Back in November here on REBEAT, I assembled a list of some rare “number-one” songs from the 1960s, the catch being that they were only #1 in a select region or two and not on the national charts. In fact, more often than not, these records never bothered the national charts at all. Yes, you could have been on top of the charts, even for several consecutive weeks, in Grand Rapids or Hartford or Fresno while the rest of the country didn’t even know you existed.
Here comes a list of another 10 regional chart-toppers. These bands who can claim a #1 to their legacy deserve another moment in the spotlight, and their records deserve another listen.
1) “In the Midnight Hour,” Kit and the Outlaws (Black Knight, 1966)
2) “In the Midnight Hour,” The Wanted (Detroit Sound, 1967)
The eternal classic “In the Midnight Hour” quickly became a staple of live bands across the country upon its mid-1965 release by Wilson Pickett, the song’s mammoth popularity betraying its national-chart placing of #21, though it did unsurprisingly top the R & B charts that August.
Therefore, it was perhaps inevitable that a few combos who had show-stopping success with the tune saw fit to put their version on wax. Certainly, the bands figured, their fanbase would love their own personal copy of the version they all grooved to on the dancefloor of the local rec hall during their residency there.
So it was that deep in the heart of Dallas, TX, that Kit and the Outlaws were the band of the hour, or at least for a week beginning December 2, 1966, when they topped the KBOX “40 From the Top” chart with their reading of the song, until the Devil went down to Dallas in a blue dress, catching a ride from Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.
And in Mr. Ryder’s homeland, a city always rather warm to its local rock and roll fodder, the Wanted scored a #1 with their version on WKNR’s “Keener 13” survey, landing there on March 13, 1967, making the Turtles unhappy by dislodging their “Happy Together.” But the Wanted wouldn’t be the most wanted by the Keener crowd for long, as a week later Frank and Nancy Sinatra took them down a notch with, you know, that record. However, WJIM in Lansing had the Wanted out front on their “Live 25 Survey” for April 3, 1967, stopping the Hollies from going round and round and round atop the chart with “On a Carousel.”
The Wanted speed the song up a bit, and as a result they’re all done in under two minutes. They forgo Wilson’s classic intro (bVII-V-IV-biii) coming up with their own instead which almost anticipates the Human Beinz’ “Nobody But Me” by several months. The Outlaws retain Wilson’s kickoff, and follow Wilson’s blueprint a little more closely than the Wanted, though they also bump the tempo a bit, but not as much. Both versions fuzz up their guitar.
Both versions also were eventually picked up by national labels, the Outlaws by Philips and the Wanted were wanted by A&M.
Both missed the Billboard charts completely.
3) “Tiger A Go Go,” Buzz and Bucky (Amy, 1965)
Buzz and Bucky sing about their trip to San Francisco, not realizing how prophetic they were in 1965 when they referred to a San Fran local as a “hippie!” But the one here doesn’t take the duo to a love-in or to sit with a guru or to groove at the Fillmore. No, he takes them to a local dance club that, based on the instrumentation heard here, favors hot rod music. In fact, Buzz and Bucky was in reality an offshoot of Ronny and the Daytonas, as one might guess from the song’s similarity to their smash of the previous year, “GTO” (similar instrumental break, as well as a modulation in the same place.) If the record’s production sounds a little raunchy, you can credit that to producer Bill Justis.
Buzz and Bucky were from neither San Francisco nor Daytona (Nashville, in fact,) but Miami’s WQAM said go to their disc, and on May 8, 1965 the Beatles, who had been at Number One, took a “Ticket To Ride” two places down the charts to make room for the “Tiger.” Only one week later, though, a group with a little more experience and success with surf and hot rod music bumped out the duo, thanks to some help from Rhonda.
4) “Girl, I Got News For You,” The Birdwatchers (Scott, Mala, 1966)
The Birdwatchers were from Florida, different parts at different times. Originally they hailed from Ft. Lauderdale, but by the time they’d revamped their lineup and went in a more garage direction, they had relocated to Miami.
“Girl, I Got News For You” was the first single by the “new and improved” Miami lineup and the fifth by any incarnation of the band. It’s a typical mid-60s garage song of a guy giving his girl the what’s-what. Originally the single came out on the local label Scott, but in the wake of the single’s local success, Mala picked it up for national release.
On April 8, 1966, the Birdwatchers flew all the way from eighth place to Number One on Miami, Florida’s WFUN Boss 79 Survey, upsetting the standing of the Standells, as they and their “Dirty Water” dripped down to second place.
Later that year the group would bubble under the Billboard Top 100 at #125 with “I’m Gonna Love You Anyway,” their only national charting to their legacy. A year later, Benny Latimore would also have a big Miami hit with “Girl, I Got News For You,” while the same song was covered that year by Aesops’ Fables. Several other covers made the rounds over the next few years.
5) “If You Gotta Go, Go Now,” lyme & cybelle (White Whale, 1966)
lyme & cybelle might be the most well-known act on this list since, as many know, lyme was none other than singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, and the duo have retained additional retained recognition thanks to their lone chart entry “Follow Me” becoming a cult classic helped by its repeated inclusion on various compilations of ’60s lost treasures.
“Follow Me” was the first of the three lyme & cybelle singles (with Zevon departing after the second.) For the “Follow”-up they took a stab at a Bob Dylan composition not yet available on any of its author’s releases, but which had been a UK smash for Manfred Mann in the fall of 1965.
