1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 760 to 751
Mama sang tenor.
760. “I’m Nobody’s Baby Now,” Reparata and the Delrons with Hash Brown and His Orchestra. Songwriter: Jeff Barry; Did Not Chart; 1966. The unfortunately named Reparata and the Delrons formed at a Brooklyn Catholic school in 1962 and this girl group had their biggest American success with 1964’s “Whenever a Teenager Cries.” That song was a rather insipid re-write of “Chapel of Love” and peaked at #60 on the U.S. charts. “I’m Nobody’s Baby Now” is a melodramatic heartbreak number produced in the style of Phil Spector/Shadow Morton and deserved to be a hit. Reparata and company peaked commercially in 1968 when the puerile psychedelic pop number “Captain of Your Ship” went to #13 on the U.K. charts.
759. “Memphis Soul Stew,” King Curtis. Songwriter: King Curtis; #33 pop/#6 R&B; 1967. Fort Worth native Curtis Ousley studied alongside Ornette Coleman in high school and worked with Lionel Hampton’s jazz band in the early 1950s. He became a well known session player later in the 1950s, working with The Coasters, Buddy Holly, and LaVern Baker, among others. Billed as King Curtis, he became a solo star during the 1960s, with backing bands known as the Noble Knights or the Kingpins. He had his biggest hit in 1962 with the #1 R&B single “Soul Twist.” Curtis dished out the funkiest recipe of the decade with the lick the bowl deliciousness of “Memphis Soul Stew.” King Curtis extended “Stew” into a seven minute plus funk jam on his 1971 “Live at the Fillmore West” album, which was released the same month that Curtis was murdered in New York City. Jerry Wexler on how influential King Curtis was, “What (Count) Basie was to jazz, King Curtis was to R&B.”
758. “Mercy, Mercy,” Don Covay & the Goodtimers. Songwriters: Don Covay, Ronald Alonzo Miller; #35 pop/#1 R&B; 1964. Don Covey had a lengthy and varied music career, starting in doo wop acts during the mid-1950s and serving as Little Richard’s chauffer and opening act later in the decade. He co-wrote Chubby Checker’s 1961 #1 single “Pony Time” and penned Aretha Franklin’s 1968 #2 pop hit “Chain of Fools.” A young Jimi Hendrix plays on the blues/gospel merger of “Mercy, Mercy,” where Covay promises his woman the net pay from two jobs to keep her from leaving. The Rolling Stones covered “Mercy, Mercy,” with a much more prominent guitar sound, on their 1965 “Out of Our Heads” album.
757. “Mama Said,” The Shirelles. Songwriters: Luther Dixon, Willie Denson; #4 pop/#2 R&B; 1961. “Mama Said” is proof that parents weren’t always symbols of oppression in popular music. In the lyrics, an unlucky at love teen finds comfort in her mother’s words of encouragement that someday someone will love the girl just as much as she does. Billboard Magazine, “Shirley Owens was the leader of the girl group to lead all girl groups, and the early humanity and gravitas of an easy-enough classic like ‘Mama Said’ – once injected into regular boy-crazy pop songs – helped open pop’s doors for future mamas to spin their own songs of wisdom.” Van Morrison made a reference to “Mama Said” on his 1995 single “Days Like This.”
756. “Games People Play,” Joe South. Songwriter: Joe South; #12 pop; 1968. Joe South was a successful songwriter and session musician before becoming a pop star with “Games People Play.” He had written the Billy Joe Royal 1965 #4 pop hit “Down in the Boondocks” and Deep Purple covered his composition “Hush” for a #4 pop hit in 1968. As a session man, he had played guitar on Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” the Bob Dylan “Blonde on Blonde” album, and the Simon & Garfunkel “Sounds of Science” album. “Games People Play” is a sing along protest number with religious hypocrisy, among other issues, being addressed around a “la da da da da da” lyrical hook. South returned to the pop charts in 1970 with “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” which was later covered by Elvis and he also composed and originally performed Lynn Anderson’s signature song “Rose Garden.”
755. “Brown to Blue,” George Jones. Songwriters: George Jones, Virginia Franks, Johnny “Country” Mathis: Did Not Chart; 1965. Waylon Jennings, “If we could all sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones.” Jones was a victim of the U.S. legal system on the sad divorce number “Brown to Blue,” where his woman reclaims her maiden name and leaves our hero with a broken heart. This album cut was rescued from obscurity be Elvis Costello, who covered the song on his 1981 “Almost Blue” album, a collection of country covers that was light years away from the punk attitude that had made him famous. Jones had experienced his first divorce in 1951 from a clearly confused woman who accused him of being “addicted to the drinking of alcoholic beverages.” After failing to pay child support, George did two stints in jail and then joined the Marines.
754. “When You Walk in the Room,” Jackie DeShannon. Songwriter: Jackie DeShannon; #99 pop; 1963. Jackie DeShannon regularly performed live sets on country radio programs as a teenager, but transitioned to pop music when she started her professional career. She had her first success as a songwriter with Brenda Lee’s Top Five 1961 single “Dum Dum” and many years later co-wrote the Kim Carnes smash “Bette Davis Eyes.” “When You Walk in the Room” had a guitar riff and a sound that fit perfectly with the British Invasion, yet failed to break nationally for DeShannon. Later in 1964, The Searchers had a minor Top 40 hit with their inferior cover and Pam Tillis took the song to #2 on the country charts in 1994. DeShannon, who hit the Top Ten in 1965 with “What the World Needs Now is Love,” “I think we all have that spark when somebody walks in the room that we feel an emotional tie. That’s how we feel.”
753. “Grazing In The Grass,” The Friends Of Distinction. Songwriters: Philemon Hou, Harry Elston; #3 pop/#5 R&B; 1969. South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela needed one more song to complete his 1968 “The Promise of a Future” album and his producer suggested “Grazing in the Grass,” a song that producer Stuart Levine had discovered while traveling in Zambia. The instrumental became a surprise #1 U.S. pop hit in 1968. The Los Angeles based vocal group The Friends of Distinction added lyrics to “Grazing in the Grass,” often repeating the era’s most popular catchphrase – “can you dig it?” Their more uptempo version sounds like a late 1960’s time capsule with a sunshine pop groovy aura. The Friends of Distinction scored another Top Ten single in 1970 with the supper club soul of “Love or Let Me Be Lonely.”
752. “Daddy Sang Bass,” Johnny Cash. Songwriter: Carl Perkins; #42 pop/#1 country; 1968. Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash both struggled with addiction during the 1960s, Perkins with the bottle and Cash with amphetamines. Perkins found inspiration in Cash’s attempt to become sober and underwent a spiritual transformation. Perkins wrote “Daddy Sang Bass” for Cash with the line “me and little brother would join right in there” being a reference to Johnny’s sibling Jack, who died at the age of fifteen. Don Reid and Lee DeWitt of The Statler Brothers provided backing vocals on this spiritually themed #1 country hit. Cash, “Carl Perkins was really looking inside my head when he wrote ‘Daddy Sang Bass.’ He knew the song would be as much a part of me as it would if I had written it.”
751. “Buying a Book,” Joe Tex. Songwriter: Joe Tex; #47 pop/#10 R&B; 1969. Joe Tex engages in conversations with a sugar daddy and a well off cougar on the companion purchasing sermon “Buying a Book.” After asking “Pops, what are you trying to prove?,” an old gray-haired man confesses, “Young girls is my weakness.” Tex then dips in the business of an older woman who comments, “It ain’t nothin’ an old man can do for me, but show me which way a young man went.” Despite Tex’s proselytizing and protestations, you know both the old folks are more than happy to put their money where their lust is.