Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Since it came out in late 1958, “The Chipmunk Song” has remained one of my favorite Christmas songs. It combines a truly beautiful piece of music with the humorous antics of David, Alvin, Theodore and Simon. As you know, this recording caused quite a sales sensation when it came out, went quickly to No. 1 and has become a Christmas standard.

Despite all that success and notoriety in America, I have a friend who grew up in England and she swears “The Chipmunk Song” was not a hit at all there. She says she never heard it until coming to the U.S.A.

Can you look into this? It doesn't seem possible.
—Roy Fisher, Franklin, Va.

DEAR ROY: Your Brit pal is tellin' it bloody straight mate. “The Chipmunk Song” does not appear anywhere, at any time, on the New Musical Express charts.

In fact, none of the Chipmunks' two dozen hits in America made much of a splash acoss the pond. Only “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” charted on N.M.E. Even without Chipmunkmaina, this one did slightly better in the U.K. than stateside, reaching No. 11 there and No. 16 here.

Also, the Chipmunk forerunner, David Seville's mid-1958 No. 1 hit “Witch Doctor,” reached the N.M.E. Top 10. The success of the speeded-up, Chipmunk-like voice in “Witch Doctor” (“ooh ee, ooh ah ah, ting-tang wolla-wolla bing-bang”) paved the way for the squirrelly voices of Alvin, Theodore and Simon.

DEAR JERRY: Please help me with a Don Covay question. I have a promo 45 of his on Sue 709. Since I found some Ike & Tina Turner singles on Sue in the 700 series, I believe this one is from 1960-'63

The titles are “Believe It Or Not” backed with “Betty Jean,” but they are not soul or R&B, for which Don Covay is best known. It is more of a Coasters-style rock and roll. I am unable to find any reference anywhere to indicate Don Covay ever had any recordings on Sue, so I would be grateful for any information that you can provide.
—Roy Murphy

DEAR RON: Sue 709 came out earlier than you think. It is one of two Don Covay issues in 1958, his first year as a solo artist. The other is “Standing in the Doorway” (Blaze 350).

The great success of the Coasters inspired Covay and many other mid-to-late '50s acts to jump on the soundalike bandwagon. You may recall in 1962, when Chubby Checker ruled the teen dance market, Don Covay then put his best Checker-like tones into “The Popeye Waddle.” He even got it on Cameo-Parkway, the company that had Chubby Checker signed.

There is another Checker-Covay connection: Don Covay wrote and recorded the original “Pony Time,” though Chubby Checker's version is the one that went to No. 1. While Covay's disc flopped, he presumably received substantial songwriting royalties from Chubby's hit.

In 1964, Don Covay's string of a dozen soul hits began with “Mercy, Mercy.”

What's it Worth? Get fast appraisals by e-mail!

DEAR JERRY: Who is actor Cuba Gooding Jr.'s dad? We know he was a singer in a group that had at least one hit. We would appreciate an answer. It would be so nice to finally resolve this earthshaking question.

DEAR LYNN: In 1971 Cuba Gooding Sr. joined the Main Ingredient, just in time for their biggest hit, “Everybody Plays the Fool,” which reached No. 3 nationally.

The group also had five or six hits on each side of “Everybody Plays the Fool,” including another Top 10 item, “Just Don't Want to Be Lonely.”

IZ ZAT SO? The names given the singing Chipmunks by David Seville were inspired by real-life executives at Liberty Records: Alvin Bennett (president), Theodore Keep (engineer) and Simon Waronker (founder-owner)

Return to "Mr. Music" Home Page