The Stories of 10 People Featured on Historically Bad Album Covers

Bargain bin recording artists are people, too. In the interest of balanced reporting, I hereby submit to you the very human stories behind some of those infamous photos.

1. I LOVE MY LIFE – JIM POST

Ten years before the above album was released, Jim Post had a Top 10 hit with his then-wife, Cathy. Recording as the folk duo Friend and Lover, "Reach Out of the Darkness" became something of an anthem for the flower power movement with its "I think it's so groovy now, that people are finally getting together" chorus.

In recent years, Jim has published a series of successful children's books and also puts that impressive 'stache to good use by touring the country in a one-man show as Mark Twain.

2. JULIE'S SIXTEENTH BIRTHDAY - JOHN BULT

A girl's Sweet Sixteen should be special, but it looks like poor Julie received some bad news instead of a new car. I'm guessing Pop is reassuring her that everything will be OK. "Just tell me the boy's name, and I'll get my shotgun and Ma will rustle up the preacher..."

John Bult hails from Lake Charles, Louisiana, and once performed on the legendary Louisiana Hayride. He's a house painter by trade these days, although he still loves to sing and brings his guitar to crawfish boils to entertain family and friends. By all accounts he's just one all-around good ol' devoted family guy (he and his long-time wife, an Extension Agent with Louisiana State University, have two grown children, and neither one is named "Julie") who has a million stories to tell and will do so with minimal prompting.

3. LIVE AT THE OPEN FACE SANDWICH CLUB – EDDIE MACK

Eddie Mack has a bona fide show business pedigree; his father was Charlie Mack, one half of the very successful vaudevillian comedy team "Moran and Mack, the Two Black Crows." (Yes, it was a blackface act, but in the 1920s that sort of thing still passed as entertainment.) When Eddie was four years old he was standing backstage one afternoon during auditions for a Broadway show. A man ambled up behind him, placed his hands on young Eddie's shoulders, and asked Charlie, "So, who is this brat?" Eddie was offended by the "brat" remark and kicked the man, who happened to be W.C. Fields, in the shin. As a result, even when Eddie was approaching adulthood, W.C. Fields always referred to him as "Charlie Mack's Brat."

Eddie grew up to be a talented pianist, singer, and actor. He was married and divorced six times. (The beauty perched on the piano was married to him for a brief period – Eddie was old-fashioned and didn't believe in "shacking up.") In 1969 he was on stage in Toronto as a member of the touring company of There's a Girl in My Soup (starring Don Ameche) when his throat started hemorrhaging during a song. He was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with throat cancer. Greasepaint was in his blood, though, so even though he couldn't speak while recuperating from surgery and radiation, he got a job leading the orchestra on a cruise ship and communicated with the musicians via gestures and a Magic Slate.

4. PUSH PUSH - HERBIE MANN

A sweaty, nude man holding a flute (the classic phallic instrument) on the cover of a record entitled Push Push... You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out that this is, as NPR's Jazz Profiles described it in Mr. Mann's obituary, a "sexually charged album." When Mann was a youngster growing up in 1930s Brooklyn, he loved rhythm and wanted to be a drummer. Drum kits were (and still are) expensive, so his mother bought him a clarinet instead. He developed an interest in jazz and learned to play several other instruments, finally settling on the flute because there was a surplus of clarinet and saxophone players vying for the limited amount of openings in professional jazz bands. Mann was known in the music industry for always being at least one step ahead of the current trend. He traveled the globe in search of inspiration and released a series of albums that were influenced by Afro-Cuban rhythms, Yiddish music, Brazilian bossa nova, and straight-ahead R&B. Sadly, Mann lost his battle with prostate cancer in 2003.

5. BY REQUEST ONLY - KEN

There are certain times when one feels a twinge of guilt for poking fun at some anonymous unsuspecting mook on the internet. One of those times is when said mook is found to be alive and well and aware of his infamy. Such is the case with Ken Snyder, a devout Christian (currently living in Iowa) who once upon a time found that he was best able to express his faith via song. Ken traveled the country, performing his original tunes and spreading The Word. So many people asked for a recording of his songs that he went into a South Carolina studio in 1976 and cut By Request Only. The album wasn't originally available in record stores; he carried them in his car and fans had to purchase them directly from Ken after his shows (he, that's how MC Hammer got his start!).

When Ken was contacted by a curious album owner a few years ago, he admitted that he knew he'd been voted "worst album cover" some place on the internet, but he was truly taken aback at just how many web pages had picked up on the Ken meme. And he was downright dumbfounded to learn that a copy of By Request Only had sold for $135.50 on eBay in 2007.

(In the more recent photo at left, Ken is on the far right.)

