Artist: The Dynettes
Track: “Witness To A Heartbreak”
Release: New Guy / Witness To A Heartbreak (7″)
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.