Category: rhythm & blues

On this day in music history: August 13, 1952 …

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 -…

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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Born on this day: July 30, 1936 – Blues guitar…

Born on this day: July 30, 1936 – Blues guitar icon Buddy Guy (born George Guy in Lettsworth, LA). Happy 83rd Birthday, Buddy!!

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Rhythm & Blues and rock & roll music…

Rhythm & Blues and rock & roll music icon Dave Bartholomew (born David Louis Bartholomew in Edgard, LA) – December 24, 1918 – June 23, 2019, RIP

On this day in music history: May 22, 1961 – &…

On this day in music history: May 22, 1961 – “Mother-In-Law” by Ernie K. Doe hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the R&B singles chart for 5 weeks on April 24, 1961. Written and produced by Allen Toussaint, it is the biggest hit for the New Orleans born and raised singer. Doe (real name Ernest Kador, Jr.) actually rescues the song from the trash after Toussaint throws it away, feeling that it isn’t any good. The song is especially relatable to the singer since he is having problems with his own mother in law at the time. “Mother-In-Law” features fellow New Orleans R&B singer Benny Spellman (“Fortune Teller”, “Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette)”) singing the deep bass vocals on the track, and Allen Toussaint playing piano. Entering the Hot 100 at #55 on March 27, 1961, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. “Mother-In-Law” is Ernie K. Doe’s only major hit, only scoring one more chart entry with “Popeye Joe” (#99 Pop) in January of 1962.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1955 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1955 – “Maybellene”, the debut single by Chuck Berry is recorded. Cut at Universal Recording Studios in Chicago, IL, Berry bases the tune on the traditional country song “Ida Red”. Chess Records co-founder Leonard Chess feels the name is “too rural” sounding and suggests changing the title to “Maybellene”. The songs then unusual hybrid of country & western and rhythm & blues supported by a big back beat along with its lyrical themes of fast cars and love gone wrong, is instantly appealing to black and white audiences alike. Released in July, the single is a huge hit right out of the gate, spending eleven weeks at number one on the Billboard Rhythm & Blues chart and peaking at number five on the Pop Best Sellers chart. “Maybellene” goes on to become one of the most influential songs in the history of rock & roll, inspiring dozens of cover versions. Chuck Berry’s original recording of “Maybellene” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1988.

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On this day in music history: May 18, 1959 – &…

On this day in music history: May 18, 1959 – “Kansas City” by Wilbert Harrison hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 7 weeks on May 11, 1959. Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it is the biggest hit for the Charlotte, NC born R&B singer, songwriter and musician. Originally titled “K.C. Lovin’”, the song is first recorded by Little Willie Littlefield in 1952. Harrison performs the song as part of his live act for several years before recording it himself in March of 1959. Re-arranging the song to a shuffle tempo and adding the refrain “They got some crazy little women there, and I’m gonna get me one” to the chorus make it an instant classic. Issued on Bobby Robinson’s (later the founder of seminal Hip Hop label Enjoy Records) Fury Records in early April of 1959, the record is an immediate hit on both the pop and R&B charts upon its release. Entering the Hot 100 at #100 on April 13, 1959, it quickly streaks to the top of the chart five weeks later, making it the first single in Billboard chart history to enter at the bottom of the chart, and going all the way to number one. “Kansas City” is covered by numerous artists over the years including The Beatles, Muddy Waters and James Brown. Wilbert Harrison’s version of the song is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2001. “Kansas City” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: April 24, 1959 -…

On this day in music history: April 24, 1959 – “There Goes My Baby” by The Drifters is released. Written by Benjamin Nelson (Ben E. King), Lover Patterson, George Treadwell, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it is the first single featuring the second incarnation of the legendary R&B/doo-wop vocal group. The transition in group personnel takes place when The Drifters manager George Treadwell (former husband and manager of jazz singer Sarah Vaughan) fires the remaining original members after clashes over money and musical direction. Treadwell replaces them with a group of singers formerly known as The 5 Crowns, drafting them to become the new line up of The Drifters. For their first release as The Drifters, they record “There Goes My Baby” with the songwriting and production team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The track is recorded on March 6, 1959 at Atlantic Studios in New York City, marking the first appearance of new lead singer Ben E. King. Leiber and Stoller’s groundbreaking use of strings and other orchestral instruments changes the face of R&B and pop music, going on to influence many songwriters and producers in the years that follow. Producer and songwriter Phil Spector sites the song as a major influence for his “Wall Of Sound” production technique. “Baby” spends one week at #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart on July 27, 1959, peaking at #2 on the Hot 100 on August 17, 1959. Over the years, the song is covered by several artists including Garnett Mimms, The Walker Brothers, The Shirelles, Jay & The Americans, Marvin Gaye, and Donna Summer. Regarded as one of the definitive doo wop and rhythm & blues singles ever recorded, “There Goes My Baby” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998.

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On this day in music history: April 24, 1958 -…

On this day in music history: April 24, 1958 – “I Wonder Why”, the second single by Dion And The Belmonts is released. Written by Melvin Anderson and Ricardo Weeks, it is the first major hit for the legendary doo wop vocal group led by lead singer Dion DiMucci. After recording one unsuccessful single for Mohawk Records, the Bronx, NY doo-wop group sign with Laurie Records, making their national chart debut with “I Wonder Why”. The single peaks at #22 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart, and goes on to be regarded as an influential and seminal rock & roll recording. “I Wonder Why” is featured in various films and television programs over the years including “A Bronx Tale”, “Christine”, “Peggy Sue Got Married”, and “The Sopranos”. “I Wonder Why” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.

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On this day in music history: April 21, 1958 -…

On this day in music history: April 21, 1958 – “Twilight Time” by The Platters hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 1 week, also topping the R&B Best Sellers chart for 3 weeks on April 28, 1958. Written by Buck Ram, Al Nevins, Morton Nevins and Artie Dunn, it is the third pop and fourth R&B chart topper for the Los Angeles, CA based vocal group. The song is originally recorded in 1944 by The Three Suns and by big band leader Les Brown. When The Platters record it in early 1958, it is initially be regulated to the B-side of “Out Of My Mind”. American Bandstand host Dick Clark prefers “Twilight” and begins heavily plugging it on the show, making it the A-side by default. Entering the Best Sellers chart at #7 on April 14, 1958, it leaps to the top of the chart the following week. The single sells over 1.5 million copies by the time it tops the charts, The success of the record is significant as more than 90% of its sales on the 7 inch 45 RPM format, leading The Platters label Mercury Records to phase out the manufacturing of the 10 inch 78 RPM record, the format that had dominated the music industry for the first half century of its existence. “Twilight Time” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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