Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Living so close to Ontario, we are exposed to quite a bit more Canadian music than most folks in the U.S.

One of our favorite channels happens to be automated, meaning lots of music but no dee jays.

That is fine for listeners who can access their playlist online, but for us without access to the Net, we have to dig for the info.

Most of the 2014 Sounds of the Season are familiar, but there is one selection I've never heard before.

From the lyrics, the title could be either "St. Nick Never Comes Twice," or "St. Nicholas Christmas."

Who sings it and how long as it been around?
—David Adcock, Buffalo, N.Y.

DEAR DAVID: You nailed it on the second guess.

It is "St. Nicholas Christmas" and is by Bobby Curtola, an Ontario native who is one of Canada's top-selling artists of all time.

His 1962 multi-million selling "Fortune Teller" (Tartan 1008) was also his biggest hit in the States; however, the U.S. title is all one word, "Fortuneteller" (Del-Fi 4177).

Bobby has been recording and performing regularly since 1960, with "St. Nicholas Christmas" being his most recent CD single.

This delightful number was first issued in 1990 on his Tartan "Christmas Flashback" album (TAR-0014), a CD collection often found online for under $20.

In conclusion, Bobby Curtola explains his Christmas connection:

"I have always loved Christmas and the love and goodwill that comes with it. The Christmas Season has been a time that is very special to me. It is a time for family and friends and a special time to cherish the ones who live on in our book of memories. Be kind to one another and remember … the greatest thing you will ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."

If those last 16 words sound somewhat familiar, they are the lesson imparted in "Nature Boy," as popularized by Nat King Cole; Frank Sinatra; Sarah Vaughan; Bobby Darin; and others.

DEAR JERRY: Many years ago you helped me by naming all of the Wynn Stewart song titles mentioned in Kathy Robertson's "Can't Get Enough of Wynn."

Now I'm back with a very similar request, but this time it's about the titles in "I Want Eddie Fisher for Christmas."

Who sings this novelty, and how many of Fisher's hit songs does she reference?
—Carla Evans, Harrisburg, Pa.

DEAR CARLA: "I Want Eddie Fisher for Christmas," issued in November 1954, is by Betty Johnson (New Disc 10013).

There are six of Eddie's songs referenced in this recording, but only one, "Any Time," is actually sung. The other five are couched in Betty's letter to St. Nick, which she reads:

"Dear Santa: I know I'm still in my 'Green Years,' but you're 'My Friend,' Santa, and I 'Wish You Were Here' right now with Eddie Fisher walking behind you ('I'm Walking Behind You'). Believe me, if I ever needed a Christmas present, I need it now ('I Need You Now')."

I think they missed a seemingly obvious opportunity to not only use two more of Fisher's song titles, but to include ones that are in fact Christmas tunes.

Both could be worked into a simple line like It's "Christmas Day" and "You're All I Want for Christmas."

But why sing about Eddie Fisher?

For starters, he was the No. 1 singer in America in the three years leading up to the rock era. No one else was even close.

From 1952 through '54, Fisher placed 32 tunes in the Top 30, and 20 of those reached the Top 10.

When choosing to wish for a visit from a male singer in 1954, Betty could not have made a better choice.

Following "I Want Eddie Fisher for Christmas," Betty Johnson had a string of wonderful recordings, including "I'll Wait"; "I Dreamed"; "Little White Lies"; "1492"; "The Little Blue Man"; and "Dream."

IZ ZAT SO? One wouldn't necessarily expect a cover (i.e., competing) version of "I Want Eddie Fisher for Christmas," but a much different waxing also came out in November 1954.

By Spike Jones' Band, and featuring Linda Strangis, accompanied by the St. Mary's Magdalen Choir (RCA Victor 5920), this number is performed straight, without the zany sounds and shenanigans typical of Spike Jones and His City Slickers.

Also absent from this version is the reading of the letter to Santa.

Instead, there is some narrative at the beginning where little Linda explains how she made her Christmas wish known to Santa in a dream.

IZ ZAT SO? When Tom T. Hall wrote "Harper Valley P.T.A." he could never have imagined what a cultural phenomenon he'd created.

Not only did Jeannie C. Riley's 1968 recording top both the pop and country charts in the U.S. and Canada — the first time ever accomplished by a female — but that one little phonograph record inspired a feature film (1978) AND a TV series (1981). That too had never happened before.

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