Tag Archives: 1968

National anthem performances, ranked

On this Independence Day, a ranking of the top national anthem performances of all time. This is a highly subjective list. Yours likely will be different. That’s what makes America great.

1. Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, 1969. The national anthem as searing social commentary. A month later, he talked about it with Dick Cavett.

2. Marvin Gaye at the NBA All-Star Game, 1983. It was “groundbreaking,” Grantland wrote. It became “the players’ anthem,” sung by “the archbishop of swagger,” The Undefeated wrote. “You knew it was history, but it was also ‘hood,” said no less than Julius Erving, the mighty Dr. J himself.

3. Jose Feliciano at the World Series, 1968. Controversial at the time, it paved the way for Hendrix and everyone else who dared do the anthem a different way. Feliciano’s version came “before the nation was ready for it.” NPR wrote. It “infuriated America,” Deadspin wrote. Ever since, it has “given voice to immigrant pride,” Smithsonian magazine wrote.

4. Mo Cheeks helping a 13-year-old girl who forgot the lyrics, 2003. A beautiful moment of empathy and grace. “Treat people the right way. That’s all that is. It’s no secret. It’s no recipe to it,” the modest, humble Cheeks told the Oklahoman in 2009.

5. Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl, 1991. An epic performance at a time when America desperately wanted to wrap itself in the flag, ESPN wrote. Truth be told, this isn’t one of my favorites because it came at this time and in these circumstances, but it belongs in the top five.

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Filed under July 2019, Sounds

The records left behind

Sunday’s road trip took us to Madison, Wisconsin, where there are several fine record stores.

One of our stops was at Strictly Discs, not far from Camp Randall Stadium. It opened in 1988, when we lived in Madison. But I never went there back then because it was strictly a CD store, and I was one of those dinosaurs who still hadn’t switched from vinyl to CD.

Now, though, Strictly Discs has plenty of vinyl, with lots of nice used stuff in the basement. There, one of my record-digging rules came into play. If you see something you’ve never seen before, you ought to think about getting it.

Indeed, as I dug through the soul records in the basement, I came across two I’d never seen before. I inspected them, Googled them, pondered them.

Then I put the first one back.

Billy Preston That's The Way LP

Billy Preston’s “That’s The Way God Planned It,” from 1969, on Apple.

Then, a tad more reluctantly, I put the second one back.

Jackie Wilson Count Basie MOS LP

Jackie Wilson and Count Basie’s “Manufacturers of Soul,” with arrangements by Benny Carter, from 1968, on Brunswick.

Maybe another day. Each cost more than I usually spend on a record.

On this day, it seemed more important to set that money aside to buy lunch for Evan and the other college kids.

If I lose some of my record-digging cred, I’ll blame Dave Edmunds. Long one of my faves, he makes an interesting confession in the current issue of Mojo magazine.

“I don’t even have a record player at home any more. I’ve bailed out of playing albums because iTunes and YouTube are so convenient. With that predictive thing one track will lead on to the next. I find that exciting.”

So, no, I didn’t bring “Manufacturers of Soul” home from Madison yesterday. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give it a listen. Most of the covers on this great album are on YouTube, and that’ll have to do for now.

In which they cover Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her.” Dig that!

In which they cover Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang.” Dig those trumpets and dig that Brunswick rainbow arrow!


Filed under November 2015, Sounds

Was the Camaro’s radio on that night?

Little mysteries are fascinating. Especially little mysteries about old cars fished out of water after many years missing.

That happened here last summer. A guy went to a blues club one cold Saturday night in March 1979 and someone stole his baby blue 1975 Plymouth Valiant. They found it at the bottom of the Fox River 33 years later.

It happened again earlier this month near Elk City, Oklahoma, a small town on old Route 66 roughly halfway between Oklahoma City and Amarillo, Texas.

Police divers were testing sonar — just as dredging crews were using sonar here — when they came across a 1969 Chevy Camaro about 12 feet down in Foss Lake. They came across two cars, actually. The other was a 1952 Chevrolet. Each car had three bodies in it.

On Nov. 20, 1970, a Friday night, Jimmy Williams and his pal Thomas Rios hopped in Williams’ car, the Camaro. They drove from Sayre, the next town west of Elk City, up to Hammon, the next town north, to pick up Jimmy’s girlfriend, Leah Johnson. Then they went back to Sayre, to a bowling alley. Then they headed to a football game in Elk City. Or maybe they went hunting.

They were never seen again.

Turns out, Jimmy Williams drove into Foss Lake. It was an accident. He might have gotten lost. He might have been driving too fast. The Camaro hit the water so hard that the drive shaft was knocked off. The fuel pump was broken off, as was part of the motor mount.

That blue Camaro was Jimmy’s pride and joy. He’d had it six days.

Jimmy was 16. Leah, his girlfriend, was 18. Thomas, his pal, was 18.

Lots of questions linger, most of them heart-wrenching, especially for the families. Mine is a more innocent question. Trivial, perhaps.

