THE STORIES BEHIND THE SONGS
by Paul Payton
Note: hear and download the full-length songs here.
1. The lyrics tell the story; Bobby Nelson’s powerful lead vocal drives it home. This story is really about hundreds of groups and artists of the era – just different in detail. “Success came overnight; it was a thrill, it was a fright…. And then the music changed, and nothing was the same; we faded as fast as we came….We know that it’s greater to sing the way we feel. The harmony still rules for The Fabulous Dudes! “© 1984 Paul Payton, Paytoons, BMI. All rights reserved; used by permission
2. On a vacation on Sanibel Island, Florida before we were married, Bette and I drove past J. N. “Ding” Darling State Park (he was a famous naturalist and illustrator, by the way). “There’s a song in that name,” I said. “Don’t you dare,” she responded. Of course, Ding Dong Darling just had to be written--and was. In addition to commercial sales, the 45 (Presence 4503) was a favor given to guests at our wedding in 1994. Both sides are up-tempo and happy--as are we Song influences include Tico & The Triumphs, Vince Castro and The Off Keys. All copies are pressed on blue vinyl, and mint copies are still available; use the contact page to inquire.
3. The history of Davilee is one of those tales of coincidence and “what if.” A group of friends used to sing it in the halls of New Rochelle (NY) High School in the early 60’s, but it was never recorded. I’d always loved the song, and felt it was an undiscovered hit, so when I saw the writer, Peter Skolnik (now an attorney in New Jersey), at our 25th reunion, I asked him to sing it for me and send me the lyrics. It was recorded in 1987 and frequently played, in demo form only, on local collectors’ radio shows in central Connecticut. I also sent Peter a copy, but never heard from him. Then, out of the blue, after a year-and-a-half of airplay on WWUH in Hartford, Peter called; he had never played the tape I sent him, but heard our version of “Davilee” for the first time while picking up his daughter from a prep school in a Hartford suburb. He had been surfing the FM dial, and out of 30-plus possible signals landed on me telling the first part of this story on the air and then playing the song. Talk about coincidence! “Davilee” finally came out on record (4502) in 1989, when I had more time to devote to the record company due to an injury that put me on hiatus from my job for the summer. There’s an epilogue to this story: for the New Rochelle High School 50th reunion in 2012, “Davilee” was performed live for the first time since high school with an impromptu group of Dudes: Peter in the lead, Paul singing bass and playing piano, and classmate George Voland filling in the harmony parts.
4. Bette Blue Moon (two syllables, as in Bette Davis) was written for my wife, the inspiration for most of my happy music. The influence of The Marcels is obvious, but when one's wife's pet name has "Blue Moon" in it, this just had to happen! Note; this song was released in 1994 as Presence 4503; track 12 is a completely different song with the same title.
5. There’s isn’t a real girl named Marlaine for whom the song was written, but there certainly is a real New Orleans influence. Thanks for the gris-gris to Allan Toussaint, Dr. John, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Huey "Piano" Smith, Lee Dorsey, Shirley and Lee and swamp-poppers like Tommy McLain, Rod Bernard, John Fred, Grainger Hunt and so many more.
6. Given the opportunity, Our Winter Love would be sung by The Chantels on the high harmonies and The Flamingos on the lower ones. We'd sit back and love what they're doing while the song takes its place in the same pantheon as “I Only Have Eyes For You” and other velvet-and-satin harmony classics (such as Phil Spector’s Paris Sisters and Teddy Bears sides). Call this doo-wop for a cold winter night, and put another log on the fire.
7. Bobby Nelson sings lead on a track I wrote for Wendy, my ex-wife (who was and is a wonderful person). We were going to ask The Filled Spectrum Orchestra to fill the spectrum with some additional instrumental tracks, but why mess with what works?!? Influences include The Paragons and The Chantels again, with a nod to the great girl groups of the early ‘60s – good company, all.
8. The idea for Rock Me to Sleep came from a chant I heard at a Christmas Eve service. By the time I got home and wrote it down, it was transformed into something else – a real rock & roll lullabye. Special thanks to audio magician Uncle Roy Yokelson for engineering and aesthetics above and beyond the call.
9. Bette Boom is our rockabilly adventure. Remember that Johnny Cash's Sun sides had vocal group backing, too.
10. A Boy Like Me was based in the sound of The Innocents (as in "Kathy Young and....," one of my all-time favorite groups). We don't quite have their "misty" sound, but we think that their approach works pretty well through the "Dudes filter."
11. I confess: I wasn’t running with the in-crowd in high school, so Go On is a bit of fantasy revenge. Actually, it doesn’t so much have a happy ending as an acceptance of reality, a situation which is more true-to-life. Many of us reinvent ourselves later, but there is truth to the cliché that “you never leave high school even though you’ve graduated.” For me, that was true for years – but I’m OK now! This was the B side of Davilee [Presence 4502, 1989] and is almost acapella.
12. One of The Dudes' prettiest ballads, Bette Blue Moon (slow) is a completely different song from the up-tempo song on track 4 .We probably should have re-titled it to avoid confusion. It was written for my wife shortly after we got together. The inspiration for the dual lead vocal section comes from The Flamingos’ “Lovers Never Say Goodbye.”
13. The musical roots of Your Love grow from The Larks' "It's Unbelievable" [Sheryl, 1962] and The Vibrations' first 45, “So Blue” [Checker, 1961] with another nod to the spare yet elegant harmonies of The Innocents.
14. Our holiday bonus track, Christmas Time Is Coming, was first released on "'Tis the Season to Be Freezin'" [Santa CD 2006, distributed by Crystal Ball}. This warm holiday-classic-to-be was written when Bette and I were first dating and she’d travel across the country to be with her family for the holidays. Thanks to Ed Engel for the initial release and to Dave Barr of RDS, Summit, NJ, for the extra audio magic.
A couple of closing notes:
We’re not just name-dropping when we mention the artists who influenced us; they and/or their records (and a lot more) were important in shaping our taste, and we’re trying to return the favor by mentioning them – especially the obscure ones!
And why is she “Bette Blue Moon”? Because someone that special only comes around once in a blue moon (and twice in the song titles)!