Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Is Phil Keaggy really the best guitarist in the world?

I ran across a statement attributed to Jimi Hendrix where he said that about Phil.

Why and when did Jimi say this?

Who is Phil Keaggy, and what band was he with at that time?
—James P. Greene, Lakeland, Fla.

DEAR JAMES: Since last year when we solved the mystery of Jimi's involvement with Don Covay's “Mercy, Mercy,” we have been swamped with Hendrix questions — though few as irresistible as yours.

As for the why and when, the why is immaterial because the when is never.

This is just a rumor, one debunked about 10 years ago, about Hendrix as a guest on “The Tonight Show Featuring Johnny Carson.”

According to the fable, when Johnny raises the subject of who might be the best guitarist, Jimi names Phil Keaggy rather than himself as the greatest.

There are many reasons why this is merely unlikely, but here are some why it is impossible:

Jimi made only one appearance on “The Tonight Show,” when it was not starring Johnny Carson. Comedian Flip Wilson filled in for Johnny that night (July 10, 1969).

Audio tapes exist of this show and they reveal neither a discussion of great guitarists nor mention of Phil Keaggy.

What Hendrix really does is sing “Lover Man” and dedicate it to Brian Jones, of the Rolling Stones, who died just a week earlier (July 3).

A little over a year later (September 18, 1970), Hendrix overdosed and died.

At the time of this broadcast, Phil Keaggy was about to begin his senior year in high school, and was 18 months away from seeing his first album, “Glass Harp” (Decca 75261), released.

Though Phil's Glass Harp band once recorded in New York at Jimi's Electric Ladyland Studio, those sessions took place after Jimi died.

There is in fact no evidence proving Jimi Hendrix even knew of Phil Keaggy. Most of America didn't until the '70s.

Thanks to Chester Prudhomme, a Jimi Hendrix authority, for valuable assistance with this research.

DEAR JERRY: While on a drive through Texas, about 15 years ago, I heard an obscure Country song on the radio which has haunted me ever since that night.

Actually I heard only a portion of it, but enough to know I liked it.

By a woman with a southern bluesy style, the things stuck in my memory are about the Mississippi River rolling, and someone playing the Blues on Beale Street in Memphis.

When asking dee jays about this, they usually suggest Tina Turner's “Proud Mary,” but that is definitely not right.

With so few clues, can you do any better?
—Bonnie Simms, Vincennes, Ind.

DEAR BONNIE: Yes, though it is clear why anyone's first thought might be of Ike and Tina singing “rolling on the (Mississippi) river” throughout their 1971 version of “Proud Mary.”

Tina has the bluesy style you mention, but her recording makes no mention of the action on Beale Street. Furthermore, Ike and Tina have probably never been played by a Country station.

The one song matching all your clues is “There's No Love in Tennessee,” a Top 10 C&W hit in 1985 by Barbara Mandrell (MCA 52537).

Let me take you back to that dark and stormy night in Texas, with the first verse of the song haunting you:

“That big river's still rollin' through Memphis
And on Beale Street they still play the Blues
The Smokeys still wear their halos
It's heaven on earth in the morning dew.”

Curious about the halos reference? Me too, so I called Great Smokey Mountain National Park information office, where Nancy Gray and Bob Miller explained this phenomenon:

“Vapors from the trees in the park create cloud-like wisps, which we call ‘caps.’ They can hover above the mountain peaks and can give the appearance of halos, especially in the morning dew.”

IZ ZAT SO? In the mid-'60s, Irby Mandrell ran a music store in Oceanside, California. He also had three very talented daughters, Barbara, Louise, and Irlene.

Years before the music world learned of the Mandrells, Irby and Semie Moseley — creator of the famous Mosrite guitars — recorded the girls.

Coming up with a name for their new release, they drew inspiration from their city and chose O-side. They even added their Oceanside street address to the label (1611 S. Hill).

Credited to “The Mandrell's (Vocal - Barbara Mandrell),” the tracks are “Don't Hold Your Breath” backed with “Pan-Handle Rag” (O-side k-29).

Coveted by Mandrell collectors, this disc is rarely found for less than $150.

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