Harold Dorman

TrackSingle / Album
I'm Stepping Aside (demo)Unissued Sun Masters
Mountain Of LoveRita 1003
I'll Come RunningRita 1008
Mister TearsMountain Of Love
Let There Be LoveMountain Of Love
Lonely NightsMountain Of Love
Soda Pop BabyMountain Of Love
There They GoSun 362
I'll Stick By YouSun 362
In The BeginningSun 377

Harold Dorman photo

 

 

Harold Dorman photo

 

HAROLD DORMAN:

ANATOMY OF A ONE HIT WONDER #16

Artists who flickered briefly then disappeared.

One Hit Wonders, the media called them. Part of the fascination of fifties and sixties music.

 

Contributor: Dave Stephens

Harold Dorman didn’t look like a pop star.

He was too old to be a pop star.

He had the ‘wrong’ name for a pop star. Another Harold – Harold Jerome Willis – changed his name to Chuck Willis and maybe it helped.

He even got turned down by Sun Records but then so did Harold Jenkins who later became Conway Twitty. Perhaps it did come down to name.

But in 1960 he wrote and sang the song Mountain Of Love, which was released on Rita Records of Memphis. The label had been set up by Sun stars and/or session men Billy Lee Riley and Roland Janes. Mountain Of Love (Rita 1003) came out in February 1960. Probably to the surprise of all involved, the record nearly cracked the US Top Twenty, topping out at a very respectable No.21.

There were plenty of covers: Johnny Rivers got to #9 in the US and it was a decent version. But others were as varied (and intriguing) as Charley Pride, Ferlin Husky, Ronnie Dove, the Beach Boys, Narvel Felts, Brenda Lee and Bruce Springsteen (who barnstormed it but the song survived the treatment well). In the UK, Kenny Lynch covered the number and took it to #33. And as recently as 2016, Dwight Yoakam recorded a version with Jack White at the production console – it’s very good and it’s on Spotify and Soundcloud (clip only) but not YouTube, unfortunately.

What was all the fuss about? For anyone who’s not yet sampled the clip, I can tell you that it was outright pop, awash with backing singers and strings; the sort of stuff that ruled the charts between the first and second coming of rock and roll (that’s counting the Beatles/Stones/Dylan era as the latter). Underneath all that schmaltz though was a pretty decent song plus an interesting singer to boot. And the fancy dress wasn’t as bad as I might have been implying. A comparison could be the Holly/Anka record It Doesn’t Matter Anymore which is often described as bitter sweet. And while the title, Mountain Of Love, might suggest you could drop the “bitter” adjective, in reality it’s just as relevant.

Standing on a mountain looking down on a city
The way I feel is a doggone pity
Teardrops fallin’ down a mountainside
Many times I’ve been here, many times I’ve cried
We used to be so happy when we were in love
High on a mountain of love

He’s up there looking down from that mountain and she’s gone and gotten married to someone else. “Wedding bells are ringing and they should have been ours.” Unlike Holly our man isn’t messing about attempting to put a brave face on it. He’s up there weepin’ his heart out till cold gray dawn.

The first release of the song actually came without all the dressing up so we’re lucky enough to be able to hear the unadorned version. Apart from the rhythm section and piano there’s little more than a mournful sax present. With the clutter gone you get a real sense of the source of this record – Memphis. And that means Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Parker, Johnny Cash, Elvis and much more. Okay, hyperbole perhaps, but Roland Janes and J.M. Van Eaton had backed Jerry Lee Lewis on a hundred records already (see Footnotes) and as members of the Sun house band had appeared on many records from a variety of the label’s stars. Cowboy Jack Clement seated at the production console had worked with Orbison, Perkins and Cash, and would go on to produce albums for Townes Van Zandt and Waylon Jennings. Some of that experience comes through.

The story, subsequently, is that the original version which had been recorded at the Hi Records Studio at 1312 South Lauderdale St., was taken to the new Sun Studio (see Footnotes) at 639 Madison Avenue where Bill Justis overdubbed the strings. This resulted in a new release of the record which was effectively a replacement. It was numbered Rita 1003A. In fact the story could well be more complicated than that. There are actually three versions of the record floating around on YouTube: one undubbed, one with vocal chorus and one with chorus and strings. There’s a theory that when the guys came to make the new version they actually re-recorded from scratch prior to overdubbing.

