Saturday, February 16, 2013


We've been talking about the new Dusty Springfield tribute musical "Forever Dusty" for a couple of months now ... and, thanks  to co-writers Jon Vankin and Kirsten Holly Smith (who also just happens to play Dusty Springfield in this hot, new Off Broadway Musical), we now have a pair of tickets to give away to one lucky New York Forgotten Hits Reader!  

The bio-musical has been playing to rave reviews at the New World Stages on West 50th St. in New York City ... and has just been extended through April dates! Noted columnist Perez Hilton says ""IF YOU LIKE JERSEY BOYS, THEN YOU WILL LOVE FOREVER DUSTY!"  

View more here: Click here:  

And check out THIS recent appearance on My Fox New York from a couple of weeks ago:  

I had the chance to talk with both Jon and Kirsten last week about the show ...

KENT KOTAL / FORGOTTEN HITS: Why Dusty?  What was it about her as a singer or a performer that drew you to her in the first place?   

KIRSTEN HOLLY SMITH: My love of Dusty Springfield began when I first listened to Dusty in Memphis and heard that voice, that sound! Where did it come from? I came to believe that I needed to get closer to Dusty, somehow, to channel her spirit by singing her songs and telling her story.

FH:  Are you first generation Dusty fans? And, if not, at one point did you become enamored with Dusty Springfield?  

JON VANKIN: If by “first generation” you mean “since 1963,” then no. I have always been a fan of ‘60s music and British Invasion music in particular, so I was always conscious of Dusty Springfield and, of course, I knew “Son of A Preacher Man” and a few of her other big songs. But when Kirsten got me involved with this project, that's when I began to explore Dusty’s career and her life in depth. And there was no looking back! Even now, after all these years, when I listen to her music or watch her on video, I sometimes just catch myself getting lost how supremely great she was – and is. Her voice on even her oldest records sounds as brilliant today as it did in 1963. 

KHS:  I was drawn to Dusty not only by her music, but by what she stood for in her life. She always insisted that she was “not political,” but she never backed down from what she believed. She traveled to apartheid-era South Africa for a series of concerts where she flatly refused to perform for segregated audiences — a direct violation of South Africa’s laws. She took many strong stands at great risk to her career and reputation. She was a powerful woman of powerful convictions whose story deserved to be told.  

JV:  We feel extremely honored that we can tell her story – because our whole purpose is to honor Dusty. She was an extraordinary woman and an extraordinary artist.   

FH: After watching the Fox News clip, Kirsten, it is quite obvious that you can really belt out these tunes ... what is your background ... and are there any other shows you may have been involved with that our readers might know or recognize? 

KHS: I have a BFA in musical theatre in musical theatre from the University of Oklahoma. I have a film, TV and theatre background. This is the first major production I’ve done in New York. Before this, I spent most of my time in LA. 

FH:  Had you written anything before? How did this idea come about? 

KHS:  In 2008, I did a one-woman version of Dusty at the Lily Tomlin - Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center, which is part of the Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles. We got a great response from both the audiences and the critics, which motivated us to build the show into something bigger. New York is the final frontier for theatre in the US, so we set our sites on bringing Dusty to New York. Now, of course, FOREVER DUSTY, is a full “Book Musical” with a cast of five actors and rock and roll band onstage.

FH:  Was your goal more to pay tribute to Dusty's music ... or to tell her story?    

KHS:  I wanted to honor Dusty both as a person and an artist. That is why we’re doing this show.   

FH: Jon, how did you come to be involved? Had you worked with Kirsten before? 

JV:  Forever Dusty is the first time I’ve collaborated with Kirsten. This show is very much her vision.     

FH:  Tell us a little bit about your background.   

JV: I’m a professional writer. I’ve written several nonfiction books, a few graphic novels and comics as well as screenplays and even a little TV. 

FH: While I haven't personally seen the show, I've read that it pretty much presents a no-hold-barred, warts-and-all profile of Dusty ... why was this important for you to show? What were you hoping to convey in the way of Dusty Springfield, the person? (Having written my own mini-biography on Dusty, we, too, took a "stripped naked" approach ... there was so much more to this girl than just her magnificent voice!)  

