On this day in music history: November 19, 1966 – “Knock On Wood” by Eddie Floyd hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #28 on the Hot 100 on December 10, 1966. Written by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper, It is the biggest hit for Alabama born soul singer. The song is actually recorded in the Summer of 1965 (with Booker T. & The MG’s, Isaac Hayes on piano, and The Mar-Keys horn section), but is held back from release by Stax Records president Jim Stewart when he believes that it is too similar to Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour”. The record actually experiences resistance from radio upon its release, failing to receive any airplay initially. Stax Records’ head Al Bell hits upon the idea of Floyd performing live in an area where he has a strong fan base. Washington DC is the city that is chosen. The ploy works, with the single breaking on radio stations in the DC and Baltimore area. From there, the record goes national. Over the years, “Knock On Wood” is covered by a number of artists including versions by Ike & Tina Turner, David Bowie, and Eric Clapton. Singer Amii Stewart’s disco rendering of the song becomes a worldwide hit, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in April of 1979. “Knock On Wood” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1966 – “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 4 weeks on November 26, 1966. Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, it is the eighth number one pop single, and third R&B chart topper for the Motown vocal trio. The track is a deliberate attempt by HDH to give the group a harder edged sound. The songs’ distinctive morse code like lead guitar lick is suggested by Lamont Dozier when he hears the intro to a news report on the radio with a similar rhythmic element to it. The track is recorded at Motown Records Studio A on June 30, 1966 with instrumental backing by The Funk Brothers. The Supremes overdub their vocals two months later on August 1, 1966. Released as the follow up to the girls’ previous chart topper “You Can’t Hurry Love” on October 12, 1966, it is another immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #68 on October 29, 1966, it rockets to the top of the chart just three weeks later. The week that “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” hits the top of the chart, it presides over a unique top five in which all of the songs within had either previously reached number one, or are on their way to hitting the top of the chart. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” sells more than one million copies in the US. Like many Motown classics, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” covered by a wide variety of artists, including versions by Wilson Pickett, Rod Stewart, and The Box Tops. The song returns to the top ten in a dramatically re-vamped version by hard rock band Vanilla Fudge in 1968. Their version, initially released in June of 1967 fails to make much of an impression at first. Clocking in at more than seven minutes on their self-titled debut, it is pared down to under three minutes for single release. It’s only after it begins receiving widespread airplay on FM underground stations playing the long LP cut, that it eventually crosses over to AM pop stations. Reissued a year later in June of 1968, climbs to #6 on the Hot 100 on August 31, 1968. Then over twenty years after The Supremes top the pop charts with the song, it hits number one a second time, when it is covered by British pop singer Kim Wilde, whose own Hi-NRG dance remake becomes a club and pop smash. Regarded as one of The Supremes career defining singles as well as a R&B and pop standard, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.
