I Can Help – Billy Swan – 1974

September 15, 2017

Billy Swan, I can Help 1974Remember this one? A simple rockabilly number that topped the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the US and Canadian country charts in 1974 – Billy Swan’s, I Can Help.

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  • Born in Missouri, USA, Billy Swan is one of those musicians whose life has been music.
  • Billy has played drums, piano and guitar, since he was a child and has been writing songs since back then too.
  • Clyde McPhatter gave Billy his first big break by recording one of Billy’s songs – Lover Please. It made it to #7 on the US charts.
  • That was back in 1962. Billy moved to Memphis to work on his music; he even worked on Elvis Presley’s Graceland estate for a while.  All the time he was improving his song writing skills and had his tunes recorded by artists like Conway Twitty, and Waylon Jennings.
  • By 1969, he was also producing records – he produced Tony Joe White’s Top Ten hit Polk Salad Annie.
  • A stint as Kris Kristofferson’s bass player followed before signing his own recording deal with Monument Records.
  • Billy’s first album included the title song I Can Help. It was a big hit, destined to become (like has happened to so many stars) his only top ten song.  Five albums and 18 singles followed, but none saw anything like the success of I Can Help.
  • Throughout the 70s and early 80s, Billy supplemented his solo career by continuing to tour as a member of Kristofferson’s band. He also recorded with Randy Meisner of The Eagles.
  • Today, Billy still makes a living as a backing singer and session musician.

i can help fax

  • I Can Help was written by Billy Swan and first appeared as the title track of his first album, released in July 1974.
  • The song hit #1 in around 15 countries across the globe including #1 in US and Canada, and #6 in the UK.
  • I Can Help was Billy’s only major hit single, although he had success as a songwriter for other artists and as a session musician.
  • I Can Help was recorded in just two takes (without overdubs) using an RMI organ that Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge had bought for Billy as a wedding gift.
  • Artists to cover this song included, Elvis Presley (on his 1975 album, Today), and Shakin’ Stevens (1994). Ringo Starr recorded I Can Help, but it was never released.
  • I Can Help appears in the moviesThor and Zootopia.
  • While the single version of the song is under three minutes long, the album version extends to just over 4 minutes, thanks to an organ solo ending.
  • I Can Help lyrics.

i can help – billy swan – 1974

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Harper Valley PTA – Jennie C. Riley – 1968

August 20, 2017

Harper Valley PTA - Jennie C. RileyOkay, not quite the seventies, but I heard this catchy little song the other day and couldn’t resist… Jennie C. Riley’s 1968 #1 hit, Harper Valley PTA.

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  • Still performing today, as a 71 year old, Jennie C. Riley (born Jeanne Carolyn Stephenson), had her biggest hit with her debut single, Harper Valley PTA.
  • Since the late 70s, she has focused on gospel music.
  • Initially struggling to make any impact on the country music scene, a demo tape of Jennie C. found its way to the desk of record producer Shelby Singleton. He was endeavouring to establish his own own label, Plantation Records, and loved her sound.  Introducing Jennie C. to a Tom T. Hall demo-song (Harper Valley PTA), he produced one of the best-known country music songs of all time.
  • Jennie C. is credited with starting something of a revolution in the world of country music. She quickly became known as much for her sex appeal and beauty as for her music.  While most her contemporaries were keeping a wholesome image by wearing gingham dresses, Jennie C. adopted the typical fashion on the late-1960s by wearing a miniskirt and go-go boots on stage.  Jennie C. later announced that she felt uncomfortable with this sexy persona and reverted to more modest attire.

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  • Written by Tom T. Hall, Harper Valley PTA was a 1968 #1 US and Canadian hit for US country singer Jeannie C. Riley.
  • Harper Valley PTA sold a staggering six million copies as a single.
  • Harper Valley PTA saw Jennie C. become the first woman to top both the Billboard Hot 100 and the US Hot Country Singles charts with the same song, a feat that would go unrepeated until Dolly Parton‘s 1981 hit, 9 to 5.
  • It is said of Harper Valley PTA:

The country singer Margie Singleton asked Tom T. Hall to write her a song similar to Bobby Gentry’s Grammy-winning hit “Ode To Billie Joe”, which she had covered the previous year, and which Gentry wrote and recorded in 1967. The melody is essentially the same as that of the Gentry song, but Gentry seemingly was never informed or given any credit by Hall. After driving past a school called Harpeth Valley Elementary School in Bellevue, Tennessee, Hall noted the name and wrote “Harper Valley P.T.A.” about a fictional confrontation between a young widow Stella Johnson and a local PTA group who objected to her manner of dress, social drinking, and friendliness with town’s men folk. Jeannie C. Riley, who was working as a secretary in Nashville for Jerry Chesnut, got to hear the song and recorded it herself and it became a massive hit for her.

