HANGING OUT WITH ROBERT “MITCH” MITCHUM – Garry Armstrong

Marilyn and I watched an old Dick Cavett interview with Robert Mitchum on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) last night. We laughed a lot. It was a reminder of how good late night talk shows were. It also showed the legendary tough guy Mitchum as an affable and literate man who didn’t take himself seriously.

The Cavett show originally aired in 1970. I met Robert Mitchum the following year. Turned out to be a memorable encounter.

Robert Mitchum was in Boston to shoot “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”, a film about small-time criminals. There was nothing small-time about Mitchum. I lobbied for and got the TV interview assignment. Those were the days of “The big three” television stations in Boston. Two of the stations had prominent entertainment reporters. I was the “go to guy” at my station.

The established entertainment reporters had first dibs on Mitchum. Fine by me. I waited until shooting had wrapped for the day. I lucked out because they finished just before 1pm. The star was in a good mood because his workday was over. We shot one reel of film and I got everything I needed.

Mitchum seemed surprised we weren’t shooting more. Actually, he smiled when I said we had a wrap.

I was getting ready to leave when Robert Mitchum asked what was next for me.

Nothing, I told him. I was through for the day unless I was called for a breaking news story. I also assured him I probably would not be reachable. He smiled. He asked if I knew any quiet places where he could have lunch without being bothered. I nodded and he invited me to join him.

It was a small, dark place. It could’ve been a setting from one of Mitchum’s film noir of the 1940s. He smiled approvingly as we walked in. Several people greeted me. No one gave Mitchum a second look. We settled back with the first of many rounds that afternoon. At one point, Mitchum took off his tinted glasses, looked around the place and said I should call him “Mitch”. I nodded. He wanted to know how I could just disappear for the rest of the day. I told him I had recorded my voice tracks, shot all my on-camera stuff and relayed cutting instructions after the film was “souped”. Mitch smiled broadly and went to the bar for another round of drinks.

robert_mitchum_by_robertobizama-d4ktib7We spent the next couple of hours talking about sports, music, women, work, and celebrity. He noticed how people would look and nod but not bother us. I told him this was one of my secret places. Blue collar. No suits. He wondered why I hadn’t asked him about the “Eddie Coyle” movie or shooting in Boston.

Not necessary, I told him. Everyone knew about that stuff and it would be mentioned by the anchors introducing my stories. He smiled again, lit one more cigarette, and ordered another round.

It dawned on me that Mitch was leading the conversation. Talking about me. How I was faring as a minority in a predominantly white profession. Just like the movies, I told him. I explained I did spot news stories to get the opportunity to do features which I really enjoyed. He laughed and we did an early version of the high 5.

We swapped some more war stories, including a couple about Katherine Hepburn. He talked about working with her in “Undercurrent” with Robert Taylor when he was still a young actor. Mitch said Hepburn was just like a guy, professional, and lots of fun.

I mentioned meeting the legendary actress after I was summoned to her Connecticut home during my stint at another TV station. Mitch stared as I talked. I had tea with Katherine Hepburn who had seen me on the Connecticut TV station. She liked what she saw but had some suggestions about how I could improve what I did. I never could fathom why Katherine Hepburn would choose to spend time with this young reporter. No modesty. Just puzzlement. Mitch loved the story and ordered another round.

I glanced at my watch and figured I couldn’t stay incognito much longer. This was before pagers, beepers and, mercifully, long before cell phones. Mitch caught the look on my face and nodded.

Mitch walked me to my car and asked if I was good to drive. I tried to give him a Mitchum look and he just laughed. We shook hands and vowed to do it again.

Mitch headed back to the bar as I drove away.

GOOD OLD ROCK ‘N ROLL – Rich Paschall

One Hit Wonders of 1969, by Rich Paschall

While some songs often come Home To You and say I Wanna Be Your Dog, the artists behind them may have faded into Echo Park.  That’s why we are going to have a Birthday party and welcome them back for Apricot Brandy and Bubble Gum Music.

record player
Lift-off of the Saturn V rocket, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr.

Now if Cinnamon will just let us in, we are ready to blast off into the past. We will bring along Bella Linda, Big Bruce and the California Girl.  What is The Worst That Could Happen? I suppose there will be the Games People Play, but we will Kick Out The Jams.  Pay no attention to that Hot Smoke and Sasafrass, it just means the party is starting to heat up and There’s Something In The Air.