Three kids riding around on a Friday night. Not too many years later, that was us, in central Wisconsin. Were they listening to the radio, as we were? What would have been on the radio on that last Friday night before Thanksgiving in 1970?

That poses another little mystery.

Most of the songs on the Top 40 chart from WHB, 710 AM in Kansas City, issued earlier that Friday in November 1970, are familiar. Save for one, the one sitting just outside the Top 10 that week. Perhaps they heard it in Oklahoma.

“Holy Man,” by Diane Kolby.

It’s a gospel-rock single I don’t recall ever hearing. It appears to have been only a regional hit. In September and October 1970, it spent six weeks in the Top 40s at KADI in St. Louis and KDWB in the Twin Cities. Then it spent nine weeks in the Top 40 in Kansas City. It didn’t catch on anywhere else, reaching only No. 67 on the Billboard chart.

Diane Kolby was an east Texas singer who wrote and cut that single, then an LP, then abruptly quit the music business. It wasn’t compatible with her Christian beliefs. The comments in this 2008 post at a blog called Michael’s Mixed Media Playroom offer those clues.

She’s apparently still around, in her late 60s now, and living near Austin, Texas. According to a niece: “Her last name is spelled Kolbe. The record company made her change it to be phonetic. And she is an absolute hoot to be around. She is always, joking, singing and praising her Lord.”

One more note: Kolby’s producers were the late Scott and Vivian Holtzman, a husband and wife also from east Texas. If you’re into obscure late-’60s psych, dig this: The Holtzmans also produced and wrote most of the songs for Fever Tree, a Houston band, including this memorable single from the summer of 1968.

“San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native).”

Which I have heard.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.


Filed under September 2013, Sounds

Mission: Accomplished

Why so few posts here lately? Blame it on senioritis.

Our son’s senior year of high school, now down to just a handful of days, has been a blur. You want to save each memory, savor each moment, but there are so many, and they come so fast.

One such moment was Wednesday night, when Evan sang in his last choir concert. A bass-baritone, he was in four groups and sang in 12 numbers. The one that might linger longest in our memories is the surprise from the ’60s.

In the program, the first number for the Concert Choir was listed as “Mission: Impossible,” arr. Emerson.

Can’t be the same song, I thought. If it was that “Mission: Impossible,” Lalo Schifrin would be listed as the composer. Can’t be a song for a choir, I thought. There aren’t any lyrics.

Oh, they sang “Mission: Impossible,” all right. They sang the Schifrin composition, “a great a cappella showcase for pop, jazz and show choirs” as arranged by Roger Emerson.

Many of the 32 members of the Concert Choir reached into their jackets and dresses and put on shades. Then they clasped their hands, pointed their index fingers and cocked their thumbs. Then the IMF team moved stealthily about the stage, mixing precise choreography with precise scat singing.

“You know,” I said to Evan after that tremendous performance, “I have several versions of that song at home.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. I even have a soundtrack LP from that show.”

But we’ve explored that here before. Here’s another cool cover, with the great Jimmy Smith giving the Hammond B-3 organ another workout.


“Mission: Impossible,” Jimmy Smith, from “Livin’ It Up!” 1968. The LP is out of print as such, but is available on a 2-on-1 CD with Smith’s 1967 “Respect” LP and digitally.

If you’re wondering what the East High performance was like, this is close. It’s from Fort Collins High School in Colorado from 2010. They also did a good job, but the East Concert Choir turned IMF team had better choreography.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under May 2013, Sounds

The kicker, the go-go girls and Nixon

On the sports wire today was a short item out of Missoula, Montana, that Errol Mann, an NFL kicker during the ’70s, had passed away.

That name rang a bell. He’d played for the Green Bay Packers, although almost no one remembers that. Needing to check a few details, I went to the microfilm. It took me back to the fall of 1968, when October turned to November.

These are some of the things you find while looking for other things.

They wanted to ban go-go girls in De Pere, the next town over.

The thinking was that the dancers lured an undesirable element to the bars that lined Main Avenue, just a couple of blocks away from St. Norbert College, a small Catholic institution.

“Nixon’s the one,” the Press-Gazette proclaimed on Wednesday, Nov. 6.

I vividly remember the night before. We lived an hour to the south, in Sheboygan. My friend asked me to help deliver his papers. So we sat at the Cities Service station until 10 p.m., when at long last the Sheboygan Press truck dropped off our stacks. We took one look at the front page, and we knew why the papers were six hours late. Sure, they’d waited for election results. But there also was a color picture of Nixon. In 1968, they rarely ran color because it took so long to set up the press.

Johnny Cash headlined a pair of sold-out shows at the Bay Theater in downtown Green Bay on Monday, Nov. 11.

Cash, then just 36, was touring to support “At Folsom Prison,” his smash LP. It had just gone gold two weeks before. He performed along with the Carter Family, his relatively new in-laws and Nashville royalty. His old pal Carl Perkins, a decade past his hit-making prime but also just 36, was on the bill, too. So were the Statler Brothers, who were just getting going. It was pretty much the same group that had performed at Folsom Prison in California 11 months earlier.

