The Ramsey Lewis Trio, Hang On Ramsey!, Cadet 781, 1965
Ramsey Lewis hit on a really successful strategy in the 60s. They were just an fairly average Chicago jazz trio, but once they started recording current pop hits in a jazz style, they sold millions of records.
This was their third album 1965 (out of four!) and it was recorded and released while some of the songs were still on the charts! The McCoy’s version of Hang On Sloopy was #1 when this album was recorded, and the trio’s single hit the charts before The McCoy’s left it.
Because these records sold in the millions, and the group released so many records, that they’re very easy to find today. I’d like to find all of them!
Cost: $1, $683 Remaining
Various Artists, American Top 40 With Casey Kasem, Watermark Inc, 1983
Quick: What was the number one song today in 1983? If you’re like me, and I doubt you are as far as this blog post subject goes, you’d know that the new #1 hit all across America is Bonnie Tyler and her smash hit Total Eclipse Of The Heart. Welcome to one of the stranger finds a discount record shopper can hope to find.
Most people who listened to US radio between 1970 and 1990 remember Casey Kasem and his weekly Top 40 countdown show. What most people probably never though much about was how that program was able to be broadcast at random times by thousands of radio stations across the country. As labor intensive as it sounds today, the production company would rush Casey into the studio on a Monday morning just as soon at they had the chart information from Billboard Magazine, to record the show. They they would press a few thousand vinyl records and overnight them to every station that would air the show. The records were usually only played once, and then they were supposed to be destroyed.
But, of course, and thankfully, the poor minimum wage radio station employees who had to sit there and do basically nothing for 4 hours except flip the records over now and then sometimes kept the records to listen to at home. And why not? Everyone knows that a Sheena Easton record is always made better when a Dannon Yogurt commercial plays right after it! These box sets are really rare today, and sometimes shops ask extraordinary prices for a complete set (meaning not just the whole show on record, but also the original box and program listing guide). I’ve paid as much as $25 for some myself, so finding this treasure for $2 made me feel like I actually touched the stars.
Cost: $2, $684 Remaining
Petula Clark, My Love, Warner Brothers W-1630, 1966
Petula Clark was on a roll. Mostly because her producer kept writing and recording some really great pop tunes that only she got to record. Tony Hatch was to her what Brian Wilson was to The Beach Boys and the hits only dried up when they went their creative ways.
Ms. Clark sometimes gets tagged as being a part of the British Invasion, but she really transcended that label. Her music was much more popular on the Adult Contemporary charts than the Pop charts in the USA, even though she was hugely successful pop-wise. In fact, the title track of this album made her the first British female to have two number one hits in the USA. The follow up single, A Sign Of The Times, barely missed the the top 10, peaking at number 11.
Beyond the hits, though, this isn’t much of an album to listen to. It’s all pretty much a collection of material not strong enough to be released as a single, instead of anything done to advance Petula Clark’s career or music. It’s kind of a shame, because she really can sing, but 50 years on, it is what it is.
Cost: $2, $686 Remaining
The Chad Mitchell Trio, Typical American Boys, Mercury SR 60992, 1965
Apparently, Typical American Boys record folk music for Mercury Records. Despite the smashing success of the sweaters they had, The Chad Mitchell Trio never had a memorable hit single. This album, essentially recorded at their peak, was no different.
Sure, there are some really catchy tunes, done with the slight irreverence the group was known for. There is the interesting cover of You Were On My Mind. But mostly, there’s a whole bunch of folk music that would have been really refreshing in 1963, but seemed really out of place by 1965.
Judging by the inner sleeve, the quasi-independent Mercury Records looked to fill every musical genre with some kind of artist. Jazz, Pop, R&B and Country are all featured, and what kind of self-respecting record company in the 60s didn’t have a folk trio. In fact, it was a very typical thing to.
Cost: $1, $688 Remaning
The Strugglers, Two Beers And Everybody Sings, Warner Brothers 1257, 1959
What was probably a fun album to play at a college party in 1959, a high school party in 1969, or a junior high school party in 1979, is now a very funny Goodwill record to look for. Apparently, there really was a band called The Stugglers, who played old-timey songs in a real club called The Red Garter, in some made up town they called San Francisco.
There’s really not anything of interest here for the record listener, or the music buff. It’s just an odd collection of drinking tunes that had a mild impact on the few people who ever heard it. Really, at this point, it’s the kind of thing you’d see framed at a brew pub somewhere.
I don’t mean to put it down, it’s just that the title of this record is so preposterous, and then to assume that after getting blotto on two beers, “everyone” will sing I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Ole Dad…it is to laugh. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a third beer.
Cost: $1, $689
Bernard Green, The National Football League Marching Songs, RCA LSP-2292, 1960
Oh the lengths I go to sometimes to provide a well rounded selection of budget priced records. It’s not necessarily as daunting as a 60 years field goal, but this took a lot of guts to make it though. It’s never a good start when the first song on the record is Hooray For Mr. Football. From there, it’s one fumble after another from bandleader Bernard Green.
I would be shocked to know if there are any fans of the San Francisco 49er’s who know that their team’s fight song is called Football Polka. Did John Mara teach Touchdown to his great grand daughters Kate & Rooney? It doesn’t take a concussion to realize the answer is no.