Don’t worry, I Gotta Line On You, babe, and see that you are ready to Get Together.  We will play More Today Than Yesterday because Tracy, when I’m with you, we have all the 45’s we need. Everyone will join in for our Simple Song of Freedom, as well as my top ten one hit wonders of a most memorable year. I see you have waited patiently for some Good Old Rock ‘N Roll, and we will Get It From The Bottom:

10. In The Year 2525, Zagar and Evans. I really liked this song in ’69 and bought the 45. Now I find it a bit obnoxious and repetitious.

9. Take A Letter Maria, R.B. Greaves. This was recorded in August, released in September and sold a million copies by November.

8. Sugar on Sunday, Clique. The song is a cover of an earlier Tommy James and the Shondells’ song.

7. Poke Salad Annie, Tony Joe White. The artist wrote and performed the hit. He found little success recording, but wrote other hits including “Rainy Night in Georgia.”

6. Baby It’s You, Smith. No, it’s not The Smiths. That  was a later group.  This short lived band is fronted by Gayle McCormick.

5. Love (Can Make You Happy), Mercy. The song was recorded at Sundi and released, and later recorded again at Warner Brothers where the band actually signed. Sundi was sued and their album was no longer allowed distribution.  Which version do you hear? You have to check the label, they sound alike.

4. More Today Than Yesterday, Spiral Staircase. The hit was written by lead singer Pat Upton. The group did not last much longer after this million seller.

3. Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, Steam. We may not have known the song or the fictitious band in ’69, but everyone in Chicago came to know it in 1977 and following years. The White Sox started using the tune to play off opposing pitchers who were being replaced. That was a hit. The group on the album cover and in the old video is a road group that had nothing to do with the recording and is, in fact, lip syncing.

2. Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’, Crazy Elephant. This was another short-lived band that was mainly a studio creation. The song failed to chart when first released, but was re-released a couple of months later and climbed the charts to number 12 in the US.

1. Morning Girl, The Neon Philharmonic. This group was around a few years, then sold off the name. It achieved the big sound by using members of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. There are bigger hits on this list, as this one only climbed to number 17, but it is one of the ones I remember best.

The lack of good performance videos is due to the fact that many of these groups were not around for very long. Click on any song title to go to a video. Click here for the entire playlist of one hit wonders.

See also, THIS MAGIC MOMENT, The Golden Age of Rock Turns 50, 1969, Serendipity.

Sources include: 1969 One Hit Wonders & Artists Known For One Song, https://hotpopsongs.com/

GIMME GIMME GOOD LOVIN’ – Rich Paschall

Another One Hit Wonder, by Rich Paschall

From Atlanta, Georgia, to the Gulf Stream water
up to California end I’m gonna spend my life both night and day

Good Lovin’?

Crazy Elephant – 1969

To the girls in Frisco, to the girls in New York
To the girls in Texican, you gotta understand
That baby I’m your man

Leif Garrett – 1980

Helix – 1984

This is another 1969 one hit wonder. The original did better than any of the many cover versions that followed. Crazy Elephant was another of those studio creations with a fake band biography. It was probably easier to create these fake stories for teen magazines then, than it would be now. Nope, they were not Welsh coal miners.

The song was released in January with little success. It was re-released in March and climbed the charts to Number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. Former Cadillacs member Robert Spencer was the lead vocalist for most songs of the short-lived band.

Teen idol Leif Garrett had a go at it in 1984. He signed his 5 album record deal in 1976, so by this point he was on the down side of his heart-throb days. After all, he was twenty-two.

Canadian “big hair band” Helix (you know, big hair like Motely Crue, Poison, Whitesnake) gave it a harder edge when they put out their version in 1986. It had limited success but they are still doing it. You can see a 2018 performance here. Yes, it is more painful now than it was then.

The song made my top ten of 1969 one hit wonders. What are the others? You will have to check that out this Sunday on SERENDIPITY, because I know you are eagerly waiting for another Top Ten list

So who do you think sang this one better? Comment below.

Also see and hear this other 1969 hit: Morning Girl by clicking the title.

MORNING GIRL

Who Sang It Better? by Rich Paschall

Mornin’ girl, how’d ya sleep last night?
You’re sev’ral ages older now

Oh, no, things are different now than they were before
You know love is more than kisses

The Neon Philharmonic – 1969

The Lettermen – 1971

Morning girl, where you been so long?
Your lips have got some color now
A little too much color now
Your clothes have gone from nylon to lace, somehow

Shaun Cassidy – 1976

It was a one hit wonder for The Neon Philharmonic in 1969.  They achieved the big sound by using musicians from the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.  The lead singer was Don Gant. It only made number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.  It did somewhat better in Canada.

