Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: While searching Google Books for information about a follow-up of sorts to Peter, Paul & Mary's "Puff the Magic Dragon," I was quite surprised to find "Puff" in Billboard's Top 10 R&B Records for May 4, 1963.

Were the R&B stations really playing Peter, Paul & Mary along with hits by the top soul singers of the day? If so, I'd be surprised.

Regardless, I never found what I was actually searching for, which is a novelty sequel or answer to "Puff the Magic Dragon," that I heard once about 50 years ago.

Do you know anything about it?
—Isabell Rollins, Lincoln, Neb.

DEAR ISABELL: Let's first put an end to your "Puff the Magic Dragon" sequel quest.

The star of that little-known tune is Fluff, and her story is found in "Fluff (The Velvet Dragon)," sung to the same music as "Puff."

Perhaps, thanks to speed dating, she and Puff made an instant connection.

This saga of two love-struck dragons is performed by the Cherryhill Trio, three San Fernando Valley housewives better known as Harlene Pomroy Olson, Joan Haskins, and Dixie Zenger.

"Fluff (The Velvet Dragon)" came out in late May 1963 (Capitol 4979), while "Puff" was still a hot hit.

Now, for those who want to know how the dragon fling ends … Warning! Spoiler Alert Ahead:

Now Fluff and Puff together, will never be alone
Through the gentle autumn mist, forever they will roam
If you should ever wander to the land of Honahlee
And meet those magic dragons, won't you say hello for me

"Puff the Magic Dragon" (Warner Bros. 5348) hit the Pop and Middle-of-the Road (non-rock) charts on March 16th.

Not until six weeks later (April 27th) did it appear on the R&B chart.

Perhaps unintentionally, Warner Bros. pressed Peter, Paul & Mary's disc with three title variations: "Puff"; "Puff the Magic Dragon"; and "Puff (The Magic Dragon)."

As for it being on an R&B survey, that could be based more on record sales than by "Puff" getting played on stations with a soul music format, in a set with James Brown and Otis Redding.

The difference being that a radio station may have a playlist of 30 or 40 songs that are all of one genre.

Whereas a record store would likely stock the music played by several diverse stations, especially in the larger markets where there is something for everyone on the air waves.

An ideal retail location would draw customers for all of the mainstream music styles.

I arrived at this conclusion only after reviewing dozens of regional charts and playlists from soul music stations nationwide.

Not only did I not find even one R&B station that played anything by Peter, Paul and Mary, but I discovered that white vocalists in general were very few and far between on those stations.

The rare exceptions were selected tunes by performers of the blue-eyed soul variety, such as Timi Yuro; Roy Head; Tom Jones; Matt Lucas; Righteous Brothers; and the Rolling Stones.

Interestingly, the Rolling Stones did have two hits on the R&B charts in the 1960s; "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "19th Nervous Breakdown."

Yet, none of the other top British Invasion groups at the time could accomplish that, including most of the biggest names of the era:

Chad & Jeremy
Dave Clark Five
Freddie and the Dreamers
Gerry and the Pacemakers
Herman's Hermits
Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas
Manfred Mann
Moody Blues
Peter & Gordon

On that same May 4, 1963 Billboard Top R&B Records list, "Puff" is not the only non-R&B, non-soul number that seems out of place on that chart.

None of these tunes can be found on any of the soul stations surveys available to me. For a few, their inclusion is simply amazing:

4. Little Peggy March - "I Will Follow Him"
9. Skeeter Davis - "The End of the World"
10. Peter, Paul & Mary - "Puff (The Magic Dragon)"
13. Chantays - "Pipeline"
14. Paul & Paula - "Young Lovers"
26. Andy Williams - "Can't Get Used to Losing You"
27. Lou Christie - "Two Faces Have I"
30. Rooftop Singers - "Tom Cat"

IZ ZAT SO? Over the next few weeks (May-June, 1963), eight more non-R&B tunes appeared on Billboard's R&B Top 30. The highest R&B position reached is shown for each:

1. Lesley Gore - "It's My Party"
13. Brenda Lee - "Losing You"
14. Ray Stevens - "Harry the Hairy Ape"
15. Kingston Trio - "Reverend Mr. Black"
18. Kyu Sakamoto - "Sukiyaki"
19. James Gilreath - "Little Band of Gold"
20. Beach Boys "Surfin' U.S.A."
21. Neil Sedaka - "Let's Go Steady Again"

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