Confusion Reigned Supreme
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Olympics, a group that formed up as The Challengers while still in High School in Compton, California, were one of many groups influenced by The Coasters, but unlike most such groups they never did rely all that much on a lead tenor carrying the load. As The Challengers, and consisting of lead Walter Ward, tenor Eddie Lewis, and baritones Charles Fizer and Walter Hammond, they cut some sides for Melatone in 1956, none of which charted.
Their big break came in the summer of 1958 with Demon Records when the catchy novelty tune Western Movies, complete with rifle ricochets, climbed to # 8 Billboard Hot 100/# 7 R&B that September b/w Well! It was also in 1958 that Melvin King replaced Fizer in time for their next hit, (I Wanna) Dance With The Teacher which made # 71 Hot 100 in January 1959.
Nothing else worked until September when, with Fizer now back to take Hammond's place, they had moved to Arvee Records where Private Eye, a B-side, made it to # 95 Hot 100 in September. The A-side, (Baby) Hully Gully, did not peak until February 1960 when it settled at # 72 Hot 100.
Next up in 1960 was Big Boy Pete b/w The Slop which topped out at # 10 R&B/# 50 Hot 100 in September. Five years later The Kingsmen would use the same melody for their hit The Jolly Green Giant. Big Boy Pete was followed in October by Shimmy Like Kate, adapted from the 1923 hit I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate, which would become their third highest Hot 100 hit after reaching # 42 b/w Workin' Hard. Another 1960 release was Dance By The Light Of The Moon, this one adapted from the 1894 song Buffalo Gals and the 1944 hit Dance With A Dolly. With Dodge City on the reverse, it made it to # 47 Hot 100 in early 1961.
Two more hits followed that year. In April, Little Pedro finished at # 76 Hot 100 b/w Bull Fight (Cappy Lewis), and Dooley made it to # 94 Hot 100 in June b/w Stay Where You Are. After nothing but zeros in 1962, the group resurfaced in 1963 with Tri Disc to record their second best Pop hit, The Bounce which, b/w Fireworks, hit # 22 R&B/# 40 Hot 100 in June. In July of that year another adaptation called Dancin' Holiday, this one from Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, made it to # 86 Hot 100.
When blanked again in 1964, the boys moved over to the Loma label to record Good Lovin' and that settled in at # 81 Hot 100 in May 1965, the last hit on which Fizer appears as he was killed in the Watts riots in August. His replacement, Julius McMichael ("Mack Starr"), formerly the lead with The Paragons, appears on their last charters, Mine Exclusively (# 25 R&B/# 99 Hot 100 in May 1966 b/w Secret Agents) and Baby, Do The Philly Dog (# 20 R&B/# 63 Hot 100 in October 1966 b/w a re-make of Western Movies).
In this volume five of their hits are represented at tracks 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 while tracks 3 and 8 were flipsides as mentioned above. I can't be certain about (Baby) Hully Gully at track 7 because that was not released as Parts 1 and 2 (usually a Part 2 was the flipside of a single). On Arvee 562 the B-side was, as already stated, Private Eye.
As for The Marathons, this is where things get really wierd. The group was actually The Vibrations (James Johnson, Richard Owens, Dave Govan, Carlton Fisher, and Don Bradley) who, in 1956, had had a hit with Stranded In The Jungle under the name The Jayhawks on the Flash label (# 9 R&B/# 18 Billboard Top 100). Now under contract to Checker with whome they had a hit as The Vibrations with The Watusi in March 1961 (# 13 R&B/# 25 Hot 100), they answered the call from the people at Arvee who, with The Olympics on tour, wished to have a record out there competing for some airplay and dollars.
So, as The Marathons, they took The Olympics 1960 hit (Baby) Hully Gully, and re-released it as Peanut Butter b/w Talkin' Trash. Unfortunately for Arvee, Checker staff got wind of the fraud, had the release halted, and then had the group re-record it for release on their Argo subsidiary as by "The Vibrations Named By Others As Marathons" or, in some instances, as by "The Vibrations Recorded As The Marathons."
Arvee then scraped together another group of unknowns and did the song again as by The Marathons. Your guess is as good as mine as to which version went to # 20 Hot 100/# 25 R&B that June. Regardless of which version it is, however, the song is a classic in the realm of double-entendre with lines like "open up your jar now ... spread it on your cracker..."
What we can be certain of is that other Marathon songs in this set, like Oink Jones and Tight Sweater, were done by the new group. Unfortunately, details about them are as hard to find as a true original of Western Movies, itself a bit controversial as many multi-artist compilations actually use the re-make and pass it off as the original. I do know for certain that the original IS on Volume 3 of the excellent series from Ace Records of London, The Golden Age Of American Rock & Roll."