If you look up 45cat, a reliable online source for enquiries on record releases, it shows Mountain Of Love as Harold’s debut disc. However, his career is a little more complex than that would suggest.

Harold was born in Drew, Mississippi on December 23, 1931 and was raised in Sledge, Mississippi (which was Charley Pride’s hometown). There are some conflicting reports on these dates (including AllMusic) but that information is authoritative. There’s not much more in the biogs. There’s none of the “His mother sang in a gospel choir and used to serenade the infant Harold when bathing him” or “He had learned to play violin by the age of three”. Maybe that’s as well. I’m never sure how much to really believe of the very early info in such documents.

What we do know – courtesy of AllMusic – is that Harold finished his spell in the US Army in 1955 and decided to make the move to Memphis to seek fame and fortune. Sun Studios was the intended destination of course but what happened when he got there is hazy. The go-to site for all information on Sun, 706 Union Avenue is totally tight-lipped about the Dorman/Sun experience in the section on the 1957 sessions but, several years later in April 1961, their writer notes:

“Harold Dorman … had come to Memphis in 1955 and auditioned at Sun in 1957. Both his songs and his performances were undistinguished, but Roland Janes heard something he liked in the singer, and when he and Billy Riley started Rita Records in the fall of 1959 they brought a much-improved Dorman into the studio.”

He goes on to talk about the ’61 Sun sessions.

So, no detailed info on those auditions, but we’re in luck as there’s a very helpful French site which identifies three of those demo tracks. From elsewhere it’s been confirmed that there were only three. They eventually saw release on Charly Sun compilations (see Footnotes for details). The tracks were:

I’m Stepping Aside which is the only one available on YouTube. If you’d only heard Harold’s Mountain Of Love prior to this track it might just come as a shock. It’s Presley country from the Sun years of ’54 and ’55, songs like the ethereal I’ll Never Let You Go and I Forgot To Remember To Forget. But while Harold uses similar techniques to El, he’s his own man and that vocal strength comes through superbly. The eerie resemblance to those Presley tracks is in part due to the Sun echo effect plus the backing players who were Janes, Van Eaton, Stan Kesler on bass (and he only co-wrote one of those two Presley songs) plus Jimmy Wilson on piano.

The other tracks aren’t on YT but they are on Spotify. The titles are To Be With You and Spark Of Love. They’re both Presley style pop ballads and are almost interchangeable in terms of overall sound. The first of the pair reappeared at Rita as the flip to Mountain Of Love but in a more developed arrangement. In the absence of any other information I’m guessing that Harold wrote all three of the songs. It should be remembered that the recording session threw him together with some session guys with whom he’d never previously played – with a limited time to work up some backing – on numbers the guys didn’t know, and then the tapes whirred. I’m surprised that Sam Phillips didn’t see potential but maybe he wasn’t looking for a ballads man and that, it would seem, was how Harold then saw himself.

One final comment/observation on the demo tracks: on I’m Stepping Aside, Harold sounded Presley-ish but in an entirely natural manner as if that was the way he always sang; on the two teen-oriented ballads he sounded Presley-ish but it seemed manufactured, almost as if someone had told him to.

With regard to the move to Rita, the Roland Janes portion of 706 Union Avenue tells us:

“Roland had played on Dorman’s 1957 Sun session, and saw more promise than is evident in those very halting demos. ‘I knew Harold was a great songwriter’’, he said, ‘and I couldn’t see why someone didn’t pick up on him’.”

Which brings us up to “Mountain” and its flip, To Be With You. The latter came embellished with a vocal group which served to enhance the similarity to RCA era Elvis plus Jordanaires (though the Rita vocal ensemble seemed to include both lads and lasses). For me it’s one of the rare occasions where a changed arrangement – in addition to the added oohs and ahs and mild doowopping, the pianist is more subdued – improved the overall sound, and the record comes across as an affectionate Presley pastiche.

