In 1969 after a three year hiatus from releasing singles Craig Douglas resurfaced with ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ for Pye Records. One of the harder Pye 45’s to find ; did the misspelling of Craig as Graig on both sides of the single lead to some embarrassment at Pye HQ with quantities of the record being quietly disposed of?
Composed and arranged by J A Freedman and produced by Tony Hatch using session players which included Herbie Flowers, Don Lusher and Kenny Clare; this majestic beat ballad went unnoticed until some years later when DJ’s on the Northern Soul and Belgian Popcorn scenes adopted it as one of their own.
In 1966 Shirley Bates was already a celebrated country singer named ‘The Sweet Heart Of The Country Barndance’ performing live on both the number one US radio show 'Country Barndance' and the television show which followed it.Around the same time Winona ‘Nona’ Oliver, an accomplished trick cyclist and songwriter was travelling through America as part of the Diacoff Velodrome Bicycle act with her mother and sister performing at Vaudeville shows. A chance meeting of Shirley, Winona and Elvis Presley's backing band in a recording studio; featuring James Burton on lead guitar at the peak of his power; resulted in this furious Femme Rockabilly / R&B revenge murder ballad.
When Craig Douglas recorded Don’t Mind If I Cry for Pye in 1969 it had been six years since he last had a record in the pop charts.
An extremely popular singer in the late 50s and early 60s, his breakthrough came in 1959 with an appearance on British television’s only rock n roll show, the Six-Five Special, alongside Cliff Richard and Joe Brown. He made an immediate impact, receiving sackloads of mail just days later.
Don't Mind If I Cry is the 'B' side to 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head' and is one of the trickier Pye singles to find.
Did the misspelling of Craig as Graig on both sides of the Pye copies we've seen lead to some embarrassment at Pye HQ with quantities of the record being quietly disposed of? Craig Douglas was still a household name in the early seventies but his chronological vinyl discography at the excellent 45Cat website suggests that his two Pye singles were an attempt to rejuvenate his career after a long spell away from the charts.
Whilst 'Raindrops' on the A side was an obvious attempt to capitalise on the massive success of ‘Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid’ with cinema-goers of the late 60s, 'Don't Mind If I Cry' stands as a complete anachronism. It's soulfulness harks back in both arrangement and vocal delivery to the ‘beat ballad’ songs of Lenny Welch, Lou Johnson and Sam Fletcher from an earlier generation.
Craig's main commercial success came from covering US Billboard Chart hits but the expressive vocal on this criminally overlooked flipside demonstrates he could deliver a beat ballad with both passion and panache.
In 1970 Raindrops / Don't Mind If I Cry received a further release on the Indian Stateside label. Housed in a slightly bizarre leaf patterned sleeve, someone finally managed to spell Craig's name correctly on the sleeve and both labels.
Joe Osborn in 1967
In the late 50s Shirley Bates (Bryant) headed west to Southern California wanting to be part of the thriving country music scene. Spotted at a talent show by DJ Squeakin' Deacon, he helped her find her feet and after live appearances on radio and the new media of television, she found herself performing alongside the likes of Ray Price and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
Shortly after, maverick record producer Fabor Robison signed her to his Fabor Records label where she recorded and released a variety of country flavoured singles.
The extraordinary Crimpton Krompton Canary Bridge appeared as a Fabor 'B' side. A scratchy copy of it was discovered in 2006 by Philadelphia record collector Mark Johnson who then shared MP3s of it amongst friends. Spoke Records began talking to Shirley Bates about the song in 2010.
‘I wrote the part that say's "Uh Huh, treat's me like I'm dunce." I also did the arrangement on it. You should also know three of the band members were part of Elvis Presley’s band. James Burton who played guitar on Crimpton played with Elvis Presley right to the end of his life.
Donny Cotton was the drummer and Joe Osborn was on bass. Mary Ford of the husband and wife team of Les Paul and Mary Ford sang back up for me along with her brother. The guitar licks on my record were done the same day James recorded the sound track of "Secret Agent Man" so he used the same lick on my song. I just thought you would like to know that.’
Elvis Presley and James Burton performing live. (Elvis is on the left)
The daughter of travelling showman V. W. Bates, ' Shirley used psychic ability to communicate with her father when he was seriously ill helping him to live for a further five years during which time he narrated his life story to her. Shirley's book 'The Life Of A Carnie in the early 1900's' documents how V.W. Bates was tragically orphaned at 15 and found himself a new life and family amongst travelling carnival people.
Shirley is an exceptionally warm and personable lady who continues to perform, sing and write songs.
Her latest CD 'New Walls' is available from her website.