DEAR JERRY: In the summer of 1984, when I first heard Ray Parker's "Ghostbusters," I grabbed my World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary to see if such a word existed. It did not.
Knowing new words are added every year, I just went online to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary site, expecting to find that word. But after over 30 years, ghostbusters is still not included.
Is there any record of this word being used by anyone, anywhere before 1984?
Morgan Biggs, Harrisburg, Pa.
DEAR MORGAN: There is no record of ghostbusters being on a record before 1984, but a famous recording artist spoke of ghostbusters in one of his films.
The movie is "Scared Stiff," a 1953 spooky comedy starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
While dealing with a paranormal house in the Caribbean, Dino suggests they locate a ghostbuster, someone whose specialty is to rid haunted houses of who or what is doing the haunting.
Since "Scared Stiff" was an updated revival of "The Ghost Breakers," a 1940 film starring Bob Hope, it could be that the term ghost busters evolved from ghost breakers, and somehow morphed into one word.
DEAR JERRY: I bought "BANG! The Bert Berns Story," a just-released double vinyl soundtrack album.
It is a great collection, and I discovered several hit songs written by Berns, who I had never heard of before. But I only recognized around half of the 20 tracks.
How many of Bert's tunes made the pop Top 40?
Joel Sutcliffe, Minneapolis
DEAR JOEL: Of the 20 songs on the soundtrack, 11 reached the Top 40, some by more than one artist. No doubt they are the ones making up the "around half" that you and most people are familiar with. Chronologically, they are:
1961: "A Little Bit of Soap" - The Jarmels (No. 12)
1962: "Tell Him" - The Exciters (No. 4)
1962: "Twist and Shout" - The Isley Brothers (No. 7) - Not on the LP is "Twist and Shout" (1964) by the Beatles (No. 1)
1962: "Cry to Me" - Solomon Burke (No. 38) - Not on the LP is "Cry to Me" (1963) by Betty Harris (No. 23)
1963: "Cry Baby" - Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters (No. 4)
1965: "Hang on Sloopy" - The McCoys (No. 1)
1965: "I Want Candy" - The Strangeloves (No. 6)
1965: "Here Comes the Night" - Them (No. 18)
1966: "Are You Lonely for Me" - Freddie Scott (No. 23)
1967: "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" - Wilson Pickett (No. 29) - Not a single, but best known in the U.S. as the lead track on "The Rolling Stones, Now!" LP (1965)
1968: "Piece of My Heart" - Big Brother and the Holding Company (No. 12) - Featuring Janis Joplin
As a child, Bertrand "Bert" Russell had rheumatic fever and it damaged his heart, resulting in his death at just 38 (November 8, 1929 - December 30, 1967).
He wrote songs as Bert Berns and Bert Russell. All but two of the tracks shown above credit Bert Berns, with "Cry to Me" and "Tell Him" penned by Bert Russell.
Keep in mind that "BANG! The Bert Berns Story" (Bang 8985-47842) is a documentary soundtrack, not a "Greatest Hits" collection. Here are two Top 40 hits, not on the soundtrack, written, or co-written by Berns/Russell:
1963: "Killer Joe" - The Rocky Fellers (No. 16)
1964: "My Girl Sloopy" - The Vibrations (No. 26) Retitled "Hang on Sloopy" by the McCoys
IZ ZAT SO? Bert's greatest success came from songwriting, and producing hundreds of sessions for others. Among those clients are: Baby Washington; Barbara Lewis; Ben E. King; Drifters; Esther Phillips; Exciters; Freddie Scott; Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters; Isley Brothers; Jimmy Jones; Johnny Thunder; LaVern Baker; Lulu; Neil Diamond; Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles; Roy Hamilton; Sal Mineo; Solomon Burke; Them; Van Morrison; and Wilson Pickett.
But in the early '60s he was also a recording artist.
Bert's first record was a 1959 duet with fellow songwriter Bill Giant: "Wayward Man"/"Gettysburg Address" (Signature 12019). The credit, "Bert and Bill Giant," gave the impression they were brothers, which they were not.
As by Bert Berns, his next record was a narrative titled "The Legend of the Alamo" (Laurie 3074), issued in late 1960. Neither of these first two releases charted.
Next came "You'd Better Come Home" (Wand 107), recorded in 1961 as Russell Byrd. This tune made the Hot 100, peaking at No. 50. As a singer, this would be Bert's only chart record.
Two more singles followed in 1962, "Little Bug" (Wand 121), and "Hitch Hike" (Symbol 915).
According to the labels on Wand 121, and Symbol 915, one might think there were three different contributors. Bert Russell is the composer, Russell Byrd is the singer, and the producer is Bert Berns.
I can't recall another instance where one person handled all three important jobs, while using a different name for each.
In 1964, Berns teamed with songwriter Wes Farrell, and as The Mustangs issued "Baby Let Me Take You Home"/"Davie Was a Bad Boy" (Keetch 6002). It did not chart.