Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I hope you can help me find a song which I believe is from the late '60s. I believe it may be titled “Sweet Lorraine,” or at least that is what one of the refrains says. All I can remember of this song is something about her “sitting upon the shelf,” or similar wording.

This has been driving me crazy for years because at the time the song came out, it was one of my favorites but it obviously didn't chart very high because it was rarely played on the radio. I have always thought that it was by Country Joe and the Fish, but now I'm not sure.

I do know that I will once again be able to sleep at night if you can give me some information about this song.
—Thank you, Dick T. (

DEAR DICK: You are just three words short of a complete title. The song is “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine,” and it is by Country Joe and the Fish (Vanguard 35052).

Although not much of a chart hit nationally — this Fish issue floundered around the bottom of the Top 100 for two weeks — “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” did fairly well on many of the San Francisco-area charts during the 1967 Summer of Love.

I take great satisfaction knowing I have brought an end to your sleepless nights.

DEAR JERRY: I have a friend of 30 years named James. When we meet at class reunions in Milwaukee, I greet him by saying “James, James, hold the ladder steady.”

It's a line from an old song but neither he nor I, nor anyone else there for that matter, can remember the name of the tune or of the lady who sings it. Can you?
—Robert Basina, Milwaukee, Wisc.

DEAR ROBERT: You have pretty much nailed the title, which is “James (Hold the Ladder Steady)” (Hickory 1183). This is but one of seven early '60s hits for Sue Thompson, most being of the silly-but-cute variety.

Others you and your class may have also forgotten include “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry), Two of a Kind, Willie Can, Paper Tiger,” and the million-selling “Norman.”

DEAR JERRY: Please help me settle a big bet with my wife. She claims there was a female singer with the original Platters. I say she is crazy. Can you help?
—Tom Michael (

DEAR TOM: If, apart from this debate, the poor misses is crazy there is little I can do. However, when it comes to who knows the most about the Platters — well, I hope you are prepared to pay up.

From the time of their first smash hit, “Only You” (1955), the lone female Platter was Zola Taylor. It is she you see pictured in publicity photos and on all those album covers from the '50s.

Zola is also the lead vocalist on some of the group's well-known tunes, such as “He's Mine, My Old Flame,” and “Someone to Watch over Me.”

IZ ZAT SO? At the time of his death, in 1968 of a drug overdose, Frankie Lymon (of the Teenagers) was married to Zola Taylor (of the Platters).

With royalties on such Teenagers' tunes as “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” being substantial and ongoing, two other women surfaced, both claiming to have been Lymon's widow and rightful heir.

The courts denied their claims and ruled in favor of Zola Taylor, though assorted appeals and claims followed.

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