Battle of the Bands – “Spooky” by Classics IV

It’s mid-November and that means it’s time for another Battle of the Bands. I’ll present two covers of a song that I choose and you guys listen to both and vote which one you like better. What does the winner get? Nothing but a slot on my BOTB Excel spreadsheet, but hey, it’s fun. So play along, will ya?

I had fun putting together my Halloween playlist for the other music bloghop in which I participate, Monday’s Music Moves Me (which I unfortunately missed the last two weeks because my greyhound Picasso had major surgery and he had a very rough recovery…and then my other greyhound Luca got sick too and I think I spent more time staying up all night with my dogs and hanging at the vet’s office than doing anything else). Anyway, one of the songs I featured on my Halloween playlist (which you should really check out because it’s good!) was “Spooky”. There I showcased two of the most popular versions, one from 1968 by the group Classics IV and the other from 1979 when it was covered by the Atlantic Rhythm Section.

Here’s a little backstory on the song with a mini-playlist including the two versions just mentioned plus the original for your enjoyment. But don’t vote on any of these! Below the Spooky song facts I’m posting two unique covers by female artists and therein lies today’s battle.

Spooky – “Spooky” was originally an instrumental song performed by saxophonist Mike Sharpe (Shapiro), written by Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks, Jr., which first charted in 1967 hitting #57 on the US pop charts. Its best-known version was created by James Cobb and producer Buddy Buie for the group Classics IV when they added lyrics about a “spooky little girl”. In 1968, the vocal version of the song reached #3 in the U.S. (Billboard Hot 100) and #46 in the UK.

This was one of the first songs to get a lot of airplay on the Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format. FM was relatively new, and AOR was a great format for people who wanted to hear songs on rock albums that weren’t necessarily hits.

The Classics IV is a band formed in Jacksonville, Florida, United States, in 1965. The band is often credited for establishing the “soft southern rock” sound. The band, led by singer Dennis Yost, is known mainly for the hits “Spooky”, “Stormy” and “Traces”, released 1967 to 1969, which have become cover standards.

The song was also a hit when covered by the Atlanta Rhythm Section. The Classics IV member Cobb and bandmates Dean Daughtry and Robert Nix later became part of the Atlanta Rhythm Section and they re-recorded “Spooky” in 1979, also produced by Buie. It was the second of two singles released from their Underdog LP. Atlanta Rhythm Section’s version hit #17 in the US on Billboard and #15 on Cash Box. It also charted minorly (is that a word? If it is, I don’t believe I’ve ever used it before) internationally.

“Spooky” has also been covered by a number of artists including Dusty Springfield (whose gender-flipped version was featured prominently in the Guy Ritchie film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), Percy Sledge, Martha and the Vandellas, Michel Pagliaro (recorded song in French), Velvet Monkeys, R.E.M., Imogen Heap, Kid Montana, and jazz saxophonist David Sanborn, who released it as an instrumental.

For today’s battle, I’ve chosen two well-known female artists and their unique cover versions of this song.

CONTENDER #1:  Joan Osborne

Joan Elizabeth Osborne (born July 8, 1962) is an American singer, songwriter, and interpreter of music, having recorded and performed in various popular American musical genres including pop, soul, R&B, blues, and country. She is best known for her recording of the Eric Bazilian song “One of Us” (I love this song!). She has toured with Motown sidemen the Funk Brothers and was featured in the documentary film about them, Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

Joan Osborne performing in Wilmington, Delaware in November 2009

Originally from Anchorage, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville, Osborne moved to New York City in the late 1980s, where she formed her own record label, Womanly Hips, to release a few independent recordings. She signed with other labels and released several albums over the years and had an interesting career journey along the way, including accompanying with her band the Dixie Chicks for a national tour in the summer of 2003. During that time she also joined veteran San Francisco jam-rockers The Dead (the American rock band composed of some of the former members of the Grateful Dead) as a vocalist, and released her fourth album, titled How Sweet It Is, a collection of classic rock and soul covers. Osborne is currently a member of Trigger Hippy, along with Steve Gorman, Tom Bukovac, Jackie Greene, and Nick Govrik. Trigger Hippy released their debut album on September 30, 2014.

