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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Echoes of the Spectorian Era, Vol. 2: Shades of Gray and Madara-White

 Welcome to Volume 2 of my 

 17-part series focusing on 

 Phil Spector's Wall of Sound

 records produced by Spector 

 along with great soundalikes 

 produced by others! 

John Madara and David White were
architects of what became known
as the East Coast Wall of Sound,
inspired by the massive success
of production whiz Phil Spector.
This volume of Echoes focuses
exclusively on records produced
by the team of Madara and White.


One of the best examples of the East Coast Wall
is a magnificent yet uncharted record by the
Bobbi-Pins, a black girl group from Ohio.
The arrangement by Madara and White
could pass for a Spector produced
opus by the Ronettes or Crystals!

  "Why Did You Go" - The Bobbi-Pins 
 (November 1963, uncharted) 


Now meet the Secrets, another girl group from
the Buckeye State - Cleveland to be exact.
In February/March 1964 the Secrets had
their own Spector Sound single in play,
co-written and produced by Madara
and White, "The Other Side of Town"
was the kind of teen melodrama that
gave The Shangri-Las a string of hits
that began a few months later.

It's no secret: "The Other Side of Town" was a great
girl group record that deserved to be heard but it
never even reached the Bubbling Under chart!

 "The Other Side of Town" - The Secrets 
 (February 1964, uncharted) 


Nowhere is the Eastern Wall of Sound more evident
than on "My Girl," a single by Johnny Caswell that
sounds like "Be My Baby," right down to a spot-on
imitation of Ronnie Spector's melismatic vocal style.

 "My Girl" - Johnny Caswell 
 (June 1964, uncharted) 


The Madara-White wall is wailin' on a
stupendous doublesider by Philly vocalist
Ann D'Andre, later known as Ann D'Andrea.
Both songs on Ann's single could have been
substantial hits and it's an outrage that neither
side charted. The plug side is a catchy song
with a returning home b.f. theme similar to
the Angels' "My Boyfriend's Back."  This
one by Ann is "Johnny's Back in Town."
(If it's the same guy from the Angels
record then two-timing Johnny's
 got some 'splainin' to do!)

 "Johnny's Back in Town" - Ann D'Andre 
 (February 1964, uncharted) 


One of the biggest hits for the Madara-White
team was "You Don't Own Me," a song they
wrote and Mercury's mercurial singing star
Lesley Gore recorded when she was 17.

"You Don't Own Me" rocketed to #2 on the pop chart
before hitting a glass ceiling, denied the top spot by
the Beatles' monster "I Want to Hold Your Hand."
To this day "You Don't Own Me" remains
a popular girl power anthem.

 "You Don't Own Me" - Lesley Gore 
 (February 1964, highest chart position #2) 

That same year Lesley recorded
another Madara-White song.

"Live and Learn" was included
on Lesley's album Girl Talk.


In 1966 actress,
dancer and singer
Joey Heatherton released what many people consider to be the definitive version
of "Live and Learn."

 "Live and Learn" - Joey Heatherton 
 (May 1966, uncharted) 


Here's another Spectoresque production by
Madara-White, this one featuring 14 year old
Philadelphia singing sensation Maureen Gray.

"Good-bye Baby" practically oozes the Spector
sound of Darlene Love or the Ronettes and
should have been a colossal hit. It didn't help
that the release of the single coincided with
the eruption of Beatlemania, a phenomenon
that derailed the careers of many domestic
recording artists practically overnight.

 "Good-bye Baby" - Maureen Gray  
 (January 1964, uncharted)  

A sad footnote: Maureen Gray died last month
from a rare type of cancer. She was 65.

 I hope you enjoyed 

 Volume 2 of Echoes - 

 the Eastern Wall-of-Sound  

 painted shades of Gray 

 and Madara-White. 

 Stay tuned for more 

 Spector Sound records 

 coming soon in Vol. 3! 

Have a Shady day!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Remembering Helen



The following song reminds me of a
very special person, the first lady
of the Shady Dell, Helen Ettline.

Unforgettable, Helen.

That's what you are!
We love you and miss you.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Randy's Rainbows & Patty's Emblems But Definitely NOT Frankie's Avalons!








Dell Rat Ron Shearer joins us again today 
and he and I offer this ironclad guarantee:

Every spinner's a winner or
DOUBLE your money back!

 Ron, let me begin with 

 one of the best groups 

 most of us never heard! 


