#686: Why by The Chartbusters
The Chartbusters were the house band at the Crazy Horse in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C. Vernon Sandusky, a guitarist and vocalist, was the frontman for the band. He had previously been in a Coffeyville, Kansas rockabilly group named Bobby Poe and the Poe-Kats. The Poe-Kats had been on tour with country star Wanda Jackson. In fact, Bobby Poe and the Poe-Kats were Wanda Jackson’s backing band and can be heard on a number of her recordings in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The Chartbusters formed in 1963. Other members of the band included guitar player and backing vocalist Vince Gedeon, bass player and backing vocalist Johnny Dubas, and drummer Mitch Corday. Bobby Poe, of the same group ended up being the manager of the Chartbusters. As an American band trying to start making records at the beginning of the British Invasion, the Chartbusters chose to imitate the Beatles sound.
In 1964, The Chartbusters released “She’s the One” which climbed to #33 on the Billboard charts that August. The song didn’t make the CFUN chart. Though it was didn’t climb high in the Top 40, the song sold over 750,000 records. The Chartbuster’s follow up single, “Why”, only reached #92 in the USA. However, it was a Top Ten hit in Vancouver, peaking a #8.
“Why” is a song about a couple who just don’t get along. The singer wonders why his girl doesn’t love him like she used to do. On the one hand since she has broken his heart, he threatens to break her heart in return. On the other hand he advises they should forget the past and make their love last.
Bobby Poe’s son, Bobby Poe Jr. was just entering Grade Seven in September 1964. He remembers his role is choosing “Why” as the A-side of the single. “In those days singles followed each other pretty quickly, with 3 or 4 months being most singles’ average lifetime. Figuring that I was the age of the typical music fan, my dad came to me and played both sides of the band’s new single. First he played the side everyone was leaning towards, a Big Al Downing composition entitled “Stop The Music”. Then he played the other side, a tune written by lead vocalist/lead guitarist Vernon Sandusky called “Why (Doncha Be My Girl)”. I immediately chose “Why”. I loved the harmonies and the brisk pace of the song and I was thrilled to have a hand in the selection of the next A-side.”
Vernon Sandusky wrote or co-wrote most of the bands music. And “Why” was one of his compositions. “Why” had few notable chart runs, but it made #4 in Detroit and #5 in Boston.
The Chartbusters toured nationally and shared billing with numbers of recording artists including The Animals, The Beach Boys, Dino, Desi & Billy, Herman’s Hermits, Jan & Dean, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Johnny Rivers and The Yardbirds. The band appeared on American Bandstand in 1964 with Dick Clark. They released a third single, “You’re Breaking My Heart”, which sounded a lot like The Searchers. But it was a commercial failure. The band switched from Mutual Records to Crusader Records and released a cover of the old Gary U.S. Bonds hit from 1960, “New Orleans”. Their cover stalled at #134, well below the Billboard Hot 100.
The band’s membership went through quite a few changes in their short time before they broke up in 1968. But before they broke Vernon Sandusky and Mitch Corday got together with Vernon’s old bandmate, Bobby Poe, in a business venture. Poe remembers 1968 started out badly: “In 1968, Vernon Sandusky, Mitch Corday and I were arrested on three different charges in a span of two weeks! In December 1967, we figured Coffee Houses were becoming the hip thing in the nightclub business, with Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and other folk acts selling out these small to medium sized venues with ease. Vernon, Mitch, and I decided to lease a beautiful nightclub right across the street from our offices. The owner of the building had lost his liquor license and was looking for someone else to lease the club. We jumped at the chance, but could only pull off the deal if the club owner took a post-dated check for $10,000 and would hold the check for two months. That would give us time to set up the club as a Coffee House and get some money coming in. The owner agreed and we took possession of the building in January of 1968. Two weeks later the building burned down. Vernon, Mitch, and I found ourselves immediately arrested and put in jail. But when we went before the pre-trial judge, our attorney told the judge we had no motive to burn the building as we had not even moved in yet and had no insurance. Case dismissed!”
This was to be the first of three encounters with the law in quick succession. Wishing 48 hours the trio were in front of a District Attorney Two for a “$10,000 bad check.” When the fire happened, Bobby Poe thought something was fishy. So he arranged to stop payment on the post-dated check. Poe told the District Attorney it was “not a bounced check, but a stop payment. Case dismissed!”
As though Murphy’s Law was in effect, seven days later, the three got arrested, this time for Grand Theft Auto. On his Poe Kat blog, Bobby Poe recalls that the club’s owner got an “Attachment Before Judgment and had the United States Marshals’ Office haul away our three automobiles.” As Sandusky, Corday and Poe each had personal items in the vehicles, they were given a “pass to get personal belongings from our automobiles and The Marshals’ Office mistakenly gave us releases for our cars. When we went to the impoundment lot, they gave us back our automobiles provided we paid a fee of $35 each for towing. We then took off and drove our cars home. The next day we were arrested for stealing property from the Marshals’ impoundment center. We went before the judge, who asked the D.A. how can they be arrested for stealing their own cars? The D.A. said we stole them from the Marshals’ impoundment center. We showed the Judge that we had paid $35 each for the release of our cars and did not steal them. Case dismissed!”
It later turned out that the owner of the club had committed arson and was arrested and sent to prison for five years. However, this left the Chartbusters manager, Bobby Poe, and Chartbusters bandmates Vernon Sandusky and Mitch Corday, broke and disillusioned with the music industry.
Vernon Sandusky left The Chartbusters and ended up being part of the band backing county music star, Roy Clark, for twenty-two years. Vernon Sandusky was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame in 2010. Sandusky was also inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame in 2009 as a member Bobby Poe and the Poe-Kats. The Chartbusters manager, Bobby Poe, went on to found the music industry publication Pop Music Survey. From 1972 to 1996, Bobby Poe presented 25 annual “Pop Music Survey” Radio/Record Conventions. Poe died in January 2011.
August 31, 2018
One-hit Wonders The Chartbusters, Mental Itch.com
Out Now! “The London American Label Year By Year – 1964”, The Chartbusters.blogspot.com
I’m the Poe Kaaat! Bobby Poe’s Memories of his Early Days in the Music Business, Poe Kat.blogspot, September 2009
Class in Session: Kansas Music Hall of Fame Honors Latest Crop of Inductees, Lawrence Journal-World, Lawrence, Kansas, March 6, 2009
Bobby Poe and the Poe-Kats, Rockabilly Bash.com, May 22, 2011
Local Musicians Honored, Osage County Herald-Chronicle, Lawrence, Kansas, March 11, 2010
Bobby Poe Jr., Pop Music Through The Ages, Bobby Poe.blogspot
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