By Phill Marder
This is the 35th set of 10 selections in The Goldmine Hall of Fame, bringing us to the approximate halfway mark of our Hall of Fame inductions.
Great Blogs Of Fire will be announcing 10 inductees approximately every three weeks until all 700-plus inductees are announced. Bios of all selections and criteria for induction can be found on our website by clicking the Goldmine Hall of Fame tab. A running list of all announced inductees will be listed, also. These also can be found under “Great Blogs Of Fire” at the bottom of the page or by following this link – http://www.goldminemag.com/blogs/goldmine-hall-of-fame-inductees
Hailing from Philadelphia, Patti LaBelle got her start singing with her group known as Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles. They had a U.S. #15 hit with “I Sold My Heart To The Junkman” while LaBelle was still a “yon teenager” as noted Philly DJ Jerry Blavat would have it. Turns out, it wasn’t LaBelle’s group on the record at all, but a Chicago group, The Starlets. The Starlets disappeared rather quickly, while LaBelle and company went on to a long and prosperous career as a group and on their own.
Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash and Cindy Birdsong made up the Bluebelles, and all have had successful careers since LaBelle split, Birdsong already being inducted into the Goldmine Hall of Fame as a member of The Supremes, the group she left LaBelle for. After the initial success of “Junkman” in 1962, the group scored two top 40 hits they actually recorded, “Down The Aisle (The Wedding Song)” in 1963 and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” the following year. But, in spite of constant releases, the Bluebelles were unable to score another hit. Until 1974, that is.
With a change in appearance and a shortening of their name to simply LaBelle, the group, now a trio after Birdsong left, unleashed their claim to fame, “Lady Marmalade.” The single topped the Billboard Hot 100 and the U.S. R&B charts, was #1 in Canada and top five in Holland and Italy. It also became LaBelle’s lone hit in the U.K., reaching #17. The parent LP, “Nightbirds,” also was their lone major success on the album chart, hitting #7.
Again unable to follow up their success, LaBelle eventually dissolved in 1977, but the three remained active, even assisting on each other’s recordings. All three had film, TV and theater appearances. LaBelle had the most success, though it took nine years for her to break through as a solo. Even then, it wasn’t a solo success, her #1 single (#2 in the U.K.) being a duet with Michael McDonald titled “On My Own.” The host LP, “Winner In You,” also reached #1, though it failed to produce another major hit, “Oh, People” reaching #29 as the successor to “On My Own.” In 2003, Patti LaBelle was awarded the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award by the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. She also won two Grammys as a solo artist. The three Goldmine inductees – LaBelle, Hendryx and Dash – reformed in 2008 with their LP “Back To Now” reaching #9 on the U.S. R&B chart.
342. GEORGE BENSON
This Pittsburgh Jazz guitarist has more Grammy Awards than most artists have hits. In total, George Benson accumulated 10 Grammys from 1977 until 2007. Twice he has captured “Best R&B Instrumental Performance,” in 1977 for “Theme From Good King Bad” and in 1981 for “Off Broadway.” Three times he has received the award for “Best Pop Instrumental Performance,” first in 1977 for “Breezin’,” then again in 1984 for “Being With You” and finally in 2007 for “Mornin.”
Another double win came in the “Best R&B Male Vocal Performance,” Benson winning in 1979 for “On Broadway” and in 1981 for “Give Me The Night.” He also captured “Record of The Year” in 1977 with “This Masquerade,” “Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Male” for “Moody’s Mood” in 1981, and “Best Traditional R&B Performance” for “God Bless The Child,” which he shared with Al Jarreau and Jill Scott in 2007.
Benson made his first record at age 10 and paid his dues working with numerous Jazz luminaries, including Jack McDuff, Miles Davis, Stanley Turrentine and Freddie Hubbard. His first album to give an indication of what was to come was aptly named “Shape Of Things To Come.” Released in 1968, it climbed to #11 on the Jazz Chart and #38 on the R&B Chart. From that point on, he became a regular resident on the Jazz Chart, hitting the top 10 several times before getting his first #1, “Bad Benson,” in 1974. In 1976, Benson’s cover of Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade,” a rare Benson vocal, broke into the U.S. top 10 and its parent LP, “Breezin’,” took off like a rocket, eventually hitting #1 and becoming the first Jazz LP to go platinum. For the remainder of the decade, Benson’s LPs were a fixture on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, the four following “Breezin’” all climbing into the top 10 while several efforts from his back catalog also experienced a resurgence in sales. Benson also added three more top 10 singles to his resume.