JV: I think I can answer that for both of us. Dusty faced many, many obstacles in her life and career, a lot of them of her own making. We believe that it's essential to give a full picture of her life because without seeing where she came from and the struggles she faced and fought, it's impossible for the audience to fully appreciate what she accomplished in her life, both as an artist and also as a human being. We could have simply zeroed in on one episode of her life, or we could have skimmed over her life entirely and made the show more of a “revue” than a musical play. Certainly, both of those approaches were suggested to us by various people along the way. But we did not want to present just a piece of her. We always wanted our audiences to come out of the show feeling that they know Dusty Springfield as a complete human being, with joys and sorrows, victories and defeats – all of her beauty and all of her flaws. Those are the things that make us all human. By the end of the story, the end of her life, we want to feel that she has really lived. That’s why we took the approach we did.

FH: What are some of your favorite Dusty tunes?   

KHS: She went through so many styles and phases, I have to break it down by time period. In the early ‘60s, “I Only Want to Be With You.” Mid ‘60s, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.” Late ‘60s, “Son of a Preacher Man.” In the ’70, “Crumbs Off The Table.” In the 1980s, “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” or “Soft Core.” I also love her version of “Can I Get a Witness” and her cover of a Baby Washington song called “Doodlin’.” There are so many!   

JV: Of course I love all of the usual hits ... “Preacher Man,” “I Only Want To be With You”, and so on. But my real love is for some of her lesser known songs. For example, “Crumbs Off The Table,” which is included in the show, or her version of The Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child,” which isn’t. I love “Ever Day I Have to Cry,” “Bad Case of the Blues,” “Roll Away,” Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream.” As Kirsten said, there are way too many to list.   

FH: Kirsten, you've told us the ones you love as a listener and as a fan ... but which ones do you most enjoy performing? What are the ones that really get the crowd going? That get the biggest reaction?   

KHS: That’s easy. “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and “Son of a Preacher Man.” People know those songs and absolutely love them.   

FH: I know that you come out and visit with the fans after each performance ... what are some of the things they tell you after seeing the show? What kind of feedback are you getting that allow you and Jon to know that you have squarely hit this on the head?   

KHS: It’s all very humbling. The feedback is extremely enthusiastic. I’ve had people come to me in tears because they were so moved by Dusty’s story. I get a lot of people thanking me for bringing back great memories and telling me they’ve just relived their childhood, including people who saw her in concert years ago. I’ve had people who actually knew Dusty personally come to the show and tell me afterward that they felt like she came back to life on the stage. It’s very motivational and makes me feel that we’re doing something worthwhile. To be honest, I attribute the great reactions to Dusty more than myself. I feel I am just up there channeling her spirit and we have wonderful, extremely talented actors and musicians who make her life very vivid and powerful.   

FH: What are the future plans for the show? Do you have any kind of commitment as to how long it will be running? And how do our readers go about getting tickets?   

JV: As of right now, we have tickets on sale through April 7. Of course we would love to extend past that date, but there are no guarantees. So I would strongly recommend getting tickets asap for dates between now and then. And because we love Forgotten Hits, here’s a special deal: if your readers go to and enter the code FDFNF2, they can buy tickets at a big discount.  
As for future plans, we’re working on those and we have a few opportunities in the works that we can't discuss publicly right now. But we are very sure that FOREVER DUSTY will have a long life outside of New York.   

FH: Oh wow!!! We knew that we were going to be giving away a pair of tickets to one lucky Forgotten Hits reader to see the show ... but this discount offer is outstanding! Thank you so much. (And readers, if you DO get a chance to check this out, be sure to drop us a line and give us your review.) 

Let's see ... how should we do this? Do you have a trivia question that you would like to ask in order to help us find a winner? Maybe something that you learned while researching Dusty for the musical?   

JV: OK, here’s a trivia question. On her LP Dusty … Definitely, which was her final UK album before going to the US to record Dusty In Memphis, Dusty recorded this version of the Temptations hit “Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone.” (Here's a youTube link to the video):

Dusty’s bass player and musical arranger on this track went on to become famous with a VERY famous band of his own. In fact, Dusty helped his band get their first record deal. Can you name the bass player and the band?   

FH: OK, that's a good one ... let's see what kind of response we get.   

JV: And here’s a tie-breaker question if you need one: Dusty never won a Grammy Award and was nominated only one time, for “Son of a Preacher Man.” But in 1973 she accepted an award on behalf of someone else. Who? (Hint: The category was “best new artist.”)   

