Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I have always felt Gene Pitney is one of the really great pop singers of my generation. Thankfully, he is still very active and performing, often in the New England area.

In that regard, Gene did at show at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut last summer, one that was recorded, supposedly to be televised soon on PBS.

I checked the PBS web site and programming schedule, but find no mention of this show. Can you find out anything about this and pass it on through your column?
—Michelle Dole, York, Pa.

DEAR MICHELLE: The man himself, Gene Pitney, provides you an update on that very exciting project:

“We just finished mixing the audio track on the tester, or demo, tape of six songs for PBS. This is a short version of some of the songs in the show, and it gets sent out to affiliates to see if they are interested in showing the complete concert when it comes out in the first week of March.

“I know they are sending the demo tape to places like Buffalo, Dallas, and Philadelphia. If your station wants to see the test program, they can request it from Larry Rifkin, who is my co-producer, at CPTV in Hartford Connecticut. Their phone number is (860) 278-5310, and their fax is (860) 278-2157.

“By the way, it came out super and I can't wait to get to work on the audio of the entire show, which is much more diversified than the short tester.

“Have some great holidays, and stay well.”
—Gene Pitney, Hartford, Conn.

DEAR JERRY: Since it is the Christmas season again, and we're hearing the music of the holidays — mostly songs of the past — it got me reflecting. Naturally, my thinking hit a roadblock, one that I know you can clear for me.

One of the best known and top selling of all Christmas songs is Gene Autry's “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” but I know Autry also had some other holiday hits. One you rarely hear, but that I recall, is “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

So I wondering just how many Christmas hits Gene had in his lengthy career, and if anyone had more than he. Perhaps another old-timer, like Johnny Cash or Eddy Arnold?

I'll be watching for your reply. Happy holidays and all that jazz.
—Connie O'Day, Shenandoah, Va.

DEAR CONNIE: It is hard to find anyone in either the country or the western field of music with more holiday hits than Gene Autry. His four are: “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane); Frosty the Snowman”; and “The Night Before Christmas Song.”

Relative newcomer, Alan Jackson, does, however, tie the Singing Cowboy in this department. His tunes are: “I Only Want You for Christmas; A Holly Jolly Christmas; Honky Tonk Christmas,” and a 1996 remake of Gene's “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Eddy Arnold has three to his credit: “Will Santy Come to Shanty Town; C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S” and “Christmas Can't Be Far Away.”

Despite his immense C&W stature, Johnny Cash has but one Christmas tune among his 150 or so hits, and that is “The Little Drummer Boy.”

IZ ZAT SO? Besides Johnny Cash, seven other artists have charted with versions of “The Little Drummer Boy,” (Harry Simeone Chorale; Jack Halloran Singers; Johnny Mathis; Joan Baez; Kenny Burrell; Lou Rawls; Moonlion) making it the Christmas tune with the most charted versions.

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