The Honeycombs

I remember when The Honeycombs visited Australia, in the middle of the 1960s and how the press was intrigued because the group possessed a female drummer, ‘Honey’ Lantree. Honey had worked as a hairdresser alongside the group’s founder, Martin Murray. Its leading singer was Denis D’Ell and its guitarists were Alan Ward and Honey’s brother, John.

Originally known as The Sheratons, The Honeycombs released the driving, earthy sound of “Have I The Right?”, which entered the British charts in late July of 1964 and a month later occupied the position most prized.

“Have I The Right?” deservedly became a success internationally during which time it reached No.5 in the United States and No.1 in Australia. Nevertheless, the quintet was unable to produce another single to maintain this widespread appeal although, in 1965, it did rise to No.12, in its native Britain, with “That’s The Way”.

The Honeycombs disbanded in 1967, four years after the band had been formed.

Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels

William S. Levise Jr was born in February of 1945, in Michigan. His father was a musician and, by his teenage years, William was following this same path.

Bob Crewe, a prevalent songwriter and producer of records, bestowed the name of Mitch Ryder upon William and also renamed his band The Detroit Wheels. This newly named outfit recorded the single, “Jenny Take A Ride!”, in 1965 and saw it enter the American Top Ten. The medley was a combination of two hits from the past: “C.C. Rider” and “Jenny, Jenny”.

A cover version of The Righteous Brothers’ “Little Latin Lupe Lu” peaked in the Top 20 and “Break Out” perhaps deserved better than to cease to rise beyond No.62. Still, with Mitch’s voice bearing the influence of that possessed by the early rocker, Little Richard, the medley of “Devil With A Blue Dress On and Good Golly Miss Molly” just had to be a hit and, towards the end of 1966, the single duly ascended to No.4.

“Sock It To Me-Baby!” marked the group’s last visit to the Top Ten, as well as being its penultimate entry to the charts.

Mitch Ryder embarked upon a career as a solo recording artist, however, his success in this endeavour proved to be moderate. Nonetheless, video clips bear testimony to the fact that Mitch continued to perform live for years to come.

Shocking Blue

Shocking Blue was a Dutch quartet which emerged from The Hague, in 1967. Its initial membership was that of vocalist, Fred de Wilde; guitarist and backing vocalist, Robbie van Leeuwen; bass guitarist, Klaasje van der Wal; and drummer, Cor van der Beek.

Nevertheless, by the time its universally acclaimed single, “Venus”, entered the American Billboard Hot 100 chart, in December of 1969, Mariska Veres was the group’s vocalist. “Venus” became the Netherlands’ first No.1 hit in America, where it topped the chart for three weeks. Global sales of the recording were to exceed five million copies.

Shocking Blue disbanded in 1974, but not before it had released some eleven albums and twenty-five singles.

Today, “Venus”, with the passing of time, is more associated with the British female vocal duo, Bananarama, which also took it to No.1 internationally, in 1986.

Shocking Blue’s song, “Love Buzz”, was chosen by Nirvana to be its debut single, in 1988. “Love Buzz” is a psychedelic track on the album, ‘At Home’, which was first released in 1969.

Mariska Veres died from cancer, in December of 2006, at the age of fifty-nine.

Ral Donner

Ralph Stuart Donner was born in Chicago, in February of 1943. Like many artists of that era, the church provided him with his principal introduction to singing. After the advent of rock and roll, he formed bands of his own. His first entry to the charts was a cover of Elvis Presley’s recording, “Girl Of My Best Friend”.

Ral’s biggest hit, “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Until You Lose It)”, in 1961, peaked at No.4 in the United States and at No.25 in Great Britain. His only other success of note came in the following year when “She’s Everything (I Wanted You To Be)” ascended to No.18.

In 1981, Ral provided the voice of Elvis Presley in the film, ‘This Is Elvis’. Ral Donner died from cancer of the lung, in April of 1984.

The Nashville Teens

Despite its choice of title, The Nashville Teens was actually a British pop group, which formed in the English county of Surrey, in 1962. Originally, the band was comprised of vocalists, Arthur Sharp and Ray Phillips; pianist, John Hawken; bassist, Pete Shannon Harris; guitarist, Mick Dunford and drummer, Dave Maine.

