Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Just read in the paper that Tony Bennett celebrated his 80th birthday in August by announcing a new album as well as an upcoming tour.

I extend congratulations to him, but I am wondering if any big name singing stars are still active that are even older than Mr. Bennett.

Patti Page is from Tony's era, and she occasionally performs on PBS reunion shows, though I'm sure she is younger than Bennett. Did I miss someone?
—Suzanne Paige, Clearwater, Fla.

DEAR SUZANNE: Just a few, but you're forgiven.

Jo Stafford, nearly nine years older than Tony Bennett, is still very active, overseeing Corinthian Records.

Jo and her late husband, Paul Weston, founded Corinthian in the mid-'80s as a reissue outlet for her original Columbia recordings, the masters of which she owns.

Of course the Corinthian catalog includes those wacky albums Jo and Paul issued as by Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, for which they intentionally sing off key.

Another star you missed is the great Frankie Laine.

Frankie is now over half-way through his 93rd year, and yet still performs.

However, Tony Martin is about three months older than Frankie Laine, and to him goes the honor of being the official chairman of our just-created Singing Seniors Club.

We know that Martin did some shows in the 1990s, but have not yet confirmed any performances this decade.

DEAR JERRY: Only in recent years have I heard the terms “scufflin',” and “scuffling.”

Use of these words usually involves baseball, whether in interviews with players (i.e., “I was really scufflin' today.”) or in stories by sports writers (i.e. “This team is definitely scuffling right now.”).

It is obvious they are using it to mean “struggling,” but not one dictionary I can find includes scufflin.' My searches even include numerous online slang dictionaries.

Meanwhile, a friend told me he had an album in the early '70s with that exact word in the title. Unfortunately, he no longer owns it and can't recall the artist.

I know it's a long shot, but do you know of such an album, or of any other scufflin' recordings?
—Junior Biese, Lynville, Ind.

DEAR JUNIOR: Your pal must be a blues fan, as the album in question is quite likely “Scufflin' with Stu Ramsay & Chicago Slim” (Capitol ST-344), a late 1969 release.

Though not found in common dictionaries, scufflin' has been a blues slang word for at least 77 years — maybe longer.

I have definitely confirmed a pricey 1929 single by the Barrel House Five, titled “Scufflin' Blues” (Paramount 12942). Recent sales of this 78rpm have been in the $700 to $800 range.

In “Harlem Shuffle” (1963), Bob & Earl sing “I don't want you to scuffle now.”

There are a few others, including Magic Slim and the Teardrops' “Scufflin,” which is easily available on CD (Blind Pig 5036), and Harold Ashby's “Scufflin'” LP (Black & Blue 33-139).

IZ ZAT SO? Of the Top 50 Pop solo vocalists of the pre-rock era, here are those we are fortunate enough to still have with us, listed by date of birth:

Tony Martin (December 25, 1912); Frankie Laine (March 30, 1913); Jo Stafford (November 12, 1917); Kay Starr (July 21, 1922); Doris Day (April 3, 1924); Margaret Whiting (July 22, 1924); Tony Bennett (August 3, 1926); Patti Page (November 8, 1927); Vic Damone (June 12, 1928); Eddie Fisher (August 10, 1928).

These are Pop acts, but on a similar list of C&W (Eddy Arnold; Ray Price; etc.) R&B (Fats Domino; B.B. King; etc.), and Jazz (Dave Brubeck; Oscar Peterson; etc.) stars, many other familiar names would appear.

One significant point regarding Tony Bennett is he is the only one on this list to have a recently-recorded album!

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