Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Many of the great lead singers of groups eventually left their groups to pursue a solo career.

Some, such as Linda Ronstadt of the Stone Poneys, achieved much greater success solo than as part of a group, but would she be in the Top 10? Others — Tony Williams of the Platters comes to mind — didn't do nearly as well on their own.

Finally, was there ever a song titled "Naomi"? My brother says there was.
— Naomi Willingham, Beaufort, S.C.

DEAR NAOMI: Let's deal with your namesake song first. Pianist extraordinaire Floyd Cramer's first single of 1964 was "Naomi" (RCA Victor 47-8325).

Primarily instrumental, Floyd throws in some occasional playful comments, including: "Naomi"; "where are you"; "there you are"; and "come on in."

Now on to our Top 10 singers whose solo adventures took them to heights far beyond their time in groups:

1. Michael Jackson
The Jackson 5 had eight Top 20 hits before Michael's first solo outing, "Got to Be There" (1971). After that there was a lot of overlapping of careers, but Michael was the biggest superstar of all the Jacksons, followed closely by sister Janet.

2. Rod Stewart
Rod recorded before and after Faces. "Maggie May" and "Reason to Believe," charted in 1971 a few months earlier than "(I Know) I'm Losing You," by Rod Stewart with Faces. With Stewart, Faces had two more hits: "Stay with Me" (1972) and "Cindy Incidentally" (1973). Meanwhile, his solo hits continued, about 60 of them, and most were big sellers.

3. George Michael
First couple of hits were by Wham!, then one as Wham! Featuring George Michael (1983-'84), but from 1985 to the end of the century it was one smash after another for George.

4. Kenny Rogers
After seven singles (1968-'69) as either the First Edition, or Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, he kicked off an enormously successful string of pop and country hits, but not always solo. He teamed with Dottie West; Kim Carnes; Sheena Easton; Dolly Parton; James Ingram; Allison Krauss; and Billy Dean.

5. Phil Collins
For Collins it was the best of both worlds. Genesis was hot from 1977 to '92, but Phil, whose solo hits ran from 1981 to '99, was even hotter. He didn't officially leave Genesis until 1996.

6. Linda Ronstadt
I'm pleased that the one example you picked is in the Top 10. The Stone Poneys had a huge hit in 1967 with "Different Drum," and a follow-up that didn't fare nearly as well. Linda then went solo with over 25 years of memorable hits, many remakes of 1950s and '60s classics: "You're No Good"; "When Will I Be Loved"; "Heat Wave"; Blue Bayou"; "It's So Easy"; "Ooh Baby Baby"; and "Hurt So Bad." All of these made the Top 10.

7. Dion DiMucci
As Dion and the Belmonts, this Bronx bunch had two great years (1958-'59), but when Dion left the trio in 1960 for a solo flight, his career really soared. From 1956 through 1965, there were only two years when Elvis was NOT the top male recording artist. One was 1959, when Elvis served in Germany all year, and Frankie Avalon moved to the top. The other was 1963, and No. 1 was Dion.

8. Lionel Richie
With Richie as their lead singer, the Commodores had a great run from 1974 to '82, with nearly all of their singles making both the pop and R&B charts. However, by going solo Lionel quickly outstripped what he accomplished with the Commodores — 12 consecutive Top 10s and five No. 1s.

9. Wilson Pickett
Pickett joined the Falcons in 1961, and the following year sang lead on their Top 10 R&B tune, "I Found a Love." As a soloist, he continually hit the pop and R&B charts for the next 11 years.

10. Eric Clapton
Along with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, Clapton formed Cream. As such, they had two very big hits in 1968, "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room," and two not so big ones, "Anyone for Tennis" and "Badge." In 1970, Eric's first solo hit, "After Midnight," began 20 years of memorable tunes, especially "I Shot the Sheriff"; "Lay Down Sally"; "Promises"; "I Can't Stand It"; "Tears in Heaven"; and "Change the World."

IZ ZAT SO? In order of overall success, these 15 groups saw one or more of their members go solo. But, unlike the above Top 10, none of these efforts equaled the accomplishments of their group. Not included are solo releases made while officially a member of the group, as with Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones) and Frankie Valli (4 Seasons):

1. Chicago (Peter Cetera had over a dozen hits)
2. Temptations (Both Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin had numerous hits)
3. Supremes (Diana Ross had a spectacular solo career, ranking only slightly below the Supremes)
4. Miracles (Smokey Robinson's impressive solo sales were not too far behind those of the Miracles)
5. Platters (The quality of Tony Williams' solo recordings was on a par with his Platters period; however, the music scene in the early '60s had shifted from what was popular in the '50s.)
6. Earth, Wind & Fire (Maurice White had a couple of minor hits)
7. Eagles (Don Henley and Glenn Frey were the most successful, but several other ex-Eagles gave it a whirl)
8. Fleetwood Mac (Numerous members recorded solo, but Stevie Nicks, Bob Welch, and Lindsay Buckingham led the pack)
9. Drifters (Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King were both very successful as solo artists, each having many hits)
10. Impressions (Curtis Mayfield did very well solo in the '70s, including two million-sellers, "Freddie's Dead" and "Superfly")

Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column.  Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368  E-mail:   Visit his Web site:

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