Here’s a pretty fabulous survey from R&B station KGFJ in Los Angeles dated May 24, 1976. It includes many songs that had been, were, or would become major pop hits that year: “Love Hangover,” “Disco Lady,” “Get Up and Boogie,” “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker,” “Misty Blue,” “Livin’ for the Weekend,” “I’ll Be Good to You.” Many familiar groups are listed with less-familiar hits that didn’t become pop-radio blockbusters. And there are plenty of oddballs to note, which is how we roll around here.
8. “Traveling Man”/Masqueraders. Formed in Texas around the turn of the 1960s, this group toured briefly as the New Drifters, although none of their members seem to have had any connection to the original Drifters. In 1965, they moved to Detroit with the promise of an audition at Motown, but were stranded there after the label passed on them. They walked across town and knocked on the door of La Beat Records, run by a guy named Lou Beatty, who gave them a place to sleep and eventually bankrolled several singles. Later, they moved on to Memphis, working with Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill, finally signing with Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul label. “Traveling Man”—correct full title “(Call Me) The Traveling Man”—was so big in Philadelphia that Kenny Gamble approached the group about signing with him. They remained loyal to Hayes, however—not knowing that Hot Buttered Soul was about to go bankrupt. (Did not make Hot 100; bubbled under at #101.)
21. “Let’s Make a Baby”/Billy Paul. At the crossroads of idealistic hopefulness and the physical need to get down, there’s this. No way they weren’t getting the line “be fruitful and multiply” in there. (Hot 100 peak: #83.)
24. “Love Hangover”/Fifth Dimension. The story goes that when Berry Gordy got wind of the Fifth Dimension’s plan to release “Love Hangover,” he rushed out a version that Diana Ross had cut—which she did not like. Both charted the very same week, but Diana rose to #1 while the Fifth Dimension lasted but four weeks on the Hot 100, even though the two records sound almost exactly alike. “Love Hangover” turned out to be the last of the Fifth Dimension’s 30 Hot 100 hits. (Hot 100 peak: #80.)
27. “I’ve Got a Feeling”/Al Wilson. Everybody who reads this blog can think of at least a dozen singles—or a hundred—that deserved to be huge but were not. “I’ve Got a Feeling (We’ll Be Seeing Each Other Again)” is one from my list. Wilson had hit #1 with “Show and Tell” a couple of years earlier, a record that’s damn near perfect. I suppose “I’ve Got a Feeling” was a little too much like “Show and Tell,” but other singers have copied themselves and repeated their previous successes. So I dunno. (Hot 100 peak: #29, which is not bad but still.)
40. “Spanish Hustle”/Fatback Band. The story of how I learned to do the Hustle in physical education class sometime in 1975 or 1976 is part of my personal mythology. I can’t remember much other than the fact of it, or my general embarrassment at having to do something that required physical grace, and in the presence of the opposite sex yet. I seem to recall that we learned to do a step called the Spanish Hustle, but how it differs from the plain old Hustle, I don’t remember. I’m pretty sure, however, that we did it to this. (Did not make Hot 100; bubbled under at #101.)
KGFJ occupies a unique place in the history of radio. It was apparently the first radio station in the United States to broadcast 24 hours a day, beginning in 1927. Although some stations had done occasional all-night broadcasts as early as 1922, KGFJ was the first to do it full-time. During its soul music heyday, its jock lineup included Hunter Hancock, the Magnificent Montague, and Frankie Crocker. It changed call letters a couple of times over the years; today it’s a Korean language station called KYPA.