Chart 5: Hits of Our Time

Now THIS is a radio survey: from WIBG in Philadelphia, dated April 17, 1967, it’s the top 99 records of the week, divided between the Top Fifty and the Future Forty-Nine. That’s a lot of music, and somebody smarter than me with more time to do the research will have to tell the whole class whether WIBG (known then and fondly remembered now as “Wibbage”) really played all 99 of them, and how often.

Beyond the legends at the top—which, given that it’s 1967, are plenty damn legendary—are some fascinating records further down. For example, there’s the marvelous “Nothing Takes the Place of You” by Toussaint McCall, which I’d rank as one of the great soul singles of all time. It stalled in the 50s on the Hot 100 but is at #23 on this chart. But the Future Forty-Nine is what interests us the most. Some will become famous: “My Back Pages,” “Happy Jack,” “Hip Hug Her,” “Creeque Alley,” “Mirage,” and “Him Or Me—What’s It Gonna Be?” among them. The majority will not, however—and some of them are the sort of oddball records we like around here.

61. “I Want You to Be My Baby”/Ellie Greenwich. Famed as a songwriter with Jeff Barry (many of the great Phil Spector hits, including “Be My Baby,” “And Then He Kissed Me,” “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” “River Deep, Mountain High,” plus songs for others including “Chapel of Love” and “Hanky Panky) and as a producer, Greenwich started her recording career not with one of her own songs but with “I Want You to Be My Baby,” a garage-style version of an old Louis Jordan number that will kick your ass, go around the block and kick all your neighbors’ asses, and then come back to kick your ass again. It would be her only charting single.

82. “Beautiful Girl”/Ed McMahon. Yup, THAT Ed McMahon, tipped in a late April issue of Billboard as the newest artist on the Philadelphia-based Cameo/Parkway label. He made a whole album called And Me . . . I’m Ed McMahon, on which he recorded versions of several well-known songs, including “They Call the Wind Maria,” “Try to Remember,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Georgy Girl.” I can’t find a lick of it anywhere online, so you’ll just have to imagine how it sounds.

87. “The Beat Goes On”/Lawrence Welk. Welk made an album called Hits of Our Time in 1967, which also includes “Georgy Girl” (a remarkably popular song back then, covered dozens of times), “Somewhere My Love,” “Strangers in the Night,” and “Music to Watch Girls By.” I can’t find Welk’s original recording of “The Beat Goes On” anywhere online, although it is on this tap-dance routine from the Welk show, date unknown. Cheese factor: extremely high.

90. “If I Had a Hammer”/Richard “Groove” Holmes. The late 60s were the golden age of the soul-jazz 45. Holmes charted a couple, most famously “Misty.” Despite the ocean of Hammond B3 jazz in my files, lots of it by Holmes, I don’t have this particular song, and it ain’t online anywhere, either. C’mon, YouTube, you’re letting me down.

96. “Flashback”/The Spokesmen. Best known for recording an answer to Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” called “Dawn of Correction,” the Spokesmen had released several singles on Decca, but “Flashback” was on a little label called Winchester, distributed by Cameo/Parkway. (You want trivia, you got it.) It, too, is sufficiently obscure to have avoided being posted at YouTube.

So it looks to me like the Future Forty-Five is where Wibbage put everything but the kitchen sink in hopes of seeing some of it catch fire. Some of it did. Lots more of it didn’t. Which is probably why we talk about Top 40 radio and not Top 99 radio.

6 responses

  1. The Cameo/Parkway stuff makes me wonder about the relationships between big-city radio stations and the record labels based in those cities.
    How did the top radio stations in Detroit, Philly or Memphis interact with Motown, Cameo/Parkway (or, later, Philly International) and Stax?

    Obviously the Top 40 stations in Detroit, Philly or Memphis would program the big Motown, C/P or Stax hits, just like every other Top 40 station in the country.
    But would they play them more often? Would they be more receptive to minor acts on the same labels? Were they expected to be cheerleaders for the local acts, and did they ever chafe under that expectation?

    If any blog readership can hold forth intelligently on this, it is the readership (and the proprietor) of this blog.

  2. Even in an era rightfully legendary for amazing music that still holds up today, there was a lot of filler. Looking at the chart, I was drawn to number 91 “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” by Whistling Jack Smith And a quick Google search led me to “oh, I know that” although I never would have guessed it from the title… and I guess I could have happily lived without being reminded of that little ditty, I did enjoy learning that there was no real “Whistling Jack Smith” and that the guy on the album cover and in the YouTube videos wasn’t even the one who whistled on the record. Ah, showbiz!

  3. MusicStack.com has the LP for sale starting at $12. I bought albums and 45s from that site. Good people.

  4. Wibbage was my station growing up until WFIL Famous 56 came along. I probably had an actual paper copy of that top 99 survey in my hands at one time.!!!! No, they didn’t play all 99, mostly the top 50 after WFIL came along, but their playlist was a lot larger prior to Sept. ’66 when ‘FIL hit the airwaves. Yes, there were a lot of Cameo-Parkway hits that were big locally but nowhere else. I’m so glad you posted this. It’s been a long time since I saw a Wibbage top 99 list.

  5. I could almost feel my teeth turning whiter with each passing frame of that Lawrence Welk cheddarfest. “The Beat Goes On” on the actual 45 is downright hip, by comparison, with electric guitar, piano and brass each taking lead on successive verses, before the guitar finishes things off. Decidedly un-hip: the vocal “la-de-dah-de-de”s on the latter verses. It’s not a bad record at all, but just who the heck was its intended audience? The guitar was way too “rock” for the grownups. And teens biting on a Lawrence Welk record in 1967? Come on. Who was Wibbage currying favor with by Future 49-ing “The Beat Goes On”: the non-weekend daytime housewives, or Dot Records? The majority of the bottom 49 was of more use to record labels, who could then point to it and say “Wibbage is on it” when working other stations for playlist adds.

    Cameo Records was performing the same street cred balancing act, with Ed McMahon and Hermione Gingold torpedoing an hipness points gained by the signings of ? & The Mysterians, Terry Knight & The Pack and Bob Seger & The Last Herd.

    As for “Kaiser Bill”, I liked it enough to buy the mono 45, which has since pretty much been lost to time (the stereo LP/CD version isn’t even the same recording.) I wonder if Wibbage ever played the Pat Boone cover on Dot…

    Here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the two top-40 outlets played much more of the local Soma/Garrett/Bear/Bangar, etc. output than was heard nationally, but the artists were almost entirely from the Upper Midwest. Even then, radio airplay was limited to the biggest regional acts, one of which – Kansas’ The Fabulous Flippers – landed on Cameo via Quill Records out of Chicago.

  6. […] Chart 5: Hits of Our Time (jabartlett.wordpress.com) […]

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