Record #2 from Harold on Rita coupled River Of Tears with I’ll Come Running. The A-side was teen pop and as teen pop went it was pretty good with Harold entering into the spirit of things throwing in plenty of yeah yeah yeahs and whoah whoahs. And to make sure you knew he was the writer, the key line was “It happened on a mountain”. But the nugget in this pairing came when you flipped the record. I’ll Come Running was a medium tempo rocker and, boy, was it funky. The band this time sounded very like Bill Black’s Combo with Ace Cannon on sax and a fiery blues oriented guitarist who didn’t sound at all like Janes but he was so good he almost stole the record (and that’s with no disrespect to Roland). At this stage in the career of the Black Combo, a variety of guitarists filled the guitar slot including Reggie Young (the original guy but he was in part away due to his US Army stint), Hank Hawkins, Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill (source: Wiki). Whoever it was they did a mighty fine job. The producer did a fine job too in resisting any temptation to add strings and backing vocals. And I’ve not mentioned Harold. He had his All Shook Up hat on and he also chucked in some Jerry Lee and plenty of Holly. But it was all done with polish, ease and that word ‘affection’ again. It certainly doesn’t come across as plagiarism. One of Harold’s very best records, almost up there with “Mountain”.

Another observation is in order. I’ve always felt that the clipped sound of the Bill Black Combo circa ’59 to ’62 working out of the Hi Studio (as used by Rita) sort of paved the way for the early Booker T. & the MG’s operating out of Stax. And remember that Al Jackson spent a spell as house drummer at Sun and the other MG’s worked there briefly.

Harold’s third and final Rita single had the bright and breezy Moved To Kansas City on the A-side and the rather more sombre Take A Chance On Me on the flip. The latter seemed to straddle that border between country (including some Floyd Cramer style piano) and pop with strings added from “The Roland Janes Orchestra”. Harold had dropped the Presley soundalike thing though the result turned out to be slightly anonymous but worthy.

With the end of Rita in sight, Sun welcomed Harold back with open arms. Not only that, they sent him to Nashville and laid on the A Team, including Hank Garland on guitar, Buddy Harmon on drums and the real Floyd Cramer on piano. Assisting Sam Phillips in the production booth was Billy Sherrill, still learning the business and five years or so before his successes with Tammy and, later, George.

The results were good. There They Go was selected to be the A-side of the first Sun single. If I’d come across this one stone cold with no idea who it was I’d have thought it was late period Sun but guessed Memphis not Nashville. It had that mix of country and pop plus hints of rockabilly that only seemed to come from Sun. Harold’s Southern accent is more in evidence on this than any time hitherto.

The B-side, I’ll Stick By You, was poppier with hooks for the punter to latch on to. Yes, there were Holly-ish echoes but nothing untoward like OTT hiccups. Easily as good as much of the stuff that was making the charts in ˈ61.

There were a couple more tracks recorded: Wait Til’ Saturday Night which subsequently turned up on Sun single #3, and Let ˈEm Talk which went into the can and didn’t see release until it, like the Sun demos appeared on one of the Charly compilations.

The most unusual but also fascinating track in the Dorman oeuvre was In The Beginning, a quasi-Biblical effort (phrase from 706 Union Avenue) with horns pitched somewhere between Mariachi and Memphis in two or three years time, a stonking great rhythm, and Harold in Hallelujah mode though incorporating Conway Twitty frog-in-throat effects from the third verse might not have been such a good idea; the first track not to have been written by Hal but it had to be one of my selections. Jostling it in terms of bizarreness, but less successful in my view was Uncle Jonah’s Place which sounded simultaneously like both hokey country and one of those Gary “U.S.” Bonds efforts (and that last also came from 706 Union Avenue who beat me to it). I think I’d have warmed more to this one if it hadn’t been speeded up, lifting the key by a few tones and introducing some squeakiness – I’m convinced that was done but no one else has mentioned it. I fell for Just One Step which was along Ivory Joe Hunter lines but with extra phrasing added to each line – trust Dorman to do something odd like that. Unfortunately, this one got squeezed at final selection time. Last but not least was Wait Til’ Saturday Night which was decent teen pop and seemed like something of a tribute to another excellent Southern boy, Johnny Preston, with records like I Feel Fine and Cradle Of Love.

Sun let Harold go after three records which seemed to be his optimum figure.

However, there was more. Harold got picked up by another tiny Memphis indie called Santo Records and two singles were released. Best of the four sides was There On Yonder Hill which continued Hal’s fascination with naturally raised areas of land. An almost mystical record lyrically but with mid tempo bounce and its closeness to teen pop was increased with the entrance of riffing strings on verse two. One that sticks in the brain and it deserved to be at least a minor hit.

