September 12 – People Went Bananas Over Monkees

Hey hey, here they came, right onto your TV screen… the Monkees Their TV show premiered on this night on NBC back in 1966. Although it only ran two seasons and 50-odd episodes, it was ground-breaking both in TV and music.

Seeing success the Beatles had with their “mockumentary” A Hard Day’s Night, producer Bob Rafelson realized there was strong potential to merge the visual with the sounds of the burgeoning rock scene. He came up with the concept of a sitcom about the daily lives of a fictitious, successful rock band who lived together (in a life full of amusing highjinks of course) that could have some music mixed in. The show of course paved the way for rock videos (of which the band would typically perform at least one, out of context of the show itself per episode) as well as “broke the Fourth Wall” by speaking directly at the camera and viewer…ground-breaking back then, four decades or more before it became a standard device on Modern Family and The Office. The resulting slapstick about a struggling band won an Emmy in ’67 for Best Comedy, beating out such stalwards as Andy Griffith and Bewitched. On the music scene, the band hastily thrown together (after the producer’s original idea of using up-and-coming Lovin’ Spoonful fell through) would go on to be the biggest-sellers of 1967, even ahead of the Beatles, and quickly throw out five platinum or better albums (in the U.S.) and a trio of #1 singles (“Last Train To Clarksville”, “I’m A Believer” and “Daydream Believer”). In Canada it was six, all in two years!

After the show’s cancelation, the Monkees continued to perform for several years and even began writing some of their own material. They scored a top 20, comeback hit in 1986 (“That Was Then, This Is Now”) and continued to tour semi-regularly even after Davy Jones death in 2012. However, the more recent passing away of Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith leave only Micky Dolenz standing and the band effectively retired.

January 31 – AMA-zing Answer To Awards Snub As Easy As ABC

Music Awards seemed like a bit of a bigger deal in years gone by. The Grammys, for instance, were not only a major music industry marker but a huge entertainment event back in the ’70s and ’80s. So what’s a poor TV network going to do when their competitor outbids them for that bonanza? Well, if you were ABC and it was the 1970s, you just start your own! Thus was born the American Music Awards. They were given out this night in both 1976 and ’77, the third and fourth AMAs.

ABC had shown the Grammys in 1971 and ’72. Although Nielsen didn’t publish exact ratings numbers for those years, a little later in the decade, the Grammys typically drew over 30 million viewers in the U.S., or about 40% of all those watching the telly on the particular night. So losing it was a bit of a blow to both the prestige and ad revenue for them. Thus they had the idea “if you can’t join ’em, beat ’em!” They had Dick Clark develop an alternate music awards show instead.

The first AMAs were in early 1974. Back then it was a two-hour broadcast with a relatively simple set of categories. They broke music down into “Pop/Rock”, “Soul/R&B” and “Country”, and gave out trophies for Best Male Artist, Best Female Artist, Best Group, Best Album and Best Song in each. As well, they rewarded one great with a “Merit Award”, essentially a lifetime achievement one. Although they don’t disclose the precise method used to pick winners through the first three decades (recently fans have been allowed to vote), it was picked by industry insiders largely influenced by sales totals. In recent years, they’ve expanded the awards greatly to include categories like “hip hop,” “inspirational” and “electronic/dance.”

By the third set of awards, this night 46 years back, they had the process down pat and were holding the awards in a glitzy affair in Santa Monica. Since it was TV-driven, they smartly had a popular musician who was comfortable in front of cameras host it – Glen Campbell both years. He actually would host for four-straight years, then again in 1982, making him the most-utilized host in the Awards history. In ’76 he was helped by Olivia Newton John and Aretha Franklin; in ’77 by Helen Reddy and Lou Rawls.

