Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1975 Superior Singles & WROV Roanoke Memories

As I think back upon the beginning of my radio career, the opening lyrics of “Old Days” by Chicago seems to an appropriate introduction about small radio markets during 1975.

Old days, good times I remember

Fun days filled with simple pleasures

Take me back to a world gone away

Memories seem like yesterday

I grew up in Roanoke, Virginia and we didn’t have many choices to hear new music.  For TV viewing in 1975, there were only 4 options:  Local affiliates for CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS. On the radio side of broadcasting, Roanoke had 7 AM and 5 FM stations.  Of the seven AM stations, here is the breakdown of formats:

  • Top 40
  • Middle of the Road (MOR)
  • News/Talk
  • Country
  • Religious (2 stations)
  • R&B/Soul

Over on the FM band, there was even less variety:

  • Beautiful Music (2 stations)
  • Public Radio
  • Religious
  • MOR

While other radio markets had viable strong FM stations playing contemporary music such as Top 40, album rock and country back in 1975, Roanoke listeners still had to rely on AM stations to provide them with up-to-date popular music.  It took another 5 years before FM radio took hold in the Roanoke area, with the advent of K92 (WXLK) 92.3 FM on January 1st, 1980.

During the halfway point of the 70’s decade, Top 40 outlet WROV 1240 AM 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.

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

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

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

My first remote broadcast with WROV in April ‘74 was with DJ Larry Bly at the Roanoke Catholic High School “Spring Carnival” event. My last worked remote for the station was with Starr Stevens at Discount Records, Tanglewood Mall in November 1975.

In between my debut with Bly and farewell broadcast with Stevens, I worked around 20 remote broadcasts with legendary WROV DJ Bart Prater.  Some of the other DJs whom I worked multiple remotes with include Chuck Holloway, Rob O’Brady, Rich Randall and Dave Hunter.

Chuck Holloway and Dave Woodson at WROV remote. Discount Records: Tanglewood Mall, Roanoke, Virginia.

Most remotes were in the 3 to 4-hour range.  The longest remote I worked was on Labor Day 1975 at Lowe’s on Orange Avenue with a legendary WROV DJ from the 60’s:  Jack Fisher. It was a “solid gold holiday weekend” and I played all 50’s and early 60’s rock & roll that day.

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

Many of my fondest memories working at WROV are with Bart Prater.  He started at the station in 1968, coming from WOLD Marion, Virginia.  Prater spent the next 13 years of employment at WROV, before moving over to crosstown Top 40 giant K92 during 1981.

Although Prater was a shy person by nature, his radio personally came alive when the microphone switch was turned on from mute:  Prater was a shining star and delivered big as the afternoon drive DJ for WROV.

While I was employed at the station, Prater won the 1975 Billboard Magazine Medium-Market Radio Personality of the Year award.  After winning the award, I remember Bart telling me that Top 40 KILT AM Houston had offered him a job but he turned them down. Prater said, “I didn’t like the big city and Roanoke is my home.  I decided to stay here.”

Bart Prater in WROV studio. Photo courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson & the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett

I have two memories working with Bart Prater that stand out for me.  When WROV first bought a wireless microphone for the station, Bart and I were at Lakeside Amusement Park in Salem for an afternoon remote broadcast.  Around halfway through the broadcast, Prater said he wanted to test the new wireless mic by riding on the “Shooting Star” roller coaster, while live on the air.

Bart had faith that the wireless mic would work throughout the roller coaster ride and decided to test it out: Live on WROV, without a test run. Prater then hopped on the Shooting Star and recited the Lord’s prayer just before descending down the ride’s first drop.

Prater made history that day as he successfully spoke to his WROV radio audience live, while riding on the Shooting Star Roller Coaster at Lakeside Amusement Park.  Although there were a few seconds of drop out with mic coverage, Prater could be heard loud and clear throughout his historic ride. It was an event that I will never forget.

A framed WROV 70’s poster that is owned by DJ Barry Michaels: Who worked at WROV from 1978 through 1981 and provided his photo to be used here on this music blog.

My second most memorable activity with Bart happened on the first day of spring 1975. It was sunny and warm that day in Roanoke and Prater wanted to do a remote broadcast outside of the WROV building this afternoon. The station’s studios were located on the corner of 15th St and Cleveland Avenue, along the banks of the Roanoke River.

I happened to be at the station that day and Prater asked me to run the main board for a couple of hours of his afternoon DJ shift, while he did a remote broadcast outside of the WROV building.  I eagerly said yes and jumped at the chance to do a remote broadcast:  This time inside of the main WROV studio while Prater sat outside of the building with a wireless mic for the remote broadcast.

Prater got to soak up the sun at the place he fondly called “PD Bottom” and I got to run the board inside the main studio. It was thrilling for this 19-year old teen. During my two hours running the board, I played the WROV number 1 song twice that day: “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John.

During my time working at WROV, we had many famous rock artists drop by the station for promotional visits.  The biggest personality to appear at our studios was Wolfman Jack.

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

Canadian rock band the Guess Who performed at the Roanoke Civic Center in April and they were going to play their summer of 1974 hit, “Clap For the Wolfman” at this show.  Joining them for this one song was legendary DJ Wolfman Jack.

The day before the Guess Who concert, “The Wolfman” came by the WROV studio to be interviewed by DJ Chuck Holloway on his evening air shift.  Wolfman Jack took over the controls on the WROV board and conducted a two-hour air shift for the station that night. WROV DJs Larry Bly, Bart Prater and Chuck Holloway all were in studio when “The Wolfman” made his historic Roanoke on-air appearance.

Larry Bly and Wolfman Jack at WROV studio. April 1975. Photo Courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson & the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Two other highlights happened for me at WROV during 1975:

  • I met members of the Average White Band and jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie while working a remote broadcast at Discount Records, located at Tanglewood Mall.
  • When Suzi Quatro was in Roanoke for a concert, I met her inside the WROV building.

WROV air staff outside of the WROV building. Fall 1975. Photo courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson & the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

The rest of this music blog is what I consider to be the best songs that I played on WROV in 1975.  I will be counting down my favorite top 20 songs from 45 years ago.

Before I start my Top 20 countdown, here are five of my favorite songs that charted below the top 20:  Either in Roanoke on WROV or nationally by Billboard and Cash Box charts:

  • Amie: Pure Prairie League
  • Tangled Up in Blue—Bob Dylan
  • Bloody Well Right—Supertramp
  • Big Yellow Taxi—Joni Mitchell
  • Young Americans—David Bowie

Now I will be counting down my favorite top 20 songs from 1975.  All the songs that I have selected meet the following criteria:

  • The song had to peak at number 20 or higher on either the Billboard Hot 100 or the Cash Box Top 100 charts.
  • I deem the songs to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant.
  • My top 20 selections are personal favorites and still sound fresh to me 45 years later.

Rob O’Brady in the WROV studio. Photo courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson & the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

As Casey Kasem used to say on American Top 40:  On with the countdown:

  1. Can’t Get It Out of my Head—Electric Light Orchestra.

Peaked at #9 Billboard Hot 100

Penned by Jeff Lynne, “Can’t Get It Out of My Head’ was the first top ten single for ELO in America.  This pop ballad is aided by the exceptional cello and violin instrumentation.

  1. Low Rider—War

Peaked at #7 Billboard Hot 100

Funk rock band War delivers a tasty treat with the toe-tapping song, “Low Rider.”  A pulsating bass line and superb saxophone playing, brings clarity to the song about lowrider hot rod cars.

  1. Calypso—John Denver.

Peaked #1 Billboard Hot 100: As B-side to “I’m Sorry.” 9/75 (One Week)

Peaked #2 Billboard Hot 100: Later as A-side hit 10/75 (Four Weeks)

John Denver composed a tribute song for ocean conservationist Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his research ship, the Calypso in 1975.  Originally the B-side of the “I’m Sorry” singles, “Calypso” actually became the bigger hit, by logging 4 consecutive weeks at number 2 as an A-side hit.

  1. Old Days—Chicago

Peaked at #5 Billboard Hot 100

Chicago band member James Pankow wrote the song “Old Days” that reminisces about childhood memories.  With the brass instrument combination of trombone, trumpet and saxophone, this tune shines musically by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rock band.