  • The song was later the inspiration for a 1978 motion picture and a short-lived 1981 television series, both starring Barbara Eden, playing the heroine of the song, Mrs. Johnson—who now had a first name, Stella.
  • Several other songs in the Harper Valley PTA album also told stories of some of the other characters from the song, including Mayor Harper, Widow Jones, and Shirley Thompson.
  • The classic Harper Valley PTA album cover shows a mini-dress-clad Riley—portraying Mrs. Johnson with PTA note in hand—standing beside a girl, who is portraying the teenage daughter of Mrs. Johnson.
  • Jeannie C.’s recording of Harper Valley PTA won a Grammy for the Best Country Vocal Performance, Female. It was also nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in the pop field.
  • Harper Valley PTA lyrics.

harper valley pta – jennie c. riley – 1968 -video

harper valley pta – jennie c. riley – 1968 – video from movie

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Glen Campbell (1936 – 2017)

August 9, 2017

Glen C 2Glen Travis Campbell (April 22, 1936– August 8, 2017) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, television host, and actor. He is best known for a series of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, and for hosting a music and comedy variety show called The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS television, from January 1969 through June 1972.

During his 50 years in show business, Campbell released more than 70 albums. He sold 45 million records and accumulated 12 RIAA gold albums, four platinum albums, and one double-platinum album.

One of the greats passed away todayRead Rolling Stones Magazine’s article here.


Blue Skies – Willie Nelson – 1978

July 9, 2017

Blue Skies Willie Nelson 1978Born in 1933, Willie Nelson released his first single in 1957. He became a regular on the US and Canadian country charts but barely featured on the singles charts, until his 1978 album Stardust – two #1’s and a #3 changed everything for Willie.

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  • Willie is hailed as “one of the most recognised artists in country music,” and that is probably true; in fact, he may be THE most recognised artist in country music!
  • Willie was born in Texas, with music flowing through his veins – he wrote his first song at age seven and joined his first band at ten. During high school, he toured locally with the Bohemian Polka as their lead singer and guitar player.
  • After school, he endured a brief stay in the US Air Force before being discharged due to back problems.
  • He worked as a DJ in Texas radio stations and a singer in honky-tonk bars around the state.
  • In 1958, he signed a contract with D Records and wrote a number of songs that would become country standards, including Funny How Time Slips Away, Hello Walls, Pretty Paper, and Crazy.
  • In 1960 he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, signed a publishing contract with Pamper Music and, by 1962, had recorded his first album, …And Then I Wrote.
  • That success enabled Willed to sign with RCA Victor and join the Grand Ole Opry.
  • Believe it or not, Willie retired in 1972. He moved to Austin, Texas and tried to settle down but the music kept flowing.
  • He signed to Atlantic Records, then Columbia Records. It was here that he produced those great albums from the mid-late 70s, including Stardust.
  • During the mid-1980s, while creating hit albums like Honeysuckle Rose and recording hit songs like On the Road Again, and To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, Willie joined the country band, The Highwaymen, alongside fellow singers Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson.
  • Willie continues to perform today. He has won twelve Grammy awards, including a lifetime achievement award; seven American Music Awards, nine CMA awards, five Academy of Country Music awards – in fact, it would appear, Willie has won every major award he’s ever been nominated for!

