Born Roberta Lee Streeter in Chickasaw County, Mississippi, on July 27, 1944, singer Bobbie Gentry turns 67 years old today.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
R.B. Greaves has an interesting family background and history, one that's actually more significant than his R&B track record. Greaves was born on November 28, 1944, at the US Air Force base in Georgetown, British Guyana. Half American Indian, he grew up on a Seminole reservation in California. The nephew of Sam Cooke, Greaves moved to England in 1963 and was lead singer of Sonny Childe & The TNT's. He had his moment of glory in 1969 with "Take a Letter Maria", which peaked at #2 on the pop charts and #10 R&B in December 1969. His remake of "Always Something There to Remind Me" peaked at #27 in February 1970, and he was soon off Atlantic's subsidiary label Atco. In 1977, Greaves tried recording for the Bareback label; it didn't revive his career.
Major Lance was one of the leading figures of Chicago soul during the 60s and the top-selling artist for OKeh Records during the decade. During the height of his success the majority of his songs were written by Curtis Mayfield and produced by Carl Davis and the pair developed a smooth, Latin-flavored sound that was punctuated by brass and layered with vocal harmonies, usually from the Impressions. It was urban, uptown soul and while it was considerably less gritty than its Southern counterpart, its breezy rhythms and joyous melodies made songs like "The Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" some of the most popular good-time R&B of its era. Major Lance's career declined significantly after he parted ways with Mayfield and Davis in the late 60s, but his classic OKeh recordings remain some of the best-loved soul music of the decade. Born in Winterville, Mississippi, in 1942, Major Lance moved to Chicago as a child. While studying at Wells High School -- where Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler also attended -- Lance began boxing but his attention soon turned to music and he formed the Floats with Otis Leavill. Although the Floats never released any records, his dancing earned him a spot on a local American Bandstand-styled program hosted by disc jockey Jim Lounsbury. The DJ helped Lance secure a one-shot single for Mercury Records in 1959, and the singer recorded "I Got a Girl", which was written and produced by Mayfield. The single disappeared and Lance spent the next three years working odd jobs. In 1962, Lance was signed to OKeh Records, based on his connections with Otis Leavill and, especially, Curtis Mayfield, who signed with the Impressions to ABC Records and had hits with his own group. Later that year, Lance recorded his first single, "Delilah", for the label. Like most of the Major's material, the song was written by Mayfield who, along with OKeh president Carl Davis and arranger Johnny Pate, developed a distinctive, Latin-tinged sound for the record, filled with sliding trombones and a light-stepping rhythms in order to distinguish Chicago soul from its counterparts in the South, New York, Detroit, and California. Though "Delilah" wasn't a hit, Lance's second single, "The Monkey Time," was a monster. Released in the summer of 1963, "The Monkey Time" reached #2 on the R&B charts and #8 on the pop charts, establishing not only Lance as a singer but the revitalized OKeh Records as a pop music force. "Hey Little Girl" was a Top 15 pop and R&B hit later that year, followed by the #5 "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um", early in 1964. This proved to be the height of Lance's popularity. Over the next year-and-a-half, he continued to turn out a series of singles but only a handful were minor pop hits. In 1978, Lance hit rock bottom when he was convicted of selling cocaine. He spent the next four years in prison. Upon his release, he began playing the beach music circuit on the Carolina coast but a 1987 heart attack prevented him from launching a full-scale comeback. In 1994, Lance gave a final, triumphant performance at the Chicago Blues Festival, which turned out to be his last. He died of heart failure on September 3, 1994 at the age of 52.
The Yellow Balloon was an American pop band produced by Gary Zekley. The group is notable for featuring Don Grady (sometimes billed as "Luke R. Yoo") who played Robbie Douglas on "My Three Sons". Other band members were Alex Valdez (lead singer), Frosty Green (keyboards), Don Braught (bass guitar), and Paul Canella (lead guitar). The band at one time also included Daryl Dragon, later the male half of The Captain & Tennille. The Yellow Balloon released multiple singles, but only charted once with "Yellow Balloon", which peaked at #25 in June 1967. The 1967 album self-titled LP, released on Canterbury Records, included the hit single "Yellow Balloon" along with two songs co-written by former The Mamas & the Papas singer Jill Gibson.
Tim Tam and the Turn-Ons were six vocalists who met at Allen Park High School in Allen Park, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The band members were Rick Wiesend (Tim Tam) as lead vocalist, along with Danny Wiesend, Don Grundman, Nick Butsicaris, John Ogen, and Earl Rennie. Danny and the others used to rehearse in Danny's basement, where brother Rick (Tim Tam) heard them, joined in and wrote their big hit for them, "Wait A Minute". They sold 30,000 copies of the single the first month after its release. "Wait A Minute" was released in February 1966 on the Parker label and peaked at #3 on the charts of local Detroit station WKNR-AM in late January 1966. Nationally, it reached #76 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1966. Tim Tam and the Turn-Ons would release three more 45s on Palmer. Rick Wiesend passed away on October 22, 2003.
