Forty years ago, Mike was one of my buddies in junior high school. Then I moved away, and we didn’t see each other for 34 years.
When we finally met up again after all those years, Mike gave me a CD of songs he liked. One of the tunes was familiar, but I couldn’t come up with the name or the artist. It turned out to be “Baby, It’s You” by Smith, a No. 5 single in the latter part of 1969.
Dig around for some information on Smith, and the phrase “one-hit wonder” keeps popping up. That, and continuing appreciation for Gayle McCormick’s earthy, bluesy lead vocals.
One day, I found Smith’s debut album in the dollar bin at my local record store. “A Group Called Smith” is chock full of nice covers, including “Baby, It’s You.” Certainly worth tracking down, but we’ll get to those another day.
Smith’s second LP, “Minus-Plus,” also found in the dollar bin that day, has more original material. One such tune made a run into the middle of the Top 40 in the last week of February 1970. Here in Green Bay, it was one of 20 “hit-bound” singles on WDUZ, which as 1400 AM ranked only a Big 14 on its chart.
“Take A Look Around,” Smith, from “Minus-Plus,” 1970. It’s out of print.
This song was written by guitarist Jerry Carter and bass player James Richard Cliburn. That raises a little mystery, because Carter and Cliburn appeared on the first Smith album but not the second. McCormick and drummer Bob Evans were the only holdovers, surrounded by a new set of guitarists.
So I wonder whether Smith wasn’t McCormick surrounded by session musicians. After all, one of their producers was Steve Barri, who recruited musicians to play his songs in another band. You may have heard of that band. The Grass Roots. But the story goes that Smith was discovered by Del Shannon in a Los Angeles nightclub in the late ’60s.
Regardless, it was the last song to chart for Smith, which broke up shortly thereafter. McCormick went on to a brief solo career, then is said to have returned to her native St. Louis and left the music business.
One last thing: This week marks the third anniversary for AM, Then FM. Thanks, everyone.