Boomers Listened To Music Recordings By TV Stars

During the boomer years, there are famous examples of people known for their music before going into acting, on both TV and in the movies. Elvis and Ricky Nelson immediately come to mind. Yet there were many TV stars that went the other way; known first for their acting, they released albums and singles. Some of them even had their recordings enter the Top Ten on the charts. Here are just a few of them:

Annette Funicello (October 22, 1942 – April 8, 2013)
As one of the original Mouseketeers on Walt Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club (1955-58), to be sure Annette sang on TV. She quickly became a favorite with fans, who played a key role in her recording. The amount of fan mail that Annette received after singing How Will I Know My Love on the show, convinced a reluctant Walt Disney to give her a recording contract. Annette charted several times and released more than a dozen albums and singles during the boomer years. In 1959, Tall Paul reached number seven on the Billboard charts. Her only other brush with the Top Ten came with Pineapple Princess in 1960; the song reached number 11. Of course, after The Mickey Mouse Club ended, Annette went on to star in those famous beach movies with Frankie Avalon in the 1960s.

Paul Petersen (born September 25, 1945)
Like Annette Funicello, Paul Petersen was also an original Mouseketeer. When that show ended, he went on to The Donna Reed Show (1958-66). Paul’s singing career began in 1962. After releasing a couple of singles that same year, Paul performed My Dad on the show and sales of it took off, propelling it to number six on the Billboard charts.

Richard Chamberlain (born March 31, 1934)
Having acted in many roles on TV and movies, most boomers recall Richard Chamberlain in the title role of Dr. Kildare (1961-66). He began releasing music in 1962. His music only cracked the Billboard Top Ten once, with a vocal version of the Dr. Kildare theme song, entitled, Three Stars Will Shine Tonight. It peaked at number 10 in 1962. That same year, his cover version of the Everly Brothers’ All I Have to Do Is Dream made it to number 14.

Lorne Greene (February 12, 1915 – September 11, 1987)
Capitalizing on the popularity of his Ben Cartwright character on the TV western, Bonanza (1959-73), Greene recorded several albums in the folk/country western category. Knowing his singing ability did not measure up to his acting, his recordings were performed as spoken word. In 1964, Ringo was released as a single. It was a story of a western outlaw, narrated in Greene’s distinctive voice and backed by a chorus. The song hit number one on the Billboard charts. A bit of interesting trivia: The B Side of the single was a vocal version of the Bonanza theme that was not used on the TV show.

Patty Duke (December 14, 1946 – March 29, 2016)
Already a child star before The Patty Duke Show (1963-1966), Patty branched into music in 1965, when the song Don’t Just Stand There reached number eight on the charts. Her acting career continued until 2015, and she continued to sing on TV shows well into the 1970s.

William Shatner (born March 22, 1931)
Like Lorne Greene, William Shatner capitalized on his TV popularity as Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek (1966-69). In 1968, he released his first album, which featured a series of cover songs that Shatner delivered in spoken word. In 1968, he gave the world his version of The Beatles’ Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds, in his distinctive cadence. The song didn’t come close to charting in the Top Ten, but Mister Boomer felt it was such a … melodramatic original … that he had to include it here. Some consider it a cult classic of the era. Some consider it the worst cover of a Beatles song ever. In 1978, Shatner dropped his version of Elton John’s Rocket Man at the SciFi Awards. In 2011, Shatner released his version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Leonard Nimoy (March 26, 1931 – February 27, 2015)
In 1966, Dot Records approached Leonard Nimoy about doing some recording. He went on to release five albums between 1967 and 1970. His first single was The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins in 1967. Like Shatner, Nimoy’s music never hit the Top Ten.

How about you, boomers? Did you have a favorite TV actor-turned-recording artist?

Boomers Embraced The Beatles

It was 60 years ago this week that The Beatles landed in New York City. As a prelude to their U.S. visit, The Beatles released their first album in the U.S. on January 10, 1964 (Introducing … The Beatles), followed by the release of their first single (I Want To Hold Your Hand) on January 18. Their second album (Meet the Beatles) was released on January 20, 1964. On January 25, the I Want To Hold Your Hand single was number one on the Cash Box Magazine music chart.

Landing at JFK airport on a Friday afternoon, February 7, 1964, a crowd of thousands of teenagers skipped school just to get a glimpse of the Fab Four walking down the staircase of their Pan Am Boeing 707. Two days later, the group performed live on The Ed Sullivan Show. A record-breaking 73 million people tuned in that night, including Mister Boomer’s family.

While brilliant marketing may have made their debut one of the biggest publicity splashes of any decade, the band’s popularity only grew from there. It was Murray the K, then a DJ on the WINS radio station in New York, who mentioned on air that The Beatles would be arriving on Pan Am Flight 101 from London. Other radio stations picked up on the story and the word was out. Meanwhile, Capitol Records had bumper stickers stating, “The Beatles are coming,” ready for distribution. A U.S. firm that had contracted to make and sell merchandise for the band had promised a t-shirt and a dollar bill for every teen who showed up at the airport. Mister Boomer didn’t see any evidence that the t-shirts received their t-shirts and dollars.

Mister Boomer’s introduction to The Beatles arrived with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. His family tuned in that night, as was the usual for their Sunday night TV viewing. Mister B recalls thinking I Want To Hold Your Hand was a catchy tune, but had no idea why the girls in the audience screamed and shouted so loudly that the band could hardly be heard.

When The Beatles landed in the U.S., Mister Boomer’s family did not own a record player. Sometime within that same year, Mister B’s cousin got a new record player and she gave the family her old one. It was a portable box phonograph that had a lid with a latch, and a handle that made it look like a piece of luggage. Though basic, it could play both 33 1/3 RPM albums and 45 RPM singles. At that point, Mister B didn’t pay any attention to it. The family had no records, and it sat, lid closed, in a closet in his sister’s room.

However, soon after receiving the record player, the family was shopping at a local discount store. There, Mister Boomer’s sister and brother asked their parents if they could buy a package of records. The package held ten or twelve 45s, for the price of one dollar. A clear cellophane center revealed one record in the pack, and it was a Beatles tune: She’s A Woman. Once the family got home, Mister B’s sister dragged the phonograph from her closet and set it up on the floor. She put on the first record the family owned, and the sound of The Beatles emanated from the monophonic speaker. As might be expected, the rest of the package was filled with novelty records and others from unknown bands. When Mister B got custody of most of the family records years later, those original 45s remained in the collection.

What memories of The Beatles’ first appearances in the U.S. do you have, boomers?