rd Biggest Hit of 1969

Booker T and the MGs were a mainstay with Stax Records out of Memphis, Tennessee and the are considered the quintessential R&B instrumental band of the 60s. These musicians had seven Top 40 hits and the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

3.    Love is Blue—Paul Mauriat & His Orchestra (1968)

Peak positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 2nd Biggest Hit of 1968

With “Love is Blue” reaching number 1 for five weeks during February and March in 1968, Paul Mauriat became the first French artist to top the Billboard Hot 100. The tune also spent 11 weeks at number 1 on the “Easy Listening” chart and became the second best selling record in 1969 according to Billboard.

2.    A Taste of Honey—Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (1965)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Easy Listening, #7 Hot 100

Signature tune by Herb Alpert received four Grammy Awards, including “Record of the Year” in 1966. “A Taste of Honey” topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart for five weeks and the American trumpeter was a 2006 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

  1. Classical Gas—Mason Williams (1968)

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #2 Hot 100, 43rd Biggest Hit of 1968

“Classical Gas” was composed by Mason Williams and features instrumental backup by the professional session musicians known as the “Wrecking Crew.” During 1969, the tune won three Grammy Awards for categories all associated with instrumental music. Without a doubt, the musical masterpiece known as “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams is my number 1 selection for the best instrumental top 40 single of the mid to late 60s.

Now that I have submitted my top 10 premier pop instrumental hits of the 60s, I am curious to find out your opinions of this topic.  What are your favorite songs on my countdown?

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts and comments below on what you consider to be the best Top 40 pop instrumental hits from the mid to late 60s.  I look forward reading your responses. Rock on!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

Standard
Album Review, Artist Profiles, Music

Locks: Fresh New Sara Niemietz Single from Upcoming Superman Album

Sara Niemietz with guitar. Photo credit: Xanderphotography.com

I describe the new single “Locks” by Sara Niemietz as hot, hip and happening indie rock. The song is now available for purchase and is the first track from an upcoming October 2022 Niemietz album release called “Superman.”

The “Locks” single and the remaining 13 other tracks from the new “Superman” LP are a collaboration between Sara Niemietz and her musical partner Linda Taylor.  This dynamic duo merged their musical talents together over the past two years: Niemietz-Taylor are co-producers for “Superman” and co-wrote every song on their collaborative project.

Niemietz is a singer-songwriter, musician, actor and member of PostModern Jukebox, who has recorded 3 albums during her career.  Taylor is a superb guitarist, composer, music producer and plays guitar on ABC TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”  Together, the Niemietz-Taylor team creates musical magic!

Sara Niemietz and Linda Taylor before a Smith Center concert in Las Vegas, Nevada May 2022.

With the production of “Locks” and “Superman” by Niemietz-Taylor, the duo employed session musicians for their recordings. Personnel on all 14 songs include:

  • Sara Niemietz – vocals
  • Linda Taylor – guitars
  • Léo Costa – drums
  • Ed Roth – keyboards
  • Daniel Pearson – bass

Here are my thoughts about the new Niemietz-Taylor single.   When I heard “Locks” for the first time, I responded back to Sara and Linda via email with the following reply: “The track is a good choice for a first single. It is a catchy, up-tempo groove.  Excellent interplay with the drum, guitar and bass. I love the special effects with the switching of tune tempo. Outstanding vocals and harmonies. A Superb production. Pleasing to my ear.”

What does the co-producer team of Niemietz-Taylor have to say about their new single?  I asked Sara and Linda about “Locks” and they answered my inquiry from two different continents.

Sara Niemietz and Linda Taylor in studio during the “Superman” album recording sessions. Early 2022.

Taylor’s answer came to me from her Los Angeles, California home, submitting a quote from an official press release on “Locks” and the “Superman” album: “The bluesy “Locks” captures the bittersweet side of getting through life challenges. Here, Sara’s rich and sultry vocals imbue the song with a sense of burnished hope befitting the lyrics. One choice passage reads: “Who’s that looking out from the mirror/A little bit leaner, meaner/She figured it out/Can’t believe what I see/It’s almost hard to believe/This other side of the street I’m standing on.”

Album art for new Sara Niemietz single “Locks.”

