Just to Be With You – Jimmy Gallagher and the Passions
Having an oldies’ radio show brought back its own memories. Digging into the archives to find that golden oldie meant that hearing the title of a song flooded the senses.
I received phone calls such as, “I have not heard that song in 50 years!” or “I remember who I was dancing with when that song played.” That meant that I got to them with that memory. To a certain extent, that is why we enjoy listening to the oldies. Our lives were simpler, entwined with innocent relationships, attention to school, and doing things as a family.
The songs listened to in the ’50s and early ’60s were embedded in the brain, as were the words. We could not sing them by ourselves, but when we heard them, we could definitely sing along, even if we were a fraction of a second behind the artists. They triggered the memory of what the next words were going to be. But many of those songs from the past have not been heard in half a century. Why are the melody and their lyrics still there? Why do we know where we were and what we were doing then, when we cannot even remember what we had for breakfast yesterday?
If artists made the top annual list, they could say they had a hit. What of the songs that did not make the cut? What of the songs everyone danced to and held each other close to—as close as the chaperone would permit? Those are the songs not heard today, even on an oldies’ radio station. Those were the songs to emulate because of their uniqueness and their ability to communicate exactly the message we wanted to hear.
They may not have been on someone’s weekly chart of hits, but it was word of mouth or an obscure radio station that brought these songs to our attention. Someone would acquire the 45rpm record and bring it to the next party and play it repeatedly until we all had every beat and word down pat.
While compiling the list of those songs that never charted on the annual top Billboard songs of the year or made it to the “Hit Parade Top Ten,” I reflected on their titles. Most of them were our thoughts, expressed or not. And, West Coast top hits were not East Coast top hits. Having friends on the East Coast who were as intense about doo-wop and the ’50s music as I, meant challenging one another with musical trivia. The problem was our trivia was not theirs.
East Coast songs had a different tone or message, but regardless, sometimes a song snuck over the Mississippi border to the other side. An example of that is “Just to Be with You” by Jimmy Gallagher and the Passions and their follow-up song, “This Is My Love.” They received minimal play on the West Coast, but everyone knew them east of the river.
We all knew “In the Still of the Night (I Remember)” by the Five Satins, and their next release, “To the Aisle,” found its way on the soundtrack of American Graffiti but not the charts. How many remember the Righteous Brothers’ first record, “Little Latin Lupe Lu?” We all remember their following songs but not that one. Jesse Belvin was Los Angeles-based, and his music did not resonate on the East Coast. His songs “Guess Who” and “Goodnight My Love” were classic party tunes and bring back a flood of memories.
Cleveland Still and the Dubs gave us “Could This Be Magic?” and followed it up with “Please Don’t Ask Me to Be Lonely.” Heard them lately? The same can be said for the Chimes’ “Once in a While,” and of course, the Aquatones’ “You,” the Classics’ “Till Then,” and the Duprees’ “I’m Yours.” Listen to the Hitmakers and “Chapel of Love,” because it is not the song you think it is by the Dixie Cups. Neither is Jivin Jean’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do”; it is not Neil Sedaka’s song with the same title.
Was it eighth grade or freshman year that we heard Johnny Funches and the Dells and their heavy breathing with “Oh, What a Night?” It was so good they did it again over a decade later as a part of the Motown experience. The big hit by Jay Siegel and the Tokens was “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” But their follow-up song, “He’s in Town,” is classic doo-wop.
It is said that a group called the Harptones have had the most positive influence on doo-wop music in the 1950s yet never had a Top 40 hit or a song that charted. Willie Winfield and the Harptones’ “Sunday Kind of Love” and “Life Is But a Dream” will go down as two of the classic songs of the ’50s that influenced many of the groups that had not yet performed.
What do all of these incredible songs have in common? Many things. They never charted, or if they did, it was for one or two weeks. They are remembered when they are played, and everyone still knows the words. Their titles, for the most part, make a statement; they capture our thoughts, moods, and feelings. They resonate time and again in our memories.
And, most importantly, they reflect on a simpler time, when music dominated the fabric of our lives.