Having grown up in New York City and lived there for many decades, Osborne has stated that she feels a particular attachment to the city, particularly the borough of Brooklyn. Her interest in her neighborhood’s culture, history, and society has multiple influences on her music. As well, she’s expressed admiration for American poetry, especially the works of Walt Whitman, and cited that as a major inspiration for her songwriting.

Here is Joan Osborne’s cover of Spooky:


CONTENDER #2:  Deana Martin

Deana Martin (born August 19, 1948) is an American singer, actress, author, performer and daughter of well-known entertainer, Dean Martin. Deana was born in Manhattan, New York, to Dean Martin and his first wife, Elizabeth (Betty) MacDonald. She moved to Beverly Hills, California with her family by the age of one. She later went to live with Dean and his second wife, Jeanne Biegger. During her childhood, it was not unusual for her dad’s Rat Pack friends, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., to stop by for a visit. Being around her father and his friends led Deana to decide that she wanted a career in the entertainment industry.

She made her television debut in 1966, performing on The Dean Martin Show. She became a frequent guest, taking part in both musical and comedy numbers with a wide array of entertainers including Frank Sinatra. She trained professionally as an actress at the Dartington College of Arts in the United Kingdom and performed in theater productions in a variety of leading roles onstage and co-starred in several movies alongside some of Hollywood’s greatest actors.

Martin first established herself as a recording artist with producer Lee Hazlewood for the Reprise Records label. The recordings included her country hit, “Girl of the Month Club,” while she was still a teenager. Other tunes on the project were “When He Remembers Me,” “Baby I See You” and “The Bottom Of My Mind,” all recorded during the 1960s. Musicians from the famous Los Angeles group the Wrecking Crew, which included Glen Campbell on guitar, played on these recordings.

In 2009 the singer’s CD Volare was in both the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart and the Billboard Heat Seekers chart. It was preceded by Memories Are Made of This in 2006. Deana’s 2013 release, Destination Moon, is a compilation of her favorite jazz and pop songs, plus a duet with her father, Dean Martin, on “True Love.” Martin returned in 2016 with Swing Street, an album of swing standards mixed with new songs soon to be classics. This is where you’ll find her cover version of “Spooky.”

The singer is also an author with her New York Times best-selling book, “Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter’s Eyes.” Deana performs her father’s songs as well as favorite classic pop hits in venues around the world including symphony halls, performing arts centers, blues venues, jazz clubs and festivals. She and her producer/husband, John Griffeth, divide their time between a home in Beverly Hills, California and Branson, Missouri.

From the Swing Street album, here is Deana Martin’s cover of “Spooky”:

If you can’t access the above video, here is a link to Spotify where you’ll be able to listen to Deana’s version of Spooky on her album there. She has some good songs on that album for anyone who may want to check out some more of her songs. (Thanks Debbie Doglady for pointing the problem out to me and providing the solution. You rock Sister!)

TIME TO VOTE! Which version do you like better and why? When you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:

Thanks for your participation and your votes! I’ll be back on the 26th to post the results. Until then, rock on…


30 thoughts on “Battle of the Bands – “Spooky” by Classics IV

  1. Thanks for the history of Classics IV. I always wondered who they were. Have always liked Atlanta Rhythm Section and thought their vocals were so smooooooth!

    This battle is an easy choice for me. I’m going with Joan Osborne. I really enjoyed her version.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey there Mary. Thanks for stopping by. The first vote in goes to Joan Osborne. Looking forward to seeing how this battle shakes out.


  2. Hi, Michele!

    It doesn’t surprise me that your love and concern for your dogs diverted your attention away from blogging. I am happy to know that the latest crises have passed and that Picasso and Luca are on the mend.

