It’s been a couple days since the last entry in TimNeelyStuff, As I post some of the many interesting stories behind the 1,000 biggest hit songs and artists of the 1960s, I look at some that I’ve written and haven’t posted yet – and, of course, the long list of songs I still haven’t written about – and I wonder if they’re on the same level as the ones I’ve shared already.
Sometimes, because of my vast knowledge of music, I forget that lots of other people may not know about some of these great (and sometimes not-so-great) songs. I also have found over the years that I am my own worst critic. In addition, I’ve had the tendency to dwell on the things that go wrong rather than the more frequent things that go right.
A girlfriend of mine in the mid-1980s noticed this about me as we were working together on a project. She noticed how hard I was trying to make something perfect, and I had fallen way behind her as a result. One of the things she tried to teach me was that one needs to learn when things are “good enough.” Even though that was 30 years ago, I still have a hard time with that, even though I’ve obviously never forgotten her advice. That may be why I have nine incomplete book projects. And it’s one reason I’m doing this blog.
Anyway, on to another entry from The Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s. This one came from a Jewish Bostonian best known for playing a Native American on television, but he was also one heck of a singer.
My Cup Runneth Over / Ed Ames / RCA Victor 47-9002
(Total points: 1,011 / Chart debut: 1/21/1967 / Chart peak: 8 / Weeks on chart: 13)
By 1966, Ed Ames was best known as an actor, though that hadn’t always been the case.
Born Edmund Dantes Urick on July 9, 1927 in Malden, Mass., outside Boston, he and three older brothers – Joe, Gene and Vic – formed a quartet called The Amory Brothers in the 1940s. (“Amory” was Vic’s middle name.) When their first record was released in 1948, their label, Coral, shortened the name to “Ames Brothers,” and the name stuck. The Ames Brothers had a long string of hits, especially in the 1950-1958 period, for first Coral and then RCA Victor. Two of them hit #1 on various Billboard pop charts: “Rag Mop” in 1950 and “You, You, You” in 1953.
With the growing popularity of rock ‘n’ roll, the Ames Brothers’ style of music became passé; their last Top 20 single was “Pussy Cat” in 1958. After two unsuccessful singles for Epic in the early 1960s, they broke up the act in 1964.
Ed Ames, using the name “Eddie Ames,” had one solo single in late 1956, “The Bean Song (Which Way to Boston).” In early 1964, he resumed his solo singing career with RCA Victor; that September, he also gained a co-starring role on the NBC television series Daniel Boone as Mingo, Boone’s Cherokee friend. This led to one of the most famous live television incidents of all-time. On the April 29, 1965 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Ames was prompted to show off his ability throwing a tomahawk; he threw it at a wood panel with a life-sized chalk outline of a man, and the tomahawk landed perfectly in the groin area.
In the interim, Ames had recorded a version of “Try to Remember,” from the legendary off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks; it opened on May 3, 1960 and ran for more than 41 years and 17,162 performances before it finally closed on January 13, 2002. His rendition, probably released to coincide with a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV production of The Fantasticks on October 18, 1964, got to #73 on the Hot 100 in early 1965.
By late 1966, Ames still had not had a big solo hit. Then he turned to a song from a new musical, I Do! I Do!, composed by the same team that had written the songs for The Fantasticks, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones (no relation to the singer who used that name). RCA took out a full-page ad on page 2 of the November 12, 1966 Billboard to introduce the song, “My Cup Runneth Over,” at the same time that the magazine’s singles reviewer thought it would reach no better than somewhere between 61 and 100 on the Hot 100.
At first, the magazine had predicted the song’s fate better than the label’s optimism did; though “My Cup Runneth Over” quickly made the Easy Listening chart and eventually spent four weeks at #1 there, it didn’t enter the Hot 100 for more than two months. It finally debuted at #83 on January 21, 1967, and then, it began to zoom up the chart, finally peaking at #8 at the end of March.
Ames’ solo musical career stayed in high gear. Though none of his later singles would reach the same heights on the pop charts as “My Cup Runneth Over,” he would have another Top 20 single in early 1968, “Who Will Answer?” Ames’ contract with RCA Victor expired in 1973, but he remained active on stage and television for many years afterwards; he also became an accomplished tennis player, skier and sailor on the celebrity circuits. Ames is mostly retired now, but sometimes still makes personal appearances, at which he still will sing his biggest hit.
Collector’s notes: The basic design of the 45 of “My Cup Runneth Over” is the 1965-68 RCA Victor “dog on side” label, where the famous portrait of Nipper is at the 9 o’clock position. Most copies feature the song title on one line, but at least one pressing plant issued the single with “My Cup Runneth” on one line and “Over” on a second line. Both are from the time when the song was a hit.
The single was not issued with a picture sleeve.
Fast fact: One of the most distinctive parts of “My Cup Runneth Over” is the length of time Ames holds the single note on the word “love.” Twice, he holds it for more than 10 seconds, and near the end of the song, he holds “love” for closer to 15 seconds.