Teenage Sons on Tobacco Road

Here are more of the one-hit wonders who peaked at Number 93 on the Billboard Hot 100, which provide us insight into a couple of interesting crazes of the 1960s and a couple of unjustly forgotten R&B hits of the early 1970s. (Part 1 of the Number 93s is right over here; the remainder of the series looking at lower chart positions is right over there.)

“Alligator Boogaloo”/Lou Donaldson (11/25/67, four weeks on chart). In the 1960s, jazz players often cracked the charts with organ-driven singles that sounded more like R&B than jazz, their popularity propelled by jukebox play.  Jimmy Smith was the most prolific in this genre, with 12 Hot 100 singles between 1962 and 1968; fellow organists Richard “Groove” Holmes, Jack McDuff, and Jimmy McGriff also scored minor hit singles. Lou Donaldson was an alto sax player, but “Alligator Boogaloo” features another prominent organ player, Dr. Lonnie Smith, plus George Benson on guitar. (Long version of “Alligator Boogaloo” here.)

(Smith has made nearly two dozen albums as a bandleader since 1967. His latest, Spiral, was released just last week. B3 freaks amongst the readership can check it out here.)

“A Letter to Dad”/Every Father’s Teenage Son (12/9/67, four weeks). One of the oddest records ever to hit the Top 10 was Victor Lundberg’s “An Open Letter to My Teenage Son,” from 1967, in which a father lays down his law on long hair, beards, religion, and most of all, the necessity of military service, finally informing his son that should the boy burn his draft card, he should burn his birth certificate too because, “From that moment on, I have no son.” “A Letter to Dad” is the answer record, addressing each of Lundberg’s points, but its chart performance indicates the rebuttal was less effective than the original argument. The Lundberg recording kicked off a craze for “letter” records; a load of them are collected here, including Lundberg’s, but not “A Letter to Dad,” alas.

“Don’t Be Afraid (Do as I Say)”/Frankie Karl & the Dreams (12/14/68, one week). Karl was a gospel singer who was in the COGIC Singers with some high-powered talent: Billy Preston, Edna Wright (who ended up in Honey Cone), Andrae and Sandra Crouch, and Gloria Jones (the soul singer later involved with Marc Bolan of T. Rex). “Don’t Be Afraid” is the sort of record we’ve gotten used to finding on these fishing expeditions to the lower reaches of the chart—a lost classic that deserved a much higher position than it achieved.

The itinerary after the jump: an unnamed superhighway, Tucson, and my mp3 stash.

“Tobacco Road”/Jamul (5/9/70, two weeks). We know their names because they put ’em right on the album cover—Steve Williams, Bob Desnoyers, Ron Armstrong, and John Fergus—and we know that they were managed by the same people who handled Steppenwolf, but that’s about all we know. It’s hard to imagine “Tobacco Road” getting on AM radio anywhere, although an earlier single, “Sunrise Over Jamul,” had charted on a couple of stations in San Diego (the band’s hometown), and a couple of other tracks on the group’s album sound even more radio-friendly. For what it’s worth, the J in the group name is silent—pronounce it ah-MOOL.

“The Lights of Tucson”/Jim Campbell (7/25/70, two weeks). A song about life on the road, this song name-checks the TV series Then Came Bronson, which we mentioned at this blog not long ago: “like Bronson, my wheels are turnin’.” It charted in a handful of cities mostly in the west, but it was, as you might expect, biggest in Tucson.

“Super Highway”/Ballin’ jack (3/6/71, four weeks). Ballin’ jack cut four albums between 1970 and 1974, and for all I know they went straight to the cut-out bin, which is where I usually saw them. After the group broke up in 1975, two members played in War. “Super Highway,” from their debut album and the only one to chart, sounds like a Chicago outtake, and it would have fit nicely on the radio in 1971 . . . but we already had Chicago. And Chase. And Lighthouse. And BS&T. And so on.

“It’s the Same Old Love”/Courtship (6/24/72, two weeks). Released on Motown’s Tamla label but licensed from outside producers, Courtship sounds more Philly than Motown, and it’s no wonder—“It’s the Same Old Love” was arranged by Tommy Bell, better known as Thom, genius producer/songwriter/arranger who worked with the Stylistics, the Spinners, and others, and it features the studio musicians of MFSB.

“Dedicated to the One I Love”/Temprees (10/7/72, two weeks). The Temprees were signed by Stax in 1970 and were on the label to its bitter end in 1976. Their slow, sweet version of “Dedicated to the One I Love” is more Philly than Memphis, at least until the middle eight, when a bit of the funk breaks out. It was probably too old-school for 1972, but damn, it’s great.

Coming in the final installment, whenever we get around to it: some familiar names whose one-hit status may surprise you. Or it may not.

“Tobacco Road”/Jamul (album version; out of print)

One thought on “Teenage Sons on Tobacco Road

  1. I love these posts. So much great music got lost, like the Courtship and Frankie Karl tracks, which are both are superb. (The Ballin’ Jack? No so much.) Thanks again.

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