Wednesday, March 19, 2014

TMFW 28 - The Gentrys Big Hit, Stretched Out for Radio

Today's TMFW is a combination of two facts about The Gentrys, a Memphis band that had a top-5 hit in 1965 with "Keep on Dancing." The song is one of my all time favorites, ever since I saw it on a toy commercial in 1987
First, if "Keep on Dancing" sounds repetitive, that's because it is.  Quite literally.  The Gentrys recording of the song came in at a very short 1:30, which the record label wisely figured was too short for the song to be a commercial hit.  They needed to get past the 2:00 mark, so they took the opening verse of the song and stuck it on the back.  To be clear, the band didn't re-record the opening verse or play it again at the end - the producers simply took the tape of the opening and appended that same recording to the end.  The "false fade" was in that sense unintentional; it actually marked the real fade out of the original song.  (To me, that false fade is one of the most endearing parts of the record.)
Second, the song "Keep on Dancing" was sung by the Gentrys guitarist Larry Raspberry, who was not one of the two regular lead singers in the band.  The two regular singers were Bruce Bowles and Jimmy Hart.  After The Gentrys, Hart went on to a second career that made him much more famous than his rock star past: WWF wrestling manager.  After managing his high school friend Jerry "The King" Lawler, Hart adopted the persona "The Mouth of the South," and went on to manage Hulk Hogan, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, and The Honky Tonk Man, among others.  Hart was a key part of the WWF stable of characters in the 80s and 90s, and was inducted into the WWE hall of fame in 2005.  As a wrestling-obsessed kid, I hated him for his loud mouth and his cheating ways.
BONUS FACT:  Not unlike the fictional one-hit band The Wonders' appearance in Weekend at Party Pier, near the end of their first iteration The Gentrys appeared in the teen beach movie It's a Bikini World (trailer here).  They performed their song "Spread it On Thick."
BONUS FACT 2:  "Keep on Dancing" was first recorded in 1963 by The Avantis.  Their version is a bit slower, with a doo-wop influence, and name checks the dance move the twist (as opposed to the Gentrys naming the more-popular-in-1965 "jerk.")
BONUS FACT 3:  After the initial incarnation of the band broke up, Hart reformed them in 1969, and they recorded two Billboard Hot 100 songs - "Why Should I Cry" (a not-subtle ripoff of Midnight Confessions) and a cover of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl." 

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating stuff, dude.
    Never knew about this particular aspect of Jimmy Hart's history.
    As far as more recent "Mouth of the South" music is concerned, I doubt this track can be beat: