If you were around in 1959 or are just a fan of the music of those days, then you might remember a couple of songs that had a lot in common. Both “It Was I” and “Cherry Pie” almost made it to the Top Ten on pop charts — number 11 to be exact — and both were the only real hits for a singing twosome that went by the name of Skip & Flip. But even though the duo wasn’t around for long, both guys went on to enjoy long careers filled with other accomplishments.
Clyde Battin (Skip) and Gary Paxton (Flip) began singing together in Arizona in the late 1950s. Battin had come from Ohio to go to school there and was the older of the pair, but Paxton had probably lived a harder life to that point. An orphan from Kansas whose foster family had later moved to Arizona, he’d had a tough childhood that included abuse and illness, and by his mid-teens was spending most of his time trying to generate a musical career.
As was often the case in those days the guys scuffled along while trying out a variety of names for their new act, but eventually ended up with a record demo. It was on a song written by Paxton that had the awkward title of “It Was I,” but it landed the pair a recording contract and a new name, Skip & Flip. The record began to climb the charts and things soon began to click for the twosome. They made some TV appearances and also toured with rock and roll shows, all the while continuing to hit the recording studio. But even though Skip & Flip would eventually turn out enough singles to fill an album, the only other one that did well was “Cherry Pie,” a cover of an earlier record by R&B duo Marvin And Johnny.
The two guys pretty much went their own way after that, but both found a lot of success in succeeding years. Battin (who died at age 69 in 2003) enjoyed a long career as a songwriter and performer, spending a lot of time working in and around the movie business, and he also performed with groups like the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Paxton is still around and now in his seventies, and his career has been even more varied. Although he has never shied away from performing, he became a legendary producer, songwriter and promoter with a hand in many of the biggest hits around. He eventually began to move more into country music, and as the years passed continued to be a power in the music industry. But he went through more than his share of controversy and hard times before once again reinventing himself, devoting his later years to religion and gospel music.
8 thoughts on “Skip & Flip – A Brief Burst Into The Spotlight”
For only a brief period of time after the initial playing of ‘Cherry Pie’ on the radio was I able to enjoy the song in all its pure and simplistic splendor. Among a select group of high school boys at the time, of which I apparently was one but much more naive than most I suppose, I found out that this song took on strong sexual connotations. To this day I still remain quite puzzled as to how some perverted teenager ever made the leap between cherry pie and a girls vagina and was able to sell the idea to hundreds of puberty stricken boys but they did! 😀
The song would never be the same again… 😦
Someone (not me!) could probably put together an entire article about all the R&B songs with suggestive lyrics and/or words with double meanings that were later made ‘safer’ by white performers. . .or so the parents thought.
You’ve given me a good idea for a column.
Wow, thanks for doing Skip and Flip, I had completely forgotten about them.
After I wrote that comment, I thought about it some more. I know that the subject has come up in previous posts and comments, but I wondered if you might have already devoted a whole article to it. I’m sure somebody has, but what search terms would I use to find an article like that?
Goodness, you’ve got me there. Maybe search for white covers of R&B songs, particularly those on the “blander” end of the performing spectrum, and compare their songs to the original. Just off the top of my head at 7 in the morning.
I haven’t done this topic (although I’ve done some on original versions of songs we know mostly by their covers).
Seems like it would be tough to make up a search term that would work well. ‘white covers of R&B songs’ might get you some results but it would also get a lot of chaff, and would it actually get you to complete articles about the subject? I guess it might if you drilled down through it thoroughly. Sounds like a big project — better you than me! 🙂
Thanks for this and for so many fascinating posts throughout 2014. Regards Thom.
And thank you for the kind words.