Rather than follow the pattern of Manfred Mann’s version, which itself stuck closely to Bob’s then-still-shelved early 1965 recording, lyme & cybelle turn it into a soul song, with punchy brass over an arrangement that recalls the Impressions’ 1963 classic “It’s All Right.”
On August 5, 1966 on Orlando’s WLOF’s Funderful Forty Action Survey, lyme & cybelle told the Surfaris they gotta go now, and wiped out the surf combo’s new wave of popularity of their 1963 classic “Wipe Out.” Only one week later, the Happenings were happening at Number One with “See You in September.”
6) “Heart,” The Liverpool Five, 1966
You may know this song from Petula Clark’s version, or possibly by way of the Remains’ version that kicked off their lone album. But if you lived in Orlando, Florida in the Spring of 1966, chances are the version you knew best was the one by the San Francisco based combo of Liverpudlians. On May 6, 1966 their version of “Heart” was the heart of that city’s WLOF’s “Funderful Forty Action Survey,” making it a bad Friday Friday for “Monday Monday” by the Mamas and the Papas. A week later, the Swingin’ Medallions shot it down on the double.
The Liverpool Five take the song a little faster than either Petula or the Remains, to the point that at times it sounds like it’s anticipating M’s “Pop Musik” by thirteen years.
7) “I’ll Walk Alone,” The Five Bucks (Omnibus, 1967)
The Five Bucks (their actual name, despite what the label says) formed at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the late summer of 1965, but in time Chicago became a second home for them as well. It was there where, in addition to playing shows with some notable acts like the Doors, Hollies and even backing Del Shannon, they recorded their second single, “I’ll Walk Alone.”
“I’ll Walk Alone” is a mix of psychedelia and garage. Actually, it’s more of a tennis game between those two styles, alternating from one to the other. The spooky minor key intro with chant-like vocals gives way to a “Gloria” rewrite, and then gets trippy again, and repeats this cycle for two and a half minutes, with occasional breaks for nice full-group “Nowhere Man”-style vocals and harmonies (for a guy who claims to be walking alone the singer sure sounds like he has a lot of company.) Said vocals, though, are a bit too low in the mix or too echo-drenched in spots to clearly decipher, so the full story for the solitary stroll isn’t fully understood. Despite the musical schizophrenia, it does leave the listener with a desire to hear the song again.
On March 19, 1967, “I’ll Walk Alone” finished its walk up the charts on Ann Arbor’s WCBN’s Sound Scope, reaching the top position while “The 59th Street Bridge Song” was lowered. By year’s end, the Five had passed the Buck and had become the Byzantine Empire.
8) “Baby Boy,” The Bossmen (Lucky Eleven, 1966)
The late Dick Wagner, whom went on to form the Frost, led this Michigan outfit which also included a guitarist named Mark Farner before he got grand and funky. Terry Knight, the leader of the Pack (which was Farner’s stepping stone between the Bossmen and Grand Funk Railroad,) served as producer on this impressive disc on Terry’s Lucky Eleven label.
A listen to “Baby Boy” suggests this group was particularly fond of the ‘Rubber Soul’ track “The Word,” as recurring bits sound a wee bit too much like that song’s “it’s so fine, it’s sunshine” sections. Strong verses lead to a gentle bridge with soft vocal harmonies. The lyrics describe the plight of just one of that decade’s aimless drifters.
Well, Flint, Michigan’s WTAC found a home for them, right on top of the charts, on December 1, 1966. “Born Free” was in second place, but this record gave a more realistic description of life of a free soul in 1966. Still, at least for a little while the Bossmen did get to be boss, but like the wandering spirit they sang about, they didn’t stick around long.
9) “What a Girl Can’t Do,” The Hangmen (Monument, 1966)
The Hangmen hung in the Washington, D.C. area, and were so popular locally that they even once entertained for a Robert Kennedy event. The band’s history begins with an earlier group, the Reekers. When that band broke up, a few of its members decided to Hang in there and form what became the Hangmen. In fact, the recording of “What a Girl Can’t Do” is actually the Reekers, their label using the name of the newer band so that the record would be credited to an active group.
Regardless of whom the musicians actually were, the record was a huge local hit, and on February 7, 1966 it occupied the top of Arlington, Virginia’s WEAM, with the group who had famously first come to America two years to the day earlier at Number Two, their “We Can Work It Out” having been worked out of the top spot.
The record starts with a “Wake Up Little Suzie” kind of riff, but eventually recalls Adam Faith and the Roulettes’ “It’s All Right” (making this the second entry on this list that sounds borrowed from a song of that title) except in this case lyrically, things are far from all right, as the singer lays down the law to his girl whom he feels has mistreated him, warning her he’s got “half a dozen women, baby, just like you.” Harmonica drifts in and out.
10) “Wait Till The Morning,” The Dearly Beloved (Columbia, 1967)
In late 1966 and early 1967, the Monkees pretty much monopolized the charts all across the country with “I’m a Believer,” but the song couldn’t stay there forever, and on January 20, 1967 the chart of Tuscon’s KTKT stopped believing when the Monkees went one slot down the vine when local boys the Dearly Beloved made an eight-spot leap from the previous week to usurp the Monkees as top banana.
Short and sweet (under two minutes), the Dearly Beloved’s “Wait Till the Morning,” written by their guitarist Tom Walker, brings to mind the Lovin’ Spoonful, though without the finesse of the New York group. It’s a good infectious tune, but the slightly ragged performance suggests a few more run-throughs might have been a good idea. “Wait” was their second single, and second Tuscon chart-topper, as their first, “Peep Peep Pop Pop,” wound up being KTKT’s #1 song of 1966.