High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Six Degrees of Cameo-Parkway: The Real Sound of Philadelphia!


Philadelphia's Cameo-Parkway 

Records practically invented the 

60s dance craze. Ever hear of 

"The Twist"?

Chubby Checker is perceived by some as a one-hit-wonder for his revolutionary recording that persuaded people of all ages around the world to get out on the dance floor. The fact of the matter is that the underrated performer from South Philly was as prolific as he was terrific. One of my favorite records by Chubby is "The Fly," a dance number
that broke into the top 10 during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season of 1961.

"The Fly" - Chubby Checker 
(November 1961, highest chart position #7) 

During the golden era of doo-wop and rock and roll there were many acts named after birds (Flamingos, Penguins, Larks, Wrens, Robins, Crows, Ravens, Orioles) and cars (Edsels, Cadillacs, Cobras, Stingrays, GTO's, Fleetwoods, Impalas, El Dorados). There were also quite a number of groups named after fabrics or articles of clothing (Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, the Swinging Blue Jeans, the
Turbans, Chiffons, Five Satins, Velvets).

You can add to that list the Philly vocal group The Orlons. The Orlons came up with their name as a friendly poke at
the Cashmeres, another vocal group at their high school that was named after a type of fabric. As the story goes, school friend Len Barry, lead singer of the Dovells, urged the Orlons to audition for Cameo-Parkway. C-P had already established Len and the Dovells as hit makers with "Bristol Stomp." As you are about to learn, several Cameo-Parkway releases that shoulda been, coulda been and woulda been #1 hits, were instead denied that honor by the songs of other artists. "Bristol Stomp," for example, reached #2 on the Billboard chart before being turned back by "Runaround Sue" (Dion) and "Big Bad John" (Jimmy Dean).

"Bristol Stomp" - Dovells 
(November 1961, highest chart position #2) 

Upon signing with Cameo the Orlons were initially used as backing vocalists for soloist Dee Dee Sharp. The Orlons sang backup on Dee Dee's first two dance hits beginning with "Mashed Potato Time," one of the most exciting records to emerge during the pre-Beatles 60s.

"Mashed Potato Time" ran into the same brick wall as had "Bristol Stomp." The record was headed straight for #1 but was blocked from that spot for several weeks, first by "Johnny Angel" (Shelley Fabares) and then by "Soldier Boy" (Shirelles). Listen now to "Mashed Potato Time" and I think you'll agree...Dee Dee Sharp and the Orlons cook!

"Mashed Potato Time" - Dee Dee Sharp 
(April 1962, highest chart position #2) 

In the summer of 1962 the Orlons backed Dee Dee on her follow-up hit "Gravy (for My Mashed Potatoes)." The Orlons recorded their own version of "Gravy" which became a track on their debut album The Wah-Watusi.

"Gravy" - Orlons 
(track from 1962 album The Wah-Watusi) 

Now, here's that first smash hit for the Orlons, held back from the #1 chart position by "Roses are Red" (Bobby Vinton) and by "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" (Neil Sedaka).

"Wah-Watusi" - Orlons (August 1962, 
highest chart position #2) 

Dee Dee Sharp, who had also started as a background singer and rose through the ranks at Cameo, capped off the year with her third top 10 hit in a row, a super fast dancer entitled "Ride!"

"Ride!" - Dee Dee Sharp (December 1962, 
highest chart position #5) 

"Stompin' Everywhere," the flip side of "You Can't Sit Down," is highly derivative of "Bristol Stomp." Nevertheless, the Dovells' killer bee is another fine Philly style dance record, tailor made for Jerry Blavat's yon teens and the Geator's gang at Memories in Margate, New Jersey!

"Stompin' Everywhere" - Dovells 
(June 1963, uncharted flip side of 
"You Can't Sit Down") 

In 1963 the Orlons had a hit single with an ear pleasing cover of "Not Me," a song recorded two years earlier by R&B rocker Gary U.S. Bonds.

"Not Me" - Orlons (July 1963, 
highest chart position #12) 

The Orlons version of "Not Me" was smooth and polished. Now listen to Bonds' rough, raw and rowdy rendition and
I think you'll agree that the original's still the greatest.

"Not Me" - Gary U.S. Bonds (track from 
1961 album Dance 'Til Quarter to Three) 

To conclude my six degrees of Cameo post let's jump ahead to 1967, the end of the line for Cameo Records. By 1967 it was an entirely different decade and a different world. Dance singles, Cameo-Parkway's bread and butter, had started going out of style at the beginning of 1964 when the Beatles conquered the world. The era of the singer/songwiter was upon us. Cameo tried to adapt but it was too little too late. Financially crippled, Cameo Records went belly up. Evie Sands, one of the greatest and most overlooked artists of the 60s, had the dubious honor of recording the last single on the Cameo label. The song that I would like you to hear was one of the last. It's the original recording of songwriter Chip Taylor's "Angel of the Morning" waxed by Evie Sands a full year before Merrillee Rush turned the song into a top 10 hit. As was so often the case in Evie's hard luck career, her fine rendition never charted.

