If you are a regular reader of the column you know by know (if you didn’t know already) that Bessie Banks recorded the original version of the Moody Blues hit “Go Now,” and that the Stones’ “Time Is On My Side” was originally recorded by Irma Thomas. This week we have another song that was not originally recorded by the group that is famously associated with it.
The Olympics got together in Los Angeles in 1957. Lead singer Walter Ward, Charles Fizer, Walter Hammond, and Melvin King were high school friends, and Eddie Lewis joined them. They released their first record, “I Can Tell,” under the name Walter Ward and the Challengers, but that name didn’t last long and by 1958 they were they Olympics. They had their first hit for Demon Records with “Western Movies,” which made it all the way to #8 on the Billboard pop chart. The B-side of the record was a song called “Well (Baby Please Don’t Go).” The song was written by Walter Ward, and covered by John Lennon in 1971.
“Western Movies,” with its gunshot and ricochet sound effects, helped to establish the Olympics as a group known for their novelty and dance craze records. Their next two hits, “(Baby) Hully Gully,” which started the Hully Gully dance craze, and “Big Boy Pete,” did nothing to dispel their reputation for novelty.
In 1965 the Olympics recorded a song called “Good Lovin'” for Loma Records, but their version was not the original. The song was written by Rudy Clark and Arthur Resnick, and was first recorded that year by an R&B singer from Ohio by the name of Limmie Snell, who went by the name of “Lemme B. Good.” It was only a month later that the Olympics covered it, with some major revisions to the lyrics. Their version wasn’t exactly a smash hit, but it did reach #81 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart.
Legend has it that Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals heard the Olympics version on the radio in New York, and his band added it to their concert repertoire. Before long the Rascals had recorded it, and the rest is pop music history. The blue-eyed soul smash was at the top of the Billboard pop chart in the spring of 1966. It was the band’s first real hit, and began a string of three successive #1’s for the Rascals.
Sadly, back in LA, Olympic Charles Fizer was shot and killed during the Watts uprising in 1965. Then Melvin King’s sister was killed in an accidental shooting and he left the group. The Olympics were revamped and soldiered on into the early ’70s, but they never again saw the chart success that they had in the mid-’60s.
On a personal note, in the winter of 1966 I was vacationing with my family in the Catskill Mountains of New York. During the week of our stay the legendary DJ “Cousin” Bruce Morrow brought a show to the hotel that was headlined by the Tokens of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” fame. The opening act was the Rascals, then still known as the Young Rascals and still dressing in their schoolboy outfits. I had heard, and loved, “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Our My Heart Anymore,” the band’s early minor hit, so I was looking forward to seeing them. That night Felix Cavaliere announced that they were going to play a song that they had just been released as their new single. That song was “Good Lovin’.”