Imagine a world of radio before digital music, streaming audio, and computer-programmed programming. That was the world when disk jockeys were the masters of the sound that went out to listeners. Careful time calculations were required in order to fill a time slot with just the right amount of music to sync up with news reports, usually at the top and bottom of every hour.
To fill the last amount of time, D.J.’s would often introduce an instrumental with a voice-over of “Taking us up to news time, here’s song X,” then fade the tune as the news announcer started. In this Memories article, we pay homage to some of the great instrumentals from 1960 to 1972 (a good representative time period) that were given an abrupt caesura in the Top 40 AM Radio era.
Before he became a WRCB-TV news anchor, David Carroll worked in radio.
In an interview, David said, “I was never a big fan of fading out of instrumentals, because some of them were very popular, hit songs, and I liked to hear the whole song. I was pretty good at math, so I would try to figure out how to get to 2 minutes before the news, and then play a 2 minute song... instrumental or otherwise. There were a few that were right around 2 minutes, and I kept a few of those handy. Some Beatles songs, also Dave Clark Five, and several other hits of the 60s and 70s were nice and short.”
“I should add that before I got into radio, when I was a listener, WFLI had to hit ABC news at :55 every hour, and they kept an instrumental record file they would play, and fade into the news. Lots of Booker T and the MGs, Soulful Strut, The Horse, are a few I remember.”
The following is a list of instrumentals that I compiled from popular music books and personal recollections. The tunes were commonly played on AM radio stations such as WDEF, WDXB, WFLI, and WGOW. I’ve added a few notes on some tunes. I encourage you to visit your favorite Web site, digital music provider, or used record store to listen to some of these tunes again or for the first time.
Last Date – Floyd Cramer. Often used by piano students to display their talents.
Theme from “A Summer Place” – Percy Faith. The song is from a 1959 movie of the same name.
Summer Set – Monty Kelly and His Orchestra
Walk, Don’t Run – The Ventures, an instrumental guitar group that recorded several tunes often used as time-fillers
Apache – by jazz guitarist Jorgen Ingmann
Movin'Out - by The Squires, a local group that recorded at Fernwood Studios in Memphis. This tune reached #5 on the WDXB record chart.
* Wheels - The String-a-Longs
Green Onions - Booker T. and the M.G.'s. This group featured two future members of the Blues Brothers band, Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn. They were fronted by keyboardist Booker T. Jones and were part of the R&B sound at Stax Records in Memphis.
Midnight in Moscow – Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen.
Route 66 Theme – Nelson Riddle. Theme song from a 1960-1964 CBS show
Stranger on the Shore – Mr. Acker Bilk, an English clarinetist
A Swingin’ Safari (1962) – Bert Kaempfert, and later, Billy Vaughn. Used as the theme music on The Match Game from 1962 to 1967.
Walk on the Wild Side – Jimmy Smith, organist
* That Happy Feeling - Bert Kaempfert
Pink Panther Theme – Henry Mancini
Pipeline – Chantays. I saw on the Web that this California surfing music group performed on “The Lawrence Welk Show” on May 18, 1963.
Telstar – The Ventures. Tune is named for the satellite launched in 1962.
Washington Square – The Village Stompers, featuring a banjo
Wipe Out – The Surfaris. Every budding percussionist’s showcase tune
A Taste of Honey - Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. This group had several other instrumentals that took us up to news time. Alpert is the "A" of A&M Records that featured the Carpenters and other groups.
Cast Your Fate to the Wind – Vince Guaraldi Trio who became known for “A Charlie Brown Christmas´ music around the same time.
No Matter What Shape Your Stomach’s In – The T-Bones. This was featured in an Alka-Seltzer commercial that showed people with a variety of midsections, but each described as sometimes needing Alka-Seltzer.
* Walk in the Black Forest - Horst Jankowski
Batman Theme – the Marketts, performing the Neal Hefti tune from the hit TV show.
Music to Watch Girls By - Bob Crewe Generation. Bob was also known as a prolific song-writer for groups such as the Four Seasons.
Classical Gas – Mason Williams, guitarist and performer on The Smothers Brothers Show. I recall that on another show, he played a plexiglass guitar filled with goldfish.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Hugo Montenegro. A great, haunting movie tune.
Grazin’ in the Grass – Hugh Masekela. Those who recognize the significant contribution of the cow bell to music appreciate this tune. The Friends of Distinction recorded a vocal version in 1969.
The Horse – Cliff Nobles & Co. In the early 1970’s, this was the Red Bank High pep band’s stand tune. During the rivalry football games with Hixson High, the Wildcats countered with “Fever.”
Love is Blue – Paul Mariat. I recall this tune often being faded into the newscast.
Soulful Strut – Young-Holt Unlimited, formed by a couple of former members of Ramsey Lewis’ group.
* Ame Caline (Soal Coaxing) - Raymond LeFevre and his Orchestra
Hawaii 5-0 – The Ventures. From the TV show of the same name. Book him, Danno.
Keem-O-Sabe – The Electric Indian, a studio group formed for the purpose of recording this instrumental.
Mah-Na-Mah-Na – from a Swedish movie scored by Piero Umiliani, and later recorded by The Muppets
Quentin’s Theme from “Dark Shadows” – Charles Randolph Grean. This tune was played when the 1890’s werewolf character Quentin joined the gothic afternoon soap opera “Dark Shadows.”
“Airport” Love Theme – Vincent Bell. Another movie theme.
Joy – Apollo 100. A modern interpretation of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
Overture from "Tommy" - Assembled Multitude. A tribute to The Who's rock opera.
* Theme from M*A*S*H - Al DeLory
Hill Where the Lord Hides – Chuck Mangione. Before he scored big with “Feels So Good” in the late 1970's, Mangione got onto the top 40 with this tune.
Scorpio – Dennis Coffey. Every bass player’s practice tune.
Popcorn – Appropriately, by Hot Butter
If you see a favorite “instrumental to take us up to news time” that I missed from 1960-1972, please send me an e-mail at email@example.com. I’ll update the list with some of your nominations. I have added some of the tunes which have been submitted, and indicated them with an asterisk (*).