Thursday, June 23, 2011


     It is a coincidence that direct involvement by the United States in Vietnam occurred in the same year, 1954, that Elvis Presley recorded his best singles with Sun Records. It is also a coincidence that armed U.S. soldiers began actively assaulting Vietnam the same year, 1964, that the Beatles landed in America. It is even a coincidence that the final withdrawal of U.S. troops happened in 1975, just as disco popped up on the charts. And finally, it is an incontrovertible fact that three gloriously salacious songs could have prevented the whole thing. 

"Sixty Minute Man." Recorded by Billy Ward and the Dominoes. Produced by Ralph Bass. Written by Billy Ward and Rose Marks. Released 1951.
"One Mint Julep." Recorded by the Clovers. Produced by Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler. Written by Rudolph Toombs. Released 1952.
"Money Honey." Recorded by The Drifters. Produced by Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler. Written by Jesse Stone. Released 1953.

    The reason for the above claim is simple. All three songs to some extent share an evocation of good-natured humor in relation to romance. Fascists are totally foreign to good-natured humor of any type, are typically repulsed by any style of romance that excludes barbed wire and cattle prods, and certainly perceive nothing amusing about sex with anyone other than the maternal parent. To put it simply, had America embraced these three songs with a fraction of the enthusiasm the singers demonstrated, no one would have had the time or inclination to fire bomb anyone.
Billy Ward and the Dominoes

    It was Bill Brown who sang lead on Billy Ward and the Dominoes' hit. "There'll be fifteen minutes of lovin and fifteen minutes of huggin and fifteen minutes of blowing my top." Do I sense a new euphemism for oral sex here, or is this just a reference to a very extended ejaculation? Better we contemplate this, my argument goes, than having dead baby jokes materialize upon red and green rice paddies.
The Clovers

    The Clovers were a five-man singing combo featuring Bud Bailey on lead vocals. They had R&B hits with "Love Potion Number 9,"  "Blue Velvet," "Devil or Angel" and "One Mint Julep." Aside from being a bopping slice of black troubleshooting harmony, the latter song put the blame on alcohol for everything, including the singer's six children. A struggling record company called Atlantic released the tune.
    Atlantic Records--which became the greatest record company of all time--was formed in 1947 by Herb Abramson and the Ertegun brothers, Ahmet and Neshui. Wrong as it may be to reduce the company's artistic achievements to a mere list of performers, that list is nevertheless most impressive: Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, King Floyd, Percy Sledge, The Spinners, The Drifters, LaVern Baker, Brook Benton, The Bobbettes, Booker T and the MGs, Ruth Brown, Solomon Burke, Clarence Carter, The Chords, The Clovers, Ivory Joe Hunter, Sam and Dave, Betty Wright, Blind Willie McTell, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Stick McGhee, Texas Johnny Brown, T-Bone Walker, Guitar Slim, Cornell Dupree, Al King, Mickey Baker, and Led Zeppelin. 
Money Honey
    Clyde McPhatter had left the Dominoes to record a solo single called "Money Honey," produced by Jerry Wexler. The song didn't quite have what Wexler was looking for and he told this to Clyde. The singer said okay and came back with Andy and Gerhart Thrasher and a young man named Billy Pinkney. The four called themselves The Drifters. They re-recorded "Money Honey" and the song hooked Number One on the R&B charts. The group recorded more classics over the next year and a half, the best of which, "White Christmas," would have scared Bing Crosby to death. The military got hold of McPhatter around this time, though, and the Drifters slumped commercially for the next five years.

The Phil Mershon Daily

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