Although credited to the Lettermen, you are only hearing one of their singers in the 1971 cover. Jim Pike sang with the group from 1959 to 1974 and does the honors here. The Lettermen were quite successful covering the songs of others.

The Shaun Cassidy cover is his first single. It may seem strange that the teen heart-throb of the 70’s is singing different lyrics than the others. That is because he is actually singing a follow-up song from The Neon Philharmonic entitled “Morning Girl, Later.” It had the exact same melody and was meant to take the story, if you could even say there was one, a little further along.  Perhaps it was felt the lyrics were a little better for the young Cassidy than the other one. He was still in high school.

TOP 40 RADIO – Rich Paschall

Top 10, actually, by Rich Paschall

When we were in our later grade school years, owning a transistor radio was just about the coolest thing ever. You did not have to stay home and listen to a radio that was plugged into a wall, you could actually carry the radio around with you and listen to it just about anywhere.  Yes, the reception was not real good everywhere you went, but it was still better than having to stay in one spot.

Imagine, walking around with a cordless device and listening to your music!  This little device could fit into large pockets and was powered by a rectangular 9-volt battery.  Life was good.  The radios were so cheap you could save up for one, or annoy your parents until they got you one.

A good model came with an earphone. It was much like the earbuds they give you on plane rides, except it only had one for one ear.  Apparently, technology had not yet advanced to the two ear stage. It didn’t matter back then, as long as you had one.  If you got a model that would fit in your shirt pocket, and then you stuck one earbud in an ear, you might resemble someone with a “hearing aid.” No matter, you were still cool.

Your radio only received the AM band. You still had to sit at home to listen to FM radio. That was unimportant as there was nothing on the FM band for teenagers. There may have been some jazz stations, and a classical station or two, and a lot of stations you had trouble tuning in.  Who needed that when we had advanced to the age of the transistor?

The AM stations played the popular music of the day.  Two of them were very popular with teenagers and cool people all over our town.  One was WLS (World’s Largest Store, as in Sears) that had welcomed rock and pop and everything cool, man.  The other was WCFL (as in Chicago Federation of Labor).

Yeah, it started out to be something else.

These top 40 stations were groovy. They introduced us to the best acts: The Dixie Cups, The Serendipity Singers, The Shangri-Las and The Trashmen (seriously). Oh Yes, and we heard those other acts we still hear today: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, Jay and the Americans and someone named Barbra Streisand.  It was the good old days. We just didn’t know it then.

At night when you were supposed to be in bed sleeping, you could put the radio under your pillow and listen to one of your stations through the pillow. This muffled the sound enough so nosey parents could not hear it. You could then stay up past 10 PM and hear the late night DJ.

Silver Dollar Survey

Top 40 radio was just an idea, a concept. It seemed like they did not actually have 40 songs.  You would hear the top songs many times throughout the day.  Approximately 10 songs were in heavy rotation.  If you loved one of the top songs, you did not have to worry about missing it.

WLS AM 890 did actually count down the top 40 every Friday afternoon.  In an era of 2 and a half-minute records, it was doable in the afternoon drive slot.  Many of us would rush to a nearby record store to get a printed copy of the “Silver Dollar Survey.” Then we would have the top 40 for the week, although we were unlikely to hear the ones at the bottom if we missed the countdown.

The survey was allegedly based on record sales.  Local acts seemed to do well. Perhaps they were not big outside the midwest.  We didn’t care. If a group we had heard of was playing at a high school “sock hop,” then that was the place to be. Radio gave us our music and our cultural interests. I guess it was not hard to sway a 14 or 15-year-old  toward certain records.  It is the same today

Now the top 40 stations are on the FM channels and streaming services.  Again, they are not really top 40, but a handful of songs in heavy rotation.  Turn them on now and listen to Post Malone, Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Halsey, Panic! At the Disco, Drake, maybe even Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. You may ask, why do I know this handful of stars and their songs?

It seems that everyone 25 and under who rides in my car has also anointed himself the music director.  This may mean a change to B-96 or 93.5 Latino Mix! If there are too many commercials, we can also choose 103.5, I Heart Radio which contains a lot of commercials for themselves. In the afternoon, we can catch the ubiquitous Ryan Seacrest.