Now, it could easily be argued that by basing awards primarily on sales, artistic merit would be overlooked. That’s undoubtedly true, at least some of the time, but there is a sort of “give the people what they want” type of honesty to it also. That noted, the winners in the Bicentennial Year weren’t bad and were fairly representative of what people were listening to. It also showed the brief mid-’70s convergence between pop and country radio. To whit, John Denver was named both Country Male performer and Pop Male performer of the year, and Olivia Newton John snagged the Female trophy in both categories. Happily the winner of the Song of the Year award in both country and pop didn’t have to travel all that far to accept – it was the host, Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy.” And co-host Olivia picked up a third award, for Pop Album of the Year with Have You Never Been Mellow? which beat out Elton John’s Greatest Hits and the Eagles’ One of These Nights. A little surprisingly, Tony Orlando & Dawn were the Group of the year. While Barry White and Aretha took the R&B male and female trophies, KC and the Sunshine Band took the song “”Get Down Tonight”) and band in that category. Perhaps the most interesting award of the night was classic songwriter Irving Berlin being given the lifetime Merit one.

The 1977 awards were of a similar nature, with Olivia Newton John taking the Best Female in pop once again. She was probably exceedingly happy she’d made the move across the Pacific from Australia to California by then! Elton John won the male in that category and Best Pop Song for “Don’t Go breaking My Heart” with Kiki Dee while the Eagles took the album award for their Greatest Hits. Curiously, Willie Nelson won best Country song for “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”. The song had been nominated the previous year but lost out to Glen. The Man in Black, Johnny Cash was given the Merit Award that year.

While it appears the AMAs never matched the Grammys in terms of TV ratings (last year’s drew four million viewers, but the Grammys themselves dropped to under nine million) they have done OK for ABC and become a reasonably respected part of the Music Biz and a flashy red carpet event for the paparazzi. By the way, if you’re counting, Taylor Swift has won the most of them – 34. As for the merit award, after giving them out to a variety of people including Berry Gordy (founder of Motown), promoter Bill Graham, and artists ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Billy Joel to Frank Sinatra, they seem to have run out of inspiration, last awarding one in 2016 to Sting.

January 29 – From Session Guitarist To TV Host In Two Or Three Songs

To borrow from the early-’70s hit, “When you’re hot, you’re hot.” And as the ’60s drew to a close, Glen Campbell was hot! The blonde Arkansas guitarist was increasingly popular as a musician and on this day in 1969 he got his own TV show, the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS. That network saw the potential for photogenic musicians to crossover to TV clearly – two years later they gave Sonny and Cher a similar variety show, and before you know it every musical personality with…personality it would seem had their shot at the primetime spotlight. The Captain and Tennille and Starland Vocal Band owe a big thank you to Glen, it would seem!

Campbell was an obvious candidate for the treatment. He was good-looking, “very congenial” as IMDB put it and a rising star in music with great connections. He’d been a part of the legendary “Wrecking Crew” set of session musicians in L.A., which had added the instrumentation to a variety of ’60s hit singles ranging from “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone” by the Monkees to “Up, Up and Away” by the Fifth Dimension to Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” by the Beach Boys. He’d also had a solo career which was really starting to not only ramp up, but cross over from country (where he first got noticed) to the mainstream pop/AM radio markets. He’d won the Grammy for Album of the Year the year before, with By the Time I Get To Phoenix, had five straight #1 albums on the country charts and had recently had his first overall top 10 single with his cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman”. Soon he’d have his first #1 hit with another Jimmy Webb tune, “Galveston.”

Campbell had been asked to sit in for the Smothers Brothers on their comedy/variety show in the summer of ’68 and did so well CBS decided to give him his own weekly hour. In the then-popular “variety” show method, the shows mixed musical pieces from guests with short comedy skits, something now largely gone from primetime but carried on to this day with Saturday Night Live. For the first week, Campbell’s guests were appropriately enough, the Smothers’ Brothers and Bobbie Gentry. Gentry was obvious as he’d just recorded an album of duets with her which had gone gold in the U.S. and she was barely a year removed from topping the charts with “Ode to Billy Joe.” He’d famously have John Wayne on weeks later and hosted a great number of musical acts through the four-year run the show had. It was credited with starting Anne Murray’s career outside of Canada, he had Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Jerry Reed and Stevie Wonder among his musical guests and most ground-breaking for the time, The Beatles. Actually, the Fab Four weren’t real co-hosts, but the U.S. public did get to see videos they’d made for “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down” for the very first time in April on Campbell’s show.

