“Shout” by the Isley Brothers was already a classic when the movie Animal House launched it into a kind of musical immortality few songs ever achieve. It might surprise you to know that “Shout” was never really intended to be a song at all.
Like a lot of R&B acts at that time, the Isleys were hugely influenced by Jackie Wilson, who was pioneering an energetic style of performing that was electrifying audiences. In 1959, the Isleys were closing their shows with their version of Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops,” a song that had been a hit just a year before. The Isley Brothers were booked into the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia as part of a soul revue, with 15 other acts. The group’s lively rendition of “Lonely Teardrops” landed them the coveted spot closing the bill.
One night during the run of this engagement, the audience got particularly excited, leaving their seats and dancing in the aisle. Lead singer, Ronald Isley began improvising lyrics to keep the song going. One of those ad-libs was “You make me wanna shout!” The band responded with “Shout!,” so he repeated the line. Now, the crowd joined in with “Shout!”
The brothers continued to perform the song this way for the rest of their engagement. When they next entered the recording studio, they discussed recording the song with their producers, Hugo & Luigi. It was the producers who suggested they drop “Lonely Teardrops” and just concentrate on the “Shout” portion.
When they were finished, the Isley Brothers had a song that was too long for just one side of single. So, they cut it in two and released “Shout Part 1” and “Shout Part 2” as a single. And from that time until today, they still close every live show with “Shout.”
Lots of bands have logos. Chicago made a recording career out of spinning endless variations of their logo into album covers. But the oldest and certainly most iconic is the Beatles logo – the one with what is known as the “Drop-T” design. But who the heck created it?
The Beatles original logo was a somewhat uninspired affair that played on the insect-like nature of their name. And as he did with so much of the Beatles physical look, it was manager Brian Epstein who brought about the change in the boys’ logo.
In 1963 as the band was starting to really take off in the UK, Epstein called on local Liverpool music retailer Ivor Arbiter to obtain a better drum kit for Ringo. He also asked Arbiter if he had any ideas for a revised logo for the group. Arbiter quickly sketched out the design we all know so well.
How much was Ivor paid for the design? Five pounds (or $6.50 American).
But Arbiter had one other condition. The Beatles had to leave the Ludwig logo on the bass drum. That little move probably netted the Ludwig drum company millions in the years that followed.
And now you know the story of a little piece of artwork that will outlive us all!
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!
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.
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.
Jailhouse Rock (1957), Elvis Presley’s 3rd feature and the first to really offer Elvis’ brand of rock ‘n’ roll undiluted, is probably his most famous and best-regarded film. The production number where the King sings and dances to the title track has been showcased in dozens of “Best of Hollywood Musicals” retrospectives, but how many have actually watched the entire film from which it comes?
Let’s take a deep dive into this milestone in the history of rock & roll movies.
For American audiences, the David Essex story is rather short and fairly typical of one-hit wonders. He appeared out of nowhere, starring in a film about 1950’s rock & rollers called That’ll Be the Day. He wrote his one and only American hit for that film.
He said “Rock On” was an attempt to create a song with 1950’s lyrics and 1970’s music and production. In that, he succeeded wildly. Recorded and released in 1973, the song went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, #3 in the UK and #1 in Canada.
Essex followed up that success with another star turn in Stardust, a sequel to That’ll Be the Day that brought his 50’s rocker right into the 1970s. (The two films are notable because Essex’s fictional band, the Stray Cats, inspired the creation of the real-life band fronted by Brian Setzer.)
Alas, Essex was never able to ever follow-up “Rock On” with another hit in the States. But not so in his native England. He charted 18 more singles in the British charts, including two #1s. His acting career has also flourished in the UK. He continues to appear in both live theater and television productions to this day.
So one could say that Essex has rocked on rather well.
MEET THE BEATLES - The Beatles (1964)
Any self-respecting Baby Boomers record collection begins with “Meet the Beatles.”
While there are certainly Elvis fans among our generation, most of us didn’t reach puberty until the 1960’s, when Elvis had already entered the Army and would never be as wild as he was before he went in. For most of us, Elvis was the music our babysitters listened to while the Beatles (along with the Beach Boys and Four Seasons) were the first group we could really call our own!
We’ve been hearing this song since it first entered the pop charts in the fall of 1962, but how much do you know about its creation?
Bobby Pickett was an aspiring actor in L.A. who sang with a band called the Cordials at night while attending auditions during the day. One night as the group was performing a cover version of “Little Darling,” Pickett began a short monolog using an impersonation of Boris Karloff’s voice. The crowd loved it.
Pickett then sat down with fellow band member Lenny Capizzi and quickly worked up some monster-themed lyrics as a parody of Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time.” While the major labels were not interested in their song, writer/producer Gary Paxton was. Paxton was no stranger to novelty records, having written, sung & produced “Alley Oop” just two years earlier.
Paxton called in session musicians like Leon Russell and Johnny MacRae and quickly got “Monster Mash” recorded and released on his own Garpax label. Bobby became Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the session men were christened “the Crypt-Kicker 5.”
The little record from an independent label was an immediate smash (just as Bobby had boasted in the lyrics), reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during Halloween week of 1962!
Like the Frankenstein monster himself, the record refused to die, getting fresh airplay every year thereafter. It proved so popular that it actually re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970 and again in 1973 when it went all the way to # 10. The song was actually banned by the BBC in 1962 for being “too morbid.” Pickett had the last laugh when the 1973 re-issue also reached the Top 10 in the UK.
Pickett released several follow-ups to “Monster Mash” (some of which you’ll hear every Halloween here at Boomtown America), but never matched the success of his first release.
He went on a brief career as an L.A. disc jockey and also played bit parts in several low budget movies.
The song is still available on multiple compilations. Just remember, as Bobby said, “When you get to the store, tell them Boris sent you!”
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