When Glen Campbell rocketed to the top of the charts with a series of Jimmy Webb compositions about American cities, from “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” to “Wichita Lineman” to “Galveston,” it made sense for country singers looking to crossover to the pop field to find a city to wallow about in song. Cole Summers put pen to paper and in twenty minutes wrote about Scranton, Pennsylvania and the strange hold it had over his then-girlfriend. The business savvy Summers even coordinated a promotional marketing tie-in with Gordon’s Gin which Summers was contracted to drink at every personal appearance, cross-marketing that is commonplace with rappers today but was unheard of in 1969. It was an obligation the singer was only to happy to comply with.
When “Scranton” gave Summers his first pop hit (it went to number 1 in Cashbox, but 27 in the stingy Billboard listings), the Arizonan-born singer celebrated by filling the bathtub in his Marin County hotel suite with slices of rum cake ordered up from room service. “I stacked the caketure in the tub two feet high and rolled around in it naked just to see how it felt,” confessed Summers in his 2003 autobiography Let Me Loose, Mama: The Cole Summers Story.
“The massive room service bill for the rum cake was easily dwarfed by the amount of legal fees and courtroom fines I had to pay for driving around under the influence of alcohol and confectioneries I incurred later that night. I hadn’t figured that the rum would purse through my pores and put me over the legal limit. Made me kind of loopy. It’s a mistake a lot of novices make.”
Cole Summer’s BONUS B-SIDE OF DUBIOUS DISTINCTION “was inspired by The Hangman,” a 1959 Paramount western starring Robert Taylor as a US Marshall out to bring outlaw Jack Lord to a stringy end and Tina Louise as the woman in this middle of this hopeless love triangle. “The Hangman” was also an exploitation song “inspired by the movie” and penned by Paramount staff songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Not many Fifties country and western ballads have gender confusing couplets like “If I find my man I’ll lose my love.” Or a stirring chorus like “A hangman needs to be loved like any other man.” No one has touched the song since John Ashley recorded it for Dot Records so Cole Summers happily took a crack at it. “I love Bacharach and David. This song is a hoot! I had also wanted to record ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose’ but since I actually do know the way to San Jose backwards and forwards I felt like I couldn’t sing it with any measure of believability.”