Category: rhythm & blues

On this day in music history: December 5, 1960 – “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” by Clarence “Frogman” Henry is released. Written by Robert Guidry (aka Bobby Charles) and Paul Gayten, it is the fifth single release, and biggest hit for the singer, songwriter and musician from New Orleans, LA. Breaking through in early 1957 with the rhythm & blues novelty classic “Ain’t Got No Home”, Clarence “Frogman” Henry hits the road with a six piece band to promote his hit record. Following up that song proves to be problematic, when Henry’s next three singles all fall flat on the charts. But Chess Records A&R man Paul Gayten, the man who signed Clarence Henry to the label doesn’t give up on him. Gayten finds a song titled “I Don’t Why”, written by Cajun musician Bobby Charles. Influenced by his own native cajun and country and western music, Charles is discovered by Fats Domino when he’s only fifteen years old. Before he’s out of his teens, Bobby pens several rhythm & blues and rock & roll standards including “See You Later, Alligator”, “It Keeps Rainin’” and “Walking To New Orleans”. Written by Charles in a more laid back country style, “I Don’t Know Why” is given a dramatic revamping when Clarence “Frogman” Henry records it. Gayten hires a twenty two year old musician named Allen Toussaint to write the new arrangement. In Toussaint’s hands, the song is given a swaggering, jazzy New Orleans back beat, complete with a brass section. When the single is released on Chess Records Argo imprint under its original title, it doesn’t take off immediately. In early February of 1961, the title is amended to “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” (also as “But I Do”), it takes off. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #90 on February 20, 1961 and #27 on the R&B chart on March 6, 1961, it becomes a crossover smash. “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” peaks nine weeks later at #4 on the Hot 100 and after an erratic up and down chart trajectory, peaks eight weeks later at #9 on May 8, 1961. Clarence “Frogman” Henry scores two more sizable hits with the follow ups “You Always Hurt The One You Love” (#11 R&B, #12 Pop) and “Lonely Street” (#19 R&B, #57 Pop), before tapering off again. Acknowledged as an R&B and pop classic, “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” is covered by several artists including Bobby Vinton, The Walker Brothers, Tom Jones, Timi Yuro, Ronnie Milsap, Lou Rawls, and by its author Bobby Charles. Henry’s classic version is also featured prominently in the the films Forrest Gump and Mickey Blue Eyes.

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Born on this day: December 5, 1932 – “The architect of Rock & Roll”, Little Richard (born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, GA). Happy 87th Birthday, Richard!!

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On this day in music history: December 3, 1956 – “Come Go With Me” by The Del-Vikings is released. Written by Clarence Quick, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the doo wop vocal quintet from Pittsburgh, PA. Formed in 1955, Clarence Quick, Kripp Johnson, Samuel Paterson, Don Jackson, Clarence Harvey Ringo and Bernard Robertson are in the US Air Force when they begin singing together. The first line up changes when Robertson and Paterson are sent overseas to Germany, and are replaced by Norman Wright and David Lerchey. The inspiration for their name comes Quick and Ringo are in the airbase’s library. Either from a book about vikings, a basketball team called The Vikings, or from the book publisher Viking Press. The “Del” portion is added simply because they like how it sounds. The Del-Vikings are also one of the first prominent racially integrated vocal groups, with Lerchey being white, and the other four members are African-American. It isn’t long before they attract interest from local DJ Barry Kaye and Joe Averbach, of local label Fee Bee Records. Initially recording nine songs a cappella in Kaye’s basement studio, They’re re-recorded with Averbach in a studio located in the Sheraton Hotel in Pittsburgh with a band backing them. “How Can I Find True Love” and “Come Go With Me”, are issued as their first single. “Come” takes off locally, and is then picked up nationally by Dot Records in January of 1957. An instant classic, “Come Go With Me” peaks at #4 on the Best Sellers chart and #2 on the R&B chart on May 6, 1957, selling over a million copies. But with success come tensions, splitting the group into two factions. When their manager Alan Strauss receives a more lucrative offer from Mercury Records, the four younger members who were all under 21, jump ship. Kripp Johnson who is older, is still bound to Dot at continues to record with replacement members. Dot issues “Whispering Bells”, and it too becomes a big hit, peaking at #9 on the Best Sellers chart and #5 on the R&B Best Sellers chart. The other line up are only able to notch one chart single on Mercury with “Cool Shake” (#12 Pop, #9 R&B). Johnson returns and signs with ABC-Paramount, but do not have another hit before breaking up in 1965. Regarded as one of the definitive doo wop records, “Come Go With Me” is covered numerous times including versions by Dion, The Beach Boys, The Fleetwoods, and Sha-Na-Na. It is also one of the first songs performed on stage by John Lennon and The Quarrymen, on the day he and Paul McCartney first meet in July of 1957. The Del-Vikings original version is later used in the films “American Graffiti”, “Diner”, “Stand By Me” and “Joe Versus The Volcano”. “Come Go With Me” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA. 

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On this day in music history: November 20, 1955 – R&B legend Bo Diddley makes his one and only appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan requests that Diddley perform the song “Sixteen Tons’, he defies the host by performing his current hit "Bo Diddley” on the live telecast. This angers Sullivan, and Diddley is banned from ever appearing on the show again. Though the major national television exposure introduces him to wider audience beyond his loyal R&B fan base. Though he never appears on the show again, Bo Diddley’s signature syncopated rhythm becomes one of the most influential in the history of rock & roll, inspiring countless songs from Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and The Strangeloves’ “I Want Candy” to Bruce Springsteen’s “She’s The One” and George Michael’s “Faith”.

