Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Not long ago you dealt with a reader's inquiry about "Earth Angel," by the Penguins and also by the Crew-Cuts.

That story brought to mind a related incident, that I believe happened in the tri-state area, in the mid-'50s.

One of the Top 40 stations announced, proudly as I recall, that they would no longer play cover records, only versions by the original artists.

Do you know anything about this seemingly absurd idea?
—Jesse Boggs, St. Cloud, Minn.

DEAR JESSE: Yes, and I would upgrade the degree of absurdity from "seemingly" to completely.

On August 20, 1955, WINS (New York City) announced a new programming policy, the gist of which was that "copy" records were banned.

The point was to not reward those who "copy note for note, the arrangement and stylistic phrasing of the [original] singer. When an original disk is followed by copies, WINS will play only the original."

They continue, "This does not involve the release and spinning of cover disks, an integral part of the disk business that is regarded as completely ethical by all."

Conventional wisdom at the time referred to an original as such, and to other recordings of the same song as a cover, but only when released at a time so as to compete with the original.

Accordingly, all copy disks (issued as quickly as possible so as to compete for sales) are also cover disks. But not all cover disks are copies -- only ones that "copy note for note, the arrangement and stylistic phrasing of the original."

Not stated was whose responsibility it would be to distinguish between copy versions and cover versions (good luck with that).

What sense would it make to ban a copy recording that not only turned out to be an enormous hit, but was also the only hit version. In other words, however great the original might be, it simply didn't sell.

One example that comes to mind is "A Tear Fell" (Atlantic 1086), originally released in February 1956 by Ivory Joe Hunter.

In just a day or two, Teresa Brewer's copy/cover version (Coral 61590) was out and accompanied by full-page ads in the trade magazines. Placed near to Coral's ad was this tiny reminder from Atlantic: "A Tear Fell - Get the Original by Ivory Joe Hunter."

Brewer's record went to the Top 5 and stayed on the pop charts for about six months. Hunter's never appeared on the pop charts, and after just one week at the bottom the R&B chart, dropped from sight.

Under the WINS policy, they would have banned Teresa's blockbuster hit and either played Hunter's track, or nothing at all. Neither option would benefit a Top 40 station

Fortunately, brighter WINS minds prevailed and soon the ban was banned.

The following year (1957), the topic generating the most complaints from radio stations shifted to the proliferation of "smutty lyrics and double entendre references."

DEAR JERRY: I have prepared an addendum to your recent column concerning the decline in the quantity of No. 1 instrumentals, before and after the British Invasion.

This breakdown shows the total number of instrumentals on the Billboard Hot 100 for each year of the decade:

1960 - 75
1961 - 86
1962 - 90
1963 - 62
1964 - 44
1965 - 42
1966 - 42
1967 - 43
1968 - 41
1969 - 42

It appears the decrease in the overall number of charted instrumentals was well underway by 1963, but it's likely the British Invasion, with its emphasis on vocal groups, contributed to a further decline in 1964. From then through 1969, the annual totals leveled off.
—Randy Price, Archives Manager, Cash Box Magazine

DEAR RANDY: Thank you so much for taking the time to tally 10 years of charted instrumentals. Your piece was, dare I say, instrumental in motivating me to compile yet one more perspective on this topic:

IZ ZAT SO? First we present the Top 10 instrumentalists of the vinyl era, for singles sales:

1. Herb Alpert
2. Billy Vaughn
3. Duane Eddy
4. Roger Williams
5. Lawrence Welk
6. Bill Black's Combo
7. Ventures
8. Ramsey Lewis
9. Henry Mancini
10. Kenny G

For albums, seven of the above 10 remain, though none are in the same position as for singles:

1. Mantovani
2. Lawrence Welk
3. Henry Mancini
4. Herb Alpert
5. Roger Williams
6. Ventures
7. Billy Vaughn
8. Enoch Light
9. Ramsey Lewis
10. Ferrante & Teicher

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