FH: That should help us nail it down. Come on readers, have at it! Don't miss your chance to win a pair of tickets to see "Forever Dusty" at the New World Stages in New York City! (Or, hop over to the website and order your tickets online ... and be sure to enter the special code and get your Forgotten Hits Readers special discount!)   

FH: Thank you both so much for taking the time to do this. I wish there was a way that we could come out and see the show ... MAJOR Dusty fans here! Good luck with an extended run. Meanwhile, what about your future plans? Do you see writing more shows together? Any ideas that you've been kicking around that you can talk about?   

KHS: Right now, we’re extremely focused on FOREVER DUSTY and figuring out how to keep telling Dusty Springfield’s amazing story to as many people as we can. But yes, we have a few other ideas. Stay tuned!

How do you do a full-blown feature on Dusty Springfield like this and then not feature one of her songs???
Here's one of my favorites ... a #22 Hit from 1969 ... and yet another one you just don't get to hear much on the radio anymore.  

It's "A Brand New Me", a GREAT tune from the "Dusty In Memphis" follow-up LP of the same name.  Enjoy!


TO ENTER THE FORGOTTEN HITS FREE TICKET GIVE-AWAY:  Just send in your trivia answer(s) to ... sometime in the next week or two we'll pick a winner from all of the correct entries that we receive.  You must be able to attend a performance of "FOREVER DUSTY" in New York City between March 1st and April 7th and we will contact the winner with complete details as to how to get your tickets.

And remember ... ALL of our East Coast Forgotten Hits Readers can take advantage of the special discount ticket prices by going online at and entering the code FDFNF2.  And, if you see the show, be sure to drop us a line and let us know what you think!!!


Friday, February 15, 2013

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition - Part 4 (Stepping Out Front ... A Couple More Really Big Hits ... And Then The End Of The Story)

Their next single release was written by country superstar M-M-M-Mel Tillis and "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" took the group right back into The Top Ten. (It peaked at #6 in Billboard.) Originally written about the Korean War, the song tapped into all the focus on what was going on in Viet Nam and struck a nerve with the youth of America. (Again, despite its country roots, it stiffed on the Country Chart, stopping at #39. Incredibly, it was the ONLY Top 40 Country Hit The First Edition ever had! Kenny would go on to dominate the country field a decade later ... but at this stage of his career, he was virtually ignored by country radio.)   

A Boston radio station began playing "Ruby" as an album track while "But You Know I Love You" was still on the charts. To avoid confusion, the record label decided to issue it as a single under the new moniker Kenny Rogers and the First Edition in an effort to avoid competing with themselves on the charts! (It was with some reluctance that they released this as a single ... Reprise Records wasn't sure it could be a hit. In fact, Producer Jimmy Bowen told Kenny "Because of the depressing lyrics, you will never get that song played on the radio.")  He couldn't have been more wrong ... radio jumped on it and it became one of Kenny's best known hits.


A year later, Rogers tipped his hat to another future-great country songwriter when he recorded the Mac Davis song "Something's Burning". This one went to #5 in Cash Box (and was a #2 hit here in Chicago ... the biggest First Edition hit yet here in Chicago!) Davis got some additional songwriting recognition in 1969 when Elvis Presley recorded his "In The Ghetto" and took it to #1 in Cash Box Magazine.  

Kenny had to fight hard to get this song released as a single, too. Described as a bit "too sensual" for airplay (the song started with a heartbeat ... Kenny says that he could never get the sound "deep" enough ... so, in another little bit of studio trickery, he recorded the heartbeat backwards ... hey, why not ... it worked for the guitar intro on "Just Dropped In"!!! ... and then got exactly the sound he was looking for).  

Rogers (who produced the track) said he strived to make the track "as exciting as I could make it". He was proud of his "orgasmic message" and "could not wait to hear the praise from the people who would be playing this hot song for a sexually pent-up nation." Even Mac Davis had warned him that radio might not embrace it. In Kenny's own words, "Mac was right. Everyone was afraid of it. American radio stations would not play this song."  

