B-Side: Called Up to the Majors

I forget where I picked up my copy of 100 All Time Country Hall of Fame Hits – Vol. 2,    double-LP set from 1977.  The friendly price tag comes at a cost, though — 12 (even 13) songs per side, therefore, a noticeable loss in fidelity.

100 All Time Country Hall of Fame Hits - Vol IIOne of the songs that really caught my ear, “Mr. Mailman” by Ronnie Milsap, is a tune that (lo and behold) took its first breaths at Chips Moman’s American Sound Studio in Memphis in Summer, 1968:

“Mr. Mailman”     Ronnie Milsap     1968

I love the opening guitar lines that convey the agony of losing one’s “little red book” – utter powerlessness in a pre-digital era – with a few well-placed harmonica notes just before the song’s outro that add a nice touch of country pop melancholy.

“Mr. Mailman” would be from the pen of Mark James, who would write (and record) that same year one of Elvis’s last big hits, “Suspicious Minds.”.

B-Side — before the big call up

Ronnie Milsap 45“Mr. Mailman” – noble and faithful B-side companion to “Do What You Gotta Do” – appears never to have charted, and thus, likely to have received minimal radio play.

So imagine Zero to 180’s surprise when “Mr. Mailman” was discovered to be the title track of a 1977 Ronnie Milsap “oldies” collection for the UK market!

Ronnie Milsap LPChips Moman & American Sound:  Stax’s Memphis Hitmaking Rival

Jeremy Roberts’s 2012 Examiner piece – “Back When Memphis Was Electric:  B.J. Thomas on Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys” – asserts that Lincoln Wayne “Chips” Moman, whose team recorded over 120 Billboard hits between the years 1967-1971 at American Sound Studio, has yet to receive proper recognition for all his musical achievements.  B.J. Thomas makes the claim in his interview that “for a couple of years running, they played on nearly 20 percent of Billboard’s pop chart, which was a fantastic accomplishment in those days.”American Sound Studio

Songs produced and/or written and/or arranged by Chips Moman:
A Chips Moman ‘Top 40’ Playlist


Chips Moman

Bossa Country -or- Honky Nova?

On my one and only visit to Northampton, Massachusetts (NRBQ’s 35th anniversary show in 2004), I ducked into a second-hand vinyl shop and came away with a K-Tel country collection from 1976:  Country Superstars – 20 Greatest Hits.

K-Tel's Country Superstars LP-frontThis collection of early-to-mid 70s hits includes 1976 dieselbilly hit “Roll On Big Mama” by Joe Stampley, plus Johnny Cash’s “A Thing Called Love” (1971), Tom T. Hall’s “I Love” (1973), Hank Snow’s “Hello Love” (1974) and Dotty [sic] West’s “Country Sunshine” (1974), among others.

Track listing

K-Tel's Country Superstars LP-track listingLost to the winds of time, unfortunately, is the institutional knowledge at Canada’s K-Tel corporation as to who made the curious decision to include a “country bossa nova” song from 1964 – Skeeter Davis‘s charming kiss-off “Gonna Get Along Without You Now“:

“Gonna Get Along Without You Now”     Skeeter Davis     ‘K-Tel version’

But wait:  as it turns out, Skeeter Davis’s version would hit two times, the second time being 1971 (thanks, Wikipedia), hence its inclusion on a K-Tel 1970s country compilation.  The version above – it just dawned on me – is a ‘new’ arrangement from 1971.  The original release from 1964 below sounds markedly different:

“Gonna Get Along Without You Now”     Skeeter Davis     1964

Could this be the first county pop number to take commercial advantage of the fresh bossa nova sounds that were sweeping popular music in the early-to-mid 1960s?

US 45                                                          UK release

Skeeter Davis 45-aSkeeter Davis 45-b

“Gonna Get Along Without You Now” was written by Milton Kellem in 1951 and has been covered in a wide variety of styles to date – more recently, Zooey Deschanel & Matt Ward (as She and Him) in 2010.   Kellem’s name would be associated with a number of 45s, from the 50s & 60s, including a King B-side for Bubber Johnson, ’59’s “House of Love.”

“I’ve Got a Happy Heart”: Love’s Bullet-Proof Armor

Yesterday’s piece about Mayf Nutter featured a link to the January 13, 1973 edition of Billboard, that happened to include an adjacent news item that named all the artists who played with Buck Owens at a recent Christmas event in Bakersfield:

“Buck Owens and his group drew more than 5,000 with some turned away at the Toys for Tots program in Bakersfield.  On the show with him were the Buckaroos, Mayf Nutter, Jack Lebsock, Freddie Hart, the Bakersfield Brass, Tony Booth, the Ray Sisters, Susan Raye, and a few others.”

Susan Raye’s name immediately brought to mind her 1971 radio-friendly country pop hit, “I’ve Got a Happy Heart” and its memorable chorus — they sure don’t write lines like these in country music anymore:

I’ve got a happy heart, I feel like I could almost fly
I think that if someone shot me, I wouldn’t even die

As it turns out, “I’ve Got a Happy Heart” was penned by Bakersfield’s own, Buck Owens, along with Pat Levely, and issued on 1971 album, Pitty Pitty Patter (#6 country).  Ms. Raye would not only record the song again in late 1971 for 1972’s, I’ve Got a Happy Heart LP (#8 country) but once more in March 1973 for a duets album with Buck, Good Old Days (#29 country).

Susan Raye 45

Connect Neil Diamond’s Dots

I am still stunned that I somehow picked up a connect-the-dots album cover secondhand that had not already been filled in by one of the previous owner’s younger family members:Shilo

Neil Diamond, I have to admit, is pretty easy to find on the Goodwill circuit.  Like many others of my age, I dismissed Neil as a youngster only to discover later in life that his track record as a pop songwriter is undeniable.

Shilo, it turns out, is a compilation of hits Neil recorded for Bang in his fertile 1966-67 period and includes some of his biggies:  “Cherry Cherry”; “Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon”; “Red Red Wine”; “Kentucky Woman”; “You Got to Me”; and the title track.  My copy of the Shilo album happens to be on the original Bang label, which features a quaintly violent logo:

Bang Records

Bang Records, by the way, was originally a partnership among Bert Berns (B); Ahmet Ertegun (A); Nesuhi Ertegun (N); and Gerald Wexler (G).

One of my favorite Neil Diamond songs is a nice country pop number that is not on the Shilo album but rather 1974’s Serenade – “Rosemary’s Wine” – a track that was released as the B-side of his “Longfellow Serenade” single:

Math Pays:  Perhaps it’s not too late to join the ShiloConnect-the-Dots Contest” sponsored by the fine folks at ABC Arts in Australia – here’s one of the top entries:

Shilo Contest Winner

Dave & Sugar: They Love to Be Loved by You

Picked up this 1977 album on RCA primarily due to the act’s name – Dave & Sugar – as well as groovy threads:

Dave & Sugar

I only invested a dollar, so my heart wasn’t crushed when I skimmed through the tracks on side one and just wasn’t feeling it.  However, side two opener, “Love to Be Loved by You,” was an unexpectedly catchy slice of disco-flavored country pop, and – despite my own inner protest – I found myself liking it.  Seemed the obvious album highlight.

Amazingly, RCA released two singles from this album – and “Love to Be Loved by You” was nowhere to be found, not even as a B-side:

Dave & Sugar – Love to Be Loved By You

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play “Love to Be Loved by You” by Dave & Sugar.]

It’s not too late to register your disappointment – contact RCA today c/o

RCA Music Group
550 Madison Avenue
New York, NY  10022