  1. Pick Up the Pieces—Average White Band

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100

As I stated above, I met Hamish Stuart and the rest of the Average White Band in 1975 while working at WROV.  “Pick Up the Pieces” is basically an instrumental and the music phenomenal: Saxophonist Roger Ball is exceptional laying down the groove on this tune.

  1. I’m Not in Love—10cc

Peaked at #2 Billboard Hot 100

One of the most distinctive singles of 1975 is “I’m Not in Love.”  10cc spent countless hours and weeks in the studio creating this masterpiece: Recording musical back tracks and multitracked vocals on the biggest American hit for the band.

14. #9 Dream—John Lennon

Peaked at #9 Billboard Hot 100

To be sure, “#9 Dream” has nonsensical lyrics: “Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé.” Obviously, John Lennon had recorded other songs about the #9 before: The Beatles, “Revolution 9”and “One After 909.”  No matter the lyrical content, this was one of Lennon’s best singles during the mid 70’s.

  • Baker’s Dozen: These 1980 songs are the cream of the crop.
  1. Magic—Pilot

Peaked at #5 Billboard Hot 100

Scottish rock band Pilot blended “Sunshine Rock” and “Power Pop Rock” to achieve their only American hit record with their song, Magic.” Infectious guitar riffs and bright, sunny lyrics, helped to create the finest “one hit wonder” single of 1975.

  1. Sister Golden Hair—America

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100

Among the many soft rock bands of the 70’s, America was one of the most successful in that genre of music. “Sister Golden Hair” features dueling 12 string and slide guitars, plus excellent harmonies by band members Dan Peek, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell.

  1. Black Water—Doobie Brothers

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100

Nationally, “Black Water” was a hit during March 1975. It was a hit much earlier in Roanoke as WROV’s music director Chuck Holloway stated playing the song as an album cut during September 1974.  The Doobie Brothers song became a number 1 song in Roanoke and then Warner Brothers Records released “Black Water” as a single.

WROV received a gold record for being the first radio station to play and break “Black Water” as a hit song in America. You can read more about how WROV’s Chuck Holloway helped to make the Doobie Brothers song popular, on a music blog message that I published last October:  1974 Singles:  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

  1. Shining Star—Earth Wind & Fire

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100

My love for Earth Wind & Fire started when I played “Shining Star” for the first time on WROV.  The up-tempo groove that the funk/R&B/pop/rock band performs on the song is marvelous. I feel that the 45-rpm single of “Shining Star” is 2 minutes and 50 seconds of perfection.

  1. Jive Talkin’—Bee Gees

Peaked at #1  Billboard Hot 100

The Gibb Brothers made a comeback with “Jive Talkin’” during 1975. An excellent bass line sets the rhythmic tone for the tune.  Combining the opening scratchy guitar with a funky synth bass line, I consider this song to be the Bee Gees musical crown jewel, with their vast catalog of hit records.

  1. Junior’s Farm—Paul McCartney & Wings

Peaked at #3 Billboard Hot 100

I have always enjoyed the smokin’ hot rocking sound and whimsical lyrics of “Junior’s Farm.”  Wings guitarists Jimmy McCulloch and Denny Laine trade superb guitar licks, while Paul McCartney’s bass chord progression is solid. The record proved that Sir Paul could record more than just silly love songs.

  1. Fame—David Bowie

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100

Early 70’s androgynous appearance of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust transformed into a more mainstream look when “Fame” became a funk/rock hit.  John Lennon helped co-write the song, sings backup and repeats the word, “Fame” multiple times with a quirky falsetto expanding three octaves, towards the end of the record.

  1. Killer Queen—Queen

Peaked at #12 Billboard Hot 100

Outstanding vocal harmonies are exhibited by Queen as they had their first hit record in America with “Killer Queen.”  Written by band front man Freddie Mercury, the song has a striking bass line and a prominent guitar solo by Brain May.

  1. Miracles—Jefferson Starship

Peaked at #3 Billboard Hot 100

60’s rock band Jefferson Airplane reinvented itself in the mid 70’s and became Jefferson Starship. Marty Balin wrote and sang lead on “Miracles.”  Highlight on the song include, David Freiberg’s organ, Papa John Creach on violin, Paul Kantner’s guitar and backing vocals by Grace Slick.

  1. You’re No Good—Linda Ronstadt

Peaked at #1 Billboard Hot 100

Linda Ronstadt reached superstardom with her cover version of “You’re No Good.” Backing musicianship on the song is impressive.  A driving bass line, superior guitar riffs and a sparse drumming pattern, generates a haunting melody.  I have fond memories of Ronstadt singing this song when I attended her Roanoke concert during May 1975.

  1. Free Bird—Lynyrd Skynyrd

Peaked at #19 Billboard Hot 100

Some may disagree, but I believe that “Free Bird” is the greatest Southern Rock song of all time.  Written by Lynyrd Skynyrd band members Allen Collins Ronnie Van Zant, the song has two distinct parts:  It starts as a power ballad and then transforms into blazing multiple guitar instrumental jam for the remainder of the tune.  Without a doubt, “Free Bird’ rocks!

  1. One of These Nights—Eagles

Peaked at #1. Billboard Hot 100

Coming in at number two on my 1975 countdown is “One of These Nights” by rock band Eagles. Don Henley sings lead while Randy Meisner contributes backup high harmony, on this song that features tight harmonies, urgent beats and superb guitar hooks.

Eagles was my favorite band when I worked at WROV and I had the pleasure of attending one of their concerts at the Roanoke Civic Center during May 1975. With Linda Ronstadt opening up for the Eagles, this was the best rock concert that I attended during the 70’s.  I loved hearing “One of These Nights” performed live that evening in Roanoke.

  1. Born to Run—Bruce Springsteen

Peaked at #17 Cash Box and #23 Billboard

Although “Born to Run” wasn’t a big hit on WROV, or on Top 40 radio, it has become the signature song for Bruce Springsteen.  It is my number 1 favorite song of 1975.

Just a couple of months after the “Born to Run” album and title track single was released, Springsteen made history:  The Boss became the first rock artist to simultaneously land of the covers of Time and Newsweek magazine on October 27th, 1975.

I love how Phil Spector’s, “Wall of Sound” musical production technique is utilized by Springsteen and Clarence Clemons’ excellent saxophone playing on “Born to Run.”

My friend Dave Delaney of Roanoke recently wrote to me his thoughts on Springsteen’s break though hit, and his critique of the song is spot on:

“I’ve always loved the song “Born to Run” for multiple reasons: It has all the qualities of a perfect rock song with all its ducks in a row:

  • A great hook.
  • Heart-felt longing lyrics that make you care about what’s going to happen to the characters, with a hint of rebellion and teen passion.
  • A blistering saxophone solo.
  • Tonal contour, with Bruce sounding alternately exhausted and energized in the bridge.
  • * Add in its basic epic and anthemic quality, and it makes a complete musical statement in a tidy and radio-friendly 4-1/2 minutes.”

As Dave Delaney described above, “Born to Run” is a perfect rock song.  This epic ode is my absolute favorite single that I played on WROV during 1975.

Now that I have submitted my favorite song listing for the Top 20 singles of 1975, I am curious to find out your thoughts on the biggest hits from 45 years ago. What do you consider to be the best Top 40 singles from the midway point of the 70’s decade?

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with the critique of my favorite songs from 1975.  Your top songs maybe be completely different than my selections.  There are no right or wrong answers:  Just various opinions on the songs that I played on WROV during 1975.

I also would love to read any comments that you may have about WROV, Roanoke radio, or any other opinions about 1975 Top 40 radio across the American landscape.

My dog Penny Lane listening to Bruce Springsteen’s song, “Born to Run” on August 25th, 2020.

The memories that I have playing superior singles and working at legendary Top 40 WROV Roanoke in 1975, remains fresh in my mind.  I will remember and cherish those days forever.

This message started with opening lyrics from Chicago’s, “Old Days” and will close with ending words from the same excellent 1975 composition.  Rock on!

In my mind and in my heart to stay

Darkened dreams of good times gone away

Days of love and feeling fancy free

Days of magic still so close to me

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Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1980 Top 40 Hits: Still Excellent 40 Years Later

 

1980 was a transitional year.  Musically, disco was dead and it was prior to the synth-pop, MTV explosion that happened the following year.  The backlash against disco was strong.