Benson’s success is not limited to the U.S. by any means. He has notched three top 10 singles and six top 10 LPs in the U.K., 1985’s “The Love Songs” reaching #1. Now 70, Benson recently released his latest album, “Inspiration: A Tribute To Nat King Cole.” At last check, it ranked #2 on the U.S. Jazz Chart.
343. THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND
Hailing from Macon, Georgia, this group, which has numbered over 20 members over the years, has never had much sales success, especially outside the U.S., but always has been a strong concert attraction and a favorite of critics. And they did it surviving the deaths of guitarist Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley, both 24, in separate motorcycle accidents, drug scandals, celebrity marriages and the usual in-house squabbling.
Their first album released in 1969 and featuring “Whipping Post,” started building a following for the group, and their second release, 1970’s “Idlewild South,” featuring shorter selections, climbed to #38 in the U.S., the future favorite “Midnight Rider,” being included. While “Midnight Rider” never was released as a single by the band, group organist Gregg Allman, who co-wrote the song, did put it out, hitting #19 U.S. in 1973. Ironically, the same year The Allmans had their one hit single, “Ramblin’ Man,” which reached #2. Again, ironically, the tune, penned by guitarist Dickey Betts, was held from the top spot by “Half Breed” by Cher, Gregg’s future wife.
All this occurred after the group had released its breakthrough LP, 1971’s “At Fillmore East,” a double release that showed the band in its best light – on stage. The 1972 LP, “Eat A Peach,” featured the 33-minute version of “Mountain Jam,” which was divided into two sections. That LP climbed to #4 and the follow-up, “Brothers & Sisters,” which included “Ramblin’ Man,” became the band’s lone chart-topper. Before the close of the decade, The Allmans placed two more long-players into the top 10 and remained steady sellers over the next three decades, continuing as a popular concert attraction at present.
The inductees are: Duane Allman, Dickey Betts & Warren Haynes (guitar); Gregg Allman (organ); Berry Oakley & Allen Woody (bass); Butch Trucks & Jaimoe Johanson (drums) & Marc Quinones (percussion).
344. MARIO LANZA
“Crossover” is a term applied to recordings or recording artists who can bridge genres, a Country artist scoring on the Pop chart or an R&B record becoming a Country hit, for example. But the rarest of crossovers was accomplished by this Philadelphia tenor, whose recordings crossed over from Opera to the mainstream.
Strikingly handsome, Mario Lanza was a movie star who sang opera and an opera singer who starred in movies. Before the beginning of the Rock Era, Lanza had three million selling records, all featured in films he starred in. But his recording success didn’t wane under the pressure of the Rock & Roll onslaught. He stopped having hit albums only when he passed away at the far too early age of 38 in 1959. Between 1956 and 1960, Lanza had five albums hit the Billboard Top 200 top 10, the final two, “Lanza Sings Christmas Carols” and “Mario Lanza Sings Caruso Favorites,” each climbing to #4.
Even in the United Kingdom, his popularity was so enormous his albums were still charting in the 2000s, almost 50 years after his death. He notched seven hit singles in the U.K. in 1955 and 1956, and on three occasions he had LPs in the U.K. top five. As a result, Lanza became one of the world’s best concert attractions.
In 1951, Lanza portrayed his idol, the great tenor Enrico Caruso, in “The Great Caruso,” which became the top grossing film that year. Enrico Caruso Jr., also a tenor, was moved to say, “Lanza excelled in both the classical and the light popular repertory, an accomplishment that was beyond even my father’s exceptional talents.” Current star Placido Domingo stated, “Lanza’s passion and the way his voice sounds are what made me sing opera. I actually owe my love for opera … to a kid from Philadelphia.”
345. NANCY SINATRA (with Lee Hazlewood)
The daughter of Frank Sinatra, this New Jersey born bombshell helped level the playing field during the British Invasion. The girls had plenty to swoon over with The Beatles, Dave Clark Five and Herman’s Hermits topping the list, while the guys had their objects of affection as well, Nancy Sinatra leading the way. When she snarled “One of these days these boots are gonna walk over you,” most teenage guys were thinking, “OK boots…start walkin’.”
