Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Perhaps I am mistaken, but wasn't "The Tennessee Waltz," by Patti Page, the B-side? I think "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" was the A-side.
—Duane Smart, Seattle

DEAR DUANE: You are not mistaken, but here is the rest of the story:

More often than not, when one side of the record has an identification number lower than the I.D number on the reverse, the side with the lower number just happens to be the A-side.

However, identification numbers are not intended to indicate the side the record company is pushing as the A-side.

Companies have used "A-side" and "B-side," as well other markings to promote one side over the other, such as an "X," "Side 1/Side 2," "This Side," "Plug Side," etc.

As for "The Tennessee Waltz" (Mercury 5534), it was the A-side from the get-go. The lower identification number on "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" meant absolutely nothing more than an I.D.

In the Cash Box Reviews for November 11, 1950 — 68 years ago yesterday — they reviewed both sides accordingly, with the A-side first:

"Patti Page teams up with herself on the top deck [A-side] of this platter to give us two voices in harmony. Using a slow waltz as the vehicle, Patti's vocalizing with herself turns this into an enjoyable waxing.

"Bottom half [B-side] is a boogie number with a fast beat and a good arrangement and is perfect for Patti's style of singing. A disk with a lot of possibilities for ops [jukebox operators]."

By the end of the year, "The Tennessee Waltz" was No. 1 on Cash Box, Billboard, and one week later on Your Hit Parade.

Patti's "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" never appeared on any chart. An earlier version by Mable Scott (Exclusive 75x) was mentioned in Cash Box as being played for a couple of weeks in 1948 by a Los Angeles R&B radio station.

As the Cash Box Review noted, "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" may have reaped some coin machine plays during December, but for the New Year, Mercury replaced "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" with Patti Page's "Long Long Ago."

Because "The Tennessee Waltz" was still selling like crazy, Mercury, not wanting to risk confusing customers, retained the same number (#5534) on the new pairing.

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