It was a diverse mixture of songs that dominated Top 40 radio during 1980.  Yacht Rock, adult contemporary power ballads, country crossovers and traditional classic rock ruled the airways.

Songs from films were also popular on the radio in 1980.  Music from “Urban Cowboy” and “Xanadu” were on the hot rotations of many Top 40 outlets.

Adult Oriented Rock (AOR) FM radio stations flourished during this year, taking away listeners from Top 40 formatted stations.  AOR FM radio in 1980 tended to have less talk than Top 40 stations and played mostly what is now considered, “Classic Rock.”

As many folks gravitated towards AOR radio, the classic rock genre of music flourished.  AOR was different from traditional Top 40 radio:  These new AOR FM stations played multiple, deep cut album selections, instead of just hit singles.

If I had been programming an AOR radio station during 1980, here are the ten albums that I would have featured on my station’s hot rotation.  There are no rankings with my list.

Album cover: “The River” by Bruce Springsteen. One of my favorite albums from 1980.

The River. Bruce Springsteen

Zenyatta Mondatta—The Police

Double Fantasy—John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Boy—U2

Glass Houses—Billy Joel

 

Back in Back—AC/DC

Remain in Light—Talking Heads

Hi Infidelity—RRO Speedwagon

The Game—Queen

Making Movies—Dire Straits

Album cover for “Boy” by U2. One of my favorite albums from 1980.

Other areas of transition for music during 1980:

  • Eagles broke up for the first time as band members could not stand, tolerate or co-exist with each other after completing their summer touring schedule.
  • Led Zeppelin disbanded after Member John Bonham was found dead in September
  • Elton John played to a crowd of 400,000 people with a free concert in New York’s Central park.
  • John Lennon was assassinated in New York on December 8th.
  • Sony Walkman was introduced as a new portable way listening to music.
  • Cross genres of artists working together to create hit songs: Barry Gibb with Barbara Streisand and Lionel Ritchie with Kenny Rogers

Changes also happened in my personal life during 1980.  I graduated from James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia and located back to my Roanoke, Virginia home in May.  I have fond memories of my time attending JMU and working at radio station WMRA.

My parents Andy and Shirley Woodson, along with my sisters Kathryn and Lisa:  With me just after my graduation from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. May 1980

While I was a student at JMU from 1978 through 1980, I was employed by WMRA Harrisonburg, a Public Radio station serving the Shenandoah Valley.  As a college student, I always scheduled my JMU classes not to interfere with my various shifts at the radio station.

During my senior year at JMU, I was the producer and radio host for the program called “Country Afternoon.”  This daily Monday through Friday mid afternoon show featured bluegrass, folk and old-time country music.  Below is an aircheck of me hosting Country Afternoon on 3/31/80.

Another program that I hosted on a regular basis was an album rock show called “After Hours.”

This AOR broadcast happened Monday through Friday between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM. I also have an aircheck of when I hosted After Hours on 4/1/80 below.

Since I started my radio career at legendary Top 40 WROV 1240 AM Roanoke in 1974, I always have been drawn listening to any radio station that featured the Top 40 format.

My time in Harrisonburg gave me an opportunity to hear various Top 40 stations on any given day.  The local Top 40 station that most JMU students listened to was WQPO 101.7 FM in Harrisonburg, I didn’t care for that station as it was automated with no live DJs.  I preferred tuning in WWWV 97.5 FM in Charlottesville as they were an AOR formatted station.

To get my fix of Top 40 radio while I was a student at JMU, I would listen to stations out of Richmond, Roanoke and the Washington DC radio markets.  Picking up these stations tended to be hit or miss, depending on the weather conditions. Cloudy days seemed to be the best opportunity hearing these signals coming in strong at my Harrisonburg home.

These are the Top 40 radio signals that I could pick up on a regular basis in Harrisonburg during 1980:

  • K92 FM 92.3 Roanoke
  • Q99 FM 99.1 Roanoke
  • Q94 FM 94.5 Richmond
  • WPGC 95.5 FM Washington DC Market
  • Q107 107.3 FM Washington DC Market

How I listened to music in 1980. My parents gave me a Sony “Boom Box” for Christmas that year.

Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve 1980, I remember listing to Roanoke Top 40 stations K92 and WROV on my new Sony Boom Box, as they played the biggest hits during that year.  What were the most popular singles of 1980?   Here are the Top 10 Songs on the 1980 Year-end Top 100 Songs according to Billboard:

  1. Call Me—Blondie
  2. Another Brick in the Wall, Part II—Pink Floyd
  3. Magic—Olivia Newton John
  4. Rock With You—Michael Jackson
  5. Do That To Me One More Time—Captain & Tennille
  6. Crazy Little Thing Called Love—Queen
  7. Coming Up—Paul McCartney
  8. Funkytown Lipps Inc
  9. It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me—Billy Joel
  10. The Rose—Bette Midler

 

 

For the rest of this message, I will be counting down my Top 20 singles from 1980.  If a song didn’t make the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles chart of 1980, then I didn’t consider listing that song on my Top 20 countdown.

The 20 songs from 1980 that I have selected all meet certain criteria:  These selections happen to be my Top 20 personal favorites from 1980:  The songs are not dated and still sound fresh to me 40 years later.  I deem the songs to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant.

Before I reveal my Top 20 songs, I want to share with you some of the artists who charted with either double or triple hits within the Billboard Top 100 chart for 1980:

Eagles had 3 songs in the Top 100:

  • Heartbreak Tonight
  • I Can’t Tell You Why
  • The Long Run

Billy Joel

  • It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me
  • You May be Right

Christopher Cross

  • Ride Like the Wind
  • Sailing

Linda Ronstadt

  • How Do I Make You
  • Hurt So Bad

Fleetwood Mac

  • Sara
  • Tusk

My go to reference for highest peaking chart positions with my Top 20 songs is, “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits” by Joel Whitburn. I consider Whitburn’s book to be the “bible” of Top 40 music reference and still proudly own a hard copy of this excellent book.

 

The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn

Without further ado, here are my 20 favorite songs from 1980:

 

  1. Fire Lake—Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

 

Peaked at #6:  67th biggest song of 1980

 

The first single from the album, “Against the Wind” was an excellent departure for Michigan native Bob Seger.  “Fire Lake” utilizes an acoustic guitar, which provides a wonderful mixture of R&B, folk and country blended sounds.

  1. Breakdown Dead Ahead—Boz Scaggs

 

Peaked at #15:  97th biggest song of 1980

Yacht Rock was huge on Top 40 radio in 1980 and singer-songwriter Boz Scaggs had two terrific songs in that genre to chart that year. “Jojo” and “Breakdown Dead Ahead” further cemented the terrific guitarist as a force musically, combining smooth jazz, R&B and soft rock.

  1. You May Be Right—Billy Joel

 

Peaked at #7:  75th biggest song of 1980

The first of two Billy Joel songs on my countdown, “You May Be Right” was a straight ahead, up-tempo rocker: Which was quite different from the piano based, power ballads that the Bronx, New York singer had recorded earlier in his career. The first single from the “Glass Houses” album, helped to solidify Joel as a premier American male vocalist during this time period.

  1. Biggest Part of Me—Ambrosia

 

Peaked at #3:  27th biggest song of 1980

Excellent musicianship is a calling card for the band Ambrosia and their huge summer of 1980 hit “Biggest Part of Me.”  Blending of vocal harmonies with percussion, saxophone, organ and guitar, makes this tune a classic Yacht Rock winner.

  1. We Don’t Talk Anymore—Cliff Richard

 

Peaked at #7:  45th biggest song of 1980

A world-wide smash, “We Don’t Talk Anymore” was the biggest selling single for Cliff Richard.  With the song peaking at number 7 in America, Richard became the first artist to reach the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 during 4 separate decades:  The 50s, 60s, 70s and the 80’s.

  1. Don’t Do Me Like That—Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

 

Peaked at #10:  64th biggest song of 1980

The first of two Tom Petty songs on my countdown, “Don’t Do me Like That” became the first Top 10 hit for the leader of the Heartbreakers.  The interplay of dueling guitars and the urgent vocal delivery by Petty brings unity to this Heartland Rock classic tune.

