Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I have been looking for a record for many years without success, and I am hoping you will help me. The title is “Peter and the Wolf,” and on this particular recording it is played on the organ.

I don't have the exact name of the artist but it is something like John Randolph Greene.
—Polly Mac Donald, Lakeland, Fla.

DEAR POLLY: First some background: Circa-1935, Russian-born Sergei Prokofiev created “Peter and the Wolf” for his own children. This symphonic tale, also known as “Opus 67,” has since become extremely popular with children worldwide, as well as with classical music lovers in general.

Dozens of “Peter and the Wolf” records are available. Some are strictly narrative, some strictly musical, and some true to Prokofiev's conception by combining both.

In its most dramatic form, each character in this short story is represented by specific instrumentation. Peter is brought to life by the string section, his cat by clarinets, his grandfather by bassoons, the duck by oboes, the bird by flutes, and the always-hungry wolf by French horns.

Recordings exist by artists as diverse as David Bowie, the Ventures, Captain Kangaroo, jazz organist Jimmy Smith, and film stars Patrick Stewart and Carol Channing. There is even a 1996 original soundtrack CD, featuring Lloyd Bridges and Kirstie Alley.

The specific version you want is by the Charles Randolph Grean Sounds (Ranwood 864), a 1970 issue. You almost had the name right.

Just a few months earlier, Charles Randolph Grean gave us one of 1969's most popular instrumentals, “Quentin's Theme,” from the TV serial “Dark Shadows.” His “Peter and the Wolf” did not do nearly as well, though it did make the Top 15 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

DEAR JERRY: I enjoyed the early rock and roll movies because they gave me the chance to see my favorite singers and groups perform. One '50s film favorite of mine stars Fats Domino and the Diamonds. But it was also my introduction to Julie London, who just blew me away singing “Cry Me a River.”

From that experience, this teenager discovered there was actually more good music besides rock and roll.

What is the name of that movie? When did it come out? Is it on video?
—Ralph Butler, Bayonet Point, Fla.

DEAR RALPH: You have combined the singing stars of two different films into one, so let's tackle them separately.

“The Big Beat” is the 1958 movie that features Fats Domino and the Diamonds. The title track even became a Top 30 hit that year for Fats.

Other pop acts in “The Big Beat” include the Mills Brothers and Gogi Grant. — but not Julie London.

Lovely London did sing “Cry Me a River” on the silver screen two years earlier (1956), in “The Girl Can't Help It.” Joining Julie in this flick are Little Richard (he had the hit single “The Girl Can't Help It”), Gene Vincent, Ray Anthony, Treniers, Chuckles, Eddie Cochran, Nino Tempo, Teddy Randazzo, Barry Gordon, Tony Williams and the Platters, and Jayne Mansfield as the girl who just couldn't help it.

A commercial video of “The Girl Can't Help It” exists, but I have yet to see one of “The Big Beat.” It does occasionally pop up on cable and satellite movie channels.

At least you can purchase the one in which Julie London once enlightened you.

Finally, let me congratulate you! It has just been brought to my attention that the brand new 2004 Florida Commemorative Quarter features your design on the obverse.

Long after those '50s R&R films have vanished, countless metallic examples of your creativity will still be circulating.

IZ ZAT SO? Both Charles Randolph Grean and Patrick Stewart have recordings of “Peter and the Wolf,” but this is not the first time Prokofiev's tale encountered the Starship Enterprise.

As most folks know, Stewart brilliantly portrayed Captain Jean-Luc Picard on “Star Trek the Next Generation,” on TV and in feature films.

What you likely didn't know is that Grean's first recording of “Peter and the Wolf” came four years before his Ranwood hit — as the B-side of a 1966 Dot single (45-16982).

On the A-side is Grean's adaptation of the theme from one of that season's promising new TV shows, the original “Star Trek.”

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