The Hampton Roads Tidewater of
Southeastern Virginia has long been
a breeding ground for talented
vocal groups like the Five Keys
who gave us "Close Your Eyes,"
the mother of all Dell songs.

Early in their history the Five Keys shared
members with another evolving R&B
group from the area, the Avalons.

The Avalons signed with the Groove subsidiary
of RCA and in early 1956 released the sweet
ballad "Chains Around My Heart."

 "Chains Around My Heart" - The Avalons 
 (February 1956, uncharted) 

A few months later the Avalons were back
in the Groove with another great ballad,
"It's Funny But It's True."

 "It's Funny But It's True" - The Avalons 
 (October 1956, uncharted) 

The Avalons waxed their finest recording
late in 1958, the enthralling ballad
"My Heart's Desire."

 "My Heart's Desire" - The Avalons 
 (December 1958, uncharted) 

That Unart 45 is a dynamite doublesider.
The killer bee on the back is the Avalons'
version of an oft recorded 1953 song that
earned the Righteous Brothers a top 5
hit in 1965. Here are the Avalons
with another delightful dose of 
Tidewater tonic, "Ebbtide."

 "Ebbtide" - The Avalons 
 (December 1958, uncharted B side 
 of "My Heart's Desire") 

Have you noticed how often the word
"uncharted" has appeared in this 9 volume
Dueling Doo-wops series? Forget about
the Billboard pop chart which failed to
acknowledge countless contributions
made by black artists.

I'm referring to Billboard's Top R&B Singles,
the so-called "black" chart. I can't help
wondering what criteria, what formula,
what twisted logic Billboard used to
compile its Top R&B Singles lists.
Not one of the great recordings
made by the Avalons reached
the Billboard R&B Singles chart!

Frankie Avalon? 


The Avalons? 


 What's wrong, Billboard? Hooked on vanilla? 

 "What's Wrong" - The Avalons 
 (recorded in 1958, released in 1988) 

 Okay, Ron, it's time for you 

 to spin wax into solid gold 

 at the greatest little station 

 'n the nation - SDMM! 



 Shady, most of us know 
 "Mixed-Up, Shook-Up, Girl," 
 the energetic top 40 hit 
 from the summer of 1964 
 recorded by New Jersey  
 songstress Patty Russell  
 and her vocal group  
 Patty and the Emblems. 

 When Patty and the boys slowed things down, 
 good things happened - very good things. 

 Listen to "You Can't Get Away," a soulful ballad 
 released later that same year on the flip side of 
 "And We Danced." Hard to believe it failed to chart! 

 "You Can't Get Away" - Patty and the Emblems 
 (Dec. 1964, uncharted B side of "And We Danced") 



 Next, here's a great up tempo number by 
 Randy and the Rainbows, the white doo-wop 
 group from Queens, NY.  Led by Dominick 
 "Randy" Safuto along with his brother, 
 another pair of siblings and a 5th member,
 Randy and the Rainbows is best known for 
 "Denise," a top 10 hit in the summer of '63. 
 "Denise" wasn't the group's only great record. 
 Feast your ears on "Till I Heard It From You,"
 a 1982 update of a record the Safuto brothers 
 waxed in 1960 when they belonged to the Dialtones.

 "Till I Heard It From You" - Randy and the Rainbows 
 (from 1982 album C'mon Let's Go


Ronny, the Ducanes were a six member vocal group 
led by Jeff Breny and Ron Nagel and produced by 
Phil Spector early in his career. The group's single, 
"I'm So Happy (Tra La La)," Bubbled Under for 
 three weeks in the summer of 1961 and reached
#109 on the chart. My Pick to Click, however,
is the dreamy B ballad, "Little Did I Know."

 "Little Did I Know" - The Ducanes 
 (July 1961, uncharted B side of 
 "I'm So Happy (Tra La La)") 

 Ron, we're clickin the turnstiles 

 in our wax files. Whatcha got good? 


 Shady, my next spin is a record by 
 the Turbans, one of the best R&B 
 doo-wop vocal groups ever to 
 come out of Philadelphia. Led 
 by tenor Al Banks, the Turbans 
 released their first single in the 
 summer of 1955. The A side, 
 "Let Me Show You (Around My 
 Heart)," was a Clyde McPhatter 
 styled ballad that became a 
 regional hit but failed to break 
 nationally. Around the time "Let Me 
 Show You" was fading, DJ's discovered and started playing 
 the B side, the Latin-beat "When You Dance." The killer bee 
 caught fire, becoming a top 5 smash on the R&B chart and 
 a top 40 hit that spent five full months on the pop survey! 

