Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Over the years you have written about Columbia's invention of the long-playing (LP) record, and how they began as 10-inch discs in 1948.

But as a collector of Jazz albums, I would now like to know the identity of the world's first Jazz LP in the standard 12-inch format.
—Cory Benson, York, Pa.

DEAR CORY: Alto sax maestro Charlie “Bird” Parker, the father of bebop Jazz, is also the father of the 12-inch Jazz LP.

This landmark release is “The Bird Blows the Blues” (Dial DLP-1), a collection of six tracks Parker recorded during two session dates in Los Angeles, the 19th and 26th of February 1949.

Side I (DLP-21) has the “Master Set A - Original Issue” of “Relaxing at Camarillo”; “Carvin' the Bird”; “Dark Shadows”; “Blowtop Blues”; “Bongobop”; and “Cool Blues.”

Side II (DLP-22) contains “Master Set B - Alternate Masters,” different takes of those same six tracks.

Interestingly, Parker's inspiration for “Relaxing at Camarillo” came from his six month required stay at Camarillo State Mental Hospital, brought on by endless problems with addictions (alcohol, heroin, etc.). These demons contributed mightly to Charlie's death (March 12, 1955) at just 34 years of age.

Dial offered this LP exclusively via a mail-in order coupon in the June 3, 1949 issue of Downbeat magazine. Appropriately described, this “Limited Mail Order Edition,” sold for a whopping $5.00 plus shipping. This, believe it or not, is about double the price of most LPs at the time, a point no doubt a factor in Dial selling very few.

Jazz historians estimate less than 100 sold, some believing the total closer to 25. Regardless, any of the few existing copies can sell for 1,000 times the original price.

Note also, the artist credit on “The Bird Blows the Blues” reads: “Charlie Parker and His Bebop Groups.”

DEAR JERRY: One of my favorite shows is “Rescue Me,” and I am trying to identify its theme song.

They may mention it at the end, but the print for the credits is very tiny, and flies past in a split second. It's easier to just ask you.

Frankly, I'm surprised they didn't just use “Rescue Me,” by Fontella Bass. Not only was it a big hit that everyone knows, but the title makes it a natural.
—Maureen Helms, Mentor, Ohio

DEAR MAUREEN: You are not alone. The FX channel's “Rescue Me” is one of the most popular shows on TV. The show is now in its fifth season.

A good deal of music is used in the series, but the official theme is “C'mon C'mon,” by the Von Bondies, an Alternative Rock band.

Though this tune didn't make the mainstream charts, it did crack the Top 25 Modern Rock list, a survey based solely on radio play.

An easy way to add “C'mon C'mon” to your collection is with the “Rescue Me” soundtrack CD (Nettwerk B000F3UQZG).

I couldn't agree more about the Fontella Bass hit being the better theme. C'mon, the show's title is “Rescue Me,” not “C'mon C'mon.”

Maybe they couldn't get the rights to the Bass track.

IZ ZAT SO? Dial may have been so anxious to rush “The Bird Blows the Blues” into circulation, perhaps to scoop any challengers for this 12-inch point of distinction, they didn't produce the customary printed cardboard LP covers.

Surprised customers received their copy in just a plain white paper sleeve, such as normally found on the disc when it is inside a cardboard cover. Less cardboard protection likely resulted in more units being damaged en route.

Knowing coverless albums would not be racked in shops may have prompted coupon advertising for the first issue of “The Bird Blows the Blues” (DLP-

1). That strategy changed quickly.

A few weeks later, the company reissued “The Bird Blows the Blues” (Dial 901), this time with a real cover and normal retail distribution, the debut LP in their short-lived “Collectors' Jazz - Contemporary Classics” series.

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