Of course, to go back to that Reed song, “When You’re Hot You’re Hot” one has to remember the next line… “When you’re not, you’re not.” By 1972, Glen Campbell was not. His musical career had stalled out, he’d perhaps run out of significant musical friends to have on and the public’s love of “rural TV” (as seen in shows like Hee Haw and Green Acres) had diminished. The Goodtime Hour which had been the 15th most-watched show on TV in its first season had plummeted in the ratings and was canceled in June 1972.

Although Glen would never quite hit those heights again, he did have a bit of a career renaissance a few years later with another chart-topper, “Rhinestone Cowboy”. Sadly he passed away in 2017 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease

December 19 – Don’t Stop Believin’ A Decades-old Song Can Be A Smash

One of the luckiest, and in quite a few people’s minds best, rock songs ever had a big day 40 years ago today. “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey peaked at #9 on the Billboard charts on this day in 1981. The fact that it never got higher than that would come as a surprise to many given that it’s considered a rock classic and is one of the most played “recurrent” singles on radio year after year.

Don’t Stop Believin’” was the second single off Journey’s seventh studio album, Escape, the fourth with singer Steve Perry. The band was hitting their creative and commercial peak, with the album being their only U.S. #1 and their biggest-seller outside of their Greatest Hits compilation. Currently it’s 9X platinum in the U.S. and has topped 12 million sales worldwide.

The song was popular enough at home, no question about that. It spend 13 weeks in the top 40, but it might seem hard to believe now that the previous single, “Who’s Crying Now?” spent longer on the charts and had gotten to #4, making it the band’s biggest hit to that point. “Don’t Stop Believin’” did well in Canada as well, where the album went triple platinum, but was close to ignored elsewhere. In the UK, for instance, it crawled to #62. And while the California band had their diehard fans, they weren’t universally adored. Critics tended to lambast them regularly. Rolling Stone was not atypical at the time when it rated Escape just 2-stars, saying “Who’s Crying Now?” “does sound good” but otherwise the album was “less a testament to talent than to the times,” calling them “heavy metal lightweights”. They didn’t even mention “Don’t Stop Believin’” in their review.

Time was initially somewhat kind to Journey and the album. The love song “Open Arms” off it was a hit (getting to #2 in North America, it was the highest charting single for the band, who with 18 top 40 hits trail only ELO for most hit singles without a #1 hit)and by the end of the century, Classic Rock had listed it as the 22nd greatest album of all-time in their opinion.

The stroke of luck for Journey however, came in 2007. It was that David Chase was a fan of theirs, and the song in particular. Chase was a writer for, and producer of the HBO hit show The Sopranos, and he needed a song to close out the final scene of the final episode with. He chose this one.

He loved the song. “Musically (it) starts to build and build into something as it’s just about to release. And when you look at that scene, you get that feeling.” He especially liked the line “’He took the midnight train going anywhere’. I felt these two characters had taken the midnight train a long time ago. that is their life… the dark train.”

Millions tuned in to the finale, and its ambiguity ensured many more would discuss it for days to come and rewatch it, all the while taking in the sounds of Journey. It was the musical equivalent of a winning Powerball ticket for Steve Perry (who has a new Christmas album this year) and his by then ex-bandmates. The song was requested constantly on rock stations and it vaulted back up the charts, to #6 in the UK and #2 in Canada. By then, I-pods were a popular device and “Don’t Stop Believin’” began being added to them. By the millions. For a brief time, it was the most downloaded song ever, and it remains the biggest hit from the 20th Century on I-tunes. The song which had after some time earned the band a gold record for the sales of the 7” vinyl record, jumped to 5X platinum based on the millions of paid downloads.

I guess there’s a message in there. If at first you don’t succeed (or at least not as well as you had hoped) hang in there and “Don’t Stop Believin’”. Success could be just around the corner.

December 3 – Hula And Hoopla For Monkees First

A changing of the guard? That’s what it might have felt like on this night in 1966 in Honolulu. That was when The Monkees played their first live concert ever… only three months after the Beatles had, as it turned out, played their final ticketed show. And from all reports, it seemed like Monkee-mania was going to take over.

