Today I want to start a new series called Wednesday Rewind. I will run this segment about once a month as an alternative to Wednesday Review. I hope you'll enjoy this new segment.
I’ve been doing artist promotion since 1982. Thirty-five years of trying to get airplay for a band I believed in. Not necessarily as a fan, but as someone who believed the world needed to know how good these guys were. I’m talking about a 1980’s country group called James and Michael Younger.
I first met James and Michael Younger at Texas Dance Hall in Baton Rouge LA August 6, 1982. Then they were known as The Younger Brothers. I’ll explain when the group name change came about in a moment. I knew when my sister and I met the group they were special. Okay, the fact they were (and still are) cute, I loved their sound. They played a mix of 1960’s rock, classic country and gospel… the music these boys from South Texas grew up on.
Six months after leaving Louisiana I still had these guys on my mind. I cruised radio dials looking for stations playing their songs. Airplay was near non-existent. I couldn’t figure out why. I began buying singles and sending them to radio stations introducing them to air personalities I was getting to know through letters. Once settled in Central IL, I would call or drive to radio stations to talk with production managers and music directors. I’ve always had a knack for getting in doors and I’ve put that gift to use all these years.
Jerry (?), Rusty, James, Donnie, Michael, Tommy
The Younger Brothers aka James & Michael Younger
Even before I began a personal journey in promoting James and Michael Younger, I’d been interested in promotion. In high school I wanted to be an entertainment journalist. A school counselor basically told me to get a real job, that there wasn’t any career in being a writer or a journalist. I wanted to be the next Barbara Walters but apparently, that wasn’t considered a paying gig. So, even though I wasn’t going to make money doing this, I had – and still have – a passion for doing my part in helping entertainers reach more potential fans.
While James and Michael were good about answering my questions and making time for me at shows over the years, their manager nor their label gave me a glance. If what I was trying to do would ever make a difference, we’ll never know. But I had fun trying!
James and Michael's last name is Williams. Their label wanted to name them the Williams Boys but the brothers were concerned there would be confusion with Don Williams’ band. They wanted their own identity. Shortly after, Don Williams’ band came to be ‘The Scratch Band’. ‘The Younger Brothers’ name was short lived. Unbeknownst to them, a pop band (playing country music) from Pennsylvania had the same moniker. With that new knowledge in 1983, James and Michael Younger was born.
Long before they were any form of The Younger Brothers, they were part of a band called The Playboys of Edinburg. A garage band that began in the mid 1960s. In 1966 they were signed to Columbia. They had a hit written by James called ‘Look At Me Girl’, later to be recorded by teen idol Bobby Vee. POE had a nine-year run where they opened for folks such as Billy Joe Royal, Roberta Flack and Roy Orbison.
The Playboys of Edinburg
Look At Me Girl
The early 1970s brought about changes in their musical styles and personal lives and they disbanded. The brothers moved back to their country roots. James went solo for awhile in the south Texas area before moving up to Houston and encouraged Michael to join him as a duo.
James and Michael Williams
In 1981, they caught the attention of MCA promotion man, Danny O’Brian. They cut Lonely Hearts at the infamous The Woodlands studio. They would go on to release There’s No Substitute For You. In 1983, they released Somewhere Down the Line – my personal favorite.
One thing that did help with recognition was their song ‘Nothing But the Radio On’- a great song in its own standing but promotion is everything. In the world of music and entertainment, it's a constant struggle to reach the top with hundreds of record labels, thousands of artists and millions of listeners with different tastes. How does an artist or group get the attention? If there's one thing MCA did right, producer Ron Chancey had the idea to drop the call letters for radio stations in the chorus of Nothing But the Radio On, replacing 'the radio' with station call letters. Seriously? What radio station is going to pass up free promo? The song was recorded once then the call letters for over three-hundred individual radio stations were dropped in, a project that took over sixteen additional studio hours. Having a song that promoted the radio station was a great gimmick for getting the air-play and helped this group gain notoriety. You could turn on your local radio station and here ‘nothing but WHBF on’ (Rock Island IL station in 1983) or whatever station you were listening to.
I kept up with the guys until my husband and I started a family in late 1987. James and Michael Younger disbanded about the same time. My last opportunity to hang with the band was at the Flywheel Club reunion in Macon Missouri. In an article written by Larry Nothnagels for the Clarence Courier, Mr. Nothnagels notes ‘they love being with fans and talking with them and the fans love them just as much.’
Why this group didn’t get more notoriety than others on the charts is perplexing. I have to wonder if MCA thought enough to sign them then why not give them the promotional push for a group they were vested in? Many of the radio stations personalities I talked to over the years said they didn’t get the airplay of others because they were not seeing promotional material come across their desk.
I often wonder how much more I could have done, what their path would have been had social media been available back then. I know that everything happens for a reason so I look back at my efforts as an education. Now I spend my days on social media as a street promoter for both established groups like the Oakridge Boys and the Bellamy Brothers as well as newer artists like the Scott Taylor Band, Jaryd Lane and Bri Bagwell. I am blessed to network with some of the largest promotional agencies across the country… and some of the smallest… but all who believe in the artists they represent.
Through it all, I still call James Williams a dear friend. Michael, too, though we don’t stay in touch as much. But reuniting with James ten years ago after a twenty-five year hiatus followed by Michael and Don (the band drummer) two years later was the culmination of a connection we had all those years ago.
Since disbanding, they've all gone on to do their own thing. They have done some reunions in South Texas with former members of The Playboys of Edinburg. Here's a short video from the first reunion in 2012. The video includes a photo array of the early days. Also, you'll see the boys still put on a great performance that gets the crowd on their feet.
Before I close today, I want to thank some people. Nancee Thomas - Lewis was (and still is) my best friend. We traveled to shows from Illinois to Missouri. She took all of the still photos I'm sharing today. Next, 'thewinner' on YouTube for posting many of the video clips I've used this week. I have the albums but wouldn't know the first thing about putting them on YouTube. Also to Phil Brown for the reunion video. Thank you both for providing the content. Please go check out his channel, hit likes and subscribe.
I also must thank Val Curl. Val is a POE member who put me in touch with James, rekindling a friendship that began with a night out in Baton Rouge LA.
I look forward to looking back at other groups as well as individual artists. If there is someone you'd like to see me feature, please leave a comment below and I'll do my best.