Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: First I'd like to say that your column provides an invaluable service to all of us music lovers whose memory isn't what it used to be.

Now for my question: In the mid-to-late '60s, I heard a song on the radio (in NW Indiana) that I think is named “Jennifer Tompkins” (or perhaps “Jennifer Hopkins”).

It is about a girl with an alcoholic father, or something like that.

I thought the band was called the Street People, but when I checked the All Music Guide web site, the only listing for Street People mentioned no songs with that title, or anything else that seemed close.

Please help me unravel this mystery. If you can't help me no one can!
—Greg Shankland (

DEAR GREG: I can't speak for the All Music Guide site, but I can confirm much of what you remember, with only slight spelling and year corrections.

“Jennifer Tomkins” (no “p”) is a Street People, Top 40 hit from early 1970 (Musicor 1365).

Fortunately, “Jenny” is now easily available on the CD “Bubblegum Classics, Volume One - The Ultimate Collection of Pure Pop Music” (Varese Sarabande VSD-5535).

I have a humorous memory regarding this tune. You no doubt recall the catchy refrain: “I swear, just ain't fair, trouble trouble everywhere. Oh Lord come on down, got to spread some love around.”

At the radio station where I dee-jayed when “Jennifer Tomkins” was a hit, the cleanup guy who swept up the studio used to sing it this way: “I swear, just ain't fair, dirt and dust everywhere. Oh Lord come on down, help me push this broom around.”

DEAR JERRY: In more than a quarter century, I have not found one person — country music lovers included — who can remember a Johnny Cash tune that caused a bit of a stir when it came out in the '60s. The title could be something like “Shifting Sands,” though I am not sure about that.

I have checked dozens of Johnny Cash albums over the years, yet there are no titles even remotely similar to what I remember. Hence I come running to you for the answer.

What stirred the controversy is that in this song Johnny pronounced the word “shift” as though there were no “f” in it.

Obviously this tune is not one we will ever hear on the radio. Any chance you can identify it?
—Marcia Carroll, Paducah, Ky.

DEAR MARCIA: I can identify it because, in mid-'64 when it came out, I played it on the radio.

Still, there must have been many stations that didn't play “Time and Time Again” (Columbia 43145) because it failed to make the C&W charts — despite coming of the heels of two of Johnny's biggest hits, “Understand Your Man” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.”

The capricious line, which always makes me chuckle, goes like this: “You come back and I take you back, but you're like the shifting sand, and like the sand you shift right through my hands ... time and time again.” On “shifting,” there is no confusion, but when Cash gets to “shift” — well, you know. That's where things kind of hit the fan.

What with most country music programmers unaware of any recordings whatsoever before 1980, it is certain you will not be hearing “Time and Time Again” again on the radio.

IZ ZAT SO? Johnny Cash, one of very few pre-1980 still turning out hit recordings, ranks behind only George Jones and Eddy Arnold in two key C&W categories: Most Charted Hits and Most Country Artists with Top 40 Hits.

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