Do different musical styles congregate more toward different parts of the alphabet? Sounds ridiculous, but I've been combing through Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1999 Billboard chart reference book these past few months to unearth Hot 100 hits lost to the sands of time, and it sure does seem that way sometimes. Part 1 (A to C) had lots of high-energy early rock 'n' roll and '80s/'90s AOR; Part 2 (C to F) swung toward pop rock, doo-wop and old-timey-throwback country weirdness; Part 3 (F to H) included plenty of novelty silliness and '90s hip-hop, but almost nothing from the '80s; Part 4 (H to J) went even heavier on '90s R&B and rap, and had more than its share of New Wave garage-rock covers, moonlighting actresses and war-protest songs.
Now it's time for Part 5: a two-hour mix, as usual, this time covering alphabetical territory from mid-'60s D.C. soul girl group The Jewels through mid-'80s British proto-house-music synth-pop duo Kissing the Pink -- and it turns out this is by far the most Southern soul-saturated Hits You Never Heard Of playlist yet. It's also the only one with two 1990 Latin freestyle songs and two Wu-Tang-affiliated '90s Staten Island rap acts. The latter pair, King Just and Killarmy, close the mix with a loud bang.
The freestyle songs are "Dream Boy/Dream Girl," a power-packed duet between Johnny O. and Cynthia that got to No. 53 on the pop chart, and "Counting the Days" by their fellow New Yorker Joey Kid, which hit No. 70 just a few months before. Neither of which is quite as exotic as Kano's Italo-disco "Can't Hold Back" (No. 89 in 1981), Kaoma's Portuguese-language French/Brazilian/Antillean forbidden dance "Lambada" (No. 46 in 1990), or even Katalina's campy Valley Girl disc-jockey's-girlfriend-arguing-with-door-bouncer-over-a-club-guest-list-goof "D.J. Girl" (No. 86 in 1996.)
Fern Kinney's Jackson, Miss.-bred soul-disco-diva floor-burner "Groove Me," which hit No. 53 in 1979 and shows up here in its super-percussive nine-minute album version, is probably even better for dancing than any of those. It's also notable because Fern starts out saying "sookie sookie now," perhaps referencing a funky Steppenwolf track from a few years before. And that biker band's East German-born throat John Kay makes this mix too, with his only solo pop near-hit -- a boogiefied '72 cover of country Canuck Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On."
Early '70s-critic-beloved feminist Berkeley cult folkies Joy of Cooking boogie down too, in their sole chart-creaser "Brownsville," from 1971. Both they and Kay (and Casey Kelly of Baton Rouge, La., with "Poor Boy" from 1972) manage to sound pretty darn soulful for hippie white folks. Still, they probably couldn't hold a candle to Shreveport, La.'s gospel testifier Theola Kilgore (1963's "This Is My Prayer"); Bastrop, Louisiana's blues belter Mable John (1966's "Your Good Thing"); New Orleans' Mardi Gras gumbo mover-and-shaker Joe Jones (1960's "You Talk Too Much"); Jacksonville, Fla.'s quiet storm lover-man Glenn Jones (1987's 'We've Only Just Begun"); or especially Miami's truth-teller Paul Kelly, who kicks plate-passing preachers from the temple in 1970's "Stealin' in the Name of the Lord," so devastating a sermon it would've been criminal not to open with it.
Nat Kendricks and The Swans -- really James Brown and the JBs, but under a sneaky fake name! -- dish up a different soul-food recipe in 1960's "(Do the) Mashed Potatoes (Part 1)." It's sort of a novelty number (later recooked for delicatessens as "Hot Pastrami" by The Dartells), but surely not as much a novelty number as Chicago proto-swing revivalists Jump 'N the Saddle Band's Top 20 1983 Three Stooges joke "Curly Shuffle," easily the most difficult thing to sit through here. Country duos The Kendalls and The Kinleys should go down much easier, as should 1980 New Wave pan-flashes The Kingbees and The Kings (and even later-'80s MTV New Wave hypes King). How's that for a royal flush?