    With their silky smooth vocals and sophisticated FM friendly arrangements Dennis Yost and the Classics IV remind me of Britain’s Colin Blunstone and The Zombies. “Spooky” is my favorite song by the Classics IV and I also enjoy the later version by Atlanta Rhythm Section. In your contest today I am voting for act #1, the acoustic cover by Joan Osborne. I love Joan’s voice and intimate mic placement, and I strongly favor the arrangement used on her recording to the swing style used on the Deana Martin version. Bottom line: Joan Osborne seems to be singing to me while Deana Martin seems to be singing to my parents’ generation.

    Thank you very much for your kind and comforting words during my bereavement, dear friend Michele. Enjoy the rest of your week!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Tom, it’s nice to have you back with us. Another vote for Joan Osborne. How interesting that you felt Joan to be singing to you and Deana to be singing to your parents generation. Must’ve been that swing style…
      Thanks for stopping by!


  3. I’ve always liked this song as well as the groups Classics IV and ARS–they both had a great sound. Didn’t know that this song started as an instrumental, but I can see it because it was a groovy melody.

    I wasn’t familiar with Deana. Her version was nice, but there was almost a cliched triteness to it from my point of view. But she’s good and the band is pro in every way.

    Osborne I’ve heard of and have a few of her albums. I much preferred her take on this song. I thought there was a kind of Bobbie Gentry “Ode to Billy Joe” sound to it with a jazzy twist. Joan’s version is the one I’d keep going back to.

    Tossing It Out

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lee. Nice parallel you drew between Joan Osborne and Bobby Gentry! I can totally see that. Absolutely.
      So far all the votes are pointing to Joan Osborne. Will be interesting to see how Deana Martin fares…
      Thanks for stopping by.


  4. Howdy, MICHELE ~
    Good song and good Battle! (In fact, way, way back, I used this song in a BOTB installment. To my surprise, Dusty Springfield beat the Atlanta Rhythm Section in my contest.)

    I liked BOTH of these recordings and appreciated the difference in arrangements and styles. I had never heard of Deana Martin before. And although I had heard of Joan Osborne before, I mistakenly thought perhaps she was partially something Ozzy had squeezed out one night. Glad to find she’s not. [;^)}

    Lee described Deana’s version as somewhat “trite”. I liked it, and I wouldn’t go that far. But I will say that it definitely had a kind of retro-Swing arrangement — almost as if Deana was attempting to channel Peggy Lee doing “Fever”. I repeat that I liked it, but I think I’ll cast my vote for the more original, moody, and smoky rendition by JOAN OSBORNE.

    Very good Battle! I had to listen to both recordings twice before making up my mind!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    STMcC Presents ‘Battle Of The Bands’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey there Stephen! Seems like it’s been forever since we’ve chatted.
      Lee mentioned Joan sounding similar to Bobby Gentry and you compare Deana to Peggy Lee. Very astute observations, both. I do love Peggy Lee’s “Fever”.

      Well so far it seems that all voters are enjoying Joan Osborne’s version much better than Deana’s. Ut oh. Not sure where this battle outcome is heading…


  5. Okay, so you did “Spooky,” I did “Stormy,” who’s going to do “Traces”? We seem to be on the same wavelength today, or as Grandma Holton used to say, dirty minds run in the same gutter.

    I’m going to break the trend and go with Deana Martin, for exactly the reasons Stephen DIDN’T vote for her. I like the retro-swing sound and that it sounds like Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” Joan’s was good, but a little slow… I realize Classics IV did the song at about the same speed, but their instrumentation was better and pushed the song a little better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yay John! Thank you for saving this battle from a shut-out, as it seemed to be heading in that direction! So glad you voted for Deana. I do like her version and think she deserves some votes. It does have a nice swing sound.

      (I like the line from your Grandma Holton: “Dirty minds run in the same gutter.” Never heard that one! I like it.) 🙂


  6. Hi Michele; I’m so glad your lovely boys, Picasso and Luca are on the mend. That must have been a stressful ordeal; health issues with both at the same time, plus looking after the guest dogs! 😮

    Both covers of this great song were enjoyable. Thanks for the biographical info. These ladies have much to offer, but my choice here is Joan Osborne. Love her voice and the arrangement. Deana Martin’s was a little “brash” for my taste. Still good, though.

