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Bobby Day and The Satellites

Little Bitty Pretty One

After nearly eight years of searching for that first elusive hit record, The Hollywood Flames found their way into the winner's circle in 1957. Twice, in fact, though only once under their given name. Names meant nothing to them anyway.

It's virtually impossible to unravel the myriad variations in moniker and personnel that this L.A. aggregation endured from 1949 on, although Marv Goldberg gives it a hell of a try on his 'R&B Notebooks' website. Robert Byrd was the glue, anchoring the Flames' early sides for countless labels, several of which are scattered through previous discs in this series. He moonlighted in other L.A. groups (The Turks, The Voices, The Sounds, The Crescendos, The Ebbtides) and made solo singles as Robert Byrd for Sage and Sand in 1955 and Jamie (Bippin' And Boppin') in early '57.

Veteran songwriter Leon Rene signed The Hollywood Flames to his Class label in 1957, but he spun Byrd off as a solo. Leon's son, pianist Googie Rene, a Class mainstay, dreamed up Byrd's new name: Bobby Day. Googie also conjured up an up-to-the-minute handle for Day's group: The Satellites. That March, Class released the first Bobby Day offering, Come Seven, which wasn't a group effort. But Day's next one would be. Byrd wrote the irresistible rocker Little Bitty Pretty One with carefully constructed humming passages and boisterous wordless group interludes that required a polished aggregation like the Flames. Tenor David Ford and baritone Curlee Dinkins were charter Flames; tenor Earl Nelson rounded out these Satellites. Day and Nelson would also make duets for Class as Bob & Earl.

Day's Little Bitty Pretty One came out on Class with a lovely rendition of Leon Rene's standard When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano on the other side. Little Bitty Pretty One proved a #57 pop hit after denting the charts in November of 1957. But a soundalike cover by ex-Lamplighters lead Thurston Harris for Aladdin with The Sharps backing him outdid Bobby by a sizable margin, vaulting to #6 pop and #2 on 'Billboard's' R&B 'Jockey' list. His song was resilient. Frankie Lymon registered a mild hit with it in 1960; Clyde McPhatter did better two years later, and The Jackson 5 scored a #13 pop seller with Byrd's creation in 1972.

Day's sudden winning streak wasn't over. In 1958, his ornithologist's delight Rock-in' Robin gave Class an R&B chart-topper and a #2 pop smash that transformed the piccolo into a rock and roll solo instrument. Its flip, the romping original Over And Over, also charted. Bobby cut a load of subsequent 45s for Class (The Bluebird, The Buzzard & The Oriole and That's All I Want were exciting L.A. rock and roll), Rendezvous, RCA Victor, and Sure Shot. Cancer claimed him on July 27, 1990

- Bill Dahl -

Various Street - Corner Symphonies 1957 Vol.9

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