Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One That Almost Got Away

Whenever three-year-old caithiseach got a stack of new 45s from Uncle Tom, he couldn’t read the titles. Being able to pick them out from the growing pile of vinyl required having someone tell him the name of the song at least once, and sometimes, to caithiseach’s chagrin, twice. Then it was all good.

Once, I made a mistake during this identification process. After I asked my dad the name of today’s song, he told me it was “That Background Sound” by Buddy Sheppard and the Holidays. No problem there. But I asked him how the song went, because I had not played it.

Probably to shut me up, he intoned, “That Background Sound” in a way that made it sound as if the song were part of the British-Invasion guitar-organ-drums combo scene, dragging out “sooouuunnnnnnd” as an unresolved suspended 4th. I thought he knew the song, and I didn’t think much of it from the version he sang, so I put it away and never gave it a listen.

My parents must have thought I was gullible and easily shut up. One day when I was about four years old, my mom and I were shopping for groceries at WiseWay. I asked her who a man in a white coat was. He was arranging produce. She said he was Mr. WiseWay. I said “oh” and accepted that she knew him. About five years ago, I said to myself, “Hey, wait a minute . . . ”

And so, “That Background Sound” languished in the bottom of my box of vinyl. After my dad met my stepmom and we all started listening to the oldies station in the car, I got used to doo-wop and pre-Beatles hits. Finally, one day when I was playing a bunch of my records, I pulled out “That Background Sound” and gave it a chance.

What a shock. It was a doo-wop song, with the chorus comprised of a pastiche of well-known doo-wop motifs, including snippets from “Runaround Sue” and the chorus of “Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out).” Since I was actually starting to dig the doo-wop I was hearing on the radio, I put this record into heavy rotation.

When a friend bought an early edition of the Whitburn Top 40 Hits book, I was able to check some titles for hit status. “That Background Sound” was not a Top 40 hit, nor was its flip, which I’ll discuss Saturday. I classified Buddy Sheppard and the Holidays among my No-Hit Wonders and just enjoyed the music.

Unlike some research I’ve done for this blog, I did my digging about Buddy Sheppard about the time I became Web-savvy, a date I won’t divulge so as to avoid your ridicule. Eventually I learned a tiny bit about this guy, and much more about his background doo-woppers.

Buddy Sheppard recorded four sides for the Sabina label: “Time to Dream”/“My Love Is Real” (Sabina 506, 1962) and “That Background Sound”/“Now It’s All Over” (Sabina 510, 1963). The first single was released originally as by “Buddy Christie and the Holidays,” then the Christie name was swapped for Sheppard when the single was re-released. Neither single charted.

That’s what I know about Buddy Christie/Sheppard. It strikes me as odd that there is no more information about this lead singer, considering what one can find about the Holidays.

The Holidays are a doo-wop group made up of Angelo D’Aleo, Fred Milano and Frank Lyndon. Even a relatively casual observer of doo-wop music will note that this trio shares the names of the post-1962 Belmonts, Dion’s old cohorts. There’s no coincidence here.

Dion decided he didn’t like the chart weakness of the old standards he and the Belmonts were recording in 1960: “Where Or When” (Hal Kemp, 1937) was a #3 hit, but “When You Wish Upon a Star” peaked at #30, and “In the Still of the Night” (Tommy Dorsey, 1937) was a One-Week Wonder at #38. Dion wanted to rock, and the Belmonts were fond of a mix of jazz and what then passed for oldies. They parted ways late in 1960.

The Belmonts cracked the Top 40 in 1961 with “Tell Me Why” (#18) and in 1962 with “Come On Little Angel” (#28). The latter single was a composition by Ernie Maresca, one the Belmonts recorded after learning a hard lesson by passing on a Maresca tune called “The Wanderer.” Maresca wrote “Runaround Sue,” among other tunes, and he was a co-writer of “That Background Sound.” Apart from D’Aleo, Milano and Maresca, a fourth writer, P. Baron, contributed to the song, but I can’t place this writer at all. He is most likely Pete Barin, a friend of the Belmonts who recorded “So Wrong”/“Broken Heart” on Sabina 504 in 1962 and “Loneliest Guy in the World”/“Look Out for Cindy” on Sabina 512 in 1963.

Apart from their small run of “solo” hits, the Belmonts backed Buddy Sheppard as the Holidays. It intrigues me that they didn’t use their name recognition to try to launch Buddy’s career. I’ll probably get a snotty note from Buddy if I suggest that the whole name of the act could be just a pseudonym for the Belmonts. If Buddy Sheppard writes to tell me he exists, I’ll be sure to let you know. Then I’ll post some Google-worthy info about him.

The Sabina label (first named Surprise and then Sabrina) was the Belmonts’ own enterprise. They were the label’s primary artists, but other artists included the Marathons and Joanne Engel.

The producer for this track was Bernie Lawrence, a music promoter who somehow got behind the studio controls at Sabina for a few releases. He worked partly in tandem with Alan Lorber, who produced “Do You Believe in Magic” for the Lovin’ Spoonful, among many other hits. Lorber doesn’t seem to have been involved with “That Background Sound.”

Now I present to you a 45 that survived the Great Meltdown because my dad made it sound unappealing without ever listening to it. Thanks, Dad. If I had started grooving to this tune in 1963 rather than 1973, it might have sat atop my box of 45s, where the sun would have turned it into a lump of landfill material. So, really, thanks, Dad.

You know, maybe I could find the melted 45s in the landfill . . . nah. See you Saturday on the flip side!

Buddy Sheppard and the Holidays, That Background Sound

1 comment:

Background sound said...

Nice story. Background sound is the one which eliminates the unwanted noise and make our mind keeping more concentrate on the work which are doing. It completely cancel out the disturbing sound and produces the music which keeps us cool.