Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1967 Dynamite Top 40 Hits

I discovered top 40 radio in early 1967 as an 11-year-old boy in Roanoke, Virginia.  Finding WROV 1240 AM that year, expanded musical horizons in my life and set up a future course for me working as a radio DJ.

Attending Oakland Elementary School, I was familiar with the Beatles and viewed “The Monkees” TV series on a weekly basis but my knowledge of pop/rock music was limited.

Christmas 1966, I was gifted 3 albums that whetted my appetite for popular music at that time: “Boots” by Nancy Sinatra, “Gary Lewis & the Playboys Greatest Hits” and The Monkees’ self-titled debut album.  Santa Claus also left a record player underneath the Christmas tree that year.

My parents were not rock fans so I didn’t inherit any guidance on this popular type of music. My father listened to country music on WSLC 610 AM while my mother favored the smooth “Middle of the Road” format on WDBJ 960 AM. 

In the winter months of 1967, I was curious about radio and started my lifelong love of music. Located in our living room was a huge RCA stereo console, which featured an AM/FM radio. I spent many afternoons exploring various local Virginia stations after I got home from school.

It was also in this time period that I bought my first record album: “More of the Monkees.”  This was the second LP released by the TV rock band and featured the mega number 1 hit “I’m a Believer.”

Forward to spring break 1967: with no school happening, I found an AM desk-top tube radio in our kitchen. The stations that I listened to that week both had Top 40 formats: WROV 1240 AM and WPXI 910 AM.

Then on my 12th birthday in May 1967, my parents gave me a transistor radio. From that point on, I was hooked on top 40 radio and WROV.

Legendary Top 40 WROV 1240 AM was the top-rated radio station in Roanoke during the mid to late 60s and also throughout the 70s decade. The two DJ’s that I distinctly remember from WROV back in ‘67 are Jack Fisher and Fred Frelantz.

WROV DJs Fred Freelantz and Jack Fisher. Photo courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

My radio listening expanded during the “summer of love” in ’67, as I commandeered the desk-top tube radio from our kitchen and permanently kept this device in my bedroom. During daylight hours, I exclusively listened to WROV.

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

Unlike my small transistor radio, the devise in my bedroom could pick up radio stations that were located hundreds of miles away from my Virginia home. On many 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.

Dan Ingram plays the #2 song on WABC with this 7/29/67 aircheck: “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum.

I still have fond memories listening to top 40 radio during 1967.  For the remainder of this article, I will be sharing what I consider to be the best songs played on top 40 music stations 55 years ago.

As a guide, I used the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1967 survey for songs I selected with my countdown. For chart information, I utilized, “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits” by Joel Whitburn.

Below are the top 10 songs of 1967 according to Billboard:

1          “To Sir With Love”                   Lulu

2          “The Letter”                              The Box Tops

3          “Ode to Billie Joe”                    Bobbie Gentry

4          “Windy”                                    The Association

5          “I’m a Believer”                        The Monkees

6          “Light My Fire”                         The Doors

7          “Somethin’ Stupid”                  Frank & Nancy Sinatra

8          “Happy Together”                    The Turtles

9          “Groovin'”                                 The Young Rascals

10        “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” Frankie Valli

Songs listed below are 1967 singles that I like but fell outside my top 20 countdown, randomly placed with no ranking.  It was extremely hard excluding these outstanding songs from the final listing:

  • Soul Man—Sam & Dave
  • The Letter—The Box Tops
  • Light My Fire—The Doors
  • To Sir with Love–Lulu
  • Expressway (To Your Heart)—The Soul Survivors
  • Somebody to Love—Jefferson Airplane
  • Ode to Billie Joe—Bobbie Gentry
  • Pleasant Valley Sunday—The Monkees
  • All You Need is Love—The Beatles
  • Gimme Little Sign—Brenton Wood
  • Mirage—Tommy James & the Shondells
  • I Had too Much to Dream (Last Night)—The Electric Prunes
  • Friday on My Mind—The Easybeats
  • Here Comes My Baby—The Tremeloes
  • Reflections—The Supremes

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

20.   White Rabbit—Jefferson Airplane

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #8 Hot 100, 81st Biggest Song of 1967

Written by Jefferson Airplane’s vocalist Grace Slick. Lyrics uses figurative language from two Lewis Carroll books: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass.”  “White Rabbit” was a standout performance at Woodstock in 1969.

