The Summer of Love was simmering this week in 1967. Those of us who weren’t there have plenty of stuff with which to conjure: “flower power” was riding high, the new Beatles album would be out in a few days, and Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco” was on the air all over the country as a commercial for the scene. But the summer was about to take an ugly turn: beginning in July, race riots would scar Newark, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, and other inner cities; war protests would grow more intense with the escalation of the Vietnam effort; many young people who dropped out discovered that the scene, wherever they tried to make it, was not all love and flowers. There’s always more to real life than the headlines. And so there was more to the music of the Summer of Love than Monterey Pop, “Respect,” “Groovin’,” Sgt. Pepper, and “Somebody to Love.” Here are some of the other songs on the radio, as heard at WRIT in Milwaukee on the survey dated June 26, 1967.
14. “A Little Bit Slower”/Jon & Robin and the In Crowd. (down from 13) The full title of this record was “Do It Again a Little Bit Slower,” but it’s no wonder radio stations, particularly in a town like Milwaukee, truncated it just a bit. Jon & Robin cut a couple of albums (on a label owned by Jon’s father); Allmusic.com describes one of them as “an odd mix of country/folk and pop-psychedelia influences.” In other words, yer basic fringe pop act of the 60s. This record was mainstream enough to make the Billboard Top 20, though.
16. “It’s Cold Outside”/The Choir. (up from 21) Although “It’s Cold Outside” was the Choir’s only national hit (#68 in Billboard), the group had been a very big deal in the Cleveland area for several years beforehand. Shortly after “It’s Cold Outside” was recorded, however, the group lost its lead guitarist, Wally Bryson, to a rival Cleveland band, Cyrus Erie. They were fronted by a singer who had been turned down for a slot in the Choir. A few years later, the singer, a guy named Eric Carmen, along with Bryson and two other ex-Choir members, would form the Raspberries.
26. “My Girl Josephine”/Jerry Jaye. (down from 22) Jaye had been playing “My Girl Josephine” live for years all over the South, so it was easy to run through on a two-song session for which he had paid a Memphis studio $13. Jaye had 500 copies of it (a Fats Domino original) pressed on his own label, and they quickly sold out in Memphis. Local label Hi Records offered to buy the master outright for $100, but Jaye refused at first. He eventually sold the master to Hi, but his price included a recording contract for himself. In national release, it made Number 29 in Billboard, even though it sounds more like 1957 than 1967.
33. “Rapid Transit”-“Cynthia Loves”/The Robbs. (down from 19) This band of three brothers was from Oconomowoc, just west of Milwaukee. (“Oconomowoc,” by the way, is pronounced just like it looks.) They had left Wisconsin for California by 1967, for a gig as the house band on the TV show Where the Action Is. After that, they backed a number of prominent artists, and they reportedly turned down the chance to become the Grass Roots when producers P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri needed to turn that studio group into a touring band. After a long career as session musicians, the Robbs became the owners of Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles, which George Martin called “the best studio in America.” They’re still there today.
WRIT Disc-covery: “City of Windows”/Stephen Monahan. Monahan was from Detroit, where he played in a short-lived band with fellow Detroit musicians Bob Seger and Del Shannon. He later toured with Shannon, and in the 70s formed a production company that scored country hits with Eddie Rabbitt, George Jones, and others. Trivia geeks such as I will get off on the fact that Monahan’s company, Free Breez Music, produced Gallery’s “Big City Miss Ruth Ann,” written by his partner, Tom Lazoros. Monahan’s a chiropractor in Florida today. If I had to guess, I bet we’ll be hearing from him.