 "When You Dance" The Turbans 
 (Jan. 1956, highest chart pos. #33 pop/#3 R&B

Ron, the Turbans got our blood pumping with that toe tapper. Let's close today's doo-wop
sock hop with another bitchin' fast paced dance tune!


The Impalas, a vocal group from Brooklyn, 
were a mixed race quartet - 3 white men 
and black group leader Joe Frazier.



(No...not the boxer!)

At a time when rock 'n roll was stagnating and the 
Billboard chart was getting junked up with novelty 
records, historical and patriotic songs, country and 
western tunes, big band sounds and easy listening 
instrumentals, the Impalas cut through the clutter 
with an exciting, up tempo doo-wop 45 for teens.  
"Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home)" was one of the  
first records to spark my interest in the budding  
rock 'n' roll revival of the late 60s.

 "Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home)" - Impalas 
 (May 1959, highest chart position #2) 

 And there you have it... 
 the 9th and final volume 
 of our Dueling Doo-wops 
 series. I hope you enjoyed 

 Pardon me... 

 Mister Adrian Monk! 
 What brings you by? 

 You said the series is ending 

 after only nine posts. 

 I distinctly heard you say 

 ............. nine. 

 TEN seems like a much nicer number. 

 Nice and even...five and five... 

 Okay, Mr. Monk, have it your way. 

 Dell Rat Ron and I will be back 

 soon with a TENTH volume of 

 Dueling Doo-wops and it'll be 

 the biggest and best of all! 

Have a Shady day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

From Austria With Love: V-Day Songs That Will Leave You Shaken and Stirred!

This Valentine's Day

I proudly present one of the finest

female vocalists in the world.

Her voice touches me and

moves me like no other.

Austrian singer Sandra Schleret is a veteran of the
modern gothic symphonic heavy metal movement.
In her native country Sandra fronted the bands
Dreams of Sanity and Siegfried and she has
been a guest vocalist on other projects.

As you might recall, Sandra Schleret was featured
in my Beauty and the Beasts post last Halloween.
To refresh your memory, here is the bewitching
Sandra singing for the German metal band
Soulslide as they perform "Into Despair".

"Into Despair" - Soulslide
featuring Sandra Schleret 
(from 2004 demo Lost in You)

In 2006 Sandra joined Elis, a goth metal band
from the Central European nation of Liechtenstein.
Sandra replaced Sabine D√ľnser who had died as a
result of a cerebral hemorrhage earlier that year.

In 2007 Sandra was lead singer for Elis at the
annual Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium.
Listen to Sandra's impassioned intro as she
remembers Sabine and performs one of Elis's
best known songs, "Show Me The Way."

"Show Me The Way" - Elis 
featuring Sandra Schleret (live at the
2007 Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium)


In 2009 Elis released their 4th and final album.
They called it Catharsis and for good reason.
It was cathartic for the band to work on the
album following the tragic death of Sabine.

The album was also cathartic for Sandra
because she suffered a serious illness
prior to joining Elis and there was
doubt she would ever sing again.

My Main Event is "Rainbow," a track from
Catharsis. "Rainbow" is a triumph, a recording
worthy of becoming a classic ballad and used
as the love theme of a major motion picture.
Listen now as the soulful Sandra Schleret
and Elis perform one of the greatest
love songs of all time, "Rainbow."

"Rainbow" - Elis featuring Sandra Schleret 
(from 2009 album Catharsis)


Fate touched my life
Led you my way --
Within a heartbeat
I was caught by your light

The surface shivered
Unveiled so unexpected beauty
True and fateful bright

You are the thought that covers me tonight
Beautiful soul -- sacred ways of life
Unfold my wings -- reach out for your light
To shelter you from pain tonight

A flare in time
Gathered our souls
As they touched gently
Sacred ways of fate

Love entered my life
So unexpected though so welcome
Living in your eyes

And though I know my fight begins
My soul's melting within

You are the thought that covers me tonight
Beautiful soul -- sacred ways of life
Unfold my wings -- reach out for your light
My heart it breaks for you tonight

My heart steady beats for you (eternal on, eternal on)
No despairing darkness can blind my sight
Show me your colours -- my ray of light...
I'm burning bright -- alive!

You are the thought that covers me tonight
Beautiful soul -- sacred ways of life
Unfold my wings -- reach out for your light
Never forsake -- it's once in a life...

