I’ve always felt a little sorry for performers who get labeled as a ‘one-hit wonder’, but the story of Barbara George is especially poignant. When her 1961 record of “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)” became a giant hit on both R&B and pop charts, she seemed to have an unlimited future. But things didn’t always go well for her, and — like all shooting stars — she disappeared from view much too soon.
Born as Barbara Ann Smith in rural Louisiana during World War II, she was raised in New Orleans where she often sang in her church choir. By the time she was in her mid-teens (and married) she was writing her own music and thinking about a singing career. New Orleans was — as always — filled with music and rich with opportunities for new performers, and within a couple of years she’d managed to take the first step by catching the attention of local R&B star Jessie Hill.
Hill matched her up with local music veteran Harold Battiste, who was in the process of trying to get a new record company up and running. Her very first platter for AFO Records featured a song she’d written herself, “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More).” It soon shot to the top of the R&B charts and it didn’t take it long to cross over and do nearly as well on pop charts. Barbara George was a star.
Unfortunately, it would be her biggest success by far. Subsequent records like “You Talk About Love,” “If You Think,” and “Send for Me (If You Need Some Lovin)’,” didn’t do nearly as well for her even though she changed record companies along the way. Within a few years she’d grown disillusioned by the business and pretty much retired from active performing, although she did make a brief comeback attempt a while later. When she died in 2006 she was a week away from her 64th birthday.
Barbara George – “You Talk About Love”
For our latest edition of Country Catalyst, the special feature that presents a country music classic in the hope that it might make some new fans for the genre, we present a song with a historical subject. Originally written by country/folk legend Jimmy Driftwood, “The Battle Of New Orleans” became a huge crossover hit in 1959 for country star Johnny Horton, who had several chart-busters during a career that tragically ended prematurely.
The Battle of New Orleans occurred early in 1815 and was the last big conflict of the War of 1812. Future president Andrew Jackson and his troops defeated the invading British forces, securing New Orleans and helping make sure that the young United States could continue to expand into the West.
So the story goes, it was that event that inspired Driftwood — at the time a young teacher and school principal still using his real name, James Morris — to add lyrics to an old country melody, hoping to inspire his students to learn history. Eventually he performed the song professionally and recorded it too, as did a number of others, but it was Johnny Horton who made it a huge hit in 1959, topping both country and pop charts. It would end up being recognized as Billboard’s top charting country song of all time.
Sadly, Horton died in an auto accident the following year, but his megahit made the song a very familiar one and inspired several others to generate their own versions. One of the biggest sellers was — ironically enough — recorded by the British star known as the King of Skiffle, Lonnie Donegan. You can hear him in the video below, but even though he appears to be singing it from the American viewpoint he usually prefaced the song with some humorous remarks.
Johnny Horton – “Battle Of New Orleans”
A couple of weeks ago we featured ‘Handsome’ Harry Babbitt, the crooner who had a big part in popularizing Woody Woodpecker’s theme song. Today it’s Mighty Mouse’s turn in the spotlight, but we don’t have a personable singer to perform for us. Instead we have a strange and eccentric comedian.
Another popular cartoon from our childhood, Mighty Mouse first appeared in movie theaters during World War II, originally showing up as Super Mouse but later becoming ‘Mighty’ — maybe a jealous Superman forced the name change?
In any case, Mighty Mouse has continued to be a favorite of kids in all the many years since, but he did get renewed interest in the mid-1970s when the oddly compelling comedian Andy Kaufman made the super-rodent’s theme song part of his act. It’s difficult to see why people laughed when you watch it now (video below) but it was one of the strange entertainer’s most popular appearances, and it helped make him a star.
Cartoon Theme Players – Mighty Mouse Theme