That Sinatra was more than just good looks is often forgotten, but she made some of the most memorable records of the ‘60s, by herself and with writer/producer Lee Hazlewood. And lest not forget “Somethin’ Stupid,” which became the only father-daughter duet to top charts in the U.S. It did the same in the U.K. and also hit #1 in Canada, Norway, Ireland and Australia in 1967. While “Somethin’ Stupid was pure Pop, Sinatra connected in several genres, her work with Hazlewood alternating between Country and psychedelic.
Releasing unsuccessful singles since 1961, she teamed up with Hazlewood, who had worked closely with Goldmine Hall of Famer Duane Eddy, and, in 1966, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” hit #1 in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Holland, Flanders, Germany, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The parent LP, “Boots,” climbed all the way to U.S. #5. The next LP’s title cut, “How Does That Grab You, Darlin’?” soared to U.S. #7, #2 in Canada and #4 in Australia. Sinatra’s first three LPs featured a couple originals and a lot of covers of the day’s hits, a practice rather commonplace at the time. But the sophomore release featured two very unusual cuts, her duet with Hazlewood on “Sand” and her cover of Cher’s hit “Bang Bang.” The former served notice the two would be a formidable pairing and the latter drew notice when used in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 film “Kill Bill.”
Album number four, “Country, My Way,” was, as it says, a collection of Country classics done by Sinatra. This included another duet with Hazlewood, “Jackson,” which outdid the Country hit by Johnny Cash and June Carter, reaching #14 on the Hot 100 and went top 10 in Canada and across Europe. The next LP, “Sugar,” was another departure from the norm, Sinatra tackling a group of Pop standards pre-dating the Rock & Roll Era such as “Sweet Georgia Brown.” The LP did contain one Hazlewood original, “Sugar Town,” which became a smash, reaching #2 in Canada, #5 in the U.S. and #8 in the U.K. In 1968, Sinatra and Hazlewood released “Nancy & Lee,” which not only featured “Sand” and “Jackson,” but also hits “Lady Bird,” “Summer Wine” and “Some Velvet Morning.” In 1971, the duo just missed the top of the U.K. chart with “Did You Ever?” which stopped at #2.
346. THE LETTERMEN
According to Joel Whitburn’s publications compiling lists of the hit singles and albums that reached the Billboard charts over the decades, this trio was the #1 Adult Contemporary vocal group of the ‘60s. They wouldn’t fit most definitions of Rock & Roll by any means, but they charted 33 albums in the U.S. between 1962 to 1974, many consisting of The Lettermen arrangements of Rock hits. And they proved so adept at this approach, they’ve long ranked among the best album sellers of all time in the U.S. And since the Goldmine Hall of Fame does not limit itself to Rock & Roll artists, but artists of all genres during the Rock & Roll Era, The Lettermen easily merit induction.
The group, based in Las Vegas, first broke through in 1961 with their smooth version of “The Way You Look Tonight,” the 1936 Academy Award winner for best Best Original Song when sung by Fred Astaire in the film “Swing Time.” Teenagers were familiar with the song from the definitive 1956 doowop version by The Jaguars, even though, as is the case with many doowop classics, it never even charted. The Lettermen version did, though, soaring to #3 on the Adult Contemporary list and #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. “When I Fall In Love,” a hit for Doris Day in 1952 and Nat King Cole four years later, followed, topping the Easy Listening (AC) chart and reaching #7 on the Hot 100. The next year, “Come Back Silly Girl,” originally done by Steve Lawrence, made it to #3 on the AC chart and #17 on the national chart. All three were present on The Lettermen’s debut LP, “A Song For Young Love,” which became their highest charting LP, reaching #6 U.S.
The Lettermen proved so popular, their LPs continued to reach the upper half of the top 200 even though the hit singles weren’t continuing. At least not until 1965 when their vocal version of “Theme From A Summer Place” finished #2 on the AC chart and #16 on the Hot 100. In 1960, Percy Faith’s instrumental version spent nine weeks at #1, still a record for an instrumental, and won the Grammy for Record of the Year. While the trio continued to rack up AC hits, their success in the mainstream was more limited. But in 1967, their LP “The Lettermen!!!…and Live!” soared into the top 10 following the success of their medley featuring Little Anthony & the Imperials’ “Goin Out Of My Head” and Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” which climbed to #7 on the Hot 100. Another Little Anthony cover, 1969’s “Hurt So Bad,” hit #12 U.S. and #10 in Canada, where they charted regularly until 1975.