  1. Cool Change—Little River Band

 

Peaked at #10:  56th biggest song of 1980

One of the biggest Australian groups of the 70’s, Little River Band ushered in 1980 with their flowing masterpiece: Enjoying a solitary lifestyle with nature, by sailing on the ocean. “Cool Change” was named by the Australasian Performing Right Association in 2001, as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time.

  • Baker’s Dozen:  These 1980 songs are the cream of the crop.

 

  1. This Is It—Kenny Loggins

 

Peaked at #11:  28th biggest song of 1980

Two of the biggest names in Yacht Rock are Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald and this duo co-wrote the song “This Is It.”  Their collaboration included McDonald singing backup vocals on the song and it won a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 1981. The paring of Loggins and McDonald on this tune is Yacht Rock royalty.

  1. Heartbreaker—Pat Benatar

 

Peaked at #23:  83rd biggest song of 1980

Nobody rocked harder than Pat Benatar on her breakthrough hit “Heartbreaker” during the first 3 months of 1980.  With hot rocking, flame throwing vocals and blazing guitars laying down catchy hooks, Benatar’s career soared in popularity during the rest of the 80s decade.

  1. Ride Like the Wind—Christopher Cross

 

Peaked at #2:  17th biggest song of 1980

The first of two Christopher Cross songs on my countdown, “Ride Like the Wind” was the first single released from the self-titled debut “Christopher Cross” album.  Produced by Michael Omartian, and backup vocals by Michael McDonald, this hit paved the way for Cross to be the king of soft rock singing during the early 80’s.

  1. Magic—Olivia Newton John

 

Peaked at #1:  3rd biggest song of 1980

“Magic” was the lead single from the “Xanadu” soundtrack: Which featured Olivia Newton-John both singing and acting in this musical fantasy film.  The song spent 4 weeks at number one during the summer of 1980 and is Newton-John’s second biggest hit of all time. “Magic” is yet another song that is regularly played on SiriusXM’s Yacht Rock radio here in year 2020.

  1. Babe—Styx

 

Peaked at #1:  20th biggest song of 1980

Styx band member Dennis DeYoung wrote the song, “Babe” as a birthday present for his wife Suzanne.  This power ballad became the only number 1 song by Styx and was the lead single from the album “Cornerstone” and features a tremendous guitar solo by Tommy Shaw.

  1. Romeo’s Tune—Steve Forbert

 

Peaked at #11:  60th biggest song of 1980

An excellent example of Power Pop Rock is “Romeo’s Tune” by Steve Forbert.  It was an international smash but is considered a “one hit wonder” in America. Interestingly, the title of Forbert’s only Billboard Top 40 hit doesn’t appear in the lyrics of the song.

  1. It’s Still Rock and Roll To me—Billy Joel

 

Peaked at #1:  9th biggest song of 1980

Billy Joel’s second song on my countdown is, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”  Lyrics of Joel’s first number 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 was a reaction to newer music styles like, New Wave and Punk Rock.  This ode to “Rock and Roll” has an awesome saxophone solo and was the biggest hit for summer 1980.

  1. Cars—Gary Numan

 

Peaked at #9:  12th biggest song of 1980

Perhaps the catchiest song during 1980 was “Cars” by Gary Neman.  I describe the song as, New Wave meets conventional pop/rock.  Traditional rhythms of guitar, bass and drums were mixed with keyboard synthesisers, and helped to produce a harmonious effect.  Neman’s single is considered one of the best “one hit wonders” of the 80’s.

  1. Refugee—Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

 

Peaked at #15:  100th biggest song of 1980

Tom Petty’s second song on my countdown is “Refugee.”   This has all the elements of a perfect rock song:  Infectious guitar riffs, searing bass lines and strong dominate vocals. Superb melody, plus the call and response during the chorus, makes “Refugee” undeniably an exceptional classic rock song.

  1. Longer—Dan Fogelberg

 

Peaked at #2:  33rd biggest song of 1980

During the 70’s, Dan Fogelberg primarily released rock-oriented songs but his 1980 hit was completely different.  “Longer” was actually a melodic love song, with flowing harmonies and sparse instrumentation. Fogelberg’s crown jewel became a staple at thousands of weddings starting in 1980 and lasting throughout the rest of the decade.

  1. Another Brick in the Wall, Part II—Pink Floyd

 

Peaked at #1:  2nd biggest song of 1980

“We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control” starts the lyrics for “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” which is a track from Pink Floyd’s album, “The Wall.”   Written by Roger Waters, his “rock opera” protest song about rigid schooling is brilliant.  The music incorporates, progressive rock, hard rock and even has elements of disco. Without a doubt, this Pink Floyd single is a shining gem.

  1. Call Me—Blondie

 

Peaked at #1: Ranked 1st:  As the biggest song of 1980

The biggest record of 1980 was “Call Me” by Blondie.  It was the theme song for the film “American Gigolo” and blended various forms of rock music:  New Wave, hard rock and dance rock.  Debbie Harry leads with passionate vocals, while the musicians provides catchy guitar hooks and blazing bass line interfusion. Billboard proclaims, “Call Me” as the 9th best overall single of the 80’s.

  1. Sailing—Christopher Cross

 

Peaked at #1:  32nd biggest songs of 1980

Christopher Cross’ second song on my countdown is “Sailing” and his composition is absolutely my favorite number 1 selection from 1980. Cross won 3 Grammy Awards with his written ode to sailing: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Arrangement of the Year.  His single also holds the distinction of being the “Greatest Yacht Rock” song of all time.  Without a doubt, my number 1 song of 1980 is “Sailing” by Christopher Cross.

For those regular readers of this music blog, it isn’t surprising that a majority of my top selections on the countdown were Yacht Rock songs.  My love for this genre of music was documented two years ago on the message, “This is It: Yacht Rock” on DJ Dave’s Musical Musings blog.

 

My photo of yachts and other boats in the harbor at Camden, Maine.

The second favorite type of music that I favored on my 1980 countdown is Classic Rock.  I do love many other types of music but variations of rock always dominate my preferred classification of musical genres.

Now that I have submitted my favorite song listing for the Top 20 singles of 1980, I am curious to find out your thoughts on the biggest hits from 40 years ago.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with the critique of my favorite songs from 1980.  Your top songs maybe be completely different than my selections.  There are no right or wrong answers:  Just various opinions on the Billboard Top 100 year-end 1980 listing and my Top 20 countdown of favorite songs listed above.

What do you consider to be the best top 40 hits from 1980?  I welcome your thoughts.  The chorus for Billy Joel’s summer of 1980 number 1 hit seems like an appropriate ending to this message:

“Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout the new sound

Funny, but it’s still rock and roll to me”

Rock on!

 

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

American Top 40: First Show Debut July 1970

Long ago and far away: Fifty years ago.  July 4th weekend 1970.  The first words and opening sentences spoken by radio host Casey Kasem with the maiden voyage of American Top 40:

“Here we go with the top 40 hits of the nation this week on American Top 40, the best-selling and most played songs from the Atlantic to the Pacific from Canada to Mexico. This is Casey Kasem in Hollywood, and in the next three hours, we’ll count down the 40 most popular hits in the United States this week, hot off the record charts of Billboard magazine for the week ending July 11, 1970.

In this hour at number 32 in the countdown, a song that’s been a hit 4 different time in 19 years! And just about one tune away from the singer with the $10,000 gold hubcaps on his car! Now, on with the countdown!”

With those words by Casey Kasem, the first American Top 40 countdown was launched and underway on Independence Day weekend 1970.  Since July 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the American Top 40 debut, I am going to be looking back on the first broadcast and reminiscing on the music that Kasem played during his commencing show.

American Top 40 (commonly abbreviated to AT40) was started in 1970 and is a syndicated music countdown radio program.  According to Pete Battistini, author of the book, “American Top 40 with Casey Kasem (The 1970’s),” Don Bustany, Tom Rounds, Ron Jacobs and Casey Kasem were the individuals who helped create the AT40 show.

