DEAR JERRY: Hearing "Stormy" by the Classics IV reminds me of a completely different "Stormy." It was popular in Chicago in the mid-1950s, but I've never heard it since.
Can't remember the group, but they had a pop style similar to the Crew-Cuts and the Hilltoppers. Do you know their name?
Mario Geiger, Chicago
DEAR MARIO: As for the earlier "Stormy," it is by the Prophets (Atco 6078), and was issued in September 1956, backed with "Baby Come Back."
Your memory of its success in Chicagoland is accurate. Over the next few months, "Stormy" was among the top dozen tunes on at least three local Top 40 stations. With the peak position shown for each, they are: No. 5 on WCFL (1000 AM); No. 10 on WAIT (820 AM); and No. 11 on WJJD (1160 AM).
A Top 10 hit in a metropolis like Chicago would draw interest from stations in other markets, and a few did give "Stormy" some spins. It even made its way to Fitchburg, Mass., about an hour northwest of Boston, where the tune reached No. 3 on the "Great 28" survey at WEIM (1280 AM).
Even the print media jumped on the Prophets' bandwagon. The Record Reviews in the Oct. 20, 1956 Cash Box gave "Stormy" an impressive B+ grade, along with some mighty encouraging words:
"Atco comes up with a polished new group called the Prophets, who introduce a potent new ballad that could develop into a big seller. Strong romancer to watch closely. Commercial teenage material. Chicagoans, Ernie and George Leaner of One-derful Records, are jubilant over the tremendous action received on 'Stormy,' as well as for 'Priscilla,' by Eddy Cooley and the Dimples (Royal Roost 621). Both are zoom, zoom, zooming way up."
But wait, there's more. The "Juke Box Regional Record Report (The Top Ten Records, City by City)," in the Dec. 22, 1956 Cash Box has "Stormy" at No. 10 in Chicagoland.
In that same issue, "Stormy" is No. 7 on the list of "Ten Top Selling Records Reported by Retail Outlets From Coast to Coast" (in this case, Chicago), and for the next five weeks it was among the magazine's "Territorial Tips of Rhythm and Blues Records Showing Regional Action." Though "Stormy" was not a Rhythm and Blues recording, the Prophets no doubt appreciated the publicity.
With ALL of this going for "Stormy," it unfathomably failed to "develop into a big seller" on the national level. It didn't even make the Top 100 on Cash Box, Billboard, or Music Vendor. Rarely did a song with a B+ review rating not land somewhere in the Top 100.
I doubt it was a factor, since "Stormy" received such positive press, but Atco originally designated "Baby Come Back" as the A-side. That tune does not appear on any chart I've seen, regional or otherwise.
The Prophets' "Stormy" did get the attention of Billy Williams, and in December, his cover version came out (Coral 61751), but it also failed to chart on any level.
But better days were ahead for Billy Williams. His next single, "The Pied Piper," reached the Top 50, and he followed that with "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," a Top 2 smash that earned him his only Gold Record Award.
As for the Prophets, it seems they never made another record.
IZ ZAT SO? While reviewing back issues of Cash Box and Billboard, working on the above topic, I discovered a fascinating slice of trivia that never before crossed my mind. It pertains to the Golden Age, and its three most important decades: the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.
When comparing the Top 20 artists of each decade, it is flabbergasting to find only one artist who ranks among the Top 20 in all three decades. Not surprisingly, it is Elvis Presley, who also happens to be at or near the top of each decade.
The runner-up is James Brown, who appears on the 1960s and '70s Top 20, but not in the '50s. No other artists made the list for even two decades.
Here are a some examples of top 1950s and '60s performers that you might have thought would be on more than one decade's Top 20:
1950s (but not '60s or '70s): Paul Anka; Chuck Berry; Tony Bennett; Teresa Brewer; Pat Boone; Nat King Cole; Diamonds; Fats Domino; Everly Brothers; Four Aces; Four Lads; Frankie Laine; Little Richard; Johnny Mathis; Ricky Nelson; Patti Page; Platters; Jimmie Rodgers; and Frank Sinatra.
1960s (but not '50s or '70s): Beach Boys; Beatles; Brook Benton; Ray Charles; Chubby Checker; Dion; 4 Seasons; Connie Francis; Aretha Franklin; Marvin Gaye; Brenda Lee; Miracles; Roy Orbison; Rolling Stones; Temptations; Bobby Vee; Bobby Vinton; and Jackie Wilson.
Apparently, Bob Dylan nailed it in 1964 when he wrote "The Times They Are A-Changin.'"