The Monkees were of course, originally just a TV show. The idea dated back to 1962, but was resurrected with interest after the Beatles did A Hard Day’s Night. People including Don Kirschner loved the idea of having a TV comedy following the wacky exploits of a rock band…even if it didn’t involve a real band. He offered the spot to The Lovin’ Spoonful, but they turned it down, so auditions were set to pick musician/actors to play the roles beside Davy Jones. Jones was a quite well-regarded actor by that time and had already been cast. Auditions in fall ’65 saw Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork picked to fill the spots. All had certain degrees of musical ability; none were proficient. The TV show premiered in Sep. ’66 and was a hit (it even won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy for its first season), as was their first album released almost simultaneously. Their first two singles, “Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m A Believer” were both #1 hits. The public loved it…perhaps more than the band itself did.

The first album was mostly done with the Monkees singing to a band of session musicians, but the record company wanted “the fantasy”, so it was presented as just The Monkees. Mike Nesmith says he was furious at the time. “There’s no credit for the other musicians…you are now duping the public” he told the record company suits, to no avail. However, the four were hard-working and proud, and did their best to become better players. Which was good, because by year’s end, Columbia Records was determined to have them tour, despite TV exec Kirschner’s objections. That era began at the International Center Arena in Hawaii, 55 years ago.

Chip Douglas, who’d later produce their hit album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. was there to watch soon after. “I remember very well seeing the Monkees play live for the first time. It was in San Francisco, at the Cow Palace.” His reaction was “look at these kids, they’re going nuts!” and adds “I was quite impressed by the way they were playing on stage.” As for the initial Hawaiian show, a friend of the band, David Pearl was there, and was given five full pages in 16 magazine to report on it…full of excited headings like “Davy Does The Hula!”

He notes they began rehearsing at 8AM that day, and finally hit the stage around 9 at night. They wore “new black suits, white shirts and paisley ties” and were brought on stage in big boxes that looked like huge speakers. “The Monkees theme came bouncing out of the real speakers and two very big spotlights flashed down onto the stage as Davy, Peter, Micky and Mike burst out of their boxes” being received by a “deafening roar (from) a sell-out crowd of 8300…I could see all the guys faces light up.” They kicked into “Last Train to Clarksville,” the song they used to open the set which typically consisted of 16 songs. Most had Micky Dolenz front and center singing, but the others all got at least one turn at the mic – Nesmith on “You Just May Be The One” , Tork on “Your Auntie Grizelda” and Jones on “Forget that Girl” for instance. Pearl mentioned it was “almost unreal with the eternal popping of thousands of flash bulbs”, and adding the caution “whenever one of the guys would look up, or wave to a section of the crowd, that area would surge up like a wild wave in the ocean…there were moments when I really worried”. A sadly prophetic comment, given recent tragedies from surging crowds at a Houston hip-hop concert, and fans trying to get into a Who concert in Cincinnati, on this very day in 1979.

They took a few weeks off after Hawaii, but resumed the tour in Denver on December 26 and would play Memphis, Louisville, Winston-Salem, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati before year’s end then get back on stage on New Year’s Day in Nashville. They’d play live extensively for the next two years, getting more and more competent playing themselves.

Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz, the two remaining Monkees are currently back on the road with the Monkees “Farewell Tour.”

June 21 – Muskrats & TV Viewers Alike Loved These Two

Well, it did for nearly 40 years- keep ’em together that is. Talk about your beginner’s luck…Captain and Tennille hit it big with their first hit single, “Love Will Keep Us Together” which hit #1 on Billboard on this day in 1975. It would stay atop the chart for a month. It would be a #1 in Canada and Australia as well, and even be a hit in some Spanish markets in a Spanish-language version they did. It was the biggest-selling single of the year in the U.S. and Canada, and so, perhaps appropriately it won the Grammy for Record of the Year in 1976.

