Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne

FOR THE WEEK OF March 8, 1999

DEAR JERRY: Please help me to discover whether my memory is even worse than I think it is.

One of the first records I ever bought, in the early '50s, was “Wimoweh,” by the Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms Band. My problem is that I have recordings of the “Wimoweh” melody, and, of course, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” by the Tokens. But this is not the melody that I remember from that original 45 rpm.

I also have recordings of another South African tune called “Skokiaan,” and this is the melody that I remember on that old single.

So what is the relationship between “Wimoweh” and “Skokiaan,” if any at all? Do I have any of this right?

Please help me solve this 50-year-old musical mystery.
—Alan Schukraft, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR ALAN: You have some of it right, though I believe you have your tunes and titles jumbled.

“Wimoweh,” which, as you point out, inspired the Tokens' No. 1 hit, is a 1952 release by the Weavers. If you had a 45 of “Wimoweh,” it is probably by the Weavers.

Regardless, I am betting that the Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms Band 45 you speak of is, in fact, “Skokiaan,” which they had in the Top 20 in 1954 (London 1491). Do you happen to recall playing the flip side? If so, does “In the Mood” ring a bell? That would confirm my speculation.

The most noteworthy relationship between “Wimoweh” and “Skokiaan” is that both have Zulu origins.

“Wimoweh” comes from a tribal chant, whereas a “Skokiaan” is a favorite drink at Zulu parties.

Speaking of food and drink, in 1949, the Weavers were booked at New York's Village Vanguard for $200 per week and all they could eat. After one week, the club hiked their pay to $250 and withdrew their kitchen privleges.

Apparently Village management underestimated their collective appetite.

DEAR JERRY: Did Bing Crosby and Al Jolson ever record together? My husband, William, claims he once heard the two of them singing “Alexander's Ragtime Band.” We need your expertise.
—Betty Sheahan, Belleair Bluffs, Fla. (Lakeland)

DEAR BETTY: In this case, it seems your William has ample expertise. About all you need from me is confirmation.

Bing Crosby and Al Jolson did have a somewhat popular version of “Alexander's Ragtime Band” (Decca 40038), in the summer of 1947.

However, nine years earlier, mid-'38, is when Bing had his memorable No. 1 hit with “Alexander's Ragtime Band” (Decca 1887). For that session, Connie Boswell turned up as Bing's duet vocalist.

It is certainly unusual for an artist to manage a hit twice with the same song, but each time with a different singing partner.

DEAR JERRY: During one of the “I Still Love This Game” NBA spots on TV, a song plays with lyrics like “Amor my love,” etc. It has kind of a Latin beat.

I'm wondering if it was recorded especially for this commercial, or is it a resurrected oldie? Can it be bought on CD?
—C.J. McMillan, Lancaster, Pa.

DEAR C.J.: The one-word title is “Amor,” a Top 20 hit in mid-1961 for Ben E. King.

This track is available on the “Ben E. King Anthology” (Rhino R2-71215), a two-disc collection of King's solo hits as well as those he sang with the Drifters.

IZ ZAT SO? Due to an sad combination of false statements and baseless journalism, the McCarthy-era Communist hunters managed to ruin the career of the Weavers.

In 1951 and '52 they were uncermonously blacklisted. By late 1953 they couldn't get a recording contract, and most of the top clubs and venues would no longer book them.

Most who lived through the “innocent” '50s recall the period with great fondness; however, this decade also had a dark side, as evidenced by this little vignette.

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