blue skies fax

  • Blue Skies was written by Irving Berlin in 1926. It was a last-minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical Betsy.
  • The show, Betsy, ran for a mere 39 performances, but Blue Skies was an instant hit. On the opening night of the musical, the audience demanded 24 encores of the song.
  • In 1927, Ben Selvin had a hit with the song.
  • The same year, Blue Skies became one of the first songs to be featured in a talkie movie – Al Jolson sang it in The Jazz Singer.
  • Other artistes to sing or perform Blue Skies include: Benny Goodman and his Orchestra (1935), Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, and Count Basie, and Benny Goodman all recording it in 1946. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye performed the song in 1954’s White Christmas.  Jim Reeves sang it in 1962.
  • Best known in recent times is Willie Nelson’s 1978 recording from his album Stardust. This version was a #1 hit on the US country charts.
  • Blue Skies lyrics.

blue skies – willie nelson – 1978 – video

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Chanson D’Amour – The Manhattan Transfer – 1977

July 1, 2017

Chanson d'Amour The Manhatten TransferClassy a capella vocals – the Manhattan Transfer’s 1977 hit, Chanson D’Amour.

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  • Formed in New York in 1969, The Manhattan Transfer is a jazz vocal group.
  • There have been two editions of the Manhattan Transfer, with Tim Hauser the only person to be part of both. The first group consisted of Tim, Erin Dickins, Marty Nelson, Pat Rosalia, and Gene Pistilli. They released only one album – it was unsuccessful and the group broke up.  The second version of the group, formed in 1972, consisted of Tim, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, and Laurel Massé.
  • In 1979, after Laurel being badly injured in a car accident, Cheryl Bentyne joined the group. Then, in 2014, following Tim’s death, Trist Curless joined.
  • In 1975, the group released their eponymous album and hit the charts for the first time. The album included their first hit single, the gospel song, Operator.
  • In all, they have released 29 albums – the last in 2009 being a collection of Chick Corea music.
  • In 1981, the Manhattan Transfer made music history by becoming the first group to win Grammy awards for both popular and jazz categories in the same year with their hit, The Boy from New York City. In 1982, they won another Grammy – Best Jazz Vocal Performance for Route 66.  In all, they won eight Grammy’s.
  • In 1998, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
  • The Manhattan Transfer continue to tour today.

chanson d’amour fax

  • Chanson D’Amour, meaning Love Song, was written by Wayne Shanklin in the mid-1950’s.
  • Chanson D’Amour was first recorded by husband and wife duo, Art and Dotty Todd in 1958. Their version peaked at #6 on the US charts in 1958.
  • Charting concurrently with Art and Dotty were The Fontane Sisters who recorded a version of Chanson D’Amour and peaked at #12.
  • The Manhattan Transfer recorded the song in 1976 for their Coming Out album and, in 1977 reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart.
  • Cover versions have also been released by The Lettermen, The Muppets and The Nolans.
  • Chanson D’Amour was featured in the episode “The Pop Star”, the 1984 series finale of the long-running British sitcom Are You Being Served?
  • It also features on the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
  • Chanson D’Amour lyrics.

chanson d’amour – the manhattan transfer – 1977 – video

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Tell Me Something Good – Rufus (featuring Chaka Khan) – 1974

June 22, 2017

Rufus - Tell me something good 1974A band packed with great musicians, Chicago band Rufus is best known for launching the career of lead singer Chaka Khan.

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  • Starting life as “Ask Rufus,” the band Rufus had their beginnings in pop band, The American Breed. Ask Rufus formed in 1970 and, by 1972 Chaka Khan had joined.
  • 1972 saw the band sign with manager Bob Monaco (Minnie Riperton was signed with him also).
  • Bob persuaded ABC Dunhill records to stump up some cash to pay for a demo record. In two days, the band had recorded 11 songs and signed a long-term recording contract.
  • With their first album receiving moderate success, Rufus hit the studio again to record their follow-up album Rags to Rufus which included the Stevie Wonder song, Tell Me Something Good, and a song by Ray Parker Jr. and Chaka, You Got The Love – both songs became smash hits.
  • Rufus was a band blighted by in-fighting and inner-tension, partly because of the rise in fame of Chaka ahead of the rest of the band. Such was the power of Chaka’s performing that the record company began billing the band as, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan.  Often, at photo shoots and the like, only Chaka was photographed and her image alone was used in magazine articles and stories.
  • It wasn’t long before Chaka was releasing solo albums and finding great success; Rufus released an album without Chaka and it bombed.
  • By 1983, Rufus band members sensed that their tenure was over. They agreed to split on the terms they release one last live album to commemorate the occasion.  Chaka agreed to appear at their final concert performance which was filmed by Warner Bros.  The band then went their separate ways for good with Chaka becoming one of the most revered R&B artists of her generation with the release of the single I Feel for You cementing her reputation.
  • In all, Rufus released 11 albums and 30 singles in the time they were together.
  • The band won two Grammy awards: 1974: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: Tell Me Something Good, and 1983: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: Ain’t Nobody.