There have been many members of the still active group, with Tony Butala being the last remaining member of the original trio, which also included Jim Pike and the recently deceased Bob Engemann. In 1967, Engemann left to be replaced by Pike’s brother, Gary. Those four, responsible for the recording successes of The Lettermen, are our inductees.
This Topeka aggregation recently held a 40th Anniversary Fan Appreciation Concert … in Pittsburgh. Well, Kansas – the band – never has been very conventional. While most Rock bands contain four or five members, Kansas boasted six. After all, had to make room for the violin player.
As for the Fan Appreciation concert, band members have never forgotten their home state, but their initial success and following was based in Pennsylvania. Thus, the Pittsburgh show, featuring a 35-piece symphony orchestra and the reappearance of some long absent original members.
The original sextet accounted for the first seven Kansas albums, remaining intact from 1973 to 1981. Three – drummer Phil Ehart, guitarist and lead vocalist Rich Williams and Steve Walsh on keyboards and synthesizers – from that original group are still present, though Walsh was missing for a short time. Their first LP, “Kansas,” scraped the bottom of the U.S. charts, while their sophomore effort, “Song For America,” did much better, topping off at #57 though it contained just six tracks. Evidently, its impact was slight as the third album, “Masque,” could reach just #70.
As is often the case, it took a hit single to break the band, and 1976’s “Carry On Wayward Son” was the perfect vehicle, leading off the fourth LP, “Leftoverture.” The single soared to #5 in Canada and just missed the U.S. top 10, carrying the album to #2 in Canada and #5 in the U.S. The next year, “Point Of No Return” introduced what became Kansas’ signature tune, “Dust In The Wind,” which made the top 10 in both countries and helped the LP do likewise. Between 1978 and 1986, Kansas produced six LPs that reached the U.S. top 50, including 1979’s “Monolith,” which reached U.S. #10.
The inductees are the original six, Ehart, Williams, Walsh, Dave Hope on bass, Kerry Livgren, various instruments and chief songwriter, and Robby Steinhardt on violin.
348. SIMPLE MINDS
This Scottish quintet made a huge splash in the United States when its 1985 single “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” soared to #1 after being featured in the hit film “The Breakfast Club.” But, overall, Simple Minds has had a much greater impact in Europe and continues vital as of this induction even without a U.S. hit for close to 20 years.
In fact, Simple Minds already was well established overseas before their breakthrough, putting six singles into the U.K. top 40, four of which made the top 20. More impressively, the band’s previous two LPs had scored #3 and #1, respectively, in the United Kingdom, just setting the stage for future successes. In fact, 1984’s “Sparkle In The Rain” was a smash all over Europe as well as hitting U.K. #1, even producing a #1 single, “Waterfront,” in New Zealand. So it was to no one’s surprise overseas when Simple Minds broke big in the U.S. in 1985, even appearing on the Philadelphia portion of Live Aid.
When the group’s album, “Once Upon A Time,” produced three follow-up hits in the U.S., including the #3 “Alive & Kicking,” it appeared as if Simple Minds had conquered the American market, too. But the LP proved the group’s lone top 10 effort in the States, and no further singles were factors. In the U.K., it was the opposite, Simple Minds putting 16 more singles into the top 20, stretching all the way until 1998. Included was 1989’s “Belfast Child,” the group’s only U.K. #1 single. On the U.K. LP front, Simple Minds had one of the charts’ greatest runs. Starting with “Sparkle In The Rain,” Simple Minds notched four consecutive #1 LPs, fell just short when 1991’s “Real Life” stalled at #2, returned to the top with “Glittering Prize 81/92” the next year, then scored another #2 with their next release in 1995. As recently as 2009, Simple Minds still was sitting in the U.K. top 10 with “Graffiti Soul.” Simple Minds’ LPs also topped charts in Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Holland, France and Italy, among others, and the group currently ranks close to the top 10 percent of all LP sellers worldwide since 1955.