Have a Shady day...

  and a happy Valentine's Day!  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snow White and the Seven Soul Sistas

 As I introduce today's play list 

 I will avoid trite expressions 

 like all killer and no filler. 

That would be gilding the lily.
You'd take it with a grain of salt
and that would be a fine kettle of fish,
but doggone it, if the shoe fits....

If truth be told, in the final analysis,
in the long run, it goes without saying
that I'm head over heels for these songs.
When you hear them you'll be over the moon
in seventh heaven, too. Without further ado
and before I get cold feet, it's time for you to
face the music and be wowed in one fell swoop.








The Bronx gave birth to many fine soul sistas
and Doris Troy was one of them. Nicknamed
"Mama Soul" by her fans, the veteran R&B
singer and songwriter worked with greats like
Solomon Burke and Dionne Warwick, provided
backing vocals for rockers like the Stones,
Pink Floyd and George Harrison and was signed
by the Beatles to their Apple Records label.

In the summer of 1963, Doris Troy scored
the biggest hit of her singing career with a
song she co-wrote, the top 10 charting
R&B classic "Just One Look."

 "Just One Look" - Doris Troy 
 (July 1963, highest chart position #10) 


Soul sista Nella Dodds hails from Havre de Grace,
Maryland, just a hop skip and a jump down the road
from York and Lancaster. Nella recorded in Philadelphia
and released six singles on the NY based Wand label.

Nella's first release, waxed at the age of 14,
was "Come See About Me," a cover of the
 Holland-Dozier-Holland song found on the
 Supremes' album Where Did Our Love Go.
When Berry Gordy learned that Nella recorded
the song, Motown rush released the Supremes
version on a single to compete with Nella's.
The Supremes were riding high, coming off
back-to-back #1 hits with "Where Did Our
Love Go" and "Baby Love." Success breeds
success and Diana's divas trounced Nella,
gaining their third consecutive chart topper
while Nella's version died on the vine at #74.

She was standing in the shadow of Motown,
but I think Nella's is the more exciting record.
Listen to a Northern Soul classic and a monster
on the Belgian Popcorn circuit - Nella Dodds'
killa dance floor filla, "Come See About Me."


 "Come See About Me" - Nella Dodds 
 (November 1964, highest chart position #74) 



Formed in 1958, this Bronx girl group, originally
called the DeVaurs, was heavily influenced by the
Chantels. They won talent show, cut a few records
and became busy session singers.

The group was renamed Baby Jane and the Rock-A-Byes
and also released records under several other names
including Henrietta & the Hairdooz, the Elektras
and the Lullabyes. These Baby Jane girls, by
any other name, sound the same - terrific!

 "Half Deserted Street" 
 Baby Jane and the Rock-A-Byes 
 (1963, uncharted) 


My last soul sista was born Dione LaRue.
That would have made a cool stage name
but she changed it to Dee Dee Sharp.
In the early 60s, Dee Dee helped create
the early Sound of Philadelphia and in '67
married one of the principal architects
of the Philly Sound, record producer
Kenny Gamble.

Dee Dee Sharp had a string of top 10 hit
singles based on current dance crazes,
the last of which was the frenetic
"Do The Bird."

 "Do The Bird" - Dee Dee Sharp 
 (April 1963, highest chart position #10) 


Now let's hear the sweet chirps of Cricket.

No, not Cricket Blair...Cricket Blake!

It's Connie Stevens, breakout star of the
TV detective series Hawaiian Eye.  Connie,
who played a professional photographer and
hotel lounge singer, had already achieved a
top 5 hit single in 1959 a few months before
her series began. She hooked up with Edd
Byrnes of 77 Sunset Strip fame to record
the novelty record "Kookie Kookie
 (Lend Me Your Comb)."

Connie used her acting fame as Cricket to launch
a career as a solo recording artist. Her biggest
hit was the list song "Sixteen Reasons" which
also went top 5 and spent nearly half a year
on the Billboard Hot 100!

 "Sixteen Reasons" - Connie Stevens 
 (April 1960, highest chart position #3 
 from the album As Cricket in the 
 Warner Bros. series "Hawaiian Eye"

 Keep your pants on and 

 your ear to the ground. 

 I'm on the ball, busy as a bee, 

 and I'll put a bug in your ear 

 (along with tunes that are 

 fresh as a daisy) next time! 

Have a Shady day!