Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: In his younger years, didn't Johnny Cash record as J.R. Cash? If so, I'd like to know if J.R. actually stood for anything?

I have been told that he was not really given a first name and that only J.R. appears on his birth certificate. True or false?

If he was born J.R. and not John, when did he become known as John or Johnny?
—Donna Olin, Lake Wales, Fla.

DEAR DONNA: Most of the information you have is correct, the exception being that he used J.R. Cash professionally.

Between 1955 and '58, Johnny recorded for Sun Records, in Memphis. All of his Sun singles and albums credit him as Johnny Cash, usually as being accompanied by the Tennessee Two.

Johnny moved to Columbia Records in 1958, where he remained for 27 years. Except for a 1975 album, titled “John R. Cash” (KC-33370), Columbia promoted him as Johnny Cash.

I have not seen the document, but all reports agree his birth certificate identifies him only as J.R. Cash.

The Man in Black became the man in blue in 1950, joining the U.S Air Force for a hitch that lasted until '54. It is during those years in the service that he became known first as John R, then as Johnny.

DEAR JERRY: As an avid record buyer in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, I always appreciated getting a 45 rpm that had two hit songs instead of just one. It was more bang for my buck!

Now I'd like to know the Top 10 R&R artists with the most two-sided hits.
—Jeanne Park, Winchester, Tenn.

DEAR JEANNE: Yours is one of two letters this week about double-sided hits.

Here are the Top 10 who most often doubled our pleasure, along with the number of times they did it:

1. Elvis Presley (52); 2. Beatles (26); 3. Fats Domino (24); 4. Pat Boone (21); 5. Rick Nelson (20); 6. Brenda Lee (17); 7. Ray Charles (16); 8. Connie Francis (13); 9. Everly Brothers (13); 10. Brook Benton (12).

Lisa Hill, of Sun City Center, Fla., writes to ask which are the top Motown artists when it comes to two-sided hits.

Rarely did Motown Sound singles become double-sided hits, but a few did. However, I'll bet you would never have guessed which of their stars had the most two-fers.

Here are those who had more than one twin-tune hit:

1. Mary Wells (5); 2. Marvin Gaye (4); 3. Miracles (3); 4. Stevie Wonder (3); 5. Jackson Five (3); 6. Temptations (2); 7. Martha and the Vandellas (2); 8. Supremes (2).

Feeling generous, we gave one point to both Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye for their 1964 duets, “Once Upon a Time” backed with “What's the Matter with You Baby.”

DEAR JERRY: I am searching for a song that I had on 45 rpm in the early 1950s, but cannot find anywhere. My quest is for a very funny parody of Patti Page's big hit, “I Went to Your Wedding,” which came out at about the same time. But this one is by a male singer who laughs hysterically.

Who is the artist? What is the original label and number? Can it still be purchased?

I'll keep searching until I find it, but I'm hoping you can help me end the search.
—Sharon D. Lindy, Oak Park, Ill.

DEAR SHARON: The zany parody of “I Went to Your Wedding” you describe is by Spike Jones and His City Slickers (RCA Victor 47-5107), a January 1953 issue. The B-side of the original single is “I'll Never Work There.”

Your search is officially over. “I Went to Your Wedding” is easily available on at least two compact discs.

One is a 40-track collection, “Spike Jones' Musical Depreciation Revue: The Anthology” (Rhino). The other CD, “Spike Jones' Greatest Hits” (RCA), provides 20 of Spike's wacky tracks.

IZ ZAT SO? Johnny Cash is the only person in history to be enshrined in all four of these music hall of fames: Country Music (inducted 1980), Songwriters (inducted 1989), Rock and Roll (inducted 1992), and Rockabilly Hall of Fame (inducted 1994).

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