Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: A few years ago you printed words to the narrative song, “Deck of Cards,” the 1959 hit by Wink Martindale.

You'll no doubt recall the mail that came in regarding the part in the song about “365 spots in a deck, the number of days in a year.”

Try as they may, most folks could only account for 348 spots, necessitating the question: where did the remaining 17 spots come from?

I'm wondering if you printed any follow-up on this topic that perhaps I missed.
—Jake Swindell, York, Pa.

DEAR JAKE: One possible explanation, submitted by John F. Pokrynka (Seymour, Conn.) and also by Ricky Williams (Evansville, Ind.) ran in the column about two and a half years ago, and I will share that with you in a moment.

First, I recently spoke to Wink about “Deck of Cards” and the matter of the spots. Here is his reply:

“Very interesting about the spots. I recall that when the record was a hit, this subject came up, and there was a definitive answer that Dot Records provided. For the life of me, I cannot now recall what it was. Sorry, though I will try to find out again what Dot said about it.

“Your readers may be interested to know that I plan to include a new recording of “Deck of Cards” on my upcoming ”Winking At Life, My Favorite Narratives” CD. It will be recorded in Nashville the second week in March.

“Deck of Cards” will have the same words but with new background music and voices. It's going to be more modern but still keeping with the seriousness of the message.

“Who knows, with a whole new generation out there, “Deck of Cards” might even be ready to become a hit again. We are considering putting it out as a single.”

DEAR WINK: I appreciate your response and wish you great success with the new book (which I especially enjoyed) and the 2000 version of “Deck of Cards.”

Perhaps Dot's explanation is the same as this one:

Originally, numbered cards had no numerals printed on them. The deuce of hearts, for example, had only the two hearts but no numeral (2) on the card.

Each picture card had a drawing of the ruler of that card, represented with the number of symbols on the ruler's clothing equal to the denomination of that card in that suit. In other words, the jack of hearts has 11 hearts on his outfit. A queen of clubs has 12 clubs, and a king of spades, 13 spades. An ace of hearts has just one heart symbol.

Now, here is how to arrive at the total:

Four suits of aces equals 4.
Four suits of deuces equals 8.
Four suits of treys equals 12.
Four suits of fours equals 16.
Four suits of fives equals 20.
Four suits of sixes equals 24.
Four suits of sevens equals 28.
Four suits of eights equals 32.
Four suits of nines equals 36.
Four suits of tens equals 40.
Four suits of jacks equals 44.
Four suits of queens equals 48.
Four suits of kings equals 52.

These add up to 364 spots. You then throw in the joker, with its one spot, and you have 365.

IZ ZAT SO? Wink Martindale's first recording, over a year before the million-selling “Deck of Cards,” came out on the tiny OJ label (“1009), in Memphis, Tennessee. This Elvis-sounding tune, “Thought It Was Moonlove,” now fetches $50 to $100.

Martindale, though, is probably best remembered as the TV host of such game shows as “Tic-Tac-Dough; High Rollers;” and “Trivial Pursuit.” In all, Wink hosted an amazing total of 19 different TV game shows. For more information on the “Winking At Life” book and CD, vist

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