Archive for the ‘The McGuire Sisters’ Category

The McGuire Sisters / Connie Francis

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Sugartime / The McGuire Sisters

Listen: Sugartime / The McGuire Sisters

My Dad’s cousin, Dominic Bruno, owned a nightclub in the 50′s/60′s called the Three Rivers Inn, somewhere near Syracuse. I suppose it was that period’s version of today’s Casinos, but on a way smaller scale. The acts would do a week or so. The many headliners included Jayne Mansfield, Sammy Davis Jr, Mae West, Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, very lounge and nowadays known as Bachelor Pad stuff.

The first act I ever saw live, at the Three River Inn, were The McGuire Sisters. They scored big (#1 in ’57) with ‘Sugartime’, and it appealed to all little kids for years to follow. My Mom and Dad had a copy. It was probably my first discovery of music. How was I to know then that the “sugar in the morning, honey in the evening” being referred to was about sex. Other than their ballads, most of the uptempo ones, like this, were completely rock and roll, especially those clean Chet Atkin’s hollow body solos.

They were the first victims of my record collecting as well. I pestered my parents, even aunts and uncles, to buy me every last record they had out. Anytime a present was due, I wanted a McGuire Sisters record. Whether it be Easter, Halloween, birthday, Christmas, getting a passing report card, you name it, The McGuire Sisters were the gift that kept giving in my world.

Then Mom and Dad faithfully took me along to see them, all arranged through Uncle Dominic, as we knew him. His house was mad, never will I forget the all pink kitchen, including appliances, that he and Aunt Elia had. Whew.

I don’t really know the year of that show, I may have been five, it was the mid 60′s. They were most likely running out of steam career-wise by then. Clearly out of obligation, The McGuire Sisters invited me up on stage. I froze but couldn’t let my folks down, so trembled onwards. I sang along to ‘Sugartime’, probably spoiling everyone’s reason for attending. And the cherry on top was a visit to their dressing room afterwards, a motel room actually, part of the club’s complex, where the three of them were playing cards and eating sandwiches between shows.

Pretty good start, right? My first taste.

Don't Ever Leave Me / Connie Francis

Listen: Don’t Ever Leave Me / Connie Francis

Shortly thereafter, I got into Connie Francis. This all preceded The Ronettes and Shangri-Las fixations which were just around the corner. Suggestive women in tight skirts was the common thread I guess.

I’m not quite sure what my infatuation with Connie Francis was all about but I went off her pretty quickly, probably due to a chilly and quick dressing room visit right after the show. Hey I was a little kid, lighten up lady. Still, to be fair, it was probably cramping her style. She absolutely made many, many great records.

‘Don’t Ever Leave Me’, her one and only attempt at the girl group sound, written and produced by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, the team you went to for just this type of material then, is a keeper. A classic single in fact. (#42, 10/64).

She wore a very nice blue chiffon ensemble that night, that I do remember, and she smelled great.

Charlie Phillips

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Listen: Sugartime / Charlie Phillips

Recorded and produced by Norman Petty in his Clovis, New Mexico studio, ‘Sugartime’ became Charlie Phillips’ debut release as Coral 61908, on the original B side, to be precise. The record’s origins are fascinating, especially the bit about turning up to find Buddy Holly & The Crickets had been booked as the backing band. Themselves newly successful to the charts, the guys were still earning fees playing on Norman Petty’s many studio sessions in ’56, when this was recorded. Norman Petty’s list of credits, as well the studio’s, are stunning.

Soon after ‘Sugartime’ scaled the US Country charts, Petty suggested Coral get the song covered, then release it to the pop audience. The label’s Bob Thiele brought in The McGuire Sisters, whose version (Coral 61924) was issued in short order, immediately entering BILLBOARD’s Hot 100, within weeks hitting #1 during Spring ’57.

This original, with an authentic hillbilly delivery as it was called, has the eerie ability to embody my fantasy of how AM rockabilly radio sounded in rural Texas during the mid-50′s. If only we had the means to time travel back and dig through piles of disc jockey records jammed into the cupboards of any audition studio at just one of those long gone broadcast buildings.

Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Listen: Big River /Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two JohnnyCashBigRiver.mp3

Originally released during March ’58 by Sun Records in the US, it’s UK London American counterpart was issued two months later on May 12. Recorded with guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant, aka The Tennessee Two, ‘Big River’ was the earliest Johnny Cash record I recall hearing.

Others would disagree, but as the singles lost more and more of his rockabilly side, I became less and less of a fan.

My cousins were in the jukebox business. I’d go to their warehouse on a Saturday with my Dad, and just wander around in the maze of these fantastically designed machines, dozens waiting to be rented, tuned up or repaired. I had free reign to play any of them, their coin boxes conveniently disabled, hence no charge. What a treat. Seems they all had either The McGuire Sisters’ ‘Sugartime’ and/or this Johnny Cash single in them. I played both over and over and over.

Without doubt, a roomful of Seeburg and Rock-Ola jukeboxes as a constant Saturday morning replacement to cartoons will mold a little kid’s tastes and priorities. Walking proof, that’s me, thankfully.

The models which played the 45′s upright were my favorites. I glued myself to them and watched record after record spin. The turntable carousel moving left and right along it’s rails, pulling out singles at every stop and playing them vertically. How was this possible?

