(Above: The CD single artwork.)
The post earlier this week about my time at WJEQ/Macomb, Illinois talked about a lot of the “oh wow” music that the station played. Since I was only at the station for a few months, I don’t have a lot of tape to go through. But over the next few weeks I hope to give ’em all a listen in search of more songs that haven’t seen much airplay since then.
One of the songs I do remember playing on the station quite a bit, though, came from Henry Lee Summer. In 1988 Summer was tagged with the “next Mellencamp” label. Both of them were from Indiana, and both had that same sort of rock/country hybrid sound that sold a ton of records. Summer hit it big right out of the gate with his first song, “I Wish I Had a Girl.” The song, originally recorded in 1985, was re-worked into a new version that hit #20 on the Billboard chart (but was #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart). There was no escaping it that summer. (It also led to some great jokes; when we played it on WLRA, we speculated about the “like that” that followed the title line in the chorus.) It also made its way onto one of my better mixtapes made between semesters.
The follow-up single, “Darlin’ Danielle Don’t,” didn’t have the same success, missing the top 40 but gaining AOR airplay. But in 1989 Summer was back on the radio in a big way. The LP I’ve Got Everything saw “Hey Baby” released as a single, and, peaking at #18, it was the biggest hit that Summer ever managed. It didn’t get as much rock airplay as his first record, but AC stations – like WJEQ – ate it up. I have to admit, though, I can’t recall the last time that I heard it on the radio. That’s a shame: it sounds like it could certainly fit into any of the ubiquitous 80’s flashback weekends filling FM dials.
Henry Lee Summer has had a rough go of it. Arrests for drunk driving in 2006 and possession in 2009 have hindered his efforts to keep recording (his last LP, self-produced, was released in 2001). He’s still an occasional fixture on the live circuit in Indiana, and – if he can get back to the sound of 1988-89 – would certainly be worth hearing again.
Turn it up a notch. You can hear “Hey Baby” by clicking here.