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James R. Stout

Growing Up In Spring Branch and the KILT Top 40 Survey

            By the time the summer of 1968 rolled around I was hooked. No, not on drugs or any kind of substance. After all, I was only 12 at the time. No, I was hooked on an event that happened every Wednesday afternoon from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. It was a radio show hosted by Rick Shaw on KILT 610 – AM. The station had its own Top 40 survey and on Wednesday’s the new survey for the week was played, from #40 down to #1 with a couple of “Hit Bound” records that were just outside of the Top 40. I had been listening to the countdowns for nearly a year and collecting the Top 40 Surveys that were printed and free for the taking at record stores, music stores, and so forth. But with a new summer just beginning school wasn’t in the way of listening to the countdown. I still have those surveys beginning with the last week of 1966 and going through late 1979. Now, I don’t have them all and for the most part the bulk of the surveys that I have are from 1967-1972. It was kind of spotty after that.

            Every Wednesday afternoon I would tune into the station and listen for three hours to see what new songs were out, what songs dropped off the survey, and where my current favorite records were on the chart. This was long before I ever heard of Casey Kasem. During the school year I would wish the school bus to go faster so that I could get home to listen. Given I didn’t get home from school until about 3:45 I missed the first 8 or 9 songs. This meant that I would be visiting the record store down the street from my home on Friday afternoon to get the hard copy. The survey always had the lyrics to one of the songs on the page across from the survey itself. On the back of the survey was a list of the top 10 albums plus some advertising directed for teens. The front cover had pictures of the different DJ’s.

            From the beginning of June 1968 through the fall of 1970 I hardly ever missed a countdown. Listen to any classic rock station out there today and they are playing most of those songs. It’s amazing how much great music was out at the same time then. There’s been no time like it before or since. June of 1968 had “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel, “Pictures of Matchstick Men” by The Status Quo, “Lady Willpower” by Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, and “Magic Bus” by The Who. Over the next 18 months we went through “Jumpin Jack Flash”, “Born To Be Wild”, “Hello I Love You”, “Hey Jude”, “White Room”, “Hooked On A Feeling”, “Wichita Lineman”, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, “Crimson and Clover”, “Touch Me”, “Aquarius”, “Dizzy”, “Proud Mary”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Get Back”, “In The Year 2525”, “Get Together”, “Sugar Sugar”, “Green River”, and so many more.

            Now let’s talk about Christmas of 1969 for a minute. December 24, 1969 was a Wednesday that year. So, you can guess what I was doing on the afternoon of Christmas Eve! I listened to that countdown and some of the songs were new to me, some had been around for a while, and one or two I had managed to miss or had just not paid attention to until that countdown. It’s one of the latter that I want to mention. Diana Ross and The Supremes had the #1 record that week with “Someday We’ll Be Together”. Creedence Clearwater Revival was at #2 with “Down On The Corner”. A song that had been #1 a few weeks before was #3. It was John Denver’s first success as a songwriter, but the hit was for Peter, Paul, & Mary. The song was “Leaving On A Jet Plain”. #5, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” by local hero B.J. Thomas, faded out and Rick Shaw introduced #4. I must admit that I had somehow or other missed it before. But from the opening chords on that song I was hooked. I wasn’t sure if it was a guy or a girl singing the lead, but I really didn’t care. The song sounded great. Little did I know that the song would go on to sell 13 million copies worldwide (as of 2019) and be used in several movie soundtracks. It would be remade by a girl group in the 80’s and would be one of only a few songs that have reached #1 by different artists in different decades. The song? “Venus” by The Shocking Blue. Well, I made a quick trip to K-mart and bought that record. It had a picture sleeve and it showed the band, three guys and a girl. I remember thinking she looked hot.

            I called my best friend the day after Christmas and asked if he had listened to the survey. He said that he did, and I asked him if there was any particular song that he liked best. He said, “I really like that song about Venus.” The song would go on to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early March of 1970. But for me, I think of that Christmas when I hear it. This whole scenario happened many times from my 5th grade year through 10th grade. I still tuned in from time to time after that, but there were girls to call, I played guitar and bass in a band or two, and life was zipping along at roughly Warp 11. Those were innocent days for the most part and when I think about them now, I have fond memories. Those songs are tied to a certain age in my life along with certain places as well. I remember hearing a song called “Cinnamon” when a lumber yard down the street on Long Point Road burned down. I remember listening to “Make It With You” in the summer of 1970 while flirting with a girl 6 years older than me who worked in the record department at Woolco, also on Long Point. I remember riding in my uncle’s car when we went fishing and “After Midnight” came on the radio. We had to laugh when Uncle Victor said, “I wonder what it is they’re going to do after midnight!” Every song has a memory from my days growing up in Spring Branch, a Houston Suburb. There’s too many to mention, but if you were there then, you most likely have similar memories too. Now, go listen to some oldies!

 

 

 

 

 

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