1950 and 1960s MUSIC GROUPS (I & J’s)
This post includes information about nine artists and groups from the 1950s and 1960s: Janis Ian, Ink Spots, Iron Butterfly, Isley Brothers, Jackson (Michael) Five, Stonewall Jackson, Elmore James, Tommy James & The Shondells, George Jones and Janis Joplin (Big Brother & The Holding Company (artists with names ending with I or J)…
Janis Ian (born Janis Eddy Fink; April 7, 1951) is an American singer-songwriter who was most commercially successful in the 1960s and 1970s. Her signature songs are the 1967 hit “Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking)” (https://youtu.be/ABUmZvzGHVc) (RQ 10) and the 1975 Top Ten single “At Seventeen” (https://youtu.be/CZQyoiXzUrY) (RQ 10+) from her LP Between the Lines, which in September 1975 reached no. 1 on the Billboard album chart. Born in Farmingdale, New Jersey, Ian entered the American folk music scene while still a teenager in the mid-1960s. Most active musically in that decade and the 1970s, she has continued recording into the 21st century. She has won two Grammy Awards, the first in 1975 for “At Seventeen” and the second in 2013 for Best Spoken Word Album, for her autobiography, Society’s Child, with a total of ten nominations in eight different categories.
The Ink Spots were an American vocal jazz group who gained international fame between 1934-1954. Their unique musical style presaged the rhythm and blues and rock and roll musical genres, and the subgenre doo-wop. The Ink Spots were widely accepted in both the white and black communities, largely due to the ballad style introduced to the group by lead singer Bill Kenny. 1989, the Ink Spots 1939 recording of “If I Didn’t Care” (https://youtu.be/UC_VzbtRGr0) (RQ 8) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “early influences” by Bobby McFerrin. Another recording of theirs, which is a personal favorite of mine, is “I’ve Got a World on a String” (https://youtu.be/M7_y0hdlpuw) (RQ 10).
Iron Butterfly. 1966-1971
From San Diego, CA, formed in 1966. The group members were: Doug Ingle (organ, lead singer), Ron Bushy (drums), Lee Dorman (bass, vocals), Eric Braun (lead guitar and vocals). Darryl DeLoach joined them soon after where he played the tambourine. The group regularly rehearsed in his garage in SanFrancisco. Their most famous recording in 1968 was: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (https://youtu.be/UIVe-rZBcm4) (RQ 10). The song reached the Top 30 Billboard and lasted over a year. Over time it sold over 30M copies. This song and album was the first ever group to receive an in-house platinum album award from Atlantic Records. In 1969, they got stuck at LaGuardia airport and failed to meet their commitment to perform at Woodstock. This angered the show’s production coordinator John Morris. Tho they missed Woodstock they managed to hit most of the other popular festivals in the late sixties.
In 1969, their album recording “Ball” (https://youtu.be/jwjsmmM450o) (RQ 5) reached No3 on the charts and ended up going gold. Late in December the group started to break up as Brann left because the group refused to move toward a harder rock sound. Then in 1971, Ingle left because the group decided to continue with a guitar-oriented blues and soul direction. Without having an organist, they recorded “Silly Sally” (https://youtu.be/kURH5Dm8Wks) (RQ 8) which failed to hit the charts. Their last show was at Central Oregon Community College on May 23, 1971. The primary reason for their final breakup was due to the fact that the Internal Revenue Service was investigating them for unpaid back taxes.
Isley Brothers. 1954-present
Group members: Ernie, O’Kelly, Ronald, Rudolph and Marvin. From Cincinnati. Moved to NYC in the late 1950s. The group’s initial successes were minimal until 1959 with their fourth single: “Shout” (https://youtu.be/rWRsJ-mDU5o) (RQ 9). Then, they had three top hot singles in a row:
“Twist and Shout” (https://youtu.be/cTaqn8_gMR0). (RQ 8)
“This Old Heart of Mine” (https://youtu.be/U_9M6kRfJes) (RQ 8)
“It’s Your Thing” (https://youtu.be/Tqc_EhmL8-E) (RQ 10)
“Your Thing” won a Grammy Award. They then added three new members: their younger brothers Ernie (lead guitar) and Marvin (bass). Also, Chris Jasper (keyboard and synthesizer). By 1973, they turned their original trio into a full band. For the next decade they produced several top-selling albums including: “The Heat is On” (https://youtu.be/myw0-iVHYv4) (RQ 7) and “Between the Sheets” (https://youtu.be/-7KuJZanjCY) ( RQ 8). The band finally splintered in 1983.