But Kenny knew the record was a hit ... people just needed to hear it ... so he hit upon a great marketing idea. "I asked Ken Kragen if he could book us on "The Tom Jones Show" in London to do this song. My thinking was that England was much less afraid of sexuality than this country at the time and an English audience would at least give the song a fair hearing." Since Tom Jones' program also aired here in America on ABC, this would give the song the exposure it needed to catch on with the American public. Needless to say, "My little scheme worked. Once the song was heard in the States on "Tom Jones", there was no stopping it. Radio, so afraid of it before, now pounced on it. I think station managers were secretly looking for a way to play it all along and needed a little ammunition like a successful TV appearance. I gave them a way."  

Before it was all over, The First Edition did manage to hit The Top 40 a couple more times. In 1970, they scored a #17 hit with "Tell It All Brother" and, later that year, hit #21 with "Heed The Call". (Listen closely to Kenny's vocals on these two tracks, especially at the end of "Tell It All Brother" ... you'll see that's he's developing the early stages of what Michael Nesmith called "Bee Gees Disease" on his landmark video release "Elephant Parts". This is all the more interesting when you consider that Barry GIbb would later produce one of Kenny's best albums, "Eyes That See In The Dark" and the monster #1 Hit "Islands In The Stream".) If you get a chance to see Kenny's 50th Anniversary Concert on TV, you'll see that he and Lionel Richie have a great bit of fun playing up this vocal technique on their #1 Smash "Lady", live in concert. 


 (I always loved this album cover!)  kk

Soon another personnel change was in the works as founder Mike Settle decided to leave the band. He was replaced by Kin Vassy.  This probably should have spelled the end of the band, but it didn't.  

Although by 1971 the chart hits had pretty much stopped and their career seemed to be winding down, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition next relocated to Canada and filmed (in all) 52 episodes of a syndicated variety television series called "Rollin' On The River". It was filmed on a Riverboat set (and the following year the title was shortened to simply "Rollin'".)  

On the program, they were able to spotlight some of the "hidden talent" they had helped to discover and promote along the way, including Mac Davis, Mickey Newbury and Mel Tillis, as well as B.J. Thomas, Bill Withers, Roger Miller, Gladys Knight and the Pips and "newcomer" Kris Kristofferson. Some of these episodes are available on DVD and the performances are quite good. (We've got one that features B.B. King, who does an absolutely KILLER version of "The Thrill Is Gone" and The Grass Roots, who are in top form, Billy Preston, Jim Croce, Al Green and Malo ... that's quite a guest list for this little-remembered program ... but I know WE watched it every week!) 

In his new book "Luck Or Something Like It", Kenny talks about how B.B. King completely mesmerized the cast and crew during his performance of "The Thrill Is Gone". (It truly DOES blow you away) However, while playing along with his original background track, the director noticed that B.B. King's fingers didn't match the original guitar solo. "This meant that he couldn't edit between the rehearsal and the show performances if he needed to. As politely as he could, he asked 'Is there a chance you could play the same solo so it matches?' B.B.'s answer was like his music ... short, sweet and soulful ... 'No, sir, I can't be there but once.' He got no argument from anyone."  

Their last charted single came in 1972 and actually featured Kin Vassy on lead vocals. (The song, titled "School Teacher", didn't make the grade, crapping out at #91.)  And then it was over.

Kenny says he kept the group going through 1975 but the magic was gone.  When they finally called it quits, Kenny was at a loss as to what to do with himself.  He had always been part of a group.  Now it was time to go solo.  History has shown that Kenny made a pretty wise decision ... over the next ten years Kenny would have over 30 pop hits, including Top Ten Smashes like "Lucille", "She Believes In Me", "You Decorated My Life", "Coward Of The County", "Don't Fall In Love With A Dreamer" (with Kim Carnes, his old New Christy Minstrels buddy), "Lady" (written by Commodore Lionel Richie, one of Kenny's best friends), "I Don't Need You", "We've Got Tonight" (a duet with Sheena Easton) and "Islands In The Stream" (a #1 Record that teamed Kenny with Bee Gee Barry Gibb and Country Superstar Dolly Parton ... the result was nothing short of pure magic.

