DEAR JERRY: I'm writing about the "Johnny Ace Memorial Album," from Duke Records. For an album that probably didn't sell very well when first released, they seemed to have reissued it quite a few times.
Is there an easy way to know which is which?
Bob "Tilly" Tillman, New York City
DEAR BOB: At least eight variations exist of the "Memorial Album for Johnny Ace." Not knowing which you have, if any, I'll just list them all.
This collection first appeared in March 1955 as an eight-track, 10-inch LP (Duke DLP-70), just three months after Johnny Ace died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
1. Titled "A Memorial Album for Johnny Ace," all eight tunes on this LP were originally on singles from 1952 to 1954.
Pledging My Love
Never Let Me Go
Saving My Love for You
Please Forgive Me
Cross My Heart
This is the rarest version, especially in top condition. We haven't seen a near-mint copy in many years, but copies with significant wear and tear have been selling in the $200 to $400 range. A truly NM example would be a museum piece, and could fetch at least $1,000.
2. In 1956, a standard 12-inch version appeared (Duke DLP-71), with six of the original eight tracks (omitted are "Please Forgive Me" and "Angel"), plus these six: "Don't You Know"; "So Lonely"; I'm Crazy Baby"; "How Can You Be So Mean"; "Still Love You So"; and "Anymore."
This LP cover is mostly orange and black and with the slightly modified title: "Memorial Album for Johnny Ace."
3. For the third package, issued in 1961, the cover title, "Memorial Album Johnny Ace" was even shorter. This thoroughly revised cover is mostly red, white, and black, and pictures a head shot of Johnny centered in an ace of hearts playing card. Tracks are the same as the 1956 album.
4. The above LP was reissued in 1973 in simulated stereo (DLPX-71), as noted on the cover and labels.
5. In 1977, with Duke now under the ABC umbrella, the 1973 "stereo" LP came out again as ABC/Duke DL-71.
6. A very similar version of the ABC/Duke LP came out in 1978, the difference being a slight variation of the ABC/Duke logo on the labels.
7. In 1980, after MCA swallowed up ABC, and numerous other labels, the ABC/Duke LP of the late 1970s came out as MCA DLPX-71
8. Not exactly sure when, but later in the '80s, MCA reissued their previous (1980) version, but with a new selection number, MCA-27014, and a blue label rather than white.
In one adaptation or another, the "Memorial Album for Johnny Ace" was his only LP, and it never appeared on the R&B or Pop album charts.