Robin Ward, born Jacqueline Eloise McDonnell in 1941 in Nebraska is best remembered for her single "Wonderful Summer", which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #14 in December 1963. Ward and her family moved to Los Angeles when she was a child and, although she sang, she did not turn professional until her early twenties when she was already married and a mother. She recorded two singles, which were both unsuccessful, before Dot Records released ‘Wonderful Summer’, a ballad which celebrated the joys of a summer romance. She recorded a follow-up, "Winter's Here", which intended to apply the same magic to winter but it failed to hit the Hot 100 and Robin Ward’s career never regained its momentum.
Terry LaVerne Stafford was an American singer and songwriter, best known for his 1964 hit "Suspicion" and the 1973 country music hit "Amarillo by Morning".
Born in Hollis, Oklahoma, in 1941, Stafford grew up in Amarillo, Texas, and graduated from Palo Duro High School in Amarillo in 1960. After high school he moved to Los Angeles, California, to pursue a career in music. The song "Suspicion", which was released on the Crusader record label and which had previously been recorded by Elvis Presley, made it to #3 April 1964. "Suspicion," with a vocal by Stafford that reminded many listeners of Presley, had the unusual distinction of being at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 4, 1964, just below The Beatles when they made history by holding down the entire top five. The following week "Suspicion" topped out at #3 with The Beatles holding three of the other four spots in the top 5. Stafford's recording sold over one million copies. His follow-up, "I’ll Touch a Star", peaked at #25 in June 1964. Stafford continued to record but had no more hits, although his 1973 release/joint composition, "Amarillo by Morning", was later covered by George Strait on Strait's 1982 album "Strait from the Heart". The song was named the #12 country song of all-time by Country Music Television. Terry Stafford lived most of his life between Los Angeles and Amarillo and died in Amarillo of liver failure in 1993 at the age of 54.
Nashville's greatest contribution to the hot rod and surfing craze of the early 60s came in the form of Ronny & the Daytonas. Centered around singer-guitarist-songwriter John "Bucky" Wilkin (son of country tunesmith Marijohn Wilkin, best known for composing "Long Black Veil" and "One Day at a Time"), their big moment in the sun came with their debut disc, the Wilkin-penned "G.T.O." After writing the song in physics class as a senior in high school, Wilkin's mom pulled a few strings, landed him a publishing deal, and had a session set up with Nashville producer (and former Sun session man) Bill Justis. Justis cut the tune with various Nashville session players who had a feel for rock & roll and instructed Bucky to come up with a group name to put on the record. Wilkin became Ronny Dayton with the anonymous backing group becoming the Daytonas. The record sprang to number four on the national charts in the fall of 1964 and an album was cut in two weeks using more or less the same personnel. Wilkin seems to have cared little about playing live and, after a short time fronting a thrown-together combo for selected dates including a USO tour, simply put together a phantom group to go out and honor tour commitments. After the USO tour, Buzz Cason joined the group, becoming Wilkin's main writing partner. A shift away from the Beach Boys-styled hot rod and surf tunes came with the group's second hit, the ballad "Sandy", which peaked at #27 in January 1966. Another album, exploring the ballad side of the band, was recorded in Germany with Cason and various session players, including a full string section, then an innovative idea for a rock & roll record. The hits soon dried up, however, and the band moved on to RCA Victor with some success before Wilkin left to pursue a solo career with albums on United Artists and Liberty. He remains active today on the oldies circuit.
Best known for their 1966 #12 pop hit, "The Cheater", Bob Kuban & The In-Men hailed from St. Louis, Missouri. Band founder Bob Kuban is honored in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's permanent exhibit on one-hit wonders. Kuban was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated from the St. Louis Institute of Music. In 1964, he formed the group Bob Kuban and The In-Men. Kuban was both drummer and bandleader. The group was an eight-piece band with horns, somewhat of a throwback for the time, considering that the British Invasion was taking place during that period.
After "The Cheater," Kuban never scored high on the pop charts again - he had two other top 100 hits: "The Teaser" peaked at #70 and a remake of the Lennon/McCartney song "Drive My Car" went to #93 - but he remained a fixture on the St. Louis music scene for decades. Bob Kuban and The In-Men performed for opening ceremonies of Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis on May 10, 1966, and The Bob Kuban Brass performed before the last regular-season baseball game there on October 2, 2005. Bob Kuban raised his family in St. Louis, Missouri and his living relatives still live in St. Louis. In an ironic and tragic twist, Walter Scott, frontman for The In-Men and singer of "The Cheater" (whose lyrics speak of the downfall of an unfaithful lover), was murdered in 1983 by his wife's lover. Scott disappeared shortly after Christmas 1983. In April 1987, hiss body, having been hog-tied and shot in the back, was found floating face-down in a cistern. Scott's wife pled guilty to hindering prosecution in his murder. She received a five year sentence. Her lover, James H. Williams Sr., whom she married in 1986, was found guilty of two counts of capital murder in the deaths of his previous wife, Sharon Williams, and Walter Scott.