Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: My wife, a native of Birmingham, England, has a real connection to the history of British music — including how it differs from ours in the U.S.

One interesting example she cites is Slim Whitman, an American C&W singer who is best known in the U.S. for “Indian Love Call.”

Wifey says Slim was a genuine superstar in the UK, one whose albums sold in the millions. Furthermore, she recalls him having a record that remained No. 1 longer than anything ever issued by the Beatles, Elvis, Abba, Elton, Everlys, or anyone else of her era.

Unfortunately, she does not know its title. Do you, and can you confirm her recollection? Was Slim Whitman really that much more popular in the UK than in America?
—Clint Gaynor, Carlisle, Pa.

DEAR CLINT: Wifey is right on all matters regarding Slim Whitman.

His sales and popularity in Great Britain far exceeded those in the U.S., attributed in no small part to the monster hit Wifey describes but cannot identify. That title is “Rose-Marie.”

Though this summer 1955 number never made the American Pop charts, it became the biggest record of that entire year in the UK.

It only took two weeks for “Rose-Marie” to jump to No. 1 (July 30), a lofty chart spot Slim would not relinquish until October 15, 1955.

This 11-week stranglehold at No. 1 is the longest consecutive run in the first 39 years of the New Musical Express charts.

The record stood until October 5, 1991, when “Everything I Do (I Do It for You),” by Bryan Adams, entered its 12th week at the top — of what would eventually be a 14-week run.

As for some famous Rock Era challengers, including artists you mention, here they are with their longest-running No. 1 UK hits:

Nine weeks: “It's Now Or Never” (Elvis Presley); “Cathy's Clown” (Everly Brothers); “Diana” (Paul Anka).

Seven weeks: “All Shook Up” (Elvis Presley); “All I Have to Do Is Dream” (Everly Brothers); “Don't Go Breaking My Heart” (Elton John & Kiki Dee); “Green Green Grass of Home” (Tom Jones).

Six weeks: “From Me to You” (Beatles); “I Feel Fine” (Beatles); “Hello Goodbye” (Beatles); “Fernando” (Abba).

Considering this powerful superstar line-up, we'd have to rate Slim Whitman's UK achievment as truly remarkable.

DEAR JERRY: During the early and mid-'60s, including the British Invasion, most of the popular American groups also had one or two Christmas hits. The two top U.S. groups are perfect examples:

The Beach Boys had “Little Saint Nick” and “The Man with All the Toys,” and the 4 Seasons did “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

So it seems strange that I can't recall a single Christmas song by ANY of the British groups, much less the ones who dominated Top 40 radio at the time.

Are there some that I've forgotten?
—Gayle Vandenberg, Sacramento, Calif.

DEAR GAYLE: If there are, then I too have forgotten them.

The situation changed a wee bit in the '70s and '80s, as the Brits sent us a few tunes that have become Yule classics.

Notable among those are: “Step Into Christmas” (Elton John, 1973); “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (John Lennon with Yoko and the Plastic Ono Band, 1971); “Wonderful Christmastime” (Paul McCartney, 1979); and “Stop the Cavalry” (Cory Band-Gwalia Singers, 1981).

You may be even more amazed to learn there are no Christmas hits by British groups in the U.K. Top 30 for that entire decade.

Most of the charted holiday tunes are by American solo artists, mainly Elvis Presley, Brenda Lee, and Roy Orbison.

IZ ZAT SO? A sign of the times, perhaps?

In the pre-Rock Era, finding Christmas songs atop the Pop charts was not so rare.

From 1944 through '54, we had five: “White Christmas” (Bing Crosby, 1945 and '46); “All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)” (Spike Jones & His City Slickers, 1948); “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (Gene Autry, 1949); and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (Little Jimmy Boyd, 1952).

Then from 1955 to present there is ONLY one: “The Chipmunk Song,” by the Chipmunks (Alvin, Theodore, Simon) with the Music of David Seville.

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