July 24 – Jimmy Changed Up Drinks As Well As Attitudes & Latitudes

Music, beverage and retail history was being made this day in 1977. Arguably the most lucrative single ever peaked – albeit only at #8 on Billboard. Jimmy Buffett‘s signature song, “Margaritaville” was his only top 10 hit (although he’s added his vocals to some country chart-toppers by Zac Brown and Alan Jackson) but he’s done quite well with it!

It helped his Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitude (the title track of which was his follow-up top 40 hit) become his first platinum album but did a lot more than that. Buffett’s sound, which he terms “gulf and western” has earned him one of pop music’s most loyal followings, with “Parrotheads” (a term coined by Timothy B Schmit, ex-Eagle and once in Buffett’s band) following him loyally from concert to concert in their Hawaiian shirts. Furthermore, despite his drunk slacker image, Buffett is university-educated and a savvy businessman. He’s turned “Margaritaville” into a goldmine – over 30 themed restaurants in mainly tropical locales and on cruise ships, a line of tequila and a #1 selling novel no less! As of 2017, his personal wealth was pegged at $900 million! Many would drink to that, no doubt.

Producer Norbert Putnam said when he heard the single he knew “it’s a hit song- hell, it wasn’t a song, it’s a movie!” Buffett has earned millions from the once obscure drink he stumbled upon in the early-’70s in an Austin bar but says he was happiest when the sales were enough to let him buy a boat back then. Needless to say, a lot of bartenders had to learn the recipe for the perfect Margarita not long after this day 45 years ago.

July 1 – Pablo Cruise-d Towards Top 10

Did they sell this one at marinas? If there wasn’t already a term for it, someone would have had to come up with the phrase “Yacht Rock” for the song, and group, that hit the top 40 this day in 1978 “Love Will Find A Way” by Pablo Cruise. I mean, they even incorporated a palm tree into the band logo and for the album cover, used an ocean sunset image! The single would go on to be one of the San Francisco band’s two big hits and one of the defining moments of that specific, usually California-based easy listening sound of the decade.

Pablo Cruise had started in the Bay Area in ’73, as a quartet. Guitarist and lead singer David Jenkins and keyboardist Cory Lerrios still run the group, almost five decades later though drummer Steve Price and bassist Bruce Day have moved along, as have Mike and Steve Porcaro of Toto who appeared on the record, but weren’t full members. Neither was there a “Pablo Cruise,” the band name was just something they came up with. They say “Pablo represents an honest, down-to-earth individual, and the ‘Cruise’ his fun-loving and easy attitude towards life.”

The song was written by Jenkins and Lerrios and certainly captured the zeitgest of the era. It was the lead single off their fourth album, Worlds Away, which ended up being their only top 10 album and one of two of theirs to hit platinum status. As allmusic would put it, the album with its “jazz-influenced pop sounds” “groove like Player in a Hawaiian shirt with a deep, dark tan.” “Love Will Find A Way” rose to #6 (tied for their career best with “Whatcha Gonna Do?”) , #5 in Canada and #8 in Australia, making it their biggest international hit.

Although it’s been awhile since they had a hit record, Pablo is still cruising, a popular act on oldies and Yacht Rock tours with the likes of Ambrosia and Christopher Cross.

June 8 – Sadly Texas Jim Joins His Brother England Dan

Today we remember the beret-topped half of Seals & Crofts, Jim Seals, whose death was announced by his family yesterday. Seals was 79 (according to birth info; many reports put him at 80 however). He’d been suffering from an undisclosed lengthy illness. However, turn the clock back 46 years and he was young and creative, with the duo’s last major hit, “Get Closer” hitting the American top 40 this week in 1976.

Get Closer” was the title track to their eighth studio album and offered more of what they were largely known for – melodic, well-played soft rock. They’d found their niche and audience; five of the previous seven albums of theirs had gone gold or platinum, and this would get them more gold. Their career had been boosted not only by a couple of top 10 hits earlier in the decade, “Summer Breeze” and “Diamond Girl,” but by an appearance at the eclectic California Jam concert in ’74. There they performed amidst an odd array of stars including the Eagles and Black Sabbath, to a crowd of 200 000 people and been covered by ABC-TV which filmed the show and ran a highlights version in primetime.