The format is the same.  Young people sing and/or dance along to a handful of songs.  Stations try to lead you to their favorite stars.  If people 15 to 25 buy singles, they are downloads, not 45s.  If they buy an album, that too is likely a download rather than an album on vinyl or a CD.  They may forego that to purchase a streaming service, although many are free.

The technology has changed, but the appeal of Top 40, which is really Top 10 or so, has remained.  With all of the music options, the release, and ranking of songs, whether if be on FM or online, seems to be important to the demographic that buys music in one form or another.

Top 40 is where we developed a love of music. It is those songs that harken us back to the “good old days” when we were able to carry our music around with us. Radio was then, and still is to many, our portal to the music that will stay with us.  The Beach Boys said in their 50th-anniversary album, “That’s Why God Made The Radio.” It’s a good song by a group that remembered why they made music 50 years earlier:

If you want to see the Beach Boys perform the song on the 50th-anniversary tour, click here.

Note: Today WLS is conservative talk radio, and WCFL is no more.  That frequency is WMVP, ESPN 1000.

MORE TOP TELEVISION THEME SONGS – Rich Paschall

Western Division, Rich Paschall


While westerns may have fallen out of favor in recent decades, there were a lot of them in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.  Many brought great theme songs to television and I will offer you my favorites here.

If I could not recall the tune without finding it online, I could not consider it for my Top 10.  I did uncover quite a few that I had forgotten.  Perhaps you can suggest more in the comments below.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Lone Ranger had a great theme, but it was actually Gioachino Rossini‘s Guillaume Tell, better known as The William Tell Overture.

Gene Autry and Ray Whitley wrote Back in the Saddle Again, not to be confused with the Aerosmith tune, Back in the Saddle.  Autry’s 1939 song was so much associated with him that it seemed logical to use it for his 1950’s era television show.

Roy Rogers Show. Dale Evans wrote Happy Trails which was used for the Roy Rogers radio and later television show in the 1950s.  The show starred Rogers and Evans who were married and extremely popular country and western stars.  The song was released in 1952 and has been covered by many artists.

TOP TEN COUNTDOWN

10. The Wild, Wild West.  Nope, not the one by Will Smith for his movie version of this television series. This one is a classic.

9. The High Chaparral. The television series began on NBC in 1967 and had a theme that invoked the great outdoors. This music would have fit nicely into many of the great western movie epics.

8. Bat Masterson “Back when the west was very young…” a cool guy used his cane rather than a gun. I could sing along with this one every week.

7. Wagon Train. Wagons Ho was actually the third theme for this show. The season one (1957) theme gave way to another in season two and that was changed to an instrumental version as the season went along. Season three introduced the theme you probably would remember.

6. Zorro was “The fox so cunning and free.” The Disney produced show premiered in 1957 and only lasted two years but the song lives on.

5. Have Gun Will Travel. The Ballad of Paladin. This was actually the closing theme, written by Johnny Western (a stage name, perhaps?), Sam Rolfe and the show’s star, Richard Boone.

4. The Big Valley  This western was not only in a big valley, it had a big name cast led by movie star Barbara Stanwyck.  The theme was by George Duning.

3. Maverick  “Who is the tall dark stranger there?”  Well, the cast of Mavericks kept changing.  Initially it was James Garner and after 8 weeks a brother played by Jack Kelly came along.  There were  4 brothers and a cousin (Roger Moore) by the time they were through.  The theme was by David Buttolph and Paul Francis Webster.

2. Bonanza, by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.  These two were well acquainted with hits, including the famous Mr. Ed.

1. Rawhide.  The hit tune sung by Frankie Laine was famously covered by the Blues Brothers in their first movie.

See also: “The Television Western,” rjptalk, Sunday Night Blog.

THIS MAGIC MOMENT- Rich Paschall

The Golden Age of Rock Turns 50, 1969 by Rich Paschall

It’s the golden anniversary of some of the best rock and roll of all time and you are invited to join the party. We’ve got the turntable ready, the records are already stacked up, and we have set the machine to 45 revolutions per minute. If you have a “Way back” machine, you can join Sherman and Mr.Peabody at your school’s 1969 sock hop. If not, we will spin some hits for you. You have waited eagerly for my top 20 and I know you will enjoy them.