My copy of the book, American Top 40 with Casey Kasem (The 70’s) by Pete Battistini

If you are a fan with the early years of AT40, I would highly recommend Pete Battistini’s book.  His highlights, information and insights about Casey Kasem and American Top 40 during the 1970’s is excellent.  As Battistini points out in his book, the original AT40 show aired on only 7 radio stations during the 4th of July weekend in 1970. WMEX Boston was among that first group of 7 stations that ran the debut broadcast. Upon the one year anniversary of AT40, 115 stations were carrying the weekly countdown.

One other radio station that aired the AT40 debut show was WPGC Washington.  According to the tribute site WPGC amandfmmorningside.com, “WPGC and WMEX became the first two stations to agree to run the program. By the time of the show’s debut, both stations were among the original 7 affiliates to air it. On WPGC, this occurred on Sunday, July 5, 1970 from 9a-12 noon.”

Below is an audio clip of the original AT40 show that was provided to me by Lee Chambers of the WPGC Washington tribute site. Here is a quote from Chambers about this audio clip:

“WPGC’s ‘Captain Good Guy’ would like to direct your attention to the 50th anniversary of the first American Top 40 show as it would have sounded on WPGC, one of the original 7 stations to carry the program on Sunday, July 5th, 1970 from 9a-12p (EDT), re-created with vintage commercials, promos, jingles, Sound Offs and custom Casey WPGC elements which is available as of right now for your listening pleasure, completely intact and unscoped here.”

Before the advent of AT40, many “top 40 radio stations” published playlists of their biggest hits and had countdown shows featuring the top songs each week.  Major market stations such as WABC New York, WLS Chicago and KHJ Los Angeles all published weekly playlists of their top hits. Surveys from all three of those radio stations can still be viewed on the Internet here in 2020.

WLS Chicago Hit Parade survey for July 6, 1970. Photo courtesy of Pete Battistini.

On the WLS Chicago Hit Parade photo posted above, I am a huge fan of number 40, “Up Around the Bend” by Creedence Clearwater Revival.  John Fogerty’s song had peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 during June 1970 but had fallen off the national chart by the time the first AT40 broadcast happened.

The other Top 40 station in Chicago during the summer of 1970 was WCFL.  Below is a photo of the WCFL Big 10 Countdown for July 6, 1970.

WCFL Chicago Big 10 Countdown Survey for July 6, 1970. Photo courtesy of Pete Battistini.

My interest listening to countdown shows started during the late 60’s, when I discovered rock music on Top 40 WROV 1240 AM Roanoke, Virginia.  Every Sunday afternoon, I would hear legendary WROV DJ’s like Jack Fisher, Fred Frelantz and Bart Prater countdown the Top 40 hits on my transistor radio. My love for music countdowns flourished during this time period.

Also during my early teen years, I would walk to the local Sears record department every week to pick up a copy of the WROV Musicard survey.  Once back home, I would compare my favorite records, verify their new chart positions and pretend I was a DJ “counting down the hits.”

WROV Roanoke Fabulous Forty Musicard: February 16, 1969. Courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson and the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

First knowledge for me of AT40 came during June 1971 when Top 40 WBLU 1480 AM Salem, Virginia starting broadcasting the syndicated show that month.  I fondly remember sitting in the backyard of my Grandmother’s house, listening to my transistor radio and hearing Casey Kasem proclaim that “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones was the number 1 song in America for that week.

A couple of years later in 1973, WBLU dropped AT40 and the program was picked up by WFIR 960 Roanoke.  AT40 remained a fixture on WFIR throughout the 70’s.  During the 80’s, AT40 was aired on WROV AM 1240.  Below is an audio clip of Casey Kasem promoting AT40 on WROV.  The file was provided to me courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson.

In 1970, Billboard Magazine had competition from two other national publications with weekly music charts:  Cash Box and Record World.  As a comparison to the 40 songs Billboard used on the first AT40 broadcast, below is a photo for the Record World “100 Top Pops” chart from July 11, 1970, which was provided to me by Pete Battistini.

Record World 100 Top Pops Survey for July 11, 1970. Photo courtesy of Pete Battistini.

As Battistini pointed out to me when he submitted his photo, Billboard and Record World both have the same records at positions 1 and 40:  “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” by Three Dog Night is at the top of the charts while Marvin Gaye’s, “The End Of the Road” holds down number 40 on each survey.

Before I share the 40 songs that aired on the first AT40 show, here are some observations:

  • Two different songs with the word “Mississippi.”
  • Crosby Stills Nash & Young have two separate singles in the Top 40.
  • The Beatles and Elvis Presley, the top two artists from the 50’s and 60’s both have songs in the Top 10.
  • Marvin Gaye’s song, “The End of the Road” at number 40 is not at the “end” but is actually at the start of the show:  The first song ever played on AT40.

What were the top 40 songs on the first AT40 show that aired on the July 4th weekend 1970?

Here are the songs the Kasem counted down, plus 4 additional oldies:

40 Marvin Gaye – The End Of Our Road

39 Mark Lindsay – Silver Bird

38 Eric Burdon and War – Spill The Wine

37 Crabby Appleton – Go Back

36 B.J. Thomas – I Just Can’t Help Believing

35 Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark

34 John Phillips – Mississippi

33 The Flaming Ember – Westbound #9

32 The Four Tops – It’s All In The Game

31 The 5th Dimension – Save The Country

30 Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Ohio

29 Ray Stevens – Everything Is Beautiful

28 The Impressions – Check Out Your Mind!

27 The Moody Blues – Question

26 Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours

25 Wilson Pickett– Sugar, Sugar

24 Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Teach Your Children

23 The Poppy Family – Which Way You Goin’ Billy?

Oldie: Bill Cosby – Little Ole Man

22 The Moments – Love On A Two-Way Street

21 Mountain – Mississippi Queen

20 Bread – Make It With You

19 Pacific Gas and Electric – Are You Ready?

18 Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Love Land

17 Alive ‘N Kickin’ – Tighter, Tighter

16 White Plains – My Baby Loves Lovin’

15 Miguel Rios – A Song Of Joy

Oldie: Louis Armstrong – Hello, Dolly!

14 Brotherhood Of Man – United We Stand

13 Rare Earth – Get Ready

12 The Five Stairsteps – O-o-h Child

11 The Pipkins – Gimme Dat Ding

10 Vanity Fair – Hitchin’ A Ride

Oldie: Blood, Sweat, and Tears – Spinning Wheel

09 Elvis Presley – The Wonder Of You

08 The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road

07 The Carpenters – (They Long To Be) Close To You

06 Melanie- Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)

05 Freda Payne – Band Of Gold

04 Blues Image – Ride Captain Ride

03 The Temptations – Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)

02 The Jackson 5 – The Love You Save

Oldie: The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

01 Three Dog Night – Mama Told Me (Not To Come)  ** 1 week @ no. 1 **

My 45 rpm single of “Everything is Beautiful” by Ray Stevens that I bought in 1970 and still own the record here in 2020.

I have compiled my own listing of favorite songs from the first AT40 show.  Just like Casey Kasem, I am going to countdown my favorite songs:  From number 20 down to the number 1.

My go to reference for highest peaking chart positions with my Top 20 songs is, “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits” by Joel Whitburn. I consider Whitburn’s book to be the “bible” of Top 40 music reference and still proudly own a hard copy of this excellent book.

The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn

Staring off my countdown are numbers 20 through 14.  I consider all of these songs between good and great, just below excellent. On a scale of 10, these songs are somewhere around 8.

Now on with the countdown:

  1. Which Way You Going Billy—Poppy Family Featuring Susan Jacks

Peaked at #2:  26th biggest song of 1970

Poppy Family was a wife/husband Canadian duo of Susan and Terry Jacks.  “Which Way You Going Billy” was their biggest American hit.  The couple divorced in 1973, the same year that Terry Jacks recorded the insipid, bubble gum death pop tune, “Seasons in the Sun.”

  1. Are You Ready—Pacific Gas and Light

Peaked at #14: 93rd biggest song of 1970

Los Angeles California based Pacific Gas and Light band is a “one hit wonder” with their song “Are You Ready.”  This was just one of many songs that became hits during 1970, which featured Christian based themes and painted a positive message to a troubled world.

  1. Hitchin’ a Ride—Vanity Fare

Peaked at #5:  14th biggest song of 1970

The English pop rock band Vanity Fare had their only two Top 40 hits chart during 1970: “Early in the Morning” and “Hitchin’ a Ride.”  The song featuring an electric guitar, two recorders and a base guitar, is light and breezy, a pleasant up-tempo tune. One of the catchiest records of 50 years ago.

