Fred Lincoln “Link” Wray, JR is often cited as the father of the so called “Power Chord” that became the basis for “Heavy Metal” and “Punk Rock”. There’s a very long list of star guitarists that he influenced that made more of a name in the music business (and more money too) than the originator. Among those who list Link Wray as a major influence are Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend. Pete has been quoted as saying he never would have picked up a guitar had it not been for Link Wray. His pioneer work did, however, earn him a place in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
The life story that Bobby Whitlock tells in his autobiography simply called “Bobby Whitlock: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Autobiography” sounds at times like the story that almost every rocker could tell. He grew up down south in one of the great music cities in the world, Memphis. When Bobby was very young he started singing in the church.
As teenager Whitlock started his musical education by hanging out at the world famous Stax Recording Studios. By watching some of the best studio sidemen ever, he learned to play guitar and piano. Some of these great players like Steve Crooper and Booker T took a liking to the young musician and soon he was part of the Stax recording team. That led to not only playing in Booker T & The MGs, but he backed up Sam & Dave, The Staple Singers and Albert King.
All the recent talk about The Beatles anniversary of their so called invasion of the US reminded me of another artist. In my book “Confessions of a Teenage Disc Jockey” I tell the story of how The Beatles had one song “She Loves You” released on the Philadelphia based Swan record company. Prior to The Beatles, the biggest selling records on Swan were those of Freddy Cannon.
Born Frederick Anthony Picariello Jr, “Boom Boom” broke out of Philadelphia. His appearance on American Bandstand led to several big hit including “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” in 1959. In total, Freddy appeared on American Bandstand 110 times.
Like many of you, the death of David Bowie had me digging up some of his old material. What I uncovered was not really a single even though it is in the form of a 45 RPM, but rather an EP. This extended play was only issued to radio stations by RCA Records as a way to introduce Bowie to those who were not aware of his existence. You will note the stamp indicating “for promotional use only.”
As you have read in my story about Bowie on his passing and in my book “Confessions of a Teenage Disc Jockey,” Bowie was already a star in Philadelphia, but for many this 1972 release was their first exposure.
At Christmas every year radio stations all over the country dust off the old Christmas music. Some go so far as to play nothing but the holiday music for a whole two months prior to the actual day.
Most rock stations, given that there are so many other outlets for the seasonal music, usually don’t play many Christmas songs until very close to the big day. Even then, they stay away from the more traditional music. Over the years many rock stars have tried to release a song that the Rock radio stations would play for many years to come. In some cases, like The Waitresses “Christmas Wrapping” for example, it is the only song that we even know by the artist. While others like “Run Rudolph Run” by Chuck Berry or Keith Richards, Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas”, The Kinks “Father Christmas”, The Eagles “Please Come Home for Christmas”, and one of the very best “Happy Christmas” by John Lennon all deserve to be called classics.
As I am writing this, it is the anniversary of the shooting of John Lennon. Like so many others who lived through this tragic death, I remember exactly how I heard about the shooting and how I reacted. This is not going to be a story of that day. I already covered that in my book “Confessions of a Teenage Disc Jockey.”
Instead, I am going to tell you about a single that changed the way John Lennon heard and wrote music. One of John’s favorite recording artists was a man named Larry Williams. The Beatles covered a few of Larry’s songs in the early days. Ironically, Larry’s life was also very tragic.
Little Richard was born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia. It would seem at first that he would be a very unlikely Rock and Roll star. Between his family being very religious (several family members were preachers) and his father giving him a very hard time because he was openly gay at an early age, a rock star that appealed to the general public was a pretty farfetched concept.
At the tender age of 13 Little Richard tired of his father’s harshness left home. He found shelter in the most unlikely of places. A white family took him in. That family also owned a club where Little Richard was able to develop his sound. With a mix of the blues, gospel that he learned in the church and the R & B of the time, he came up with his own sound. That sound was unique enough for Little Richard to be signed by RCA Records in 1951, but his early singles didn’t sell and he was dropped by the label.
