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Randy Van Horne 1924 – 2007

Posted by Whitmore, October 13, 2007 12:16pm | Post a Comment

A couple of weeks ago Randy van Horne passed away at the age of 83. You might not recognize his name but you would certainly recognize the sound and work of the Randy Van Horne Singers, one of the most in-demand studio session vocal groups of the 1950s and ‘60s. They can be heard on countless television and radio commercials, jingles and station identification spots many of them written by Van Horne. But they’ll always be remembered for singing the themes to many of Hanna-Barbera’s iconic pop-cultural cartoons like The Jetsons, The Huckleberry Hound Show, Yogi Bear, and The Flintstones. Hey, it’s Yabba-dabba-doo time, kids!

The Randy Van Horne Singers also worked with some of the biggest names of the era including Mel Tormé, Dean Martin, Martin Denny, Jimmy Witherspoon and Juan Garcia Esquivel, who twisted jazz and lounge into a quirky genre we now call Space Age Pop. Serious fans of Esquivel will know his trademark "Zu-zu-zus," crooned by the Randy Van Horne Singers.

The group included some of the most famous session singers (yet almost completely unknown to the public!) of all time including Marni Nixon. She was singing voice for Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and sang for Deborah Kerr in The King and I. Thurl Ravenscroft - the voice of Tony the Tiger for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes commercials, and he sang You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch from the classic animated television special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and B.J. Baker who worked with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and Sam Cooke, among others. She was also Miss Alabama in 1944.

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Rory Storm

Posted by Whitmore, September 27, 2007 11:53am | Post a Comment


Rory Storm and the Hurricanes will probably always be remembered as the band Ringo Starr left, jumping ship to join that other Liverpoolian band; The Beatles. Wise move on Mr. Starkey’s part! But at one time Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were one of the most popular bands in the region, once placing fourth in Mersey Beats (a weekly magazine documenting the Liverpool scene) poll of favorite bands. The Hurricane’s recorded output was small, three tracks on two compilations:  “This Is Mersey Beat Vol. 1 and Vol. 2,” and a couple of singles: Dr. Feelgood b/w I Can Tell on Oriole Records in 1963 and America b/w Since You Broke My Heart released in November of 1964 on Parlophone.

Oddly enough, America was produced by Brian Epstein, manager of The Beatles, in his one and only crack at playing record producer. By 1967 the Hurricanes were breaking up, due in part to an ever changing line-up and their decision not to go with the eternally shifting musical plat du jour. Storm later became a disc jockey, a peculiar occupational choice since he spoke with a stutter.

Unfortunately, Rory Storm’s other claim to fame is a dark and murky tale. It concerns the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death on September 28th 1972 and the speculation that he and his mother died in a suicide pact together.

After his father’s death, Rory Storm returned home suffering from a chest infection. Reportedly he had trouble sleeping and wound up combining alcohol with sleeping pills. The next morning he was found dead in the house along with his mother. However, autopsy reports show that Storm hadn’t taken enough sleeping pills to kill himself.


I found this article by the founder and editor of Mersey Beat, Bill Harry. (He also worked as a publicist for bands like Led Zeppelin and Suzi Quatro)  Harry interviewed Rory Storm’s brother-in-law, Shane Fenton who said:  "Rory became very ill. He had a chest condition, which meant he couldn't breathe properly. He found it difficult to sleep so he'd take his pills with a drop of scotch, which doped him completely. At the post-mortem it was established that he hadn't taken enough pills to kill himself ... It had been nothing more than a case of trying to get some kip, but because he was so weak, his body couldn't handle it. He died in the night and his mother found him. She must have felt that she'd lost everything. I think she took an overdose, but I'm convinced that Rory didn't. When you've known somebody long enough, you know whether they're going to do it or not. The whole thing was an accident."

search for the holy grail, episode three

Posted by Whitmore, September 18, 2007 09:28am | Post a Comment


In 1965 when rest of the world was doing the Frug, the Swim or the Monkey ... the Pony, the Watusi, the Jerk or even the Clam to James Brown’s Papas Got a Brand New Bag, discothèques in Scotland and Northern England were dancing till the wee hours of the morn to a great single on Hi Records from Tommy Jay called Tender Love b/w Tomorrow.

Now Tender Love isn’t exactly your endearingly romantic piece that such a title might suggest. The song is a bit dark, but with a hypnotically grooving riff. Tender Love is the name of a girl the singer has fallen for, and she has “eyes that seem to shine like gold.” Needless to say, romance isn’t going to work out here, and if you’ve been around the block at least once, you know at least one character by songs end is going to be dead. Now that’s a track I can sink my teeth into, or at least, after a few pints, dance to till the sun comes up … and I`ll be on top, you`ll be right down there, looking up … Anyway, is this the Holy Grail of Northern Soul? It has my vote!

search for the holy grail, episode two

Posted by Whitmore, September 16, 2007 05:37pm | Post a Comment


From the 'A-list' of rare British psych singles, on Immediate Records: Black Sheep R.I.P. b/w Sad by the Australian Playboys, featuring Normie Rowe, one of the biggest stars in 1960’s Australia and a perennially figure on the music scene down under.

The 'A' side is a trippy version of the classic nursery rhyme and is pretty good on its own, but it’s the flip side here that is the nugget. Sad is drenched in a wall of sound, distorted and jagged guitars shiver through the unpredictable tempo changes as the lead vocals of Normie Rowe seem coated by the oddly disembodied harmonies, it’s a helluva piece of psychedelic pop. Unfortunately this Australian Playboys single didn’t sell well, something that was strangely typical of many of Immediate Records great releases back then. Today though, for freakbeat and psychedelic record collectors, it is a highly desirable piece and goes for a very pretty penny! Is this the Holy Grail of British freakbeat collectors? Well, maybe one of the Holy Grails.

search for the holy grail: episode one

Posted by Whitmore, September 15, 2007 12:07pm | Post a Comment

In 1967 Tintern Abbey released their only single on Deram, Beeside b/w Vacuum Cleaner. It has since become one of the most sought after 45’s for British psychedelia collectors. But unlike many of these obscure collectable singles, this one is actually great: cool mellotron, a slightly distorted vocal track, a touch of melancholy, a vaguely off kilter arrangement … what else could you want!

There was suppose to be a follow-up single and album but nothing else was ever released and the band disbanded in 1968. The Holy Grail of British psych? … well, one of the Holy Grail’s of British psych!
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