Songs that were local hits

Back in the old times, when radio was still relevant, before it was homogenized by national conglomerates, there were bands and songs that would break out regionally but not nationally. For a long time I didn’t even realize some of these songs weren’t well known outside the local region. Songs that got so much airplay I know all the lyrics despite never owning the album. So for us old timers, let’s share some of these local classics.

I have a few but I’ll start with The Neighborhoods Prettiest Girl, this was a staple on the Boston rock radio stations like BCN.

The Fools.

The Northern Pikes.

Hard to find many from my youth - most popular bands in the Bay Area in the late 60s quickly went national. But here’s one who should have yet never did

Could end up with a lot from MA

Heretix had a couple of songs that got a lot of play on Boston alternative radio.


They also had a cover of Season of the Witch that got some play.

Across the midwest when I was a wee lad growing up:

I was all set to cue up Henry Lee Summer, but a closer check reveals that “I Wish I Had a Girl” actually cracked the Billboard Top 20 in 1988. The video, which is almost worth watching, features human mullet HLS pawing ineffectually at girls like a redneck Pepe le Pew, whilst riding a bicycle.

So instead, and better: The Zero Boys were a local hardcore band that never really got traction outside the midwest, the conventional wisdom being that the scenemakers on the coasts simply couldn’t process the idea of a punk band from Indiana. Which is a pity, because Livin’ in the 80’s is a wonderful track.

The Beckies were a group that was supposed to be a bit of a songwriting vehicle for Michael Brown, formerly of The Left Banke and the composer of “Walk Away Renee” and “Pretty Ballerina” etc.

Unfortunately, Brown’s mental illness got so bad during the recording of the only Beckies album that his family institutionalized him, and that was that.

Except the rest of the band, centrally located around Kansas City, regrouped and signed with a new label as a new band, doing more of a Styx-y prog-metal goofing, Shooting Star, and had a handful of regional hits.

This song deserved more than just the scant airplay it got in St. Louis:

Tons of airplay in Boston in the late 1960s, per those in the know:

Fantastic track.

Del Fuegos were somewhat known nationally I think, so I’ll skip them for now.

Get a bit weird with the next one but Think Tree got a decent amount of airplay though not quite the hit as some of the other songs I’ve posted. FNX even put Hire a Bird on their top 500 songs of all time list they did in '99. I’ve seen the album it’s from Eight/Thirteen showing up a few times recently on that “10 albums that influenced me” thing going around Facebook (don’t nominate me as I will NOT do it)

The hard-rocking heroes of Hagerstown, MD known as Kix eventually did go national in the late 80s with a shitty anti-suicide power ballad they didn’t write, but they were on the air in Baltimore for years before that and could fill the legendary club Hammerjack’s anytime they wanted. I love this song, but once I played it for a chick and she actually cried because it was so uncool.

Also huge around Baltimore but nowhere else was Crack the Sky, a proggy rock band who were about as big locally as, say, Aerosmith. Supposedly this is because the record distributor fucked up and only Baltimore-area stores had the first LP available for purchase. Eventually the songwriter went on a macrobiotic diet that affected his mind, and he wrote a concept album about the Canadian Mounties, and when it flopped he went into a deep depression and quit. Still, it’s a cliche for Marylanders of a certain age that they went off to college and were startled to find that no one there had heard of Crack the Sky.

The Mourning Sun were a band from upper Florida that recording a single song in their lifetime, a track called “Walk in the Woods”. The guy who produced and recorded it wanted more from them, including a track to use as the B-side, and offered them a recording contract. The band members – worried about the draft and the Vietnam War – begged off and enrolled in colleges for that student deferment and that was that for the group.

The guy who produced them gathered some studio musicians and had them record a blues number to slap on the B-side of “Walk in the Woods” and put out the single, which zoomed up charts all over the east coast for a month…but then just as quickly fizzled when it was revealed that the band didn’t exist anymore.

The production on this is just exquisite. They deserved a chance.

Michael Stanley’s the one that came to mind for me - still does shows a few times a year locally and is a DJ on radio. The urban legend I’d heard is that WMMS here in Cleveland had two bands they could’ve given play time and went with the non-MSB option: A little known (at the time) group from across the lake called Rush.

I always assumed this was a national hit, but wikipedia tells me most US radio stations wouldn’t play it (it was all over SF FM)

Definitely got played in the Boston area too. On a similar note I’ve been trying to figure out if Human Sexual Response got much play elsewhere, sounds like they did get play in CA as well as the North East.

My college roommate tried to convince me that Crack the Sky was the best band ever. He was out of Jersey. Ever so often I’ve gone looking trying to find mp3’s of some of that music and my google-fu has proved weak.

The Godz! (are rock n’ roll machines) for the hard rock types.

McGuffey Lane for the 70’s types.

Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments for the alt rock types.

Pittsburgh’s own Donnie Iris similarly had a song hit 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980, but it sort of counts for me because it was an extremely regular staple on Pittsburgh rock radio waaaaay later than that.