Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: In the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie, “Rear Window,” the name Ross Bagdasarian appears in the credits, near at the end.

Which part did Bagdasarian play in this movie? Was he in any other films? Is he still alive and performing?

Is this the same person who changed his name to David Seville, and, near the Christmas of 1958, came up with the idea of recordings by the Chipmunks?
—Dennis Smith, New Port Richey, Fla.

DEAR DENNIS: The Ross Bagdasarian who has a small part in “Rear Window” is indeed the same man who — using the pseudonym, David Seville — created the phenomenon known as the Chipmunks.

In “Rear Window,” Ross quite appropriately plays an unnamed songwriter. Similarly, he also had bit parts in several other films, including “The Deep Six” (1957), “The Devil's Hairpin” (1957), “The Proud and Profane” (1956), “Three Violent People” (1956), “Hot Blood” (1956), “Alaska Seas” (1954), “Destination Gobi” (1953), “Stalag 17” (1953), “Viva Zapata!” (1952), and “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952). Of course he later played his David Seville role in the Chipmunk's 1961 television series, “The Alvin Show.”

Ross Bagdasarian died January 16, 1972, just 11 days before his 53rd birthday. His son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr., has continued to release Chipmunks recordings.

DEAR JERRY: I hope you can provide some enlightenment on two records, that I think are from the 1960s.

First is one that is probably my very favorite instrumental, “Jivin' Around,” by the Al Casey Combo. Did this group ever have any other records that made the charts?

Second is another instrumental, “Swinging Gently,” by Earl Grant. As with the first question, did Earl Grant have any other hits?
—Norm Sheesley, Lancaster, Pa.

DEAR NORM: Both Al Casey and Earl Grant had other chart hits, besides the two you mention. Interestingly, the biggest hits for each of these artists are vocals, not instrumentals.

Casey's best seller is “Surfin' Hootenanny” (1963), which features the vocals of the K-C-Ettes.

Also spotlighted is Al Casey's excellent impersonations of guitar greats Duane Eddy, Dick Dale, and the Ventures.

Earl Grant had a Top 10 hit in 1958 with “The End,” wherein he sounds so much like Nat King Cole that many listeners really believed it to be by Cole.

DEAR JERRY: I would be eternally grateful if you can help me solve a musical mystery. I have already tried Hammer the Jammer, Dick Biondi, and a host of other people, but to no avail.

I am searching for a record from the late '50s or early '60s, which, as far as I know, is titled “Willy Nilly Joe.” It is possible it is the flip side of something better known. This is all I remember, and I sure would like to know the singer, label, etc.
—Jim Krzak, Chicago, Ill

DEAR JIM: You have the title correct, it is “Willy Nilly Joe.” It is a 1961 issue by a duo named Len & Judy, and is on Deer 3001.

Neither side became a hit at all, but, for your information, it is the flip of “Willy Nilly Joe” that rock and roll collectors pay $50 to $100 to own — “I'm Leaving Town, Baby.”

IZ ZAT SO? The names given the singing Chipmunks by David Seville were inspired by real-life executives at Liberty Records: Alvin Bennett (president), Theodore Keep (engineer) and Simon Waronker (founder-owner)

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