Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne

FOR THE WEEK OF April 19, 1999

DEAR JERRY: I have been watching A&E's “Biography” on TV a lot lately, and they recently did one for Patti Page. In that show, they claim that Patti Page is the No. 1 female recording artist.

Then a biography of Connie Francis says she is the No. 1 female singer.

Then along comes Patsy Cline's biography, which claims she is the No. 1 singer.

How can there be more than one No. 1 female recording artist? Who is really No. 1?

Once and for all, can you answer this question? In fact, how about listing the Top 5 female artists?
—J.J. Del Monte, Hickory Hills, Ill.

DEAR J.J.: Obviously anyone can make whatever claims they want, but, barring a tie, there cannot be more than one No. 1.

Having not seen any of the shows you mention, I do not know what “fine print exists.” Do they mean No. 1 for singles sales, album sales, overall sales, etc.? There may even be time frame or music style factors, such as No. 1 of the '50s or '60s, and No. 1 pop, R&B, C&W, etc.

Still, let's see what we can do to set the record straight. Below are the Top 5 females overall in each of four key categories:

Pre-rock era (1940 - 1954): 1. Jo Stafford. 2. Dinah Shore. 3. Patti Page. 4. Margaret Whiting. 5. Kay Starr.

Rock era (1955 - 1998): 1. Aretha Franklin. 2. Madonna. 3. Connie Francis. 4. Dionne Warwick. 5. Brenda Lee.

R&B (1940 - 1998): 1. Aretha Franklin. 2. Diana Ross (& Supremes). 3. Gladys Knight (& Pips). 4. Dinah Washington. 5. Dionne Warwick.

C&W (1940 - 1998): 1. Dolly Parton. 2. Loretta Lynn. 3. Reba McEntire. 4. Tammy Wynette. 5. Tanya Tucker.

Now let's combine all categories and select an All-Around Top 5: 1. Aretha Franklin. 2. Madonna. 3. Diana Ross (& Supremes). 4. Connie Francis. 5. Dolly Parton.

DEAR JERRY: Please settle a humongous bet between my husband and me, if possible. Did Elvis Presley ever record the popular Ketty Lester song, “Love Letters”? Did he put it out on either a single or an album?

My husband says yes, but I say no. I believe it was the signature song for Ketty Lester and I can't even remember hearing it by anyone else.
—Sharon Behrman, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR SHARON: Sorry, but this is turning out to be a humongous loss for you.

Ketty Lester's “Love Letters” reached the Top 5 in 1962. Four years later, Elvis' mellow remake made the Top 20.

Presley clearly like this tune as he even recorded a new arrangement of it in 1970. The album featuring that version is titled “Love Letters from Elvis.” He frequently performed “Love Letters” during his '70s concerts.

Dick Haymes had the original waxing of “Love Letters” in 1945, the same year as the release of the film “Love Letters,” starring Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotton and Ann Richards.

Now to the next case on the docket:

DEAR JERRY: I have a dinner bet with my girlfriend and the winner treats. The debate is over the real name of Chubby Checker. Please settle this for us.
—Kevin R., Madison, Wisc.

DEAR KEVIN: You don't say on which names you and your lady placed your bets, but the winner is the one who says that Chubby's birth certificate reads Ernest Evans. What still isn't clear is why Mr. and Mrs. Checker would name their son Ernest Evans.

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