The Platters – Song for the lonely “The ’59” #031

“The ’59” 2018 #031: 180131

The Platters – Song for the Lonely (1962)

The Platters formed in Los Angeles in 1952 and were initially managed by Federal Records A&R man, Ralph Bass. The original group consisted of Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunter, David Lynch, Joe Jefferson, Gaynel Hodge and Herb Reed, who joined the group after he was discharged from the Army in December 1952. Reed also created the group’s name.

In June 1953, Gunter left to join the Flaires and was replaced by lead vocalist Tony Williams. The band then released two singles with Federal Records, under the management of Bass, but found little success. Bass then asked his friend music entrepreneur and songwriter Buck Ram to coach the group in hope of getting a hit record. Ram made some changes to the lineup, most notably the addition of female vocalist Zola Taylor; later, at Reed’s urging, Hodge was replaced by Paul Robi. Under Ram’s guidance, the Platters recorded eight songs for Federal in the R&B/gospel style, scoring a few minor regional hits on the West Coast, and backed Williams’ sister, Linda Hayes. One song recorded during their Federal tenure, “Only You (And You Alone)”, originally written by Ram for the Ink Spots, was deemed unreleasable by the label, though copies of this early version do exist.

Despite their lack of chart success, the Platters were a profitable touring group, successful enough that the Penguins, coming off their No.8 single “Earth Angel”, asked Ram to manage them as well. With the Penguins in hand, Ram was able to parlay Mercury Records’ interest into a 2-for-1 deal. To sign the Penguins, Ram insisted, Mercury also had to take the Platters. The Penguins would never have a hit for the label, but The Platters were altogether more successful.

“It’s Magic”, from their 1962 album ‘Song for the Lonely” was written by Jule Styne, with lyrics by Sammy Cahn. The song was introduced by Doris Day in her film debut, ‘Romance on the High Seas’ (known in the UK as ‘It’s Magic’ after the song), and was published in 1947.


The Staple Singers – Swing Low (“The ’59”) #021

“The ’59” 2018 #021: 180121

The Staple Singers – Swing Low (1961)

“Swing Low” was the second album by The Staple Singers, released on VeeJay Records in 1961.

The Staple Singers were an American gospel, soul and R&B singing group. Roebuck “Pops” Staples (1914–2000), the patriarch of the family, formed the group with his children Cleotha (1934–2013), Pervis (b. 1935), and Mavis (b. 1939). Yvonne (b. 1936) replaced her brother when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, and again in 1970. They are best known for their 1970s hits “Respect Yourself”, “I’ll Take You There”, “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me)”, and “Let’s Do It Again”, which with one exception (“I’ll Take You There”) peaked on the Hot 100 within a week from Christmas Day. While the family name is Staples, the group used “Staple” commercially.

Roebuck Staples moved from Mississippi to Chicago after his marriage, and worked in steel mills and meat packing plants while his family of four children grew up. The family began appearing in Chicago-area churches in 1948, their first public singing appearance being at the Mount Zion Church, Chicago, where Roebuck’s brother, the Rev. Chester Staples, was pastor.

They signed their first professional contract in 1952. During their early career, they recorded in an acoustic gospel-folk style with various labels: United Records, Vee-Jay Records (their “Uncloudy Day” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” were best sellers), Checker Records, Riverside Records, and then Epic Records in 1965. “Uncloudy Day” was an early influence on Bob Dylan, who said of it in 2015…

It was the most mysterious thing I’d ever heard… I’d think about them even at my school desk…Mavis looked to be about the same age as me in her picture (on the cover of “Uncloudy Day”)…Her singing just knocked me out…And Mavis was a great singer—deep and mysterious. And even at the young age, I felt that life itself was a mystery.

Mary Mary – Thankful (Epic 2017 #169)

The Epic 2017 Project #169: 170618

Mary Mary – Thankful (1999)

Thankful was Mary Mary’s debut studio album, released on May 2, 2000 through Columbia Records. It’s all about contemporary gospel, R&B, hip hop and soul and as a part of that, produced the smash crossover hit “Shackles (Praise You)”, which reached the top-ten in seven countries. This was closely followed by the single “I Sings”, which was also a significant hit—although it did not match the success of its predecessor.

The album established Mary Mary as one of the leading artists in contemporary Christian music, and won the duo a Grammy Award in 2001. It peaked at number one on the US Gospel Albums, number twenty-two on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and number fifty-nine on the US Billboard 200. On release, AllMusic gave it a grade of four and a half out of five stars and Cross Rhythms – the main Christian music publisher – a top 10/10.

Isley Brothers – Forever Gold (Epic 2017 #120)

The Epic 2017 Project #120: 170430

The Isley Brothers – Forever Gold (1977)

The Isley Brothers from Cincinnati, Ohio originally comprised four brother – O’Kelly Jr., Rudolph, Ronald and Vernon, performing gospel music until Vernon’s death a few years after formation in 1954.

After moving to the New York City area in the late 1950s, the group had modest chart successes during their early years, first coming to prominence in 1959 with their fourth single, “Shout”, written by the three surviving brothers. Initially a modest charted single, the song eventually sold over a million copies. Afterwards the group recorded for a variety of labels, including the top 20 single, “Twist and Shout” and the Motown single, “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)” before recording and issuing the Grammy Award-winning hit, “It’s Your Thing” on their own label, T-Neck Records.

Influenced by gospel and doo-wop music, the group began experimenting with different musical styles incorporating elements of rock and funk music as well as pop balladry. The inclusion of younger brothers Ernie Isley (lead guitar, drums) and Marvin Isley (bass guitar), and Rudolph’s brother-in-law Chris Jasper (keyboards, synthesizers) in 1973 turned the original vocal trio into a self-contained musical band. For the next full decade, they recorded top-selling albums including The Heat Is On and Between the Sheets.

Forever Gold is a greatest hits album capturing that success and released in 1977.

Alabama 3 – Outlaw (Epic 2017 #004)

The Epic 2017 Project #004: 170104

Alabama 3 – Outlaw (2005)


This is the band’s fifth studio album. I bought it soon after its release in 2005 having heard some radio play of the track ‘Hello I’m Johnny Cash’.

The great man was still with us then of course and, whilst I don’t know what he thought of the song, I do know that the title is also that of Mr Cash’s 33rd studio album released in January 1970. So that has to count for something.

Anyways – it remains a great song. So here it is…

Jonny Lang (Rock A-Z – part #53)


Born in Fargo, North Dakota in 1981, Jonny Lang first took up the guitar at the tender age of 12. A wise move as, just two years later with his backing band ‘The Big Bang’, he independently released his first album – Smokin’.

A year later, in 1996, he was signed to A&M records and has subsequently released six further albums; Lie to Me (1997), Wander this World (1998), Long time coming (2003), Turn Around (2006), Live at the Ryman (2009) and Fight for my soul (2013).

Here though is one of my favourites of his – a collaboration with the Fisk Jubilee singers from 2012 culminating in the ‘Oh Happy Day’ EP from which this cracker comes…