The song was written by the pair, but they had a lot of help in the studio with it. Seals played guitar on it, and Crofts wielded a mandolin, but they were joined by Carolyn Willis, former singer of Honey Cone who added the bright and prominent backing vocals and a bevy of star session players. Though the credits don’t break down who played on each track, the album boasted future Toto keyboardist David Paitch and drummer Jeff Porcaro as well as guitarists Ray Parker Jr. and Lee Ritenour on it. The love song, sounding a bit more weary in the singer’s declarations compared to “Summer Breeze” (rather than how happy he was to see her at the end of the day, it was a plea for fidelity and exclusivity with the recognition “people change and you’re changing”) caught people’s fancy in the Bicentennial summer, reaching #6 on the charts. That was curiously the same peak position their other pair of biggies had reached. It was also a top 20 in Canada. It would however prove the pair’s last significant hit single; they had a couple of minor hits after it and broke up in the early-’80s , regrouping periodically after that.

Both of the duo grew up in rural Texas and they met quite young. Seals was especially versatile, playing mandolin, violin and even saxophone in addition to guitar. They played in various bands in the ’60s including The Champs, but not on that group’s biggie “Tequila.”

John Ford Coley, who was in the duo England Dan & John Ford Coley with Jim’s younger brother Dan said of Jim, “I spent a large portion of my musical life with this man”, touring and working on each other’s records. “He was a dyed-in-the-wool musical genius. He belonged to a group that was one of a kind. I am very sad over this but I have some of the best memories of us all together.” Steve Miller tweeted “RIP Jim Seals. So long pal, thanks for all the beaufiful music.”

His brother Dan passed away back in 2009.

June 4 – Atlanta Rhythm Section Were Loving…Themselves?

We already looked at one Southern Rock outfit from Atlanta today, the Black Crowes. Another Atlanta Southern Rock band from a different end of the rock spectrum also could have the calendar highlighted. The Atlanta Rhythm Section hit #7 on the singles chart this week in 1978…with a song about being “single” – “Imaginary Lover.” It would tie the highest position any of their eventual seven top 40 hits would make; “So Into You” (which ended up being their biggest-seller overall) also reached that spot a year earlier.

The Atlanta Rhythm Section were the creation of Buddy Buie, who happened to sing lead on this one and produce the record. Buie largely used members of his previous band, Classics IV, who’d worked as session musicians at Studio One in Doraville, just outside of Atlanta after that band had ceased. As with most of the Classics IV hits like “Spooky”, Buie co-wrote the tune and much of the rest of the Champagne Jam album it came from. Their drummer Robert Nix and keyboardist Dean Daughtrey helped him with the writing; among the other musicians on the album was Paul Davis, who added some backing vocals to a few tracks.

Imaginary Lover” was a bit of an unusual hit for the ’70s on one level. While sounding smooth and easy-going (it basically was one of the songs that built the prototype for “yacht rock”) it’s content was a bit envelope-pushing…even if real. Songs about sex were always commonplace, and the ’70s were no exception… songs about love, lust, faithfulness and affairs galore. But masturbation was pretty much taboo and “Imaginary Lover” was all about… well, “self-love”. After all, as Buie sang, “they always care, they’re always there when you need.” Which might be a more honorable solution than say the one presented by Billy Paul in “Me and Mrs. Jones,” who had “a thing going on”, though they “both know that it’s wrong!” And perhaps it started a trend. Within the next few years, the DiVinyls would get known for “I Touch Myself”, Cyndi Lauper gave us with “She Bop” despite her lyrical mother warning her against “messing with my danger zone” and Billy Idol soon found himself “Dancing with Myself”, which many thought led to doing other things with himself.

Champagne Jam ended up going platinum in the U.S., their biggest-seller, fitting since allmusic conclude “fans will definitely want to make this the first title they consider from the band’s regular album catalog.” Maybe it would make a nice soundtrack to a romantic rendevous…no matter who you’re spending or not spending the evening with, eh, Buddy?

May 26 – Little River Flowed Easily Across Pacific

Southern California easy rock and smooth harmonies with a side of vegemite? That’s perhaps how people view the Little River Band, an Aussie band which perhaps sounded like it originated on the other side of the Pacific. And those of us on this side of the Pacific got to learn a lot more about their sound with the release of their fourth album, Sleeper Catcher, this day in 1978. It continued to build their growing fanbase at home and was their first major foray into the hearts and charts of North American music.

The band had begun in Melbourne just three years earlier, going by the name Mississippi at first. They were formed from a number of musicians who’d done well in the Australian East Coast music scene (among them Beeb Birtles, a guitarist for them who’d played bass in a band called Zoot, which was where Rick Springfield first started into music) but were unknown internationally.

