#1403: Summer Souvenirs by Karl Hammel Jr.

Peak Month: September 1961
6 weeks on CFUN chart
Peak Position #13
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #68
CFUN Twin Pick ~ August 19, 1961
YouTube.com link: “Summer Souvenirs

Karl Hammel, Jr. was born and raised in New Rochelle, New York. He was a contestant winner on the Original Amateur Hour hosted by Ted Mack. This CBS show was actually a half hour show, except for the 1956-57 season. The format was almost always the same. At the beginning of the show, the talent’s order of appearance was determined by spinning a wheel. As the wheel spun, the words “Round and round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows” were always intoned. Various acts: singers, musicians, jugglers, tap dancers, baton twirlers, and the like, would perform, with the audience being asked to vote for their favorites by postcard or telephone. The telephone number JUdson 6-7000 was on a banner at the bottom of the screen for viewers to call.

As the Original Amateur Hour gained markets outside New York, Mack would give the address  ~ Box 191 Radio City Station ~ where viewers could send their postcards. Mack did this after every act. Given the efficiency of the postal service, postcards were tabulated the following week and the winners were invited to appear on the next week’s show. Three-time winners were eligible for the annual championship, with the grand-prize winner receiving a $2000 scholarship. Aside from Karl Hammel Jr., other notable Original Amateur Hour winners include Gladys Knight, Pat Boone, Raul Julia, Teresa Brewer and Irene Cara. The Original Amateur Hour was a template for later shows including The Gong Show and American Idol.

After winning on the Original Amateur Hour, Karl Hammel Jr. became part of a trio called Karl and the K-Men, which was absorbed into a group out of Yonkers, New York, called Kevin And the Rocking Saints. In 1960 and were joined by a fourth member who played sax.

The group was then approached by Jim Krondes, a successful song writer, who wanted to write and record an instrumental for the group, which was done in 1961. The song “Bounty Hunter” was released in the spring of 1961 and was a moderate hit. But not for Kevin and the Rockin’ Saints. Instead, it was covered by The Nomads who got onto Top 50 radio in Philadelphia, New York, San Antonio and Tucson. Still, the Rockin’ Saints went on college fraternity circuit because of the exposure it received from the record. Shortly after, Karl Hammel Jr. left the group that year to pursue a solo career. The Rockin’ Saints played into the late 60’s before they disbanded.

Karl Hammel Jr. had his first solo release in the summer of 1961 called “Summer Souvenirs”. The nostalgic song recalls a summer romance that included building castles on secluded beaches, climbing hills, picnics and rides at Playland and saying a last goodbye at a train station at summers’ end. There must have been quite a few people looking in the rearview mirror of romances past in Vancouver, as the song struck a chord.

Summer Souvenirs by Karl Hammel Jr.

The castles we built on secluded beaches,
(These are my summer souvenirs)
the hills that we climbed like mountain ewes,
(These are my summer souvenirs)
the magic of moments we spent together,
these memories are summer souvenirs.

The picture of you sitting by the fire,
(These are my summer souvenirs)
the times that I kissed away your tears,
(These are my summer souvenirs)
the picnics and rides that we took at Playland,
these memories are summer souvenirs.

The last words of love whispered at the station,
(These are my summer souvenirs)
I’ll hear them forever through the years.
(These are my summer souvenirs)
the train as it left me alone without you,
these memories are summer souvenirs.
These memories are golden souvenirs.

Hammel mentions Playland in the lyric, a regionally-famous amusement park in Rye, New York, close to New Rochelle, where both Hammel and DJ Paul Payton grew up. Since Vancouver also had a fun park at the Pacific National Exhibition called Playland, that might have been a factor in CFUN deejays decision to play list this song.

The Playland Amusement Park open at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in 1910. It was renamed “Happy Land” in 1926, but reverted back to its original name in 1958. In the 1958 Playland opened a new ride – a wooden roller coaster, the oldest in Canada. In 2019 in a Wooden Coaster Poll, Playland’s roller coaster was rated the twelfth best wooden roller coaster in the world.

