Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Song A Day: Lou Johnson, "Please, Stop the Wedding"

JULY 18, 2017



RELEASED 1965 ON 7” 45

Lou Johnson, singer and pianist, was born in 1940. In the early sixties, he had access to some great Burt Bacharach-Hal David songs, recording three singles’ worth of their material with Bacharach as producer and arranger. Two of them became national hits.

Johnson’s recording career never reached its full potential for a few reasons. One key roadblock to his success was corporate incompetence. In two separate cases, his record label (Big Top) fell apart while he had a single currently on the charts. The label’s financial troubles in 1963 meant that copies of Johnson’s “Reach Out for Me,” quickly rising on the chart, could not be shipped to fill orders. Later in 1965, his “A Time to Love—A Time to Cry” also fell short (#59) because the newly reactivated Big Top again capitulated not long after the song’s release.

Johnson’s peak on Billboard came in 1964, when he reached #49 in the country with “Always Something There to Remind Me,” but after “Message to Michael” was not a hit, he no longer had access to Bacharach-David material. So his production team, Bernie Baum, Bill Giant, and Florence Kaye, began to supply him with their own songs.

One of these songs was “Please, Stop the Wedding,” released in spring 1965 on the Big Hill label (like Big Top, a sub-label of Bell Records of New York). The music papers predicted it would be a hit. Cashbox magazine made “Please, Stop the Wedding” a Pick of the Week on April 3, 1965, calling it “potent.” The next week, Billboard listed it first among its R&B previews.

Baum, Giant, and Kaye, veterans of the industry going back to the pre-rock 1950s, had enjoyed plenty of hit records. Separately and together, the three made their bones as writers and producers for big-name artists such as the Everly Brothers, Teresa Brewer, and, most notably, Elvis Presley.

Unfortunately, by 1965, those artists, and the styles of music they embodied, were on their way out commercially. Even The King was a ten-year veteran of the biz regarded by many as yesterday’s news. His records were no longer guaranteed airplay on big-market top 40 stations. Baum, Giant, and Kaye’s days as hitmakers had ended.

“Please, Stop the Wedding” had elements of a Ray Charles and the Raelettes record, with its gospel-inflected waltz-time chorus, but also possessed some strange gimmicky elements from an earlier time. I won’t give away the strange, almost song-poem-like transition from chorus to verse, but will note that changing from a major-key chorus to a verse full of major sevenths is somewhat jarring.

It’s well played and quite catchy in spots, with a string arrangement relying heavily on the Bacharach sound. Johnson gives it his all, veering from a strong mid-range delivery to some sweet “whooooos” that convey something of Solomon Burke’s more secular work.

While the record was a top 20 hit on a Cleveland R&B station, and gathered enough airplay to register in Memphis, Miami, and Beaumont, Texas, “Please, Stop the Wedding” failed to crack the Billboard or Record World top 150 lists. It only hit one national chart, reaching #131 on Cashbox’s list in early May before disappearing.

I wonder whether Bell, the parent company and distributor of the record, for some reason pulled the plug and stopped pressing copies of “Please, Stop the Wedding” early on during its run, thereby stunting its growth. This thought only comes to me because the same happened to him twice on a label owned by the same company, and sometimes bad luck follows people around.

Lou Johnson made some good records. He’s still alive, and deserves to be remembered. Even for this slightly odd MOR-cum-R&B confection.


  1. WHO IS THIS MAN????

    What a weird record. I can't imagine this being a hit, but it's odd enough to be worth hearing. Thanks!

  2. yeah, the out of time element reminds me of a song-poem.