Let us pick up again with our Down in the Bottom series. I missed a few records on our first pass through the last 10 positions on the Hot 100, including eight of them to peak at Number 91, because this is not a very good blog, really. Here are those eight.
“Russian Bandstand”/Spencer & Spencer (5/18/59, two weeks on chart). I am not sure this one belongs on the list. Spencer and Spencer were actually Dickie Goodman, king of the break-in record, and Mickey Shorr, a Detroit DJ, with whom Goodman collaborated after his earliest records with Bill Buchanan. “Russian Bandstand” has a couple of break-ins featuring Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” played backwards, although there’s supposedly another version that substitutes Russian folk songs. More here.
“Pick Me Up on Your Way Down”/Pat Zill (5/22/61, one week). Another Ohio guy (from Youngstown), Pat Zill was known as “the singing bartender” when he was discovered. Despite Zill’s protests that he wasn’t a country singer, superstar producer Owen Bradley turned him into one. “Pick Me Up on Your Way Down” is a quintessential example of the pop-oriented “countrypolitan” sound that dominated Nashville in the 60s.
“Wishin’ on a Rainbow”/Phill Wilson (7/17/61, two weeks). This was the first release on the Huron label of Dayton, Ohio, founded by a local DJ, a tool and die manufacturer with a load of money to invest, and Phill Wilson’s father. “Wishin’ on a Rainbow” was cut in Nashville, and the label spared no expense on session players, hiring Floyd Cramer, Bob Moore, Hank Garland, and other top cats including the Anita Kerr Singers. They got what they paid for—an extremely well-made record that probably deserved better than Number 91.
“So Far Away”/Hank Jacobs (2/1/64, three weeks). Jacobs became a session keyboard player while he was still a teenager, and also worked with a partner, Kent Harris, trying to score hits. I would describe the organ-driven “So Far Away” as more rhythmic than it is funky, but I suspect it sounded pretty good blasting out of a jukebox.
“Baby Is There Something on Your Mind”/McKinley Travis (7/25/70, two weeks). McKinley Travis was from California, and he cut several singles on labels in Los Angeles. “Baby Is There Something on Your Mind” is another terrific soul record nobody knows about. Its failure to rise above Number 91 must be partly because its old-school soul sound was becoming dated by the summer of 1970.
“Astral Man”/Nektar (6/7/75, five weeks). Here’s a band familiar to those who prowled the cutout bins in the 1970s, for it seemed as though there were always Nektar albums to be had cheap. The 1973 album Remember the Future was the only one that got much traction in the States. At their first American show in 1974, the combined wattage of their sound system and elaborate light show blew the power in the hall. “Astral Man” came from their followup album, Down to Earth. The band intended it as a reinvention of their early 70s sound, and it was—so much so that longtime fans hated it. Hear “Astral Man” and “That’s Life” from Down to Earth here.
“For Your Love”/Christopher Paul & Shawn (8/3/75, five weeks). This is a version of the song first recorded by Ed Townsend in the 50s and later revived by Peaches and Herb in the 60s. Christopher and Shawn Engemann were a brother and sister whose father was a VP at Capitol Records, and whose uncle was one of the Lettermen. Shawn grew up to be a TV personality and is currently married to talk-show host Larry King. At least I think they’re still married. King’s been married eight times, and I haven’t checked the news today.
“Bye Bye Baby”/US 1 (12/6/75, two weeks). This one might not belong on the list either. US1 was another project of Joey Levine, heard on many fine Kasenetz-Katz bubblegum productions in the 60s and on “Life is a Rock” by Reunion in 1974. And “Bye Bye Baby” is pretty much what you’d expect it to be.
Here endeth our Down in the Bottom series, for reals this time. Because if I find I’ve missed any more of them, I’ll be too embarrassed to admit it.
“Bye Bye Baby”/US1 (out of print)