December 27, 1969
It’s the night after the last airing of The Joey Bishop Show. The show, created to steal audience from Johnny Carson, didn’t do so. On the final episode Bishop did the monologue, thanked the audience, and left – leaving the sidekick, a guy named Regis Philbin, to fill the rest of the program.
The replacement program, The Dick Cavett Show, premiered on the 29th. Woody Allen was the first guest, and actor Robert Shaw and opera star Beverly Sills also appeared. The show would run until 1974. It’s since been used many times in my classroom as a “this is what talk shows used to be like” teaching tool.
Today is also the day that author Sarah Vowell and wrestler Chyna were born.
On the charts: the final #1 song of 1969 is “Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross & the Supremes. It will spend one week at the top and bridge the transition into 1970.
Other songs making their debut on the last chart of the year:
“Without Love (There Is Nothing)” – Tom Jones (debut at #50). It’s hard to go wrong with Tom Jones at the top of the list. This one will go on to become a #5 hit early in 1970 amidst a few other mellow ones, like the next one.
“I’ll Never Fall In Love” – Dionne Warwick (#51). There is a perfection to this record, and I can’t identify any one factor that causes it. The vocals are perfect (with assist from Burt Bachrach’s lyrics), the rhythm has a certain hypnotic attraction, and the trumpet adds class. This one will make it up to #6, and I’d have expected it to go higher.
“Monster” – Steppenwolf (#71). Why AM radio used to be great: you could theoretically segue between the last record and this one. This will just squeak into the Top 40, landing at #39. Watch for more from this band in ’70.
“Hey There Lonely Girl” – Eddie Holman (#73). This is one of those records that, if I had a nickel for each time I played it in Oldies radio, I could retire and just do this blog all day. And yet, I still won’t turn it off. This one goes all the way to #2, which is much better than the original version by Ruby and the Romantics (in itself, a decent showing at #27 in 1963). It will be the only Top 40 hit for Holman.
“Traces/Memories Medley” – The Lettermen (#75). For a second at the end of this I expected to be getting the toll-free number to pledge my local PBS station. That’s about the only place you hear The Lettermen these days, despite charting dozens of records. This one’s a near miss, stopping at #47 but likely playing on your parents’ radio back in the day.
“Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool For You Baby)” – Lulu (#88). I have heard younger Oldies disk jockeys misidentify Lulu as a one-hit wonder. That would be ignoring this performance, which made it to #22 and also was on your parents’ radio in ’69. (Actually Lulu had four top 40 hits, the last one coming in 1981.)
“I Started Loving You Again” – Al Martino (#91 – re-entry). This one was on the chart of December 6, fell off, and came back up. It only makes it to #86.
“A World Without Music” – Archie Bell & the Drells (#92). AB & tD always gets an “oh wow” out of me and then my full attention. This one only spends two weeks on the charts and gets to #90. On WWWS in Saginaw, Michigan, this is a #9 record.
“Theme from ‘Electric Surfboard’” – Brother Jack McDuff (#95). Another decided “oh wow.” You thought you were getting surf music? Think again. Actually, in my head I heard the voice from the Weather Channel saying “Here are the current conditions,” but then remembered that TWC wouldn’t groove this hard. This only spends two weeks on the charts, and this is high as it goes, but man, what a cool record.
“The Gang’s Back Again” – Kool & the Gang (#98). Back-to-back outstanding instrumental records here. This one only slides up to #85, but gets into the Top 40 on the R&B charts.
“Guess Who” – Ruby Winters (#99). We’re apparently saving the best stuff for the end of the chart this week. This is a cover of the Jesse Belvin record from 1959, and – dare I say it – there’s far more emotion in this version. It won’t go any higher on the charts than where you see it here. It’s a top ten record on WJLB/Detroit and does well in Baltimore also.
“The Thrill Is Gone” – B.B. King (#100). There’s an irony to closing out 1969 with this record as the last record on the charts. We’ll see things mellow a bit as we get into 1970; rock isn’t dead, but it might be having a bit of a nap. But there will be bright spots along the way: this is one of them. This one will get up to #15 and grab a R&B Vocal Grammy for B.B.
This track also reminds me of a radio story: a couple years ago Radio Hall of Famer John Records Landecker came to Grand Valley (he’s an alumnus, you know!) and chatted with my radio students. We got on the subject of talking up vocals on records. I’m not terrible at it, and I learned how to do it from Landecker – who explains that he took more than a few tips from Ron Britain. (Landecker used to listen to Britain on WCFL while he was at Grand Valley, and I may have studied those shows as well.) After the visit John sent me this clip as Exhibit A, and you’ll never hear “The Thrill Is Gone” quite the same way again.