From Madeline H – Mr. Pop – Hard to believe it was seven years ago. Our daughter was born in 2002 and, since it is the holiday season, could you tell me the top toys that Christmas?

Mr. Pop History – Here goes:
Barbie as Rapunzel
Disney Toddler Princesses
Bratz Fun ‘n’ Glow
Dora the Explorer Dolls
Harry Potter: Basilisk play set
Rescue Heroes
LeapPad Learning System
Spider-Man: Dual Action Web Blaster
Star Wars Light Lightsabers

Leap Pad

From Rich A – When did Vee Jay records finally shut its doors (exact day please?). There seems to be mis-information out there.

Mr. Pop History – Vee Jay Records – Once home to the 4 Seasons and… The Beatles. Long reported to be in trouble financially, the American Federation of Musicians severed its licensing agreement with the label on October 12, 1965 and the very next day, Vee Jay Records – then 11 years old, died.

Vee Jay started out in Chicago, but with all the Beatle activity and a flood of cash, moved to Los Angeles in 1964. Beatle activity? It wasn’t supposed to happen – but it did as this small label was thrust among giants in early 1964. Vee Jay – for all practical purposes, released more than several Beatles records, plus an album (which was re-packaged at least five times). It’s an amazing story – one of my favorite in the colorful world of record labels – and pop culture history.
Vee Jay

From Frank L – Mr. Pop – Can you tell me anything about Colgems Records – the label “born” when the Monkees formed? Thank you.

Mr. Pop History – Originally, it was headed by Don Kirschner, in a three-way corporate parlay with RCA Victor, Columbia Pictures and Screen Gems. Kirschner of course, was fresh off his “Brill Building” success and this would be his second major coming in the biz. His Brill Building partner – Al Nevons, had already passed away by this time – Summer of 1966.

The label was operated much like an independent – with Kirschner working closely with Steve Sholes – an a&r executive with RCA. After the Monkees broke with “Last Train To Clarksville” and “The Monkees” album, Kirschner primarily focused on signing songwriters for the TV quartet. At first, things went great. The single and album were selling lot hot cakes and follow-ups had big advance orders.

As all things must come to an end, it wasn’t long before Don Kirschner was out. It had to do with group dynamics and power plays. You can read that here on the Net, I’m sure.
colgems

From HT – Mr. Pop – The song “For What It’s Worth” by the Buffalo Springfield is about the legendary riots on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Was this a big deal?

Mr. Pop History – It was. But the problem seemed to be ongoing – not just a one or two-shot event. This was back in the fall of 1966 and the Sunset Strip was getting a bad reputation. Real bad. So much of it had to do with the area’s hotbed of music places and how teens were ticked off because they weren’t allowed in some of these places.

And, it had to be worked out by authorities from local businesses, real estate, even a local Reverend. They all came together to call a “truce” in December 1966. And, a lot of the events – rioting and such – were overblown, so a West Hollywood and Sunset News Bureau was set up – just to be sure.
Sunset Strip

From Lee N – Who was the only band ever thrown off the “Tonight” show?

Mr. Pop History – This one’s easy. It was the Australian band “The Vine” back in December of 2002. Why you ask? From the Mr. Pop archives:

Rowdy Australian band – “The Vines” are jettisoned from the Jay Leno “Tonight” Show after lead singer Craig Nichols began trashing the group’s equipment during a sound check, just before the show’s taping. He went into a tantrum – throwing around things – and then they were asked to leave.

vines

From KM – I’m enjoying a Stax Records CD compilation. Could you tell me when the label closed its doors?

Mr. Pop History – Stax was as legendary and influential as Motown – make no mistake. It was an incredible label – giving us hit makers such as Sam & Dave, Staple Singers, Mel & Tim, Booker T & The MG’s and so much more.

Stax went into bankruptcy back in 1976. At its peak, Stax employed more than 200 persons including (around) 60 musicians. The rest you can read on the Net, but this should be a good start. Stax