In an effort to repeat the process at home, I used masking tape to lock records onto my turntable, then balance it upright with one hand, as the other held down the tonearm. Mind you, this failed over and over. I only wish I had half the hours back invested in attempting to make it all happen.

SEEBURG 222a_small.JPG, Seeburg 22, Seeburg, Jukebox

Many years later, in ’86, I finally found the mint Seeburg 222 above, with it’s pink upright turnable carousel, for sale outside of Athens, Georgia. Murray Attaway knew of this antique dealer who specialized in renovating jukeboxes. His retail set up was in the family’s barn, beautifully converted to accommodate not only jukeboxes but thousands of trinkets, dishes, furniture pieces, appliances, clothes, records, books. A museum of sorts.

Got it professionally carted and shipped home to New York, where it’s one of my prized possessions and all these year later, again, eats up hours while I sit watching my 45′s play vertically. Which is precisely how I spent this cold November Sunday afternoon, said Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two’s 7″ thrown on, creating the perfect time travel moment.

Jan & Dean

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Dead Man's Curve / Jan & Dean

Listen: Dead Man’s Curve / Jan & Dean JanDeanDead.mp3

Right after my little kid fascination with The McGuire Sisters, I moved on to The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las. This process seemed an eternity, but was actually only a year or two span. No sooner had the girl groups caught my ear, than surf took hold. Even though we lived in upstate New York, our favorite sport was surfing. At least that’s what we all agreed. I’m not a deeply knowledgeable collector of surf, but I do love a lot of the big hits. Summertime poured out of our transistor radios when any of the many surf singles were played, regardless of the season. Most friends were drawn to The Beach Boys, and indeed ‘Surfin USA’ and ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ still tingle like a first listen every play. But Jan & Dean for me were most consistent. These two singles, over time, have risen to the top. No secret that Brian Wilson co-wrote many of their hits, and that Jan was very involved in Beach Boys recordings too. It must have been an incredible time in LA.

‘Dead Man’s Curve’ is particularly eerie, given the near fatal crash two years after it’s release suffered by Jan Berry very close to the actual dead man’s curve, on Whittier Drive and Sunset Blvd. I have often driven past there, late at night, on my way back from John’s place just the other side of Bel Air, and would creep myself out by blasting this on the ipod. I know the route that the lyrics describe by heart. The fantasy of drag racing along Sunset, past Doheny and onward to the curve in a bright red Corvette is irresistible. Cheap thrills for a non resident basically.

Still all the history of LA and Hollywood never ceases to attract my morbid side. Years ago, Denise Zoom drove Joey and I to where the Tate murders happened. We were pretty buzzed, it was late and feeling adventurous. Halfway up the drive we both started shouting and screaming for her to stop – and back up. Never did make it all the way to the top. We were brave enough to drive past the garage where Sal Mineo was stabbed later that night though.

Ride The Wild Surf / Jan & Dean

Listen: Ride The Wild Surf / Jan & Dean JanDeanRideWild.mp3

Even ‘Ride The Wild Surf’ has a spine chiller element to it. Never could place what. The melody? The strings? The power of the ocean? They all make for an anthemic song not often given it’s dues anymore.

The Everly Brothers

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

everlywakeps, everly brothers, phil everly, don everly, cadence

Listen:  Wake Up Little Susie / The Everly Brothers EverlyWakeUp.mp3



everlycathy1,everly brothers, phil everly, don everly, cadence, warner brothers

Listen:  Cathy’s Clown / The Everly Brothers EverlyCathy.mp3



everlybabyoutjail, Everly brothers, phil everly, don everly, cadence, warner brothers

Listen: I’m Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail / The Everly Brothers EverlyJail.mp3



everlydontletwhole,Everly brothers, phil everly, don everly, cadence, warner brothers

Listen:  Don’t Let The Whole World Know / The Everly Brothers EverlyDontLet.mp3


Talk about remembering your childhood. ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ precedes mine, but I still seem to remember this record being out. I’m guessing it was played for years after hitting #1 in ’57. I’m pretty sure my babysitting cousin Peggy would let the changer keep repeating it endlessly on my parents Living Stereo console, during which she would lock me in the bathroom, while she and her boyfriend made out (I’m guessing). 

There’s something to be said about siblings, and how their voices are magic together. The McGuire Sisters, or Ray and Dave Davies – you’d think John and Exene were family members sometimes. I wonder what Ron and Russell would sound like if they sang together?

Here’s something interesting, for what sounds like the ultimate white pop music, both ‘Wake Up Little Suzie’ and ‘Cathy’s Clown’ scaled to the #1 spot on the pop AND the RnB charts. Can you believe that!!!

After the brothers bailed  for Warner Brothers in 1960, their original label, Cadence, continued to release the odd single in the hopes of grabbing another hit. One such 7″: ‘I’m Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail’ snuck out in August ’62. Not as wild as the title suggests, it’s nonetheless grown on me over the years. The record’s humble chart run and placing (6 weeks, #76) in Billboard being part of the attraction. I love a flop.

By ’63 the hits had pretty much dried up – and not surprisingly, the British Invasion crippled them as it did so many other clean cut late 50′s/early 60′s teen stars. They released a version of ‘Love Her’ in that year, only to be usurped by The Walker Brothers rendition. In fact, ‘Don’t Let The Whole World Know’, the B side to ‘You’re My Girl’ (#110, 2/65), is a total cross between The Walker Brothers and The Cramps, two acts everyone, even The Everly Brothers, wishes they were like.