Heard To Find: The Dynettes – “Witness To A Heartbreak”

Artist: The Dynettes
Track: “Witness To A Heartbreak”
Release: New Guy / Witness To A Heartbreak (7″)
Year: 1965
Duration: 2:30

Maurice Williams scored a huge hit in 1960 when he and The Zodiacs put out the single “Stay”. At just 1:36 in length, the single would become the shortest song to ever reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the United States. After groups like The Hollies and The Four Seasons laid down their own versions of the song and pushed it into an international audience, Maurice & The Zodiacs would reap the benefits. Jackson Browne interpolated it into the finale of his 1978 masterpiece album Running On Empty as “The Load Out / Stay” which again brought the song to new audiences. It wasn’t until the song’s inclusion on the 1987 soundtrack to the film Dirty Dancing, though, that it would sell it’s highest amount of copies.

In 1965, Maurice wrote and arranged a pair of tracks for the girl group The Dynettes to record. I can’t seem to find much on The Dynettes individually, but as the record suggests the song was recorded in Chicago, Illinois around 1964 under the production of Bill “Bunky” Sheppard. According to the comments section of this Nerdtorious.com post, the lead singer’s name was Idella and she was last known to reside in Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s it. That’s all I can find, and that’s assuming the comment is legit.

As for the song itself, it bounces along like a lollipoppy, mid-60s soul jam with a nice, clean guitar chasing the messy drumbeat backed up by an organ and a call and response type vocal setting. It’s a shame this one didn’t make it further up the charts.

I’m sure the saturation of sixties girl groups made for a challenge for anyone to break through to fame, especially with the absolute domination from Phil Spector and his Wall of Sound groups.

The A-side, “New Guy” is another gem, this time with a more up-tempo approach. I love how the deep horns back up the girls’ vocals in start contrast. This song could easily be found on a movie montage or soundtrack. Something Summer-y.

The Constellation Records catalog has all kinds of hidden soul gems from 1964-65 and you can currently find the Constellation of Rhythm & Blues compilation on streaming services. Give it a dig sometime, these songs are the epitome of “lost treasures”. Instead of posting links to just the Dynettes’ music, here’s the full compilation.

Heard To Find: Zap – “Football Stomp”

Artist: Zap
Track:“Football Stomp”
Release: Don’t Wanna Play / Football Stomp (7″)
Year: 1975
Duration: 3:14

Side B: “Football Stomp”

Back in 1975, Walter Kahn was riding the success of his Grammy-winning production of the single “Love Me Like A Rock” by The Dixie Hummingbirds. The Dixie Hummingbirds had recorded the Paul Simon-penned track with Paul at Muscle Shoals in 1973, but wanted to record their own version. Shortly after recording the original with Paul, they did just that. The Hummingbirds’ version won them a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance in 1974, with Walter getting an award for producing it. In 1975, Walter wrote, arranged, and produced a few singles for Grand Prix Records featuring studio musicians under fake band names like QVRS and Zap. A couple of these singles were sports themed, including the disco dance novelty tune “Phillies Fever” featuring 5 players of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise, Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt, David Cash, Greg Luzinski and Garry Maddox. Another single, “Don’t Wanna Play”, was backed with the sporty B-side “Football Stomp”. That single flopped, but had very minor success in the Philadelphia area.

Later in Kahn’s career, he hit #1 on the Billboard Top Dance Singles chart with his production of The Movement’s 1992 Jock Jams-destined hit “Jump!“.

Continuing on with the hip-hop/dance inspired work, he would end up earning another Grammy nomination in 1995 for producing rapper Skee-Lo’s single “I Wish“.

Back to the “Stomp”, though. The song is a power pop ode to the NFL and that’s about as much as you can squeeze out of it. Towards the end of the song, Zap sings aloud all of the current NFL teams at the time, many of which sound like made up teams considering all of the expansion and city-hopping the league has done over the years. The Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would arrive the following year in 1976, along with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens, and Houston Texans in the years to come, but this 1975 snapshot serves a nostalgic glimpse into the days of yesteryear.

Side A: “Don’t Wanna Play”

The A-side, “Don’t Wanna Play” is a standard mid-70s pop rock song and isn’t nearly as remarkable as “Football Stomp”. There’s pretty much no way to market “Football Stomp” as a single, though, so it’s understandable.

Regardless of my or your opinion of the songs, I’d like to thank Walter and the rest of the production crew for putting this out. It was well worth the listen!

Heard To Find: The Jon-Lee Group – “Pork Chops”

Artist: The Jon-Lee Group
Track:“Pork Chops”
Release: Bring It Down Front / Pork Chops (7″)
Year: 1967
Duration: 2:10

I found this buried in a box of beat up and thrown out 7″ records from a former coworker of mine. Most of the records he gave me were part of a lot sold on eBay from an old diner in California coupled with some books. The coworker wanted the books, the records came with them. So, naturally, he gave the wax to his record-loving pal; yours truly. 

Now for a little backstory on the band.

John Finley would seem like just another revolving member of The Checkmates by the time he met with the band in 1964. The Checkmates formed as Lee Jackson & The Checkmates in 1962, before experiencing a few lineup changes throughout the next few years. As Jon and Lee & The Checkmates, the band would snag some mild local scene success and even score a few huge opportunities to perform for national audiences (opening for the Rolling Stones and some ABC TV slots), but both chances fell apart. By 1967, now evolved into The Jon-Lee Group, the band would record 4 songs, two of which made it to wax. The instrumental B-side from the debut single, “Pork Chops” is the featured track today. 

The track has a down-up-down strum pattern similar to a sped up version of Otis Redding & Carla Thomas’ “Tramp“, “Good Stuff” from The B-52s’ 1992 LP of the same name,  and among many others, another Paul Rothchild connection – The Doors’ “The Changeling”. Rothchild was one of the first to offer the Jon-Lee Group a contract with his “indie” label, Elektra Records. The band declined and would shortly thereafter break up. John Finley and Paul Rothchild would continue their relationship, though, with Paul recruiting John and fellow Checkmate Michael Fonfora to form his new super-group Rhinoceros.  

As far as I know, this cut and it’s A-side companion, “Bring It Down Front”, never saw a re-release, even after The Checkmates reformed in 1999. Even though it’s a bit obscure, maybe someday a repress will happen. With it being distributed by a large label like ABC Records, there could be hope. It’s not like this was just some small private pressing, someone knows where those tapes are! In the meantime, all we have are some hard-to-find 7″ records (which I luckily landed a copy of) and the glorious YouTube rips from vinyl heads across the world. Enjoy the “Pork Chops”, bon appetit!

Check out a full bio and history of the band as well as some insight into Rhinoceros at http://www.rhinoceros-group.com/checkmates.html!