Two For Tuesday: Bobby Darin

I went through all the Two For Tuesdays I’ve done, and notice I’ve already done a number of artists that fit into this category. I’ll add links to those posts in the last entry in this series, so you can go back and read those. Oddly enough, I seem to have missed him…

Bobby Darin was a really talented guy: he was a singer and songwriter, played a bunch of instruments, and sang in a number of styles, including rock & roll, R&B, Big Band, folk, even country. His first Top 10 single was “Splish Splash,” which reached #3 on the Hot 100, #2 on the Cash Box chart, and #1 on the R&B chart in 1958.

He had a string of Top 10 hits in 1959 and 1960, “Dream Lover” (#2), “Mack The Knife” (#1), and “Beyond The Sea” (#6). In 1963, he decided to go country with “You’re The Reason I’m Living,” which reached #3.

You can see Bobby’s full discography here.

Bobby was always in poor health, due to a bout with rheumatic fever as a child, and by the Seventies he needed oxygen before and after performances. He died in 1973 after undergoing open-heart surgery to replace two artificial valves he had implanted a couple of years earlier. He was 37 years old.

Darin was portrayed by Kevin Spacey in the 2004 movie Beyond The Sea. It’s worth seeing.

Bobby Darin, your Two for Tuesday, June 12, 2018.


Two For Tuesday: Johnny Crawford

If you watch a lot of vintage TV like I do, you’re familiar with Johnny Crawford, who starred alongside Chuck Connors in The Rifleman, which ran from 1958 to 1963 and on into eternity in syndicated reruns. As he grew up on the show he became somewhat of a teen idol, and like so many other teen actors of that period (Annette Funicello, Paul Petersen, Shelley Fabares, Patty Duke etc.) turned that fame into a brief career as a singer. He had four songs that reached the Top 40 in 1962 and 1963. Since I seem to be doing this a lot, I’ll just put them all in.

His biggest hit, and the only one to reach the Top 10, was “Cindy’s Birthday,” which made it to #8 in 1962, when he was 16.

He followed that up with “Your Nose Is Gonna Grow,” which peaked at #14.

Later that year, “Rumors” reached #12.

His final Top 40 song was “Proud”; it peaked at #29, his last song in the Top 40.

Johnny had a number of guest appearances on other shows, and stayed active in music. Currently he leads a vintage dance orchestra, the JCO (Johnny Crawford Orchestra). They’ve recorded one critcally-acclaimed album, Sweepin’ The Clouds Away, available on Amazon (free streaming for Prime members). Interesting story about him, which I’ll quote from the Wikipedia article:

Crawford had a key role in the early career of entertainer Victoria Jackson, of Saturday Night Live fame. After the two appeared together in a summer stock production of Meet Me in St. Louis, he presented her with a one-way ticket to California and encouraged her to pursue a Hollywood career. This led Jackson to early appearances on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, before she was cast as a regular on SNL.

You gotta like a guy like that.

Johnny Crawford, your Two For Tuesday, June 5, 2018.

Two For Tuesday: Johnny Tillotson

Johnny Tillotson, from Jacksonville, Florida, is still going, mostly on the oldies circuit. He’s a singer and songwriter who had nine Top 10 hits on the Pop, Country, and Adult Contemporary charts in the Sixties, and is considered one of the Top 100 Artists in the Rock & Roll era.

His best-known song is “Poetry In Motion,” which reached #2 in the US on both the Billboard and Cash Box charts and went to #1 in the UK. It was recorded in Nashville, where he was backed by Boots Randolph on saxophone and Floyd Cramer on piano.

Johnny wrote and recorded “It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin'” in 1962, inspired by his father’s terminal illness. It was a hit on the Billboard Hot 100 (#3), the Cash Box Hot Singles chart (#5), the R&B chart (the only time he appeared on that chart, #6) and #4 on the Country chart, his first time on that chart. It was later recorded by Margaret Whiting, Elvis Presley, and Billy Joe Royal, who reached #17 on the Country chart in 1988.