  1. Teach Your Children—Crosby Stills Nash & Young

Peaked at #16.   1st of two CSN&Y songs on countdown

The supergroup Crosby Stills Nash & Young had two songs on the first AT40 countdown.  “Teach Your Children” was written by Graham Nash and featured Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia playing pedal steel guitar.  The summer of 1970 was good for CSN&Y.

Records “(They Long To Be) Close To You” from the Carpenters and “Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image. I bought these singles during the summer of 1970 and still own them here in 2020.

  1. Get Ready—Rare Earth

Peaked at #4:  8th biggest song of 1970

Motown’s rock band Rare Earth covered the Temptations song “Get Ready” and the song quickly established this “blue eyed soul” group as a force within the music industry.  The hard driving, up tempo groove was the debut single for the Rare Earth record label.

  1. Go Back—Crabby Appleton

Peaked at #36.     A one hit wonder

Crabby Appleton were a rock band from Los Angeles, California, and was named after the cartoon character Tom Terrific.  “Go Back” is a true “one hit wonder” and I consider this song to be the most underrated tune in my AT40 countdown.

  1. Question—The Moody Blues

Peaked at #21    Song reached #2 in the United Kingdom

English band the Moody Blues scored their third top 40 hit in America with the song, “Question.”  This anti-war protest song seemed to resonate with listeners during the turbulent days of the Vietnam conflict and is still one of the most popular songs for the band 50 years later.

Records “Are You Ready” from Pacific Gas & Light” and “Mississippi Queen” by Mountain. I bought these singles during the summer of 1970 and still own them here in 2020.

  • Baker’s Dozen:  My top 13 selections. I consider these songs as being the “cream of the crop” and all fit into the following categories: I deem the Baker’s Dozen to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful, relevant and absolute all time favorite songs for me.
  1. (They Long To Be) Close to You—The Carpenters

Peaked at #1     2nd biggest song of 1970

Siblings Karen and Richard Carpenter had their first breakthrough hit with “(They Long To Be) Close to You.”  The Burt Bacharach and Hal David song spent 4 weeks at number 1 and won a Grammy Award in 1971.  The duos’ mega hit is a signature song by the Carpenters.

  1. Band of Gold—Freda Payne

Peaked at #3.     10th biggest song of 1970

With backing from the legendary Motown band, the Funk Brothers, Freda Payne hit pay dirt with her catchy, hooked-laden song, “Band of Gold.”  Payne’s smash record was popular on both Top 40 and Soul radio stations, and was the biggest hit during her career.

  1. O-o-h Child—The Five Stairsteps

Peaked at #8.    21st biggest song of 1970

A family group from Chicago, Illinois, the Five Stairsteps had their only Top 40 hit with “O-o-h Child.”  The lyrics are positive suggesting the “things are going to get easier” during times of trouble.  The smooth sound and the message of this “one hit wonder” is still relevant for us here in 2020.

  1. Lay Down (Candles In the Rain)—Melanie and the Edwin Hawkins Singers

Peaked at #6.    23rd biggest song of 1970

Having played at Woodstock during August 1969, Melanie Safka wrote the song, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” after performing at the “peace and love music festival” in New York state. Melanie is joined by the Edwin Hawkins Singers and their collaboration gives this song a wonderful, gospel type feeling.

  1. Make It With You—Bread

Peaked at #1.    13th biggest song of 1970

Lead singer David Gates of Bread wrote the song, “Make It With You” and the song was the first of many top 40 hits by the soft rock California band. The relaxing, smooth guitar and piano on this number 1 hit, paved the way for future bands to incorporate these sounds, into what is now known as “Yacht Rock.”

  1. Ohio—Crosby Stills Nash & Young

Peaked at #14.    2nd of two CSN&Y songs on the countdown

Just after Ohio National Guardsmen killed four Kent State University students on May 4th, 1970, Neil Young wrote the words to his legendary protest song.  The hard driving rock sounds of “Ohio” gave CSN&Y simultaneous hits on the very first AT40 show 50 years ago.

  1. Mississippi Queen—Mountain

Peaked at #21.  78th biggest song of 1970

During the summer of ‘69, the hard rock band Mountain played at Woodstock. The following year, the band released “Mississippi Queen” and the song became their only hit. The song opens up with signature cowbell percussion, a powerful guitar riff and strong vocals by Leslie West. The song remains a staple on classic rock radio stations here in the 21st Century.

  1. Tighter Tighter—Alive N Kickin’

Peaked at #7    47th biggest song of 1970

Another excellent “one hit wonder” during the summer of 1970 was “Tighter Tighter” by Alive N Kickin’.  One of the writers of the song was Tommy James and the leader of the Shondells actually produced the recording of the hit.  Perfect harmonies and awesome saxophone playing kept the song on the Billboard Hot 100 for 16 weeks.

  1. The Long and Winding Road—The Beatles

Peaked at #1.    41st biggest song of 1970

It has always been ironic to me that the last number 1 song for the Beatles was “The Long and Winding Road.”  After producer Phil Spector added orchestral and choral overdubs to this song, McCartney announced the official end of the Fab Four during April 1970.   It was sad to realize that “the Beatles’ long and winding road” ended with their last chart-topping song.

  1. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours—Stevie Wonder

Peaked at #3.   31st biggest song of 1970

Little Stevie Wonder had his first number 1 hit at age 13 in 1963. Seven years later, he was a co-writer, singer and producer for his own song, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.”  Wonder received a Grammy nomination for this Soul music smash and arguably is among the best singles ever recorded by the 1989 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

  1. Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today)—The Temptations

Peaked at #3.   24th biggest song of 1970

Summer of 1970 was a troublesome time in America.  The Temptations socially conscious song “Ball of Confusion” accurately captured the pulse of turmoil that prevailed in our country.  The message was relevant 50 years ago. Unfortunately, the issues of this song still hold true:  50 years later. “Ball of confusion, that’s what the world is today.”  “And the band played on.”

  1. Ride Captain Ride—Blues Image

Peaked at #4.    32nd biggest song of 1970

Blues Image is my favorite “one hit wonder” with the AT40 songs on the countdown.  “Ride Captain Ride” has soaring guitar riffs, sharp piano playing and a smooth jazz sound.  With lyrics like, “73 men sailed up from the San Francisco Bay” and a catchy, up tempo groove, this tune is now considered Yacht Rock, a term that was not contemporaneously used during 1970.

  1. Mama Told Me (Not To Come)—Three Dog Night

Peaked at #1.   11th biggest song of 1970

Randy Newman wrote the lyrics to “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” in 1966 and Three Dog Night’s cover of this tune is my top selection on this countdown.  Ironically, it was also the number 1 song on the premiere AT40 broadcast, 50 years ago. Musically, the song features excellent instrumentation, vocal harmonies and distinct lead vocals by Cory Wells.  “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” was the first number 1 song for Three Dog Night and is absolutely my favorite song from the first AT40 broadcast during the first weekend of July 1970.

Now that I have submitted my favorite song listing of the 40 songs Casey Kasey played on the first AT40 show, I am curious to find out your thoughts on the biggest hits in America from July 1970.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with the critique of my favorite songs from 50 years ago.  Your top songs maybe be completely different than my selections.  There are no right or wrong answers, just various opinions with the 40 biggest songs listed by Billboard and counted down by Kasem on the debut AT40 program.

I am asking for your opinion: What songs do you feel are the best, greatest or most significant of the 40 songs from the first AT40 broadcast. I await your replies.

My 45 rpm single of “Mama Told Ne (Not To Come)” that I bought in summer of 1970. I still own this record in June 2020.

I leave you with the words that Casey Kasem spoke at the close of every AT40 show:

“Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.”

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Broadcasting, Music, Radio, Retro Rock

Back in the Summer of ’69

I got my first real six string,

Bought it at the five and dime,

Played it til my fingers bled,

Was the summer of ’69.

But when I look back now,

That summer seemed to last forever,

And if I had the choice,

Yeah, I’d always wanna be there,

Those were the best days of my life.