6. SOMETHING SPECIAL - JEFF STEINBERG

Something Special was released in 1974, a time when folks with disabilities were more often described as "crippled" rather than as a person with "special needs." Jeff Steinberg was born with no arms and malformed legs. He spent most of his childhood first at a Shriner's Hospital and then at The Good Shepherd Home for the Physically Handicapped. His birth mother was Jewish, but Steinberg converted to Christianity after being fostered by a local Christian couple. The "Tiny Giant" (he stands 4'6") and his wife travel the world ministering through humor, scripture, and song, urging people to "Quit focusing on the handicap and start appreciating the Gift."

7. REBORN - ORION

Once upon a time, Georgia-based writer Gail Brewer-Giorgio concocted a story about a popular Southern rock and roll singer named Orion Eckley Darnell. Orion became so famous that his fans referred to him as "The King." Sadly, Orion eventually felt trapped by his success and staged his own death, complete with a wax figure in his likeness and an elaborate funeral. Elvis Presley died in August 1977 and shortly afterward Brewer-Giorgio's story was published. It didn't take fans and conspiracy theorists very long to decide that she was telling the true story of the King, and that the real Elvis was alive somewhere. A producer named Shelby Singleton sensed the opportunity and found a singer named Jimmy Ellis whose voice and style were nearly identical to Presley. Singleton dyed Ellis' hair black and had him grow some sideburns, but there was no hiding the fact that his face didn't look anything like Elvis'. Shelby had a brainstorm – have Ellis perform while wearing a mask. Not only that, but have him perform under the name "Orion," just like the guy in that book.

Ellis wasn't wild about having to perform incognito, but he went along with it and achieved an amazing level of success, considering his whole career was based on keeping fans guessing as to whether or not he was really Elvis Presley. His voice was so similar to Presley's that RCA almost sued Singleton; they thought he'd unearthed some pirated unreleased Elvis tracks. Orion recorded nine albums in three years and played to sold-out crowds in medium-sized venues. His career ended just that quickly, though, when he ripped off his mask onstage in a fit of anger during a performance in 1981.

A tragic postscript to the Orion story: Jimmy Ellis and his wife were shot to death in 1998 when the pawn shop they owned was robbed by armed bandits.

8. JOYCE

Joyce Drake is a devout Christian woman who lives in Sealy, Texas. Her father, the late Reverend Billy Yeats, was an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God for 60 years during which time he pastored at seven different churches. Likewise, Joyce's husband Clyde was a long-time pastor at the First Assembly of God Church, where Joyce often played piano and sang during his services. It is unclear whether Rev. Clyde is still preaching regular Sunday worship, but the Sealy-area obituaries indicate that he's been in high demand as an officiant for local funeral services in recent years. As for Joyce, well, I did find a telephone number for her but I couldn't bring myself to interrupt her while she's probably busy delivering Meals on Wheels and reading to the blind just to quiz her about an unflattering album cover photo.

9. POR PRIMERA VEZ (FOR THE FIRST TIME)– TINO

Constantino Fernández Fernández, known to his fans as Tino, was one of many hopefuls who answered a 1979 ad in a Barcelona newspaper looking for pre-teens to be part of a pop group that Belter Records was assembling. Tino made the final cut and became the "red" member of Parchís; the band's name meant "Parcheesi" in Spanish and each member was assigned a different color to represent the tokens in the traditional board game. Parchís was very successful in Spain for two years (one of their biggest hits was a Spanish rendition of the Village People's "In the Navy") but by 1983 they were overshadowed by Latin-American boy band sensation Menudo. Tino left the group that same year at age 16 and launched a short-lived solo career aimed at capitalizing on his heartthrob status. Sadly, he later lost that provocatively positioned left arm in an automobile accident while driving in Buenos Aires.

10. LIEBE MUTTER (DEAR MOTHER) ... - HEINO

"A Bouquet That Never Wilts" is German singer Heino's personal Valentine to dear ol' Mom. The cover photo just radiates familial affection, doesn't it? You can almost hear his mother murmuring, "Heino, my son, you are beautiful and angular and you make my uterus implode with affection" as she cuddles him.

Heino was born Heinz Georg Kramm in Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1938. When he was 10 years old his mother got him an accordion for Christmas, though the family could ill afford such an expense. Five years later he formed a musical trio with two friends and got a regular gig playing at a local bakery. Eventually, in between playing for pumpernickel, the group gained notice when they took the top prize at the Oberbilker Markt hometown festival and they secured both a manager and a record deal. Critics described Heino's style as "folk music with a Beatles beat;" that may have been stretching the truth a bit, but he did have a certain appeal that inspired lumberjacks. Heino has sold more than 50 million albums over the course of his career and he's still performing today, with his basso cantante voice and platinum hair both intact.