19.   Kind of a Drag—The Buckinghams

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 16th Biggest Song of 1967

Band from Chicago, Illinois. “Kind of a Drag” was the first of 3 consecutive top 10 hits and 5 top 40 charting singles in 1967.  Song has outstanding horn section.

18.   Respect—Aretha Franklin

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 13th Biggest Song of 1967

Otis Redding penned this song in 1965. Two years later, Aretha Franklin went to Muscle Shoals recording studio in Alabama and re-created Redding’s composition into an anthem.  “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” became Franklin’s first number 1 hit and is considered her signature song.

17.   Groovin’—The Young Rascals

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 9th Biggest Song of 1967

First number 1 hit for New Jersey formed band. Song is in both the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll.”  The Rascals dropped “Young” from their name at the end of 1967.

16.   Happy Together—The Turtles

Peak Positions of Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 8th Biggest Song of 1967

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

15.   Daydream Believer—The Monkees

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 94th Biggest Song of 1967

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

14.   We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet—The Blues Magoos

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #5 Hot 100, 65th Biggest Song of 1967.

Psychedelic rock band from New York City. A one hit wonder. Considered in the sub-genre “Frat Rock” category. Tune has catchy organ-guitar riff.

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

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #2 Hot 100, 49th Biggest Song of 1967

Debut smash for Newport, Rhode Island family band. Sold 3 million records. Reached number 1 on the Cashbox Top 100 chart. A quintessential “Sunshine Pop” selection.

12.   Sweet Soul Music—Arthur Conley

Peak Position of Billboard Charts:  #2 Hot 100, 17th Biggest Song of 1967

“Sweet Soul Music” was co-written by Arthur Conley and Otis Redding. Lyrics honors some of the biggest R&B artists from the mid 60s:  The Miracles, Lou Rawls, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and James Brown. Brass instruments create a rich sound on the tune.

11.   On a Carousel—The Hollies

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #11 Hot 100, 42nd Biggest Song of 1967

“On a Carousel” is a perfect pop song, written by Hollies band members Allan Clarke, Graham Nash and Tony Hicks.  Melodic tune and vocal harmonies are rich on popular recording.

10.   I Was Made to Love Her—Stevie Wonder

Positions on Billboard Charts:  #2 Hot 100, 14th Biggest Song of 1967

Stevie Wonder was just 17 years old when “I Was Made to Love Her” was a hit. The musical prodigy played clavinet and harmonica, while the legendary Funk Brothers provided premier bass, drums and guitar backup on this Motown classic.

9.     Never My Love—The Association

Peak Positions on Billboard Hot 100:  #2 Hot 100, 20th Biggest Song of 1967.

“Never My Love” peaked at #1 on the Cashbox Top 100 chart.  Popular wedding song over the past 55 years. Second most played song on radio and TV during the 20th century according to BMI.

8.     San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)—Scott McKenzie

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #4 Hot 100, 48th Biggest Song of 1967

The Mamas and Papas’ John Phillips wrote this song for his friend Scott McKenzie. “San Francisco” became the anthem for the “Summer of Love” in 1967, as thousands of young people flocked to the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, California, searching for peace, love and tranquility.

7.     Bernadette—The Four Tops

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #4 Hot 100, 82nd Biggest Song of 1967

One of Motown’s greatest bass lines is found on this song.  Levi Stubbs provides outstanding vocals on the Four Tops last top 10 hit of the 60s.  I rank “Bernadette” as the 8th best Motown single of the Detroit years with the recording company.

6.     Ain’t No Mountain High Enough—Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #19 Hot 100, 87th Biggest Song of 1967

I rate Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s single as the best Motown duet of all-time and the second greatest song during the 1961-1971 time period with the record company founded by Barry Gordy. With instrumentation by the Funk Brothers and Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Terrell/Gaye are marvelous on this toe-tapping tune.

