DEAR JERRY: In the 1950s and early '60s, Jo Ann Campbell was quite popular, especially in the northeast.
I recall both Alan Freed and Dick Clark being quite fond of Jo Ann, and they promoted her often on their shows, sometimes referring to her as the “Blonde Bombshell.” As the nickname suggests, Jo Ann was gorgeous as well as talented.
With numerous traditional recordings to her credit (“Wait a Minute”; “Kookie Little Paradise”; “Motorcycle Michael”; etc.), it's odd that her biggest hit turned out to be a corny answer song: “I'm the Girl from Wolverton Mountain.”
In an interview with a New York radio station, back when the record was out, Jo Ann said the song she answered Claude King's “Wolverton Mountain” was based on a true story. Between then and now, however, I have never heard another word about such a story. Have you?
Didn't Campbell also have a part in one of those teenage movies?
Len Cameron, Chicago
DEAR LEN: Jo Ann has only one solo hit not on your list: “Mother, Please!,” the follow-up to “I'm the Girl from Wolverton Mountain.”
In 1964, she and her husband, Troy Seals (as Jo Ann & Troy) made the charts with “I Found a Love Oh What a Love.”
Campbell appeared in two teen-themed films: “Go, Johnny, Go” (1959) and “Hey, Let's Twist” (1962).
The original “Wolverton Mountain” and “I'm the Girl from Wolverton Mountain,” shown on some labels as “(I'm the Girl on) Wolverton Mountain,” are both written by the team of Merle Kilgore and Claude King.
In the early '70s, I worked some shows with Merle Kilgore, then touring with the Duke of Paducah, and one of our backstage discussions touched on “Wolverton Mountain.”
Kilgore confirmed what you heard Jo Ann Campbell say about 10 years earlier. The story is based on facts, even if the key one is intentionally misspelled.
Though the mountain's true name is Woolverton, Merle and Claude titled their tune “Wolverton Mountain,” though we don't know why.
As for being historically accurate, much of the song is, with one certain exception the wildlife alliance of bears and birds giving Clifton Clowers a heads-up whenever a stranger approaches.
For a closer look at the real Woolverton Mountain, here is a report from our famed Ozarks historian, John Lorenz:
“The most exciting part about this is that Woolverton Mountain is very close to where I live, only a couple of towns away. So we just had to see if this place was real and maybe find the grave of Clifton Clowers himself.
“I learned there really was a Clifton Clowers there, and he and his wife Esther had not one but two pretty young daughters to protect: Virginia and Burlene.
“Woolverton is a long, narrow mountain in the Ozarks. It starts just north of Center Ridge, where Arkansas State Highways 9 and 92 meet. The mountain stretches north six or seven miles, just past the tiny community of Austin.
“To get to Woolverton Mountain from Hwy 9, go to Austin, then travel west on Austin Road, an unpaved road that goes right to the top of Woolverton Mountain.
“About 1.5 miles up, on the left, is a blue sign reading “Woolverton Mtn Rd, Conway County.” Just past that is a white building identified as a “Milk Barn.” Next to the barn is an unmarked gravel road that, after about 300 feet, leads right to the Woolverton Mountain Cemetery.
“Stroll around and you'll soon spot the dual headstone and grave sites of Clifton, who nearly lived to 103 (October 30, 1891 - August 15, 1994), and Esther (August 4, 1897 - March 3, 1986).
“Visitors will also notice many graves for folks named Woolverton, which is surely the name of the family who first settled there.”
IZ ZAT SO? Claude King's “Wolverton Mountain,” a No. 1 C&W hit, went on to become the biggest Country crossover hit of 1962, as determined by their combined C&W and Pop success.
Using the same criteria, here are top crossovers for each of that decade's other nine years:
1960: “El Paso” (Marty Robbins)
1961: “Walk on By” (Leroy Van Dyke)
1963: “Still” (Bill Anderson)
1964: “Dang Me” (Roger Miller)
1965: “King of the Road” (Roger Miller)
1966: “Almost Persuaded” (David Houston)
1967: “All the Time” (Jack Greene)
1968: “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (Jeannie C. Riley)
1969: “A Boy Named Sue” (Johnny Cash)