DEAR JERRY: Sixty years ago when I was in high school I heard "Rachel, Oh, Rachel" on the radio. The disc jockey who played it said "this song will soon sweep the nation."
I liked it and can still hear it in my mind, so I waited for it to start nation sweeping. Instead, what it did was quickly vanish, and I never heard it again.
Do you know anything about "Rachel, Oh, Rachel," such as who sang it and who wrote it?
Steve Maersch, Greendale, Wis.
DEAR STEVE: Yes, those two tidbits are among the wealth of "Rachel" information I have for you.
For starters, there is only one word in this title; however, every mention but one of "Rachel" in the song is followed by "Oh, Rachel."
No wonder that line stuck with you.
Written in 1952 by Tony Lavello and Harriett Pressman, "Rachel" was first recorded by Artie Wayne, with orchestration by Tony Lavello.
Originally issued in December 1952 on a small label (Kem 2718), "Rachel" soon topped two of Billboard's weekly New Pop Picks lists, making it the No. 1 tune with both Disk Jockeys and Juke Box Operators, in late January '53.
That was enough to interest Mercury in the song, and they picked it up for immediate release (Mercury 70090).
Meanwhile, a cover version by Al Martino, with Monty Kelly directing the Orchestra and Chorus (Capitol 2353), debuted in the Top 10 Pop Sellers at No. 8.
The Billboard (Feb. 7, 1953) stopped short of saying either record would "sweep the nation," but they certainly gave Martino's a glowing review:
"This one bears watching. It's got the big, socko opening, the lush Monty Kelly orchestrating, and Martino chanting in the style which started him to the top. It's got lots of spirit." Martino's dynamic "Rachel" followed the hit, "Take My Heart," and his million-selling "Here in My Heart."
In the end, the Wayne and Martino recordings were successful to a similar extent, so it could be either one that's running through your mind, but you can easily hear them both on YouTube.
DEAR JERRY: I don't speak French but I am interested in collecting some of Celine Dion's Canadian Francophone records, ones made before she was known in the U.S.
Here's the rub. According to the biographies I've read, her first recording was "Ce N'etait Qu'un Reve."'
But then all the bios fast-forward to music executive Rene Angelil financing and producing her first record, "`La Voix du bon Dieu."
They both cannot be her "first record." What happened to "Ce N'etait Qu'un
Reve"? Was it ever released? If issued, was it popular?
Cathy Rhodes, Buffalo, N.Y.
DEAR CATHY: I had to see for myself, and am now amazed to find you are absolutely right.
I suspect one bio was written with the glaring omission, and other sources simply copied and recycled the same information.
For what would be her first record, Celine teamed with Jacques Dion, one of her brothers, and mother Therese (not the Blessed Mother Teresa) to write the words and music for "Ce N'etait Qu'un Reve" (translation: It Was Only a Dream).
Having not recorded a second vocal, for the other side, Les Disques Showbizz went with an instrumental version of "Ce N'etait Qu'un Reve," by Daniel Hetu and His Orchestra, for the B-side (Showbizz 334).
Though the record failed to make the Canadian national charts, this tune did enter the Top 15 in Quebec.
That made it official. In June 1981, the lifelong dream of Celine Dion to be a recording artist became a reality, and she was barely 13 years old.
Michel Dion, another of Celine's 13 older siblings, sent "Ce N'etait Qu'un Reve" to Rene Angelil, who was so impressed with the teenager that he took out a second mortgage on his home to finance her first LP album: "La Voix du bon Dieu" (The Voice of the Good God), but not her first "record." Both came out in 1981.
From 1981 through 1989 Celine was strictly a Francophone artist, with many singles and albums to her credit. In early 1990, her first English language LP, "Unison," introduced the songbird to a significant percentage of the non-French speaking world.
Meanwhile, in December 1994 Celine and her manager, Rene, 26 years her senior, were married.
IZ ZAT SO? Celine Dion has accumulated over 100 major entertainment awards worldwide, among them 16 GRAMMY nominations resulting in five wins:
1993: Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal - "Beauty and the Beast" (with Peabo Bryson)
1997: Album of the Year - "Falling into You"
1997: Best Pop Vocal Album - "Falling into You"
1999: Record of the Year - "My Heart Will Go On"
1999: Best Female Pop Vocal Performance - "My Heart Will Go On"