It was not uncommon for British bands of that time to venture to the then West Germany to play in nightclubs and gain experience. Whilst in the northern city of Hamburg, The Nashville Teens was afforded the opportunity to back the early rocker, Jerry Lee Lewis, on his album, ‘Live At The Star Club’; a recording that was to receive much acclaim.

Upon its return to Britain, the band played on tour with Chuck Berry, and, in 1964, released its initial single, “Tobacco Road”, which had actually been penned by an American, John D. Laudermilk. “Tobacco Road” rose to No.6 in Britain, No.14 in the United States and No.4 in Australia.

The Nashville Teens followed this latest success with “Google Eye”, a song that had also been written by John D. Loudermilk. This single ascended to a height of No.10, in Britain, in October of 1964. Nevertheless, the group’s subsequent entries did not perform as they were presumably expected to, and, in early 1966, The Nashville Teens ceased to be an entity on the charts.

Television series such as ‘Heartbeat’, ‘The Royal’ and ‘Mad Men’ have served to introduce the recordings of the 1950s and 1960s to subsequent generations.

Los Bravos

Although Los Bravos hailed from Spain, its leading singer, Mike Kennedy, was German by birth. Mike had changed his surname from that of Kogel because he reportedly believed that it would be more palatable to the British media.

The group sampled fame in the 1960s when its initial release, “Black Is Black”, became an international hit, in 1966. The single reached No.2 in Britain, No.4 in the United States and No.6 in Australia. In total, it was to sell more than one million copies.

Los Bravos’s only other success of note occurred in this same year when “I Don’t Care” peaked at No.16 in Britain.

In 1977, the French female vocal trio, La Belle Epoque, also took “Black Is Black” to No.2 in Britain, in the era of disco.

“Black Is Black”, by Los Bravos, is another of my favourite recordings.

The Bobby Fuller Four

Robert Gaston Fuller was born in Texas, in October of 1942. Robert, along with his brother, Randy, participated in a number of disparate bands.

“Bobby” Fuller moved to Los Angeles, in 1964, with his band, The Bobby Fuller Four. Bobby was its vocalist and also played the guitar. Just as his idol and fellow Texan, the late Buddy Holly, had done.

The group was signed to record for Mustang Records and, in January of 1966, what was to be its biggest hit entered Billboard’s Hot 100. “I Fought The Law” peaked at No.9. In Australia it only reached No.29 and, in Britain, No.33. The song had been written by Sonny Curtis, who introduced it to The Crickets, after he joined that group, in 1959, following the death of Buddy Holly.

The Bobby Fuller Four’s only other entry to the chart was “Love’s Made A Fool Of You”, a moderately successful cover of Buddy Holly’s recording.

The band disbanded shortly after the body of its leader was found, in his car, in July of 1966. Even to this day the cause of his death appears to be open to conjecture.

“I Fought The Law” was, in turn, covered by the English punk rock group, The Clash, in 1979.

The Ames Brothers

This quartet of brothers hailed from Malden, Massachusetts. The brothers’ parents, David and Sarah Urick, had emigrated from the Ukraine, and had nine children in all.

Only Ed Ames, who was born in July of 1927, survives at this time of writing. Joe (1921-2007), Gene (1923-1997) and Vic (1925-1978) were this vocal group’s other members.

Having moved to New York, in the late 1940s, it was decided that their collective name should be changed from The Amory Brothers to that of The Ames Brothers. The brothers became the first artists to record for Coral Records, a label that, in the late 1950s, was to become synonymous with the recordings of Buddy Holly.

Success was not long in coming, as “Rag Mop” reached No.1 in the early months of 1950.

The Ames Brothers became extremely popular, not only on the radio and television but in nightclubs, as well. Hit after hit followed “Rag Mop”, with “Sentimental Me” also reaching the covetted No.1 position, and, later in that year “Can Anyone Explain? (No, No, No)” ascended to No.5.

In 1951, “Undecided”, which was recorded with Les Brown and his Band of Renown, reached No.2. Nevertheless, the four had to wait until 1953 to savour their biggest success of all, “You You You”, which was to remain atop the hit parade for eight weeks. The Ames Brothers had just switched to recording on the RCA Victor label and were hence now accompanied by Hugo Winterhalter and his Orchestra.

The cleverly written “The Naughty Lady Of Shady Lane”, released in late 1954, climbed to sit at No.3. In total The Ames Brothers had forty-nine recordings enter the American charts. There, the quartet’s other recordings to enter the Top 10 were “Tammy” and “Melodie D’Amour”, both of which peaked at No.5, in 1957.