They changed names and signed to Capitol Records internationally, with their records coming out on EMI in their homeland and Harvest Records (the label known for putting out Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) in the Americas and Europe. The very first song they recorded was a cover of the Everly Brothers “When Will I Be Loved”… a fine showcase for their voices and pop stylings. Unfortunately – or possibly fortunately – for them, Linda Ronstadt also loved the song and put out a version which became a hit just before they were ready to, so the label filed their cover of it away and got them working on their own songs.

Their first trio of albums each did a little better than the previous in Australia and New Zealand but made little dent elsewhere despite having a modest hit in ’77 with the single “Help Is On The Way.” Capitol knew they had talent and made a harder push for Sleeper Catcher, after bringing in John Boylan to produce the record. Boylan had ironically risen to fame working with Linda Ronstadt, and had also co-produced Boston’s huge debut. It didn’t hurt that the group showed up with probably their strongest set of songs to that point.

As per usual, the album contained a mix of songs penned by lead singer Glenn Shorrock, a couple from Birtles and a couple of collaborations, but the album’s two standout tracks – and hits – both came from guitarist/backing vocalist Graham Goble: “Lady” and “Reminiscing.” Shorrock suggested Goble “was the Brian Wilson of the band,” which we assume was meant as a compliment.

Surprisingly, neither of those songs were big at home for them; “Shut Down/Turn Off” was the only top 20 entry from the record in Australia. But over here, they really made themselves known with “Lady” being a top 10 hit and the lovely retro-sounding “Reminiscing” (which even references Glenn Miller’s music in the lyrics) making it to #3 in the U.S. and #7 in Canada. That (as well as opening for a number of Doobie Brothers concerts the year before) helped the album get to #16 in the States, and become their first platinum record. At home, it reached #4, their third-straight top 10 LP. Critics there liked it as well as the public – they took home several Australian Music Awards for it including Best Male Singer (Shorrock), Best Live Band and Most Popular Group.

Little River Band kept the momentum going through the end of the decade with the equally-popular First Under the Wire in ’79 and the singles “Cool Change” and “Lonesome Loser.” However, even though they’re still rolling like a river, by the early-’80s, the popularity of their new releases began to decline and as members came and went there became increasing numbers of conflicts over things like which ones could legally use the “Little River Band” name; the current incarnation contains no members who were part of the band in their ’70s heyday.

December 23 – Hot Rod Heart Rocks The Yachts

Happy 75th birthday to one of the nearly forgotten voices of the ’80s – Robbie Dupree. Turns out he might be even closer to forgotten if not for Jimmy Fallon, but we’ll get to that.

Dupree was born in New York City, and grew up listening to a lot of soul and R&B. Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye were two particular favorites of his as a teen, so it’s little surprise he’d eventually put out music termed “blue-eyed soul.” He plays guitar, loves the harmonica and got into music in the early-’70s, being the singer for a band called New World Rising, a band mostly notable for also having Nile Rodgers as a member. After they split up, Dupree moved to L.A. and signed a contract with Elektra Records. As sometimes happens, his career got off to a good start but peaked early. His self-titled debut did decently in the U.S., Canada and Australia, and is still the most successful of the eight or more solo albums he’s put out. That thanks to a couple of hit singles, “Hot Rod Hearts” (a top 20 at home for him) and mainly “Steal Away.” That, his first single, was massive on adult contemporary radio and hit #6 on Billboard, ending up among the 30 best-selling singles of 1980. It was an undeniably catchy little tune, although it wasn’t without a little controversy. Both the L.A. Times and Washington Post noted it sounded quite similar to the Doobie Brothers “What A Fool Believes” which had been a biggie only months earlier. The Times called it a “rip-off” and the D.C. paper said that while Michael McDonald of the Doobies wasn’t concerned apparently, his publisher had taken legal action against Dupree. It isn’t clear if that was true or not since Dupree and his writing partner Rick Chudacoff are still listed as the only songwriters. And McDonald must not have been too irritated… he sang backup on it! VH1 has ranked it the 61st greatest “one hit wonder” song, ignoring “Hot Rod Hearts” apparently in their assessment.

The album and hit got Dupree nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy, which he lost to Christopher Cross, whom coincidentally now often tours with him. But momentum dropped off quickly; his second album in 1981 delivered only one very minor hit (“Brooklyn Girls”) and after that, little was heard from him despite his occasional touring and putting out records. Until 2010 that is.