The song was written by Neil Sedaka, who also recorded it (to little acclaim) two years prior; if you listen carefully you hear her exclaim “Sedaka’s back” near the end of the song as a tip of the cap to Neil. The married couple who met when Daryl (“Captain”) was the touring keyboard player for the Beach Boys and he got Toni (Tennille) a gig as a backing singer, earning her the nickname of the “only Beach Girl.” It was also the start of a briefly-stellar career for the two keyboardists. By the end of the decade they’d racked up seven more top 20 hits including the… memorable… “Muskrat Love”, and briefly (in the tradition of that other singing couple, Sonny and Cher) their own TV variety show. That ran for the 1976-77 season on ABC, the story is they grew tired of the show before the network brass did and asked to be let out of the contract. They also got to play for President Ford who was entertaining the Queen at the White House; Ford liked them but the Queen was said to have fallen asleep!

Unfortunately love couldn’t keep them together forever. They divorced in 2014, but remained close. Daryl passed away two years back, apparently with Toni still by his side.

May 3 – Sun Shone Again For Katrina In ’97

Most musicians dream of having an internationally-famous single. Few ever achieve it, fewer still do it twice. An every once in awhile, those who hit the top find that a smash hit can end up being a bit of a mixed blessing. Enter Katrina and the Waves. The British band with the American singer who’d hit gold in the ’80s with “Walking on Sunshine” had an encore on this day in 1997 when they won the Eurovision Song Contest with “Love Shine A Light.” It gave their career a much-needed shot in the arm…but ended up being largely responsible for their end.

The Eurovision Song Contest is quite a big deal in Europe. It grew out of an Italian music contest begun in 1951, and organizers saw it as a way to heal and reconcile Europe while wounds from WWII were still fresh. They started a contest where every country on the continent could pick one song from one of their artists and play it at a big show, with a winner being voted on. It officially kicked off in 1956, was televised across the continent right away (making it one of the world’s longest-running annual TV programs) and it’s continued through to this day, with the unfortunate exception of last year when the pandemic caused it to be canceled. Plans are afoot to resume it this year in Rotterdam though, which should be a boost for that city. The show not only showcases musical talent, but since it’s held in the previous year’s winning country, it is also a competitive event which helps promote tourism in the winning lands. A fair bit of national pride goes with winning and hosting. Over 50 countries have taken part, including almost all of Europe’s plus more recently Australia, some Middle Eastern and north African ones. Ireland has chalked up the most wins, seven. It can boost the career of the performers to be sure, yet although Olivia Newton John, Lulu and Celine Dion (representing Switzerland at the time) have taken part, few well-known names have emerged from it and only one real big name act and song have won – Abba with “Waterloo” in 1974. This might be because although popular, as Katrina Leskanich of the Waves says, “people who take this contest seriously are the kind of people who get into Miss Universe.” So yes, Eurovision is quite a big deal…but in the same sort of way American Idol is a big deal over here. So how did a slightly dusty popular pop-rock group of the ’80s resurrect themselves through it in ’97?

Well, here a lot of things happened coincidentally. Warner Brothers were interested in signing the band who’d not had a hit that decade, but they clearly said they needed to hear a hit single to help sales before they’d provide the contract. Guitarist Kim Rew, the main writer for the band, was a supporter of a charity called The Samaritans, who offer mental health counseling and other forms of help in the UK. He’d written a cheery “anthem” for the organization, designed to back bouncy, feel-good commercials one might expect. Katrina and the Waves had recorded it, but didn’t use it because (again in the words of Katrina) “it’s too cheesy.” But Warner Brothers liked it, and someone in the band was friends with someone in the Eurovision office. They contacted the band about whether they’d be interested in competing. The record label said “we want you to do it” and Leskanich told the contest “we have this song called ‘Love Shine a Light’ (but) it’s too cheesy, too ‘Abba’… it’d be perfect for you!”

So they entered the British semi-finals, paying 250 pounds to do so, and won that in February of that year…without Rew. The songwriter/guitarist didn’t want to have his band associated with the commercial jingle, and sat out.

Winning the British segment got them to the Eurovision stage in Dublin, where they were 24th of 25 performers on the night. Katrina had a couple of backing singers, Miriam Stockley (who’d go on to appear on the recorded version) and Beverly Skeete. Bassist Vince de la Cruz took over from Rew on guitar, while a session bassist played that off-stage, drummer Alex Cooper doing his usual thing. The crowd went wild, and they got about 79% of the vote…the biggest landslide in the contest’s history to that point, besting even Abba’s total.

