This week’s song is another in the case of a B side being flipped by a radio DJ to become worldwide smash. Cheryl’s Goin’ Home made no impact at all, but thanks to the drive time DJ on WQAM in Miami, Florida who decided to play the other side, Elusive Butterfly, and that kickstarted Bob Lind’s musical career.
Bob was born in the East coast state of Maryland who began playing with a school friend Jerry Valdez and before long started a band called the Moonlighters. After a year Bob split from Jerry and formed Bob Lind & the Misfits. They began touring coffee houses performing rock ‘n’ roll classics like Bony Moronie, Rip It Up and Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On. During the early 60s Lind turned to folk and gradually moved west.
Bob explained how easy it was for him to get his first recording contract, “I seemed to come to Los Angeles at a time when the music world was ready for me. No patience or persistence necessary. I took a Greyhound bus to L.A. from San Francisco on a Tuesday and the next morning I took a tape of four of my songs in to World Pacific Records (a division of Liberty) and played it for the head of the company, Dick Bock. He played the songs for the suits at Liberty that afternoon, and on Thursday morning there was a recording contract waiting for me.”
Once signed, he was originally teamed with Sonny Bono, but Sonny didn’t have the time to commit so he recommended Jack Nitzsche who had worked with the Rolling Stones and P.J. Proby. “I gladly and happily surrendered all say-so about how the recordings would be done,” remembered Bob, “Two simple reasons: 1) I knew Jack loved my songs as much as I did and would do nothing to ruin them. His heart was in what I was doing. 2) He just happened to be the best arranger in the world and had spent five years learning record production as right-hand man to the best producer in the world, Phil Spector.”
Bob, who wrote Elusive Butterfly as the sun was coming up after staying up all night, saw himself as a butterfly hunter. He is looking for romance, but he finds it as elusive as butterflies are to capture. He says the song is about “The magic of the quest, the thrill of searching, even when that which is sought is hard to see.” What also makes the song unusual is that no two lines rhyme.
The song features Leon Russell on piano and Carol Kaye on bass and Carol remembered the session, “It was at Sunset Sound and it was kind of a boring tune. I think it was D-flat or something and it stays a long time in that chord and then it moves in a funny way to the next chord, it’s like a sidebar phrase or something like that. I missed it and I went to go up to the G-flat or whatever and I missed it and I came right back down. I did a slide up and down. And they stopped and I thought, ‘Uh oh, he caught me.’ He said, ‘Do more of those!’ So the slide was born, then. I’d stick that slide in here and there on the records I cut.”
The parent album’s title borrowed a line from the song to be called Don’t Be Concerned and it featured the track Mister Zero which was covered in the UK by the former Yardbirds frontman Keith Relf as his only solo hit. Elusive Butterfly’s original A side, Cheryl’s Goin’ Home was covered in the UK by Adam Faith becoming his final hit in 1966, but just missed the UK top 40.
A cover version of Elusive butterfly was released by Irish crooner Val Doonican and on week ending 31st March 1966 both versions were back to back in the top ten and amazingly both peaked at number five. Other artists who have covered the song include Cher, Petula Clark, Four Tops, Dolly Parton and Aretha Franklin.
Lind followed up Elusive Butterfly with Remember the Rain which petered out at number 46. He spent the next few years battling drugs and alcohol and by the early 80s was no longer in the spotlight although he did continue to write wistful folk songs. Two decades later he returned, reformed and provided a series of one man shows and radio interviews about his life and career. If you happen to be the USA in the next three months you can catch him at various venues in California, Arizona and Wyoming.