That was when Jimmy Fallon, apparently a fan of Dupree’s, decided to do a week honoring “Yacht Rock.” That was a term coming into vogue back then, loosely-defined as the usually-California based soft rock of the late-’70s and very early-’80s. A 2005 documentary called it “reassuringly vague escapism” and seemed to renew interest in the sub-genre. After appearing on Fallon’s show, attendance rose at his concerts and he began touring as a part of a Yacht Rock festival most summers since. He shares the bill with the likes of Cross, John Ford Coley (“England” Dan of the duo passed away just before the trend hit), Ambrosia and Orleans. He told the Wall Street Journal he “marvels today at the crowds numbering in the thousands at Yacht Rock-themed events.”

Dupree will likely be sailing out onto the circuit with his musical counterparts again next summer and recently put out a digital-only album entitled Audio Graffiti. 

November 26 – No Disagreeing With Mason’s Talent

One of those names we hear more than we hear the music of is Dave Mason. Dave got as close to a major hit of his own as he’d get this day in 1977, sitting at #12 on Billboard with “We Just Disagree.”

Mason’s reputation and respect in the music world seem to outpace his commercial success – despite putting out 13 solo albums, this song was his only significant hit single. Mason was famous as the bassist and a guitarist for ’60s band Traffic (which also featured Steve Winwood) in which he wrote and sang the song “Feelin’ Alright,” which did well a little later for Joe Cocker . Traffic did moderately well, but overall, appealed more to critics than record-buyers. Around the same time he hung out with both The Beatles and the Stones, playing woodwind and drums on the Stones’ hit “Street Fighting Man” and in 1970 helping George Harrison both in concert and on his great All Things Must Pass. Not to mention, in an apparent case of taking coals to Newcastle, he added guitar to Jimi Hendrix’s classic “All Along the Watchtower” and would do session work for Wings and Michael Jackson.

“We Just Disagree” was from Mason’s seventh solo album, Let It Flow which is his only platinum one in the States. He plays 12-string guitar on the hit which was written by his bandmate Jim Krueger. Krueger played guitar on it as well and did the backing vocals. Mason said Krueger played the song for him and he said right away “’Yeah, that’s the song.’ Just him and a guitar, which is how I usually judge.” He describes the tune as “timeless”, and since we’re talking of it over 40 years later, he might be right! Mason has kept making solo records on and off and briefly joined Fleetwood Mac in the ’90s. Today the 75 year-old Mason still creates music and for some time owned a guitar company, RKS.

June 17 – BK In Bermuda, Jimmy? Wendys In Waikiki?

Well if you’re at the bar having a nice cold margarita, you might get a bit hungry after awhile. So why not order up a nice burger…maybe a cheese one? At least that seemed to be Jimmy Buffetts thinking back in the ’70s. He followed up his iconic smash “Margaritaville” with “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” a song which helped cement his image as the king of good time, party-hearty summer music. It peaked at #32 in the U.S. this day in 1978.

The single was the lead one off his eighth studio album, Son of a Son of A Sailor. Like the previous one, Changes in Attitude, Changes in Latitude, it was produced by Norbert Putnam and released on ABC Records. And as usual, Jimmy was largely backed with his own Coral Reefer Band, although he used a few session musicians as well including guitarist Steve Goodman who was best-known for writing another great American story song of the ’70s, “The City of New Orleans.”

The hit was essentially about a guy trying to eat healthily and perhaps become a vegetarian, but he was haunted at night… he dreamed of “not zucchini, fettucini or bulghar wheat; but of a big warm bun and a huge hunk of meat!” The inspiration came to him honestly. He recalls that he was sailing his first boat , called Euphoria, between Hispanola and Puerto Rico when he had some boat issues and bad weather. “The ice in our box had melted,” he said, leaving him and his companions with only a few canned goods and peanut butter to eat. “This image of a piping hot cheeseburger kept popping into my head.” When they made landfall in Tortola, they found a marina and “we kissed the ground and headed for the restaurant.” Happily for him, the restaurant offered American cheeseburgers!

Although the song didn’t match the success of “Margaritaville”, it was his third biggest single and his third top 40 hit (“Come Monday” was his first.) It made it to #24 in Canada and helped push the album into the top 10 in both countries, a first for him. He’d have one more American mainstream hit, with “Fins” in 1979 but would score several hits on country radio later on, both by himself and with artists like Zac Brown.

