DEAR JERRY: While paging through my Top 40 book recently, I spotted “Alley Oop” by a group named Dante and the Evergreens. The book says this group released it on June 13, 1960.
Since I have always been under the impression that “Alley Oop” is performed by the Hollywood Argyles, I checked their section and found that they too put it out on June 13, 1960.
Now I am baffled. Who really recorded “Alley Oop”? How do Dante and the Evergreens fit into the picture?
Since your column is a source of continual education, I look forward to you sorting all this out for me.
Harry L. Flick Jr., Lancaster, Pa.
DEAR HARRY: With the exception of one dinky detail, let the Oop sorting begin.
Dante and the Evergreens Dante being Don Drowty recorded “Alley Oop” (Madison 130) shortly after Gary Paxton, the vocalist who recorded as the Hollywood Argyles (Lute 5905). However, neither the Dante nor the Paxton single came out on June 13. In fact, both entered the Billboard chart on exactly the same day: May 30, 1960.
One week later, another version charted, this one by the Dyna-Sores (Rendezvous 120), making three renditions on the chart.
The Hollywood Argyles made it to No. 1 on both Billboard and Cash Box. Dante and the Evergreens also reached No. 1 on Cash Box while peaking at No. 15 on Billboard. The Dyna-Sores' cover version trailed the pack, though they did peak in the Top 60.
Now about that dinky detail:
Though Dallas Frazier wrote “Alley Oop,” he did not put it out on record, which means he did not have the original release. The Hollywood Argyles did the original recorded version and Dante and the Evergreens made the cover.
Gary Paxton explains:
"Dallas Frazier originally wrote “Alley Oop” as a country tune, but I made it into a funky R&B song.
"For the session, I hired Gaynel Hodge, (the Penguins' piano player), Ronnie Caleco, (Lloyd Price's drummer), and, on bass, Harper Cosby (of Gerald Wilson's Jazz Orchestra).
"Wth these three, I went to American Recorders, where we added Sandy (“Teen Beat”) Nelson. We already had a drummer (Caleco), so Nelson played garbage cans and did background screams.
"Dallas Fraizer, Buddy Mize, Scotty Turner, some girl named Diane, and some others whose names I don't remember all sang in the background.
"As for the name, Kim Fowley and I were living in a $15-a-week room in Hollywood. Though I just had two million sellers as Skip & Flip “It Was I” and “Cherry Pie” I never got paid a dime on either. But since I was still under contract (to Brent Records) as "Flip," I couldn't put my name on “Alley Oop.” Seeing that the studio was on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. And Argyle Street, I decided on Hollywood Argyles.
"Other than myself, there were no actual Hollywood Argyles. Everyone else on the track was either a friend or a studio musician who I paid $25 apiece for the session. When “Alley Oop” suddenly took off and people wanted to book us for concerts, there was no such group.
"So, for the shows, I hired Marshall Leib (piano), Deary Weaver (guitar), Gary Webb (drums) and Bobby Rey (sax). We also had an Irish kid can't remember his name on bass. I recall that he later killed himself.
"It really got interesting when Skip & Flip AND the Hollywood Argyles were booked on the same show. When that happened, my traveling Argyles would back the entire show which usually included stars like Freddy Cannon, Jimmy Clanton, etc. I would sing “Alley Oop” with them, then Clyde Battin ("Skip") came out and sang the Skip & Flip hits with me.
"And no, I didn't get paid double for being two acts."
IZ ZAT SO? Now knowing the origin of the name Hollywood Argyles, are you wondering how two guys named Clyde Battin and Gary Paxton became Skip & Flip?
Again, according to Paxton:
"When Bobby Shadd, the owner of Brent and Shad Records, got a hold of our demo of “It Was I,” he didn't even know who we were or where we were. But he liked the tune and decided to release it as is. He had two poodles named you guessed it Skip and Flip. So that became our name.
"I was picking cherries on a farm in Oregon and listening to a transistor radio, when I heard “It Was I” played. I jumped right out of the tree, rushed to the local radio station to look at the record. There I learned it had been out for about six weeks and was already in the Top 40! Then I called the company (Brent) in New York and introduced myself.