Saturday, February 25, 2023

Remembering Helen



Whenever I hear this song, it reminds me
of a very special person, the first lady
of the Shady Dell... Helen Ettline.

Unforgettable, Helen...
That's what you are!

We love you and miss you.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Ask Abigail: Enquiring Minds Want To Know...

...about "This Empty Place"
 (Between Shady's Ears!)

I'm Abigail Ambrosia.
Classical mythology defines ambrosia as the food of the gods,
and I am here to satisfy your craving for good music and trivial
tidbits. Ambrosia also refers to something especially delicious.

Well boys... delish-is what this vintage dish-is.  As Shady's Place advice
columnist and music trivia expert, I publish a weekly newspaper column
that features music related questions submitted by readers along with
my answers. My feature is so popular, it inspired a radio show that
is coming your way soon exclusively here at Shady's Place.

My friendly, all-female office staff fields
questions that come in on our toll free hotline.

 Operators are on duty 24-hours a day and
standing by to take your call... so why hesitate?

I am more than happy to answer your trivia questions
and solve your musical mysteries, so let me hear from you!

The women on my staff enjoy getting all gussied up.

That's because, truth be told, most of the calls and letters we receive
turn out to be marriage proposals from men.  That said... every
once in a while, someone asks a legitimate music question.

Without further delay, I now bring you this
sneak preview of my new Shady's Place series

 Ask Abigail... 

...a radio show that picks up where my
newspaper column leaves off.

Sally G. writes:
Dear Abigail, I'm a big
fan of your column and
 curious about your last
name "Ambrosia." Isn't
there a band by that
name and, if so, did
they record any hits? 

Hi, Sally! Thanks for writing.
Yes indeed there is a pop rock
band named Ambrosia. Formed
in LA in 1970, the band had 5
top 40 hits from 1975 to 1980.
They broke up in '82, reunited
in '89 and are still together in
2023. Ambrosia's first big hit
came in the fall of '78 when
they reached the top 3 with
"How Much I Feel."

"How Much I Feel" - Ambrosia
(Oct./Nov. 1978, highest chart pos. #2 Cash Box/#3 Hot 100)

Manuel G. writes:
Dear Abigail. Ritchie Valens
died decades before I was born.
My grandfather introduced me
to his music. Can you tell me
which Ritchie Valens record
was the last to be released
before his death and which
record was the first to be
released after his death?

No problem, Manuel! On February 3,
1959, now known as "The Day the 
Music Died," a plane crash in Iowa
claimed the lives of three rock and
roll pioneers - Buddy Holly, J. P.
Richardson aka "The Big Bopper"
and Ritchie Valens, forefather
of the Chicano rock movement.
 The last single released before
Valens' death was the rockabilly
instrumental "Fast Freight"
which hit the street in January,
1959. The record is credited to
Arvee Allens. (Valens' name did
not appear on original pressings.)

"Fast Freight" - Arvee Allens
(Jan. 1959 single) 

 Abigail Ambrosia... 


Right you are, Don Pardo.
A "two-fer" is an occasion
when I answer a question
with not one, but two songs,
usually by the same artist. 

Released a month after
his death, Ritchie Valens'
single "That's My Little
Suzie," a song inspired
by Little Richard's hit
"Tutti Frutti," made it
roughly halfway up
the Billboard chart
and came close to
the top 40 on the
Cash Box survey. 

"That's My Little Susie" - Ritchie Valens
(Apr./May 1959, highest chart pos. #43 Cash Box, #55 Hot 100)

If you're just tuning in, this is a sneak peek at  
 Ask Abigail... advice column, information hotline and radio show rolled into one.

Make a note to check your listings because it starts soon

 right here at Shady's Place on S-P-M-M Retrosonic Radio.

I'm your hostess with the mostest...
Abigail Ambrosia
answering questions from you, the listener, about popular songs
of the past. There are two ways for you to submit a question. 

One way is to mail your question to our offices here in
Shady Towers West. I'll give you the snail mail
address at the end of the show.

 As you can see, we get a ton of male mail every day, and we love our work.

The other way to get your question to me is simply
pick-up the phone and call our toll free question-line.

It is also very much a "party line"... because, as you can tell
by now, I always play a song or songs that correspond to
your question and my answer. Dancing is encouraged! 

What are you waiting for? Go to the phone and dial
1-800-555-2-ASK. CALL NOW! 

 Virginia B. is on the line with the following question:
Hello, Abigail! I hope you can settle a friendly argument I've been
having with my husband. He says Dusty Springfield is the
only diva that recorded "Wishin' And Hopin'"...

