1970s Russ Berrie Sillisculpts

Whenever I go to a yard sale or flea market and I see one…I have to get it. Worlds Greatest Dad, Worlds Greatest Mom, Worlds Greatest Grandpa, “Being Sick is bad for your health” and many more. They have a look that I like and are usually cheap…for two bucks you can have part of the seventies. 

He did more than the statues…he had stuffed animals and bears which in the 80s and 90s really took off…along with trolls.  

Russell Berrie started his business with only $500 and ran it out of a rented garage in Palisades Park, NJ. His first product to reach the shelf was his Fuzzy Wuzzie in 1964.

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By 1968 Americans were ready for something a little bolder. Russ Berrie and Co. introduced Sillisculpts, plastic message figurines with a little more attitude. Two of the most memorable are the “I love you this much!” statuette and another of an old lawyer crying “Sue the bastards!” (I must find this one). 

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These come in every form and shape.

In 1971, as sales passed the $7 million mark, Russ Berrie and Company moved to a new corporate headquarters facility in Oakland, New Jersey. This location would become the center of the company’s worldwide marketing and distribution businesses. In the following year, Russ Berrie and Company opened a second new facility, when a distribution center, in Santa Rosa, California, came online. 

By 1985, Russ Berrie and Company sales had reached $204.6 million, and revenues more than doubled in just two years.

In 1992, Russ Berrie and Company’s fortunes got a lift, when the popularity of one of its oldest products, Trolls, first introduced in the 1960s, escalated dramatically. Although they had not been a big seller for many years, suddenly the company’s trolls—squishy dolls with rubbery faces and hair that stood on end—were experiencing wild demand. To meet this clamor, Russ Berrie and Company’s designers began to churn out hundreds of different troll products, and the company’s Far Eastern suppliers raced to keep output high. By the end of the year, pushed by the troll fad, the company’s earnings had soared to $300 million. 

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In 2001, Russ Berrie had sales of $294.3 million and net income of $40.2 million, selling items like a stuffed dog named Muffin and a stuffed bear known as Honeyfritz. 

In December 2002, Russ Berrie died unexpectedly after having a heart attack in his home. Often named by Fortune magazine as one of America’s most generous philanthropists, Berrie was just 69 years old when he died.

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Defunct Restaurant Chains

Some of these restaurant chains,  people will remember some won’t because it depends on where you live and if any were in your market. A few may have a handful open with Franchisees but for the most part, they are closed.

 

Steak and Ale -1966 – 2008   I liked the Mock Tudor building and the atmosphere inside…the food was good. They are trying to make a comeback…I hope they make it. Last time I ate at one was in the 90s in Huntsville Alabama.

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Burger Chef – 1954 – 1996    They had over 1200 locations at one time. Many were bought out and turned into Hardees.

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Rax Roast Beef 1967 – (handful open now)   I liked the Roast Beef but the best thing was the chocolate chip milkshake. There are a few lone Franchisees left. I remember going to them in the 80s.

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Minnie Pearl’s Fried Chicken  1968 to mid-1970s – How-dee-licious…indeed. It was actually really good. When I was in 2nd grade we would go to one in a nearby town once in a while…really good chicken… it went down because of faulty accounting… Great article here.

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Bennigan’s 1976 – (Bennigan’s and Steak and Ale making a comeback together)  An Irish Pub theme restaurant. I went there a few times. There are a few locations left…

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Red Barn – 1961-1988 They were known for the “Big Barney” and Barnbuster burger. I see an old Red Barn where I work and now it’s a Mexican restaurant.

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Howard Johnson’s Restaurant – 1953-2017   I do remember eating at a few of these traveling.  In 2017 there was one left in New York but the owner was arrested and now it’s closed.

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LUMS – 1956-1982  I did go to one but I was really young and traveling at the time.

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Bonanza Steak House – 1963 – 2008 (bankruptcy) There are a few of these left… these and Ponderosa… Dan Blocker (Hoss Cartwright) was an original investor. In the late seventies before we would go to a movie we would stop at a Bonanza. I did go to a Ponderosa a few years back.