“Pussy Cat” climbed to No.3 in Australia, in 1958, and remained on the chart for twenty weeks.

When The Ames Brothers disbanded, in 1960, Ed Ames pursued a career as an actor; in conjunction with that as a solo recording artist. He is perhaps best remembered, as an actor, for his portrayal of ‘Mingo’, an American Indian, in the television series, ‘Daniel Boone’, which ran from 1964-1970.

As a solo performer, Ed’s most notable recording is ‘My Cup Runneth Over’, which reached No.8, in 1967.

My favourite recordings by The Ames Brothers are “You You You”, “The Naughty Lady Of Shady Lane”, “Melodie D’Amour”, “Pussy Cat” and, from 1956, “It Only Hurts For A Little While”.

All of the above five can be found on my list of favourite recordings, located in the suggested playlists. Perhaps you shall notice that in this list I have shown preference to Debbie Reynolds’ version of “Tammy”. It spent five weeks atop Billboard’s pop chart, in 1957, and features in the film, ‘Tammy And The Bachelor’, in which Debbie also stars.

Consecutive Centuries To Chappell: Monday, 23rd May, 1977

Despite the sunshine it was a cold nine degrees Celsius when we arose. At noon, “The Mike Walsh Show”, in the presence of a live audience, had among its guests Australian singers, Jamie Redfern and Ray Burgess. The latter, is the presenter of the pop series, “Flashez”, and sang “Gloria”, which was a hit in Australia, in 1965, for Them, a group, from Northern Ireland, led by Van Morrison. ‘Frankenstein’ came to life, however, when Mike Walsh pulled off its mask, it proved to be none other than the show’s resident larrikin, Mike Williams, whom, for whatever reason, is also regularly referred to as ‘Shirley Temple’. The irrepressible bandleader, Geoff Harvey, quaffed two glasses of champagne, served by a butler. Other guests included a lion cub, a seal called ‘Dopey’ and a penguin!

At three o’clock, Mannix looks for a Japanese courier, with the assistance of Tami Okada, a likeable Japanese private investigator.

“Flashez”, from half past five, is followed at six by “The Big Match”, in which Chelsea accounts for Hull City by four goals to nil. While still on the subject of soccer, Australian international, George Harris, who plays for St. George, in the Philips’ League, is interviewed on ATN Channel Seven’s “News” as a result of being unexpectedly struck above the right eye by a spectator at the conclusion to his side’s away game against Adelaide City.

“Michael Edgeley’s Circus Spectacular” was viewed from half past seven.

Australia defeated Gloucestershire by one hundred and seventy-three runs. Greg Chappell’s one hundred and two means that he has scored centuries in successive matches.

Sue Thompson

Eva Sue McKee was born in July of 1925 (or 1926 — I’ve seen both years quoted), in Nevada, Missouri (or Mississippi). Nevertheless, she was raised in San Jose, California. As Sue Thompson, she was to record as both a pop and country artist.

Sue performed on the radio station, KGO, in San Francisco, while still in her teens. Although she procured a contract to record as early as 1950, it would be more than a decade before her recordings would enter the charts.

In the meantime, Sue appeared on television in the country series, ‘Hometown Hayride’, and, by the late 1950s, had joined the Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville. There she worked with the highly popular Red Foley.

I state in ‘About Me’ of how I really admire songwriters who can tell a story in two or three minutes. It was one such recording that really launched Sue Thompson’s career. “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)”, written by the prolific John D. Loudermilk, rose to No.5 on Billboard’s pop chart, in 1961.

“Norman”, recorded towards the end of that year, was to become Sue’s largest success, in her homeland,when it rose to two places higher than her initial release.

Further hits followed, also written by John D. Loudermilk. These included “James (Hold The Ladder Steady)”, in 1962, and “Paper Tiger”, in 1965.

In Australia, all four of the aforementioned releases reached the Top 10. While “Paper Tiger” reached No.2, “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” proved to be her largest hit because it remained in the Top 40 for eighteen weeks, having peaked at No.3.

A hiatus of six years was to ensue before Sue Thompson would again appear on the charts, however, this time it was to be as a country artist. Not only did Sue record country music as a solo performer, in the 1970s, she also had nine entries that were recorded in duet with the famed singer, songwriter Don Gibson.

“Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” appears on the list of my favourite recordings, which can be found in the suggested playlists.