Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Your column about the killing songs provided a glimpse into an unexplored yet fascinating genre of music.

It also killed me (with laughter) as you categorized the Teen Angel's cause of death as “stupidity.” I can picture the Medical Examiner's report now!

Meanwhile, the “I Shot the Sheriff” question reminds me of another song, one I hope you can identify.

Based on what little I remember, it is more humorous than serious.

For example, at the trial for shooting the sheriff, the judge sentences the killer to 99 years.

Hearing this, the man's response is something like “It could have been worse. It could have been life. They might have hung me.”

Whether or not this was ever a hit, I can't say.

Is this enough of a clue?
—Terri Mendenhall, Chicago

DEAR TERRI: Just enough.

This folk song, involving a scalawag with an enviable ability to look on the bright side, is by the Kingston Trio.

Titled “Bad Man Blunder” (Capitol 4379), it is a Top 40 hit from the summer of 1960.

Though the shooting victim in this story is only a deputy, the eventual arrest is made by the sheriff.

The “blunder” referenced in the title is the shooter's decision to sleep late the morning after the crime, then nonchalantly move on, rather than high-tail it out of town.

His amusing excuse for “steppin' right along but steppin' too slow” is “it was a sultry day.”

DEAR JERRY: A few years ago in the column, you interviewed Don Cherry.

Besides talking about “Band of Gold,” and his other hits, he also spoke about singing the famous radio and TV commercials for Mr. Clean.

Not mentioned at all is that this song is actually a male-female duet. Nor is the woman named, and she sings just as much of the song as Don does.

Was she a popular singer at the time, who maybe had records of her own?

Can you call Mr. Cherry again and see if he remembers her name?
—Eugene Dillard, Paducah, Ky.

DEAR EUGENE: No need to call Don, who is probably out on the golf course anyway.

Dueting with Cherry on behalf of Mr. Clean is Betty Bryan.

If you don't recognize her name, you are not alone. Despite a delightful voice and perky style, I know of no records by Betty Bryan.

You may also recall Don Cherry telling us he has earned more from that 60 second Mr. Clean commercial than all his royalties from record sales.

Since this jingle has been running nearly 50 years, it would seem some degree of prosperity would also be enjoyed by Betty Bryan.

DEAR JERRY: In the late '60s, I often listened to the American Top 40 radio show. Now I am trying to remember something the dee jay said 40 years ago about “Harper Valley P.T.A.”

It involved breaking some record for the biggest single-week jump ever on their Top 40 charts.

Can you unearth this trivia fact and refresh my memory?
—Dinah Bridges, Fort Worth, Tx.

DEAR DINAH: I believe the answer is found on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending August 31, 1968.

That week, Jeannie C. Riley's “Harper Valley P.T.A.” leaped from No. 81 to No. 7 — a 74 position climb and a new Rock Era record in that category.

Eclipsed then by Jeannie was “Lonesome Town,” by Ricky Nelson, which made a 68 position surge in late October 1958.

Here is another “Harper Valley P.T.A.” claim to fame: no other record, whether Rock Era or beyond, ever made a broader jump into the nation's Top 10.

IZ ZAT SO? Not until 1952 did a solo female (Kitty Wells) have a No. 1 C&W hit (“It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”).

Besides Wells, only Goldie Hill, Patsy Cline, Connie Smith, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette topped the charts in the 16 years that followed.

Then, in the summer of '68, a newcomer named Jeannie C. Riley not only added her name to that impressive list but started an even loftier one.

With “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” Riley became history's first woman to top both the Country and Pop-Rock charts.

Not until 1981, and Dolly Parton's “9 to 5,” did this exclusive club get its second member.

Coincidentally, the “Harper Valley P.T.A” and “9 to 5” story lines both evolved into feature films.

Return to "Mr. Music" Home Page