Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I found your recent discussion of “The Wabash Cannonball” quite interesting, though it gave me my own little musical mystery.

I recall hearing the exact same music used on a country tune from the early '50s, but with lyrics about songs on a jukebox.

I have long since forgotten most everything about this song, such as artist and title, but I am now curious as to how they tied records in with trains.

Can you help with my memory lapse?
—Nell Stelton, Des Moines, Wash.

DEAR NELL: Let's see if we can get you back on that proverbial track.

The tune you describe is “The Juke Box Cannonball” (Holiday 113), a 1952 release by Bill Haley and the Saddlemen.

To refresh your memory, “The Juke Box Cannonball” is an upbeat country offering, complete with down home fiddle riffs. An occasional train whistle is heard, providing a somewhat nonessential railroad tie-in.

The lyrics simply extol the virtues of juke boxes “across this mighty nation” which feature “the top tunes of the day.”

Of course this is the same Bill Haley who, with Comets instead of Saddlemen, turned the music world upside down a few years later with “Rock Around the Clock.”

This is not the only time someone borrowed the infectious “Wabash Cannonball” melody, then added new lyrics.

In 1941, the Delmore Brothers issued “The Gospel Cannonball” (Decca 5970), giving the tune a soul-saving slant.

Then, trucking song specialist Dick Curless came up with the “Big Wheel Cannonball” (Capitol 2780), a Top 30 C&W hit in 1970. This one pays tribute to the nation's long line drivers.

DEAR JERRY: Please help a friend and me, who have been searching for information about a song for three years!

The song is either “I Will Love You Until the End of Time,” or just “Until the End of Time.” It definitely is not “Till the end of time,” by Perry Como. We have already spent over $50 on this one, and other recordings that are not the right record.

I hear the song on AM oldies stations, but can never catch the artist's last name. As luck would have it, one day just after the dee jay gave the singer's first name — which is Earl — I drove under an overpass and lost reception. Through the static, it seemed his last name is Greg or Craig.
—Mike Hinkle, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR MIKE: I will cut right through that AM-induced static, and reveal the name you missed. It is Earl Grant, whose Top 10 hit in 1958, simply titled “The End,” is your mystery tune

On this lovely ballad, Earl Grant sounds so much like Nat King Cole that some listeners can't tell them apart.

DEAR JERRY: Many years ago, you provided some background and details about the instrumental by the Admiral Tones titled “Rocksville, Pa.”

As a resident of nearby Harrisburg, I have been keeping an eye out for a copy of “Rocksville, Pa.” However, never once have I found it on any record, cassette, MP3, or CD.

Do you have any suggestions as to how I can land this fish?
—Samuel Kent, Harrisburg, Pa.

DEAR SAMUEL: I have only one, but one is all you need.

To reel in this fish, simply get your hook into a CD titled, of all things, “Rocksville, Pa.”

Besides the title track, this two-disc compilation makes available 51 other rare tracks recorded in south central Pennsylvania, between 1959 and '66.

Along with the Admiral Tones, here are some other locally popular names from the past found on “Rocksville, Pa.” (X-Bat 5867): the Royal Lancers; Paul Thomas; Jerry Akins; Jimmy Rock; Cherry Lynn; Velaires; Joe Forte; and the Conductors.

For ordering information, contact: X-Bat Records, Box 5347, Lancaster PA 17606.

IZ ZAT SO? So how many weeks did Bill Haley's 1954 issue of “Rock Around the Clock” spend on “Your Hit Parade,” or in Billboard's Top 20?

If you said none, you would be correct.

However, when featured one year later in “Blackboard Jungle,” a 1955 film, “Rock Around the Clock” began its phenomenal climb to what would eventually be more than 20 million copies sold.

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