Summer Souvenirs by Karl Hammel Jr.

The song lyrics also mention building sandcastles on secluded beaches. Sand castles go back to the early part of the 19th Century, as seen in a book from 1838 titled Conversation of a Father with His Children. In the book a child asks to build a sand castle, a term parents and children reading the book would have been expected to be familiar with. Sand castles were first mentioned in the English-speaking press in the Banffshire Journal and General Advertiser on July 8, 1856. The Scottish paper, writing about children’s summer activities noted “the contrast between the puny, precocious child, straining over its books on the crowded benches of a city school, and the chubby frolicsome boy or girl building castles on the sand, or ‘castles the air’ at the sea side is very marked.” In the following decades communities held sand castle competitions in both Europe and North America.

In “Summer Souvenirs” the building of sand castles foreshadows the relationship. When a sand castle is built it lasts until high tide when it is washed away. In the song, the sweethearts are separated as they say goodbye when one departs on a train. Like the sand castle that, much as they enjoy building it together, will wash away – the relationship comes to an end, even as he has memories of kissing away her tears.

The song was co-written by Paul Evans. In 1959, Paul Evans was a singer who had a Top Ten his titled “Seven Little Girls Sitting in The Back Seat”. Evans also penned “When” for the Kalin Twins in 1958, and “Roses Are Red” for Bobby Vinton in 1962. The other songwriter for “Summer Souvenirs” was Jim Krondes who wrote a 1958 Top Ten hit called “The End” for Earl Grant. According to Billboard Magazine, Krondes went on to become an executive with Sunbeam Music and Valando Music in 1972. “Summer Souvenirs” went to #14 (Toronto), #16 (Boston), and #17 (Charleston, West Virgina). But it was in Vancouver the song peaked the highest in North America at #13.

Karl Hammel Jr. had a follow up single in 1961, written by Jimmy Krondes, was called “Sittin’ Alphabetic’ly”. It missed the Billboard Hot 100. Hammel Jr’s third release was “I’m Joining The Navy”, was a Top 30 hit in Springfield, Massachusetts, in December 1962. The song was a riff on the tenuousness of a young dating relationship. With “Summer Souvenirs” the relationship lasts just for a summer, while “I’m Joining the Navy” risks putting career before relationship in the hopes that his sweetheart will keep a candle burning only for him.  His fourth and final release was in 1963 called “Drop Me A Line”, encouraging a potential girlfriend to indicate if she wants to be his.

While some online articles mention “Karl became a first-rate session drummer who has played on many sessions for Neil Young, amongst others,” this appears to not be Karl Hammel Jr. The person who played drums on several tracks on the various albums by Neil Young between 1977 and 1985: American Stars ‘n Bars, Comes A Time, Rust Never Sleeps, Everybody’s Rockin’ and Old Ways was the similarly named Karl T. Himmel. Like some of the other recording artists on this countdown on vancouversignaturesounds.com, Karl Hammel Jr. became a disappearing one-hit wonder.

March 18, 2017
Ray McGinnis

Craig, Karl Hammel Jr., Pop Bop Rock Til U Drop, January 30, 2015
Executive Turntable,” Billboard, July 29, 1972.
Paul Evans Bio, Paul Evans.com.
Elana Shepert, “Playland’s iconic wooden roller coaster named one of the best in the world,” Vancouverisawesome.com, January 7, 2019.
PNE: History & Legacy… History of Playland,” pne.ca.
When was the first sand castle built at the seaside?,” HistoryHouse.co.uk.
C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, September 16, 1961.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

2 responses to “Summer Souvenirs by Karl Hammel Jr.”

  1. Charlie De Cosa says:

    My dad, Dan De Cosa, was the sax player who joined Kevin and the Rockin Saints and went on to record with the Nomads. In fact, he recently gave me some recordings of Kevin and the Rockin Saints.

  2. Love your write-ups!

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