Disney's Most Magical Destinations Have Been Reimagined as Vintage Travel Posters

UpgradedPoints.com
UpgradedPoints.com

Many of the iconic settings of animated Disney movies were modeled after real places around the world. Ussé Castle in France’s Loire Valley, for example, is widely rumored to have been the inspiration behind the original Sleeping Beauty story. (Although the castle in the movie more closely resembles Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle.) Likewise, the fictional island in Moana was made to look like Samoa, and the Sultan’s palace in Aladdin shares some similarities with India's Taj Mahal.

If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring Agrabah or Neverland, then you’ll probably enjoy getting lost in these Disney-inspired travel posters from the designers at UpgradedPoints.com, an online resource that helps individuals maximize their credit card travel rewards. Only one of the posters features a real destination ("Beautiful France"), but these illustrations let you get one step closer to scaling Pride Rock or plumbing the depths of Atlantica.

All of the images are rendered in a vintage style with enticing slogans attached—much like the exotic travel posters that were prevalent in the 1930s.

“A few of our designers wanted to capture that longing to experience the true locations of these fantastic films, and the inner child in all of us couldn’t resist seeing how they interpreted the locations of their favorite films,” UpgradedPoints.com writes. “The results are breathtaking and make us wish we could fall into our favorite Disney movies.”

Keep scrolling to see the posters, and for more travel inspiration, read up on eight real-life locations that inspired Disney places (plus one that didn't).

A Disney-inspired poster of France
UpgradedPoints.com

An Atlantica travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Disney-inspired poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Disney-inspired poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Lion King travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Neverland travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

11 Memorable Facts About Cats the Musical

Mike Clarke/Getty Images
Mike Clarke/Getty Images

“It was better than Cats!” Decades after Andrew Lloyd Webber's famed musical opened on Broadway on October 7, 1982, this tongue-in-cheek idiom remains a part of our lexicon (thanks to Saturday Night Live). Although the feline extravaganza divided the critics, it won over audiences of all ages and became an industry juggernaut—one that single-handedly generated more than $3 billion for New York City's economy—and that was before it made a return to the Great White Way in 2016. In honor of Andrew Lloyd Webber's birthday on March 22, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

1. The work that Cats the musical is based on was originally going to include dogs.

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, published in 1939, is a collection of feline-themed poems written by the great T. S. Eliot. A whimsical, lighthearted effort, the volume has been delighting cat fanciers for generations—and it could have become just as big of a hit with dog lovers, too. At first, Eliot envisioned the book as an assemblage of canine- and tabby-related poems. However, he came to believe that “dogs don’t seem to lend themselves to verse quite so well, collectively, as cats.” (Spoken like a true ailurophile.) According to his publisher, Eliot decided that “it would be improper to wrap [felines] up with dogs” and barely even mentioned them in the finished product.

For his part, Andrew Lloyd Webber has described his attitude towards cats as “quite neutral.” Still, the composer felt that Eliot’s rhymes could form the basis of a daring, West End-worthy soundtrack. It seemed like an irresistible challenge. “I wanted to set that exciting verse to music,” he explained. “When I [had] written with lyricists in the past … the lyrics have been written to the music. So I was intrigued to see whether I could write a complete piece the other way ‘round.”

2. "Memory" was inspired by a poem that T.S. Eliot never finished.

In 1980, Webber approached T.S. Eliot’s widow, Valerie, to ask for her blessing on the project. She not only said “yes,” but provided the songwriter with some helpful notes and letters that her husband had written about Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats—including a half-finished, eight-line poem called “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat.” Feeling that it was too melancholy for children, Eliot decided to omit the piece from Practical Cats. But the dramatic power of the poem made it irresistible for Webber and Trevor Nunn, the show’s original director. By combining lines from “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat” with those of another Eliot poem, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” they laid the foundation for what became the powerful ballad “Memory.” A smash hit within a smash hit, this showstopper has been covered by such icons as Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow.

3. Dame Judi Dench left the cast of Cats when her Achilles tendon snapped.

One of Britain’s most esteemed actresses, Dench was brought in to play Grizabella for Cats’s original run on the West End. Then, about three weeks into rehearsals, she was going through a scene with co-star Wayne Sleep (Mr. Mistoffelees) when disaster struck. “She went, ‘You kicked me!’” Sleep recalls in the above video. “And I said, ‘I didn’t, actually, are you alright?’” She wasn’t. Somehow, Dench had managed to tear her Achilles tendon. As a last-minute replacement, Elaine Paige of Evita fame was brought aboard. In an eerie coincidence, Paige had heard a recorded version of “Memory” on a local radio station less than 24 hours before she was asked to play Grizabella. Also, an actual black cat had crossed her path that day. Spooky.

