Marlon Reynolds Is Bitter and Sad

Back when I was listening to American Top 40 regularly, I loved the chart trivia bits on the show—those letters from listeners asking who had the most Number-One singles in the rock era, and so forth. Before the Internet, and before Joel Whitburn’s tremendous chart books became widely available, Casey was often the best source for that kind of thing. But I would imagine he got thousands of letters, so the chance yours would be chosen for the show were comparable to your chance of getting hit by lightning.

On the show for the week of  October 23, 1976, Marlon Reynolds of New Orleans beat the odds with a pretty good question: Which artist has hit the charts under the most different names, whether as a solo artist or a group member? After Casey teased it, I tried to think of who it might be. Tony Burrows, maybe? He sang under four different group names on “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes,” “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” “Gimme Dat Ding,” and “United We Stand,” (which all charted at about the same time in the spring of 1970), as well as “Beach Baby” by First Class, and in the Flower Pot Men, the Kestrels, and the Ivy League. Or was it some session singer who also scored a solo hit or two?

But it wasn’t Burrows, and Casey explicitly disqualified session singers. The answer, according to Casey, was John Lennon, and then he listed eight different ways Lennon was credited on various charting records: John Lennon, John Ono Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Nuclear Band, etc. “And there you go, Marlon. Thanks for your letter; it was really interesting.”

The question was interesting. The answer was terrible—not just unsatisfying, but pointless. If I were Marlon, I’d have been pissed. It’s like winning the lottery and then finding out you’re getting paid in grocery coupons.

The other listener-submitted trivia question on the October 23, 1976, show, was also awkwardly handled. It asked which Motown hit had spent the longest stretch at Number One. A good-enough question to answer, sure, but in his answer, Casey insisted on interpolating that the song, Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” also had the longest title of any Motown hit to reach the top. There’s a difference between trivia and minutiae, and that’s it.

The AT40 segment featuring Marlon’s question and answer is below. I’m posting it because the music (none of it by Lennon) is Top-40 glorious.

Close Encounters With the Famous: I was pleased to note that Dan O’Day stopped by and left a comment over the weekend. Dan is one of the best-known consultants in radio; years ago I had the chance to attend one of his jock seminars, and I’m still learning stuff from him today.

Recommended Reading: Nine years to the week after Apple introduced the iPod, Sony announced this week that it’s phasing out production of the Walkman, the portable cassette player that changed the way people listened to music following its introduction in 1979. I didn’t own a portable cassette player until relatively late in life—not until I had my own lawn to mow in the late 90s—and what I bought was a Walkman knockoff equipped with an AM/FM radio. It sucked—but not as hard as Casey’s trivia answer.

American Top 40, October 23, 1976 (excerpt) (I should mention here, because I never have before, that you don’t have to download anything I post here; you can go to the link and just listen.)

2 responses

  1. one of the lamest American Top 40 bits I heard was Casey talking up Three Dog Night and how many (then) obscure songwriters they were exposing with their hits. Valid point. But the record was “Black and White” and Casey says, “so let’s keep our eyes on D. Arkin and E. Robinson and see what else they have….” or some such thing; he was reading the writer’s credits right off the label. Had he done some minimal research he would have known that the song dated back to the 50’s and most likely was a one-off collaboration (celebrating the passage of Brown v. Board of Education). These weren’t guys sitting in the Brill Building plinking the piano on a tune for the flavor-of-the-month.

  2. I am also a huge fan of Kasem’s show and hear that bit over the weekend. Like you, I immediately thought of Tony Burrows (as Kasem had referenced him on the show at least a couple times during my 1980s childhood). Then, when I heard the answer, my response was not suitable for radio broadcast.

    Growing up, I thought Casey Kasem was a walking encyclopedia about the music business and its history. When I became a DJ, I learned about things like producers and staffers and how all those people whose names he read off at the end of the show who were hired to make him look that good. I still aspired to be like him when I did my shows, though. If anything, it was Casey Kasem who made me read and study about popular music.

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