My question for Niemietz: “Why did she and Taylor choose “Locks” as the first single to be released?  Sara replied via email, on a bus somewhere in Austria, as she was touring with PostModern Jukebox last month: “We have new versions of some previously released songs on “Superman” but “Locks” was the first idea specifically for the album. It went through several re-writes and re-records before we found its heart. In fairness, it got a little beat up, but we weren’t willing to let it go. Now we find it just feels like the start, the start of the setlist, the start of the album, the opening chapter, it sets everything in motion and the obvious first single.”

“Super” Sara in costume.

Link for purchasing “Locks” single: https://tinyurl.com/saralocks

Sara’s official website: www.saraniemietz.com

Linda’s official website: www.lindataylormusic.com

 As I mentioned above, “Locks” and all the songs on “Superman” were written and produced by Niemietz-Taylor.   The album will feature five new studio versions of previously released singles of the past two years: “Come to Me”, “Superman”, “Lovely Lies”, “The Dimming”, and “GOODX3.” From these five existing songs, the last two have already become fan favorites for those who follow the Niemietz-Taylor musical pair.

Considering that Niemietz has recorded three excellent albums during her career, “Superman” promises to be a musical delight.  The collaborative Niemietz-Taylor album is now available for pre-ordering from Bandwear. Link to purchase album is below:

Album art for Sara Niemietz “Superman” album.

For anyone searching for new music to purchase this summer, look no further than “Locks” and the upcoming “Superman” album from Sara Niemietz and Linda Taylor.  I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.  Rock on!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

Standard
Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

Top Ten Radio Hits of the 70s: Not Released as 45 RPM Singles

Graphic above by Julianne Woodson

What are the best songs played on Top 40 radio during the 70s that were not released as singles by record companies?

Obviously, there are no definitive answers to my question. If I asked the above inquiry to 100 folks, I would surely receive one hundred different responses.

A framed WROV 70s poster owned by Barry Michaels, a 1978-1981 WROV DJ. Photo is courtesy of Barry Michaels.

With this latest music blog message, I will be revealing my top selections based on these factors: Growing up in Roanoke, Virginia, listening to WROV 1240 AM and then being employed by the legendary top 40 station, starting in 1974.

My regular radio listening started in the spring of 1967 after my parents gave me a transistor radio.  I quickly discovered WROV and was hooked on their Top 40 format.

WROV Roanoke DJs Fred Frelantz and Jack Fisher in 1967. Photo courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Then in the summer of 1967, I commandeered a desk-top tube radio from our kitchen and permanently kept this device in my bedroom.  On most nights that summer, I would tune in 50,000-watt, clear channel AM radio stations, such as WLS 890 Chicago and WABC 770 New York.

When I started listening to the radio 55 years ago, I quickly realized that Top 40 stations aired only songs that were released as 45-rpm singles by record companies.  The biggest album from the 1967 “summer of love” was “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by the Beatles. Since Capitol Records didn’t release any singles on the Fab Four album, there were no songs from the LP regularly played on Top 40 outlets.

It wasn’t until late 1968/early 1969, that I noticed Top 40 radio playing album tracks.  The Beatles “White Album” came out during November 1968 but Capitol Records did not release any singles from the LP in America. However, many top 40 formatted stations played select cuts from the self-titled Beatles album.

On WROV Roanoke, they played three tracks from the Beatles “White Album.” First, the station aired “Back in the U.S.S.R” and then followed up with “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Rocky Raccoon.”

 Above is an audio clip when I was a guest DJ for a My Fab Four segment on SiriusXM’s the Beatles Channel.  Featured on this audio clip: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” & “Back in the USSR” from the “White Album.” Two of my four favorite Beatles songs of all-time.

WROV Roanoke Fabulous Forty Musicard for February 16, 1969. Courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett. This survey actually mentions WROV playing “Rocky Raccoon” from the Beatles “White Album.”

Forward to the 70s.  Most Top 40 stations were still on the AM band at the beginning of the decade. The emergence of FM radio in the late 60s and early 70s created challenges for existing AM radio stations.

Audio aircheck Bart Prater WROV Roanoke May 1973. Courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Since music sounded 100% better on FM, ratings for AM Top 40 stations starting declining. To compensate for the competitive disadvantage AM Top 40 radio had against new FM signals, many long-standing AM outlets decided to tweak their traditional playlists.

WROV Roanoke DJ Bart Prater. Photo courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett

Most Top 40 AM stations in the early 70s started playing the longer album version of songs rather than the shorter edited 45-rpm single record. Many of these AM outlets also embraced the playing of “non-single” album tracks on their hot rotation playlists. 

