Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: On their first few records ("Paradise," "Sweet and Lovely," etc.) Nino Tempo and April Stevens sang duets in the traditional style, but, starting with "Deep Purple," they featured brief narrations by April.

Interestingly, the songs that have April speaking the lyrics were among their biggest hits.

Was that new wrinkle planned, or did they just sort of stumble onto it?
—Julie Bohannan, New Orleans

DEAR JULIE: I have neither read nor heard anything regarding the origin of April's breathy recitations, but I do know two people who should have a pretty good idea: Nino Tempo and April Stevens.

So I called each of them, asking the same question, and their answers were similar enough to summarize as one.

They say it was definitely not planned, meaning they did indeed just stumble onto it.

There was a point during the "Deep Purple" session when April started whispering each line in advance of Nino singing it.

Those present in the studio, especially April's friend Vicky, were so moved by what they heard that they went on to record it just that way.

Their next three records, "Whispering" (how appropriate); "Stardust"; and "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" use that same format.

Perhaps much of the credit for this catchy gimmick goes to Vicky, whose last name I did not get.

DEAR JERRY: In the mid-'60s I lived in Troy, N.Y., and there was a No. 1 hit there by the McCoys titled "Beat the Clock." It always stuck with me because there was a TV game show of the same name.

Does "Beat the Clock" qualify for your list of No.1 regional hits that never made the Top 100 on the national level?
—Archie Gastfield, Kingston, N.Y.

DEAR ARCHIE: No it does not, but "Beat the Clock" (Bang 543) came very close to being a member of that club.

On May 13, 1967, this tune debuted on Billboard's Hot 100 at No. 99. The following week it inched up to No. 92, but then it disappeared from the Hot 100.

However, at WTRY, Troy's Top 40 station, "Beat the Clock" held the No. 1 spot for two weeks in mid-May.

It also appeared on about a dozen regional charts from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

In the summer of '65, the McCoys joined a select group of recording artists whose very first record, in this case "Hang on Sloopy," went to No. 1 in the country.

IZ ZAT SO? Of the 256 songs that reached No. 1 on either Billboard or Cash Box in the 1960s, only 44 were the first record released by that artist, including the aforementioned McCoys.

Also noteworthy is that at least one artist made a smashing debut in each year of that decade:

1960: Johnny Preston ("Running Bear"); Hollywood Argyles ("Alley-Oop"); Larry Verne ("Mr. Custer")
1961: Marcels ("Blue Moon"); Del Shannon ("Runaway"); Joe Dowell ("Wooden Heart"); Highwaymen ("Michael"); Marvelettes ("Please Mr. Postman")
1962: Gene Chandler ("Duke of Earl"); Shelley Fabares ("Johnny Angel"); Dee Dee Sharp ("Mashed Potato Time"); Little Eva ("The Loco-Motion"); Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers ("Monster Mash"); Tornadoes ("Telstar")
1963: Rooftop Singers ("Walk Right In"); Paul & Paula ("Hey Paula"); Ruby and the Romantics ("Our Day Will Come"); Leslie Gore ("It's My Party"); Kyu Sakamoto ("Sukiyaki"); Essex ("Easier Said Than Done"); Tymes ("So Much in Love"); Dale & Grace ("I'm Leaving It Up to You"); The Singing Nun ("Dominique")
1964: Kingsmen ("Louie Louie"); Dixie Cups ("Chapel of Love"); Peter & Gordon ("A World Without Love")
1965: Gary Lewis and the Playboys ("This Diamond Ring"); Byrds ("Mr. Tambourine Man"); McCoys ("Hang On Sloopy"); Toys ("A Lover's Concerto")
1966: Simon & Garfunkel ("The Sounds of Silence"); SSgt. Barry Sadler ("The Ballad of the Green Berets"); Percy Sledge ("When a Man Loves a Woman"); Troggs ("Wild Thing"); Napoleon XIV ("They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!"); ? and the Mysterians ("96 Tears"); Monkees ("Last Train to Clarksville"); New Vaudeville Band ("Winchester Cathedral")
1967: Bobbie Gentry ("Ode to Billy Joe"); Box Tops ("The Letter"); Strawberry Alarm Clock ("Incense and Peppermints")
1968: Archie Bell and the Drells ("Tighten Up")
1969: Zager & Evans ("In the Year 2525 [Exordium & Terminus"]); Steam ("Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye")

Having recorded earlier but under a different name (e.g., Simon & Garfunkel/Tom & Jerry), or as a group member (e.g., Gene Chandler/Dukays) does not affect their status on this list.

Return to "Mr. Music" Home Page