Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: My two favorite female singers have always been Connie Francis and Brenda Lee.

I know they don't sound alike, but aren't their careers similar in many ways?
—Jessica Buchanan, Wauwatosa, Wisc.

DEAR JESSICA: Yes indeed! Let us count the similarities:

Connie's first record came out in 1955, Brenda's in '56, but both first hit the charts in 1957 — Connie with “The Majesty of Love,” and Brenda with “One Step at a Time.”

While each lady leads in certain individual categories ranked (i.e., singles or albums, domestic or worldwide, etc.) overall the Top 2 female stars of the 1960s are Brenda and Connie.

Connie charted nine hit songs in 1961; Brenda had eight in '62. Both are superstar numbers for just one year.

Considering their domination for that decade, neither lady hit the Top 100 on any of the charts during 1968.

By any standard, both have over 50 single hits to their credit. Amazingly, all of Connie's are on MGM, and all but one of Brenda's are for Decca-MCA.

Credit Connie with 16 Top 10 hits, and Brenda with 12.

Connie's total of No. 1 hits is three (“Everybody's Somebody's Fool”; “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own”; and “Don't Break the Heart That Loves You”), and Brenda has two (“I'm Sorry” and “I Want to Be Wanted”).

Neither ever reached No. 1 on the LP charts; however, the peak position for each of them is No. 4: Connie's “Italian Favorites,” and “This Is … Brenda.”

Connie's first hit, “The Majesty of Love,” is a duet with Marvin Rainwater. While certainly not a common name, Brenda's stepfather, who worked as her first manager, is Jay Rainwater. He and Marvin are not related.

Brenda's real father died when she was three, meaning Jay was the only daddy she really knew.

Both are first ballot 2007 inductees into the prestigious Hit Parade Hall of Fame.

We saved the best parallel for last: Both Connie and Brenda are still very active and remain magnificent songbirds.

DEAR JERRY: My question is based on seeing superstar producer David Foster interviewed on a TV show.

In it, he talked about his interest in music and playing piano as a young child, and some Rock bands he joined in the '60s. He then jumped ahead his successful 1980s projects with Olivia Newton-John, Celine Dion and others.

Did he simply do nothing in the '70s? Or perhaps nothing memorable?
—Tina Robbins, San Antonio, Texas

DEAR TINA: Given how Foster's post-'70s triumphs greatly eclipse his earlier years, it is understandable to focus on 1980 to present.

For example, on February 27, 1980, David took home the first of his 15 Grammy Awards. To date, he has been a Grammy nominee 45 times.

Foster, first as a member of Skylark, then the Attitudes, did have a couple of hits in the 1970s: Skylark with “Wildflower” (Capitol 3511) in 1973, a Top 10 hit; and three years later with “Sweet Summer Music,” a delightful song by the Attitudes (Dark Horse 10011).

Each of these two groups released two albums, on which David is featured as a keyboardist and vocalist.

Thousands of aspiring artists would love a career matching only what David Foster accomplished in the '70s.

IZ ZAT SO? When the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas booked Brenda Lee to headline their three-week “Christmas Package,” not all of the publicity surrounding the event was favorable.

Rather than her performance, the controversy centered on Brenda's age. She had just turned 12 at the time.

As an example, here is an passage from “Country & Western Jamboree” magazine (1957):

“Nevada is the only state in the USA where minors can sing in places [where] liquor is sold. We cannot possibly understand why a Las Vegas nightclub would book a 12-year-old girl, or why anyone in charge of the child's schedule would permit such a booking.”

Besides Brenda, humorously billed for this three-week engagement as “The Moppet of the Perry Como Show,” the Ink Spots; Archie Robbins; Chiquita & Johnson; the Wong Troupe; and Lou Basil with His Orchestra rounded out the “Sparkling Holiday Entertainment.”

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