In that same timeframe, Kenny scored 47 Country Hits, where he continues to chart today (at the ripe old age of 75!!!)  In addition to all of the Top Ten Hits shown above topping Billboard's Country Singles Chart, Kenny also reached the #1 spot with hits like "Daytime Friends", "Every Time Two Fools Collide", "What Are We Doin' In Love" and "All I Ever Need Is You" (all duets with Dottie West), "Love Or Something Like It", "The Gambler" (how'd THAT one miss the Pop Top Ten???), "Love Will Turn You Around", "Crazy", "Real Love" (another duet with Dolly Parton), "Morning Desire", "Tomb Of The Unknown Love", "Make No Mistake, She's Mine" (a #1 Hit with Ronnie Milsap in 1987) and "Buy Me A Rose", which topped the country chart right at the turn of the century.

One of MY favorites (which didn't do too well on the pop charts ... but did reach #2 on the country chart) is "Twenty Years Ago", a hit in early 1987.  This one, to me, encapsulates EVERYTHING Forgotten Hits stands for ... we're ALL ABOUT THE MEMORIES ... and some GREAT ones are invoked during these short four minutes.  Check it out!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition - Part 3 (And The Hits Just Keep On Comin')

"But You Know I Love You", The First Edition's follow-up hit to "Just Dropped In" peaked at #15 and, in addition to Kenny's vocal also featured, almost as prominently, Thelma Camacho on vocals. (Quite honestly, I seem to remember Thelma being much more of the focal point when you'd see The First Edition perform on TV. Yes, Kenny may have been the lead singer, but the cameras always seemed to find their way over to Thelma whenver the group was performing. See our Ed Sullivan feature below for more on this.) Perhaps more importantly, "But You Know I Love You" was written by Mike Settle, which was an important step in the band's evolution ... as this is what prompted them to break away from The New Christy Minstrels in the first place.  

Kenny Rogers remembers the first time he and The First Edition appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show:  

When The First Edition first started out (springing away from The New Christy Minstrels) they were, in all senses, a "group" effort ... Kenny wouldn't be singled out and have his name inserted in front of the group's name until a couple of years later ... and, even then, it was only done as a marketing ploy to allow "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" to compete on the charts against a single already credited to The First Edition. In fact, prior to Kenny stepping up front, some might argue that female vocalist Thelma Camacho was the main focal point of the band on stage ... 

Thelma Camacho was this hot little lady with the pixie haircut. Everyone who met her fell in love with her. That probably explains what happened to us during an appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show". Our manager, Ken Kragen, had been trying to make The First Edition into a house-hold name and we were all excited to be doing "Sullivan", then the number one variety show on TV.
We had a rehearsal in the afternoon and it went fine. "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The First Edition," Ed said, and we came out and did our song. The second go-round, for the actual nighttime show, he says, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome ..." ... and he couldn't remember the name ... so he says, "Thelma and her boys!" So much for name recognition.
-- Kenny Rogers   

You'll find TONS of Ed Sullivan Memories posted on The Forgotten Hits Website here: 

Ironically, "But You Know I Love You" would later become a country hit for Dolly Parton, who would duet with Kenny Rogers on one of the biggest hits of the early '80's, the Bee Gees-penned "Islands In The Stream". Kenny and Dolly would go on to record several albums together, as well as tour and costar in numerous television specials.  

In 1969, it was decided that the group should be renamed Kenny Rogers and the First Edition because of all of the attention he was receiving as the principal vocalist. It may only be a coincidence, but around the same time Thelma Camacho quit the group and was replaced by Mary Arnold. (Reportedly, one of the girl singers who failed the audition to take Camacho's spot was Karen Carpenter!!! While Kenny remembers this being the case ... and acknowledges that Karen was a phenomenal singer ... he also readily responds that her voice just wasn't suited to the type of material that The First Edition were recording ... and to this degree he is absolutely correct. Thankfully, the world wasn't cheated out of the hits of The Carpenters as a result of this decision!) Ultimately, it was Thelma's roommate Mary Arnold who took her spot. (Mary wouldn't consider auditioning until Thelma gave it her blessing, which she graciously did.)  

In his new book "Luck Or Something Like It", Rogers says that Thelma was let go from the band. "She was conflicted about touring. I'm not sure she wasn't happy about our decision. She was tired of traveling and had fallen in love, so I don't think it came as much of a shock or disappointment to her."  The other version of the story probably just played better in the press ... like I said earlier, Thelma was considered a focal point in the band. 