The top song of 1969 was the “bubblegum” hit, “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies. They did not come any sweeter. Also in the top 10 was “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe.  These songs were in heavy rotation on the pop music stations. In other words, they were playing all the time. People became dizzy from hearing “Sugar, Sugar” a dozen times a day.

The Beatles were nearing the end of their Long and Winding Road but they still were topping the charts: “Get Back,” “Something,” “Come Together.” The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Marvin Gaye, The Fifth Dimension, The Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone were all having Hot Fun in the Summertime.

Chicago the band released its first album, Chicago Transit Authority, a double album that went “platinum.” The group was nominated for a Grammy as best new artists.

Chicago in Chicago

It was a good year to cover songs from the musical, “Hair.” “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “Hair,” “Easy to be Hard,” “Good Morning, Starshine,” all became hits for different bands.

If you are quite ready to Shimmy, Shake and Twist, we can put the needle down on my top twenty. You can add in the comments any of your favorites from 1969 that I missed.

20. Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In. The Fifth Dimension scored the number 2 hit of the year on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles of 1969.

19. I Heard It Through The Grapevine.  Forget those dancing raisins.  Enjoy the original from Marvin Gaye.

18. Easy To Be Hard. One of the many songs from the Broadway musical, Hair, to present a social message. This cover is by Three Dog Night.

17. Hurt So Bad. The Lettermen covered the 1965 hit by Little Anthony and the Imperials to great success of their own.

16. Traces. The Classics IV hit was released in January and reached number 2.  It could not knock “Dizzy” out of the top spot.

15. Hooked On A Feeling. The song was released in late 1968. The B.J. Thomas hit reached number 5 in early 1969.

14. Everybody’s Talkin‘.  The Harry Nilsson single was released in July 1968 to minor success. In 1969 it was used as the theme to Midnight Cowboy and re-released. It made our ’68 and ’69 lists.

13. This Magic Moment. Jay and the Americans had a hit with a cover of The Drifters’ song.

12. Touch Me.  The Doors’ hit was released in December 1968 and climbed the charts in early 1969.

11. Spinning Wheel. The era of rock with horns was underway and Blood, Sweat and Tears scored with this one.

10. Crimson and Clover. I never really knew what it meant, but then neither did Tommy James and the Shondells.  It was just something that sounded cool together to James.  The song was released late in 1968 and reached number 1 by February 1969. It represented a shift to a more psychedelic sound.

9. Build Me Up, Buttercup.  The British pop and soul band, The Foundations, had a big hit with this late 1968 release.  By early 1969 it had climbed the charts to number 3 in the US, 2 in the UK and number 1 in Australia. It was pop fluff, but I liked it.

8. What Does It Take (To Win You Love). Motown initially rejected this Junior Walker and the All-Stars song for single release. Its popularity on radio brought a 1969 release, and it became one of their most popular songs.

7. One.  This song was written and recorded by Harry Nilsson and released in 1968, but it was the 1969 recording by Three Dog Night that became a hit. It was their first gold record.

6. Hot Fun in the Summertime. This summertime favorite by Sly and the Family Stone made it to number two on the charts.  The Temptations “I Can’t Get Next To You” was holding down number 1.

5. Get Together. The Youngbloods recorded the song in 1966 and it was released in 1967 without much success. After use in a radio public service announcement, the song was re-released in June 1969 and became a hit.

4. Proud Mary. John Fogerty wrote the song for his band Creedence Clearwater Revival. It made it to number 2 in March of 1969.  Two years later Ike and Tina Turner had a huge hit with a different arrangement of the song.

3. Get Back. The Beatles song featured Billy Preston on piano. The single was released in stereo, unusual for a single then.  The song hit number 1 in many countries.  “Don’t Let Me Down” was on the B side.

2. Honky Tonk Women. Recorded by The Rolling Stones in June 1969 and released as a single the following month, this became one of the band’s biggest hits and a concert favorite. The song starts out with cowbell!

1. Crystal Blue Persuasion. While “Crimson and Clover” was a bigger hit for the group that same year, I like this one better. Tommy James stated in a 1985 interview, “it’s my favorite of all my songs.” At the time, many thought it was a song about drugs. Actually, James had brought together ideas he had read in several Bible verses, leading to the idea that some day (Book of Revelations) “They’ll be peace and good brotherhood.”

Click on any song title for the music video, or listen to the entire playlist by clicking here.

Many of the informational tidbits came from Wikipedia or from interviews with the artist as shown on You Tube.

See also: “Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1969,” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.