Jackson Five (including Michael) 1965-
Brothers Jackie, Tito and Jermaine formed the group on 1965 in Gary, Indiana. Younger brothers Marlon and Michael joined soon after. Their first debut produced four consecutive No1 songs on Billboard:
“I Want You Back” (https://youtu.be/DGDyAb6pePo) (RQ 10)
“ABC” (https://youtu.be/ho7796-au8U) (RQ 6)
“The Love You Save” (https://youtu.be/C6pLV9xZczM) (RQ 7)
“I’ll Be There” (https://youtu.be/W-apaIOOoAo) (RQ 9)
Between 1976-81 they produced two successful albums: “Destiny and Triumph” and three singles:
“Enjoy Yourself” (https://youtu.be/7IsjqR1IlvE) (RQ 8)
“Shake Your Body” (https://youtu.be/vAZA6oNEWZg) (RQ 6)
“Can You Feel It” (https://youtu.be/jZpoDbFHwE4) (RQ 7)
The Jackson 5 sold more than 100M records worldwide. Of course, Michael (1958-2009), went on to enjoy a fantastic career on his own! He became known as the “King of Pop.” Most people would agree that he was one of the most significant cultural figures and musical entertainers in history. His music videos:
“Beat It” (https://youtu.be/oRdxUFDoQe0) (RQ 10)
“Billy Jean” (https://youtu.be/Zi_XLOBDo_Y) (RQ 10)
“Thriller” (https://youtu.be/sOnqjkJTMaA) (RQ 10)
Gave him credit by breaking racial barriers and transforming the medium into an art form and promotional tool. The album won eight Grammy Awards. Between 1987-97 he produced another nine successful videos. This, and he also produced five hit singles:
“Man In The Mirror” (https://youtu.be/PivWY9wn5ps). (RQ 10)
“Black or White” (https://youtu.be/pTFE8cirkdQ) (RQ 8)
“Heal the World” (https://youtu.be/BWf-eARnf6U) (RQ 10)
“Earth Song” (https://youtu.be/XAi3VTSdTxU) (RQ 10)
“They Don’t Care About Us” (https://youtu.be/PoEa9bzeTu0) (RQ 10)
Michael became a person of controversy near the end of his life including making physical changes to his body and having relationships with young boys. In 2009, he died as the result of an overdose of sedatives administered by his personal physician, Conrad Murray.
Stonewall Jackson (Late 1950s – Early 1960s)
Stonewall Jackson (born November 6, 1932) is an American country music singer, guitarist and musician who achieved his greatest fame during country’s “golden” honky tonk era in the 1950s and early 1960s.
After hearing Jackson’s demo tape, Wesley Rose, president of Acuff-Rose Music, arranged for Jackson to audition for the Grand Ole Opry. Jackson became the first artist to join the Grand Ole Opry before obtaining a recording contract. He toured with Ernest Tubb, who became his mentor. Jackson signed with Columbia Records in 1958.
His breakthrough came in the country Top 40 in late 1958, with a song written by a young George Jones, “Life to Go”. It peaked at No. 2 in early 1959 and his follow-up record, “Waterloo”, was No. 1 for five weeks and crossed over into the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it reached No. 4. The track also reached No. 24 in the UK Singles Chart in July 1959. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. The song was a haunting and catchy tune that states “Everybody has to meet his Waterloo”, meaning their fate. The song cites Adam, Napoleon and Tom Dooley as examples.
