Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I really hope you can satisfy my curiosity, because no one else has been able to answer my music question.

Did Roosevelt Grier, the former professional football player, ever record “Spanish Harlem”?

I know many others have done this song, and singers like Ben E. King, and Aretha Franklin had big hits with it.
—Mary Boskovich, Tacoma, Wash.

DEAR MARY: Usually questions about obscure recordings by celebrities come from folks seeking to settle a bet, but we respond just as enthusiastically for the merely curious.

That you even know of Roosevelt Grier's 1967 waxing of “Spanish Harlem” (MGM 13840) is interesting.

Grier, a feared defensive lineman for the New York Giants (1955-'63) and Los Angeles Rams 1963-'68), recorded continually from 1959 through 1975.

One of his more fascinating singles is actually credited to the Fearsome Foursome, a quartet of defensive linemen from the 1965 Los Angeles Rams: Roosevelt Grier, Merlin Olson, Deacon Jones, and Lamar Lundy. The two tracks are “Stranded in the Jungle” backed with “Fly in the Buttermilk” (Capitol 5482).

Though he had no Top 100 hits, his best known song, “People Make the World,” came about from a real life experience.

In the summer of 1968, Rosey worked as a bodyguard for Senator Robert Kennedy during many of his presidential campaign stops, including an important one June 5th in Los Angeles.

After his speech, Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan. Roosevelt Grier tackled Sirhan immediately, grabbing the gun and holding him down until police arrived. Anyone who has seen the video of that event will vividly recall that scene.

As a tribute to Robert Kennedy, Roosevelt recorded “People Make the World,” a song written by Bobby Womack.

DEAR JERRY: In one of your recent and very interesting columns, you noted that Glen Campbell was one of the mystery members of the Trophies.

That reminded me that my husband has, for many years, wistfully expressed a desire to locate an old album of instrumentals on which Glen Campbell plays a 12-string guitar. He claims it's the best guitar work he's ever heard by anyone.

Do you know the name and number of the album he remembers so fondly? I'd be very grateful if you could provide some details, so I can try to grant his request.
—Eloise Potter, Wauwatosa, Wisc

DEAR ELOISE: Surely you know that “Dear Eloise” is the title of a 1967 hit by the Hollies. I couldn't resist mentioning it.

As for Glen Campbell's 12-string virtuosity, the album your hubby recalls may be one of several. Here are four from which you can choose, listed in order of what I feel is their likelihood of being the correct one for the Potter household.

1. “The Astounding 12-String Guitar of Glen Campbell” (Capitol 2023).

2. “Glen Campbell Plays 12-String Guitar” (Buckboard 1010).

3. “Swingin' 12-String” (In 1002).

4. “Twelve-String Guitar” (Pickwick 3052).

DEAR JERRY: I am at wits end trying to remember the details of a song that only I seem to remember.

It is from the mid-'60s, and it tells the story of a car speeding and crashing. Sounds serious, but it is actually funny.

Some of the words that I keep hearing in my head are “Confusion, Contusion,” and “Transfusion.”

I'm pretty sure it is by one of those one-hit wonder artists.
—Clark Head, Bartow, Fla.

DEAR CLARK: Not quite — this guy had two big hits.

The wacky tune in your head is “Transfusion” (Dot 15470), a Top 10 hit from 1956, about 10 years earlier than you thought.

The follow-up hit I mentioned is “Ape Call” (Dot 15485), and both are by the unforgettable Nervous Norvus.

IZ ZAT SO? For many years, many reference publications have reported that “Transfusion” originally came out by the Four Jokers, and that Nervous Norvus (nee Jimmy Drake) was a member of that group.

It has recently been learned, based on information from Red Blanchard, that Drake's version is the original and that he had no involvement with the Four Jokers. Their recording is apparently a cover version.

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