Of the others: the Cramer-ish piano was back on the very pop country In An Instant while Ain’t Gonna Change was a straight crib from Charlie Rich’s Lonely Weekends – could almost have been Charlie on piano. I found myself singing “From Monday morning till Friday night” to it. The final track, What Comes Next, was almost blatant teen pop with strident strings setting the tone from the outset. Mind you, far worse records than this were making the charts in that ’60 to ’63 period, or have I said that before.

But there was still more. No singles, but in 1988, Bear Family released an album called Mountain Of Love (surprise!) based on material recorded at Rita. It was a tribute to Harold who died on the 8th of October that year. The record contained the undressed Mountain Of Love and the fancy dress version plus two other released sides leaving space out of the 16 tracks for a massive 12 previously unreleased outtakes. The bulk of the songs had Harold down as composer but a couple listed Roland Janes and there were two more from other writers. We’re also in luck in that five of the tracks are on YT. And they are good. Really good. Impeccable playing from the studio team consisting of, one would guess, Janes, Riley (maybe), Van Eaton and probably Jimmy Wilson on piano. Relaxed and confident vocals from Harold. No overdubbing, merely some unobtrusive background vocals in places. And songs which weren’t a million miles in quality from the released ones. This was organic music, no chemicals added. It wasn’t quite unplugged because there was electricity there, in both a physical and metaphorical sense.

I’ve gone totally over the top and selected four tracks out of the five (but I had to downgrade one of the later Sun sides to do so). Firstly, Mister Tears which is a country pop weepie with a melodic line not unlike the majestic Jim Reeves’ He’ll Have To Go. I could never resist lines like “So I’m living next door to Mister Blue, cross the street from a guy named Born To Lose”. Then Let There Be Love, which is unrelated to any other song of that name and has our man moving from philosophical to personal musing. I’d surmise that there could have been some relationship between this number and Bob Luman’s Let’s Think About Living which came out while Harold was with Rita. And there’s his best teen ballad by far, Lonely Nights which knocks the two attempts at Sun into a cocked hat. This one is up there with the Poor Little Fool’s and the Donna’s in my book. Perfect enunciation on those sad, sad lyrics: “they say a fool in love is always blind”. And there’s a killer falsetto at the end. Majestic.

My last pick is a very satisfying little rocker, not something that Harold did often and maybe he should have done more. It was penned by Roland which I guess is why it got recorded. A perfect trip back to ˈ55/ˈ56 when rockabilly fever was spreading like wildfire through the nation. And a perfect title, Soda Pop Baby, from way down in that Memphis echo chamber:

Although there was a re-release of this LP in 1999, it’s never come out on CD so if there’s anyone from Bear Family reading this can I ask them to have a look at the possibility of CD and/or MP3 release, ideally with a Part 2 of all the other Dorman tracks (but I’d still accept the Rita outtakes on their own if that was all on offer).

When recording work dried up, Harold turned to song writing and one of his biggest successes came with the Charley Pride recording of Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town in 1974. Charley went on to get a #1 US Country Chart Hit in 1981 with his version of Mountain Of Love. Among other sales, Harold also supplied three songs to Moon Mullican including one of my selections from the Mountain Of Love LP, Mister Tears, but unfortunately Moon’s hit making days were over.

After being disabled by two strokes in 1984, Harold died in 1988. He was 56.

 

So where did Harold Dorman sit in that great historic gallery of rock and pop performers? Or perhaps before trying to answer that, who did he most resemble?

I have two answers: Don Gibson and Rick(y) Nelson though neither is very close.

Gibson was a singer/songwriter who wrote and performed country pop and his key years were 1956 to 1961 (though he continued hitting the Country Chart for many years after). Arguably he bossed the field more than anyone before or since and was an excellent vocalist with a distinctive country twang. What he didn’t do was record teen ballads (perhaps the closest he got was Sea Of Heartbreak) or, horror of horrors, teen pop.

