Top 5: Takin' Us up to News Time
(The last couple of Fridays I've missed our usual Top 5 feature--so here's one on a Sunday in hopes of making up for it. No tracks to post with this one--I hope to make that up to you eventually, too.)
If you browse the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, you'll notice that most of the surveys preserved are from Top 40 stations. The take-home survey was largely a Top 40 phenomenon, of course, and most of the people collecting them are Top 40 fans. Click on two lists from the same date and, allowing for the kind of regional variation that doesn't exist anymore, you'll find most of the same records on each one. Which is one of the things that makes the chart dated January 19, 1969, from CKSW in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, interesting. It's sort of a Top 40 station, but of a very unusual--possibly unique--sort.
Exactly when CKSW was playing the 60 songs on its survey is hard to figure. The back of the survey invites listeners to "hear all your top hit tunes daily" from 5 to 5:30pm and again from 10:45 to 11pm, as well as Friday nights from 8 to 9pm. Even in an era when records were still fairly short, that's not much time. It programmed a country show, which would probably have included some of the country tunes on the survey, from 3 to 5pm every day. What they were doing the rest of the time isn't clear. But given their conservative music mix, and that their service area was all of southwest Saskatchewan, it's likely that CKSW featured plenty of news, talk, farm, and public service programming during its non-music hours.
CKSW's music is a mixture of light pop, country, and Canadiana that's missing most of the Top 40 hits that were hot everywhere else in January 1969, most notably Marvin Gaye's epic "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" and the Doors' "Touch Me." Clearly, this was because CKSW, like many small-market stations back in the day, was trying to be many things to many people--and as a result, it was very careful about the music it played. The Number-One song on the survey was "Scarborough Fair"--not the Simon and Garfunkel original, but the one by Sergio Mendes, which went Top 20 in the States. Number Two is "She Wears My Ring," an enormous country hit by Ray Price that didn't cross to pop at all. Some of the entries farther down are a bit more familiar--the Ohio Express ("Chewy Chewy") and Classics IV ("Stormy") are also in the Top 10. But there is weirdness still farther below. Here are five of the oddities:
9. "Folsom Prison Blues"/Lenny Dee. Let's get weird right away. Lenny Dee released several albums covering pop hits on the organ between the mid 50s and the 1970s--and by 1969, was actually at a bit of a career peak, after a couple of modestly successful albums, including Turn Around Look at Me, from which this is presumably taken. Dee's only Top 40 hit was "Plantation Boogie" in 1955, but I'll always remember him for a different reason. In radio days of yore, when stations carried network newscasts on the hour, DJs often played an instrumental to fill the last minute or two before the news began. On my hometown station, I often heard, "Takin' us up to news time, here's Lenny Dee."
18. "Kentucky Woman"/Deep Purple. One might ask what the hell this song is doing on CKSW, although it does have a certain boogie feel that makes it plausibly fit with the rest of the survey songs. Then again, one might also ask, since "boogie" is not a term one normally associates with Deep Purple, what the hell they were doing when they recorded it.
33. "Edge of Reality"/Elvis Presley. This is the flipside of "If I Can Dream," which, despite being a big hit in most places, isn't listed on the CKSW survey. Maybe the station's music director liked "Edge of Reality" better. (I worked briefly with a guy who was like that. If the whole world was playing the A side, he didn't care--we'd play the B if he thought it was better. Trouble is, he usually thought it was better.)
34. "House of the Rising Sun"/Animals. I'm not sure what this record is doing here, given that the Animals' legendary recording of this was a hit everywhere else in the world in 1964. Some things endure, I guess.
40. "Kum By Yah"/Tommy Leonetti. As near as I can tell, this is the only hit version of this campfire classic. Leonetti appeared on the 50s TV version of Your Hit Parade and did some TV acting. He also scored some TV shows and was apparently big in Australia. And, briefly, in southwestern Saskatchewan.