Kenny describes Mary's joining the band: 
"Thelma had a roommate for the last two years of her tenure with us named Mary Arnold. We all knew her and liked her very much. Sensing our frustration, Mary spoke up one day and said 'Can I try? Believe me, I know these songs backward and forward.' We were all a little taken aback by Mary's request, not remembering that she had heard all our songs every day for two years and had previously been with a group called The Young Americans. She knew her way around a stage. Mary came in for literally one rehearsal and started doing shows with us right away. She picked up right where Thelma left off. What a lifesaver she was. Mary would eventually marry a man I introduced her to, the legendary singer-songwriter Roger Miller. They were still together when he passed away."

Tomorrow in Forgotten Hits ... 

Kenny Rogers steps up front ... and The First Edition have their most memorable hit.

Could there be a more appropriate song for Valentine's Day than Paul McCartney's "My Valentine" from last year's "Kisses On The Bottom" album???  

And, while we're at it, I thought I'd also share one of my all-time favorite love songs, too!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition - Part 2 (Making It)

The First Edition found their first hit courtesy of singer / songwriter Mickey Newbury who, legend has it, previously had offered the song to Jerry Lee Lewis, who turned it down flat. It was quite a departure for a group of singers who a few months ago were singing traditional folk songs with an almost "Up With People" persona. (And, for Kenny Rogers, it wasn't exactly jazz either!) 

The drug-oriented, psychedelic-feeling song (it ranked at #12 in Our Top 20 All-Time Favorite Psychedelic Songs Poll a few years ago ... not bad for a country boy!) opened with a backwards guitar riff, played by Glen Campbell, who was still doing session work at the time. (Ironically, a year later Campbell won the Best Album Of The Year Grammy for "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" as his own recording career kicked into high gear.) In yet another example of all of these connections tying together, a year later, "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" would become the summer replacement series for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour".  

In our Psychedelic Favorites spotlight, we saluted The First Edition thusly:  

Kenny was disenchanted singing other people's hits with The New Christy Minstrels ... and opening for acts like Dinah Shore in Las Vegas ... so he decided to form his OWN group, using the money he earned from songwriting royalties for an Eddy Arnold hit, "Don't Laugh At My Love". Rogers convinced fellow Minstrels Mike Settle, Terry Williams and Thelma Camacho to join him in this new venture and one night, while performing at Ledbetter's in Los Angeles (a club ironically owned by The New Christy Minstrels founder, Randy Sparks), they were seen by The Smothers Brothers' Manager Ken Kragen, who quickly signed them to a development deal. Auditioning for renown producer Jimmy Bowen, they were then signed to Frank Sinatra's Reprise Records label and, with Ken Kragen in their corner, made their television debut as The First Edition on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in December of 1967.  

Two months later, their first hit, the pseudo-psychedelic sounding "Just Dropped In", was on its way to the #3 on the pop chart.  Sounding NOTHING at all like anything else that they would go on to record, the record was most certainly recorded in an effort to capture the sound "of the times" ... and it worked. Although the rest of their chart hits would strongly favor the country sound, "Just Dropped In" was a HUGE smash. (Amazingly, their other '60's hits did not perform well on the country charts, despite their definite leanings in that direction. Kenny Rogers would not become a Country Music Superstar until he told the tale of Lucille's "four hundred children" ten years later ... oh ... it's four HUNGRY children!!! I've ALWAYS gotten that line wrong!)  

The First Edition's follow-up hit, "But You Know I Love You" (#15, 1969), featured more of a group-ensemble vocal, wrapped around Kenny's lead ... and a much more country-oriented arrangement. It was on the group's third chart single that Kenny's name moved up front ahead of the rest of the band ... "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" was officially released as by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition ... and it went all the way to #6.  

FOR THE RECORD: Contrary to what Kenny Rogers has told anyone who would listen for the past 37 years, "Just Dropped In" (released as a single in 1968) was NOT the first record to ever feature backwards guitar!!! (According to Kenny, I guess that all the Beatles stuff released during the previous two years didn't really count!)  

DIDJAKNOW?-1: That "ground-breaking" backwards lead guitar was played by none other than Glen Campbell, one of the most successful studio musicians of all time. Amazingly, he was already on the way to getting his own solo career off the ground, yet was still fitting in those very lucrative studio sessions ... and, I'm sure it's no small coincidence that The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour would become the summer replacement series for The Smothers Comedy Brothers Hour a year later!!! (Don'tcha just love it when this stuff all ties in together???) We featured Glen Campbell earlier in our Forgotten Hits / Psychedelic Music Countdown in yet another one of his "side jobs" ... Glen was the lead vocalist on the Sagittarius hit "My World Fell Down".  