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Lucinda Williams – Can’t Let Go

I was an instant fan when I heard this song. Great voice and great guitar in this song. The track is so down to earth and real with the music was as tight as you can get. The song came off her breakthrough album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Steve Earle played guitar on the album and helped produce it. Can’t Let Go won Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. The song didn’t chart (Life is not fair) but the album peaked at #65 in the Billboard 200 and #14 in Canadian RPM Country Albums.

From Songfacts.

While Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is considered Lucinda Williams’ breakthrough album, recording it wasn’t a picnic for everybody involved. Williams, known to be a perfectionist, was unhappy with the record in the hands of longtime producer and guitar player Gurf Morlix, who apparently didn’t take her criticisms seriously enough. With this song, she recalls: “I was playing Steve Earle’s dobro, which had a really wide neck, and my fingers kinda slipped on it. But the track was so brilliant that everyone went, No, no, it’s great! I agonized over it for weeks and weeks, and they all kept saying, It’s great. But see, there’ve been other things where I’ve gone in and said, ‘I think we should redo this track because it’s not in the pocket or it’s too fast,’ and I’ve been right. I usually am right, that’s the thing. I’m right a lot of the time.” 

According to Salon, Steve Earle, who also co-produced and played guitar on the album, said it was “the least amount of fun I’ve had working on a record.”

This was the only song on the album not written by Lucinda, but by Randy Weeks. With the exception of “Still I Long For Your Kiss,” which was co-written by Duane Jarvis and featured on The Horse Whisperer soundtrack, she was the sole writer on the rest of the tracks.

Can’t Let Go

Told my baby one more time
Don’t make me sit all alone and cry
Well it’s over I know it but I can’t let go
I’m like a fish out of water
A cat in a tree

You don’t even want to talk to me
Well it’s over I know it but I can’t let go
He won’t take me back when I come around

Says he’s sorry then he pulls me out
I got a big chain around my neck
And I’m broken down like a train wreck
Well it’s over I know it but I can’t let go

See I got a candle and it burns so bright

In my window every night
Well it’s over I know but I can’t let go
You don’t like to see me standing around

Feel like I been shot and didn’t fall down
Well it’s over I know it but I can’t let go
He won’t take me back when I come around

Says he’s sorry then he pulls me out
I got a big chain around my neck
And I’m broken down like a train wreck
Well it’s over I know it but I can’t let go

Turn off trouble like you turn off a light

Went off and left me it just ain’t right
Well it’s over I know it but I can’t let go
Round every corner something I see

Bring me right back how it used to be
Well it’s over I know it but I can’t let go
He won’t take me back when I come around

Says he’s sorry then he pulls me out
I got a big chain around my neck
And I’m broken down like a train wreck
Well it’s over I know it but I can’t let go

He won’t take me back when I come around

Says he’s sorry then he pulls me out
I got a big chain around my neck
And I’m broken down like a train wreck
Well it’s over I know it but I can’t let go

It’s over I know it but I can’t let go
It’s over I know it but I can’t let go
It’s over I know it but I can’t let go

Marcy Playground – Sex and Candy

With lyrics that included “Like disco superfly” and “In platform double suede” plus “Like disco Lemonade” my “like” meter went off the charts. I liked the sound of this band was excited about what would come next. They had another song I liked almost as well as this one called Sherry Frasier.

This song peaked at #8 in the Billboard 100 and #29 in the UK in 1998.

They released 3 more albums but none of them charted in Billboard 200.

From Songfacts.

With images of “Disco Lemonade” and “Double Cherry Pie,” this is one of the more puzzling songs of the ’90s, and according to Marcy Playground songwriter/lead singer John Wozniak, the song pulls many things from many places. In our interview with John Wozniak, he explained: “Where did I get the ‘sex and candy’ part from? Well, I was dating a girl and she was going to Bryn Mawr College and it’s where my dad teaches. And I was probably 17 or something like that and she was like 18. I always liked the older girls. (laughs) But we were in her dorm room, and her roommate came in and she saw us there, and she was like, ‘Oh, it smells like sex and candy in here.’ And I always remembered that. And that was back in the late ’80s.

