DEAR JERRY: My question is about a very popular song in the Detroit area in the early '60s, that is one of my personal favorites. I believe it is either titled “Sailor,” or “Seaman.”
Sung by a German woman, whose name I don't recall, all but just a few lines are sung in German. Not only is it never played on any of the oldies radio stations, but I find that no one else even seems to remember this obscure song. Do you?
Please tell me I didn't just dream this up.
Patricia Webster, Jasper, Ind.
DEAR PATRICIA: You were very wide awake in 1960 when you so often heard “Sailor (Your Home Is the Sea)” (Kapp 349), by a single-name artist known as Lolita.
Born Ditta Einzinger, in Austria, Lolita must have been as surprised as anyone to see her “Sailor” sail all the way into the US Top 5 (December 19, 1960) for it stood alone that week as the only foreign language tune in the Top 100.
DEAR JERRY: I know that Rosanne Cash released “Tennessee Flat Top Box” not long ago, but many years earlier her Daddy, Johnny Cash, also recorded it.
But I have many of his albums but “Tennessee Flat Top Box” does not appear on any of them. Can you tell me where I can find his recording of this song?
Pete Stout, Ardmore, Okla.
DEAR PETE: Since you wrote using e-mail, let me just direct you to either eBay or Half.com. As of this writing, both have the album you seek: “Ring of Fire (The Best of Johnny Cash).”
Copies of the original 1963 vinyl LP (Columbia 2053/8853) and the CD version (Columbia Legacy 074646-68902-8) are plentiful for from $5 to $15.
Johnny wrote “Tennessee Flat Top Box,” and released what would become a Top 15 hit, in 1961 (Columbia 42147). Rosanne did even better than dad with the tune, as her 1987 version reached No. 1 on the Country charts.
DEAR JERRY: I used to be a pressman at the Chicago Sun-Times, where I first discovered your column. Now I have my own musical mystery that needs solving.
Around 1959, when I was learning to play the guitar, one of the hits was an instrumental that featured guitars. I am pretty sure the title is simply “The Beat.”
It may have just been an Illinois band, because I have never found anything to indicate it made any kind of splash nationally.
I loved this tune and would really appreciate any details about it that you can provide.
John Tillotson, Chicago
DEAR JOHN: Not lost in your notes is that you use John instead of Johnny, so as not to be hounded by screaming fans who think you are the '60s pop star, Johnny Tillotson.
Contrary to your research, “The Beat,” by a trio named the Rockin R's, did indeed make the national Top 60, so its success reached beyond Chicagoland.
But you are correct about the group being from Illinois, as they began in Metamora, about 136 miles southwest of Chicago.
Your recollection of the time is also accurate. This single first came out in late 1958 and carried over into early '59.
On “The Beat (Tempus 7541), the Rockin' R's, Ron (Volz) and Ron (Wernsman) both play guitars, and are joined by drummer Ted Minar.
IZ ZAT SO? With “Sailor (Your Home Is the Sea),” Lolita became the first female singer to place a foreign language tune in the Top 10.
In just three years it would happen again, with the Singing Nun's “Dominique,” which eventually landed at No. 1.