DIDJAKNOW?-2: When "Just Dropped In" was written (by country songwriter Mickey Newbury), it was first offered to Jerry Lee Lewis, who turned the song down flat!

DIDJAKNOW?-3: A Boston radio station began playing "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" as an album track while "But You Know I Love You" was still on the charts. To avoid confusion (and jeopardizing the momentum of another hit single still climbing the charts), the record label decided to issue it as a single under the new moniker Kenny Rogers and the First Edition in an effort to avoid competing with themselves on the charts!  (It wasn't likely that radio was going to play TWO songs by a brand new, up-start group at the same time ... but that's exactly what they did!)  Originally written about the Korean War (by Country Music Superstar M-M-Mel Tillis), the song tapped in to all the focus pertaining to what was going on in Viet Nam at the time and struck a nerve with the youth of America, returning Kenny Rogers and the First Edition to The National Top Ten.

In 1969, it was decided that the group should be permanently renamed Kenny Rogers and the First Edition because of all the attention he was receiving as the principal vocalist. It may only be a coincidence, but right around the same time, Thelma Camacho quit the group and was replaced by Mary Arnold.

DIDJAKNOW?-5: Reportedly, one of the girls who FAILED the audition to take Camacho's spot was Karen Carpenter!!! Mary Arnold, who won the gig, was, at one time, Camacho's roommate but didn't feel right auditioning until Thelma gave it her blessing. She did ... and Arnold ultimately replaced her in the group. (Why not? She already knew all of the songs!!!)  

You can catch the entire countdown of your psychedelic favorites right here:  
Click here: Forgotten Hits - Top 20 Favorite Psychedelic Songs


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition - Part 1 - Setting The Stage

Ten years before he would hit the pop charts with The First Edition and their psychedelic classic "Just Dropped In", Kenny Rogers had a regional hit on the Lynn Record Label called "That Crazy Feeling".   

Recorded as Kenneth Rogers, his first solo record became a local smash in the Houston area in 1958 and, after the much larger Carlton Records picked up the distribution of his single, he even landed a guest spot on "American Bandstand" at the ripe old age of 19. (Dick Clark always insisted that he had absolutely NO recollection ... or video tape ... of this event ... and it would become a major ribbing point between the two superstars over the years to come!)   

A few years earlier, Kenny had done some recording with a band called The Scholars and topped the local Houston chart with a little ditty called "The Poor Little Doggie" ... and, by 1960 he moved on as a member of The Bobby Doyle Trio, a jazz-combo for whom he would become the bass player. (He actually had to learn how to play the bass guitar in order to get into the group. By his own admission, Kenny wasn't even much of a guitar player at the time ... but he didn't play the bass guitar at all. In his new book "Luck Or Something Like It", Kenny says the best piece of advice Bobby Doyle ever gave him was "There's more demand for bad bass players than bad guitar players" ... so Kenny picked up the bass and, after a series of grueling rehearsals, learned to play jazz on it.)   

The Bobby Doyle Trio toured extensively and, in 1962, recorded an album and single that went pretty much unnoticed. They also became the semi-regular support-act for The Kirby Stone Four and these friendships would help Kenny later in his career. As the Doyle Trio began to split up in 1965, Rogers spent a brief time with The Lively Ones before he was recommended (by Kirby Stone, no less!) as a replacement singer / player for The New Christy Minstrels.   
When Stone heard that The Christys were recruiting a couple of new members, he told them that they would do well to consider Kenny Rogers. "He's a versatile singer and plays stand-up bass." One of the best known and successful folk groups around, The New Christy Minstrels had already helped to launch the careers of Barry McGuire ("Eve Of Destruction") and Gene Clark, who went on to join The Byrds. On Kirby Stone's recommendation, they decided to do exactly that ... and, in perhaps one of the most unusual auditions in history, Kenny Rogers won his spot in The New Christy Minstrels by singing to them over the pay phone in a busy hotel lobby of The Houstonaire Hotel!   