"Angel of the Morning" - Evie Sands 
(May 1967, uncharted) 

For decades, record collectors fussed and fumed as the Cameo-Parkway vaults remained sealed amid litigation, preventing the release on compact disc of dozens of essential songs produced by the company. Finally, a few years ago, the long awaited four disc C-P box set hit the market and I highly recommend it. You can forget about that slick, high gloss 70s stuff. If you want to hear the real sound of Philadelphia, then Cameo-Parkway in the early 60s is the place to start!

Have a Shady day!


  1. Some great tunes here, Shady, as usual! In France, they still jive to every, single song - bizarre! Have a great day (if you're just starting yours, mine is just ending!) :)

  2. Gawgus - I know you must be looking forward to another glorious weekend in Paris. Today I was able to pry it out of your mum that you, she and Alfred once bungee jumped off the Eiffel Tower! What an exciting life you lead, dear friend! Thank you very much for coming over for a visit G-T!

  3. Hi Shady, A great song list. As I told you before, I saw Chubby Checker, the Orlons and Dovells all at Hershey Park within the last two years. All put on a good show. Chubby still very active for a full hour show, the male bass for the Orlons still makes the group and the the Dovells withour Barry are just OK. They did not do their killer B called "The Actor" which is one of my favorites. Thanks for the excellent history you provide with the music. Jerre

  4. Well my friend you certainly got things jumping around my office this afternoon. I thought I was looking at a menu for a moment with the mashed potatoes & gravy.
    Seriously I love those tunes a lot and it really brought back memories. Thanks a bunch and have a great evening.

  5. Jerre - I wish that I could have seen Chubby's show at Hershey. Last time I saw him perform on television Mr. Twist showed no signs of slowing down. It's hard for me to imagine the Dovells without Len's distinctive voice in the lead. Thanks so much for your comment, Jerre, and have a great weekend!

    Odie - I'm glad you enjoyed this flashback to the early 60s which was light years before you were even born! (LOL) You're right, the song list reads like a menu. I wonder if goth rocker Meatloaf ever sang "Mashed Potatoes" or "Gravy"? Have a fine Carolina evening, good buddy!

  6. These are fun songs, Shady. I remember most of them. Chubby Checker looked pretty hot back then! My favorite of all the songs was Wah-Watusi. Loved it when I was young.

  7. Belle - Yes, these were fun songs. It was wonderful listening and dancing to innocent records like these during our early teen years because those years of our lives are meant to be carefree. The 60s was a schizophrenic decade and just a few years later kids were coming of age listening to songs about war, protest, the fight for civil liberties and drug experimentation. Ours was the last generation to experience that degree of innocence in music and other media. As always I greatly appreciate your visit and comments, dear Belle!

  8. Hi there Shady dear friend. As usual, you have given us some great songs in your post there. I used to love Chubby Checker and can vividly remember twisting away in my much younger days!! It all seemed to innocent back then, didn't it?! How times have changed. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  9. Thisisme - It's easy to forget that "The Twist" was originally recorded by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters and that Hank's version was a top 30 hit on the pop chart and #6 on the R&B side. Chubby's cover version of "The Twist" went viral and became the only record in history to hit #1 on the pop chart two different times a year or more apart! Thank you very much for your comment, dear Thisisme!

  10. Is it weird that I love all of these!!!! Hugs

  11. Katie - It's only weird, dear friend, because you are far too young to remember them! I am delighted to know that you love these Cameo classics as much as I do. Thank you very much for the visit. I hope you are having a delightful weekend in your corner of the world, Katie!

  12. i LOVE vintage dancing! the stuff we have now (a.k.a. wiggling and jiving to the music) is total trash. there's nothing like dancing to a whimsical old melody in the arms of a partner! =)

  13. Hope Adela - Hello and welcome to SDM&M! It's so nice of you to stop by for a look and a listen. Your choice of the word "whimsical" is key because there was a great deal of fun and humor in popular music in the 50s and early 60s. I am always excited to meet young people with old souls. Your Pink Champagne vintage fashion blog is one of the best I've seen and I was delighted to discover that you live in Shady Dell country, Central Pennsylvania. Thank you very much for your comment and please come back again soon, Hope Adela!

  14. It makes me so sad to think that the days of real dancing are gone. Ballroom dancing. Swing dancing. Even just the playful jitter bug of the 50's. All of these have been replaced by loathsome 'grinding' that my fellow teenagers feel the need to do. It's not dancing: it's like watching porn on the dance floor. It's so disappointing.

    Goodness, could I possibly ever thank you enough for the comments you leave me? It seems as though often you must be my guardian angel, leading me through the path that is easiest and right for me. Thanks you so much for everything Mr. Anderson...

