Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: A few years ago you solved the mystery of when and who was the first American dee jay to play a Beatles record.

Perhaps in your research of that topic you came across something to shed some light on a part of Beatlemania that I have never seen discussed.

In 1964, several radio stations around the country devoted an hour each week to Beatles songs. Here, WABC and WMCA were both trying to be New York's "official" Beatles station, and did things like that.

But who really was first in the nation with an all-Beatles show?
—Thelma Wiggins, New York

DEAR THELMA: I was expecting the answer to be either New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, yet it is none of those. It is in fact a very small market station.

The American pioneer of the weekly Beatles hour is WEEL, in Fairfax, Va. (pop. 15,000), and they were airing it in mid-January, 1964!

One of the trade magazines reporting on this event was Billboard, and here is what they wrote in the January 25, 1964 issue:

"WEEL (AM-1310), Fairfax, Va., inaugurated what is likely the first series in the country revolving around the Beatles. Through the cooperation of Giant Music and Capitol Records, a weekly one-hour program, ('Beatles Bonanza') is offered on Saturday night. The Beatles' past hits, interviews with visiting Britons, and future merchandising of Beatles jewelry, wigs, and other promotional items fill out the hour."

Since this month is the 50th anniversary of the record that enabled the Beatles to conquer the music world, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" b/w "I Saw Her Standing There," let's stay with that theme:

DEAR JERRY: In the 1960s I lived in Blackpool, the next major city north of Liverpool. Naturally, we got the latest news about all the Merseybeat groups.

One of the BBC entertainment news shows back then reported that, for the first time ever, all the Top 10 hits on the NME (New Musical Express) survey were by UK artists. This was, and still is, hard to believe.

What's more, I have never heard this mentioned again, anywhere at any time.

Can you confirm this strange claim?
—William Bradford, Jacksonville, Fla.

DEAR WILLIAM: I can, but as you know, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. In this case, it speaks to the tremendous influence American music once had in the UK.

The NME singles survey debuted in Nov. 1952, and almost immediately (Nov. 22) the entire Top 10 was occupied by British label versions of U.S. hits by U.S. performers:

1. "Here in My Heart" (Al Martino)
2. "Feet Up (Pat Him on the Po-Po)" (Guy Mitchell)
3. "Half As Much" (Rosemary Clooney)
4. "Isle of Innisfree" (Bing Crosby)
5. "You Belong to Me" (Jo Stafford)
6. "Somewhere Along the Way" (Nat King Cole)
7. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)" (Frankie Laine)
8. "Because You're Mine" (Mario Lanza)
9. "Take My Heart" (Al Martino)
10. "My Love and Devotion" (Doris Day)

Not a Brit in the bunch. Incidentally, those years were never referred to as an American Invasion, but it clearly was.

Over the next eleven years, most of their Top 10 tunes were by Americans, a trend that ended 50 years ago this month — thanks to the Beatles, and other English acts swept along by Beatlemania.

Although there were no American artists in the NME Top 10 in Dec. 1964, it was not yet exclusively British. Artists such as Los Indios Tabajaras (Brazil) and the Singing Nun (Belgium) prevented total UK dominance.

The U.S. rebounded briefly over the next few weeks, with Brenda Lee ("As Usual") and Gene Pitney ("Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa").

Finally, for the week of March 7, 1964, not just the Top 10, but the NME Top 14 consisted of homegrown artists to the exclusion of all others:

1. "Anyone Who Had a Heart" (Cilla Black)
2. "Bits and Pieces" (Dave Clark Five)
3. "Diane" (Bachelors)
4. "I Think of You" (Merseybeats)
5. "Not Fade Away" (Rolling Stones)
6. "Needles and Pins" (Searchers)
7. "Little Children" (Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas)
8. "I'm the One" (Gerry and the Pacemakers)
9. "Candy Man" (Brian Poole and the Tremeloes)
10. "Boys Cry" (Eden Kane)
11. "5-4-3-2-1" (Manfred Mann)
12. "Over You" (Freddie and the Dreamers)
13. "Stay Awhile" (Dusty Springfield)
14. "I'm the Lonely One" (Cliff Richard)

Conspicuous by their absence here are the Beatles, they who opened the floodgates for all of these groups. Before their rise to stardom, with "Please Please Me" (Feb. 2, 1963), of these 14 acts, only Cliff Richard, and to a lesser extent, Eden Kane, enjoyed meaningful chart success.

IZ ZAT SO? Ironically, the Fab Four were MIA that week because "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was dropping out of the Top 30, and "Can't Buy Me Love" was just two weeks away from debuting at No. 1.

Meanwhile, advance orders for "Can't Buy Me Love" were well over one million, with some estimates as high as 1.7 million copies, the most for any record in British history.

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