Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I'm a long-haul trucker and one of my 2002 trips took me across Wyoming.

A radio station there played a song that I have been unable to identify, mainly because I lack the details. There was no announcer, and the station seemed automated.

As a Marty Robbins fan, I have the “El Paso” trilogy, but I nearly drove off the road when I heard this fascinating song.

By a woman with guitar accompaniment, using Marty's original “El Paso” melody, the lyrics tell the story from Feelena's point of view. It has nothing to do with Marty's “El Paso” prequel, “Feelena (From El Paso).”

Sorry I have no other clues for you.
—Rick Whittaker, York, Pa.

DEAR RICK: Just don't jackknife the rig!

No other clue is necessary, as I know of only one female response recording to “El Paso.”

Plus, you hearing it in 2002 confirms it to be “Red Velvet Slippers,” an award-winning 1999 release with a title seemingly unconnected to “El Paso.” More on that later.

Written and recorded by Juni Fisher, “Red Velvet Slippers” is the lead track on her debut album “Tumbleweed Letters,” and it tells a slightly different story than Marty's familiar saga.

For example, killed at Rosa's Cantina in place of the “dashing and daring” cowboy shot in 1960, is Feelena's brother, Roberto.

It seems her love interest (Marty's character) mistakenly thought Roberto was wooing Feelena, thus the shootout.

An angry Feelena then picks up Roberto's gun intending to shoot his killer, but reconsiders when realizing his death won't bring Roberto back.

A Marty Robbins fan myself, I became curious as to Fisher's inspiration to write this song. And, thanks to cell phones, I caught up with Juni just after her November western tour, along with an appearance at the Western Music Association Awards in Albuquerque.

We talked while Juni drove, on her way home to Tennessee for Thanksgiving.

She recalls: “My father loved Marty's music, and it definitely rubbed off on me. In fact, “El Paso” is the first 45 I owned.

“Then in the early '90s, while I was in El Paso, I saw the building that was the real Rosa's Cantina. All those images in the song started running through my head, which led to my writing the story as told by a much older Feelena (i.e., “when I was a young girl I lived in El Paso, I danced at Rosa's Cantina at night”).

“I substituted my brother for the “handsome young stranger,” to better justify my anger and desire for revenge.

“Regarding the title, I wrote “As I headed back to Rosa's that night, I let the pistol slip out of my hand. I stopped and took off my red velvet slippers, and left them to fade in the El Paso sand.”

“Feelena discarding the slippers she wore when dancing at Rosa's is a metaphor for her leaving the life of the foolish young dance hall girl, whose flirting caused her brother's death.

“One thing Mr. Whittaker mentions is that I used the melody to “El Paso”; however, I did not use Marty's melody. That would have been a gross infringement of copyright law. My melody has the same patterns and harmonics, but is not the “El Paso” melody.

“Someone else once asked me how I got permission to use the melody, and I explained to them that it is not at all the same melody, but by using the same harmonics it brings the original melody to mind.

“I'm the original song-Nazi when it comes to keeping things original.

“Thanks so much for the visit!”

Juni didn't mention it, but at the aforementioned Western Music Association Award Showcase, she won in two key categories: Female Performer of the Year, and Traditional Album of the Year, “Gone for Colorado.” This brings to six her total of WMA awards since 2005.

Congratulations Juni!

DEAR JERRY: I have Phil Spector's “A Christmas Gift for You,” but there is one song, “Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree,” that must have been cut from the final album. I've only heard it online but it sure sounds like a 1963 recording.

This is a duet by two of the stars on the original LP, Ronnie Spector (of the Ronettes), and Darlene Love.

I was surprised to see neither Ronnie's nor Darlene's web site mentions this record at all.
—Mindy Olsen, Orem, Utah

DEAR MINDY: Though made many years after “A Christmas Gift for You,” Ronnie and Darlene truly capture the distinctive Spector sound on their revival of Brenda Lee's “Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.”

My source for this 1992 gem is the CD, “A Very Special Christmas 2” (A&M 731454000321), a 19-track various artists compilation.

Issued in A&M's series to benefit Special Olympics, this disc can usually be found online for less than five bucks.

IZ ZAT SO? “A Christmas Gift for You” is not only the title of one of the most important albums ever, it is also the name of an exciting new stage show, starring Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love.

This event, a benefit for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monmouth County, is set for Thursday, December 17, at the Count Basie Theatre, 99 Monmouth Street, Red Bank, N.J.

Ronnie routinely performs at clubs in the tri-state area, but this Christmas Gift promises to be something special. They'll do the pop hits of the Ronettes, Crystals, and Darlene Love, as well as those on “A Christmas Gift for You,” plus “Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.”

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