Friday, October 14, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 10/14/2016 Update

Today, we return to our 1967 Nancy's Favorites mix, and listen to another producer-created single, but one that rather than just generating another one-hit wonder, launched the career of a significant late-sixties hitmaking act and its legendary frontman, Alex Chilton.

Of course, that song is the Box Top's The Letter.

Written by Nashville-based country artist Wayne Carson Thompson, the song found its way into the hands of Carson Thompson's friend Chips Moman, owner over Memphis's famed American Sound Studio, who agreed to record the song with a new band.

When one of Moman's young assistant producers, Dan Penn, grew tired of collaborating with others (particularly Moman himself) and asked for a chance to record an act - any act no matter how low on the totem pole - on his own, Moman gave him the shot, and also let him run with some of Carson Thompson's songs, including The Letter.

To record the song, Penn found emerging blue-eyed soul teenage-act The Devilles, fronted by the 16-year-old Chilton, who had been regular competitors in a local weekly battle of the bands.

Despite the Penn and the band's youth and inexperience in the studio, they all proved to be quick studies. The sessions did include instrumental contributions from more seasoned hands, but all but one original band member played on the original recording.

Once the single was cut, the band changed their name to The Box Tops to avoid legal conflicts with another similarly named recording artist, and the rest is history.  The song, I believe the shortest to every top the Billboard charts, was the #2 song on the year, selling over four million copies, and the first in a string of Box Tops hits over the remainder of the 60s before most of the band members, quickly jaded by the myriad ways they were being ripped off by industry insiders, choose to leave the music business and attend college instead.

Chilton, obviously, went on to much acclaim as a solo artist and leader of the highly influential mid-70s power-pop trio Big Star.

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