Ask "Mr. Music"
Jerry Osborne

Now in our 28th year (1986-2014) — Over 2,800 Questions Answered
Most recent column here — 16 years of archived ones are linked below


FOR THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 15, 2014

DEAR JERRY: Long ago (circa 1960) and far away (Los Angeles) I went to a neighborhood theater to see a scary B-movie starring Vincent Price. It was about a creature called "The Tingler."

I remember it mostly because after the film they handed out copies of a record of the same title.

The recording was not very good, so I didn't keep it.

Now I'm wondering if for some reason, such as not being issued commercially, I should have held on to it. Would it now be a collectible?
—Daniele Clark, Florissant, Mo.

DEAR DANIELE: You were one of the lucky few, as Columbia Pictures supplied only a limited number of theaters with copies of "The Tingler" to give to their patrons.

Both the film and the record came out in 1959, the year when Columbia Pictures also released "The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock," starring Lou Costello — surprisingly without Bud Abbott.

I mention this because Colpix Records, Columbia's music division, put "The 30 Foot Bride" on the B-side of "The Tingler" (Colpix CP-122), with both sides credited to "The Tinglers (Vocal Group)."

This disc was commercially available; however, it didn't sell well at all and is now tough to find.

Had you kept that record, and stored it properly, you could probably peddle it for around $200.

"The Tingler" film is especially noteworthy because scattered seats in the theater were wired to give its occupant a shocking tingle, timed to coincide with certain eerie scenes on the screen.

I'm guessing you were not in one of those spine-tingling seats, a sensation you would surely remember.

This flick is also regarded as the first to depict the use of LSD, provided in this case by a pathologist (Price) to induce nightmares in a patient.

DEAR JERRY: I understand that Billboard and Cash Box varied in how they compiled their chart hits, but I'd like to know the highest ranking tune on Cash Box, from among those that never appeared anywhere on Billboard's surveys.

One of my records is Billy Vaughn's "Silver Moon" (1955) that peaked at No. 24 on Cash Box but didn't show up anywhere on Billboard. That's what brought this topic about.

You may know of one that is an even better example.
—C.J. Burrows, Rochester, Wash.

DEAR C.J.: The undisputed champ in this category is Wayne Newton's "The Letter."

This powerful ballad spent 31 weeks in the Cash Box Top 100, peaked at No. 1, while never making a blip on Billboard.

This might be because "The Letter" existed only as an LP cut and a promotional-only cassette single, though Billboard did list commercial cassette singles throughout the 1990s.

Regardless, this is clearly a unique occurrence in chart history, but how "The Letter" came about is equally fascinating.

During Elvis Presley's final engagement at the Las Vegas Hilton (Dec. 2-12, 1976), while alone in the penthouse suite one night after his performance, he wrote some random thoughts on a notepad.

Before leaving the room, he crumpled the paper and tossed it in the waste basket.

Depending on whose version you believe, the note was retrieved by either a hotel maid or one of those in Elvis' group. I tend to lean toward it being a maid, who, I might add, did nothing wrong. Once in the trash, it would have been up for grabs, especially for a seemingly valueless piece of paper.

Either way, the note ended up in a Sotheby's auction, and that is when its existence came to Wayne Newton's attention.

Moved by the note's backstory and content, Wayne explains it this way:

"He was a very good friend of mine, and he was a wonderful human being, so when I heard what the note said it just tore my heart out, and I had to have it.

"I'm paraphrasing, but the notes more or less say: I'm finally alone, I'm glad they're all gone now I probably won't rest tonight I have no need for all of this help me, Lord

"I think he was addressing his loneliness. By that time, he had become something of a recluse.

"When the news got out that it was me who bought the note, Elvis fans from around the world contacted me, wanting copies. That's when we decided to come up with a song based on the notes.

"We titled it "The Letter," and it was written by Rick Goodman, John Minnick, Kat McCrone, and myself."

"The Letter" first appeared in January 1992 on Wayne's album, "Moods and Moments" (Curb 77556), but it quickly became the most talked-about track.

In response to that publicity, Curb issued a promotional cassette single to the media, with a slightly different title, "The (Elvis) Letter," on both sides of the tape (Curb SPRO-630).

For most of that summer, "The Letter" appeared on Billboard's "Clip List," based on the significant airplay and exposure it received on TNN (The Nashville Network).

Other than that one section, "The Letter" did not show up on any of the Billboard charts. Moreover, neither the single nor the "Moods and Moments" album was even reviewed by Billboard.

That, I believe, could be considered a major oversight.

Fueled in part by "The Letter," Wayne ranked among the 10 highest grossing concert acts in the summer of '92, according to Amusement Business Publications.

A special "thank you" is extended to Cash Box archivist, Randy Price, for assistance with this column.

IZ ZAT SO? It took "The Letter" 21 weeks to the climb from debuting at No. 77 (July 25, 1992) to No. 1 (December 12, 1992).

Only two 20th century hits took longer to scale the summit, and one tied "The Letter" in that regard:

37 weeks (1995-1996): "Macarena" (Los Del Rio)
26 weeks (1988): "Red Red Wine" (UB40)
21 weeks: (1979) "Sad Eyes" (Robert John)

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