And then when I was writing the song and I was coming up with all these weird disco-era references that I was making up, ‘platform double suede’ and all that business, I was like, hey, let’s just throw in that phrase that’s been sticking in my head for the last 5 years or whatever. So I wrote that song in ’92, ’93, somewhere around there. And it didn’t really come out until ’97. That song had been at least in my consciousness since the late ’80s. At least with the concepts behind it.

But it’s just about seeing some sexy girl and then falling in love, and then asking a dumb question to yourself… well, it’s not even asking a question. It’s just – I don’t know!! I don’t know. (laughing) I’m just gonna be straight up honest. I don’t know. I’m telling you, when I was very young I experimented with drugs, but when I was writing these songs, I wasn’t high. But it sounds like I was high.”

 

Sex and Candy

Hangin’ round downtown by myself
And I had so much time
To sit and think about myself
And then there she was
Like double cherry pie
Yeah there she was
Like disco superfly

I smell sex and candy here
Who’s that lounging in my chair
Who’s that casting devious stares
In my direction

Mama this surely is a dream
Yeah mama this surely is a dream
Yeah mama this surely is a dream

Hangin’ round downtown by myself
And I had too much caffeine
And I was thinkin’ ’bout myself
And then there she was

In platform double suede
Yeah there she was
Like disco lemonade

I smell sex and candy here
Who’s that lounging in my chair
Who’s that casting devious stares
In my direction

Mama this surely is a dream
Yeah mama this surely is a dream
Yeah mama this surely is a dream

I smell sex and candy here
Who’s that lounging in my chair
Who’s that casting devious stares
In my direction

Mama this surely is a dream
Yeah mama this surely is a dream
Yeah mama this surely is a dream
Yeah mama this must be my dream

Black Crowes – Hard To Handle

When I heard this song in 1990 I was thrilled because it sounded like the Faces of the 70s. It was clear rock and roll and had a timeless quality about it. It peaked at #26 in the Billboard 100, #40 in Canada and #45 in the UK. This song was originally recorded by Otis Redding, who wrote it with Allen Jones and Al Bell. It was the only cover song on The Black Crowes debut album, which sold over five million copies.

The two other versions that I like are Otis Redding and Grateful Dead version with Pigpen taking the lead version.

From Songfacts.

Running a compact 3:08, The Black Crows turned the song into a rocker, using guitars instead of horns and extending the song from Redding’s 2:18 original.

This was The Black Crowes’ third single, following “Twice As Hard” and “Jealous Again.” It made #45 in the US in December 1990, as the group was rapidly gaining momentum. After “She Talks To Angels” hit #30 in May 1991 – over a year after the album was released

 “Hard To Handle” was reissued, this time going to #26 and becoming the highest-charting single for the band on the Hot 100. The group had been together for five years before signing a record deal with Def American, which prepared them well for the onslaught of success. Their live act had already been honed, and many who saw them remained lifetime fans as they became more of a jam band.

Hard To Handle

Baby here I am
I’m the man on the scene
I can give you what you want
But you gotta’ come home with me

I have got some good old lovin’
And I got some more in store
When I get through throwin’ it on
You gotta’ come back for more

Boys will come along a dime by the dozen
That ain’t nothing but ten cent lovin’
Pretty little thing, let me light your candle
‘Cause mama I’m sure hard to handle now, yessir’am

Action speaks louder than words
And I’m a man of great experience
I know you’ve got another man
But I can love you better than him

Take my hand don’t be afraid
I’m gonna prove every word I say
I’m advertising love for free
So you can place your ad with me

Boys will come along a dime by the dozen
That ain’t nothing but ten cent lovin’
Pretty little thing, let me light your candle
‘Cause mama I’m sure hard to handle now, yessir’am