On this day in music history: November 18, 1968 – “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited is released. Written by Eugene Record and Sonny Sanders, it is the sixth single released for the jazz/soul instrumental duo from Chicago, IL. Originally members of The Ramsey Lewis Trio, drummer Red Holt and bassist Eldee Young form their own group The Young-Holt Trio with pianist Don Walker in 1966. The trio are signed to Chicago based Brunswick Records and quickly score a hit with the instrumental “Wack Wack” (#12 R&B, #40 Pop). Releasing three more albums during 1967 including the live “On Stage”, the group are unable to match the success of their initial outing. In 1968, Walker leaves the band and is replaced by Ken Chaney, with the trio changing their name to Young-Holt Unlimited just prior to his departure. During this time, Chi-Lites lead singer Eugene Record and songwriter and arranger Sonny Sanders write the song “Am I The Same Girl”. The song is recorded by Record’s wife, singer Barbara Acklin who has just scored her first major hit with the classic “Love Makes A Woman” in the Summer of 1968. Before Acklin can release the song, producer Carl Davis mixes out the lead vocal and overdubs another piano part playing the melody. The song now re-titled “Soulful Strut” features studio musicians playing on it and does not actually feature any of the members of Young-Holt Unlimited, but Brunswick decides to release the song under their name anyway. Much to everyone’s surprise, the record is an immediate hit and quickly takes off. Entering the Hot 100 at #65 and #47 on the R&B singles chart on November 30, 1968, “Soulful Strut” peaks at #3 on both charts on January 18, 1969, selling nearly two million copies in the US alone. After huge success of the Young-Holt Unlimited record, Brunswick belatedly releases Acklin’s “Am I The Same Girl” as a single in February of 1969. The song is only a minor hit, peaking at #33 on the R&B chart and #79 on the Hot 100. In spite of the lukewarm response to the Barbara Acklin record, it becomes a cult favorite among lovers of Chicago Soul, and is covered by a wide variety of artists including Dusty Springfield, Salena Jones, and is a sizable hit for the UK pop band Swing Out Sister in 1992. In spite of releasing a string of albums and singles on Brunswick Records through 1970, Young-Holt Unlimited are unable to repeat the success of “Soulful Strut”. The song is also covered by several artists including Peter Nero, Sparrow’s Trio and Grover Washington, Jr.. Regarded as one of the greatest R&B/Pop instrumental singles of all time, “Strut” has also been sampled and interpolated a number of artists including the Beastie Boys (“Some Dumb Cop Gave Me 2 Tickets Already”), 2 Live Crew (“Coolin’”), Joss Stone (“Don’t Cha Wanna Ride”), Pizzicato Five (“Hippie Day”), and Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf (“High School Love”). “Soulful Strut” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 17, 1962 – “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by The Four Seasons hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 3 weeks on the same date. Written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, it is the second consecutive chart topping single for the New Jersey based quartet fronted by singer Frankie Valli. The songs’ title is inspired by a line in the 1955 western “Tennessee’s Partner” in which the actor John Payne slaps actress Rhonda Fleming in the face, and she replies with “big girls don’t cry”. The track is recorded at Universal Recording Studios in Chicago, IL in September of 1962, and is recorded by a young engineer named Bruce Swedien (Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson). Like its predecessor “Sherry”, it storms the charts quickly, when Vee Jay Records issues it as a single in early October of 1962. Entering the Hot 100 at #66 on October 20, 1962, it races to the top of the chart just four weeks later. Twenty five years after its original release, the song is also heard in the film and featured on the soundtrack to “Dirty Dancing”. The single is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2015, becoming The Four Seasons first recording to receive that honor. “Big Girls Don’t Cry” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 16, 1968 – “Hey, Western Union Man” by Jerry Butler hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #16 on the Hot 100 on the same date. Written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Jerry Butler, it is the second solo number one single for the legendary R&B vocalist nicknamed “The Iceman”. Butler meets the fledgling songwriter/producers in 1966 while performing at Uptown Theater in Philadelphia. Admirers of Butler from his years as lead singer of The Impressions and his early solo work, they suggest working together. The singer takes them up on their offer, and the trio begin writing songs together. The collaboration pays off immediately when the singles “Never Give You Up” and “Lost” reach the Top 10 on the R&B singles chart. Released as the third single from the landmark album “The Iceman Cometh”, the track is cut at Cameo-Parkway Studios (later known as Sigma Sound Studios) in Philadelphia on July 9, 1968, and features members of the studio band who become known as MFSB providing the musical backing. Released as a single in August of 1968, prior to the full album, it quickly becomes a smash. The success of “Hey Western Union Man” drives sales of “The Iceman Cometh” album past the million mark.
