This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
What happened in 1960?
- Michael Hutchence was born
- U2 spy plane shot down over Russia. America denied the obvious
- Elvis discharged from the army
- Rome staged the Olympics Games
- The Beatles played in Hamburg for the first time
- Psycho was released
- Melbourne were premiers
THE DRIFTERS have been through many members over the years – more than 60 of them.
They've also had two lead vocalists who are as good as anyone around. The first of these was Clyde McPhatter who started the group after leaving Billy Ward and his Dominoes.
Clyde was drafted into the army and he sold his share in the group (much to his later regret). The manager couldn't find a good replacement so he fired the lot of them. He then grabbed a group called the Crowns and renamed them The Drifters.
They had Ben E. King as lead singer and it was this version of the group that made most of the great records we remember. Ben was only there for a short time – he didn't ever tour with them - but fortunately, he made a bunch of records. This is one of them, Save the Last Dance for Me.
♫ The Drifters - Save the Last Dance for Me
Billy Davis with brother and sister Berry and Gwen Gordy wrote quite a few songs around this time. Berry also started Motown records. One of the songs the trio wrote was All I Could Do Was Cry for ETTA JAMES.
Etta's former boyfriend married Gwen and that added an extra frisson to her performance on this record. Later, in the nineties, Etta rerecorded the song.
♫ Etta James - All I Could Do Was Cry
FLOYD CRAMER was a session pianist in Nashville and backed pretty much everyone who recorded there.
He had a distinctive style and whenever he's on a record, it's easy to pick that that's him.
Besides his session work, he made a series of records about this time. One of them, and the best selling of the lot, was Last Date. It later had words added to the tune and several people, including Emmylou Harris, recorded it.
♫ Floyd Cramer - Last Date
JOHNNY BURNETTE's early recordings with his trio produced some of the best early rock & roll and rockabilly records around.
Later, Johnny became a crooner and left his wild days behind him. He was really good at that too. Unfortunately, he died too early in a boating accident. This is You're Sixteen.
♫ Johnny Burnette - You're Sixteen
By 1960 ÉDITH PIAF was starting to have hits in the English speaking world as well as her native France.
Milord was the biggest of these and it sold well world-wide. Not just Édith's version; pretty much every country had a singer who covered it in their local language. None was as good as the original though.
♫ Edith Piaf - Milord
JERRY BUTLER first came to general notice as a member, and lead singer, for The Impressions. Curtis Mayfield was another member of the group. There will be a later column on them.
Jerry went out as a solo artist and songwriter – he wrote some songs with Otis Redding. Incidentally, after Audrey's in the film of the same name, Jerry's was the first and arguably (I'll certainly argue) the best version of Moon River.
He wrote, along with Curtis, the beautiful He Will Break Your Heart.
♫ Jerry Butler - He Will Break Your Heart
BRENDA LEE started performing early, really early. She was already winning talent contests when she was just six.
When her father died when she was nine or 10, she was already the primary breadwinner for the family through these contests and also appearing on TV and radio.
By the time she was 12, she already had a record contract and was appearing around the country so Sweet Nothin's is far from her first recording (she was 16 by now).
♫ Brenda Lee - Sweet Nothin's
JOHNNY HORTON made a career singing about historical events (and some pseudo-historical ones as well).
North to Alaska fits both categories. There really was an Alaskan gold rush at the end of the nineteenth century, but the song was the theme for the film of the same name. Johnny or, more correctly, he and Tillman Franks as they co-wrote the song, got the geography somewhat askew in the lyrics, but we won't worry unduly about that.
♫ Johnny Horton - North To Alaska
Although CHARLIE RICH started out playing jazz and blues he's mostly remembered as being a country musician.
He was also a session musician for a record company owned by Judd Phillips, brother of Sam of Sun Records fame. He recorded a number of tracks that Judd got to Sam who rejected them as being too jazzy.
So he recorded Lonely Weekends, obviously after studying the way Elvis sang. It hit the charts and he was on the way as a country muso.
♫ Charlie Rich - Lonely Weekends
Maurice Williams wrote the song Stay when he was 15 years old. He was trying to stop his girlfriend from going home (unsuccessfully as it turned out, but he got a song out of the experience).
Later when he formed the group MAURICE WILLIAMS AND THE ZODIACS they recorded a demo of the song.
This was hawked around to various record companies and no one wanted anything to do with it until one day the 10-year-old son of one of the record people heard it and loved it.
His father took notice of that and recorded the song. It became a DooWop classic.
♫ Maurice Williams - Stay
You can find more music from 1960 here. 1961 will appear in two weeks' time.