Posts Tagged ‘Keith Whitley’

The Originals Vol. 38

May 7th, 2010 9 comments

May 9 will mark the 21st anniversary of the death of the country singer Keith Whitley, who was just about to break huge when he suddenly died. So it’s appropriate to include in this instalment of The Originals his vastly superior original of the mammoth hit for the ghastly Ronan Keating. In the course of researching this series I come to learn new things. I had always thought that Big Maybelle did the original of Jerry Lee Lewis’ first hit. I thought wrong. The third song featured is The Mindbender’s cover of A Groovy Kind Of Love, the first original song in this series for which I could find no useful graphic illustration.

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Roy Hall ““ Whole Lotta Shakin” Going On (1955).mp3
Big Maybelle ““ Whole Lotta Shakin” Going On (1955).mp3
Jerry Lee Lewis ““ Whole Lotta Shakin” Going On (1957).mp3
Elvis Presley ““ Whole Lotta Shakin” Going On (1972).mp3

One day in 1956, Jerry Lee Lewis and his father Elmo were passing through Memphis. Aware of how Elvis Presley had emerged from Sam Philips” Sun studio, Jerry Lee decided to drop in and audition, at the suggestion of his cousin Mickey Gilley (who later would become a big country star; another cousin, Jimmy Swaggart would become a notorious televangelist). The audition didn”t go very well: nobody wanted a piano player. According to sound engineer Cowboy Jack Clement, Lewis sounded like country guitar legend Chet Atkins on piano. Jerry Lee was dynamic, to be sure, but he was country and boogie woogie “” not rock “˜n” roll. A month later Lewis returned, with Clement”s encouragement. This time Sam Philips was in the studio. Lewis played a country hit, Ray Price”s Crazy Arms, in blues style. Philips was sold. Before too long, Lewis” version of Crazy Arms became his debut single, on Sun.

In May 1957, Clement and Philips were seeking a follow-up single. The session to record the Clement composition I”ll Be Me did not go well. During a break, bassist JW Brown “” Jerry”s cousin and future father-in-law (13-year-old Myra Gale”s dad) “” suggested they play A Whole Lotta Shakin” Going On, a cover of a song that had gone over well live. It took just one take for a pivotal moment in rock “˜n” roll to be created.

A Whole Lotta Shakin” had been written by Dave “Curlee” Williams, half black and half Native American, and Roy Hall, a nightclub owner from Nashville who had been recording intermittentlyin the country genre for 11 years. Or maybe Roy Hall didn”t write it. Though he certainly was the first to record it for Decca in September 1954, when the rockabilly number released in 1955, it was credited to D Williams alone. Only later did Hall get himself a co-writing credit under his pseudonym, Sunny David.

Hall”s version went nowhere, but the song became a minor hit in 1955 when the R&B singer Big Maybelle (real name Mabel Louise Smith) recorded it, produced by a young Quincy Jones. Though Big Maybelle”s version was better known, Lewis had picked up the song from Hall, whom he had seen performing it with country star Webb Pierce in Nashville.

Perhaps more than any rock “˜n” roll classic, A Whole Lotta Shakin” embodies the spirit of the nascent genre: a song created by a multi-racial team which first was a rockabilly number, then an R&B song, and then became something different altogether when performed by a singer who had a love for country, blues, and gospel and infused the stew with his own unique anarchic sensibility and lecherous sexuality. Initially the song was banned, but after Lewis appeared on the Steve Allen Show, which had also provided Elvis with an early platform, the airplay ban was gradually lifted, and the song became a big hit. Suitably, it topped both R&B and country charts.

Also recorded by: The Commodores (1956), Ricky Nelson (1957), Johnny O’Keefe & the Dee Jays (1957), The Tunettes (1957), Carl Perkins (1958), Little Richard (1979), Cliff Richard & the Drifters (1959), Conway Twitty (1960), Bill Haley and his Comets (1960), Chubby Checker (1960),Vince Taylor (1961), Johnny Hallyday (1962), Royale Monarchs featuring Roger Stafford (1962), Sherree Scott and her Melody Rockers (1963), Johnny Rivers (1964), The Rivieras (1964), The Weedons (1964), Mickey Gilley (1964), Wanda Jackson (1964), Sonny Flaharty and the Young Americans (1964), The Rocking Ghosts (1964), The Tremolons (1965), The Hep Stars (1965), Gerry and The Pacemakers (1965), Jerry Jaye (1967), Lucas (1969), Doug Ashdown (1969), John Smith & the New Sound (1970), Wild Angels (1970), Elvis Presley (1971), Vinegar Joe (1972), Mae West (1972), Mott the Hoople (1974), Tony Sheridan (1974), Mountain (1974), Rock House (1974), Lee Hazlewood (1976), Big Star (1978), Shakin’ Stevens (as part of a medley, 1978), Renée (1979), The Flying Lizards (1984), Elton John (1985), Georgia Satellites (1988), Valerie Wellington (1989), Cliff Richard (as part of a medley, 1990), Siren & Kevin Coyne (1994), Johnny Devlin (1998), Sébi Lee (2000), Rock Nalle & The Yankees (2004) a.o.