Nelson is known as an early rocker who recorded big selling teen ballads like Poor Little Fool and Never Be Anyone Else But You and then, after an early country rock hybrid hit in ’61 with Hello Mary Lou, moved into country rock full time in the second half of the sixties. What is less realised about Nelson is that he was a big fan of Carl Perkins from day one and that appreciation would appear to have extended to Carl’s country material as evidenced by the flip of Poor Little Fool, the country pop/rock Don’t Leave Me This Way which was released as early as ’58 (and was written by the 18-year-old Nelson). Ricky had an even more distinctive voice than Don. L.A. cool but could be bland at times.

I’d submit that Harold had a better voice than both these guys, more expressive than Ricky and more versatile than Don. But he couldn’t match the quality of the Gibson songs or the consistency of the Nelson hit making machine plus the promotion that went with it.

While Harold got lumbered with, or lumbered himself with, a lot of teen pop, which didn’t necessarily show those vocal skills well, and led to very few people being aware of them, I’d also concede the brutal reality that he probably wasn’t destined to be a star. Didn’t have the right face, lack of promotion, not quite strong enough songs, or other factors got in the way. I feel a little guilty with the comment regarding songs. One should put that in the context that very few rock/pop stars wrote their own songs in those days, or wrote more than a handful. Don Gibson was a big exception to that ‘rule’ and he worked within a genre where more singer/songwriters were found. In comparison, Harold Dorman was head and shoulders above most of his peers in terms of his compositions.

And for those with long enough memories he’ll always be remembered for climbing that mountain and standing on the summit for his fifteen minutes of fame.

 

FOOTNOTES

1. Roland Janes played mandolin and guitar and, after moving to Memphis, got a job at Sun via Jack Clement. He became a regular member of the house session band and before long was part of small team supporting Jerry Lee Lewis. The other member of that team was J.M. (Jimmy) Van Eaton on drums, sometimes supplemented by Billy Lee Riley. Roland and Jimmy played on over 150 records from Jerry, hence the guessed /estimated reference to a hundred records by the time Mountain Of Love was recorded.

Although Roland wasn’t known for his song writing he did supply Jerry Lee with Put Me Down, an excellent rocker which appeared on the man’s first LP, the one with a pic of Sam P and Jerry on the flip. Note that snaking guitar figure from Roland.

After the all too brief experience with Rita Records, Roland returned to St Louis which had been his home town prior to the move to Memphis. However, come 1961 he was back, opening Sonic Studios on Madison Avenue. Sonic operated up ˈtil 1974. Three hits emerged from there: I’m Moving On from Matt Lucas, Scratchy from child prodigy Travis Wammack and Jerry Jaye’s 1967 revival of My Girl Josephine – wonder if that was Mr Janes on guitar?

In later years, Roland spent a long spell as producer and engineer at the (Sam) Phillips Recording Studio, also in Madison Avenue. He was involved with such landmarks as Charlie Feathers’ Elektra album and Charlie Rich’s last album (for Sire Records).

2. Rita Records was formed by Roland Janes and Billy Lee Riley in the Autumn of 1959 after Riley had decided to quit Sun. There was also a third partner, Ira Lyn Vaughan, an accountant, who had some money, which helped I guess. The label was named after Ira’s daughter. In order to reduce outgoings, Janes and Riley played on most sessions along with fellow ex or present Sun alumnae, Jimmy Van Eaton and Jimmy Wilson (piano). Mountain Of Love was Rita’s only hit but it also caused problems. Issues with the distribution partner started cropping up and Riley sold his share in the label just as “Mountain” was breaking. The label struggled on through a couple of unsuccessful follow-ups from Harold and then folded in late 1960.

3. Jack Clement and Bill Justis were stalwarts of the early Sun operation, joining in ’56 and ’57 respectively. Clement was producer, engineer and songwriter and Justis was musical director. Phillips fired both in March, 1959 “for insubordination” we are told and details of what triggered this have never emerged.

4. Hi Records was started in 1957 by rockabilly singer Ray Harris, record store owner Joe Cuoghi, ex-Sun record producers Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch, plus three sleeping partners. Their first hit came in 1959 with Smokie Part 2 from Bill Black’s Combo. Follow-up singles from the band also charted. However, Hi didn’t really establish itself as a major presence until the late sixties when records from Al Green, and to a lesser extent Ann Peebles and O.V. Wright, ensured that Stax had hometown competition in the arena of soul music.