4. To finance the show, Andrew Lloyd Webber ended up mortgaging his house.

Although Andrew Lloyd Webber had previously won great acclaim as one of the creative minds behind Jesus Christ Superstar and other hit shows, Cats had a hard time finding investors. According to choreographer Gillian Lynne, “[it] was very, very difficult to finance because everyone said ‘A show about cats? You must be raving mad.’” In fact, the musical fell so far short of its fundraising goals that Webber ended up taking out a second mortgage on his home to help get Cats the musical off the ground.

5. When Cats the musical came to Broadway, its venue got a huge makeover.

Cats made its West End debut on May 11, 1981. Seventeen months later, a Broadway production of the musical launched what was to become an 18-year run at the Winter Garden Theatre. But before the show could open, some major adjustments had to be made to the venue. Cats came with an enormous, sprawling set which was far too large for the theatre’s available performing space. To make some more room, the stage had to be expanded. Consequently, several rows of orchestra seats were removed, along with the Winter Garden’s proscenium arch. And that was just the beginning. For Grizabella’s climactic ascent into the Heaviside Layer on a giant, levitating tire, the crew installed a hydraulic lift in the orchestra pit and carved a massive hole through the auditorium ceiling. Finally, the theater’s walls were painted black to set the proper mood. After Cats closed in 2000, the original look of the Winter Garden was painstakingly restored—at a cost of $8 million.

6. Cats the musical set longevity records on both sides of the Atlantic.

The original London production took its final bow on May 11, 2002, exactly 21 years after the show had opened—which, at the time, made Cats the longest-running musical in the West End’s history. (It would lose that title to Les Miserables in 2006.) Across the pond, the show was performed at the Winter Garden for the 6138th time on June 19, 1997, putting Cats ahead of A Chorus Line as the longest-running show on Broadway. To celebrate, a massive outdoor celebration was held between 50th and 51st streets, complete with a laser light show and an exclusive after-party for Cats alums.

7. One theatergoer sued the show for $6 million.

Like Hair, Cats involves a lot of performer-audience interaction. See it live, and you might just spot a leotard-clad actor licking himself near your seat before the curtain goes up. In some productions, the character Rum Tum Tugger even rushes out into the crowd and finds an unsuspecting patron to dance with. At a Broadway performance on January 30, 1996, Tugger was played by stage veteran David Hibbard. That night, he singled out one Evelyn Amato as his would-be dance partner. Mildly put, she did not appreciate his antics. Alleging that Hibbard had gyrated his pelvis in her face, Amato sued the musical and its creative team for $6 million.

8. Thanks to Cats the musical, T.S. Eliot received a posthumous Tony.

Because most of the songs in Cats are almost verbatim recitations of Eliot’s poems, he’s regarded as its primary lyricist—even though he died in 1965, long before the show was conceived. Still, Eliot’s contributions earned him a 1983 Tony for Best Book of a Musical. A visibly moved Valerie Eliot took the stage to accept this prize on her late spouse’s behalf. “Tonight’s honor would have given my husband particular pleasure because he loved the theatre,” she told the crowd. Eliot also shared the Best Original Score Tony with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

9. The original Broadway production used more than 3000 pounds of yak hair.

Major productions of Cats use meticulously crafted yak hair wigs, which currently cost around $2300 apiece and can take 40 hours or more to produce. Adding to the expense is the fact that costumers can’t just recycle an old wig after some performer gets recast. “Each wig is made specifically for the actor,” explains wigmaker Hannah McGregor in the above video. Since people tend to have differently shaped heads, precise measurements are taken of every cast member’s skull before he or she is fitted with a new head of hair. “[Their wigs] have to fit them perfectly,” McGregor adds, “because of the amount of jumping and skipping they do as cats.” Perhaps it should come as no surprise that, over its 18-year run, the first Broadway production used 3247 pounds of yak hair. (In comparison, the heaviest actual yaks only weigh around 2200 pounds.)

10. A recent revival included hip hop.

In December 2014, Cats returned to the West End with an all-new cast and music. “The Rum Tum Tugger,” a popular Act I song, was reimagined as a hip hop number. “I’ve come to the conclusion, having read [Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats] again, that maybe Eliot was the inventor of rap,” Webber told the press.

11. Another revival featured an internet-famous feline for one night only.

On September 30, Grumpy Cat made her Broadway debut in Cats, briefly taking the stage with the cast. Despite being named Honorary Jellicle Cat, she hated every minute of it.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER