Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I have heard Pat Boone's “Speedy Gonzales” hundreds of times over the years, but the last time it played on the radio, one verse finally caught my attention.

Don't know why I never noticed it before, but it is when Speedy says “Hey Rosita, come quick! Down at the cantina they're giving green stamps with tequila.”

I know very little about tequila, but I have never heard any connection between it and stamps of any color.

Green worms maybe, but not stamps.

What does all of this mean?
—Marlene Millbrook, York, Pa.

DEAR MARLENE: One thing it means is you are probably too young to have lived through the trading stamp phenomenon, which peaked in the first half of the 1960s.

In the midst of the frenzy, even pop culture jumped on the bandwagon. Recordings, “Speedy Gonzales” (1962) among them, television shows, and motion pictures frequently referenced trading stamps, in particular S&H Green Stamps.

One appropriately titled recording is “Green Stamps,” a regional Top 30 hit in 1961 by the T-Birds (Chess 1778).

This band, whose members included Jimmy Norman and the great Jesse Belvin, cleverly addressed the passion among women to fill their stamp books: “I'll give you Green Stamps, baby, with every kiss. Come and get 'em. I'll give you Green Stamps, Yellow Stamps, Blue Chip too. Treat me real nice I'll give my book to you.”

At the point of purchase, retailers of practically everything (probably not tequila) issued stamps based on the amount of the sale, usually one stamp per 10-cents spent. Merchants also supplied special books in which the stamps could be moistened and affixed to blank pages.

On average, the value of the rebate amounted to about 10 per cent.

Each stamp company operated redemption centers nationwide, where books filled with stamps could be exchanged for a vast assortment of merchandise.

Rather than a purchase price, their catalogs indicated the number of filled stamp books for each item.

For example, one S&H book would get you a 14-inch Goldberger baby doll that drinks and wets. For 180 books, a Westinghouse side-by-side refrigerator-freezer could be had, in your choice of avocado or gold.

Though their product is no longer stamps and stamp books, S&H is still operating — as S&H Solutions.

DEAR JERRY: When the group America released their self-titled debut album, I was working for a record distributor.

When “America” came out, the copy I obtained did not include their first hit “A Horse with No Name.”

Soon after, I believe Warner Bros. recalled the first pressings and reissued it with “A Horse with No Name,” which by then was very popular.

I still have the original version. Is it worth much?
—Bruce M. Scheiner, Levittown, N.Y.

DEAR BRUCE: Since there was really nothing wrong with it, Warner had no reason to recall this LP.

Such a drastic step usually is reserved for correcting critical mistakes (e.g., “Neil Young”), responding to controversy (e.g., “The Beatles … Yesterday and Today” and “The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan”), or dealing with litigation (e.g., “The Caine Mutiny”).

However, in the few months from late 1971 to early '72, Warner did release three different configurations of “America” (BS-2576).

When originally released in 1971, America's recording of “A Horse with No Name” did not yet exist. This seems to be the version you have. Estimated value: $60. The second pressing came out in January 1972.

This edition does include “A Horse with No Name;” however, no mention of this tune is made on the front cover because the nameless horse had yet become a hit single. Estimated value: $20.

About a month later, when Warner knew they had a huge hit on their hands, they made new covers which have “With A Horse with No Name” right under the huge name “AMERICA” on the front. Estimated value: under $10.

For three weeks, in March and April '72, America held the No. 1 position on both the singles and albums charts.

IZ ZAT SO? During the early-to-mid-'60s, the glory years of the trading stamp campaign, the “Ideabook” of Exciting Gifts (a.k.a. Distinguished Merchandise) from S&H Green Stamps could be found in nearly every home.

According to the S&H web site:

“A generation of Americans grew up with them, Andy Warhol immortalized them in his art and consumers redeemed more than $10 billion in rewards with them. S&H Green Stamps were all the rage and everywhere you looked, America was collecting them. In the 1960s, the S&H catalog became the largest publication in the country and S&H printed three times as many stamps as the U.S. Post Office [printed postage stamps].”

Usually around 180 pages, the catalog pictured and described items available, including furniture, home decorations, numerous large and small appliances, watches, tools, sporting goods, musical instruments, some as Grand as a piano.

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