A big outdoor show called the British Invasion was held at Philadelphia's JFK Stadium. The concert featured The Troggs, Pink Floyd and The Who, among others.
The second act on the bill was Pink Floyd. They came on right after the opener whose name no one would remember at this point. As if on cue the skies started to light up when Pink Floyd took to the stage. While it was the perfect backdrop for the very spacy set that Pink Floyd mesmerized the crowd with, it soon turned into a major lightning and rain storm.
This is a copy of the US release of “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” that's different in many ways than the UK single release. The US release was on February 12, 1978. The UK release wasn’t until wasn’t until October 7, 1978. The US version had a different mix and was 10 seconds shorter than the UK version. The US version had a different flip side. In the UK the “B” side was “Bluebird is Dead” while in the US it was “Fire on High”. The US single didn’t reach the same level on the charts as the UK single.
While “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” was a hit (reaching 17 on the Billboard charts), in the long term “Fire on High” had more staying power. When fans call to request it they never know the name of the title. After we play it on the air, we often get calls from people who want to know the name of the song. Since “Fire on High” is an instrumental record, it is often very funny to listen to callers try and hum the song!
It was in 1961 during the so-called “Folk Revival” that Judy Collins first surfaced. That same era produced several artists like Tom Paxton, Dave Van Ronk, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Eric Andersen... and most notably Bob Dylan. Folk performers often never went beyond being folk heroes.
Although she is still associated with folk music, Judy Collins's biggest hits were more pop than folk. Her biggest hit was a song from a Broadway musical. Very few of her songs were written by her, but that beautiful Judy Collins soprano voice gave the songs a very unique quality. That talent earned her more than one Grammy Award over the years.
One of the hits for Judy is pictured above as part of our 45’s feature. “Chelsea Morning” was written by Joni Mitchell and it was the second time that Ms. Collins had a hit covering the member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In fact, Judy Collins had more success with Joni’s songs than Joni did.
Frequently in radio and television on air people “name drop” by saying they are good friends with artists that they hardly even know. There are very few people that are truly friends of mine in this business. You do spend some time with “stars” as they pass through, but that doesn’t make you friends.
One of the few exceptions for me is my relationship with the group Ten Years After. My exposure to this extremely exciting live band came during the school break during the summer of love 1967. I took advantage of the time off and spent it in London.
One of my first stops while there was the world famous Marquee Club in London. The club is well known as the launching pad for many rock groups including superstars like The Rolling Stars, The Who , Yes, Pink Floyd, etc. Among those who performed there that summer was Ten Years After. You couldn’t help but be blown away by their musical abilities. At that time Ten Years After didn’t have a record out to take back to the states to show people back home just how sensational they were.
Billy Joel’s single “Goodnight Saigon” was taken from his album called THE NYLON CURTAIN that was produced by the great Phil Ramone.
“Even Now” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band came from a huge album called THE DISTANCE.
Oddly, neither one of these singles were big hits.
“Goodnight Saigon” may have been too heavy in its lyrical content. It was the story of Marines bonding and just looking for a way to survive in Vietnam.
While Bob Seger’s album THE DISTANCE made it to number 5 on the Billboard charts, “Even Now” didn’t come close to becoming a hit single. One other oddity about THE DISTANCE is that it was the very last album that was also released in 8 track form. Bob insisted on it, thinking that some of his fans might still only have 8 track players.
With the sad news of the recent passing of Frank Zappa’s widow Gail, I thought this would be an appropriate time to display the “Valley Girl’s” single.
Gail Zappa, who was born in Philadelphia, was not only a staunch supporter and protector of Frank’s music, but also fought hard to protect the rights of all recording artists.
As the head of the Frank Zappa family trust, she gave permission to release some unearthed material by the legendary rocker, but she fought hard to stop people from using his music or name to promote concerts or other events.