Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR READERS: This feature debuted December 26, 1986, meaning we have just begun the 25th consecutive year in syndication of MR. MUSIC columns.

Perhaps most amazing to see is how, week after week, we continue to get fresh inquiries covering topics not previously asked. This week is no exception.

Thanks for all the fun questions ... thanks for reading what we have to say ... and let's continue meeting like this!

DEAR JERRY: Throughout the second season of “Damages,” we were treated to many carefully edited teaser scenes, making viewers think that Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) shoots Patty Hewes (Glenn Close).

Of course, in the season finale, we discover she pulled the trigger but did not aim directly at Patty.

Accompanying these scenes each time is the same jazz-style song. Its lyrics mention things being a thrill, probably to tie in with Ellen seeking revenge. After all, Hewes just confessed to having someone try to kill Parsons, an associate at Patty's law firm.

I've heard snippets of this “thrill” song so many times, and now I want to find it and have the complete recording, without the talking.

If you watch “Damages,” you'll know the one I mean.
—Doris Winchell, Cudahy, Wisc.

DEAR DORIS: I know, and you will be thrilled to know that of all the inquiries we received about this “thrill kill” song, we chose yours.

Kudos to “Damages” music editor, Robert Cotnoir, for picking “Just for a Thrill,” by Ray Charles, and weaving it in and out of the most compelling moments in the series, at least so far.

This beautiful piece came out in 1960 on both LP, “The Genius of Ray Charles” (Atlantic 1312), and 45 rpm (Atlantic 2055).

Brother Ray's single cracked the R&B Top 20, but no one has ever known the thrill of making the Top 100 Pop charts with “Just for a Thrill.”

Numerous other versions exist, by a diverse group of recording artists. Some of those are: Peggy Lee; Ink Spots; Ray Brown & Milt Jackson; Aretha Franklin; Ronnie Milsap; J.J. Johnson & Kai Winding; Nancy Wilson; Don Shirley; Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra Featuring Helen O'Connell; Hank Crawford; Shirley Horn; Boilermaker Jazz Band; Jim Byrnes (a convincing Ray Charles sound-alike); Lettermen; Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones' bassist) & His Rhythm Kings; and Phil Humphrey with the Fendermen (of “Mule Skinner Blues” fame).

You'll never again hear this tune and not picture Ellen twirling her pistol around, keeping viewers in suspense.

Listen now to “Just for a Thrill.”

DEAR JERRY: One of my all-time favorite holiday songs is “Cool Yule,” by Louis Armstrong.

When I first discovered it online, just last year, I was blown away. The orchestration is fabulous, and the lyrics right on point. Did Armstrong write it?

Was it issued as a regular record? If so, when, and why have I never ever heard this treasure on the radio?

Tell me all about “Cool Yule,” and also have one.
—Barry Jorgen, Manchester, N.H.

DEAR BARRY: I will, and I did. Thank you!

Written by legendary TV star Steve Allen, “Cool Yule” is one of five tracks Louis and his band, the Commanders, recorded at Decca's New York studio, on October 22, 1953.

About three weeks later, this tune, and the other seasonal number from that session, “Zat You, Santa Claus,” came out back-to-back on a single, both 45 and 78 rpm (Decca 28943).

Preposterous as it seems, “Cool Yule” did not become a hit of any degree, not even regionally, not even on the easy-to-make Christmas favorites list, not that year or any other.

In their November 21, 1953 issue, Billboard's new release reviewers gave “Cool Yule” a 72 rating, ranking it in the “excellent” category, along with this glowing comment: “This Jazzy Christmas greeting from the fabulous Louis is quite a production, one his fans will want.”

Possessing the components to practically guarantee a hit record — big name artist; extraordinary recording; major label; good press and reviews; and perfect timing — one might be left with nothing but the fickle finger of fate to blame for a pick to click that didn't click after being picked.

IZ ZAT SO? Satchmo's first recordings, under his own name and fronting his own combo (Louis Armstrong's Hot Five), were made in 1925 for the Okeh label.

Louis didn't have to wait long to see his name on the charts. In the summer of '26, his third record, “Muskrat Ramble,” backed with “Heebie Jeebies,” (Okeh 8300) ranked among the 10 best-selling singles.

From then to early 1999, when a remixed “What a Wonderful World” (Arista 13710) made the Adult Contemporary chart, makes for a 73-year chart span r— a seemingly unmatchable feat.

Among consistent hit-makers, the two runners-up, Bing Crosby (48 years: 1927-1975) and Frank Sinatra (44 years: 1940-1984), are far behind in this event.

Not included in our calculations are the infinite revivals of this pair's Christmas catalog.

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