Posted in 1960s, 1965, 1968, 1969

Episode 33–Ron Dante

In the mid 1960s, a group called The Detergents released an album of novelty songs, and a couple of them caught on, but one did especially well, a parody of the Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack.” Among that group was a young man named Ron Dante.

A few years later, Dante was chosen to be the lead voice for a fictional band that was tied in with a cartoon series. That band was The Archies, and they had a short string of hits, peaking with “Sugar Sugar” in 1969. Dante provided all the male voices on “Sugar Sugar,” and Toni Wine provided all the female voices. So yes, you appear to hear two women—one singing low and the other singing high—but in fact they’re both Toni Wine.

Wine left the group around the time “Sugar Sugar” became a hit, and the female portion of The Archies’ follow-up single was voiced by someone else. You’ll just have to listen in to find out who that was.

The Archies, around the “Sugar Sugar” era. From Left to right: Toni Wine, Ron Dante, Jeff Barry, Hot Dog (taking a break from conducting), Ron Dante, Toni Wine. Heh.

If your favorite podcast software doesn’t have it for you already, you can always click below to listen to/download this week’s episode.

Oh hey! How Good It Is is listed as a featured podcast on the Podcast Republic app! I’m gonna give them some love for a few weeks, you betcha.

 

Posted in 1950s, 1957

Episode 32–Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

There’s no doubt that Jerry Lee Lewis was a huge influence on the early days of rock and roll. There’s also no doubt that when he married an underage relative, he pretty much torpedoed his hitmaking career.

But his star burned brightly for a little while, and while the jokes continued, he did manage to restore his reputation, and his influence on the genre is undeniable. Elvis Presley once said that if he could play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis, he’d give up singing. And Elton John once said that hearing “Great Balls of Fire” was the first time he’d heard someone “beat the shit out of a piano.” This time around, however, we’re looking at his first hit, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”, which has a bit of a checkered past before Jerry Lee got his hands on it. Maybe that’s what made it attractive to him, hm?

Jerry Lee Lewis is enshrined as one of the inaugural inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it’s a well-deserved place for him to be.

As usual, if your podcatcher isn’t catching pods today, or if you don’t use one, you can always click on the player below to listen and/or download.

Posted in 1970s, 1976

Episode 31–The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

In November of 1975, an ore freighter broke apart and went down very suddenly in a storm on Lake Superior. Singer Gordon Lightfoot thought that the story wasn’t getting enough attention and gathered some news clippings together, then used that material to write a song about the event.

This is the original article from Newsweek’s November 24, 1975 article.

The song was recorded within just a few weeks of the tragedy, and was released the following summer. Just a few days after the first anniversary of the sinking, the song hit Number One on the Canadian charts, and peaked at #2 in the US. I have to admit, though, that when the song came out, 13-year-old me had no idea that it was about a recent event. I figured it was either fictional, or it had happened many years ago. Imagine my surprise!

One of the last dives. The bell has been replaced, and someone is in the pilot house, leaving a can of beer there.

Nowadays, the ship’s location is considered mostly off-limits to all recreational diving and most research dives or equipment, now. It’s also located in a spot in Lake Superior where the border between the United States and Canada has moved several times, now. Right now the ship is on the Canadian side.

What’s that, you say? Your podcatcher hasn’t picked up the show yet? Don’t worry, you can listen to or download it by clicking on the player below. In addition, I hear it’s now available on Google Play, so you can use that if you like. I’m still working on Spotify, but they’re taking their time about it.

EDITED TO ADD: Holy cow, I can’t believe I forgot to post the video of the ship’s launching. There’s no audio, more’s the pity. If you’ve never seen a sideways ship launch before, you’re in for a treat because it’s pretty cool in general. The action starts at about three minutes in.

See you next week!

 

Posted in 1960, 1960s

Episode 30–Angel Baby

I realize it’s not fashionable to bash the teenagers these days, however in my head this one actually deserves the abuse. Most of you may not agree, but I’m gonna say my piece anyway and be done with it.

Rosalie Mendez Hamlin was just a young teenager when she joined a band and they recorded their only hit record in 1960, in a converted airplane hangar. But by the time the song hit the charts, the band had broken up and Rosie was just starting a decades-long fight to get credit for writing the song, and to get the royalties she deserved. One of the things that broke in her favor as part of the legal actions she needed to take was the fact that she’d mailed a copy of the song to herself. It’s not an iron-clad way of enforcing a simple copyright, but it did turn out to be a shrewd move on her part.

Both “Angel Baby” and its B-Side, a track sung by a friend of the band who happened to be there for the session, are just plain bad recordings. As musicians, The Originals were not what you’d call virtuosos. As Max Bialystock says in The Producers, “I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?”

Here’s the B-Side. See if you don’t agree:

But I think that the raw, unpolished sound of “Angel Baby” may be part of its appeal. It was only a couple of years later that genuine garage bands dropped off the landscape, and among bands with that kind of sound, this one stands out as more of a prom theme than a party-all-night tune.

As usual, your podcast catcher should have captured this episode by now (ooh! It’s available at Google Play now!), but if not, feel free to click the player below for listening or downloading.

Next week we look at a different kind of disaster.