Tuesday, February 3, 2009

That's What I Like

Today, of course, is the fiftieth anniversary of The Day The Music Etc. Etc., when three of the biggest stars of the early days of rock & roll went down in a field near Clear Lake, Iowa. All three of them would be responsible for a Number One hit song: Buddy Holly made it to the top with "That'll Be the Day," which reached the top of Billboard's old Best Sellers chart in September 1957, and while Ritchie Valens' "Donna" stalled out at Number Two shortly after his death in 1959, Los Lobos' imitation of his version of "La Bamba" went to Number One in August 1987.

I know what you're saying: The Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" only climbed as high as Number Six on the charts. And that's true. But the Bopper had also written a song called "Running Bear," which he offered to a fellow named Johnny Preston whom Bop had seen performing at a Houston nightclub. Bopper went into the studio with Preston to cut the song, and added the Indian vocals along with - are you ready for this? - a cat named George Jones. They recorded the song in 1958, but it wasn't released until August 1959. It may have been intended to capitalize on the Bopper's death, but waiting six months seems like an odd way to do that. On January 18, 1960, "Running Bear" became the Number One song in the land.

No-Show Jones was also a friend of the Bopper's from back in Houston, and he recorded another Bopper song called "White Lightning" in 1958. He actually showed up to the session, but he was drunk, and he required 80 takes to get through the song. It was worth it, though, because in April 1959, "White Lightning" went to Number One on the country charts, becoming the first of Jones' fourteen chart-toppers.

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