Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Thanks so much for answering my question about Rolf Harris and the Beatles singing together on TV. I could never have imagined such a thing.

On another matter, many months ago I read a news brief in USA Today that Mr. Harris was a suspect in that child sex investigation that shocked the UK because of Jimmy Savile's crimes.

Since then, I've seen nothing about Rolf, so did anything come of this?
—Marsha Billings, Birmingham, Ala.

DEAR MARSHA: Oh yes, much has happened in this case, though I doubt the story will be on anyone's front page in the U.S. At least not until the matter is settled.

Here is a condensed recap of the key events:

November 2012: As part of Operation Yewtree, the highly publicized investigation alleging child sex crimes by Jimmy Savile and others, Harris was interviewed. Still a person of interest, it was determined he had no connection to, or involvement with, Savile.

March 28, 2013: Harris was arrested and charged. According to the UK-based "Guardian" news source (

"The 83-year-old Australian entertainer, with a long career in British children's TV from the 1960s to the '80s, is accused of three counts of indecently assaulting a 14-year-old girl in 1986 and six of indecently assaulting a girl aged 15 from 1980 to '81. He is also charged with four counts of making indecent images of a child between March and July 2012.

"Alison Saunders, chief prosecutor for CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] London, said: 'We have carefully considered the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police Service as part of Operation Yewtree, in relation to Rolf Harris, initially arrested on 29 November 2012 over allegations of sexual offences. A file of evidence was passed to CPS on 12 August 2013. Having completed our review, we have concluded there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr. Harris to be charged with nine counts of indecent assault and four of making indecent images of a child."

October 7, 2013: A trial date of April 30, 2014 was set by the court. Since the day of his arrest, Harris, who steadfastly maintains his innocence, has been free on bail with the requirement that he have no unsupervised contact with anyone under 18.

Unless a plea deal is reached, nothing newsworthy is likely to be resolved for at least seven months.

DEAR JERRY: One of my '50s faves is "Bad Boy," by the Jive Bombers.

In the liner notes on the album with "Bad Boy," it says "the Top 25 hit we know from 1957 is actually a resurrection of a 1930s song."

This brief comment, plus my never having heard the song by anyone but the Jive Bombers with Clarence Palmer (and Ringo Starr but that was years later), leaves me wondering who recorded "Bad Boy" before 1957.
—Geoff Blasinger, Madison, Wis.

DEAR GEOFF: To be precise, no one recorded that "Bad Boy" before the December 1956 release (Savoy 1508), the one that charted in Feb. 1957.

However, the part about it being a resurrection of a 1930s song is true. It's just that the 1937 tune that is the genesis of "Bad Boy" is titled "Brown Gal."

The brown gal singing "Brown Gal" (Decca 1092) is Lil (Hardin) Armstrong, who, from 1924 to 1931, was married to Louis Armstrong — the second marriage for both.

About 13 years later, Clarence Palmer modified the key pronoun in Lil's original lyrics and title, while deleting some verses and adding new ones.

Then known as the Sparrows, Palmer and his buddies teamed with saxophonist Al Sears to wax "Brown Boy" (Coral 65023). It was then issued in 1950 as by Al Sears and the Sparrows, with Vocal by Clarence Palmer.

Strangely, the only writer shown on the Coral disc is Palmer. It should have been Armstrong and Palmer.

In 1952, a very similar version of "Brown Boy" came out (Citation 1161), this time by Clarence Palmer and the Jive Bombers. On this label, Palmer is credited four times: full group name; as lead singer; sole writer; and bass player. Again, no mention of Lil Armstrong.

Of these three releases, none achieved hit status, but the fourth time was the charm. For the record that made it up to No. 24 on Cash Box, "Brown Boy" became "Bad Boy," and the credits flip-flopped to The Jive Bombers Featuring Clarence Palmer.

One very significant change this time around is seeing the composer's name come full circle. Only one person is credited and, as in 1937, it is Lil Armstrong.

One click here will get you two Boys, one Brown (1952) and one Bad (1956).

You'll also find a convenient link on that same page to the Al Sears & Sparrows version (1950).

IZ ZAT SO? Lil Armstrong's second most famous composition, "Just for a Thrill," became a Top 20 R&B hit for Ray Charles in 1959.

Later generations heard Ray's recording many times as part of a recurring scene on the popular TV show "Damages."

There is also a sultry, sizzling "Just for a Thrill" by Peggy Lee, one that is highly recommended.

Hear Peggy's "Thrill" here!

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