The inductees are: lead vocalist Jim Kerr and multi-instrumentalist Charlie Burchill, who have been with the group from its start until today, Mel Gaynor and Brian McGee, drums, Mick MacNeil and Andy Gillespie, keyboards, and Derek Forbes, John Giblin and Eddy Duffy, bass.
349. STEVE LAWRENCE
In a 50-year span, this Brooklyn-born singer/actor averaged almost one LP per year, but made his biggest splash with hit singles with 24 Hot 100 entries between 1957 and 1972.
Coming along as the ‘50s opened, Steve Lawrence was a little too late to establish himself as a solo male star ala Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett or Eddie Fisher, though he did register a couple fair-sized hits. But he was by no means a Rock & Roller, so Lawrence was caught in a sort of musical nowhere. But in the Spring of 1957, he hit paydirt with a cover of Buddy Knox’ “Party Doll,” the Rockabilly classic written by Knox and his Rhythm Orchids’ partner Jimmy Bowen. While Knox’ original had the edge, eventually climbing to #2 behind Goldmine Hall of Famer Andy Williams’ version of “Butterfly,” Lawrence’s put up a game battle, even eclipsing the original on the Billboard Most Played By Jockeys chart for a brief spell.
He was slow to capitalize on his success, though, not hitting the Top 10 until early 1960, when “Pretty Blue Eyes” climbed to #9. This was the post-Payola period when many claim no decent Rock & Roll was produced. But there were many fine releases, and “Pretty Blue Eyes” was one. Lawrence’s follow-up, another fine effort entitled “Footsteps,” did even better, reaching #7 and #4 in the U.K. His next single, “Portrait Of My Love,” made it three straight Top 10 efforts, climbing to #9 in early 1961. Lawrence saved his supreme effort for late 1962, when he unleashed “Go Away Little Girl,” which topped the U.S. charts, a finish duplicated by Goldmine Hall of Famer Donny Osmond nine years later. Lawrence never again hit the top 10, but in 1963 he placed five entries into the U.S. top 40, two being duets with his wife, the recently deceased Eydie Gorme, who had a #7 hit of her own in 1963 with “Blame It On The Bosa Nova.”
Lawrence also was a steady presence on the U.S. LP chart, his first entry, “Here’s Steve Lawrence,” climbing to #18 in 1958, with eight more LPs entering the Billboard Top 200 by 1969.
350. BILLY OCEAN
Few artists dominated radio waves and record charts during the ‘80s as much as this Trinidad & Tobago native. But Billy Ocean’s trail to the Goldmine Hall of Fame actually began in 1976 when his debut single, “Love Really Hurts Without You,” soared to #2 in his adopted homeland, Britain, #3 in Australia, #9 in Sweden and #22 in the U.S. Before the year was over, two more singles from that eponymous LP had reached the U.K. top 20, and the following year a single-only release, “Red Light Spells Danger,” also climbed to U.K. #2.
But Ocean’s ascendance to superstardom didn’t really begin until 1984. He had several of his compositions recorded by other artists in the meantime, meeting with varied success, but in 1984 he released the LP “Suddenly” and – suddenly – he was everywhere. The album reached #9 on both the U.S. and U.K. charts and scored well in most nations, as the lead single, “Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run),” exploded, reaching #1 in Canada, New Zealand and the U.S., #2 in Australia and #6 in the U.K. With “European” replacing “Caribbean” it also hit top 10 in Germany and Switzerland. It garnered Ocean the 1985 Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Its successor, “Loverboy,” did almost as well, topping the South African charts and hitting #2 in the U.S., France and Belgium. Ocean sang both hits at Philadelphia’s JFK stadium in 1985’s “Live Aid” concert. The next year, the LP’s title cut climbed to #4 in the U.S. and U.K.
Now firmly established, Ocean’s next offering, “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going,” was used as the theme song for the smash film, “The Jewel Of The Nile,” resulting in one of Ocean’s biggest hits, the recording hitting #1 or #2 in virtually every charting nation. The parent LP, “Love Zone,” also yielded a #1 follow-up in the U.S. and Canada with “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry).” In 1988, Ocean released his biggest single, “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” which topped the charts in Canada, Australia, the U.S, Holland, Norway, Belgium, Ireland and South Africa.
Now 63, Ocean continues to be a popular concert attraction and his catalog continues to sell, “The Very Best Of Billy Ocean” charting at #17 in the U.K. in 2010.