Yeah
Hard to handle now
Oh baby

Baby here I am
I’m the man on the scene
I can give you what you want
But you gotta’ come home with me

I’ve got some good old lovin’ 
And I got some more in store
When I get through throwin’ it on you
You got to come a-runnin’ back for more

Boys will come along a dime by the dozen
That ain’t nothing but ten cent lovin’
Pretty little thing, let me light your candle
‘Cause mama I’m sure hard to handle now, yessir’am

Hard
Hard to handle now
Oh yeah, yeah yeah yeah

Boys will come along a dime by the dozen
That ain’t nothing but ten cent lovin’
Pretty little thing, let me light your candle
‘Cause mama I’m sure hard to handle now, yessir’am

Yeah
So hard to handle now
Oh yeah

Baby
Good lovin’
Baby, baby
Ohh, good lovin’
I need good lovin’
I got to have it, oh yeah
Yeah
So hard to handle, now, yeah

Digital Wristwatch

In the mid-seventies, I remember digital watches started to appear around our school. I thought they were really cool. I got one when the price came down. I had a friend named Paul who shunned me a little after I got it. He said he thought they were for only people would couldn’t tell time…no Paul.

After Roger Moore was seen with one in Live and Let Die it was the thing to have. It’s hard to believe a watch could make me so excited back then with its red numbers that only lit up when you clicked it because it would drain the battery if it stayed lit.

Later on, in the early eighties, I went to the now-defunct Service Merchandise and my mom bought me a digital display wristwatch for my birthday that played the Beatles Hey Jude…midi style. I would give anything for that watch now.

In 1972, Hamilton introduced the world’s first commercial electronic digital wristwatch. It retailed for the pricey sum of $2,100.  The Hamilton Pulsar P1 was encased in 18-carat gold.

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Roger Moore as the one and only James Bond…his arm anyway. The Pulsar II

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The very first liquid crystal display (LCD) watch was introduced in late 1972. These Dynamic Scattering LCDs were power-hungry and unstable, and the market soon moved on to TN Field Effect displays. The Seiko 06LC was one of the first to use the new effect display and it stuck for decades.

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Hamilton Pulsar Calculator Watch came in 1976. The buttons were extra small but every model had an improvement.

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By 1977 the watches really started to fall in price. Star Wars watches were everywhere and they were a more affordable 16.95. A long way from the 18-carat gold watches.

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In 1982 the Seiko TV Watch was released. It allowed owners to view live broadcast TV on a tiny blue/gray LCD screen embedded into the watch face. But…and there is a but…an external tuning device had to be connected to the watch. I don’t remember these but it is incredible they had these in 1982… If you had one of these please comment…were they clear at all?

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Now with Apple watches that can tell you your heart rate and bank account…they have come a long way.

 

https://www.pcmag.com/feature/296609/the-digital-watch-a-brief-history/5

 

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World

We all know this song from the Wizard of Oz but this is a great version in its own right. I first heard this song in Life On Mars and will never forget it. Israel (IZ) fits “What a Wonderful World” in this and it is fantastic.

Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo’ole recorded this in a medley with “What a Wonderful World” for his 1993 album Facing Forward. This version was used in the films Finding ForresterMeet Joe Black, Life on Mars and 50 First Dates as well as on the television show ER.

The song peaked at #22 on the Adult Contemporary Chart in 2004.

Over The Rainbow

Ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, oohSomewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dream of
Once in a lullabySomewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
And the dreams that you dream of
Dreams really do come true someday, I wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That’s where you’ll find me somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
And the dreams that you dare to
Oh why, oh why can’t I? Well, I see trees of green and red roses too
I’ll watch them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful worldWell, I see skies of blue and I see clouds of white
And the brightness of day
I like the dark
And I think to myself what a wonderful worldThe colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
And also on the faces of people passing by
I see friends shaking hands saying
How do you do?
They’re really saying I, I love you

I hear babies cry and I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more then we’ll know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
World

Someday I wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That’s where you’ll find me

Oh, somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dare to
Why oh, why can’t I?

Ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh