Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Clara Ward

Artist: Clara Ward
LP: Hang Your Tears Out to Dry
Song: "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah"
[ listen ]

Gospel singer Clara Ward began performing at an early age with The Ward Singers, which initially included Clara, her older sister Willa, and their mother, Gertrude. Other singers also joined up with the group for a time, like Marion Williams, but they didn't stay long since Clara and Gertrude were evidently pretty stingy about sharing the money the group took in. Though much beloved by audiences around the world and by Carol Channing and other famous people, Clara Ward did not have an easy life, as you can read for yourself here. Sadly, Clara suffered a series of strokes and passed away in 1973 when she was just 48 years old. Notes, photos, and celebrity cheers from the back of Clara Ward's 1966 "Hang Your Tears Out to Dry" LP are included below.

 [ Clara Ward: April 21, 1924 — January 16, 1973 ]

Monday, November 28, 2011

Eric Mercury

Artist: Eric Mercury
LP: Electric Black Man
Song: "Night Lady"
[ listen ]
Song: "Hurdy Gurdy Man"
[ listen ]

I found this 1969 debut solo LP by Eric Mercury at Another Part of the Forest while in Cincinnati this past summer. Born into a musical family in Toronto, Canada, Eric played with several different groups there before moving to Chicago, USA and launching his solo career at the end of the 1960s. A decade later he somehow landed the role of Rudy the League Commissioner in THE FISH THAT SAVED PITTSBURGH. You can read more about the handsome and talented Mr. Mercury here and here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tommy Edwards

Artist: Tommy Edwards
LP: Tommy Edwards Sings
Song: "A Long Time"
[ listen ]
Song: "The Cherry In My Fruit Cocktail"
[ listen ]

This Tommy Edwards record sounded so good I accidentally bought two used copies of it on my summer road trip around Ohio—one in Cincinnati and the other in Toledo. Best known for his 1958 chart-topper called "It's All In the Game," Tommy Edwards had a lengthy string of songs hitting the charts between 1951 and 1960. This LP from the Newark, New Jersey-based Regent label was evidently released at the end of 1958, though it contains at least some songs that were recorded in '48 and '49. You can read more about the dashing Tommy Edwards here.

 [ Tommy Edwards: February 17, 1922 — October 22, 1969 ]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The DeBarge siblings: Bunny, Chico, & El

Artist: Bunny DeBarge
LP: 7" single
Song: "Save the Best For Me (Best of Your Lovin')"
[ listen ]

The eldest and only female of the humongous musical DeBarge family, Etterlene "Bunny" DeBarge mainly stayed in the background, writing songs and singing backing vocals for the group. Bunny finally broke free and released a solo record in 1986, which included the top-20 R&B single "Save the Best For Me." She was then promptly dropped from her label. Sadly, stardom was tough on Bunny and she turned to hard drugs to help her cope. While working to overcome an addiction to prescription drugs in the 1990s, Bunny returned to her hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she became a born-again Christian and began performing gospel music. In 2008 she published a memoir called "The Kept Ones," which you can purchase for over $100 here. Go here to read more about Bunny DeBarge on Wikipedia, and you can learn more about her famous singing family here.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

 Artist: Chico DeBarge
LP: 7" single
Song: "Talk to Me"
[ listen ]

Jonathan Arthur "Chico" DeBarge was just 13 years old when DeBarge was formed in 1979, so he was never a part of his older siblings' singing group. He was only 20 years old when he released his first record on Motown, which included "Talk to Me," a top-ten R&B hit that peaked at #21 on the Hot 100 singles charts. Sadly, after the release of his second LP, "Kiss Serious" in 1988, Chico was thrown into prison for drug trafficking. He reappeared nine years later with the appropriately-titled "Long Time No See" and has released several albums in the years since then. Chico has five children, one of which he named "Chicoco," and he survived being stabbed outside a Philadelphia nightclub back in 2003. Chico evidently received some disastrous advice from Motown's fashion department for the sleeve of his "Talk to Me" single, later blossoming into a very handsome fellow once that messy black poodle of a hairdo was cut away from his head. You can read more about Chico here.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

 Artist: El DeBarge
LP: 7" single
Song: "Someone"
[ listen ]

The 6th of the ten DeBarge kids, Eldra Patrick "El" DeBarge was born in June of 1961 and was lead vocalist of the DeBarge family singing group I keep mentioning here. His beautiful falsetto adorned such DeBarge hits as "Time Will Reveal," "All This Love," and "Love Me In a Special Way" before Motown founder Berry Gordy encouraged him to go solo in 1986. El immediately hit gold with the bouncy and annoying "Who's Johnny," which was a #1 R&B hit, a #3 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and was featured in the film SHORT CIRCUIT, starring Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg. "Someone" was the third single released from El's first solo album (after "Who's Johnny" and "Love Always"), and it peaked at #32 on the R&B charts and at #70 on the Hot 100. El continued releasing critically-acclaimed albums throughout the 1990s, though his popularity began to wane. Sadly, El was arrested a number of times in the 2000s on drug charges, and was finally sentenced to prison in 2008. Once in the slammer, El took stock of his life, became a born-again Christian, and began setting his life back on track after being released from prison in 2009. His "Second Chance" LP debuted in November of 2010, and the record's first single earned a pair of Grammy nominations. Unfortunately, El was unable to attend the awards ceremony due to suffering a relapse and then checking himself into a rehab center. More info about El DeBarge, whom I've always considered to be one of the best-looking men in the music business (those bedroom eyes!), can be found on Wikipedia here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Christopher Atkins