...but I seem to recall years ago hearing Dionne Warwick sing
a version of the song. Hubby thinks I'm crazy. Who's right?

Hi, Virginia! Thanks for calling.
Tell your husband that you are
correct and Abigail Ambrosia
says so. While it's true that
Dusty Springfield sang the
best known version of
"Wishin' And Hopin'"...
the English blue-eyed
soul singer was not the
only one to wax the
girl pop gem, nor
was she the first. 

In February, 1963, Dionne Warwick
released her original version of the
Bacharach-David composition
"This Empty Place." A great
recording, Dionne's single
nevertheless stalled at #84
on the pop chart. The record
is noteworthy for its B side,
the original waxing of another
Bacharach-David song, "Wishin'
and Hopin'," which was covered
by Dusty Springfield and became
a top 10 U.S. hit for the English
songstress in the summer of '64.
Here now is sultry soul sister
Dionne singing "This Empty
Place (between Shady's ears)."

 "This Empty Place" - Dionne Warwick 
 (Feb. 1963, highest chart pos. #84 Hot 100/#26 R&B

 Abigail Ambrosia... 


Now, here's the version of
"Wishin' And Hopin'" that
you remember, Virginia,
Dionne Warwick's great
but overlooked original
recording of the song.
It went to waste on
the B side of that
low-charting 45.
Let's Listen!

"Wishin' And Hopin'"
- Dionne Warwick
(Feb. 1963, B side of
"This Empty Place")

Larry K. called
with this question:

Dear Abigail, I know Chubby Checker
for "The Twist" and other dance craze
songs, and I also vaguely recall him
singing a folk type song that asks
the question: "Does your mama
chaw tobacca?" What's the
name of that song?

Hi, Larry! Thanks for calling. The ditty you have in mind is "Hooka Tooka,"
a folk song associated with Chubby Checker and with folk/pop singer
Judy Henske. "Hooka Tooka (My Soda Cracker)" is based on a
children's jump rope rhyme. As the story goes, children in
days of old sang the song outside brothels where
their mothers were working to warn them
that police were on the way.

Released by Chubby Checker
on the B side of "Loddy Lo,"
another folk song cover,
"Hooka Tooka" made a
run at the top 15 on the
pop charts at Christmas,
1963, and the early
weeks of 1964. 

"Hooka Tooka" -
Chubby Checker
(Dec. 1963/Jan. 1964,
highest chart pos.
#16 Cash Box, #17
Hot 100/#20 R&B

That's all for now.  I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at my new Q & A
style series coming soon to Shady's PlaceStick around. Coming up
on the flip side of Gary Owens' news, it's the next exciting
edition of Shady's epic 36-part series

Now this is advice columnist Abigail Ambrosia saying
so long and inviting you to join me next time for more
Q's & A's and more great sounds of the past on
 Ask Abigail.  

And remember, there's nothing trivial
about your love of music. See you soon!

If you have a musical question for Abigail Ambrosia...

call our 24-hour toll free question-line at

...or mail your question to: 
 Ask Abigail  
Shady Towers West, 24221 Hollywood Blvd,
Suite 5, Dept. 3-C, Los Angeles, CA 90901.

Who knows, Abigail might answer your question on her show!

Monday, February 13, 2023

This Valentine's Day... Austin Powers Urges
Pickettywitch Polly to "Pucker Up Buttercup!"


"That Same Old Feeling" - Pickettywitch
(June/July 1970, highest chart pos. #5 UK/#40 Cash Box/#67 Hot 100)

Kicking off the show, that was blonde Brit beauty Polly Brown
aka Polly Browne and her English pop band Pickettywitch
doing their breakthrough hit "That Same Old Feeling."
The single went top 5 at home in the UK and
brushed the top 40 stateside in the
summer of 1970. 

The video you watched was brilliantly restored through the
use of A.I. Enhancement software, making it seem like the
performance was filmed only yesterday instead of 53 years ago. 

 Allow myself to introduce..... myself. 

 I'm Austin Powers, super secret spy, 

 international man of mystery, 

 bon vivant, swinging playboy 

 and irresistible babe magnet. 

 London is my home, shag is my bag, 

 planet earth is my playground and 

 danger is my middle name, baby. 

Your regular host, Shady, couldn't be here today. Seems the chap's competing
against Vanessa Kensington, Felicity Shagwell and Foxxy Cleopatra in a
"Strip Parcheesi" tournament at Madison Square Garden. Sir Shady
asked me to sub for him again this year as host of the Valentine's
dance and to entertain you by playing "stacks o' wax."
I'm going to play devil's advocate and suggest that
phonograph records might sound a bit better.