While Buffett might exude the image of a laid-back “beach bum”, he’s nothing if not a savvy businessman. Seeing the success of the Margaritaville bar & restaurants he opened, in 2002, he decided to begin a chain of burger joints called… yes, Cheeseburger in Paradise. The first one was in Indianapolis, and despite their name and a location in Fort Myers, Florida, most of the eventual two dozen locations were in areas that didn’t seem terribly paradise-like… Indiana had a number of locations and most were in the Midwest. He had Outback run them for awhile and eventually sold them to Luby’s Cafeterias; the pandemic took its toll though and the last of them closed last year. But, rest assured, between the sales of the record, his touring monies and the revenue from his restaurants, Buffett can indeed have the finest of burgers and “muenster” cheese now pretty much anytime he likes.

May 21 – Climax Blues Band Burst Through With Song That Got It Right

The Climax Blues Band hit their “peak” with one of the better singles of the decade hitting #3 on Billboard this day in 1977, “Couldn’t Get It Right.”

By that time, the British blues band had been around for close to a decade (originally they called themselves Climax Chicago Blues Band but they dropped the city name due to confusion with that other Windy City band) and had failed to hit it big. But this grooving single, from the appropriately titled Gold Plated album, was a major breakthrough both in North America and Britain, spending nearly a year on the Billboard charts. The single hit the top 10 in both the UK and Canada as well. As with many of the band’s tunes, Colin Cooper sang the low-range lead and Derek Holt sang harmony about an octave higher; as the Independent recall “vocal harmonies, guitar being played in unison with Cooper’s saxophone…a concise gem of a single equal to the best work of the Doobie Brothers or Ace.”

Holt recalls that the “sign in the middle of the night” he wrote about was a Holiday Inn sign; months of touring made the hotel sign a welcome sight when traveling between gigs. The Climax Blues Band had one more major hit, “I Love You” in 1980 and there’s still a band going although it has none of the original members, 3/5 of whom have passed away unfortunately.

March 31 – Poco Have A Hit Song? Crazy, Man!

Perhaps few things are more frustrating for an artist than to work away for years creating fine material only to have one unrepresentative piece jump out and become wildly successful, thereby branding them forever. Ask Bobby McFerrin about that. Of course when that one oddball hit “pays the mortgage,” the blow is eased some. We could ask Rusty Young about that. Young was, for all essential purposes, Poco on their biggest hit, “Crazy Love” which hit #17 on this day in 1979.

Not that “Crazy Love” was bad nor all that oddball… it’s actually a pretty nice soft rock song. A “yacht rock” essential even. But it was an oddity for Poco, a critically-adored country-rock band which had already been around for just over a decade and put out 10 studio albums by that time. The band had in its earlier days included such well-known musicians as Jim Messina, Richie Furay (who’d been in Buffalo Springfield) and future-Eagles Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit, who’d actually just left the band to join Henley, Frey & Co. at this point. Poco was basically put on hiatus, with guitarists Rusty Young and Paul Cotton aiming to set out on a new project, the Cotton Young Band. They recorded much of an album, including this song with that intent.

However, their label, ABC, balked at the name and pressured them to keep using the well-known “Poco” name. They acquiesced and the record became Poco’s Legend. It seemed to work for all concerned, as it became their only top 20 album in both the U.S. and Canada, went gold in both countries and spawned their signature tune.

“Crazy Love” was written and sung by Young, which in itself was unusual for Poco at the time. He says he joined only as a guitarist and banjo player and left the singing and writing to others. But years of watching the likes of Messina, Meisner and Neil Young (not a member but a friend who hung out with them apparently) taught him a thing or two and he really made his mark with this song he says he wrote in half an hour! He remembers “looking out over the valley in L.A. and the chorus came into my head. I always had a guitar close at hand… it was kind of a gift.”

Indeed it was for him, and the remaining members. Although the song only rose to #17 on Billboard (marginally better in Canada at #15), it was the highest-charting song for them and it did very well on adult contemporary and easy listening radio, in fact being ranked the #1 “adult contemporary” song of the year by Billboard, hastening Young to tell an interviewer nearly 30 years later “it’s a classic, it still pays the mortgage.”

The band’s follow-up single, “The Heat of the Night” was a Glenn Frey-like tune written by Cotton and also made the top 20, something they’d do one more time in 1989 with “Call it Love.” Poco still play and occasionally record, with Young being the only member from their founding days in the late-’60s. By the way, if you happen to have the Legend record, take a look at the cover. That stylish drawing of a horse was drawn by one Phil Hartman, long before he’d go on to be an SNL comedian and “Troy McClure” on The Simpsons.