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.

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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.

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