On this day in music history: November 16, 1968 – “Electric Ladyland” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 2 weeks. Produced by Jimi Hendrix, it is recorded at Olympic Studios in London and The Record Plant in New York City from July – December 1967, January 1968, and April – August 1968. The third and final album of new material released by the band, the sixteen track double LP set is a musical tour de force, showcasing Hendrix’s musical diversity. It features several of Hendrix’s best known songs including “Crosstown Traffic”, “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”, “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp” and his cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” (#20 Pop), which becomes his biggest chart single in the US. The album also features guest musicians such as Steve Winwood, Al Kooper, Brian Jones, Jack Casady, and Dave Mason. To commemorate its 50th anniversary, the album is remastered and reissued as a deluxe edition box set on November 9, 2018. Consisting of either three CDs + one Blu-ray disc, or as a six LP vinyl set, it contains demos, studio outtakes live recordings and a documentary on the making of the landmark album. The live recording is taken from a concert recorded at the Hollywood Bowl on September 14, 1968, featuring several songs from the then as yet released new album. The Blu-ray disc features a new 5.1 surround mix of the full album, remixed by original recording engineer Eddie Kramer. Regarded as a landmark 60’s album, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999. Electric Ladyland" is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 16, 1966 – “Watchout!”, the fourth album by Martha & The Vandellas is released. Produced by William “Mickey” Stevenson, Smokey Robinson, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland and Harvey Fuqua, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from Spring 1964, Late 1965 – Mid 1966. The fourth full length release by the Motown vocal trio spins off three singles including “Jimmy Mack” (#1 R&B, #10 Pop) and “I’m Ready For Love” (#2 R&B, #9 Pop). “Jimmy Mack” is originally recorded in 1964 but is initially shelved until it is pulled from the vault and is released on this album. Several R&B stations add the song to their playlists as an LP cut. The highly positive public response to the song leads Motown to releasing it as a single in February of 1967. Only mono pressings of the album feature the original version of the song. The stereo version features an alterate recording of the song, differing noticeably from the hit single version, which is only available in mono until it is remixed from the original three track master tape in 2005. “Watchout!” peaks at number one hundred sixteen on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 16, 1964 – “The Beach Boys Christmas Album” by The Beach Boys is released. Produced by Brian Wilson, it is recorded at Capitol Studios and Western Recorders in Hollywood,CA from October 20, 1963 and June 18 – 30, 1964. The only holiday album by the Southern California based surf band contains five original songs and covers of seven holiday standards including “Little Saint Nick”, which had been previously released as a stand alone single during the 1963 holiday season. Dick Reynolds, arranger for The Four Freshman is hired to write arrangements for several tracks on the album. Released in both mono and stereo (the latter being mixed by engineer Chuck Britz), it is the last Beach Boys album issued in true stereo until “Friends” in 1968. The reason being that Brian Wilson prefers the band’s music in mono, due in part to being deaf in his right ear, and is unable to perceive stereo sound. “The Beach Boys Christmas Album” peaks at number six on the Billboard Top 200 and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 16, 1963 – “Deep Purple” by Nino Tempo & April Stevens hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #4 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Peter DeRose and Mitchell Parish, it is the biggest hit for the brother and sister vocal duo. Originally written as an instrumental in 1934 by DeRose, songwriter Mitchell Parish pens the lyrics for the song in 1938. Tempo & Stevens record it at the end of a recording session with just fourteen minutes of studio left in just two takes. When “Deep Purple” is handed into Atlantic Records, label co-founder Ahmet Ertegun refuses to release the track as a single, calling it “embarrassing”. The label puts out the duos’ song “Paradise” instead which immediately flops. After releasing the novelty tune “Baby Weemus” as its follow up, it also fails to chart. Tempo believes in the other songs’ hit potential so much, that he tells Atlantic if they don’t release “Deep Purple”, to let them out of their contract. Ertegun relents, and the song is issued Nino and April’s next single. Released on Atlantic’s Atco Records imprint in August of 1963, it takes off very quickly. Entering the Hot 100 at #94 on September 14, 1963, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Deep Purple” wins the duo a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance in 1964. The hard rock band Deep Purple actually takes their name from the song, due in part to it being the favorite song of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s grandmother.