Warner was pleased, put out the single and album Walk on Water out quickly and the single, which was a big hit in Europe. It got to #3 in the UK, #2 in Austria, and was a top 5 hit in many countries including Ireland and all of Scandinavia, where in Norway it went gold. Over on this side of the ocean, where few pay attention to Eurovision, the song barely even got noticed despite the band’s earlier smash “Walking on Sunshine” being an almost constant-presence on pop and oldies radio by then. “The song was quickly forgotten,” Katrina admits, and when it was so too were the Waves. They split up in 1999, largely because they felt their credibility as a rock act was now shot. Ironically therefore, the Eurovision stage ended up being Katrina and the Waves “Waterloo.”

April 13 – Max A Lucky 7 For Boss & O’Brien

Take a kid from a religious middle class family, stir in a strong work ethic and a love of rock music and if you’re lucky, you might get Max Weinberg. We wish the E Street Band drummer a happy 70th birthday today!

Max grew up on the New Jersey side of New York’s suburbs, living in a happy family which stressed both their Jewish faith and music. His dad was a lawyer, his mom a teacher. But the parents loved music and often took young Max to Broadway shows and Big Band concerts. When he was about five, he saw Elvis on TV, and decided that was what he wanted. Only, unlike so many of his peers, he didn’t want to be Elvis – he wanted to be the drummer! “I think anybody who wanted to develop a life in rock’n’roll music had a ‘moment’. (Seeing Elvis) was my moment,” he’d later say.

His dad bought him a conga drum, which he loved (and still has) and soon bought him a child’s drum set. At his synagogue, the family knew a bandleader who performed at parties and events; he took young Max along with him and he was actually playing at Bar Mitvahs before he was seven. Little Max, looking natty in his suit, was quite the hit. Before he’d hit puberty, he’d become quite good and also decided that he liked the drumming of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich but the showmanship and flair of Liberace and Sammy Davis Jr. He seemed destined for a life on stage – which he did get, but not before seeing the Beatles and being heavily influenced by Ringo, and joining a few run-of-the-mill New Jersey bar bands. He went off to university and his music career might have stalled at a the level of playing a few local Bar Mitvahs had he not seen (and replied) to an ad in the Village Voice. Someone wanting a drummer for a rock band, “No Ginger Bakers” – aka no showoffs prone to long solos – need apply. That someone was Bruce Springsteen, and Max auditioned for The Boss in August, 1974. He knew Bruce’s song “Sandy” and played that at the audition. By September, he’d quit college and was playing shows as a member of the E Street Band. He was being paid $110 a week at the time (in range of $600 now), not bad for a backup musician but not quite the white collar income his parents probably had dreamed of for their son. Of course, that would change along with the fortunes of his “Boss.”

Continue reading “April 13 – Max A Lucky 7 For Boss & O’Brien”

January 29 – From Galveston To Phoenix & Beyond, Glen Was Everywhere

To borrow from the early-’70s hit, “When you’re hot, you’re hot.” And as the ’60s drew to a close, Glen Campbell was hot! The blonde Arkansas guitarist was increasingly popular as a musician and on this day in 1969 he got his own TV show, the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS. That network saw the potential for photogenic musicians to crossover to TV clearly – two years later they gave Sonny and Cher a similar variety show, and before you know it every musical personality with…well, personality, it would seem had their shot at the primetime spotlight. The Captain and Tennille and Starland Vocal Band owe a big thank you to Glen, it would seem!

Campbell was an obvious candidate for the treatment. He was good-looking, “very congenial” as IMDB put it and a rising star in music with great connections. He’d been a part of the legendary “Wrecking Crew” set of session musicians in L.A., which had added the instrumentation to a variety of ’60s hit singles ranging from “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone” by the Monkees to “Up, Up and Away” by the Fifth Dimension to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” by the Beach Boys. He’d also had a solo career which was really starting to not only ramp up, but cross over from country (where he first got noticed) to the mainstream pop/AM radio markets. He’d won the Grammy for Album of the Year the year before, with By the Time I Get To Phoenix, had five straight #1 albums on the country charts and had recently had his first overall top 10 single with his cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman”. Soon he’d have his first #1 hit with another Jimmy Webb tune, “Galveston.”