Diane & Annita ““ A Groovy Kind Of Love.mp3
The Mindbenders ““ A Groovy Kind Of Love.mp3

A Groovy Kind Of Love was written in 20 minutes in 1965 by Carole Bayer Sager, barely 21, and 17-year-old Toni Wine (who later sang with Ron Dante, Andy Kim and Ellie Greenwich on The Archies” Sugar Sugar; the “I”m gonna make your life so sweet” line is hers) . The song, one of the first to riff on the new buzzword “groovy” , was apparently based on the Rondo from Sonatina in G Major by Muzio Clementi (link from Peter”s Power Pop). It was first recorded by the short-lived duo Diane & Annita “” Diane Hall and Annita Ray. Annita had appeared alongside the likes of Fats Domino and Big Joe Turner in the rock “˜n” roll movie Shake Rattle And Roll, in which she performed the song On A Saturday Night. The song was left off the soundtrack album. She did apparently release three records between 1957 and 1959 before joining Ray Anthony”s Bookends, where she first met Diane Hall. After leaving the Bookends, Annita recorded a solo LP and then hooked up with Diane to release a few singles “” I have counted three, One By One; All Cried Out; and Groovy Kind Of Love “” on Scepter Records (on its Wand subsidiary), which was a home for many early and mid-“60s girl-bands.

Much mystery surrounded the duo. There is very little information about them, and rumours even had it that the Diane & Annita act was in fact Sager recording under a false name. In any case, the single didn”t go anywhere, nor did its second incarnation, a version by Patti LaBelle & the Bluebells, produced by the great Bertie Berns.

The English group The Mindbenders, from Manchester, had enjoyed a US chart-topper with Game Of Love, but by mid-1965 they suddenly were without their frontman, Wayne Fontana, after he walked out in a middle of as concert. As luck would have it, the now Fontana-less band came to record A Groovy Kind Of Love, with future 10cc member Eric Stewart on lead vocals, and had a huge hit with it, reaching #2 both in the UK and US. It was the only real success the group would have before disbanding in 1968, by which time another future 10cc member, Graham Gouldman, had joined. Just to be sure: the next time the presenter on your local oldies radio station attributes A Groovy Kind Of Love to “Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders”, phone the station and educate the presenter.

Also recorded by: Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles (1965), Petula Clark (1966), Graham Bonney (1966), Sonny & Cher (1967), Gene Pitney (1968), Marian Love (1968), Les Gray (1977), Winston Francis (1986), Phil Collins (1988), Neil Diamond (1993), Michael Chapdelaine (1995) a.o.


Keith Whitley – When You Say Nothing At All (1988).mp3
Alison Krauss & Union Station – When You Say Nothing At All (1995).mp3
The regrettable Ronan Keating scored a huge worldwide hit in 1999 with When You Say Nothing At All, his first single outside Irish boy band Boyzone, on the back of the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts rom-com Notting Hill (Julia Roberts is said to have cried when she first heard the song, no doubt overcome by Keating”s herculean soulfulness).

It”s not as mediocre a song as Keating and the terrible arrangement would make us believe. In the beginning, it was a quite excellent country #1 for the tragic Keith Whitley. Whitley was on the cusp of country superstardom when he died in on 9 May 1989 at the age of 33, one of the many musicians to fall the victim to the bottle. His influence endured in country music for a long time, as did that of his more successful close friend Ricky Skaggs, with whom he got a first break as members of the legendary Ralph Stanley”s bluergrass band. While Skaggs ruled in the country scene in the 1980s, Whitley had a few hits, but didn”t break through until he exercised greater control over his material on his third album, Don’t Close Your Eyes. Released in late 1988, it includes the marvellous It”s All Coming Back To Me Now and When You Say Nothing At All, yielding three country charts #1s before Whitley”s death (he had two more posthumously).

When You Say Nothing At All was written by Paul Overberg and Don Schlitz, both prolific songwriters and occasional recording artists (Schlitz recorded the first version of the Kenny Rodgers hit The Gambler, which he wrote). Whitley heard When You Say Nothing At All and wanted to record it, predicting correctly that he would score a hit with it. Whitley had previously recorded another Overberg/Schlitz composition, On The Other Hand, but that became a big hit for Randy Travis instead.

Alison Krauss, once a child prodigy, recorded When You Say Nothing At All for a Whitley tribute album. Her lovely version was so popular that it was released as a single, providing the bluegrass singer with her first hit, reaching #2 on the country charts.

Also recorded by: Henning Stærk (1997), Roman Keating (1999), Ronan Keating & Deborah Blando (2002), Ronan Keating & Paulina Rubio (2003), Engelbert Humperdinck (2005), Jay H (2007), Susan Wong (2007), Cliff Richard (2007)

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