A full list of his singles can be found here. His website lists his achievements. He’s been appearing on the “Rockin’ The Caribbean” cruises, the next of which is February 17-24 next year.

Johnny Tillotson, your Two for Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

Two for Tuesday: Del Shannon

Del Shannon was born Charles Westover in Grand Rapids, Michigan and grew up listening to country music by Hank Williams, Hank Snow, and Lefty Frizzell. After time in the Army he returned to Michigan and played with a group called The Midnight Ramblers. Eventually he became leader of the group and added keyboard player Max Crook, who played the Musitron, an early synthesizer he created, which figured later in Del’s music, as you’ll soon hear.

Del was signed to a record contract with Big Top Records in 1960, and in 1961 released “Runaway,” which he released in January and became a #1 hit for him in April of that year. It also reached #1 in the UK and Australia.

Del followed that with “Hats Off To Larry” later in 1961. It reached #5 in the US, #6 in the UK, and #2 in Australia.

Del went a stretch after that where he failed to reach the Top 10 in the US, but did well in the UK and Australia, reaching #2 in the UK with “Hey! Little Girl” and having a pair of #1’s in Australia with “The Swiss Maid” and “Little Town Flirt.” The latter reached #12 in the US and #4 in the UK.

Late in 1964, Del reached the Top 10 for the last time with “Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun).” It reached #9 in the US and Australia and #3 in the UK.

Del’s career slowed down sharply in the Seventies, but revived after he stopped drinking, and he had some success in the later ’70’s and early ’80’s. He suffered from depression, and in 1990 took his own life. The Traveling Wilburys recorded an almost dead-on cover of his “Runaway” as a tribute, and Jeff Lynne produced his posthumous album, 1991’s Rock On on the Silvertone label. (Just as an aside, Silvertone was the brand name of musical instruments, especially electric guitars and amplifiers, sold by Sears, Roebuck & Co. in the US. For many, it was their first guitar.) He was enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

Del Shannon, your Two for Tuesday, May 22, 2018.

Two For Tuesday: Gene Pitney

Gene Pitney was a singer and songwriter who played multiple instruments (guitar, piano, and drums). He had 16 songs in the Top 40 in the US, four of which made the Top 10. He had even greater successs in the UK, with 22 Top 40 songs, 11 making it to the Top 10. He also wrote the hit records “Rubber Ball” for Bobby Vee, “He’s A Rebel” for The Crystals, and “Hello Mary Lou” for Rick Nelson, and played piano on some of The Rolling Stones’ early sessions.

His first Top 40 hit in the US was “Town Without Pity,” the title song for the 1961 movie starring Kirk Douglas. It reached #13 on the Hot 100 that year, his first major hit, and #10 in Canada.

The following year, Gene had a #4 hit (#2 in Canada and #3 in Australia) with “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” A Bacharach/David composition, it wasn’t in the 1962 movie which starred James Stewart and John Wayne due to a dispute between the publishing company and Paramount Pictures, or it might have been an even bigger hit. He came back with another Bacharach/David composition, “Only Love Can Break A Heart,” which peaked at #2 in the US and #4 in Australia, prevented from going to #1 by his own composition, “He’s A Rebel.”

Gene’s next Top 10 hit would be “It Hurts To Be In Love” in 1964. Written by Howard Greenfield and Helen Miller, it reached #7 in the US, #2 in Canada, and #6 in Australia.

Gene had one more Top 10 in the US, “I’m Gonna Be Strong” (#9 US, #3 in Canada, #5 in Australia, and #2 in the UK), but by that time, he was making a name for himself in the UK, where he had already had two Top 10 songs, 1963’s “Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa” (#5) and 1964’s “That Girl Belongs To Yesterday” (#7), the first Top 10 single written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. His career essentially moved across the Atlantic at that point, and he continued to have chart success in Europe, including his lone #1, 1989’s “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” with Marc Almond.

Gene was found dead in a Cardiff hotel room while he was touring the UK in 2006. The cause was determined to be a heart attack.

Gene Pitney, your Two For Tuesday, May 15, 2018.