Artist: Christopher Atkins
LP: 7" single
Song: "How Can I Live Without Her"
[ listen ]

Here's the other single I found at Spin Cycle last Saturday night in the five minutes before they closed. I would actually encourage you NOT to listen to this one. I've posted the divShare link only for consistency. This terrible song (from what I'm sure must be a terrible movie) somehow clawed its way to #71 on the Billboard singles charts back in 1982. Still, I couldn't keep myself from buying it since Christopher Atkins earned such a warm and special place in my...let's say "heart"...when I was a geeky 11-year-old staying up late to watch THE BLUE LAGOON on HBO while my parents were out at a square dance. Atkins' underwater swimming scenes in particular made a lasting impression on me, and I remember fantasizing about disposing of Brooke Shields, then settling into my new thatch home on an uncharted island with this sexy and tender blond hunk of a man. You can read about the life and career of Christopher Atkins on Wikipedia here.

 [ Christopher Atkins: with Kristy McNichol in "The Pirate Movie" ]

 [ Christopher Atkins: in over his head in "The Blue Lagoon" ]

 [ Christopher Atkins: waiting for 11-yr-old me to return from a long day of fishing ]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Johnny Burnette

Artist: Johnny Burnette
LP: 7" single
Song: "Little Boy Sad"
[ listen ]

After watching the world come to an end at the movies on Saturday night, I sauntered down Broadway on Capitol Hill and into Spin Cycle, a little record store I hadn't been to before. The guy working there told me they'd be closing in five minutes, but I still had time to find two singles, including this one by Johnny Burnette, released in early 1961 as Burnette was suffering a ruptured appendix. Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1934, Johnny formed a rock trio called The Rhythm Rangers in 1952 with his brother Dorsey and their friend Paul Burlison. When the group disbanded in 1957, Johnny went solo and landed several chart hits in the early 1960s, including "Little Boy Sad," which peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. Unfortunately, the hits slowed to a trickle soon after that. Johnny switched labels several times and continued releasing singles, but everything came to a sudden, sad end when his fishing boat was struck by a cabin cruiser on Clear Lake in California in August of 1964 and he drowned; he was just 30 years old. You can read lots more about the handsome and talented Johnny Burnette on Wikipedia here.

 [ Johnny Burnette: March 25, 1934 — August 14, 1964 ]

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Overheard when: 9:26pm on Saturday, November 19, 2011 — just as the first end credit of Lars von Trier's MELANCHOLIA appeared on the screen.
Overheard where: inside the downstairs cinema at the Harvard Exit Theatre, on Capitol Hill at 807 East Roy - Seattle, WA [map]
Overheard who: an annoying, granny-voiced gentleman at the back of the cinema,
probably in his 40s or 50s, ostensibly speaking only to his movie-going companion, but making sure that everyone within shouting distance could hear.
Overheard what: "That was just terrible! I don't understand why people have to take excellent actors and then completely waste them like that! I'm just SO disappointed. I don't even know why these actors would agree to be in something like this—I suppose it must have looked good on paper. But that was just a HORRIBLE movie! I want my two hours back."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cuarteto D'Aida

Artist: Cuarteto D'Aida
LP: An Evening at the Sans Souci
Song: "Las Mulatas del Cha Cha Cha"
[ listen ]
Song: "Cuanto Me Alegro (I'm So Glad)"
[ listen ]

Pianist Aida Diestro (December 21, 1924 — October 28, 1973) formed her quartet in Havana in 1952, and they soon became the toast of the town. The other ladies in Aida's famous quartet were Elena Burke (February 28, 1928—June 9, 2002), Moraima Secada (September 30, 1930—December 30, 1984), Haydée Portuondo (no dates found), and her younger sister Omara Portuondo, who was born on October 29, 1930 and still performs today. The LP liner notes (included below in both English and Spanish), say Aida's last name was actually Izquierdo, but they also indicate that Aida's quartet only featured three women (they've melded Moraima Secada and Haydée Portuondo into a single entity known as "Moraima Portuondo") so I say they're probably not to be trusted. This original lineup of the group remained together for eight years, during which time they recorded just one album (this one) in 1957. You can read more about the fabulous Cuban Cuarteto D'Aida on Wikipedia here.

[ pianist Aida Diestro (center) con su cuarteto. ]

[ Sñra. Aida Diestro (in black) con su cuarteto (in white). ]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jimmy Lewis and the Checkers

Artist: Jimmy Lewis and the Checkers
LP: Yeah, Right
Song: "Dance With You"
[ listen ]
Song: "I Think We're Alone Now"
[ listen ]

According to the Power Pop Criminals blog, Jimmy Lewis and the Checkers are originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, though their fan club was based in Los Altos, California when this record was released in 1980. You can read a little about the group and find out what they have in common with the Dwight Twilley Band on the aforementioned Power Pop blog here. Photos and credits from the back of the LP are included below; both tracks posted here are from side two. Tune in tomorrow if you want to hear the songs—I dropped my car at the shop way too early this morning on my way to work and accidentally left the mp3s at home.