tell me something good fax

  • Tell Me Something Good was written by Stevie Wonder and recorded by Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan in 1974.
  • The song peaked at #3 on the US singles chart.
  • Tell Me Something Good is one of the first songs to use the guitar talk box effect – it was played by Tony Maiden.
  • Rufus won the 1975 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus for Tell Me Something Good.
  • Cover versions of Tell Me Something Good have been performed live and/or recorded by artists including Pink, Dave Matthews and Stevie Wonder.
  • The song has appeared or been referenced in the US comedy shows, Everybody Loves Raymond, Will and Grace, and That 70s Show. Note that the captioning to the Will and Grace episode incorrectly credits the song to Sly and the Family Stone.
  • Tell Me Something Good lyrics.

tell me something good – rufus featuring chaka khan – 1974 – video – slower version

tell me something good – rufus featuring chaka khan – 1974 – video – faster version

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Freedom – Richie Havens – 1972

June 11, 2017

Freedom Richie HavensIt’s a brilliant pub-quiz trivia question – who was the first onstage act at Woodstock? Answer, Richie Havens.  Richie is remembered for his amazing rendition of Freedom, a song not released as a single until 1972.

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  • Richard “Richie” Havens was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist known for his intense and rhythmic guitar style (often in open tunings) – but also for being the opening act at the 1969 Woodstock Festival.
  • Richie was scheduled to perform for 40 minutes, but when a traffic jam delayed the other performers, he was asked to keep playing. Three hours later, Richie had run out of songs, so he started to make one up to the melody of “Motherless Child,” a spiritual he’d sung as a kid. He just kept singing “Freedom,” and it became one of the pivotal moments of the festival.
  • Born in Brooklyn, Richie was of Native American (Blackfoot) descent on his father’s side, and of the British West Indies on his mother’s.
  • As a teen, he organised local friends into doo-wop groups and performed on street corners. By the age of 20, he’d left to become a folk performer in Greenwich Village where he performed alongside the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
  • Performing at Woodstock was the turning point of Richie’s career. He became a star, known more for the passion of his live performances than for his recorded albums.
  • He recorded 12 albums between 1966 and 1977, and 21 throughout his career – the last in 2008.
  • In later years, Richie was dogged by ill-health. In 2010, he had kidney surgery from which he never fully recovered.  In 2012, he announced that, after 45 years, he would stop touring.
  • Just over a year later, on April 22, 2013, Richie died of a heart attack at home in Jersey City, New Jersey.
  • At the time of his death, the BBC referred to him as a “Woodstock icon,” while Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young said Richie “could never be replicated.” The Daily Telegraph wrote that Richie “made an indelible mark on contemporary music.
  • In accordance with Richie’s wishes, his remains were cremated and his ashes scattered from the air over the original site of the Woodstock Festival, in a ceremony held on August 18, 2013, the 44th anniversary of the last day of the festival.

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  • Freedom was composed by Richie Havens on stage on the opening day of Woodstock 1969. Having been asked to keep playing long past his scheduled 40 minutes, Richie ran out of songs.  He began to make a song up based on the Afro-American spiritual, Motherless Child.
  • Richie once told Rolling Stone magazine,

I think the word ‘freedom’ came out of my mouth because I saw it in front of me. I saw the freedom that we were looking for. And every person was sharing it, and so that word came out.

  • When the cut of the song was put on the film Woodstock, it became an international hit instantly.
  • The song was released as a single in 1972. Despite its popularity, it charted on neither the US nor the UK charts.
  • Freedom appears in the movie Django Unchained.
  • Freedom lyrics.

freedom – richie havens – 1972 -video

freedom – richie havens – 1969 Woodstock – video

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