Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: How can one determine which came first when there are two records, made by two separate record companies using the identical tracks, when both were issued during the same year?

The specific record prompting my question is "Love Me Baby" backed with "Seal Rock," by Don Durant.

I have these same two songs on Challenge (59003) as well as Fabor (4040), and it appears both are 1958 issues.

Usually I can determine release years, making it obvious which came first. But that only works when each record came out in a different year. Otherwise, unless they both charted, I can't narrow it down any further.

Since these two were probably not released simultaneously, which came first?
—Merle Willingham, Artesia, N.M.

DEAR MERLE: There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but since the Net provides countless sources of useful information, that is where I began.

Fortunately, it only took a few mouse clicks to solve your Don Durant mystery.

By searching the Billboard archives for 1958, I quickly found a new release review of the Fabor single in the February 17th issue, and then one of the Challenge version three weeks later, in the April 7th edition. Not every issue is posted, but what is available provides an excellent source of information.

Neither "Love Me Baby" nor "Seal Rock" (with Don barking like a seal) earned a glowing review, but the Challenge disc received slightly more favorable comments, possibly from a different reviewer. Regardless, the record didn't show up on any of the national charts, or even regional ones that I've seen.

No doubt Fabor entered into a distribution deal with Challenge, a larger company with well-known hits and proven marketing capability.

Don Durant was a gifted singer, and a regularly featured vocalist on the Ray Anthony TV Show. His first record was a 45 EP (four-track extended play) album titled "Ray Anthony and His Orchestra Introducing Don Durant" (Capitol EAP 1-9131), released in 1956.

He was also a frequent guest singer on numerous other shows, but he will primarily be remembered as the star of the CBS-TV western "Johnny Ringo."

Don's last record was a song about "Johnny Ringo," a tune he wrote in 1959 as the theme of his show. This made him the only prime-time network western star to compose and perform the theme of the program in which they also starred.

In 1960, RCA Victor jumped on the bandwagon and issued "Johnny Ringo," coupled with "The Whistlin' Wind" (45-7760), and with a very colorful picture sleeve.

For the record, "The Whistlin' Wind" is completely different than "The Wind, the Wind ("The Whistlin' Wind)," a tune from the 1956 Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis film, "Pardners."

Durant, 72, died of chronic lymphocytic leukemia on March 15, 2005 at his home in Monarch Beach, Calif.

DEAR JERRY: When it comes to referring to the Vinyl Era vs. the Digital Era, I realize the convenience of rounding off at the end of a decade, and letting the Digital Era begin in 1990.

It's easier to remember than ending the Vinyl Era in 1988 or 1989.

But just to satisfy my curiosity, in what year did digital sales surpass analog media?
—Claude Lappetito, Chicago

DEAR CLAUDE: You are right regarding the simplicity of letting birds of a feather flock together; however, our main reason for splitting eras at the end of the '80s has more to do with manufacturing than sales.

The compact disc was introduced in 1983, but didn't overtake vinyl sales until 1988. Still, most companies continued producing records, and even cassette tapes, for the next couple of years. As we moved into the '90s, very few analog albums — a far more costly format to produce than CDs — were available for music buyers.

We are still in the Digital Era, but no longer because of discs, compact or otherwise.

Circa 2007, the worm turned again. Just as the CD engulfed analog records and tapes in the '90s, digital downloads have pushed CDs toward extinction, much as they once did to records.

Now we have a new era of vinyl, one that I am forthwith going to refer to as the Silver Age, and let the pre-1990 period be vinyl's Golden Age (just like with comic books).

IZ ZAT SO? Analog plastic phonograph records will never again be the dominant music format in a digital world, but flying in the face of late '90s naysayers, vinyl is, over the past five years, the ONLY music format enjoying an increase in sales.

For those who missed it, one of the stories in the year-end issue of Billboard is accompanied by this headline: "Vinyl Album Sales Hit Historic High in 2014, Again!"

Among the events fueling this vinyl resurgence are Record Store Day, begun in 2007 and now with participating stores on every continent except Antarctica; sales charts and news, exclusively for vinyl records, in all the important industry publications, including Billboard and Cash Box; Jack White and Third Man Records, for remarkable support; and the many record related features (including this one of course) online and in print.

IZ ZAT SO? When Tom T. Hall wrote "Harper Valley P.T.A." he could never have imagined what a cultural phenomenon he'd created.

Not only did Jeannie C. Riley's 1968 recording top both the pop and country charts in the U.S. and Canada — the first time ever accomplished by a female — but that one little phonograph record inspired a feature film (1978) AND a TV series (1981). That too had never happened before.

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