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And the beat goes on...

Usually when a band loses it's lead singer, it's a bad thing. Other times it works out. Van Halen has milked 20 years of attention out of the David Lee Roth - Sammy Hagar dance. My own favorite band, Genesis, was written off when Peter Gabriel left, but went on to much greater popular success with Phil Collins. When Collins left and Ray Davies (Correction: Ray Wilson) was brought in, it fell apart.

But I've stumbled across two stories where the absence of the lead singer led to some interesting turns of fate. One band that was pretty successful wanted to do an album, but their lead singer gave it a pass. The remaining members got together anyway and released an album under a different name -- "Tom Tom Club." They had a few hits, in particular "Genius Of Love," which has been sampled, re-sampled, and excerpted all over the place. The original lead singer returned and the original band continued on, but Tom Tom Club still resurfaces every now and then.

The other group has an even more colorful story. In the 70's a baking company in Iowa hired an ad agency to come up with "a new type of ad." One guy who worked for the agency, Bill Fries, created the character of truck driver "C. W. McCall," who was a great aficionado of the "Old Home Fill'er-up an' Keep On-a-Truckin' Café." The ads were such a huge hit that people would call up the TV and radio stations and request the ads as if they were a song. TV listings started including the ads.

A recording contract soon followed, and C. W. McCall And The Old Home Band put out some albums. They had hits with "Coming Back For More" (about noted cannibal Alferd Packer), "Wolf Creek Pass," and the monster hit "Convoy." If you were alive in the 70's, you know "Convoy."

But Bill Fries grew tired of the C. W. McCall persona and moved on. That left the Old Home Band high and dry. But the members decided to stick together and soldier on. They tried various approaches and names and genres, and finally struck on the magic combination that drove them to even greater heights.

The missing band names are in the extended section.


Update: 1) Yes, it was Ray WILSON, not Ray DAVIES, who took over singing for Genesis. Duly noted and corrected -- thanks, Jim. Sigh...

2) I first discovered the C.W. McCall/Mannheim Steamroller link in the(shameful blush) liner notes of a "Best Of Dr. Demento" CD. And odd info like that just tends to stick in my skull. Every now and then I pull out the plug and let a few factoids drip on to my keyboard.

The Tom Tom Club, when joined by lead singer David Byrne, were known as "The Talking Heads." And The Old Home Band finally settled down as Mannheim Steamroller.

Comments (19)

Sorry, I can't get this ima... (Below threshold)

Sorry, I can't get this image out of my head:-

Jay Tea, closes a big story book, turns from the crackling fire and, with a glint in the eyes, says

'and that little boy stuck down the well grew up to be... Phil Collins. *wink* G'night everyone.'

Well, I guess that's a step... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Well, I guess that's a step up from being compared to Paul Harvey...


What is far far worse is th... (Below threshold)

What is far far worse is that Phil Collins, as a child actor, starred in the stage version of the musical Oliver (was he also in the film? Don’t know).

Ray Wilson, not Ray Davies,... (Below threshold)
Jim Jindra:

Ray Wilson, not Ray Davies, replaced Phil Collins for Genesis's final album, Calling All Stations. Ray Davies is, of course, the front man of the Kinks.

I was astounded that I neve... (Below threshold)

I was astounded that I never knew Ray Davies once fronted for Genesis. Thanks, Jim.

Long after Tom Tom Club, the other members of Talking Heads (without David Byrne) put out another excellent album as The Heads, called "No Talking, Just Head." There was a different singer on each song, including Debbie Harry (from Blondie), Johnette Napolitano (my favorite living female singer - from Concrete Blonde), Michael Hutchence (from INXS - which should give you an idea of how long ago it was...), and Gordon Gano (from Violent Femmes).

Sheesh Jay where did you fi... (Below threshold)

Sheesh Jay where did you find this stuff?

Mannheim Steamroller is really awesome. That's some really fascinating trivia about them.

Heh -- I knew the C.W. McCa... (Below threshold)

Heh -- I knew the C.W. McCall-Mannheim Steamroller connection from listening to a radio personality, but it wasn't Paul Harvey.

