A Bit Like You And Me Radio

April 24, 2013

J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers - Last Kiss (1964)

Created around San Angelo, Texas in 1955, this band is primarily remembered as a one-hit wonder. Originally, the band consisted of of Alton Baird on lead vocals, Sid Holmes on lead guitar, Lewis Elliott on bass, Rob Zeller on the sax, and Ray Smith on the drums. The band found themselves in a bit of a rut in 1962 when Baird was drafted, but luckily they were able to recruit the singing talents of J. Frank Wilson, who had just recently been discharged from the local Air Force base. Although their first hit, heard below, was their biggest, it caused J. Frank Wilson to become a superstar in his own mind. After only a handful of shows together, he was exiled by his bandmates for excessive drinking, drugs, and irresponsibility. Both Wilson and his former band continued using the "Cavaliers" name separately. Wilson and his Cavaliers were able to grasp the charts once more with the song “Hey, Little One” peaking at number eighty-five, but Wilson eventually went solo and continued to record, unsuccessfully, through the '70s, eventually having to settle for a day job. As for the other Cavaliers, by late 1964, the only remaining original member was their bassist Lewis Elliott, who assumed the leadership position. He and his new lineup of Cavaliers, featuring James Thomas on vocals, attempted to keep the band going and performed together up through 1987 on various "oldies" tours.

Written by Wayne Cochran, Joe Carpenter, Randall Hoyal, and Bobby McGlon, this song was first released by Wayne Cochran himself in 1961. Not only was it a commercial flop upon its initial release, but the song flopped again when Cochran attempted to re-release it in 1963. The first successful version of the song was when it was released by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers in 1964. Unavailable for recording, the band’s drummer Ray Smith was replaced with Cochran’s drummer Denny Jewell. The recording of the song also resulted in lead guitarist Sid Holmes, who already had been alienating himself from the band, to having a mental breakdown and quitting the band after the recording session. Selling over a million copies, reaching number two on the charts, and being certified gold, the song was quite an accomplishment considering that The Beatles and the British Invasion were in full swing.

As one of the many “teen tragedy” songs that were popular in years past, the song had lyrics narrating a car crash and subsequent death of a teen boy’s sweetheart. Ironically, when Wilson was touring through Ohio with his manager Sonley Roush just a few months later, Roush fell asleep at the wheel with Wilson in the passenger seat. Their vehicle swerved into oncoming traffic, collided with a truck, and resulted in Roush’s death. Wilson survived, but needed crutches for a period of time. It wasn’t until October 4, 1991 that J. Frank Wilson died at the age of forty-nine, just a few months shy of his fiftieth birthday. His death, a result of alcoholism and drug addiction, was reported with the information that he had been a bit of a recluse in his last remaining years, having been married eight times and never fully coping with his loss of stardom.

album art

J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers - Last Kiss (1964)

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Lyrics:

Well, where- oh, where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She’s gone to heaven
So I got to be good
So I can see my baby
When I leave this world

We were out on a date in my daddy’s car
We hadn’t driven very far
There in the road, straight ahead
The car was stalled, the engine was dead
I couldn’t stop, so I swerved to the right
I’ll never forget the sound that night
The crying tires, the bustin’ glass
The painful scream that I heard last

Well, where- oh, where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She’s gone to heaven
So I got to be good
So I can see my baby
When I leave this world

Well, when I woke up
The rain was pourin’ down
There were people standing all around
Something warm a’running in my eyes
But I found my baby somehow that night
I raised her head and when she smiled and said
“Hold me darling for a little while”
I held her close
I kissed her- our last kiss
I found the love that I knew I would miss
But now she’s gone, even though I hold her tight
I lost my love, my life, that night

Well, where- oh, where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She’s gone to heaven
So I got to be good
So I can see my baby
When I leave this world

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