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Throwback Thursday – 1961

From 1958 to 1960, Ben E. King was the lead singer of The Drifters, scoring hits with “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment” and “I Count the Tears.” He suggested to the group’s manager, George Treadwell, that they record the spiritual tune “Stand by Me Father,” but Treadwell turned him down. King also asked Treadwell for a greater share of the group’s royalties. Again, Treadwell turned him down. King said goodbye.

King left the group after recording just thirteen songs with them. He soon made the top ten as a solo act with 1961’s “Spanish Harlem.”

Around that time, King was working on a song based on “Stand by Me Father.” He had some lyrics and a melody. He finished the lyrics with his producer, Jerry Leiber. Leiber’s songwriting/production partner, Mike Stoller, added some chords behind the melody, as well as a bass line.

Per Leiber, it’s that last addition that makes Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” a classic. “The lyrics are good, King’s vocal is great. But Mike’s bass line pushed the song into the land of immortality. Believe me – it’s the bass line.”

“Stand By Me” kicks off this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, spotlighting hits from 1961.


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Throwback Thursday – 1957

Nineteen fifty-seven was a banner year in the nascent days of rock and roll.

Buddy Holly and the Crickets had their first chart hit with “That’ll be the Day,” which hit #1 in September. “Peggy Sue” became their second top ten single before the year was out.

Sun Records, the label that brought us Elvis Presley (among others), released “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” performed by Jerry Lee Lewis. It became Lewis’ first hit single, peaking at #3.

Gospel singer Sam Cooke released his first secular recording on Keen Records. The song was “You Send Me,” and it spent three weeks at #1 in December. Cooke would go on to score 28 more top 40 pop hits.

The Everly Brothers cracked the pop chart for the first time with “Bye Bye Love,” which peaked at #2. Their follow-up single, “Wake Up Little Susie,” went to #1 and stayed there for four weeks.

Chuck Berry, who cracked the pop top ten in 1955 with “Maybellene,” had two more top ten hits in 1957 – “School Day” and “Rock & Roll Music.” He wouldn’t have a #1 single until 1972.

Elvis Presley was at #1 on the pop singles chart for exactly half the year with “All Shook Up,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear,” and “Too Much.” So his increasing amount of fans wouldn’t be bothersome to his neighbors and to have more security, in 1957 Presley purchased the Graceland mansion in Memphis for $102,500.

Jackie Wilson, formerly a member of Billy Ward and His Dominoes, released his first solo single, “Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want to Meet),” co-written by an up-and-coming songwriter named Berry Gordy, Jr. Though the song only reached #62 on the US pop chart, it went top ten in the UK, earning Gordy enough money to fund the launch of Motown Records. Ultimately, Wilson would have 24 top 40 hits on the US pop chart.

Little Richard, who first cracked the pop chart in 1956 with “Tutti-Frutti,” had three more top 40 hits in 1957 – “Keep a Knockin’,” “Jenny, Jenny” and “Lucille.” The latter hit #1 on the r&b chart, while the other two titles peaked at #2 r&b.

The Coasters teamed up with the production/songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and in doing so, scored with the double-sided hit single “Searchin’” (#3 pop / #1 r&b) and “Young Blood” (#8 pop / #1 r&b). With Lieber and Stoller The Coasters would score several more top ten hits over the next few years.

Also, in 1957, the television program American Bandstand was syndicated nationally. It would air for the next 32 years.

Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist this week focuses on the great music of 1957.


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The Song Retains The Name

Winston + Bobby Brown
Today is Bobby Brown’s 46th birthday. A former member of New Edition, Brown had his first solo hit in 1988 with “Don’t Be Cruel,” which reached #8 on the Hot 100. Though it shares its title with an Elvis Presley #1 hit from 1956, Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” is not a remake.

That brings us to today’s playlist, which I call The Song Retains the Name. It consists of different songs with the same title. I initially planned to include twenty such songs, but more kept springing to mind. Before I knew it, I passed 100 entries. There are plenty more, so I decided to open this up to my reader(s). If you have songs that share titles you’d like to add, feel free to do so.

