Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: One of the artists I collect is Willie Nelson, especially focusing on his pre-'70s records from before he became the bearded Outlaw, headband-wearing Shotgun Willie, and Red Headed Stranger.

I am writing in particular about one release from his years with Liberty, much of which is documented in Michael Kelly's book on the history of that company: “Liberty Records” (1993, McFarland and Co., Inc.).

According to this book, Willie's first Liberty single came out in 1957, pairing “No Dough” and “Susie” (No. 55155), though none of Willie's Liberty albums contain either of these tracks.

Meanwhile, the booklet that accompanies the Rhino boxed set, “Willie Nelson - A Classic & Unreleased Collection,” states “The first session for Liberty took place in early 1962. He and Shirley Collie recorded a duet version of “Willingly” (No. 55403).

This source makes no mention whatsoever of the 1957 single referenced in the Kelly book.

Okay, I'm confused. Obviously both publications cannot be right, so I am hopeful you can straighten this mess out for me.
—Sandi Harper, York, Pa.

DEAR SANDI: Based on your research — which I can confirm as accurate — this may be the first time in print for this fascinating chapter of the Willie Nelson story.

Which means that neither of the publications you cite is correct.

“Liberty Records” is definitely wrong about the year. “No Dough” backed with “Susie” came out in September 1958 and not in '57.

Furthermore, by misspelling the artist's name as Willie, instead of Willy, collectors like yourself flew off in pursuit of this proverbial wild goose.

Willie and Willy are two completely different Nelsons, both of whom recorded for Liberty, but never at the same time.

Willy made just these two sides (1958) for Liberty, and as far as I can tell did not record again until 1965. Then he had a single on Challenge (59280) that pairs "I'm Talking About Love" and "I'm in Love with a Dancing Girl."

Willie first recorded for Liberty in 1961 — not '62 as stated in the Rhino booklet — his debut single for them being “Mr. Record Man” backed with “The Part Where I Cry” (No. 55386), issued in October 1961.

His second Liberty release is the duet with Shirley Collie, not only his singing partner but also his wife for awhile.

I must acknowledge as essential to this research, Mr. Bob Brennan, of Elkton, Fla.

Bob has a family connection to the situation, for his cousin, Charlie Leahy, is the writer of Willy Nelson's B-side, “Susie.”

Speaking of cousins, Bob reveals that Willy Nelson is also a son of Ozzie Nelson's brother. This makes Willy a first cousin to two of the most famous Nelsons of all: Ricky and David.

DEAR JERRY: Can you tell me the name of the movie from the 1940s that the song “I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire” came from? It was popular by the Ink Spots around the WW2 era.
—Cheryl, Houma, La.

DEAR CHERYL: “I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire,” written in 1941, did become very popular by the Ink Spots (Top 5); however, the best-selling recording then was by Horace Heidt and His Orchestra (No. 1).

I find no indication at all that this tune came from any film or production, be it a motion picture or stage show, which is not to say it hasn't been used in films since.

IZ ZAT SO? As if the similarities between Liberty Records and the two W. Nelsons is not perplexing enough, the company really jumbled things when it came to printing the record labels.

The commercial issues of “No Dough” properly credit the artist as Willy Nelson whereas the simultaneously manufactured promotional copies show the singer as Willie Nelson.

No confusing resulted at the time because Willy's disc did not become a hit and Willie was several years away from being known to the general public.

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