His next No. 1 hits came in 1964 with “Don’t Be Angry” (https://youtu.be/5YysB4lJvTA) (RQ 10) and “B.J. the D.J.” (Jackson’s foray into the teenage tragedy song trope, about an over-worked country music radio station disc jockey, who crashes his car in a rainstorm). In 1963, Jackson was the first artist to record a live album from the Grand Ole Opry with Old Showboat. Other song hits include “The Carpet on the Floor”, “Why I’m Walkin'”, “A Wound Time Can’t Erase” and “I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water”. Jackson also recorded a cover version of Lobo’s 1971 hit, “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo”, which became Jackson’s final top 10 hit. From 1958 to 1971, Jackson had 35 Top 40 country hits.
Elmore James (January 27, 1918 – May 24, 1963 was an American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader. He was known as “King of the Slide Guitar” and was noted for his use of loud amplification and his stirring voice. For his contributions to music, James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. James was born Elmore Brooks in Richland, Holmes County, Mississippi, the illegitimate son of 15-year-old Leola Brooks, a field hand. His father was probably Joe Willie “Frost” James, who moved in with Leola, and Elmore took his surname. He began making music at the age of 12, using a simple one-string instrument (diddley bow, or jitterbug) strung on a shack wall. As a teen he performed at dances under the names Cleanhead and Joe Willie James. He married Minnie Mae about 1942. James was influenced by Robert Johnson, Kokomo Arnold and Tampa Red. He recorded several of Tampa Red’s songs. He also inherited from Tampa Red’s band two musicians who joined his own backing band, the Broomdusters, “Little” Johnny Jones (piano) and Odie Payne (drums). There is a dispute about whether Johnson or James wrote James’s signature song, “Dust My Broom”. In the late 1930s, James worked alongside Sonny Boy Williamson II. During World War II, James joined the United States Navy, was promoted to coxswain and took part in the invasion of Guam. Upon his discharge, he returned to central Mississippi and settled in the town of Canton with his adopted brother Robert Holston. Working in Holston’s electrical shop, he devised his unique electric sound, using parts from the shop and an unusual placement of two DeArmond pickups. Around this time James learned that he had a serious heart condition. He began recording with Trumpet Records in nearby Jackson in January 1951, first as a sideman again for Sonny Boy Williamson II and for their mutual friend Willie Love and possibly others. He made his debut as a session leader in August with “Dust My Broom”, which was a surprise R&B hit in 1952. His backing musicians became known as the Broomdusters. James broke his contract with Trumpet Records to sign with the Bihari brothers through their scout Ike Turner, who played guitar and piano on a couple of his early Bihari recordings. His “I Believe” (https://youtu.be/eW48gdaT-hE) (RQ 7) was a hit a year later. During the 1950s he recorded for the Bihari brothers’ Flair Records, Meteor Records and Modern Records; he also recorded for Chess Records and Mel London’s Chief Records. He played lead guitar on Big Joe Turner’s 1954 top 10 R&B hit “TV Mama”.In 1959, he began recording for Bobby Robinson’s Fire Records, which released “The Sky Is Crying”, “My Bleeding Heart”, “Stranger Blues”, “Look on Yonder Wall”, “Done Somebody Wrong”, and “Shake Your Moneymaker”, among others.