The “Summer of ‘69” was a time when Canadian rocker Bryan Adams was buying his first guitar and reminiscing about that summer being the “best days of his life.”

That summer of 1969 was an eventful time for those in the United States. The Vietnam War continued with over 500,000 American troops still in Southeast Asia and Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

During August, the Woodstock “3 Days of Peace and Music” Festival happened, with over 400,000 people attending one of the greatest events in rock music history. Meanwhile, the Beatles recorded their last album, “Abbey Road” just before John Lennon quit the legendary rock band.

The summer of 1969: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” to quote Charles Dickens from his book, “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Various Records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

It was during the hot summer of 1969, that I listened to the radio 10 to 12 hours a day and made a decision that I wanted to be a radio announcer when I grew up. My pursuit to become “DJ Dave” started in the summer of ‘69.

I have fond memories of listening to Top 40 radio during the summer of ‘69. Living in Roanoke, Virginia during this time, I would mostly listen to legendary Top 40 WROV 1240 AM in the daytime, with DJs Jack Fisher, Fred Frelantz and Bart Prater. I also would occasionally tune into WBLU 1480 AM Salem, a second Top 40 station in the Roanoke radio market. WBLU DJ’s Chris Shannon, Les Turpin and Bill Cassidy played the hits, while Dave Moran was the general manager at the station.

At sundown, WROV reduced their power and WBLU signed off the air, so I tuned my radio into stations 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.

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

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

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

Because I spent so much time listening to Top 40 radio that summer, I decided that I wanted to become a DJ when I became an adult. My desire to work in radio became a reality for me five years later in 1974, as I landed a remote engineer position with WROV Roanoke when I was 18 years old.

Dave Woodson playing records for WROV Roanoke remote broadcast during 1974.

For the remaining portion of this message, I will be focusing on the music that was played on Top 40 radio during the summer of 69. I will be highlighting hits songs from 50 years ago that are still considered relevant here in 2019.

Musically, the summer of ‘69 is considered part of the “Golden Age of Top 40 Radio.” Diversity accurately describes the music that accounted for the biggest hits during that summer.

It was not uncommon to hear different genres played back to back: A DJ might start a music set with country crossover, “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash, segueing into a gospel song, “Oh Happy Day” from the Edwin Hawkins Singers and finally playing a reggae tune, “Israelites” by Desmond Decker and the Aces.

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

To further show the diversity of the music, here are five songs that reached number 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Cash Box Top 100 charts during the summer of 69:

1. Get Back—The Beatles with Billy Preston

2. Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet—Henry Mancini & his Orchestra

3. In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)—Zager & Evans

4. Honky Tonk Women—The Rolling Stones

5. Sugar, Sugar—The Archies

In addition to those five songs, “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley spent the last week of June at the number 1 position on the Cash Box Top 100 chart.

WLS Chicago Hit Parade Surveys 7/21/69 & 8/4/69. Courtesy of Pete Battistini: Author of AMERICAN TOP 40 WITH CASEY KASEM (THE 1970’S)

Before I reveal my Top 10 most relevant songs from 50 years ago, I am going to share some other significant songs from the summer of ‘69.

Top Underrated Songs:

1. I’m Free—The Who

2. See—The Rascals

3. Marrakesh Express—Crosby Stills and Nash

4. Spinning Wheel—Blood Sweat and Tears

5. Polk Salad Annie—Tony Joe White

WROV Roanoke Super Summer Survey 8/24/69. Courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson and WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Top Love Songs:

1. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)—Jr. Walker & the All Stars

2. Love (Can Make You Happy)—Mercy

3. Baby, I Love You—Andy Kim

4. My Cherie Amour—Stevie Wonder

5. My Pledge of Love—Joe Jeffries Group

My 45 RPM single of the Rascals “See” record that I bought in 1969.

Top Miscellaneous Subject Songs:

1. Grazing in the Grass—Friends of Distinction

2. Color Him Father—The Winstons

3. Black Pearl—Sonny Charles & the Checkmates

4. Sweet Caroline—Neil Diamond

5. More Today Than Yesterday—Spiral Staircase

My 45 RPM single of Oliver’s “Jean” record that I bought in 1969.

Now I will be focusing on what I consider to be the top ten 1969 summer radio songs. These are songs were either released and/or were hits between June and September 1969.

The top ten songs that I have selected fit into the following categories: I deem the 10 songs to still be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. There are no rankings with my listing and the songs are placed in a random order.

My 45 RPM single of CCR’s “Fortunate Son/Down on the Corner” record that I bought in 1969.

One—Three Dog Night

When the Beach Boys and the Byrds started to wane on Top 40 radio, a new vocal powerhouse came upon the scene: Three Dog Night. Group members Chuck Negron, Danny Hutton and Cory Wells were all talented vocalists and their blended harmonies and vocal versatility soared with their catchy, up-tempo rock tune. “One” spent 3 weeks at number two on Cash Box Top 100 chart and was the first of 21 consecutive songs to reach the Billboard Top 40 between 1969 and 1975 for Three Dog Night.

Easy To Be Hard—Three Dog Night

Just after their song “One” became a hit, Three Dog Night had a second smash tune during the summer of 69: “Easy To Be Hard” from the Broadway musical “Hair.” Chuck Negron has excellent passion when singing the lyrics that question the harsh treatment of humanity: “How can people be so heartless, how can people be so cruel, easy to be hard?” Three Dog Night went on to have a 3rd Top 10 hit with “Eli’s Coming,” a Laura Nyro tune, during the fall of the same year.

Bad Moon Rising—Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)

The second CCR song to reach number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, after “Proud Mary” in the spring of ‘69, is considered to be one of the first tunes in the “Swamp rock” genre of music. Plus, “Bad Moon Rising” has perhaps the most misheard lyric ever in modern music history. Many folks think CCR’s leader John Fogerty sings “There’s a bathroom on the right” instead of “There’s a bad moon on the rise.” “Bad Moon Rising” remains popular and is still played at many sporting events here in 2019.

Fortunate Son—Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)

Summer of ‘69 was huge for CCR. The band played at Woodstock, 4 hit singles charted and their “Green River” album was released. Then in September, the band released “Fortunate Son.” The song quickly became an anti-war movement anthem and is considered a signature song for John Fogerty. In 2013, “Fortunate Son” was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Crystal Blue Persuasion—Tommy James and the Shondells

With the Vietnam War ongoing, Tommy James had his 3rd consecutive top 10 hit, a song longing for a future age of brotherhood, harmony and living in peace. James has been quoted multiple times, stating that the inspiration for “Crystal Blue Persuasion” came from him reading the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation in the Bible. The melodic acoustic guitar and organ on the tune help to make this song still sound good, 50 years later.

Get Back—The Beatles with Billy Preston

A song that was originally performed at the historic Beatles “Rooftop” concert in January 1969, the single “Get Back” was the first number 1 song, on both Billboard and Cashbox charts, during the summer of ‘69. The Beatles’ “Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down” single is the only time that another artist was credited on a Fab Four recording, with Billy Preston sharing the honor for the biggest Beatles single in 1969. “Get Back” was also the Beatles’ first single released in America in true stereo.

Get Together—The Youngbloods

With the catchy chorus, “Come on people now/Smile on your brother/Everybody get together/Try to love one another right now,” the Youngbloods created a timely classic with their “Love and Peace” anthem “Get Together.” American involvement in the Vietnam War remained strong in 1969 and the song was a huge hit on Top 40 radio. It was also embraced by many Christian churches during this time period, that wanted to promote “Love and Peace” in their congregations. A true quintessential song from the golden age of Top 40 radio.

Put a Little Love in Your Heart—Jackie DeShannon

It is interesting to look back on how many of the most significant songs from 50 years ago were on the subject of love and peace. Jackie DeShannon’s biggest hit record, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” is one of those “Love and Peace” songs that resonated with radio listeners in the summer of 69. Along with DeShannon’s other big hit, “What the World Needs Now,” her message of seeking love and peace, rather than war, is still relevant today.

In the Ghetto—Elvis Presley

For most folks who think about Elvis songs, very few remember his songs of social concerns. “In the Ghetto” is completely different than almost every other Elvis tune and provided a comeback for the “King of Rock and Roll” in 1969. The Mac Davis-written song tells a narrative of generational poverty that is set in the city of Chicago. With the success of this song, Elvis charted two consecutive number 1 songs in 1969: “In the Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds.”

