Monday, July 24, 2017

A Song A Day: Linda Hall, "Hugo"



JULY 24, 2017

“HUGO” (WRITERS: MAT MATHEWS–LARRY KUSIK–WARREN VINCENT)

ARTIST: LINDA HALL

RELEASED 1964 ON 7” 45

“Hugo,” masterminded by three men and sung by a young woman, was released in late June 1964, but the world still might not be quite ready for it.

Mat Mathews was a Dutch-born accordionist who specialized in jazz. Warren Vincent arranged and wrote a good deal of material for the Cricket record label, which did children’s music. He also arranged strings and horns for various Columbia Records artists.

Larry Kusik wrote lyrics for pop songs, most of which are long forgotten; probably his best is Lou Courtney’s “The Man with the Cigar.” He was perhaps best known for the “love themes” he wrote for the films Romeo and Juliet and The Godfather.

These three gentlemen created the charming sonic atmosphere of “Hugo.” Mathews is responsible for the music and arrangement; his deft accordion doubles with flutes to carry the melody, lending a continental feel to what is essentially a tea-room cha-cha. Vincent produced the record. Meanwhile, Kusik surely penned the teenage-themed spoken word piece that Linda Hall intoned over the instrumental track.

As for what Ms. Hall spoke…it was fairly controversial for 1964 and may well have met some resistance on radio. But some stations began to pick the record up in July. It went Top 20 in St. Louis and Top 10 in Honolulu and received considerable airplay on stations in Denver, Richmond, Houston, Atlanta Indianapolis, and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Columbia Records used a full-page ad in some of the trade papers to respond to those concerned about “Hugo’s” spoken word track, reminding radio programmers that they could flip the record over and play a version of the nice, light European-styled tune without lyrics.

While “Hugo” was listed as a “regional breakout” in Atlanta and Houston in the August 15 issue of Billboard magazine, the record spread slowly and never gained enough momentum in any one place or at any one time to break into the national charts, though it did reach the “looking ahead” 100–150 lists in both Cashbox and Record World. The tender sensibilities of listeners in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, therefore, were spared the moral dilemma that is “Hugo.”

Despite her good work on this song, not much is known of Linda Hall. The following year, she did another record, “Beach Boy,” which also fell short. After that, the trail goes cold; it’s not clear whether she is the Linda Hall who recorded “You Don’t Have a Wooden Heart,” a cheap cash-in attempt on Joe Dowell’s massive 1961 hit “Wooden Heart.”


2 comments:

  1. You shared this with me before, and I thank you for that. I can't imagine that they expected it to be a hit, and am amazed that it charted anywhere at all. Pretty out there for the time!

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  2. Sort of wonder if the title "Hugo" was meant as a tribute to Hugo Winterhalter, or if the title was unrelated to the music.

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