Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne

FOR THE WEEK OF February 22, 1999

DEAR JERRY: Two of my favorite recordings of the classic “Danny Boy” were done in the 50s and 60s, one by Jackie Wilson and the other by a jazz sax player named Sil Austin.

Long before Kenny G was being criticized by jazz purists as being the “Barry Manilow of sax players,” Austin had to endure a bit of the same criticism from fans of artists like John Coltrane for an album he put out called “Sil Austin Plays Pretty for the People.” This album included “Danny Boy,” plus some other beautifully done ballads.

Is there a source of this material (song or entire album) on cassette or CD. I would also like to know of a source for Jackie Wilson's version of “Danny Boy,” and whether or not either of these recordings ever charted as singles.
—Rick Boling, Land O' Lakes, Fla.

DEAR RICK: The album “Sil Austin Plays Pretty for the People” (Mercury 20424 [mono] / 60096 [stereo]) came out in 1959, as did Austin's single “Dany Boy” backed with “Hungry Eye” (Mercury 71442).

The single did hang around the bottom half of the Top 100 charts for 12 weeks that summer. Florida-born (Dunnellon) Austin's best-known recording is “Slow Walk,” a Top 3 R&B hit from 1956 that also went Top 20 on the Pop charts.

Interestingly, a few weeks after Sil Austin's ballad treatment of the Irish standard came out, Conway Twitty waxed a rock and roll rendition of “Danny Boy.” His would wind up a Top 10 hit and a million-seller.

Technically, you could say that Jackie Wilson's 1965 remake of “Danny Boy” charted, though it only reached No. 94 and disappeared after just three weeks on the charts.

Consistently poor choices of material, coupled with the British Invasion, made the mid-sixties lean for Jackie Wilson — meaning the lack of success of “Danny Boy” was more the rule than the exception then for “Mr. Excitement.”

In conclusion, no “Danny Boy” discussion can be complete without mentioning the wonderful 1967, Top 10 C&W version by Ray Price (Columbia 44042). A special Columbia promotional pressing even exists on, appropriately, green vinyl.

DEAR JERRY: I have come across something I have never seen before, a “Hip-Pocket Record.”

It looks like a miniature 45 rpm (about half as big) and it plays at 45 rpm. It is made of very thin plastic and is very flexible. It comes with a special picture sleeve.

This particular issue plays two hit songs by the Five Americans, “Western Union” and “Sound of Love.”

Were these little discs ever sold in regular music stores, or just through some special promotional thing.

Do they have any value?

Also, there is an mini-radio-phonograph offered on the sleeve, by mail order for $17.95.
—Kenny R. Foy, Sedalia, Ky.

DEAR KENNY: For quite some time we have documented the complete series of Hip-Pocket Records in the “Record Price Guide” so these little critters are known to us.

Issued circa-1967 by Philco-Ford, they licensed a couple of dozen of the top stars and songs for this promotional scheme. To receive three of these records by mail, one needed to buy certain products (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) and send off proofs of purchase along with 50-cents.

Hip-Pocket Records would have been a good investment; however, as most of them now sell for $15 to $25 each.

IZ ZAT SO? “Danny Boy” is one of the more intriguing discs in Jackie Wilson's distinguished career.

In 1952, several years before he became famous, Wilson recorded this song under the name Sonny Wilson (Dee Gee records #4001), his second for that label and under that name.

Of course, the Dee Gee “Danny Boy” is not the same as Wilson's 1965 issue.

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