Green Bay was the second stop on a whirlwind tour that took Cash and his entourage from Iowa to Wisconsin to North Carolina to West Virginia to Tennessee to Missouri for seven nights of shows over eight days.

I was just 11. I knew about go-go dancers from watching TV with my dad. I watched the Packers with my dad on Sundays, and I fancied myself a kicker, so I knew about Errol Mann. But I don’t think I knew about Johnny Cash. It was before I started listening to Top 40 AM radio for hours.

On TV on Saturday mornings, and perhaps on a cereal box, there was this:


“Bang Shang-A-Lang,” the Archies, 1968. Originally released on “The Archies” LP from that year. I have it on “The Archies’ Greatest Hits,” 1970, which is available on CD and digitally.

This song was among the “fastest movers” climbing the WLS Hit Parade in that first week of November 1968, up to No. 19 from No. 28.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.


Filed under April 2013, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 21

The day after the blizzard, the morning after the silent night, brought a second round of snowblowing and shoveling.

The world did not end, but the afternoon and evening simply blew past in the whirlwind that ensues as Christmas draws near.

At 9 p.m. on many Friday nights, it’s time to listen to the Funky 16 Corners Radio Show. Each week, my friend Larry puts together a fine program full of vintage soul, R&B and jazz and streams it via Viva Radio.

Last night was the Funky 16 Corners Christmas Special. I missed it. Doing something else in the 9 o’clock hour.

However, Larry made a playlist, and I checked it twice. Gotta find out who’s naughty — yeah, the show opens with Clarence Carter and “Back Door Santa” — and nice — oh, there’s Donny Hathaway and “This Christmas.”

And also …

“We got that set started with the mighty Otis Redding.
Two sides of a fantastic single if you can find it. On the Atco label, the top side is of course his upbeat ”Merry Christmas Baby’
and the B side is one of the greatest Christmas soul records
of all time, Otis’ reading of ‘White Christmas.’ Very, very nice one.”


“Merry Christmas Baby,” Otis Redding, 1968, from “Christmas In Soulsville,” 2007. It’s a compilation of songs from the Stax label. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Good song on its own, but you also ought to hear it in the context of Larry’s show. Head over to the Funky 16 Corners Radio Show page and scroll all the way to the bottom for the playlist and the link to the mp3 of the show. The shows also are available via iTunes podcast.

It’s been fun sharing this smaller Christmas with friends — I’m told there are more than five or six of you! — and sharing what friends have done. Scott and Derek were first, and now Larry.

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

An amazing journey: Riffat’s record

The first phase of a long overdue project wrapped up earlier this month at AM, Then FM world headquarters. I entered all of my vinyl LPs into a spreadsheet. There were a few interesting discoveries along the way.

When I pulled out my copy of “The Beatles” — yes, the White Album — I found an extra copy of “Revolver” tucked inside. Just the LP and sleeve, but no jacket.

There also was a name stylishly written on the lower right corner of “The Beatles” album jacket. My copy once belonged to one Riffat Kamal.

Presented with this little mystery — and I do love little mysteries — I began the search for Riffat Kamal. It didn’t take long to find him, even though he lives half the world away. Google, LinkedIn and Facebook make the world smaller.

We exchanged notes. I told him I thought I had a record he once owned, and that I likely bought it in Madison, Wisconsin, where we both lived during the ’80s.

Riffat Kamal is a cool guy, and he has a cool story. Here it is, in his words:

* * *

“I am delighted to know that my copy of the White Album is in good hands. I had quite a few records back at UW-Madison and I guess this was one of them. I started writing my name on the records when I lived in the dorm there, since I was always losing track of who on my dorm floor was borrowing which LP.

* * *

“I eventually ended up selling my entire collection after switching to CDs, a decision I now regret. However, it would have been too difficult to haul crates of records with all the moving around I’ve done.

* * *

“Wisconsin has always had a special place in my heart, so I am really glad to have heard from you. It is the first state I went to when I moved to the U.S. from my native Pakistan as an 18-year-old. It was the start of an amazing journey that took me to Los Angeles and San Francisco after leaving Wisconsin, and becoming a naturalized American citizen in the process. I now live in the Tokyo area with my Japanese wife.”

* * *

And I am really glad to have heard from you, sir.

I’m not sure where I bought Riffat’s record, although I’m fairly certain it was at Madcity Music Exchange at its original location on Regent Street, just south of the UW campus. Likewise, I’m not sure where I got the following bootleg. Somewhere on the web, five years ago.

“Revolution,” the Beatles, from the widely bootlegged Esher demos (also known as the Kinfauns demos), 1968. Never formally released.

Kinfauns was George Harrison’s home in the town of Esher, Surrey, England, from 1964 to 1970. There, in May 1968, the Beatles recorded many of the largely acoustic demos for the songs that wound up on “The Beatles” later that year.

The finished, more familiar version, of course, is on the White Album that once belonged to a Pakistani kid who was studying thousands of miles from home and beginning what has indeed turned out to be an amazing journey.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.


Filed under October 2012, Sounds