5.     I Can See for Miles—The Who

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #9 Hot 100, 98th Biggest Song of 1967

The Who’s first top ten hit in the U.S.  Rolling Stone places “I Can See for Miles” as the second greatest song by the British band.  Pete Townshend’s soaring guitar and Keith Moon’s driving drum playing, makes this one of the best rock singles from the 1990 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees.

4.     Incense & Peppermints—Strawberry Alarm Clock

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 23rd Biggest Song of 1967

Psychedelic rock band formed in Glendale, California. Founding member Ed King went on to fame with Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Recorded songs in the “Sunshine Pop” genre. “Tomorrow” was a second top 40 hit for the band.

3.     For What It’s Worth—Buffalo Springfield

Peak Positions on Billboard Chart: #7 Hot 100, 27th Biggest Song of 1967

Originally called “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound).” Stephen Stills wrote and sang lead vocals on the single.  Became an anthem during the 1967 “Summer of Love” and is considered one of the greatest protest songs from the 20th century.

2.     Penny Lane—The Beatles

Peak Positions of Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 55th Biggest Song of 1967

“Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” were originally set to appear on the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. Instead, both songs were released as a double-A sided 45-rpm single.

Paul McCartney’s masterpiece “Penny Lane” uses many instruments not associated with most Beatles songs:  flutes, piccolos, oboes, trumpets and a flugelhorn. “Penny Lane” is my second favorite Beatles song of all-time and was the first 45-rpm single that I bought with my own money during the spring of 1967.

  1. Whiter Shade of Pale—Procol Harum

Peak Positions of Billboard Charts:  #5 Hot 100, 38th Biggest Song of 1967

British band Procol Harum came through with another 1967 “Summer of Love” anthem with their song “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”  The single sold over 10 million copies world-wide, inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and is number 57 on the Rolling Stone “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list.

The music was composed by band member Keith Reid, while lyrics were written by the group’s Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher. Melody on the song has a classical music feel, with an outstanding mixture of organ and bassline. This is a brilliant piece of music, in my humble opinion.

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” is my second favorite song of all-time and Procol Harum’s chef d’oeuvre is my number 1 top 40 single of 1967.

Now that I have submitted what I consider to be the most significant top 40 hits of 1967, 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 superb pop hits from 1967. 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 fantastic top 40 hits of 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
Artist Profiles, Concert Reviews, Music, Podcasts, Retro Rock, Virginia Artists

Chris Keaton with the Kings: Roanoke’s Quintessential Band

Earlier this year, vocalist Terry Brown of Roanoke’s legendary band the Kings temporarily stepped down due to some health issues. Finding a stand-in substitute could have posed a problem for long-time Kings leader Larry Wheeling.

In finding a fill-in pinch hitter, Wheeling didn’t have to call Ghostbusters.  Instead, he found Roanoke native Chris Keaton to sing and play saxophone for the Kings while Brown is convalescing from his illness.

The Kings were founded in 1965 by Perry Caligan, who still acts as the business owner of the band. Current leader and manager of the Kings is Larry Wheeling, who joined the Roanoke based group during 1969.

Larry Wheeling and Perry Caligan at Elmwood Park in July 2018.

Over four years ago, I featured the Kings on a music blog message and attended one of the band’s concerts in downtown Roanoke.  Here is the link for The Kings Rocking Roanoke Since 1965: https://woodsonrva.com/2018/07/11/the-kings-rocking-roanoke-since-1965/

The Kings in concert in downtown Roanoke on July 5, 2018.

While Terry Brown recovers from his health issues, the Kings have been fortunate to secure the services of Chris Keaton. I had the opportunity to interview Keaton last month, just before he and the Kings had a concert at Roanoke’s Black Dog Salvage.

Chris Keaton was born in Roanoke, Virginia and grew up in the town of Vinton.  After graduating from William Byrd High School, Keaton spent a year at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. Chris then following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan left college life to pursue a career in music.

During the mid 70s, Keaton played saxophone and toured with pop/rock bands ranging from Gary U.S. Bonds to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. He also had gigs with Jay & the Techniques during this time period.

A few bands that Keaton was a member of during the 70s and 80s were High & Mighty, Dazzle Boys and Band of Oz.  Interestingly, Chris also had two separate stints performing as a member of the Kings during his younger years.