Sometimes an AM Top 40 station playing an album track would result in a record company releasing a song as a 45-rpm single. This happened during my first job in radio at WROV in 1974.

DJ Chuck Holloway left and myself Dave Woodson playing records at WROV Roanoke remote broadcast in 1974.

 During early September 1974, WROV music director Chuck Holloway started playing the song “Black Water”, which was a track from the Doobie Brothers “What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits” album. After just a few spins on Holloway’s nighttime DJ air-shift, “Black Water” became an immediate hit in Roanoke.

Soon after, Phil Beckman at WQRK Norfolk and Buzz Bennett with KDWB Minneapolis added “Black Water” to their playlists. Finally, Warner Bros Records released the song as a single and the Doobie Brothers achieved their first number 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 during March 1975.  WROV received a gold record for being the first radio station to play and break “Black Water” as a hit song in America.

For the remainder of this message, I will be counting down what I consider to be the ten best classic Top 40 hits of the 70s. These were songs that received heavy airplay on WROV 1240 AM Roanoke, played as an album track and not released by a record company as a 45 RPM single.

Audio aircheck of Dan Alexander WROV Roanoke 12/31/71. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

My countdown of songs in this category is based solely on my experience of living in Roanoke, Virginia and listening to Top 40 WROV. The ten selections below are from my point of reference and are not meant to be a definitive listing of top album tracks aired on Top 40 radio in America during the 70s.

Larry Bly, Bart Prater, Wolfman Jack and Chuck Holloway in WROV studio. April 1975. Photo courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett

Audio aircheck of Larry Bly WROV Roanoke April 1973. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Before starting the countdown, here are some clarification points on non-single album tracks played on Top 40 radio:

  • Information on album tracks not released as 45 RPM singles pertains only to the United States.

  • Time frame for non-single songs is up to 24 months after an album was initially released.

  •  Since only singles were eligible to appear on Billboard Hot 100, album tracks didn’t qualify to chart in the 70s.

  • Some songs that were originally album tracks only may have subsequently been released as a single, years or even decades after the first release of a song.

  • Later versions of singles could be in a variety of formats:  45 RPM, 12 Inch disc, Cassette, CD or Digital Download.

  • With the 2001 advent of iTunes, all songs on countdown can now be purchased as a digital single: via multiple Internet platforms.
WROV air staff outside of the WROV building. Fall 1975. Photo courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

While the album tracks from the countdown are associated with airplay on WROV, all of the selections are still well-known songs in the 21st Century.  Most can be heard daily on various radio outlets:  classic rock, classic hits, oldies and multiple SiriusXM channels in 2022.

Audio aircheck of Terry Young WROV Roanoke May 1973. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.
WROV DJ Bill Jordan in the studio during 1975. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

A song just outside of my top 10 countdown is an album track that WROV played during 1976: “Turn the Page” from the Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band LP, “Live Bullet.”  Two singles were released from the album: “Nutbush City Limits” and a medley of “Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser”

WROV’s Music Director and DJ Bill Jordan provides information below on why he decided adding “Turn the Page” to his station’s playlist in 1976: “I was music director during a pretty interesting time at WROV. We had morphed into sort of a Top 40/Album Oriented format, and readily played album cuts that “fit” the sound we wanted.”

Audio aircheck of Bill Jordan & Starr Stevens WROV Roanoke September 1975. Courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Jordan continues, “A friend switched me on to Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” from his “Live Bullet” album. We started playing it in very light rotation and it quickly exploded. Record stores couldn’t keep the album in stock.

In fact, “Turn the Page” became so popular that Capitol Records considered delaying the release of the “Night Moves” album. In 1977, Seger performed at the Salem Civic Center in his last show as an opening act for Black Sabbath.

“Turn The Page” brought the house down. Great times!”

It is now time for the countdown. The top ten radio hits of the 70s not released as 45 RPM singles:

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

10.  Southern Man—Neil Young

From the “After the Gold Rush” album: Released September 19, 1970

WROV DJ I Associate with Song: Terry Young 1973

Singles released from album:   “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “When You Dance, I Can Really Love.”

Photo of my vinyl record: “After the Gold Rush” by Neil Young

“Southern Man” is found on two albums: Neil Young’s 1970, “After the Gold Rush” LP and a live version on a live 1971 Crosby Stills Nash & Young album, “4 Way Street.”  WROV DJ Terry “Motormouth” Young played this track on his 7 to midnight shift during the winter and spring of 1973. The fast-talking DJ went on bigger radio stations like WLEE Richmond and WCAU Philadelphia.  Terry Young was also on SiriusXM’s 60s on 6 channel during the first part of this century.