  15. Lauren - You are most certainly welcome. I love to offer guidance when it is needed and welcomed. The world has changed a great deal since those carefree days of malt shops, sock hops and weekly dance crazes. Your recent Kent State post was a reminder of how deadly serious the climate in this country had become only a few years later. Outstanding young people like you are our nation's hope for the future. With your head on straight and your heart in the right place you are helping to turn the ship's rudder and steer the S.S. America away from the jagged reef and back out to safe waters. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, dear friend!

  16. Hello there Mr. Shady, sorry it took me so long to get my behind over here to check your new post. I am glad I waited until just now to stop by though because these songs have got my morning started off right! I think I am on my third round of mashed potato :) Oh and the Twist is one of my fave songs. Funny story, my sister in law actually blew out her knee at a wedding dancing away to that song, okay tahts not really funny but she has a good sense of humor and can laugh along with us now. Whenever that song comes on we yell for someone to go break out her crutches. Have a pleasant Sunday!

  17. Lively dance tunes are favorites of mine so this blog post is also a favorite one! Thank you, Shady! Somehow I missed "The Fly" in my youth but loved this video ... expecially the couple in the foreground. Until you brought it up, I had never thought of the birds, cars and clothing themes associated with bands/groups and songs. The 'Wah-Watusi' (meaning?)is an old favorite along with the 'Bristol Stomp'. I agree with you, Shady, I prefer the Orlons' more polished version of 'Not Me'.
    Anxious to see what you're cookin' up next, Shady, thanks again.

  18. Amber Blue Bird - I'm glad you enjoyed a heaping helping of mashed potatoes and gravy for breakfast! The point I would like to make about Chubby Checker is that he didn't milk "The Twist" as long as some artists might have. After releasing a few spin off variations, Chubby put together a nicely varied catalog that includes some interesting folk songs. All of his material is commercial yet very satisfying to my ears. Thank you for winging it over to see me, Ms. Blue Bird, and enjoy a fine day up your way!

    Cindy - As long as I'm listing vocal groups that were named after fabrics, clothing and cars I would like to mention one that I forgot in this post: the Capris. As you recall, capris were tight fitting pants worn by women. There were actually two groups by that name: one a white Italian doo-wop group from New York ("There's a Moon Out Tonite") and the other a black doo-wop group from Philly. While there's a good chance the Philly group was named after the capri pants, the New York based act reportedly got its name from the 1957 Lincoln Capri automobile. Thank you ever so much for your visit, dear Cindy, and have a super Sunday!

  19. Thank you for your lovely comment on my last post, I hope you're having a nice weekend, I haven't heard any of these songs, I still have so much to learn about music!


  20. Emma - Then you've come to the right place, my dear friend! I am getting an education just from doing the research. I'm sure you'll agree that it's great fun discovering something new that is decades old! Have a delightful evening in Dublin town, Emma!

  21. I envied Jerre seeing that show a couple years ago at Hershey Park. I forgot about the Dovell's song "The Actor". Always preferred the original Phil Upchurch "You Can't Sit Down, Pts. 1 & 2" to the vocal version the Dovells later did. Did further checking on Hank Ballard. Seems he did invent the twist, but originally his recording was a B-side released a year before Chubby (Ernest Evans, former chicken-plucker) Checker covered it. I did catch him on "American Choppers" instead of Hershey. One hit wonder? Yeah, "Slow Twistin'" with DeeDee Sharp, although she was never credited on the label, "Pony Time", "Twenty Miles", "Popeye The Hitchhiker", "Loddy Do" (the clean version), "Limbo Rock". Parkway also did Eddie Holman's first and two best songs, "This Can't Be True" and "Don't Stop Now", and some of the best Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles, "Danny Boy" (gives my Irish blood goosebumps), "You Will Fill My Eyes No More." Loved all the Orlons stuff and, as much as I liked "Not Me", I agree that Gary (U.S.) Bonds earlier version, which WSBA never played is better. But, I ain't no boxer. I'd like to hear the original "Angel of the Morning", and I believe you do know Chip Taylor is Jon and Barry Voigt's (former prof at Penn State) younger brother. Keep a rockin', Shady!

  22. Ron - As you probably know but other readers might not, twist king Chubby Checker tried without much success to make novelty records in which he imitated other popular recording artists. On his first single "The Class" which barely cracked the top 40, Chubby imitated Fats Domino, the Coasters, Elvis, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. He also teamed up with Bobby Rydell to record "Jingle Bells Imitations" in which both men mimicked a few of their famous peers. Along with "Loddy Lo," a folk song that you mentioned, I loved three of Chubby's other folk sides, "Hooka Tooka," "Hey Bobba Needle," and "Lazy Elsie Molly." Thanks for checking in, Ron, and have a great week!


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