BIRMINGHAM RECORD COLLECTORS
DEDICATED TO THE COLLECTING OF MUSIC, ITS PRESERVATION AND LASTING FRIENDSHIP
MONTHLY MEETING THIS SUNDAY, JUNE 9th, 2019 – 2:00 PM
HOMEWOOD LIBRARY – 1721 OXMOOR ROAD 35209
NEXT MEETING SUNDAY, JULY 14th, 2019 THE SECOND SUNDAY
THIS MONTH’S MEETING
Last month we explored some great websites that music lovers, record collectors and music trivia buffs would enjoy. The site that Todd shared with us that is all about radio survey sheets was great and full of all kind of info concerning the top 40 and where the songs charted best and what stations near you played it. Plan on staying a while once you get on it. For some of the sites we visited, check our website and click on ‘LINKS’.
This month we have another special guest coming to tell about his time in local bands and what the music scene was like from his view point. Ross Gagliano who was in the Rockin’ Rebellions and the Epics will be with us. Be there and bring a friend.
Be sure and be with us at the July meeting. It’s time to put address labels and stamps on our postcards we send out to advertise our annual record show. We have nearly 2,000 postcards to do so we need all hands on deck. Thanks.
WHO ARE YOU?
While watching the Superman movie with Christopher Reeve as the super hero, a phrase was used that I remembered from many other movies. Lois Lane, being in awe of Superman says to him, ‘Who are you?’ It brought to mind Henry Fonda saying the same to Charles Bronson in Once Upon A Time In The West right after Bronson shoots him in a gunfight. Clint Eastwood is asked the same question in High Plains Drifter after he has gunned down two outlaws and just shot the third. Cameron Diaz character in Knight And Day asked Tom Cruise’s character the same after he has awed her with his 007 style actions. And in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, both Paul Newman and Robert Redford continue to say ‘Who are those guys?’ as they look back on a posse that won’t stop chasing them. So what does that have to do with music or record collecting. Nothing, except I have used the phrase ‘who are you’ when I discover more and more about an performer that surprises me with what they did besides having 1-2 hits.
One such performer is Johnny Cymbal. Remember him? He had the hit ‘Mr Bass Man’ in 1963. It peaked at #16 on the pop charts and was an international hit as well. But if you check into his career you find out he was more than a one-hit wonder. As Johnny Cymbal he had two other songs that charted but neither made the Top 40. But Cymbal also had a hit 5 years after ‘Mr. Bass Man’ that charted higher. He used the name Derek and the song was ‘Cinnamon’. Derek was the name of his step-brother. Listening to the two songs you can see that he changed styles to match the times. ‘Cinnamon’ fit much better with the mid-sixties than the pre-British Invasion, teenage style songs he was recording. As Derek he had one more charted song and with the title ‘Back Door Man’ you can tell he had put his early style and song writing behind him.
Cymbal, aka, Derek was born John Hendry Blair in Scotland in 1945. His step-father, Nick Cymbal adopted him so John would take that man’s surname and thus became Johnny Cymbal. The family moved to Canada when Johnny was around 8. They would than relocate to Cleveland. Johnny was a big fan of Elvis and he began playing around with the guitar teaching himself how to play. He started writing songs and his talent came to the attention of a local talent scout who, with parental permission put him under contract at 15. The scout hooked him up with Jack Gale, a Philly radio personality telling Gale he knew of a fifteen year old who ‘played great guitar, sang great and wrote wonderful teenage songs’. One account says Johnny flew to Philly along with the talent scout to meet Gale but Johnny says he rode a bus by himself and waited at Gale’s doorstep for the appointment.
The appointment lead to a recording session in Nashville being signed to MGM. His first two recordings failed to chart and the contract was not renewed. One of these songs was one that fit in real well with the era since it was a teenage tragedy song. The other was what would fit into the genre record collectors call ‘teeners’. I will say that the latter of the two was a real nice recording and I am surprised it didn’t chart. I hope it got some airplay somewhere. It was entitled ‘Always, Always’. The tragedy song was ‘The Water Was Red’ where a guy’s girlfriend was killed by a shark. But he gets his revenge as he killed the shark. Did Peter Benchley get his idea of Jaws from this???
After a few releases on various labels Johnny finally got a contract with the Kapp label and on December 14, 1962 at Mirasound Studios in New York City, Johnny, along with Ronnie Bright doing the bass parts, recorded his composition, ‘Mr. Bass Man’. That song would make it to #16 on Billboard and go to #1 in Japan and Argentina, and #24 in the UK. Foreign versions were done in France, entitled ‘Monsieur Boum Boum’, and ‘Monsieur La Basse’ in Quebec. At age 18, Johnny was touring the northeast US as well as Japan and Europe.
Making the charts slowly faded for Johnny but he remained in the music business as songwriter and producer. Working in New York City, Los Angeles, and Nashville, Johnny wrote songs that were recorded by Elvis, Gene Pitney, Glen Campbell, Al Martino, The Partridge Family, Spencer Davis Group, Jan & Dean, David Cassidy and many others. He had over 200 songs published including multi-million seller ‘Mary In The Morning’ which was recorded by Al Martino. He had songs on the soundtracks of two movies.
How many other one-hit or two-hit wonders such as Johnny Cymbal had a major behind-the-scene career in the music business. We’ll never know if we don’t research or hear it form someone else. So if you do find out about another little known performer who was very influential in the music business as a songwriter or producer, you to may say, ‘Who are you?’
Don’t forget to check out all the new internet radio shows the club has on its website. Go to http://www.birminghamrecord.com/brc/ and click on ‘RADIO’. New shows added weekly.