Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Since you seem to enjoy a fresh question about something you have not been asked before, try this one on for size:

Can you provide a list of 50 recorded songs of your choice — popular hit or not — each of which mentions one of the states in the title?

Some, like California, Hawaii and Texas, have tons of songs about them. Others are much more difficult, such as New Hampshire. That's one of several that completely stumps me.

If there are any you don't know, perhaps readers in those areas will fill in the blanks.

Have fun!
—Nellie Morgan, Southern, Conn.

DEAR NELLIE: Working for you is always fun! Here we go, coast to coast, border to border, and beyond, alphabetically of course. Also included is the name of at least one artist with a recorded version of the song chosen.

Not only do I have one for every state, but each of these 50 tunes is either a charted hit single or a track on an album that charted:

Stars Fell on ALABAMA (Guy Lombardo); North to ALASKA (Johnny Horton); ARIZONA (Mark Lindsay); ARKANSAS (Wilburn Brothers); CALIFORNIA Girls (Beach Boys); I Guess He'd Rather Be in COLORADO (John Denver); CONNECTICUT (Herbie Fields); DELAWARE (Perry Como); FLORIDA Rag (Fred Van Eps); GEORGIA on My Mind (Ray Charles) (YES, it's about the state and not a woman); Blue HAWAII (Elvis Presley); Private IDAHO (B-52s); ILLINOIS (Dan Fogelberg); INDIANA Wants Me (R. Dean Taylor); IOWA Stubborn (Robert Preston, “The Music Man” soundtrack); The Devil Came from KANSAS (Procol Harum); Blue KENTUCKY Girl (Loretta Lynn); LOUISIANA Man (Rusty & Doug [Kershaw]); From MAINE to Mexico (Leon Russell); MARYLAND (Vonda Shepard); MASSACHUSETTS (Bee Gees); Saginaw, MICHIGAN (Lefty Frizzell); The Biggest Ball Of Twine In MINNESOTA (Weird Al Yankovic); MISSISSIPPI (John Phillips); It Rains Just the Same in MISSOURI (Ray Griff); Meet Me in MONTANA (Marie Osmond & Dan Seals); NEBRASKA (Bruce Springsteen); Dime Queen of NEVADA (Tom Jones); NEW HAMPSHIRE Hornpipe (“On Golden Pond” soundtrack); NEW JERSEY (Joe Piscopo); NEW MEXICO (Johnny Cash); The Eyes of a NEW YORK Woman (B.J. Thomas): NORTH CAROLINA (Les McCann); NORTH DAKOTA (Lyle Lovett); OHIO (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young); OKLAHOMA Hills (Hank Thompson); OREGON Trail (C.W. McCall); PENNSYLVANIA Polka (Andrews Sisters); RHODE ISLAND Is Famous for You (Lester Lanin); SOUTH CAROLINA (Outlaws); SOUTH DAKOTA Morning (Bee Gees); TENNESSEE Waltz (Patti Page); Yellow Rose of TEXAS (Mitch Miller Orchestra & Chorus); UTAH Carol (Marty Robbins); Moonlight in VERMONT (Sarah Vaughan); Down in VIRGINIA (Jimmy Reed); My WASHINGTON Woman (Kenny Rogers & First Edition); WEST VIRGINIA Fantasies (Chicago); On WISCONSIN! (Prince's Orchestra); Song of WYOMING (John Denver).

DEAR JERRY: Since you're a friend of Wink Martindale's, will you please ask him the name of the background music playing during his recitation of “Deck of Cards”?
—Jack Hayslett, Atchison, Kan.

DEAR JACK: That I did, though the report comes back inconclusive. Here is what Wink tells us:

“Jerry, I regret to say I can't enlighten you at all about the background music for “Deck of Cards.”

“I always thought it sounded a bit like a variation of “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” though the truth is that they just copied the background music as best they could from the original T. Texas Tyler “Deck of Cards” (1948), which we had on an old Starday 78 rpm.

“There probably never was an actual title for that piece of music.”
—Wink Martindale, Calabasas, Calif.

IZ ZAT SO? Between “The Shifting Whispering Sands” (October 1955) and “Old Rivers” (May 1962), only two narrative recordings made the nation's Top 10, and they couldn't be any more dissimilar: Wink Martindale's profound reading of “Deck of Cards” (1959), and John “The Cool Ghoul” Zacherle's totally wacky “Dinner with Drac” (1958).

As for “The Shifting Whispering Sands,” by Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra, it does have a smidge of singing by the chorus, though its focus is clearly Ken Nordine's marvelous recitation. “Old Rivers” is by Walter Brennan, who, like Nordine, is a great narrator and story teller.

There are many others that are borderline, but have a little too much singing to qualify as spoken word. Among those are hits such as “Mr. Custer; Alley-Oop,” and “Big Bad John.”

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