Saturday, July 23, 2011

From College to Commercial

Many singing groups and rock and roll bands came out of university life. I’ll profile three favorites, in separate postings.

First, The Playmates (not what you’d think – these were singing nerds as you can see from the jacket covers)

The members of The Playmates were all students at the University of Connecticut in the early 50's when they formed a comedy act calling themselves The Nitwits. As music became more a part of their act, they ultimately transformed themselves into a musical act instead as The Playmates: pianist Chic Hetti; drummer Donny Conn; and Morey Carr.

Signed to Roulette Records in 1958, their biggest hit came that same year with the novelty tune "Beep Beep." That hit #4 and was all over AM radio for a long, long time.

They followed up with a chart listing single in 1959 with "What Is Love," a song that actually haunted me for decades. I heard it on the car radio while my family was vacationing on Cape Cod in July 1959 and it stuck in my head. But years later I could not recall the full song or the recording artists, but I was determined to find out. It became a quest. In the days before internet search engines were as thorough and easy to use as they now are, I even sought out the proprietors of those used record shops that sell old 45rpm records and would sing or hum the little fragment of this song that I could still remember: “…the cutest ponytail that sways with a wiggle when she walks.” Pitiful huh? Several tried their best to help but to no avail. Then about 10 years ago I stumbled on the lyrics searching on a music lyrics-artist website. Mystery solved after more than 40 years.

After four albums for Roulette, the novelty group — which was known for its between-song comedy and banter as much for its repertoire — broke up in 1964.

[Credit to Youtube posters Nocaro and Ne14Fr8Music for some of this information.]

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