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On this day in music history: October 27, 1956 – “Ain’t Got No Home” by Clarence “Frogman” Henry is released. Written by Clarence Henry, it is the debut single and first hit for the New Orleans, LA born singer and pianist. Issued on Chess Records’ Argo imprint, the song quickly establishes Henry’s music career, and make him a staple of the Bourbon Street strip in his hometown. The rock & roll classic peaks at #3 on the Billboard Rhythm & Blues chart and #20 on the Best Sellers chart in January of 1957. “Ain’t Got No Home” become a pop cultural touchstone, later being featured in several films including “Diner”, “The Lost Boys” and “Casino”, and has been covered by numerous artists over the years including a version by The Band.

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Born on this day: October 18, 1926 – Rock & Roll pioneer Chuck Berry (born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in St. Louis, MO). Happy Birthday to this musical icon on what would have been his 93rd Birthday.

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On this day in music history: September 24, 1984 – “The Honeydrippers: Volume One”, the lone EP/mini album by The Honeydrippers is released. Produced by Nugetre & The Fabulous Brill Brothers (aka Ahmet Ertegun, Robert Plant and Phil Carson), it is recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City and Marcus Studios in London in March 1984. Following the demise of Led Zeppelin in 1980, Robert Plant considers abandoning music altogether. Instead, he embarks on a solo career. In 1981, Plant puts together a band he dubs The Honeydrippers. Named after American blues singer Franklin “The Honeydripper” Sykes, they perform covers of early rock & roll, jump blues and R&B songs. They perform for the first time at Keele University near Staffordshire, UK. The band play a handful of gigs, one of which is seen by Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records. Ertegun comes up with the idea of making a record with covers of his favorite songs from the 50’s. Plant puts together a new line up of The Honeydrippers that include his Zeppelin band mate Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Nile Rodgers (guitars), Paul Shaffer (piano), Dave Weckl (drums), Wayne Pedzwater (bass), Keith Evans (saxophone), “The King Bees” (a.k.a. The Uptown Horns) (Crispin Cioe, Bob Funk, Arno Hecht, Paul Litteral) and “The Queen Bees” (Uld Hedwig, Chrissie Faith, Millie Whiteside). The tracks are released as a five song EP/mini-album on Plant’s Es Paranza Records imprint. A limited edition version pressed as a 10" disc is also released, along with the standard 12" version. The first single is a cover of Roy Brown’s “Rockin’ At Midnight”. It is backed by their take on Phil Phillips & The Twilights’ “Sea Of Love” (#3 Pop, #1 AC, #11 Mainstream Rock). Much to Robert Plant’s surprise and initial horror, DJ’s begin playing “Sea Of Love” instead. Since his years in Led Zeppelin, he known as a swaggering hard rocker. He fears that the public hearing him crooning tenderly will ruin that image. Plant’s fears prove to be unfounded, when Atlantic quickly reissues “Sea Of Love” as an A-side. When word gets around about the all star line up, it becomes an instant smash in the US. “Rockin’ At Midnight” (#25 Pop, #8 Mainstream Rock) is re-released in January of 1984. More than twenty years later, Plant and Ertegun discuss the possibility of recording another Honeydrippers record, but it does not come to pass. The idea is abandoned after Ahmet Ertegun’s death in December of 2006. Originally released on CD back in 1985, the EP is remastered and reissued in 2007. The reissue includes a live performance of “Rockin’ at Midnight” recorded at Birmingham NEC in September of 1985, as an additional bonus track. “The Honeydrippers: Volume One” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200, number sixty seven on the R&B album chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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Born on this day: August 29, 1924 – Jazz vocal icon Dinah Washington (born Ruth Lee Jones in Tuscaloosa, AL). Happy Birthday to this legendary vocalist on what would have been her 95th Birthday.

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On this day in music history: August 13, 1952 – “Hound Dog” by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton is recorded. Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it is the biggest hit for the Alabama born Rhythm & Blues singer. Recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, CA, the track features legendary R&B bandleader Johnny Otis (featured on drums) along with members of his band. Otis (“Willie And The Hand Jive”) co-produces the record with Leiber and Stoller. Released on Houston, TX based Peacock Records in March 1953, the single is an instant smash, spending  seven weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B Best Sellers chart selling nearly two million copies. Four years and one week to the day that the original version is recorded, Elvis Presley’s cover version of the song hits number one on the Pop chart. In time, “Hound Dog” is regarded as one of the most important and influential rhythm and blues songs in music history. Big Mama Thornton’s version of “Hound Dog” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2013.

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On this day in music history: August 3, 1959 – “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #6 on the Hot 100 on August 17, 1959. Written and produced by Ray Charles, it is the fifth R&B chart topper for the Albany, GA born singer, songwriter and musician dubbed “The Genius”. The song is improvised on the spot at a gig in December 1958 when Charles and his band, having played their entire set list begin playing the song when they still have time to fill. After several people inquire about where they can purchase a copy of the song, Charles decides to record it after the tour finishes. The track is recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City on February 18, 1959. On the session, Charles plays a Wurlitzer electric piano, which at the time is looked down upon by many musicians as a novelty and not a serious instrument. With Ray Charles’ use of the electric piano, he almost singlehandedly popularizes its use after the records release. Clocking in at nearly six and a half minutes, Atlantic Records at first is concerned about its length, and about how radio and the public will react to the suggestive call and response vocals of Charles and The Raelettes in the second half of the song. The label splits the track into two parts for the 45, and holds its release back until Summer. It takes off immediately, becoming the record that finally breaks Ray Charles into the pop mainstream. “What’d I Say” become one his signature songs, and the one he closes his live performances with for the remainder of his career. The single is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2000, and added to the National Recording Registry by The Library Of Congress in 2002.“What’d I Say” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.  

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