In 1993, Keaton moved to Nashville, Tennessee and became a business partner with another Roanoke native Tommy Holcomb. Eventually, Holcomb moved back to Roanoke while Keaton stayed in the “Music City” to venture into a new career path.

Since the mid 90s, Keaton’s career has become multifaceted.  His official bio states: “Chris is a Nashville-based entertainment industry executive, award winning music publisher, artist management consultant and a 2016 Inductee in the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.”

When I interviewed Chris last month, 3 words stood out to me that describe Keaton’s current profession: connector, influencer and encourager. Keaton utilizes various forms of social media during his day-to-day activities.

One social media avenue Keaton uses is podcasting. He describes his “Random Acts” podcast, “of kindness, stories, a song or two, seeds of hope and love, and the randomness of it all through the eyes of Chris Keaton.”

Another fascinating venture of Keaton’s work is with the fashion industry.  For a number of years, Chris has been a member of Macy’s Style Crew as a “brand influencer.” As a result of his Macy’s gig, Keaton published a book in 2020 called “Dapper.”

Published at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, “Dapper” was written by Keaton and the text is supported by photographer Keith Charles.  The book conveys, “Serious tips on being a dapper gentleman tempered with a dash of humor.”

Two years ago, Keaton was a guest on Larry Dowdy Mic Side podcast and talked about his book “Dapper” along with some of his past musical performing career.

Versatility and Chris Keaton go hand-in hand as he has been a long-time voting member of the Recording Academy (Grammy Awards) and is a reviewer for an Internet country music site.

2016 was a memorable year for Keaton as he was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Working with the beach music group Band of Oz, Keaton composed an award-winning rendition of the song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for his induction.

Considering all of the activities that Keaton has been involved with during the past few years, the influencer hasn’t performed many in-person concerts. However, that changed a few months ago when Larry Wheeling asked Chris to play with the Kings on a temporary basis.

Chris Keaton singing a cover of the Time’s song, “Jungle Love” with the Kings. First Fridays downtown Roanoke in September 2022.

The current 2022 lineup of the Kings:

Terry Brown–Vocals

Mike Feamster –Drums

Brian Jones– Bass

Chris Loder–Guitar

Melody Irby — Vocals & Keyboards

Alan Walker— Sax

Randy Wheeling–Trumpet & Trombone

Larry Wheeling —–Trumpet

Chris Keaton—- Vocals & Sax

Chris Keaton singing a cover version of Wilson Pickett’s song, “Mustang Sally” with the Kings. Black Dog Salvage Roanoke on October 15, 2022.

With Keaton temporarily performing with the Kings, he plays saxophone and shares lead vocal duties with Melody Irby.  The brass section of the band is superb.

Chris Keaton singing cover of Justin Timberlake’s song, “Can’t Fight this Feeling” with the Kings. Black Dog Salvage Roanoke on Octotber 15, 2022.

Musically, the Kings are a pop/rock band and have a large following in central and southwestern Virginia.  The band plays a wide variety of cover tunes, ranging from the 60s through songs from the past ten years.

The Kings are Roanoke’s quintessential band and have been fortunate to secure the services of Keaton on a temporary basis. Providing his vocal talents and excellent saxophone skills, make him a perfect fit with the Kings.

My assessment of Keaton can be summed up as “renaissance man.”  He flows within a wide mixture of diverse areas, bringing his talents and knowledge for positive results.

Without a doubt, Chris Keaton is helping to make the world a better place by being an encourager, spreading peace, love and tranquility to everyone on his path in life.

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

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

1977 Fantastic Top 40 Hits

What are the most significant top 40 songs from 45 years ago?   While that are no definitive answers to that question, I will be sharing what I consider to be the best pop singles of 1977.

During 1977, I lived in Roanoke, Virginia and was employed by WJLM 93.5 FM as a country DJ.  With this full-time position, I was totally immersed within the genre of country music at my radio station.

Whenever I wasn’t working at WJLM, my radio listening tended to be in non-country formats.  Since my first love musically was rock music, I predominantly listened to top 40 stations. And whenever possible, I also tuned into “All Things Considered” on Roanoke’s NPR affiliate, WVWR 89.1 FM.

