DEAR JERRY: Shortly after the first appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan TV show, the radio stations started playing “A Letter to the Beatles,” by the Four Preps. Being a Beatles nut, I bought it the first time I heard it.
Since the Four Preps previously made some comedy-novelty hits, such as “More Money for You and Me,” it was no surprise they would do a funny song about a girlfriend trying to join the Beatles Fan Club.
Having not heard any Beatles novelty before “A Letter to the Beatles” came along, might it be the first hit of its kind?
Lastly, I see the writing credits are shown as “Ulz - Larson - Belland.” I know Larson and Belland are half of the Four Preps, but who, or what, is Ulz?
Jill Weede, Hanover, Pa.
DEAR JILL: You may find the answer to your second question even more enthralling than the first, as it unlocks a fascinating sidebar.
The mysterious person with the three-letter name is Ivan Ulz, without whom there would not be “A Letter to the Beatles” (Capitol 5143).
In 1962, 18-year-old Ivan, infatuated with actress-singer Hayley Mills, wrote and recorded “A Letter to Hayley.” For this single, Ulz used the pseudonym Billy Kidd.
Probably not a bad idea, as dee jays might have murdered Ulz, which rhymes with jewels.
Published by Lar-Bell Music, this tune came out on the Lar Bell label.
Surprise! The co-owners of Lar Bell Records are none other than Glen LARson and Bruce BELLand.
“A Letter to the Hayley” did not become a hit, but it clearly inspired “A Letter to the Beatles,” with Glen and Bruce joined by the other two Preps: Ed Cobb and Marvin Inabnett.
Larson and Belland changed only a few of Ivan's lyrics, replacing Hayley Mills references with ones about the Beatles, which is why they share writing credit with Ulz.
After a successful singing and songwriting career, Larson turned his attention to television where he became an industry giant. A sampling of shows he created and/or produced are “Battlestar Gallactia”; “McCloud”; “The Six Million Dollar Man”; “Quincy M.E.”; “Alias Smith and Jones”; “Knight Rider”; and “Magnum P.I.”
Belland teamed with David Somerville, lead singer of the Diamonds, to create a stage show featuring the hits of the Diamonds and the Four Preps.
Both Cobb and Inabnett died in 1999.
Though not the first to chart with a Beatles novelty, the Four Preps are among the earliest.
On February 22, 1964, Donna Lynn made the charts with “My Boyfriend Got a Beatle Haircut” (Capitol 5127). Remarkably ahead of the pack, Donna recorded this track on January 14, 1964, four days BEFORE “I Want to Hold You Hand” debuted on the national charts.
By the time it came out (February 10), all of America knew what a Beatle haircut looked like. The boys made their CBS-TV debut the night before on Ed Sullivan show.
The fascination with the Beatles' hair style continued, as the Swans charted one week later (February 29) with “The Boy with the Beatle Hair” (Cameo 302).
Two more novelties charted on March 21: “A Letter to the Beatles” (Four Preps) and “We Love You Beatles,” by the Carefrees (London 10614).
IZ ZAT SO? Knowing how Beatlemania swept Europe the year before they landed in the U.S. especially in the UK and Germany we managed to dig up two 1963 records about them.
The earliest one is a German release, issued with a snazzy picture sleeve. By Die Sweetles (rhymes with Beatles), its title is “Ich wünsch' mir zum Geburtstag einen Beatle” (Polydor 52 329). The English translation appears to be “I Want a Beatle for My Birthday.”
In the UK, Dora Bryan with Johnny Gregory and Orchestra released “All I Want for Christmas Is a Beatle” (Fontana TF-427), obviously just in time for everyone's Christmas shopping.
Regardless of the occasion, a Beatle seems to have topped many a gift list back then.