 That's a gag, dove. Oh come on now. 

 I saw you crack a smile just then, 

 pussycat, admit it -  YEAH! 

Alright then. The place is packed with blokes and birds,
and it's time to get the Valentine party started. 

As you will hear in this special edition V-Week tribute, Polly Brown
is a witchy woman whose singing style could be described as
sunshine pop laced with a little bit o' soul. 

In the fall of 1971, Polly and Pickettywitch appeared on The Grand Prix
R.T.L. International, a music competition that was organized annually
from 1969 to 1972 and held at a theater in Luxembourg. At the show
the group performed their third hit "Baby I Won't Let You Down."  

"Baby I Won't Let You Down" - Pickettywitch
(Nov. 1970, highest chart pos. #27 UK, Oct. 22, 1971,
perf. at Grand Prix R.T.L. International 71 in Luxembourg) 

Cracking the UK top 30 in the fall of 1970, that was "Baby I Won't Let You Down"
by Pickettywitch, and you just saw them performing the song live the following year.

As you listened to Polly Brown sing, it might have occurred to you that she sounds
like two other singers, both of them American divas of soul. I'll name one of them
right now. Some people say Polly has a voice and style like that of Jean Terrell,
the singer who replaced Diana Ross as leader of The Supremes and helped
reinvent the famous Motown girl group at the start of the 70s. Listen now
to Jean's Supremes as they do their hit "Stoned Love" on Soul Train
and maybe you'll agree that Polly Brown sounds a lot like her. 

"Stoned Love" - The Supremes
  (Dec. 1970/Jan. 1971, highest chart pos. #1 R&B,
#5 Cash Box/#7 Hot 100, perf. on May 12, 1973, ep. of Soul Train

Now I will reveal which U.S. singer Polly Brown sounds like most of the time.
Polly usually sounds like she is singing with a head cold, but that distinctive
nasal quality sets her apart, endears listeners and invites comparisons
to America's sultry soul siren Dionne Warwick. Listen! 

"Days I Remember" - Pickettywitch
(from 1970 album Pickettywitch

If you're just tuning in, I'm Austin Powers... International Man of Mystery
(and Music History) hosting the Shady's Place Valentine's Week Dance
and entertaining you with a salute to pretty posy Polly and
her peerless posse Pickettywitch. (Say that 5 times fast!)

Songwriter/producer Gerry Shury described Polly Brown as "a cross between
Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick." I hear Diana in some of Polly's recordings,
but my favorite songs by Pickettywitch are the ones in which Polly channels
Dionne Warwick. The song you just heard, "Days I Remember," is one
example, and here's another, the Picketty-ditty-- "There He Goes." 

"There He Goes" - Pickettywitch (from 1970 album Pickettywitch,
released Feb. 1971 as B side of "Waldo P. Emerson Jones")

Now for the sake of comparison, here's one of Dionne Warwick's notable
recordings, the theme song from the hit movie Valley Of The Dolls.

"(Theme From) Valley Of The Dolls" - Dionne Warwick
(Jan./Feb./Mar. 1968, highest chart pos. #2 Hot 100/#3 Cash Box,
#13 R&B, from December 1967 film Valley Of The Dolls)

Now listen to the uncanny similarity in vocal quality and style as we switch from Dionne
Warwick to Polly Brown and listen to the second hit single by Pickettywitch, a record
that brushed the top 15 in the summer of 1970-- "(It's Like A) Sad Old Kinda' Movie!"

"(It's Like a) Sad Old Kinda' Movie" - Pickettywitch
(June/July 1970, highest chart pos. #16 UK, perf. on Top Of The Pops)

  The proof's in these delightful performances.

      You're a very good witch indeed, Polly Brown! 

It's last call for alcohol and the last dance of my 2023 Valentine party.
To close the show, here again is our featured act, Pickettywitch,
with an encore performance of a hit you saw them do earlier.
Once again, I am pleased to offer a video that has been
dramatically restored with A.I. Enhancement technology.
Watch 52 years vanish in a split second as Polly Brown
and Pickettywitch perform "Baby I Won't Let You Down!"

"Baby I Won't Let You Down" - Pickettywitch
(Nov. 1970, highest chart pos. #27 UK)

 I hope these super sounds put you in 

 a shagadelic mood, baby. Oh behave! 

 This is your old chum Austin Powers 

 International Man of Mystery 

 (and Music History)... 

 saying ciao for now. 

 Let's do it again real soon, baby... 

 You know you want to... YEAH!