The members of Ram Jam
were Bill Barlett (former lead guitarist of the Lemon Pipers
), Pete Charles (drummer), Myke Scavone
(lead singer), and Howie Arthur Blauvett, who sang with Billy Joel
in two earlier groups (the Hassles
and El Primo). Ram Jam
's only hit, "Black Betty," created quite a stir when Epic Records released it. The recording session was the brainstorm of Barlett and bubblegum producers Jerry Kasenetz
and Jeff Katz
. Two civil rights groups, the N.A.A.C.P. and C.O.R.E., called for a boycott of the song, claiming it insulted black women. Despite the controversy, it still reached the number 18 spot on Billboard's pop chart in September 1977. The Cincinnati band Starstruck had released a more driving, riveting version of "Black Betty" on the Truckstar label before Ram Jam
's version. Starstruck's version received little airplay or recognition; ironically, future Ram Jam
member Barlett had been a member of Starstruck when they recorded "Black Betty."
In the early '90s the producers remixed "Black Betty" and got an international hit for their efforts. The band released two LPs: Ram Jam
(1977) and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ram
(1978). Epic issued only three singles by the rockers. Blauvelt joined Spitball, a funky blues-type band, in the '90s, and performed with them until he died of a heart attack. Billy Joel
often dedicates "We Didn't Start the Fire" to Blauvelt when he performs live. Barlett continued to play in the southwestern Ohio/eastern Indiana area.