It was before my time, ahem, but I would imagine that football didn’t have nearly the impact in 1960 that it does now. I’d be willing to wager that the sport was not half as popular as baseball was and hardly any games were shown on TV. College football was likely the bigger draw in the national scheme of things, and this album was probably designed to raise the league profile. Why else would the pro teams need marching themes, but to mimic the colleges? As unlistenable as this record is, it is a souvenir of a very different time.
Cost: $2, $690 Remaining
Frankie Avalon, Swingin’ On A Rainbow, Chancellor S-5004, 1959
There are a bazillion artist chart achievements out there. Easy ones like “most number one hits” compete with “most weeks at number one by producer”. But I think I’ve found here something truly remarkable. I think I’ve found the first album to hit the top 10 that had no hit singles released from it.
Sure, Frankie Avalon was a hot property in 1959. Elvis was in the army, and the record business needed a new “it” boy in a hurry. And who could be more wholesome for the country (or under contract already to some sketchy producers) than he?
So, in the wake of his huge #1 hit Venus, Chancellor Records went all out and produced this very expensive looking gatefold cover of Frankie singing some pop tunes in the style of a young Frank Sinatra. It’s an impressive package, and the record isn’t half bad either.
And it sold! Reaching #9 in the era when ingles defined pop success, this record tried to expand the teen idol into a new market. Unfortunately, Bobby Darin filled that spot with his amazing Mack The Knife while this record was still o the charts. Still, Avalon probably was the best selling artist of 1959, even though his music was pretty much immediately dismissed and his artistic credibility destroyed by some horrific films with Annette Funicello. But, it wasn’t until The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that another non-broadway or soundtrack album hit the top 10 without a hit single.
Cost: $2, $692 Remaining
Various Artists, Do It Now, Ronco LP-1001, 1970
This is a weird one. At first glance, it seems like a pretty incredible compilation for something “as advertised on tv”. I know of no other instance where a Beatles song appeared on something like this, let alone big hits and interesting filler from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield and Janis Joplin. And yes, there was, and still it a Do It Now organization that was a youth run charity founded to combat teen drug use.
It’s just that this record doesn’t seem to have anything to do with fundraising for the charity, even though the back cover describe how important the mission is. True, the real Do It Now foundation funded their organization with a fundraising album that included The Beatles, but that’s not this record. I think it’s just a blatant copy with some added filler designed to cash in on the charity’s coattails. Yuck!
And as catalogue number 1001, this is the very first Ronco album to appear. If you didn’t grow up with things like this, it’s almost impossible to believe that such a thing could have happened. They (and their main competitor K-Tel) would cram as many hit songs as they could onto two sides of a record and then advertise the life out of it on tv until it sold millions of copies. Of course, it didn’t matter to the company that the tightly wound grooves needed to hold all the music meant a loss of fidelity that “real” records never had. When the songs got too long to cram, they would actually (very crudely) edit them down so that they would fit. Having a few of these records as a kid, I was always amazed when I heard one of the songs on the radio because it meant hearing whole verses that the record I had didn’t contain. I just wish they hadn’t picked on a charity.
Cost: $2, $694 Remaining
Dawn, Candida, Bell 6052, 1970
It’s pretty amazing that one of the most successful recording acts of the 1970s began this way. Technically they began with the title track to this record, a #3 hit in the fall of 1970, but that success spawned this album. It was very common at the time for producers to come up with a hot record, and then hire an anonymous singer or “group” to be the “artist” who released it. Tony Orlando was a failed teen idol still signed to Columbia when, of all people, The Tokens approached him with the idea to record Candida. They were looking for a Latin(o) style male singer to add a new ethnicity to a pop record. No one had any idea it would be so successfu
So much so that they used the same basic lay out for both side of the album cover! I get why there’s no picture of the group, mainly because there was no group, but sheesh, couldn’t they have come up with a different stock photo?
The success of this album and the follow up single, Knock Three Times, combined with the lack of anyone claiming to actually be Dawn, led to several Faux Dawn groups making “personal appearances” around the country. That essentially forced the producers to get Tony Orlando out of his CBS contract and hire two background singers to become the group. The rest was Oak Tree history and millions of records sold. But this was, ahem, their Dawn.
Cost $2, $696 Remaining
Gladys Knight & The Pips, Imagination, Buddah BDS-5141, 1973
It must have taken quite a bit of imagination for Gladys Knight & The Pips to leave Motown after seven years and two #2 hits. Maybe, they might have expected to make some money from all of the records they sold, but that probably didn’t happen. Still, having to replace all that Motown did for their artists at a new company must have been a daunting task. Still, the group was so relaxed about it that they went out to the flea market and bought some old picture frames.
In fact, there had never been an act the had left Motown and been successful. True, The Four Tops left at about the same time, but they never really attained the same fame as they had with Motown, let alone become the most popular group in the world. And this record did just that for GK&TP.
It’s almost like a greatest hits package though, they never again had another top 10 hit after this album played itself out. But still, it has their signature song Midnight Train To Georgia, along with the groovy (I’ve Got To Lose) My Imagination, and the soulful The Best That Every Happened To Me. The good news is that for us collectors, the record is very easy to find. So there’s no need to jump on a bad or over priced copy.
Cost: $1, $698 Remaining