Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Your recent coverage of the Day the Music Died reminded me of when I first heard the news of the crash on KYA in San Francisco.

As I recall (after 56 years), they were playing a novelty instrumental when they interrupted regular programming for a news bulletin and the first report of the plane crash.

What I have never been able to do is identify that record they broke into, and I'm hoping you can.

It was a lovely orchestral piece that was probably among their Top 40 at the time. What might help identify it is the occasional use of sound effects associated with drinking, such as a cork popping, glasses clicking, etc.

I don't think it was Spike Jones.
—Harriet Mitchell, Mill Valley, Calif.

DEAR HARRIET: Solving this musical mystery was made easy thanks to your clues.

All I had to do was review some Bay Area Top 40 surveys from mid-January to early February, 1959, until something jumped out at me.

The record doing the jumping was "The Tipsy Piano," a long-forgotten chart hit on both KYA and KOBY, that even reached the Top 20 in that market. It is by Helmut Zacharias and His Magic Violins (Decca 30795).

No mention is made on the label as to the identity of the tipsy pianist, but we do know it was not Helmut Zacharias, a.k.a. "Germany's Mr. Violin." Helmut was one of Europe's most popular jazz and classical musicians in the 1940s and '50s.

Zach's signature song, "When the White Lilacs Bloom Again" (Decca 30039), was a Top 15 hit in 1956 in the U.S., and merely one of the reasons he sold some 14 million records in Europe.

DEAR JERRY: I need some information about a song in "Friendless Child," the Boardwalk Empire episode right before the series finale.

Unlike most of the music in this show, where actual recordings from the 1920s and '30s are played, this number is sung live (not lip-sync) by the actor playing the part of Benny Siegel.

It only lasts for about a minute, so it may have been scripted specifically for this brief segment.

The gist of it is that he is fond of his girlfriend's pussycat.
—Karl Thornton, Baton Rouge, La.

DEAR KARL: This scene is actually a combination of both possibilities.

"Pussy!," coupled with "If You Haven't Got Love," is by Harry Roy and His Bat Club Boys (From the Bat Club of London). Later issues are titled "My Girl's Pussy." First issued in 1931 in the UK (Oriole P-104), it is musically very similar to most of the big band period music heard on Boardwalk Empire.

But instead of using Harry's original version in the show, viewers hear Benny "Bugsy" Siegel, played by Michael Zegen, crooning a couple of the verses — all while securely tied to a chair and being held as a hostage by a rival crime family.

In 1978, Robert Crumb, legendary comic artist and musician, revived this tune, also titled "My Girl's Pussy." Credited to R. Crumb and His Cheap Suit Serenaders, his version (Red Goose 2026) is remarkably true to Harry Roy's original British novelty.

Listen to, and see the label of, the Harry Roy original.

DEAR JERRY: It's been fun reading about the one-hit wonder artists, but here's a new slant on that topic.

Is there an example of a vinyl era No. 1 record by a one-hit artist that is also on a one-hit label?
—Pat Reynolds, Pasadena, Texas

DEAR PAT: I'll give you two for the price of none, both issued in the early 1950s on 45 and 78 rpm:

Eileen Barton's "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake" was a monster hit in 1950 for the National label (9103-X45). One subsequent single, "May I Take Two Giant Steps" (National 9112) reached the Top 25, but neither she nor National topped any of the charts again.

Then there is Al Martino's "Here in My Heart," on BBS (101), a No. 1 hit in 1952 from a microscopic company in Philadelphia.

Al had many hits, most for Capitol, in the 1960s and '70s, including "I Love You Because," his best seller that peaked at No. 3.

BBS is the ultimate one-hit label, as they never had another record on any chart.

IZ ZAT SO? "Here in My Heart" by Al Martino has the distinction of being the first No. 1 song in the history of Britain's New Musical Express charts.

The NME survey debuted November 15, 1952 with "Here in My Heart" atop their chart for the first of eight consecutive weeks.

Martino was replaced at No. 1 on January 17, 1953 by Jo Stafford's "You Belong to Me."

IZ ZAT SO? When Tom T. Hall wrote "Harper Valley P.T.A." he could never have imagined what a cultural phenomenon he'd created.

Not only did Jeannie C. Riley's 1968 recording top both the pop and country charts in the U.S. and Canada — the first time ever accomplished by a female — but that one little phonograph record inspired a feature film (1978) AND a TV series (1981). That too had never happened before.

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