(NOTES: I included The Jacksons’ “This Place Hotel” because when it was released in 1980 its title was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Thought he didn’t have to, Michael Jackson, the song’s writer, later changed its name to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel.” Whitney Houston didn’t feel the need to make the same Hotel accommodation.

Also, though it is listed on Spotify as “The Best of My Love,” the Eagles track does not have a “The” on the 45 or the band’s On the Border album.)

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Today is the 27th of June. Only three more days of Gay Pride month and then I can go back to my self-loathing. Phew!

New York has their big Pride celebration this weekend. While I enjoy Pride here in West Hollywood, it’s nothing compared to the revelry in my former home of Manhattan.

The Los Angeles Pride parade here in WeHo goes for around two miles and lasts a couple of hours. If memory serves, New York’s parade is five or so miles long and lasts for around 168 hours. WeHo’s parade consists of a handful of politicians, floats for clubs I never heard of, some folks who are legends in their own minds, and a lot of lesbians on motorcycles. NYC’s parade consists of many political groups, many religious organizations, important social clubs such as Lesbians for Patsy Cline and Queens Against Brunch, and a hell of a lot of lesbians on motorcycles.

The list of Grand Marshals of NYC’s parade over the past ten years includes Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter of the Academy Award-wining film Milk; Lt. Dan Choi, a member of the US Army who served in Iraq, came out a gay, and challenged the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy; Dan Savage, creator of the It Gets Better Project, designed to dissuade LGBT youth from suicide as the answer to school bullying; Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in the United States v Windsor Supreme Court case which led to part of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act being struck down as unconstitutional, paving the way for the legalization of same-sex nuptials; Cleve Jones, the LGBT and AIDS activist who, among other things, conceived of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1983; Constance McMillen, the high school student who sued her school in Mississippi when they refused to allow her to bring her girlfriend to the school prom; and Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, whose murder for being gay led to expanded hate crimes legislation to cover sexual orientation.

The list of LA’s Grand Marshals over the past ten years includes Paris Hilton, who is very wealthy and said “Gay guys are the horniest people in the world. Most of them probably have AIDS … I would be so scared if I was a gay guy … you’ll like die of AIDS;” Sharon Osbourne, who is very wealthy; Chelsea Handler, the television personality who dated 50 Cent, the grammatically-challenged former superstar who tweeted “If you a man and your over 25 and you don’t eat pussy just kill your self damn it. The world will be a better place. Lol;” and Demi Lovato, who had a gay grandfather. In 2007 we found an actual gay to be our Grand Marshall – John Amaechi, the first openly-gay former professional basketball player. In 2011 we found another one – Johnny Weir, the celebrated figure skater who smashed all the macho stereotypes of that profession. To be fair, I know how difficult it is to select the appropriate person to be our Grand Marshal. It’s not easy to find an openly gay person in Los Angeles; that’s why I’m still single.

Winston + Pride 2014-06-27 15.13

As the organizers of LA’s Pride Parade begin their search for next year’s Grand Marshal (may I suggest Vladimir Putin?), lock the doors, lower the blinds, fire up the smoke machine and put on your heels, because we’re gonna have a kiki. Dive, turn, werk.

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The Coolest Thing About Willie Nelson

The coolest thing about Willie Nelson is his non-conformity. A country music legend who, unlike many of his peers, isn’t always seen in a cowboy hat and who supports progressive positions on marriage equality (pro), the war in Iraq (anti), the legalization of marijuana (pro) and solar power (pro).

The coolest thing about Willie Nelson is his compassion. He is the president of Farm Aid and in 1985, with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, set up the series of Farm Aid concerts that raised over $9 million for American farmers in its first year. He is on the Board of Directors of the Animal Welfare Institute and has campaigned for the better treatment of horses as well as for calves raised to produce milk for dairy products.

The coolest thing about Willie Nelson is this photo:

willie-joint

The coolest thing about Willie Nelson is his hit “On the Road Again.”

The coolest thing about Willie Nelson is that he charted with a cover of “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other” as Brokeback Mountain was doing well at the box office.

The coolest thing about Willie Nelson is that he wrote “Crazy” and “Funny How Time Slips Away” and “Hello Walls.”

Willie Nelson is cool. Today he turns 81. Here is a small sampling of his work.

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