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes—Crosby Stills and Nash (CSN)

When CSN played at Woodstock during August 1969, the band opened up their set list with “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” The song was the second single from the CSN self-titled debut album, after “Marrakesh Express” and was released as a single in September ‘69. The tune is made up of four separate sections and is seamlessly woven together by excellent harmonies of the band. Truly, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is the signature song for CSN.

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on the most significant singles from the summer of 1969, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music from 50 years ago.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of music from the golden age of Top 40 radio. The songs that you feel are the best from the summer of 1969 could be completely different than my selections.

So I am asking for your opinion: What songs do you feel are the best, greatest or most significant singles from the summer of 1969?

Listening to the music on Top 40 radio in 1969 highlighted some of the best days of my life. Rock on!

I leave you with the ending lyrics to “Crystal Blue Persuasion:”

Maybe tomorrow.

When he looks down,

On every green field,

And every town,

All of his children,

In every nation,

There’ll be peace and good,

Brotherhood,

Crystal blue persuasion

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

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Broadcasting, Radio

Curt Dudley: A Day in the Life

 

Curt Dudley and I at JMU Sports Press Conference, O’Neill’s Grill.

“I read the news today, oh boy, about a lucky man who made the grade” is the opening line to the Beatles legendary 1967 song, “A Day in the Life.” Those lyrics easily describe the daily activities of Curt Dudley, who is Director of Broadcast Services, Athletics and Communications at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

One of Curt Dudley’s nicknames is “The Voice of JMU Athletics” and the university is fortunate to have him as chief ambassador for the JMU Nation. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Dudley on JMU’s campus and to experience a “day in his life.”

Dudley oversees the dissemination of all varsity sports news for JMU in a variety of ways. He functions in the traditional role of a sports information director, but also utilizes 21st century multimedia technology to distribute JMU sporting news in fresh and exciting ways.

The most intriguing new technology Dudley has developed is MadiZONE HD SportsNet. Created in 2012 under Dudley’s direction, MadiZONE is an online channel that JMU fans can use to stream live sports events. The MadiZONE media team is made up of JMU “students with interns, practicums and volunteers who assist in producing the video and audio content for the channel” according to JMUSports.com.

Dudley’s current career path began while he was attending Bridgewater College (BC) during 1980. While at BC, he developed the first Sports Information Director position and held that position for a total of eight years. Dudley received his B.S. degree from BC in 1983 and was active in the Bridgewater, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County sports community during that time period.

Then in 1988, JMU hired Dudley as Sports Information Director (SID) and he held that position until 2006. During his time as SID, he was an announcer/analyst for JMU football and men’s basketball games as well as many other sporting events. He had the pleasure of being in Chattanooga, Tennessee and announcing when the football team won the I-AA National championship in 2004.

During a typical day, Dudley wears many hats and partakes in various activities related to JMU sports. Most mornings, he uses social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to communicate JMU sporting news to the world. When JMU hosts home games for varsity sports, many times Dudley will be the main announcer for games that will be aired on MadiZONE.

This fall you will be able to hear Dudley on MadiZONE HD SportsNet as he will be one of three announcers broadcasting all of the Dukes home football games at Bridgeforth Stadium.

My day with “The Voice of JMU Athletics” started at his JMU Sports office, located just a few blocks from the university campus. I met Dudley for the first time that morning and he was welcoming and open with me as we discussed the upcoming schedule for the day. We also talked about our shared experiences at JMU: being involved in radio broadcasting and the Communications department (now known as SMAD) at the university.

Once our introductory time ended, we headed over to Moody Hall on the JMU campus, where Dudley teaches a sports broadcasting course. Attending this class was extremely meaningful to me since I am a 1980 graduate of James Madison University with a B.S. degree in Communication Arts. This was the very first time that I had been back in a JMU classroom in over 38 years and fond memories flooded my mind during this class time.

Since I was a Communications major and had worked at radio station WMRA while I was attending JMU, Dudley gave me the opportunity to share with his students about my experiences at JMU and how I applied things I learned once I graduated from the university. I was thankful I had the opportunity to share my thoughts with Dudley’s students.

If I were attending JMU as a student in 2018, I would want to sign up for Dudley’s class. His presentation of the material is excellent and I am confident that his students will be learning the proper ways to communicate. He was affirming to his students and set positive parameters so that they could succeed in this course.

It was interesting to me that of the thirteen students who were in Dudley’s class, four of those students play varsity sports and one other student plays a club sport. Before the class started, I spoke with senior Sarah Salzman, who is a goalie for the JMU club lacrosse team. Sarah and I communicated about the differences of JMU between when I attended the university and how things are now on campus.

At the end of the class, I met students Lauren DuVall and Shannon Quinlan from the JMU lacrosse team that won the 2018 D1 Women’s Lacrosse National Championship in May. Both Lauren and Shannon shared with me how thrilling it was to be on the Dukes national championship team last May. Curt Dudley was at the championship game and announced the game for MadiZONE. You can hear his voice on the video below.

(Video of JMU 2018 DI Women’s Lacrosse National Championship with the voice of Curt Dudley announcing throughout on May 26th, 2018)

After the class concluded, Dudley and I walked on campus. I was amazed by the number of students that Curt knew and that he actually called each one of these individuals by their first name. Dudley was personable to everyone that he saw during the time that I spent with him.

The next major event on tap that day was a JMU Sports press conference with the Dukes head football coach Mike Houston. This event regularly happens every Tuesday at 12-noon during the school year at O’Neill’s Restaurant in Harrisonburg. During most weeks, multiple Dukes coaches speak at the JMU Sports press conference but on this day Coach Houston was the only coach to speak.

Curt Dudley at JMU Sports Press Conference at O’Neill’s Grill.

The set up for the press conference was fascinating to watch. Dudley’s crew put together a JMU backdrop board that started on the floor like an accordion and then was lifted up by a couple of crew members into the final place directly behind the podium. Of course, audio and video equipment also have to be all in working order prior to the start of the press conference.

Before the conference began, I got to meet Dave Thomas, who is the JMU Sports Network’s play-by-play announcer for the football and men’s basketball teams. Thomas was doing a live broadcast of the press conference on 1360 ESPN Radio. I also got to see Clayton Metz, who is the director of video content for athletics at JMU. I have known Metz since he was a teenager so it was good connecting with him at this event.

At the beginning of the press conference, Dudley spoke about various upcoming sporting events at JMU and then introduced JMU Head Football Coach Mike Houston. You can watch Dudley announcing JMU sports information at the beginning of the video below.

(JMU Sports press conference on 9/4 with Curt Dudley and Mike Houston)

Coach Houston first spoke about the JMU game with NC State and then took questions from the press corps. After the completion of press conference, I had the opportunity to meet Coach Houston along with his wife Amanda (who happened to be sitting next to me while her husband was conducting his press conference). Both Mike and Amanda were cordial and friendly to me.

The breaking down of equipment and lunch were in order after the press conference ended and then it was time for Dudley and I to end our time together. We said our goodbyes and then I went back over the to JMU campus to walk on the quad and soak up some afternoon sun before heading back home to Roanoke. It was an extremely satisfying day for me in Harrisonburg.

Before I came to Harrisonburg on this day, I had asked friends of mine who knew Dudley this question: “What are your thoughts on Dudley and his role with JMU sports?” All responded to me with positive attributes: Caring, thoughtful, professional, personable, engaging, likable, knowledgeable and understanding. Dudley is much beloved on the campus of JMU.

One other important aspect that individuals mentioned to me was Dudley’s attention to all JMU student athletes. As I understand, he regularly interacts with student athletes and has the goal to communicate with each of these individuals over the course of the school year. Dudley is most beloved by all of the student athletes at JMU and he received the James Madison Athletics Unseen Hero Award during April 2018, being recognized for his work with the JMU Athletics department as a member who works outside of the public spotlight.  It was a well deserved award for Dudley.

After I spent my day with Curt, I would have to say that I totally agree with the assessments of those folks on his positive traits as a leader. JMU Nation is extremely fortunate to have the Dukes chief ambassador Curt Dudley as the “Voice of James Madison University Athletics.”

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