Thanks to the Dean Martin Association for this Swingin' Song Story!
How We Got Dean Martin's "Gentle On My Mind" To The Top of the Charts
When Dean Martin sent copies of his new album Gentle On My Mind to us in November 1968, DMA co-founder Bernard H Thorpe naturally played this collection of songs more than a few times, being quite taken aback at the astounding version of John Hartford's song used for the title.
In Bernard's opinion, it was a far superior version by Dino than he had ever heard by any artist previously, and was absolutely convinced it would make a single in the UK (and sell very well). Hearing it from the perspective of a radio listener, Bernard felt the cover of the Glen Campbell classic would immediately catch the ear and did his utmost to convince Pye Records (who were licensees for Reprise in the UK at that time). Pye quite rightly insisted that Dino was absolutely not a singles seller outside of the US. Dino's complete and utter lack of recent UK chart entry let alone dwindling UK success we really couldn't argue with.
However, this didn't stop us from banging on their doors until they reluctantly agreed to Bernard's ridiculously unwarranted demands.
Naturally, the unique way that record companies operate, we were told that we were biased in our opinions and attitude towards Dino in general. But Bernard had this very strong feeling in his heart that if this song could be released as a single here, it would get into the UK charts.
But Pye Records weren't budging (to be honest, why would they?) yet Bernard was determined, being told numerous times that Dino was predominantly and foremost an album seller, a comment we did find strange when we reminded them of the many US singles that had become big sellers.
It took many weeks of negotiation and persuasion with Pye Records who, in turn, had to consult with Dino's office before we won our battle on this suggestion. We were not concerned with the flip-side of the single. It was the fact that Bernard was 100% sure that "Gentle On My Mind" itself could and would make it as a single.
Finally, Pye Records announced that the single "Gentle On My Mind"/"That Old Time Feelin'" (RS23343-K14046) would be issued on 24th January 1969 and, without writing several pages just on this subject, with the work and excitement that this caused, the record actually reached number 2 in the UK charts 1st March 1969 and stayed there for two weeks. Even though we had faith in the song, we had to admit even we were astounded!
Moving down after a fortnight, it stayed in the charts for a total of 23 weeks in the UK. Bernard asked Dino to make some personal appearances in the UK as a promotional tool, but he declined, saying could not find the time in his very busy schedule. Whether he would have actually come over had he got the time is something we'll never know (but it would have been highly unlikely, knowing his extreme aversion to flying).
The BBC's weekly music show Top Of The Pops usually had the artists perform live in the studio (albeit miming on some occasions to whatever chart single they were pushing) but for "Gentle On My Mind" they showed various photographs of Dino on screen whilst the record was playing and sales (plus our membership) gained a tremendous boost for this year, with our being almost unable to cope with the sacks of mail we were getting.
Reprise in Hollywood was just as amazed as Pye, so they also released it, as R20812, with the flip-side being "That's When I See The Blues". Conversely, Bernard had also forecast that it wouldn't fare well as a single in the US and, unsurprisingly, it did not gain any chart entries, achieving only reasonable sales.
Pye Records meanwhile was keen to release a follow-up. We told them it that it would not be as successful because "Gentle On My Mind" had a panache to it that made for good radio play while the other album tracks were best suited as album tracks. They nevertheless disagreed and out came "By The Time I Get To Phoenix"/"Things" (R23387) on 23rd May 1969. As we had suspected, it was a flop and did not enter the charts anywhere.
Dino telephoned Bernard when news reached him of the success of "Gentle On My Mind" in the UK, saying too how very grateful he was for our continued work and support of his career.
With the UK success of this single, it seemed to make certain people sit and take notice of our remarks that Dino did indeed make hit singles and could do it here just as well as he did in the US. On Monday 2nd September 1969, the inimitable radio presenter Desmond Carrington included a 15-minute segment on Dino that we'd scripted on his BBC Radio 2 programme Roundabout, giving Dean even more UK exposure. A few days later, the British music publication Melody Maker announced that "Gentle On My Mind"' was the most played song in the UK at that time.