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                           Muses on The Music

A Single Shot of the Swingin’ Medallions

October 2, 2017

        If you read my last blog post — and why wouldn’t you? — you’re aware that I provided the music for my 50-year high school class reunion.

        As noted previously, the playlist I put together consisted almost exclusively of music that was on the charts during the years my classmates and I were in high school, 1963-67. Most of the Motown artists, Beach Boys, Beatles, Girls Groups, etc., had more than one song on that playlist — some of them, particularly the Fab Four, had three or more.

        But there was one act, and one song, that was unusual in its singularity, not to mention its sound. That was “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love,” a 1966 Top 20 hit nationally for the Swingin’ Medallions, a South Carolina band.

        If you’ve never heard it, “Double Shot” is a fun number. Nothing deep, but a bit more than two and a quarter minutes of raucous, upbeat rock and roll, the story of a dude who’s hungover from his girlfriend’s amorous prowess. It sounds like it was recorded at a frat party, with minimal rehearsal time and studio niceties.

        Now, I listened to AM radio — mostly WLS out of Chicago — back in the early- to mid-60s, to the extent that I probably could recite the Top 40 some weeks. But why don’t I remember “Double Shot” and the Medallions? I decided I needed to know more about the group, and the music.

        Turns out the Medallions were more of a regional act, gone the 60s equivalent of viral because of one popular song. You can’t quite say that they were One Hit Wonders, but they do kind of fit into my Twice Is Not Enough category.

        The group’s members were students at a Greenwood, S.C., college who started their act in 1962 to make some extra money. Initially called just the Medallions, they later added the Swingin’, possibly as a tip of the hat to a rhythm and blues band that had been popular in S.C. a few years earlier, the Swingin’ Travelers.

        The band made that money playing clubs and campus parties, one item on their set list being a song the members had heard in the late 1950s, “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love.” Recorded by Dick Holler and the Holidays, it had been a regional hit in the Southeast, but with a quite different arrangement than that the Swingin’ Medallions would popularize.

        When the Medallions, trying to break out of the regional-band thing, went into the studio to record “Double Shot” as their second single, the producers tried to make it slicker, adding horns and arrangements that the band didn’t like. According to founding member John McElrath (interviewed by Rick Simmons at Rebeat), they wanted it to sound more like their live performances.

        So, McElrath said, the group literally pulled people in off the street to provide the background noise of a live audience. Not quite recorded live at a frat party, but close enough.

        Initially, the group sold records on their own label, but as it got popular, they got an offer to distribute it nationally. But Smash Records didn’t like some of the lyrics in the song, including “Worst hangover I ever had” and “She loved me so long/she loved me so hard,” and those lines were rewritten, according to McElrath.

        Which is interesting, because the song that I have in my i Tunes library, from the 45s on CD compilation, includes the original lyrics. Which, seriously, seem fairly tame compared to some popular music recorded since then.

        If “Double Shot” got into circulation with the original lyrics, it makes me wonder if the reason I don’t remember the song is because it didn’t get airplay on WLS. After all, the Chicago station boycotted Them’s “Gloria” about the same time — because Van Morrison was singing about some chick coming up to his room.

        “Double Shot” made it to No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, and helped the Medallions’ debut album get to No. 88 on the magazine’s LP chart. Their followup single, “She Drives Me Out of My Mine” — apparently a near carbon copy of its predecessor — got to No. 71, but the group never charted again after that.

        The Swingin’ Medallions continued to be popular regionally later in the ’60s and into the ’70s, albeit with several lineup changes, and were still doing reunion concerts into the 21st Century. In fact, they appeared onstage with Bruce Springsteen and E Street less than a decade ago.

        Rock and pop fans also have heard the music of a former Medallion often since the ’60s. Drummer Michael Huey became a studio musician, playing with artists as diverse as Lindsey Buckingham, Michael Martin Murphy and Allen Toussaint, and drumming on the Miami Vice TV series theme music.

        So, you may ask, did “Double Shot” and the other ’63-67 tunes get the Milton Union Class of 67 up on their feet and dancing? I didn’t see anybody dancing, and I’m not sure how many classmates listened to my playlist very much.

        For one thing, the venue was crowded, and the people were catching up in close proximity to the speakers, so I didn’t crank it up to anywhere near 7, much less 11. And the venue’s staff didn’t move the tables off the dance floor, as we had discussed — perhaps because a lot of the classmates and SOs were still sitting at them.

        We are almost in our 70s, after all, and the music of the ’60s, while it can make you feel younger, can’t completely erase the effects of seven decades. Not even the Swingin’ Medallions.

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