9.    Isn’t She Lovely—Stevie Wonder

From the “Songs in the Keys of Life” album: Released September 28, 1976

WROV DJ I Associate with Song: Rob O’Brady 1977

Singles released from album: “I Wish”, “Sir Duke”, “Another Star” and “As.”

Photo of my vinyl record: “Songs in the Key of Life” by Stevie Wonder

When Stevie Wonder’s album “Songs in the Key of Life” came out, many consumers wanted Tamla Records to release “Isn’t She Lovely” as a single. Wonder didn’t want his over six-minute song to be edited and refused to have his song cut up into a shorter 45-RPM record. Many Top 40 stations played the song anyway, including WROV.  Rob O’Brady would often play Wonder’s album track on his morning drive show and announce that it was dedicated to his loyal listeners, fondly known as “O’Brady’s Ladies.”

8.    Let It Flow—Eric Clapton

From the “461 Ocean Boulevard” album: Released July 1974

WROV DJs I Associate with Song: Chuck Holloway, Bart Prater & Rob O’Brady 1974

Singles released from album: “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Willie and the Hand Jive.” 

Photo of my vinyl record: “461 Ocean Boulevard” by Eric Clapton

While most Top 40 stations added “Willie and the Hand Jive” to their playlists after Eric Clapton hit number 1 with “I Shot the Sheriff”, WROV went in another direction.  Music director Chuck Holloway added the album track “Let it Grow” to its hot rotation and aired in all day-parts. Clapton plays a dobro on this track and Yvonne Elliman provides backup vocals on this melodic tune.

7.    South City Midnight Lady—The Doobie Brothers

From “The Captain and Me” album: Released March 2, 1973

WROV DJ I Associate with Song: Bart Prater & Larry Bly 1973

Singles released from album: “Long Train Running” and “China Grove.”

Photo of my vinyl record: “The Captain & Me” by the Doobie Brothers

“South City Midnight Lady” is quite different from most Doobie Brothers songs. The tune features a pedal steel guitar, strings and synthesizer. I distinctly remember WROV’s morning DJ Larry Bly playing the song regularly in the fall of 1973.  However, I mostly associate this Doobie Brothers song with afternoon announcer Bart Prater. “South City Midnight Lady” was Prater’s favorite song that he played on WROV.  The legendary Roanoke DJ played it regularly on the station between 1973 and 1981, before leaving to work at crosstown K92 FM.

6.    The Chain—Fleetwood Mac

From the “Rumours” album: Released February 4, 1977

WROV DJ I Associate with Song: Rob O’Brady 1977

Singles released from album: “Go Your Own Way”, “Dreams”, “Don’t Stop” and “You Make Loving Fun.”

Photo of my vinyl record: “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac (FM) was hot on Top 40 radio in 1977 with four-top 10 singles.  Fans wanted more songs to be played from the “Rumours” album and WROV obliged by adding a fifth song from the LP.  “The Chain” is the only FM song from the album with writing credits from all five members (Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood.  The band also regularly opens their concert tours by playing “The Chain.”

5.    Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding—Elton John

From the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album: Released October 5, 1973

WROV DJ I Associate with Song: Chuck Holloway 1974

Singles released from album: “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Bennie and the Jets.”

Photo of my vinyl record: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John

“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” was too long for a single release, but we played it at WROV in 1974 when I first started working for the station.  Coming in at over 11-minutes long, this rock song was aired only after 7 pm and then up to 5 am the next morning.    Chuck Holloway played it at least once every evening on his air shift.  This medley of two songs from the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album, is a renowned musical masterpiece by the Bernie Taupin/Elton John duo.

4.    I Heard It Through the Grapevine—Creedence Clearwater Revival

From the “Cosmo’s Factory” album: Released July 8, 1970

WROV DJ I Associate with Song: Bill Thomas 1970

Singles released from album: “Travelin’ Band/Who’ll Stop the Rain”, “Up Around the Bend/Run Through the Jungle” and “Lookin’ Out My Backdoor/Long as I Can See the Light.”

