Sunday, December 15, 2013

"American Memories" by Shamus M'Cool

Song#:  0656
Date:  07/04/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  80
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Shamus M'Cool was the stage name of stand-up comedian Richard Doyle. M'Cool was also a musician and songwriter who had a small holiday chart hit in 1973 with "Santa's Little Helper, Dingo." With a style that leaned toward country, M'Cool wrote this nostalgic song and had it printed on his own Perception label. It spent a few short weeks on the chart and dropped off. However, the actual 45 and lore around it has lived on far past its minor chart history. So why am I giving this low-rated song a Spotlight? Because of it's interesting history (see below).

ReduxReview:  I really don't care for songs like this. You know - fondly (or not so fondly) remembering past times and events and wrapping it all up in an American flag complete with Velveeta music. Yeah, there have been hard times and good times and America rocks, but I just don't need it blathered to me in a song. At an old job, I used to get demo tapes and there were several that sounded just like this. They would usually surface when the country was going through some difficult political times and many focused on how great everything was back in the day but that we are now on the road to hell. At least this one doesn't go that far. On rare occasions this theme can be effective if done well. Unfortunately, I don't think this is one of them.

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  This record has an interesting history and I'll see if I can sum it up succinctly. M'Cool wrote and recorded this tune and got it pressed to a 45 with the b-side being "American Humor," which was 6 minutes of his stand-up show. The story goes that perhaps as little as ten 45s were printed and M'Cool delivered these to major market radio stations, especially around L.A., to get airplay. He thought for sure the song would be a hit. There were program directors who did put the song on their playlists (part of chart methodology then) and it allowed the song to reach the chart without ever selling a single copy in a store (since none were made for retail distribution). Unfortunately, the PD's either went on vacation or other things happened and the support they provided for the single quickly disappeared, as did the song. This all might have ended there except for two factors - it was on the Billboard chart and barely any copies exist. For record collectors, this makes the item an elusive treasure. It doesn't even have to be a good song. Just the fact it was a chart single and is very rare is lure enough. And indeed it has been a highly sought after item. Apparently, one went up for auction on eBay a few years ago and it fetched $2,000. And even though you can hear the song on various sites (like above), it's the actual physical item that is still highly collectable. It has been said that M'Cool was very upset about what happened (or didn't happen) with his song and it was a bitter subject. Unfortunately M'Cool never really got to see all the interest his wanna-be hit single finally generated as he died in 1990. So if you are ever looking through old 45 record bins, remember this title!



  1. Count me in as owning one of the 10 copies - and yes, that's more or less the story of Shamus M'Cool as I know it. Most people seem to think it's one of Joel Whitburn's famous plants in the Top 100 book but it's not. It exists. As does a full page ad in Billboard magazine. I also own the original contract Shamus signed to be on the Mike Douglass show. I suppose that means I probably own more from Shamus M'cool than anyone other than family members. :) And yes, it's a dreadful tune.

    1. That is awesome that you have the record and other artifacts! And because the song stank, it makes that stuff all the better. Had it been a simple, okay, middling chart thing, no one would have cared. But it kind of became legendary. One of the decade's worst, yet most fascinating songs.

    2. Seamus McCool. Real name Richard “dicky” Doyle. Was my uncle my mother‘s brother. I was just telling my daughters about him and decided to do a quick Google search on him and Im happy to see that his memory lives on!

    3. What issue of Billboard features the full-page ad?

    4. The full page add is in the July 25, 1981, edition on page 11. Then later in the December 12th issue on page 9 there is a smaller "thank you" ad from the record label.

  2. Oh - mr. Nephew of Shamus? Any chance you could verify some of the validity of the story? How many copies were made? How did this record actually end up charting? Is the story as is, correct? This may be the closest anyone has come to knowing the full truth!