My go to radio station that I heard the most during 1977 was WROV 1240 AM. I was employed part-time at this legendary top 40 outlet while attending Virginia Western Community College during 1974 and 1975.  I fondly remember regularly listening to WROV DJs Bart Prater, Rob O’Brady, Bill Jordan and Larry Bly in ’77. 

Since WROV reduced their power at sundown, I would sometimes listen to a couple of 50,000 watt AM stations during the nighttime:  WLS 890 Chicago and WABC 770 New York.

On the FM band, I could listen to a couple of high-powered top 40 North Carolina stations that came in strong throughout the Roanoke Valley:  WKZL 107.5 FM Winston-Salem and WRQK 98.7 FM Greensboro. And if weather conditions were just right, I could pick up Q94 Richmond (94.5 FM) which was a premier Top 40 station in Virginia.

With this edition of my musical musings, I am concentrating on most significant top 40 hits from 45-years ago. Using Billboard magazine’s, “Year-End Hot 100 Singles of 1977” chart as a reference, I will countdown the what I consider to be the best songs in this category.

Below are the ten biggest records of 1977 according to Billboard.  Interesting that none of these songs made my final countdown list.

1          “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)”–Rod Stewart

2          “I Just Want to Be Your Everything”–Andy Gibb

3          “Best of My Love”–The Emotions

4          “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)”–Barbra Streisand

5          “Angel in Your Arms”—Hot

6          “I Like Dreamin'”–Kenny Nolan

7          “Don’t Leave Me This Way”–Thelma Houston

8          “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher”–Rita Coolidge

9          “Undercover Angel”–Alan O’Day

10        “Torn Between Two Lovers”–Mary MacGregor

Before starting my listing with the best top 40 hits of 1977, I have tabulated 10 singles that fell just outside of my top 20 countdown. These songs are in a random order and have no ranking.

  • Weekend in New England—Barry Manilow
  • Give a Little Bit—Supertramp
  • Don’t Worry Baby—B.J. Thomas
  • On and On—Stephen Bishop
  • Lido Shuffle—Boz Scaggs
  • Don’t Stop—Fleetwood Mac
  • Stand Tall—Burton Cummings
  • Livin’ Thing—Electric Light Orchestra
  • Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancing)—Johnny Rivers
  • You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)—Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.

Without further ado, here are the top selections with my 1977 countdown of fantastic top 40 hits:

20.  Strawberry Letter 23—The Brothers Johnson

Peak Positions on Billboard:  #5 Hot 100, 54th Biggest Song of 1977

R&B band with siblings George (“Lightnin’ Licks”) and Louis (“Thunder Thumbs”) E. Johnson. “Strawberry Letter 23” was produced by Quincy Jones and the song featured studio guitar player Lee Ritenour.

19.  Easy—The Commodores

Peak Positions on Billboard: #4 Hot 100, 33rd Biggest Song of 1977

Front man Lionel Richie wrote and sang lead vocals. “Easy” opened the way for two other number 1 hits for the Commodores during the late 70s: “Three Times a Lady” and “Still.”

18.  Carry on My Wayward Son—Kansas

Peak Positions on Billboard: #11 Hot 100, 58th Biggest Song of 1977 

Written by guitarist Kerry Livgren.  Vocals and keyboard duties were from Steve Walsh. This classic rock single is considered the signature song for Kansas.

17.  Telephone Line—Electric Light Orchestra

Peak Positions on Billboard: #7 Hot 100, 15th Biggest Song of 1977

Hybrid progressive/pop/classical/rock English band.  Composed, produced and vocals are from ELO leader Jeff Lynne.

16.  I Wish—Stevie Wonder

Peak Positions on Billboard: #1 Hot 100, 51st Biggest Song of 1977

Lead single from the legendary “Songs in the Key of Life” album. Stevie wonder wrote and produced the song and it won a Grammy Award for “Best R&B Vocal Performance.”

15.  New Kid in Town—Eagles

Peak Positions on Billboard: #1 Hot 100, 59th Biggest Song of 1977

New Kid in Town” was penned 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.”