5. The original Sun Studios were at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis. However, in 1959, Sam Phillips moved to larger premises at 639 Madison Avenue, Memphis, though for a brief period both studios were in operation in parallel. Historians, particularly those who put together the 706 Union Avenue website have often complained about loss in sound quality at the newer location, particularly with usage of the famed Sam Phillips echo techniques.

6. The otherwise missing 1957 Sun recordings eventually turned up on Charly compilations of Sun material: I’m Stepping Aside on Unissued Sun Masters (Charly 8137), Spark Of Love on Essential Sun Rockabillies Vol 3 (Charly 8161) and the first take of To Be With You on Essential Sun Rockabillies Vol 4 (Charly 8236). One of the later Sun period outtakes Let ˈEm Talk appeared on Sun Rock ‘n’ Roll Volume 1. The other outtake from the ˈ61/ˈ62 period, You’re Gonna See, hasn’t appeared anywhere to the best of my knowledge.

7. I made reference to Booker T. and the MG’s in relation to Sun. Phillips International 3580 (the Sun subsidiary) featured Jeb Stuart and the Clippers and the tracks were I Ain’t Never / In Love Again. However “The Clippers” were Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Lewie Steinberg and Al Jackson. A gent called Vinny Trauth was on tenor sax. He also wrote the flip. This is it. (source: 706 Union Avenue)

8. Johnny Preston from Port Arthur, Texas (birthplace also of Janis Joplin) was the man who made Running Bear a big hit in 1959. He was of Cajun ancestry though that didn’t have a lot to do with the Indian brave who met Little White Dove, the Indian maid. John also managed a couple more US Top Twenty hits with the spirited Cradle Of Love and Feel So Fine. He might have been the first white singer to have come out with a cover of Little Willie John’s Leave My Kitten Alone which saw release in January 1961.

9. On the second Sun session held in Memphis (rather than Nashville) in September 1961, both Roland Janes and Scotty Moore were on guitar. Al Jackson was on drums and sometime sax player with Bill Black’s Combo, Martin Willis, also provided support. The other sax player was Vinny Trauth who we met two footnotes back. It’s all interconnected, this stuff.

10. Santo Records was set up by Wayne McGinnis as a subsidiary of the slightly larger Fernwood Records in Memphis, in 1961. McGinnis was yet another rockabilly singer who was making an attempt to move into production and promotion – he later moved away from music entirely to pursue other business interests. However, his sole Meteor single from 1956 (with the Swing Teens) is not without charm: Rock, Roll And Rhythm.

11. Thomas Wayne (see Toppermost #634 {OHW #12}) had a 1964 release on Santo Records – Stop The River c/w 8th Wonder Of The World. The A-side was written by Jerry Crutchfield who also wrote Harold Dorman’s What Comes Next, released on Santo the previous year. Thomas Wayne’s big hit, Tragedy, was released by Fernwood Records in 1958.

12. On first coming across the Dorman record There On Yonder Hill my mind immediately went to the Elmore James track, Look on Yonder Wall (though Elmore wasn’t the first with that song). There’s no relation between the sides but how often do you see the word ‘yonder’ appear in songs? The only other titles that instantly spring to mind are the Smiley Lewis number, Down Yonder We Go Ballin’, and Freddy Cannon’s Way Down Yonder In New Orleans.

13. I’ve been liberal with terms like ‘teen pop’ and ‘teen ballads’ in this post without saying what I mean by them. There is a basic definition of teen pop in my book “RocknRoll”. I’d talked a little about teen idols and then continued:

“Allied to teen idols was Teen Pop, a catch-all term which covered a heck of a lot of music. Think of it as easy listening for teens, seemingly addressing their concerns and desires, and often wrapped in identikit tunes. Chuck Berry’s poetry but with the insights removed. Confusingly though, teen pop could sometimes work. Usually when it wasn’t mass produced and the sincerity of the singer(s) came through.”

Think of it also as manufactured, not just a few guys or gals sitting round in a studio. This often implied usage of extra layers of backing, typically from vocal groups and/or more elaborate instrumentation, usually added by overdubbing.

While some might include teen ballads as a subset of teen pop I prefer to think of them separately. Teen ballads were slow to medium in tempo, very frequently making usage of the chord sequence known as the doo wop progression, with lyrics that were blue, and that was blue in the “blues” sense not ribald.

