Archive for August, 2015

Ron Holden & Thunderbirds LOVE YOU SO

August 20, 2015

One of L.A.’s biggest 45s was from Seattle, namely the start of the recording career of Ron Holden & Thunderbirds began when Holden was arrested. “My band and myself were at a little high school sock hop.  During the intermission, the boys in the band including myself went out.  We jumped in our band car.  We had probably a half pint of I.W. Harper and one of them funny little cigarettes.

“It was about ten of us, stuck in this little car.  The police came over, checked us out, found out I was the only one over 18.  I did my little odd job for the government.  While I was in there, I met the forensic expert, the guy who took fingerprints.

“Every two hours or so, he’d take my fingerprints.  I couldn’t figure out what this guy was doin’, he was tryin’ to get in my head.  He heard me doo wopping in the can and he said, ‘what was that song you were doing?’

“I told him I had just written a letter to my girlfriend explaining to her that I wasn’t a bad guy.

“He said ‘I’m going to quit the sheriff’s department.  When you get out, come and visit me and we’ll see if we can do something.’”

Fingerprint guy turned out to be Larry Nelson who was about to quit law enforcement and start the Seattle-based Nite Owl label.  Nelson’s partner, Chuck Markulis, who attended San Pedro High School and Everett Junior College in Washington and sang as the Shades on “Dear Lori” b/w “One Touch Of Heaven” on Aladdin (3453) in 1959.

The Holden recording session took place on a Sunday morning “in Nelson’s 10 x 12 feet living room.  I had no idea what a studio was about.”

“Chuck Markulis owned the stereo Roberts tape recorder and we had two channels to get 20 microphones in and all these guys.  There was a dog in the room, it was real bizarre.  We did it live.  Every time we’d try to record, the dog would bark. Twenty hours later, we all hated each other.”


“Love You So” had a 38 second intro, perfect for a DJ a yak up before the vocals b/w “My Babe” on Nelson’s new Nite Owl (10), which charted on Seattle’s KYAO at #5 on November 1, 1959

Markulis and Nelson shopped the song to L.A. labels and the Challenge label pressed up 5,000 45s, but then backed out.  To avoid litigation, Challenge sent 5,000 unlabeled discs to Seattle.  Nelson and Markulis glued Nite Owl labels on them one-by-one.

They then made a deal with Bob Keane who released “Love You So” b/w “My Babe” on Donna (1315), where it charted higher than it did in Seattle.


It first charted on KFXM at #1 on February 13, 1960; at Wallichs Music City at #1 on March 14, 1960; on KRLA at #1 on       March 18, 1960; Valley News chart at #1 on March 18, 1960; KFWB at #1 on March 26, 1960; KACY in Oxnard at #1 on       April 3, 1960 and Billboard charts at #7 on April 4, 1960 and the Billboard R&B charts at #11 on May 16, 1960. In all, seven months (November 1959 to May 1960) of appearing on different charts.

Jimmy Norman vs. the T-Birds GREEN STAMPS

August 17, 2015

First came Jimmy Norman.

After singing with the Chargers, vocalist Jimmy Norman hooked up with H.B. Barnum, who had him record “Thank Him” and a remake of Hank Williams’ “You Win Again” on Mun-Rab (102), Barnum spelled backwards. In late 1959, Norman’s reference to the marketing ploy totally different from the T-Birds hit, “Green Stamps” was very much influenced by Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater” complete with squeaky voices b/w a rocker, “Just To Get To You” on Dot (16016).

“That was done as a demo in the beginning, but Dot Records put it out.  They decided to leave my name on it, make my name on it.  I was introduced to the lady who ran Dot; they had a party for me at the time.”

Norman’s “Green Stamps” was a KFXM pick on October 17, 1960

Then came the T Birds.

A two-release offgreen stampsshoot of the Jaguars, the T Birds who recorded “Green Stamps” b/w “Come On, Dance With Me” on the very short-lived T-Bird (101) r/i on Chess (1778) were Sonny Chaney, Charles Middleton and Val Poliuto of the Jaguars, who said, “we were always a member short of a group.”

T-Bird was an example of creating a label to market master to more major label.  “That was John Marascalco’s production and he had a lot of gimmicks,” Chaney recalled. “We were with my ex-wife’s cousin, he was faking guitar” on the record.

From the Platter Matter column of Jan. 12, ’61, “a new singing group has the right idea about original lyrics that attain the sound which sparks listeners interest. Since practically every store, service station, and supermarket in the nation promotes ‘collective’ stamps. the T-Birds must have decided, ‘Why not sing about them?’

“’Green Stamps’ is the title of this amusing record which tells about a boy who pledges to give his girl ‘green stamps, yellow stamps, blue chip, too’ every time she kisses him. He also urges her to ‘come an get ‘em’.

“Throughout this rock’n’roll platter there is an outstanding similarity between the T-Birds’ style and that of the well-known Coasters. This style, the beat, lyrics and expressions used all combine to make this recording one that will probably do quite well on the surveys.”  It did.

“Green Stamps” was a KRLA pick on January 13, 1961; a Wallichs hit at #33 on January 23, 1961; a KRLA hit at #24 on January 27, 1961 and a KFXM pick on February 4, 1961

“Green Stamps” did not chart nationally nor did the much rarer “Taco Harry” b/w “Hog Wild” (Chess 1792), which presaged the demise of the T-Birds.  The same lineup also recorded as the Runaways on Lavender about six months later.