14.  Whatcha Gonna Do? Pablo Cruise

Peak Position on Billboard: #6 Hot 100, 16th Biggest Song of 1977

American rock band. This yacht rock classic song was written by Pablo Cruise members David Jenkins and Cory Lerios.  From the album, “A Place in the Sun.”

13.  Nobody Does It Better—Carly Simon

Peak Positions on Billboard: #2 Hot 100, 83rd Biggest Song of 1977

This power ballad was composed by Marvin Hamlish with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager. Theme song from James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Carly Simon’s single received both Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for best original song.

12.  Just a Song Before I Go—Crosby Stills & Nash

Peak Positions on Billboard: #7 Hot 100, 47th Biggest Song of 1977

Acoustic ballad written by Graham Nash.  Comeback hit for CSN, superb harmonies and excellent guitar solo from Stephen Stills.

11.  Barracuda—Heart

Peak Positions on Billboard: #11 Hot 100, 53rd Biggest Song of 1977

The Wilson siblings are leaders on this hard driving rock masterpiece.  Ann’s excellent vocals and Nancy’s exceptional guitar playing shine on this song.

10.  Dancing Queen—ABBA

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 the Swedish quartet. Reached number 1 in 14 countries around the world.

9.    Dreams—Fleetwood Mac

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 39th Biggest Song of 1977

“Dreams” is the only Fleetwood Mac song to peak at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Written by Stevie Nicks. Ranked #9 on Rolling Stone’s, “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” listing published in 2021.

8.   I’m In You—Peter Frampton

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #2 Hot 100, 42nd Biggest Song of 1977

English singer-songwriter and guitarist.  Was the highest charting single for Peter Frampton. Background vocals provided by Mick Jagger.

7.   Fly Like an Eagle—Steve Miller Band

Peak Position on Billboard Charts:  #2 Hot 100, 79th Biggest Song of 1977

Title track from the Steve Mille Band’s biggest selling studio album. Mix of synthesizer and guitar creates a laid back, soaring experience. Most beloved song by the California band.

6.   So in to You—Atlanta Rhythm Section

Peak Position on Billboard Charts: #7 Hot 100, 38th Biggest Song of 1977

American Southern rock band formed in 1970. Had six top 40 hits. “So in to You” was the biggest hit from the Georgia group. Now considered “Yacht Rock.”

5.   Couldn’t Get It Right—Climax Blues Band

Peak Position on Billboard Charts:  #3 Hot 100, 32nd Biggest Song of 1977.

British blues/rock band. Formed in Stafford, England. Group is a two-hit wonder. Also charted with “I Love You” in 1981.

4.   Go Your Own Way—Fleetwood Mac

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #10 Hot 100, 94th Biggest Song of 1977

Song written by Lindsey Buckingham about his relationship woes with fellow Fleetwood Mac member Stevie Nicks.  First single from the “Rumours” album.  Song is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Rolling Stone ranks “Go Your Own Way” as the #1 best Fleetwood Mac song of all-time.

3.   Year of the Cat—Al Stewart

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #8 Hot 100, 92nd Biggest Song of 1977

Signature song for Scottish singer-songwriter Al Stewart. Melodic tune that features cello, violin, piano, guitar, synthesizer and saxophone. Recorded by engineer Alan Parsons at London’s Abbey Road Studios.

2.   Sir Duke—Stevie Wonder

Peak Position on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 18th Biggest Song of 1977

Stevie Wonder wrote his song as a tribute to jazz legend Duke Ellington. Lyrics also mention Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.  “Sir Duke” was produced, arranged and composed by Wonder.

This salute has outstanding saxophone and trumpet playing and is the second single from the acclaimed, “Songs in the Key of Life” album.  My favorite Stevie Wonder song of all-time is “Sir Duke.”

1.   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. Without a doubt, “Hotel California” is the number 1 song on my 1977 “Fantastic Top 40 Hits” countdown.

 Now that I have submitted what I consider to be the most significant top 40 hits 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 superb pop hits 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 fantastic top 40 hits of 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

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 penned 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.

A second single from “Superman” called “I Want You” was released on September 23.

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