Tonight I will take a look at two One Hit Guys, with the same “last” name but not related. Now Buzz, I actually met and bought him a drink in 1962 at the Friar’s Tavern in Toronto. From what I can remember, he was a nice person, young (we both where) and leaning a little towards Country.
[I know I should not do this, but I play little guessing games with Russ. I give him year, month, chart positions and he gives me the song. It’s not fair, because I know that he does not remember, but he is always questioning me regarding music structure, keys and so on. That’s not fair either, he is way ahead of me on that subject. So when the Blog frustrates us, we play little games. Senior’s, we should be locked up.]
Clifford played guitar as a child and won several talent competitions as a teenager. He signed to Bow Records at age 15, releasing a few singles but finding no success.
After signing with Columbia Records, he released the single “Hello Mr. Moonlight“, which did not chart. The follow-up, “Baby Sittin’ Boogie/ Driftwood” (though Driftwood was technically the B-side the record tends to be regarded as a double-A-side), became a crossover hit in the U.S. in 1961, peaking at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, #27 R&B, and #28 Country.
The record went on to sell over one million copies, and as a result of its success, Columbia tried to groom Clifford as a heartthrob pop singer. He appeared on TV with Perry Como and Merv Griffin and on American Bandstand, and toured the United Kingdom with Freddy Cannon and Dion.
Clifford’s fame was short-lived, however; further singles went nowhere and Clifford soon found himself without a recording contract.
After serving in the National Guard, Clifford moved to Los Angeles, California and found work as a songwriter, writing tunes sung by Keith Barbour, Petula Clark, Clyde McPhatter, Lou Rawls, Leon Russell, and Kris Kristofferson.
Later in the 1960s, he was involved with a band called Carp (including actor Gary Busey and songwriter Danny Moore), who released one album on Epic Records in 1969.
He also did recording sessions in Tulsa, Oklahoma with former Beach Boy David Marks, but these were never issued.
Marks, Clifford, and Moore reunited in the 1990s and released an album called Work Tapes; he toured as a band with Marks and his two sons until 1997.
After recording in Denmark, another LP, Norse Horse, was issued.
In 1999, Beck sampled an early Clifford tune, “I See, I Am“, in the single “Milk and Honey” for his Midnite Vultures album.
In 2003, the 28-track CD More Than Just Babysittin’: Complete Recordings 1958-1967 was released. The songs are digitally remastered, and some striking differences are apparent, including a fade-out ending on the CD version of Driftwood.
The baby’s voice was done by Curtis Armstrong who went on to star in the Revenge of the Nerds movies.
Video: Live mid-sixties/
1. Close to Cathy/ United Artist 489/ October 1962/ #12
Mike Clifford, (born November 5, 1943), is an American singer, songwriter and actor. He is best known for his 1962 pop hit, “Close To Cathy“, which reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Mike Clifford was born in Los Angeles, California. His father, Cal Clifford, was a professional trumpeter, who took him to many of his engagements. Mike soon developed an interest in music and began taking voice lessons. While in school, Mike began to entertain at school and community functions, and by the age of 15 was performing at local nightclubs in Los Angeles.
After singing for just a short time period, Clifford signed with Liberty Records in 1959. He recorded his first single that year, titled “Should I“. The song was mixed by Mark McIntyre and featured additional vocals from Patience and Prudence and Eddie Cochran on guitar.
Clifford met Helen Noga through an introduction by a friend and she agreed to become his personal manager after hearing him sing. Helen Noga and her husband John managed the career of Johnny Mathis, and were able to get Mike signed to Columbia Records.
Later, after much hard work and rehearsing, Helen Noga brought Mike to meet Ed Sullivan who was so impressed with Mike’s poise and stage presence that he booked him for his TV debut, the first of three appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Mike Clifford’s first taste of success came at age 18 when “Bombay” became a hit in Venezuela. He appeared on the state owned Venevision in his own TV special.
However, Clifford’s recordings for Columbia received little buyer’s attention, and in July 1962, Clifford signed with United Artists Records. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller produced several songs for Clifford, including his biggest hit “Close To Cathy“, written by Earl Shuman and composed by Bob Goodman.
The song reached #12 in September of that year, and stayed there for 2 weeks and remained on the charts for 12 weeks.
On December 29, 1962, “What To Do With Laurie” entered the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at number #67. “One Boy Too Late” entered the Billboard Hot 100 on May 11, 1963 and was to be his last nationally charted record. He subsequently, had several songs that were regional hits in the U.S.A.
He had hit records in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Germany as well as “It Had Better Be Tonight” in Chile, “See You In September” in the Philippines and “How To Murder Your Wife” in Japan.
In 1965, United Artists released Mike Clifford’s debut album For The Love Of Mike which was reviewed and a spotlight pick in the February 13, 1965 issue of Billboard.
Mike appeared in the films Village of the Giants in 1965, Lord Of The Rings in 1978, In the 1978 film Sextette, Mike Clifford sang “Love Will Keep Us Together” with Mae West, while actor Timothy Daltonlip synched the words.
The 60’s and 70’s saw Mike Clifford tour over one hundred cities during 1964 and 1965 with the Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars and perform in Canada, France, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
He did commercials for Black Cow and Slowpoke suckers, Ortho Mattresses and MJB coffee. American International Pictures purchased cartoon films from Japan and had the dialogue and songs translated into English. Mike recorded the Guy Hemeric-produced song “Rose Color Sky” and another song for the soundtracks. They were released to movie theaters and television.
The 1970s also saw Clifford play the dual role of Teen Angel and Johnny Casino in the first national tour of the Broadway musical, Grease that also starred John Travolta.
Clifford recorded the songs “Pretty Little Girl in the Yellow Dress” from the Universal Pictures The Last Sunset in 1961, “Look in Any Window” from the Allied Artists picture Look in Any Window in 1961, “Joanna” from the TV production Peter Gunn in 1961, “At Last” for the United Artist release The Last Time I Saw Archie in 1961, “It Had Better Be Tonight” from the Mirisch-G&E Production The Pink Panther in 1963, “Barbara’s Theme” from the motion picture Diary Of A Bachelor in 1964, “How to Murder Your Wife” and “Here’s To My Lover” from the motion picture How To Murder Your Wife in 1965, “Magic Night” for the movie soundtrack Mondo Hollywood in 1967, “It’s a Dream Away” for the American International Pictures film The Glass Sphinx in 1967, “The Golden Breed” for the Hollywood International Production movie The Golden Breed in 1968, “Mary Jane“, the title song for the American International motion picture Mary Jane in 1968, “You Say Love” for the Trans-American Film Dagmar’s Hot Pants Inc. in 1971, “The Morning After” for the Cinerama-Zenith International Production, and the theme for Necromancy in 1972.
In the early 1970s, Clifford and Lu Ann Simms were called in to record a new version of the Beach Party album music after Frankie and Annette recorded the final versions for the films. Interestingly these recordings were released as Summer Fun by the Columbia House mail order division as a bonus gift.
Mike Clifford continues to have a very successful nightclub and concert career that began on his 18th birthday at the Elegante Club, Brooklyn, New York co-starring with Totie Fields.
He currently tours with his singing partner Sandy Zacky. The two released a collaborative album in 2007, titled Love Is Everything. In 2010, Mike Clifford recorded a brand new mp3 release, “Mack The Knife“, on the Hired Gun Records label.