When Randy Sparks first formed The New Christy Minstrels back in 1962, the original concept was to have a revolving cycle of folk singers and musicians come through and perform as part of the band. Performing with as many as nine members at a time, the group sang upbeat tunes in unison with perfect harmony and spot vocal solos by the various members. Along the way, Mike Settle, Terry Williams, Thelma Camacho, Kenny Rogers, Barry McGuire and later, Kim Carnes, all made their way through The Minstrels Show. In fact, a couple of the founding members of The Association (including Mike Whalen, who actually replaced Barry McGuire in the band), spent some time there as well.  

Sparks eventually sold his interest in The New Christy Minstrels to a couple of music managers and, years later, opened Ledbetter's, the L.A. Club where The First Edition first honed their chops (filling in for The Back Porch Majority, who were out on tour at the time.) Mike Settle was a former member of The Cumberland Three with Gil Robbins and future-Kingston Trio member John Stewart ... and also performed in a duo with Mason Williams (yep, the "Classical Gas" guy, who would end up as the head comedy writer on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" years later!Comedian Steve Martin was a staff comedy writer for The Smothers Brothers' television series, too ... and back in the day often opened for The First Edition as a stand-up comedian. All of these artists would eventually be managed by Ken Kragen ... and each helped to advance the others' careers along the way. (It's AMAZING how all this stuff ties together, isn't it?!?!?!) Before leaving The New Christy Minstrels to help launch The First Edition, Mike Settle also recorded a couple of solo albums and had one of his songs ("Settle Down" ... get it) recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary.  

Kenny had hoped that The New Christy Minstrels would also start to record some of Mike Settle's songs ... but they were so engrained in their standard folk song repertoire that it soon became obvious that this was never going to happen. As such, Rogers, Settle, Terry Williams and Thelma Camacho became disenchanted ... and started to put their own group together. (Quite honestly, Mike Settle, who, as the chief songwriter was going to head up this new outfit, wasn't sure that Kenny Rogers fit the bill ... he looked a little too straight and had a jazz background for God's sake!But Kenny wanted in ... and once they heard him sing lead on a couple of songs, they, too, were convinced. To prove his commitment, Rogers grew out his hair (and a beard), added an earring (and rose-tinted glasses) and soon looked the part of a 1968 hippie! (It's kind of funny to watch the tapes of some of these performances now and see Kenny Rogers with dark hair! His '80's country image is SO etched in our minds, it's the ONLY way we're able to perceive him! Of course it's even harder to picture him with his newly-sculpted face ... but that's a different story all together!)  

Mike Settle and Kenny Rogers weren't the only First Edition members with interesting musical backgrounds. Thelma Camacho had sung with the San Diego Opera ... and, as such, had become bored singing background "ooo's" and "ahhh's" with The Minstrels. Terry Williams' father was a member of The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (he was their first-chair trombonist) and his mother, Bonnie Lou Williams, sang with the orchestra! Despite these musical genes, Terry was probably the biggest "rocker" in the bunch. 

The only original member of The First Edition NOT to come from The New Christy Minstrels was drummer Mickey Jones. Mickey was the last to join (when The First Edition realized that, in order to perform, they needed a drummer!) ... and they found a good one. Jones played in Trini Lopez's back-up band for nearly eight years (that's him on the famous "Live From PJ's" album) ... and later did live sessions with Johnny Rivers (who captured a lot of the "live" Trini Lopez sound on his earliest Imperial hits) as well as other artists as diverse as Ann-Margret and Bob Dylan! (That's Mickey drumming on Dylan's landmark "Live At The Royal Albert Hall" concert in 1966.) He was recruited by new manager Ken Fritz, who, along with Ken Kragen, managed The Smothers Brothers and remembered how, according to Jones, "Trini and I would practically blow The Smothers Brothers off the stage when we opened for them." The timing was right ... since Dylan was off the road (this was right after his motorcycle accident), Jones was available and interested. (Ironically, when The First Edition ultimately folded in 1975, he and Rogers were the only two original members left!) Once The First Edition split up, Mickey Jones left the music business to pursue an acting career ... and he didn't fare too badly there either, landing roles in "Total Recall" with Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Tin Cup" with Kevin Costner, "National Lampoon's Summer Vacation" with Chevy Chase and also had recurring roles on both "The Dukes Of Hazzard" and "Home Improvement" on television. (Not too shabby!!!)