It beinjg the season, I imagine the Mannheim Steamroller bumper music will be resurfacing soon.

David Byrne was never a par... (Below threshold)

David Byrne was never a part of the Tom Tom Club, The Tom Tom Club was created by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth in 1981. Graduates from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1974, they moved to New York City where they founded Talking Heads as a trio with David Byrne in 1975. Chris played drums, Tina played bass and David sang and played guitar. In November of 1976 they signed to Sire Records and released their first singles. In 1977 they were joined by Jerry Harrison (of the original Modern Lovers) from Boston. Jerry played guitar and keyboards. It was in early 1981, after five years of touring internationally and four studio albums they wrote and recorded with Talking Heads--Talking Heads: 77 (1977); More Songs About Buildings And Food (1978); Fear Of Music (1979); and Remain In Light (1980)--that Chris and Tina were encouraged by Jerry and David, who had each left the group to make solo albums, to do likewise. So they signed with Island Records, then owned by industry legend Chris Blackwell, one of the first people to fully appreciate the value of a great rhythm section in and of itself. In March 1981 they flew down to Compass Point Studios, Bahamas, to record.

For the rest of the story go here

But I've stumbled across... (Below threshold)

But I've stumbled across two stories where the absence of the lead singer led to some interesting turns of fate.

For a third, how about The Band. After they lost their lead singer (Bob Dylan) they went to do some pretty notable things.

I love debunking rock myths... (Below threshold)

I love debunking rock myths. The Band, also known as The Hawks or The Night Hawks were just hired by Dylan to back him up. Dylan was never a part of The Band. The Band actually started out as Ronnie Hawkins' backup band. IMHO Levon Helms and Robby Robertson both could outsing Dylan.

As an original owner of bot... (Below threshold)
Master of None:

As an original owner of both the first Talking Heads album, and the first Tom Tom Club album, that piece of trivia wasn't much of a surprise. The Tom Tom Club was in a tour with a bunch of other bands from the famous CBGBs. Can anybody name them? (pretty easy actually)

If you are talking CBGB's b... (Below threshold)

If you are talking CBGB's bands the tour could be a host of bands. Blondie, The Ramones, Richard Hell, Nick Cave, etc...

I think it was called the "... (Below threshold)
Master of None:

I think it was called the "Escape from New York" tour. Debbie Harry (sans Blondie), Ramones, and Tom Tom Club circa 1990

I friggin' hate Mannheim St... (Below threshold)

I friggin' hate Mannheim Steamroller.

I first discovered the C... (Below threshold)

I first discovered the C.W. McCall/Mannheim Steamroller link in the(shameful blush) liner notes of a "Best Of Dr. Demento" CD.

My "radio personality" isn't Dr. Demento either -- though he has been called a lot of names.

Of course, one of the all-t... (Below threshold)

Of course, one of the all-time most successful lead singer replacements was when Bon Scott died and AC/DC went on to record "Back in Black" with Brian Johnson.

Here's another one for you:... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

Here's another one for you: The circa-1980 punk band Joy Division lost their lead singer in, I think it was, 1982. (The story that I recall says that singer Ian Curtis jumped off a hotel balcony or some such on New Year's Eve.) The remaining band members regrouped, changed styles, and re-emerged as electronica pioneers New Order.

I guess in the David Lee Ro... (Below threshold)

I guess in the David Lee Roth - Sammy Hagar dance, we've *purposefully* forgotten the ill-fated Van Halen III album with Gary Cherone (of Extreme fame) fronting Van Halen.

Lets not forget the changes... (Below threshold)

Lets not forget the changes in Pink Floyd that saw the band one day just forgetting to pick up the original lead singer, Syd Barret, for a gig and Roger Waters taking over.

Then the change from Roger Waters to David Gilmour which was sort of a pain, because by then, Pink Floyd was now a company, and in order for the other members to get anything done, such as picking a song, Roger had to Okay it as he still had a vote in the Company.

But even so, Pink Floyd's change of Vocalist was not that detremental to the projects that came after Rogers stopped being the vocalist.

And I agree that the change in ACDC is probably the best example of a lead singer change not affecting the band, with Floyd Second.






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