    Excellent battle! It looks like you and John are on the same wavelength today. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh thanks Debbie! Sorry ’bout that. I just can’t seem to get in the habit of checking the viability of the videos I post to be more readily available to everyone. I appreciate your providing the Spotify link. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Debbie. Thanks for coming by. Another vote for Joan. She’s kicking it in this battle for sure. We have only one vote for Deana so far. I thought Deana would get a few more votes. Maybe this will just have to be a dud… 🙂

      Thanks for all the good wishes and positive thoughts for my boys. Finally everyone seems to be feeling good again. Just in time for the holiday… So glad we got all that out of the way before the big Thanksgiving weekend.
      And a benign report: I definitely do have much to be thankful for this year…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janet! Good to see you. How’s everything going at Michael’s? I bet it’s really busy this time of year. Hope all is going well…

      Thanks for coming by to vote. Yet another one for Joan. But very glad to know that at least the battle gave you the notion to be exploring more of Deana’s music. She’s not doing great in this battle but she is quite good.

      Have a great holiday season at the store…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m sorry your doggies have had such problems. It’s exhausting for you as their mom, isn’t it? I’ll come back tomorrow when I have more time to ponder these songs. I can’t make anymore decisions tonight.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay. Now I’ve had time to read the great information you always provide and to make my choice. It’s Joan Osborne. That sexy, smoky voice is perfect for the song. She sounds spooky. Deana has a nice voice, but I don’t care for the finger-snapping swing sound.

      Love again,

      Liked by 1 person

      • No finger-snaps for you! Poor Deana, she’s not doing so well here… 😦

        Thanks for mentioning my dogs. They sure had a rough time. Poor Picasso had a really tough surgery recovery with so many abnormal responses happening that required more vet visits and more medications and more treatment. And then Luca getting sick. Good Lord. You’re right: it was exhausting. I didn’t go to bed for the first three nights when Picasso came home… In fact, I’m about ready for a nap now to try to catch up! 🙂

        Thanks for your vote. Another one for Joan…


  8. Michele,

    I’m so happy to hear your dogs are doing better now. I covered this song in a battle three years ago and briefly thought about doing it another last month but changed my mind. I’m glad to see that you put the song on stage with two interesting cover version. Both gals did a fabulous job! At first I thought I’d go with Joan. Her smoky, laid-back lounge style gave her cover gave me that “Spooky” vibe. However, after hearing Deanna’s version, I, too heard the Peggy Lee “Fever” comparison in Deanna’s “Spooky” cover and immediately fell in love with hers, so give another vote to Deanna Martin, please! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a joyful, blessed Thanksgiving, dear friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh YAY Cathy! Another vote for Deana! So glad to see that! I’m thrilled that you found value in her cover.

      And Happy Thanksgiving to you too! I hope you have a wonderful holiday surrounded by loving family and friends. There is much to be thankful for…and I’m glad that we have a day to make us stop and focus on that fact. So often we forget…


  9. These were both really good. However, as soon as Deana began with the finger snaps, my toe started tapping. That has to count for something. Give my vote to Deana Martin.


    • Alright! Glad to know that as much as another voter hated the finger snapping, you liked it enough to give Deana your vote. Different strokes for different folks…
      You just can’t ignore that toe-tapping and you’re right: it definitely does count for something!

      Thanks for coming by Robin.


  10. OK…bummer because I could not listen to Deana Martin’s version. I heard her voice so I can see why some would not vote for her. I do like the first version but I can’t vote this time…bummer


  11. Interesting battle and I really wasn’t aware of either of these songs before you got me hip to ’em, so thank you for that.

    I can’t really put my finger on why I like Joan Osborn more than Deana Martin on this song. Just her delivery strikes a chord with me. Not really feelin’ the finger snapping hipness tonight, ha ha.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Cherdo. Thanks for coming by to vote. I’m just now getting back to the blog. The holiday had me crazy busy. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.


    • Thanks Mike. Did you have a battle this time around? I stopped over at your place a few times around the 15th but didn’t see one. I didn’t have a chance to get back there. In fact I’m way late in posting my results but I’ll head over to your place now and see…


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