Transcript 74–Quarter to three

NOTE: This is a pre-production transcript and may not match the final show precisely.

Hi there! This IS the podcast you’re looking for! Welcome to the next episode of How Good It Is, a weekly podcast that takes a closer look at songs from the rock and roll era, and we check out some of the stories behind those songs, and the artists who made them famous.

My name is Claude Call, and how are YOU today?

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OK, I think I’ve found a trivia question that doesn’t make me think I’m going easy on you. Tell me what the following bands have in common: White Zombie, They Might Be Giants, Black Sabbath, Faster Pussycat, and The Mission UK. As usual, I’ll have the answer later on in the show.

Gary U.S. Bonds was born Gary Levone Anderson on June 6, 1939 in Jacksonville, Florida. He began his public performance career in the late 1950s when he hooked up with a group called The Turks. Now, as far as I can tell, this is NOT the same group that had a single in 1956 called “I’m a Fool,” that band was based on the west coast, while Gary’s group worked out of Norfolk, Virginia.

[NEW ORLEANS]

From there he was discovered by producer Frank Guida, who signed him to his own Legrand Records label. It was Guida who produced his first few hits, including this one, “New Orleans,” which went to Number 6 on the Billboard Chart…

And it was also Frank Guida who gave him the name “US Bonds”. This was actually a little bit of a weak pun. See, since Gary wrote several of his own songs, the writing credit would appear on the label as “by US Bonds”, which sounded like a public service announcement that was pretty common up through the 60s and early 70s, that asked people to purchase government bonds. “Buy US Bonds,” get it? See, and you thought my jokes were poor. The problem was that having just “US Bonds” in the artist portion of the label made disc jockeys think that “US Bonds” was the name of a group, not an individual. So eventually he became “Gary (US) Bonds” with the “US” part in parentheses. Eventually the parentheses were tossed out. But all those changes came later on. For today’s show, we’re still looking at a guy whose stage name was still just US Bonds.

[NIGHT WITH DADDY G]

But in order to do that, we need to start with this.  

And “this” is called “A Night With Daddy G”, a record by the Church Street Five, which was released in 1960. The Church Street Five was composed of Gene Barge playing saxophone, Nabs Shields on the drums, Junior Fairley playing bass, Willie Burnell on the piano, and Leonard Barks on the trombone. It’s largely an instrumental piece, with some voices doing “oh yeahs” and such that are all pretty deep in the mix. Now, the label on the 45 for this record lists the composers as Barge, Guida, Royster—just like that, last names only. But when you look at the composer credit for Quarter to Three, you’ll see the name “Anderson” added in, since that’s Gary US Bonds’ original last name, and since he adapted “A Night With Daddy G” to add lyrics. It’s kind of what happened with The Buckinghams and “Mercy Mercy Mercy.” When that song was an instrumental, there was a single writing credit, to Josef Zawinul. When The Buckinghams got ahold of it, lyrics were added and the songwriting credit amended.

But wait a minute! You say. Wasn’t one of the writers of the original “Night With Daddy G” named Guida? You have a good ear! Yes indeed. One of the writers was Frank Guida, and while I’m at it, Joe Royster, who’s also credited, was Guida’s songwriting partner and engineer.

[QUARTER TO THREE]

All of which boils down to another similarity between the two records: compared to other records that were released around that time, the overall sound quality is very rough. You’ve got the party-like sounds, lots of echoey noise, and maybe even some stuff going in and out of phase. While some ordinarily reliable sources have suggested that that fuzzy, distorted audio was the result of an accidental recording—that is, that the band was just jamming or something and the tape just happened to be rolling without anyone knowing about it—the fact is, the record sounds exactly the way Guida wanted it to sound. And the fact that “A Night With Daddy G” has the same sound pretty much underlines this. As a further illustration of this, let me point you to this track:

[IF YOU WANT TO BE HAPPY clip]

This, of course is, “If You Wanna Be Happy” by Jimmy Soul, and it has a very similar sound. And the reason for that is: same band, same engineer, and same producer, Frank Guida, putting the whole thing together. Oh, and once again it was written by Frank and Carmella, along with Joseph Royster. So, pretty much the same writing team too.

[Q23 clipped]

“Quarter to Three” was released in May of 1961 and it spent two weeks in the Number One slot beginning on June 26. Over in the UK it made it to Number Seven on September second.

Fellow Rock and Roller Dion DiMucci has said that “Quarter to Three” helped inspire him and Ernie Maresca to write “Runaround Sue”, and now that I think about it, I can hear the influence there. On the other hand, as we know, there’s a darker side to being inspired.

The following year, Bonds sued Chubby Checker, claiming that Checker stole “Quarter to Three” for his song, called “Dancin’ Party”. The case was settled out of court, but give “Dancin’ Party” a quick listen and I think you’ll know which way that case broke. Listen especially to that sax.

[CHUBBY CHECKER] into [THIS LITTLE GIRL]

One of the biggest fans of the song, and of Gary US Bonds, is Bruce Springsteen, who plays the song quite often in his live shows. In fact, Springsteen is such a fan that he wrote Bonds’ last hit, 1981’s “This Little Girl,” which also has the backing of the E Street Band on it.

And now it’s time to answer today’s trivia question.

Back on Page Two I asked what these bands have in common: White Zombie, They Might Be Giants, Black Sabbath, Faster Pussycat, and The Mission UK. The answer is that they all got their names from movie titles.

[MISSION UK]

  • White Zombie was a B horror movie from 1932 starring Bela Lugosi that band founder Rob Zombie really liked.
  • They Might Be Giants got their name from a 1971 film that had Sherlock Holmes in a modern-day New York City.
  • Black Sabbath’s original name was Earth, until they stopped in to see a Boris Karloff movie with that title near their rehearsal space. The 1963 film influenced not only the name change, but the overall theme of the band.
  • Faster Pussycat is a truncated version of the title of the Russ Meyer exploitation film from 1965, featuring go-go dancers driving at high speeds across the California desert…as they do. The film’s full title is Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! For those of you counting, that’s four words with three exclamation points.
  • And finally, The Mission UK—the band you’re listening to now—was a post-punk band from England (duh) whose members were huge fans of Robert DeNiro, so when The Sisterhood did a little lineup shuffle, they took their new name from a film of his that had just been released. It turned out that an American band had already taken on that name, so they added on the “UK” part.

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Next time around, we’re going to find out How Good It Is when you’re watching Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.

Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you next time.