Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Has anyone ever told you they keep a scrapbook of your columns? Well I do, and it is several hundred pages.

In one written about 10 years ago, you say that Billboard began using their Star Performer symbol (a.k.a., “bullet”) in mid-August 1958.

I raise the question because a book I read about Phil Spector states the first record to ever get a bullet, for strong upward movement on the chart, is “Hey Baby,” by Bruce Channel.

Since this is a 1962 hit, one of these accounts must be wrong, unless they refer to another chart.

Did Cash Box, for example, not begin using bullets until 1962?

While on the subject, did Pete Wingfield's “Eighteen with a Bullet” make it to No. 18 with a bullet on Cash Box, as it did on Billboard?

Of course I'll add your responses to my scrapbook.
—Julie Kenyon, Vincennes, Ind.

DEAR JULIE: How could you not, especially with you as a guest star this week?

For the week ending November 22, 1975, Joel Whitburn's “Hot 100 Billboard Charts” has Pete Wingfield, after 14 weeks on the survey, moving up five spots, from No. 23 to No. 18.

That same week, Cash Box showed Wingfield as jumping from No. 22 to No. 18.

It is reasonable to suspect the record would end up at 18 with a bullet on everyone's chart, that is if it were anywhere close to that number.

Of course dee jays enjoyed their only opportunity ever to say something like: this week “Eighteen with a Bullet” is really 18 with a bullet.

The following week “Eighteen with a Bullet” became 15 with a bullet, but that would be its peak position. Six weeks later it fell off the charts.

Examining the January and February 1962 charts, I find nothing unusual, bulletwise or otherwise, about “Hey Baby,” so I have no idea as to the meaning of what you read.

By then, both Billboard (August 1958) and Cash Box (February 1959) had used the bullet concept for three or more years, though neither magazine's symbol actually resembled a bullet.

You say it's a book about Phil Spector, but they must not have asked him about any of this. Surely he would recall the three consecutive weeks in November 1958, when his first hit, “To Know Him Is to Love Him” (Teddy Bears), had bullets on its way to No. 1.

I don't recall anyone saying they keep a scrapbook, though I know many do clip and save columns of interest. Your lasting attentiveness to the feature is very much appreciated.

DEAR JERRY: Among the tens of thousands of 20th century recording artists, it seems that someone with the same family name as mine would have had a hit record.

Several famous performers with uncommon names — Garfunkel; Zacherle; Humperdinck; Zappa; Kostelanetz; etc. — come to mind, yet we can't find even one successful Browning.

Is there one out there that we have overlooked? My family's honor is at stake here.
—Albert Browning, Towson, Md.

DEAR ALBERT: Life can be cruel.

Hopefully this confirmation of your worst fears, likely a devastating blow to Brownings everywhere, will be offset by knowing you have stumbled onto a great bar bet.

Even senior level musicologists would be shocked to learn that in 100 years no one named Browning ever had a hit record — in any of the mainstream fields of music.

If it's any consolation, it is not for lack of effort.

Here are some of your namesake artists with non-charting records, and their time period: Betty (1964); Bill (1957-'60); Bill Zeke (1957-'61); Dot (1961); and Harry Robert (1980).

If you'd like to consider Browning as a given name, there is Browning Bryant (1969-'75).

There is also a group known only as Browning (1970-;71), and another named the Browning Sisters (1950s).

There are even a few 21st century Brownings you might want to know about: Admiral (2009); Andy (2009); Angie (2007); Bruno (2010); John (2009); and Mark (2001).

IZ ZAT SO? Two hit records also come to mind today, neither by a Browning but both about one.

First is a parody of the Coasters' “Charlie Brown,” titled “Charlie Browning.”

By the Young Men, this is about Charles Browning, a real-life football star at the University of Washington. It went to No. 1 in Seattle in December 1963.

Then there is Porter Wagoner's “Carroll County Accident,” in which a fictitious Walter Browning is killed in an auto crash.

Issued in late 1968, this juicy tale with a twist reached No. 2 nationally (C&W).

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