James, Tommy (& The Shondells) 1964-
Formed in Niles, Michigan in 1964. Besides Tommy, the group consisted of: Larry Cloverdale (lead guitar), Larry Wright (bass), Craig Villeneuve (keyboard) and Jim Payne (drums). In 1964, they recorded their first hit: “Hanky Panky” (https://youtu.be/bsgKZb9jQ1s) (RQ 8). Snap Records failed to have a national distribution network so the band disbanded after the boys graduated from high school. In 1966, James went on his own to promote the song. Roulette Records picked up Tommy and the recording and it became a No1 hit by July. In 1967, they became known as a bubblegum singing group. But they did produce four charted singles:
“I Think We’re Alone Now” (https://youtu.be/IkMFLUXTEwM) (RQ 10)
“Mirage” (https://youtu.be/ZYhruUQpr7k). (RQ 9)
“Mony Mony” (https://youtu.be/X_OoEx9WOl8). (RQ 10)
“Do Something for Me” (https://youtu.be/76WDCm4O0MQ) (RQ 7)
1968, they produced five more charted singles:
“Crimson and Clover” (https://youtu.be/GpGEeneO-t0) (RQ 7)
“Sweet Cherry Wine” (https://youtu.be/rt1gvRKJCms) (RQ 9)
“Crystal Blue Persuasion” (https://youtu.be/oDN7nukZRnw) (RQ 8)
“Ball of Fire” (https://youtu.be/Mep1crQVMEM). (RQ 5)
“Sugar on Sunday” (https://youtu.be/XdPlq1uZP9Y) (RQ 7)
The group was invited to perform at Woodstock but they declined. In 1970, he was pronounced dead while performing, but recovered and spent another twelve years performing. In 2008 the Shondells were inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll HOF.
George Glenn Jones (September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013) was an American musician, singer, and songwriter. He achieved international fame for his long list of hit records, including his best-known song “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (https://youtu.be/es1uCh48TNY) (RQ 10) as well as his distinctive voice and phrasing. For example, “I Always Get Lucky with You.” (https://youtu.be/zIGtfGY9V-g) (RQ 9). For the last two decades of his life, Jones was frequently referred to as the greatest living country singer. Country music scholar Bill Malone writes, “For the two or three minutes consumed by a song, Jones immerses himself so completely in its lyrics, and in the mood it conveys, that the listener can scarcely avoid becoming similarly involved.” Waylon Jennings expressed a similar opinion in his song “It’s Alright”: “If we all could sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones.” The shape of his nose and facial features earned Jones the nickname “The Possum”.
Joplin, Janis (Big Brother & The Holding Co). (Joplin’s life: 1943-1970)
Members included: Peter Albin, Sam Andrew, James Gurley and Davis Getz. Joplin joined the group in 1966. Andrew said it took Joplin about a year to learn how to play with an electric band. “Blind Man” (https://youtu.be/rsIV9tsPYkI) (RQ 8) was their first single. It was popular in SanFrancisco but not elsewhere. Their second single: “Down on Me” (https://youtu.be/s40vz3xeanY) (RQ 9) ended up being popular nationwide and reached the charts and stayed there for thirty weeks. Their third single was “Coo Coo” (https://youtu.be/YMcyTD1FmnM) (RQ 6). It was not successful.
In June of 1967, they played two songs: “Combination of the Two” and “Ball and Chain” at the Monterey Pop Festival. Michelle Phillips said that Joplin sounded like Bessie Smith and she was simply astounded. In February of 1968 they played at the Anderson Theatre in NYC. Albert Grossman became their manager and said her performance in NY was ranking in sex appeal to Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix and praised her “belting and groovy style.” Their “Cheap Trills” album (https://youtu.be/s8W4g2xILI8) (RQ 7) reached the top Billboard charts. It achieved certified gold and sold more than 1M copies. Her top singles were:
“Me and Bobby McGee” (https://youtu.be/sfjon-ZTqzU) (RQ 10)
“Piece of My Heart” (https://youtu.be/3SL0oRcD7t0) (RQ 10)
“Cry Baby” (https://youtu.be/VfGSd-tikH4). (RQ 8)
“Down on Me” (https://youtu.be/GSQCatgWaEEa) (RQ 9)
“Ball and Chain” (https://youtu.be/X1zFnyEe3nE) (RQ 5)
“Summertime” (https://youtu.be/guKoNCQFAFk) (RQ 8)
“Mercedes Benz” (https://youtu.be/4E2_zay3B6Q) (RQ 9)
In 1969, both Joplin and Andrew left Big Brother to form Country Joe and the Fish. In May of 1969, the band disbanded. She died of an accidental heroine overdose in 1970 at the age of 27. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll HOF in 1995. She sold 25.5M albums.