It was those demo tracks that Harold laid down at Sun that prompted this footnote, particularly the proximity of teen ballads and country music on that occasion.

14. I’d like to record my thanks to Merric Davidson for providing considerable help with the research for this piece. Harold Dorman doesn’t exactly have a wealth of biographical and other material available (unlike, say, some of the minor rockabilly names who at least get coverage via sites like the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame and Blackcat Rockabilly Europe). I turned to Merric knowing he wouldn’t disappoint and he didn’t. There are certain bits in here that I know I would have missed if not for him.

 

Harold Dorman (1931-1988)

 

Harold Dorman discography (on 45cat)

Harold Dorman biography

 

ONE HIT WONDERS ON TOPPERMOST
#1 Jody Reynolds
#2 James Ray
#3 Richie Barrett
#4 Mickey & Sylvia
#5 Scott McKenzie
#6 Blue
#7 Chris Kenner
#8 Dawn Penn
#9 Shep and the Limelites
#10 The Poni-Tails
#11 The La’s
#12 Thomas Wayne
#13 Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford
#14 Carl Mann
#15 Duncan Browne
#16 Harold Dorman

Dave Stephens has written over fifty posts for this site. He is the author of two books on popular music. His first, “RocknRoll”, is described by one reviewer as “probably the most useful single source of information on 50s & 60s music I’ve come across”. Dave followed this up with “London Rocks” in 2016, an analysis of the early years of the London (American) record label in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @DangerousDaveXX

Read the Toppermosts of some of the other artists mentioned in this post:
Beach Boys, Charlie Feathers, Buddy Holly, Howlin’ Wolf, Waylon Jennings, Little Willie John, George Jones, Brenda Lee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ricky Nelson, Junior Parker, Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, Johnny Rivers, Bruce Springsteen, Townes Van Zandt, Thomas Wayne, Tammy Wynette, Dwight Yoakam

TopperPost #675

5 Comments

  1. David Lewis
    Nov 13, 2017

    I’ve been looking forward to this one, and as usual, you didn’t disappoint. ‘Mountain of Love’ is one of the great songs: i’m quite fond of the Beach Boys version (found on Beach Boys Party), but Charley Pride’s version is probably definitive. Like ‘River Deep Mountain High’, it’s a hard song to wreck, provided you can sing it. Enjoyed the rest of the tracks as well, particularly ‘There on Yonder Hill’, which is a great title.

  2. Andrew Shields
    Nov 14, 2017

    Dave, thanks for another superb piece. Agree with David that “Mountain of Love’ is a great song, although I might have to go with Dwight’s version as my favourite cover. Fascinating artist and it does raise the question of whether certain names will never quite cut it in terms of commercial success. ‘Harry’ may just about but ‘Harold’ alas, probably not…

    • Davd Lewis
      Nov 14, 2017

      The number of Keiths, Erics and Jeffs might not quite hold that up, but, they were all English I think. Having said that, could Marvin Lee Aday have had one of the top selling albums of all time? Would Farouk Bulsara have become an international star? What about poor overweight, balding, short sighted Reg Dwight? Steveland Morris mightn’t have been such a wonder? Let alone Charles Berry or Charles Hardin Holley? It’s an interesing thing, isn’t it?

  3. John M.
    Nov 14, 2017

    Nice article. Just to clarify a little, the original Rita release of Mountain of Love is actually this one (It’s with the chorus but no strings). The undubbed one you link to in the article is just on the Bear Family LP. Quite a few of the YouTube clips are mine (Boyjohn on YouTube). Harold did perform (lip sync no doubt) Mountain of Love on the Dick Clark Beechnut show, and supposedly the clip is in the archive, Maybe someday it will come out.

    • Dave Stephens
      Nov 14, 2017

      Muchas gracias gentlemen. There was me thinking that Harold might have been the most obscure gent I’d ever Toppered. Just shows. The obscure ones can often be the interesting ones. John, thanks for the correction on the versions. The internet isn’t awash with info on Harold. Andrew and David, I didn’t spend long thinking about the name issue; it was part of an intro which allowed me to get into the subject. I would suspect that Harold’s looks might have had more to do with him not making it. From the only two pics that seem to be available he doesn’t really look the part.

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