Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: In 1960s and '70s, I made many cassettes of songs played by our Top 40 stations. Now I'm converting those to CDs.

Most titles and singers were identified by the jocks, but not all. From those that aren't, I have tracked down all but the singer of one.

What still has me stumped is “Beg, Borrow Or Steal,” the song popularized by the Ohio Express. But it definitely is not them on the tape. Who is it?

They sound a lot like Manfred Mann, if that is of any help.
—Lenny Bradford, Philadelphia

DEAR LENNY: I agree, this nifty garage band probably resembles Manfred Mann more than any of the other well-known '60s bands. However, this version is by the Demotrons (Cameo 456), a name you probably do not know.

Their somewhat slower rendition of “Beg, Borrow, and Steal” is the second of three different releases, and is the only one where the singer switches the lyrics to “beg, borrow OR steal.” Regardless, the Cameo label correctly shows the title as “Beg, Borrow, and Steal.”

With Cameo-Parkway based in Philadelphia, it is not surprising the Demotrons got some local spins, but they never charted nationally.

Then again, neither did the first release of the original version.

When first issued, in May 1966 by the Rare Breed (Attack 1401), “Beg, Borrow and Steal” didn't get much attention outside of a few scattered New York and Pennsylvania markets.

In January of '67, Cameo gave the Demotrons a shot at having the hit single of “Beg, Borrow, and Steal,” but it was not to be. Perhaps they just had a one-record deal, because this turned out to be their only Cameo release.

The company's belief that “Beg, Borrow and Steal” was a hit just waiting to burst out finally paid off. The third time was the charm.

In September, Cameo repackaged the Rare Breed's 1966 original, even changing the group's name to the Ohio Express, reflecting their Mansfield, Ohio roots.

Whether that made the difference is not known, but “Beg, Borrow and Steal” (Cameo 483) quickly worked its way into the Top 30, becoming the first of nine hit singles for the Ohio Express.

Best known among those are “Yummy Yummy Yummy”; “Down at Lulu's”; “Chewy Chewy”; and “Mercy.”

As for “Beg, Borrow and Steal,” here are some noteworthy tunes with very similar titles: “Beg, Borrow Or Steal” by Jim Photoglo (1980), then by Glenn Hughes & Pat Thrall (1982). Also, there is “Beg, Steal Or Borrow,” by the New Seekers, a minor U.S. hit but one that reached No. 2 in the UK in April 1972.

IZ ZAT SO? Billboard's Top 10 songs in early March belonged to Adele: “Set Fire to the Rain”; “Rolling in the Deep”; and “Someone Like You,” making her the first female ever to do so, and putting her in some mighty exclusive company.

Propelled by “Saturday Night Fever” fever, three Bee Gees songs from that soundtrack ranked among the Top 10 in February 1978: “Stayin' Alive”; “Night Fever”; and “How Deep Is Your Love.”

Two decades earlier, October-November 1956, four Elvis hits dominated the Top 10: “Love Me Tender”; “Anyway You Want Me (That's How I Will Be)”; “Don't Be Cruel”; and “Hound Dog.”

Then, in April 1964, the Beatles raised the bar even higher. Not only did they have five of the Top 10, but they held the top five of the Top 10: “Can't Buy Me Love”; “Twist and Shout”; “She Loves You”; “I Want to Hold Your Hand”; and “Please Please Me.”

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