Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: If you can, I'd appreciate your help on a super-vague query. My sister claims to have heard her lifelong favorite song only once, and that was while listening to a Top 40 station around 1966. The only other information she can provide is that the song's chorus revolved around the phrase “October Country.”

Doing some looking on my own, I found not a song but a band with such a name. This October Country group had a single out titled “My Girlfriend's a Witch,” around the same time, but little else. That's not the tune she seeks.

A thousand blessings upon you if you can aid us in this quest.
—Jacker (

DEAR JACKER: You just pack up those blessings and ship them prepaid. And I won't even ask any questions about what inspired that nickname of yours.

You found the right band, but your sister obviously heard their first single, titled “October Country” (Epic 10252), a 1967 release.

In the spring of '68, their second single, “My Girlfriend's a Witch” (Epic 10320), the one you found, came out. A few months later a third single, “Cowboys and Indians” (Epic 10373) and their self-titled LP, “October Country” (Epic 26381) appeared. The album leads off with the track “October Country,” meaning if you can find either the single or the LP, sis will be delighted.

For the record, nothing by October Country landed on any of the singles or albums charts, which probably explains why she heard that tune only once.

Continuing now with questions involving music lovin' sisters:

DEAR JERRY: Do you recall a song called “Beggar's Parade”? It was never a hit, but it was on the flip side of a hit by either the 4 Seasons or the Beach Boys. Can't remember which. My friend's sister used to play it all the time while we were at the Atlantic shore around 1966 or so.
— Barbara Blum, Las Vegas, Nev. (

DEAR BARBARA: As you say, “Beggar's Parade” is not the A-side, so your friend's sister must have bought it for “Opus 17 (Don't You Worry 'Bout Me),” a Top 15 hit during — just as you recall — the summer of 1966.

The group on these tracks (Philips 40370) is the 4 Seasons, your first guess.

DEAR JERRY: You must settle a dispute I am having with my daughter-in-law.

I have always been a fan of the Platters, and I say years ago there were four male members in the group. My daughter-in-law claims there was always a woman singer in the group. I love the music of the 1950s, especially the Platters, and I realize there has been a lady in the group in recent years. But my position is that they were an all-male group during their heyday.

Who's right?
—Veronica Pela, Chicago, Ill.

DEAR VERONICA: As a first generation rock and roller, I'm surprised you would lose this round to your daughter-in-law, who is likely a child of the '60s or so. During their Mercury period of greatest success — 1955 to 1961 — the group consisted of lead singer extraordinaire Tony Williams, bass Herb Reed, baritone Paul Robi, tenor David Lynch, and Zola Taylor.

From 1953 until signing with Mercury in '55, the four men did record as a quartet, adding Zola just in time for their first big hit, “Only You.”

The group completely lost its magic when Tony Williams left in mid-'61 for what turned out to be a failed solo career. His replacement, Sonny Turner, simply could not fill the void left by Williams, not that anyone else could have either.

Zola Taylor, better known in recent years as one of the three ex-wives of Frankie Lymon battling over his estate, remained with the Platters until 1966.

Taylor is the female lead vocalist you hear on some of the group's well-known tunes, such as “He's Mine; My Old Flame;” and “Someone to Watch over Me.”

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IZ ZAT SO? Many a group's talented lead singer has embarked on a solo career with great success. Some that immediately come to mind are: Diana Ross (Supremes), Smokey Robinson (Miracles), Van Morrison (Them), Ed Ames (Ames Brothers), Michael Jackson (Jackson 5), Frankie Valli (4 Seasons), Kenny Rogers (First Edition), Jackie Wilson (Dominoes), Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King (Drifters), and Lionel Richie (Commodores).

That such an incredibly gifted lead vocalist like Tony Williams could not manage even one hit single or LP on his own is beyond belief. For this flub, I would point to second-rate management and ludicrous song selection.

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