Photo of my vinyl record: “Cosmo’s Factory” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) had 3-double sided top 5 hit singles from their “Cosmos Factory” album.  In the fall of 1970, many Top 40 stations played CCR’s 11-minute cover version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”  At WROV, the CCR album track only aired during night time air shifts.  7 to midnight DJ Bill Thomas played the album track on Roanoke’s top 40 outlet.

In 1972, CCR broke up and John Fogerty had a nasty falling out with his record company.  Fantasy Records released an edited 3:53 version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” as a single.  It peaked at number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. Obviously, this version cuts out most of the outstanding instrumental ending with the Motown cover tune.

3.    Maybe I’m Amazed—Paul McCartney

From self-titled “McCartney” album: Released April 17, 1970

WROV DJ I Associate with Song: Jack Fisher 1970

Photo of my vinyl record: Self-Tilted “McCartney” album by Paul McCartney

Apple Records was in a quandary in April 1970:  Paul McCartney officially confirmed that the Beatles had broken up, and the last Fab Four album, “Let it Be” was set to be released in May, along with the Beatles single, “The Long and Winding Road.”

On top of all that activity, a self-titled “McCartney” debut solo album, came out just a week after the news that the Beatles were history.  It was then decided by Apple Records that no singles would be released from Sir Paul’s LP.  That didn’t stop WROV from adding the album track “Maybe I’m Amazed” to its playlist. It was a midday favorite of legendary DJ Jack Fisher.

Back cover of my “McCartney” vinyl record album.

Forward to December 1976:  an album by Paul McCartney & Wings was released called “Wings Over America.”  This live LP featured a cover of “Maybe I’m Amazed” and it became the lead single from the album. This new rendition peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the spring of 1977.

2.    Baba O’Riley—The Who

From the “Who’s Next” album: Released August 14, 1971

WROV DJ I Associate with Song: Dan Alexander 1971

Singles released from album: “Won’t Get fooled Again” and Behind Blue Eyes.”

Photo of my vinyl record: “Who’s Next” by the Who

The opening track from the 1971 “Who’s Next” album is “Baba O’Riley.”  The song most music critics consider as the best ever recorded by the Who was not released as a 45-RPM single 51 years ago.

According to Wikipedia:  “Baba O’Riley” appears in Time magazine’s “All-Time 100 Songs” list, Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.”

Back cover of my “Who’s Next” vinyl record album.

My fond memory of hearing this album track played on WROV:  DJ Dan Alexander created comedy bits on his AM drive show, under the fictional character name of Marvin Meriweather. One morning just after Alexander started playing “Baba O’Riley”, Marvin shouts out the chorus refrain: “It’s only TEENAGE WASTELAND, they’re all WASTED.”   It was truly a LOL moment for me.

  1. Stairway to Heaven—Led Zeppelin

From the “Lead Zeppelin IV” album: Released November 8, 1971

WROV DJs I Associated with Song:  Terry Young and Shane Randall 1973

Singles released from album: “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll.”

Photo of my vinyl record: “Led Zeppelin IV” by Led Zeppelin

My number 1 selection on the countdown is “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, which is the signature song by the English band. WROV’s Terry Young played the song every night in 1973, when he was employed by the station.

Composed by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, “Stairway to Heaven” is considered by many as the best rock song of all-time.  This Led Zeppelin tune was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, voted as the third “Greatest Rock Song” by VH1, ranked #31 on the Rolling Stone “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” listing and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.

Back cover of my “Led Zeppelin IV” vinyl record album.

Led Zeppelin didn’t release many singles during their career and their greatest song was only available as an album track during the 70s decade.   Without a doubt, “Stairway to Heaven” is the number 1 song played on WROV/Top 40 radio in the 70s and not released as a 45 RPM single.

Now that I have submitted my top ten 70s album tracks that weren’t released as singles, I am curious to find out your opinions of this topic.  What are your favorite songs on my countdown?

If you were living in the 70s and listened to Top 40 radio were any of the tunes listed above played on your home town station?  Or maybe a Top 40 outlet in your community played different album tracks than the songs that I documented in this article?

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts and comments below on what you consider to be the best album tracks that never were released as a 45 RPM record during the 70s.  I look forward reading your responses. Rock on!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

Standard
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.”

An 11 minute mix of some of the jingles that Tommy Holcomb created over the years. Many aired in the region around Roanoke, Virginia, Tommy’s hometown.

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.

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

Standard
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!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

Standard
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!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

Standard
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!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

Standard
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!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

Standard
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!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

Standard