(Pictured: the Fifth Dimension.)
I have been writing a lot about 1969 lately, and here I go again. (If you think this is overkill, wait until it’s 50 years since the 70s.) What follows are some odds and ends from Billboard magazine 50 years ago this week:
—KLAC and KMET-FM in Los Angeles are coping with an engineers’ strike, as DJs and newsmen who are members of AFTRA won’t cross the engineers’ picket line. The strike began one day before KLAC was set to change format from talk to contemporary middle of the road music, but parent company Metromedia went ahead with the change anyhow. The strike is over Metromedia’s desire to have KLAC and KMET DJs run their own turntables, as they do at some other Metromedia stations. Currently, engineers start the records at the DJs’ direction. The company stresses that engineers will not be losing their jobs. They will still run the control boards. Metromedia managers with on-air experience are filling in for the regular DJs, some having to be flown in from other cities. It’s a method that was used in New York City earlier this year during a brief strike at Metromedia’s WNEW and WNEW-FM. Billboard says that the subsitutes are being “told to keep their chatter to meaningful comments, and to know such production values as how long the introductions and endings of the cuts run.”
Fifty years later: the “record turner” remained a presence at major-market stations long after 1969, although as this item indicates, that person often was responsible for running the control board, too.
—Bobbie Gentry is working on Christmas songs in hopes that they can be packaged as part of a TV special. She is just about to leave Nashville for London, where she will tape six episodes of Bobbie Gentry Presents for the BBC. When she returns, she will finish her second album with Glen Campbell. Her future plans include a Spanish-language album; she’s already recorded a version of “Fool on the Hill” in Japanese for Capitol Records to release over there.
Fifty years later: Best I can tell, the Bobbie Gentry Christmas special never happened. Neither did a full-blown Christmas album, although a 1969 Capitol Records Christmas compilation marketed by tire company B. F. Goodrich includes her performances of “Away in a Manger” and “Scarlet Ribbons.” (Both appear on the new box set of Gentry’s music, released last year.) The Spanish album never came to pass either, although she did record a single featuring “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and “Here, There, and Everywhere” in Spanish.
—Buck Owens will star in a new TV show to premiere in June as a summer replacement for the Smothers Brothers. The show, titled He Hah, will showcase major country stars and be produced by former Jonathan Winters Show producers John Aylesworth and Frank Tiatt.
Fifty years later: Billboard got a lot wrong here. The show was titled Hee Haw, was hosted by Owens and fellow country superstar Roy Clark, and its producers were John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiatt, veteran writers and producers on both Canadian and American TV. The Laugh-In-inspired Hee Haw was successful enough during its summer run to get a regular slot on CBS, but it would last only two seasons on the network, becoming a victim of the “rural purge.” It returned in syndication in the fall of 1971 and ran for 22 seasons, often in an early-Saturday-evening timeslot. (It also got a brief late-90s reboot on the Nashville Network.) Everybody who was anybody in country music appeared on Hee Haw, and a number of the recurring comedy bits became iconic. Repeats of Hee Haw are still running on the RFD cable channel, and it’s surprising how well they hold up.
—Atop the record charts:
Rhythm and Blues Singles: “It’s Your Thing” by the Isley Brothers
Rhythm and Blues LPs: Cloud Nine by the Temptations
Classical LPs: Switched-on Bach by Walter Carlos
Hot Country Singles: “Galveston” by Glen Campbell
Hot Country LPs: Galveston by Glen Campbell, with Campbell’s Wichita Lineman at #2 and Gentle on My Mind at #5; Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell is at #9.
Easy Listening: “Galveston”
Jazz LPs: Fool on the Hill by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66
Hot 100: “Aquarius”/”Let the Sunshine In” by the Fifth Dimension
Top LPs: the original cast recording of Hair
Fifty years later: [We apologize, but the proprietor is unable to get his mind around this stuff being 50 years old. Regular programming will resume as soon as possible. —Ed.]
3 thoughts on “Meaningful Comments”
Sergio Mendes as jazz? An album of sythesizers as classical music? Categories must have been much broader back then. A little later on, the early records of Roberta Flack and Isaac Hayes actually ranked high on the jazz charts.
Sergio Mendes broke pop after charting only as a jazz artist. And “Switched-On Bach” was the first album of purely synthesizer music. There was no other category than Classical in which to put it. It was classical music—just played on a different instrument.
Typos were common in Billboard—even involving names and call letters that appeared frequently. Many Billboard writers and columnists typed their own stuff, and it ran as typed. Claude Hall, who headed up the “Vox Jox” radio news-and-gossip column occasionally submitted his items in longhand—and you could almost always tell which they were because of the wrong guesses the typesetters would make about names, cities, call letters and formats.
If anyone thinks this is overkill, they shouldn’t be reading this blog. Most people forget how much Bobbie Gentry was on TV during the late 1960s and early 1970s despite the fact that “Ode to Billie Joe” was about the only song people knew she did, at least here in America. Today, she’s one of the most famous recluses and hasn’t done an interview or made a public appearance in at least 30 years, as best I can tell.