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That One-Hit Wonder: Lou Reed?

Lou Reed is a giant in rock & roll history. As one of the key members of the Velvet Underground in the late 1960s, commercial success may have eluded him; but the Velvets were a huge influence on both the punk and new wave movements of the 1970s.

Yet, the failure of the band to find a mass audience led Reed to temporarily abandon rock music to work as an accountant at his dad’s business. Fortunately, that didn’t last long and Lu soon strapped on his guitar again and embarked on a solo career. With his second solo LP, "Transformer," in 1973, Lou found the commercial success the Velvets missed with one of the most unlikely pop hits of that era – “Walk on the Wild Side” produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson. As the song deals with transsexualism, drugs and male prostitution, to say nothing of Reed calling out “And the colored girls go…,” that the song found acceptance on Top 40 radio – let along climbing into the Top 20 (and the Top 10 in the UK) – is remarkable.

Predictably, Reed was never able to repeat that Top 40 success, but continued to release albums through 2007. He is a double member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (both as a member of the Velvet Underground and as a solo performer), which makes him somewhat unique among “One-Hit Wonders.”

Reed passed away in 2013, leaving an estate valued at the time at over $10 million dollars. Imagine if he ever had had a second hit record!

Shelley Fabares: The Reluctant Pop Star

One of the most unlikely of pop stars was Shelley Fabares, who parlayed her role on The Donna Reed Show into a #1 record!

Shelley had been acting since she was 3 and made her first television appearance at age 10. Four years later she was tapped to play Mary Stone, Donna Reed’s daughter on the long-running sitcom. Producers of the show noticed the success Ricky Nelson of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was having on the record charts. What they didn’t notice was that Ricky had genuine musical talent, with a big band leader for a father and a singer for mother.

Ms. Fabares and her TV-sibling, Paul Petersen, were quickly rushed into a recording studio. Petersen went enthusiastically, even continuing to record for Motown (!) after The Donna Reed Show ended. Shelley was much more reluctant. She felt she couldn’t sing, but the show’s producers gave her a choice: record or be replaced as Donna’s daughter. So, Shelley recorded.

The initial result was a #1 record in 1962 that surprised everyone – “Johnny Angel.” The success led to Shelley releasing an album, “Shelley!” that also sold well. Later the same year, she released a second album, “The Things We Did Last Summer,” which included two more songs that had chart success: “Johnny Loves me” and the title track for the LP.

Just one year later, Shelley left the show in search of other acting opportunities. She co-starred in not one, but 3 Elvis Presley movies (Girl Happy, Spinout and Clambake) and one Beach Party knock-off, Ride the Wild Surf.

She is also known for playing Craig Nelson’s girlfriend/wife on the long-running Coach. She has been married to Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H) since 1984.

While she never returned to the recording studio, “Johnny Angel” has become one of the best-remembered songs from that era and her albums are still available on CD and digital download.

The Story Behind the Song: Lawdy Miss Clawdy

In 1952, 19-year old Lloyd Price was just another poor kid in New Orleans who dreamed of making it big. His mother owned a sandwich shop where Lloyd liked to hang out and play the piano. He had been working up a little song that combined a phrase one of the DJs at the local R&B radio station used (“Lawdy, Miss Clawdy”). He had recently broken up with his girlfriend, so that went into the lyrics as well.

He was playing his little song in the restaurant one day when one of the customers came up and asked if he’d like to record the song. The man was local band leader Dave Bartholomew. It seemed L.A. record label owner, Artie Rupp, was in the Crescent City looking for local talent to add to his label, Specialty Records.

Lloyd, of course, jumped at the chance and met Bartholomew and Rupp at a local recording studio a few days later. There was only one problem. Price had only composed one verse for the song. Told he’d have to do better, he composed a second verse on the spot. Then, he was asked what song he might have for the record’s B-side. Price had nothing. So, he and the musicians improvised a song they eventually called “Mailman Blues.”

Lloyd never even heard a playback of his songs that day. Instead, a few weeks later, he was helping father replace a septic tank at the family home when he first heard his record being played by the same local DJ who had originated the Lawdy Miss Clawdy phrase!

The song rocketed to #1 on the R&B charts and is cited as one of the first black songs that crossed over to a white audience and helped launch rock ‘n’ roll. Price went on to a long successful career that included multiple Top 10 hits including “Stagger Lee,” “Personality” and many more.

One other interesting note. The day that Price recorded “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” the session piano player was another local musician who had already had a taste of national success – a young New Orleans singer/songwriter named Fats Domino.

R.I.P. Peter Tork

As you have probably heard, Peter Tork of the Monkees passed away this week. His fellow bandmate, Michael Nesmith said it better than we coild:

"Pardon me if I am being dogmatic -- but I think it is harder to put together a band than a TV show -- not to take anything away from TV shows. These days I watch MSNBC -- mostly aghast at what I see -- and what I am missing is "madcap".

Peter Tork died this AM. I am told he slipped away peacefully.

Yet, as I write this my tears are awash, and my heart is broken. Even though I am clinging to the idea that we all continue, the pain that attends these passings has no cure. It's going to be a rough day.

I share with all Monkees fans this change, this "loss", even so.

PT will be a part of me forever. I have said this before -- and now it seems even more apt -- the reason we called it a band is because it was where we all went to play.

A band no more -- and yet the music plays on -- an anthem to all who made the Monkees and the TV show our private -- dare I say "secret" -- playground.

As for Pete, I can only pray his songs reach the heights that can lift us and that our childhood lives forever -- that special sparkle that was the Monkees. I will miss him -- a brother in arms. Take flight my Brother."

In Peter's honor, we are reposting something we wrote awhile back about the Monkees and their rightful place in rock history.

Revenge of the One-Hit Wonders: The Blues Magoos

While most of us remember 1967 as “The Summer of Love,” the hippie movement actually got its start a year earlier. It was also in 1966 that the word “psychedelic” entered the popular lexicon followed very shortly by the first “psychedelic rock” appearing on the nation’s Top 40 airwaves.

One of the earliest of these psychedelic hits was a little number called “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” by a Bronx band calling themselves the Blues Magoos.

At the time of their one and only hit, the Magoos consisted of Emil Thielheim, who used the stage name “Peppy” Castro, on lead vocals and guitar, Mike Esposito on lead guitar, Ralph Scala on organ, Ron Gilbert on bass and Geoff Daking on drums.

“(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet,” written by band members Esposito, Gilbert and Scala, was released on the Mercury label and went all the way to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Powered by the single, their debut album, Psychedelic Lollipop reached #21 on the album chart.

But like so many recording acts, the boys were not able to duplicate their initial success. They recorded four more albums and released a dozen more singles – all of them stiffed. In 1970, they threw in the towel and disbanded. As the years passed, many of the group joined other bands, but never found mainstream fame. In 2008, three of the original members (Castro, Scala and Daking) reformed the group and the Blues Magoos have been touring the world ever since. In 2014, they released their first album of new material in 43 years, titled Psychedelic Resurrection.

What was Fats Domino's real first name?

Antoine
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