Campbell had been asked to sit in for the Smothers Brothers on their comedy/variety show in the summer of ’68 and did so well CBS decided to give him his own weekly hour. In the then-popular “variety” show method, the shows mixed musical pieces from guests with short comedy skits, something now largely gone from primetime but carried on to this day with Saturday Night Live.

For the first week, Campbell’s guests were appropriately enough, the Smothers’ Brothers and Bobbie Gentry. Gentry was obvious as he’d just recorded an album of duets with her which had gone gold in the U.S. and she was barely a year removed from topping the charts with “Ode to Billy Joe.” He’d famously have John Wayne on weeks later and hosted a great number of musical acts through the four-year run the show had. It was credited with starting Anne Murray’s career outside of Canada, he had Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Jerry Reed and Stevie Wonder among his musical guests and most ground-breaking for the time, The Beatles. Actually, the Fab Four weren’t real co-hosts, but the U.S. public did get to see videos they’d made for “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down” for the very first time in April on Campbell’s show.

Of course, to go back to that Reed song, “When You’re Hot You’re Hot” one has to remember the next line… “When you’re not, you’re not.” By 1972, Glen Campbell was not. His musical career had stalled out, he’d perhaps run out of significant musical friends to have on and the public’s love of “rural TV” (as seen in shows like Hee Haw and Green acres) had diminished. The Goodtime Hour which had been the 15th most-watched show on TV in its first season had plummeted in the ratings and was canceled in June 1972.

Although Glen would never quite hit those heights again, he did have a bit of a career renaissance a few years later with another chart-topper, “Rhinestone Cowboy”. Sadly he passed away in 2017 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease

November 21 – Partridges Soared 50 Years Back

If NBC could do it, why “monkee” around with a successful formula, ABC must have thought. That formula being make a TV show about a likeable, but fictitious band you cast and in turn, turn them into a real record-selling behemoth. The band in question this time is The Partridge Family, and the song, their first hit, “I Think I Love You” which hit #1 in the U.S. this day in 1970.

The Partridge Family was a sitcom that ran between 1970-74,which involved a widow – played by Shirley Jones – who decided to quit her bank job and take her singing, rockin’ family out on the road. The show was perhaps most memorable schoolbus they traveled in, with its multi-colored paint scheme inspired by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. The eldest of her kids in the show, Keith, was played by her own stepson, David Cassidy. At the time he was a struggling 20 year-old actor, having scored a handful of bit roles on shows like Adam 12 and Ironside. Although in the show he was portrayed as a gonzo star guitarist and singer, reality was a little more conservative. Turns out he could sing decently, and he sang lead on this single and most of their subsequent records, while mother Shirley added background vocals. The rest of the kids…well, they would have looked fine cavorting around in the videos, but did little at all in the production of the music. The first album by the “group” (and the first of five to go gold for them at home), appropriately titled The Partridge Family Album, was actually played by members of the famous Wrecking Crew in L.A., including drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Joe Osborn and keyboardists Larry Knetchel and Mike Melvoin.

“I Think I Love You” was a pleasant-enough little pop love song, written for the series by Tony Romeo, a New York songwriter who’d also come up with hits for Lou Christie and the Everly Brothers. It hit #1 in Canada, Australia and many other countries besides the U.S. Although it was their only #1 single, and only gold one too, the TV fam did hit the top 10 with their next couple of singles, “I’ll Meet You Halfway” and “Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted?”; Cassidy went on to reasonable success as a solo artist within a couple of years, scoring a worldwide hit with his version of “Cherish” and a British #1 hit with “How Can I Be Sure?”. His brother Shaun replaced him as the teen heartthrob singer de jour later in the ’70s.

So, while they were no Monkees, ABC wasn’t bananas thinking a singing family could be a hit on primetime as well as at the record stores.