Long before actress / singer Anna Kendrick became the highest-charting recording artist from Maine on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (her huge hit, “Cups,” from the 2013 soundtrack to PITCH PERFECT, reached No. 6 and been certified triple-platinum in digital sales), you never heard much chart noise from recording artists based in Maine, though there were (and still are) plenty of talented singers and bands hailing from the Pine Tree State.
EXCITED SIDE NOTE: I’m (finally!) going to see a Portland, Maine-based band I’ve loved for nearly a decade – Hiss & Chambers (https://hisschambers.bandcamp.com/) – they make their triumphant return in Portland next week! Can’t wait.
Maine has an exceptional wealth of musical talent and hard-working singers and musicians. Occasionally, that hard work pays off with national releases. In 2001, Portland Rock / Jazz / Funk legends Rustic Overtones released an album on Tommy Boy / Warner Bros. called ¡Viva Nueva! that featured David Bowie on two tracks, Imogen Heap on one, and Funkmaster Flex on yet another. In 2010, Wells, Maine rapper Spose hit the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 with “I’m Awesome,” which sold over 500,000 copies and was certified as a Gold single.
Going further back, the late Country music legend Dick Curless (of Fort Fairfield, Maine, near the top of the state) released 23 albums between 1959 until his death in 1995 at age 63, and he hit the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Country singles chart 11 times, including his biggest hit, a No. 5 Country hit from 1965, titled, “A Tombstone Every Mile.”
Then there was the Southern Maine-based band Oak, led by singer Rick Pinette. They were signed to Mercury Records in the late 70s, and in 1979 released their self-titled debut album. All of the local radio stations were, of course, very much behind it. I used to hear songs like “Listen To Your Heart,” “Draw The Line,” “This Is Love” and “King Of The Hill.” In fact, Oak reached No. 58 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in the Summer of 1979 with “This Is Love,” and nearly made the chart again in early 1980 with “Draw The Line” (No. 108).
On this date in 1980, still from the OAK album, “King Of The Hill” reached the Top 40 on the Hot 100, debuting at No. 38. I’m not entirely sure if Rick Pinette & Oak was the first Maine-based artist to reach the Top 40, but I do remember it being a real big deal. There was even a contest on my favorite radio station at the time, WIGY, to see where the song would peak on the chart (you couldn’t have a contest like that today!).
Well, it didn’t take long to figure out the answer of where the peak position of “King Of The Hill” would be. For the next two weeks, it was ranked at No. 36, then slipped of the Top 40 the following week, and was gone from the Hot 100 after 14 weeks. Oak would return to the Hot 100 in early 1981, when the title track from their second album, SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE, peaked at No. 71.
After SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE, Oak eventually disbanded and Rick Pinette performed on his own and with other folks for awhile. Years later, Rick became a born-again Christian and later a church pastor. This past March, at Morningside Church in Blue Eye, Missouri (where he served as lead pastor), he sadly passed away unexpectedly at the age of 63.
Some folks will remember Rick for his love for the Lord, while others will remember him for his soaring vocals during his years with the band Oak. I will remember him for the latter, especially for the accomplishment of reaching the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 on this date in 1980. R.I.P. Rick, and many thanks…