Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I am writing about a song I think is by Tommy Facenda, titled “High School U.S.A.” It named a lot of high schools in California. I also remember hearing a lot about other versions being made for different states.

Do you know how many different versions were made, the areas they covered, and where they might be purchased?
—Billy Ray Richter, Kinard, Fla.

DEAR BILLY: It is indeed Tommy Facenda who turned the novel “High School U.S.A.” into a Top 30 hit in late 1959. A couple of years earlier, Tommy worked as a backup singer in Gene Vincent's band.

What evolved as the most nonconforming hit of the rock era began simple enough in Norfolk as a musical tribute to some Virginia high schools (Legrand 1001).

While popular in the Old Dominion State, the tune drew very little interest in the other 49 states.

Realizing the nationwide potential of “High School U.S.A.,” Facenda recorded a template track, of sorts, with generic lyrics that do not refer to any specific areas.

Then Tommy separately recorded 28 different tributes to selected regions, which, when edited into the master template, gave listeners the names of local-are high schools.

The editing is so well done that teens in Florida probably had no idea the folks in California were hearing a completely different list of schools.

For this unusual project, Atlantic Records jumped on the bandwagon and assigned a special series of selection numbers for “High School U.S.A.”: 45-51 through 45-78.

Here are those Atlantic numbers, along with the specific regions:

45-51: Virginia; 45-52: New York City Area; 45-53: North Carolina - South Carolina; 45-54: Washington D.C. Area; 45-55: Philadelphia Area; 45-56: Detroit Area; 45-57: Pittsburgh Area; 45-58: Minneapolis - St. Paul Area; 45-59: Florida; 45-60: Newark Area; 45-61: Boston Area; 45-62: Cleveland Area; 45-63: Buffalo Area; 45-64: Hartford Area; 45-65: Nashville Area; 45-66: Indiana; 45-67: Chicago Area; 45-68: New Orleans Area; 45-69: St. Louis - Kansas City Area; 45-70: Alabama - Georgia; 45-71: Cincinnati Area; 45-72: Memphis Area; 45-73: Los Angeles Area; 45-74: San Francisco Area; 45-75: Texas; 45-76: Seattle - Portland Area; 45-77: Denver Area; and 45-78: Oklahoma.

Fortunately for the geographically obsessed, all 28 of these tracks, plus two more — “National Version” and “Original Legrand Virginia Version” — are gathered together on one compact disc: “High School U.S.A.” (Legrand 17002-2).

This CD is frequently offered online for between $10 and $20.

DEAR JERRY: I have a very unusual set of three picture discs, each of which has the title “Interview with Sting of the Police.” Also stated is “Limited edition issued in a set of 3. Play at 33 1/3 rpm. Cat. No. Police.”

I have checked your latest (2005) edition of your record guide, but no mention is made of these. That may be because this set is a foreign issue, but no country of origin is referenced.

Also not indicated is the size of this limited edition. Do you know the quantity made?

I have never played any of these records, but it sounds more like talking than music.

What can you tell me about this set?
—Kathleen Franz, New Haven, Conn.

DEAR KATHLEEN: You are correct as to why this interesting set does not appear in the price guide, which is because it is an overseas release.

Since it is, as the title suggests, strictly an interview with Sting, its value is less than it would be with music tracks. Prices in the $30 to $40 range are common for this set.

Made in 1984 in the UK, homeland of the famed rock trio, “Interview with Sting of the Police” came out in a limited edition of 2,000 three-disc packages.

IZ ZAT SO? Quite inexplicably, none of the “Interview with Sting of the Police” picture discs feature Sting, the object of the whole project. It is actually Andy Summers who is most prominently seen in these photos.

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