Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I read that LaVern Baker and Tony Williams died around the same time. Looks like we lost two giants in the R&B world just a few days apart.

I have always loved LaVern's "Play It Fair," and consider it one of the great R&B tunes. Is there a commemorative LaVern Baker CD that includes "Play It Fair"?

As for Tony Williams, there may not have been a better lead singer than Tony with the Platters.
--Arnie Fernandez, San Antonio

DEAR ARNIE: First let's talk about LaVern Baker, or "Little Miss Share Cropper" as she was once billed.

LaVern died March 10, 1997 at a New York City hospital at the age of 67.

A diabetic, Baker had undergone a couple of strokes in the '90s, and in 1995 had both legs amputated below the knee.

LaVern had 22 R&B charted records between 1955 and 1966, and they are:

"Tweedle Dee" (1955)
"Bop-Ting-A-Ling" (1955)
"That's All I Need" (1955)
"Play It Fair" (1955)
"My Happiness Forever" (1956)
"Get Up Get Up (You Sleepy Head)" (1956)
"Still" (1956)
"I Can't Love You Enough" (1956)
"Jim Dandy" (1956)
"Tra La La" (1956)
"Jim Dandy Got Married" (1957)
"It's So Fine" (1958)
"I Cried a Tear" (1958)
"I Waited Too Long" (1959)
"So High So Low" (1959)
"Tiny Tim" (1959)
"Shake a Hand" (1960)
"Saved" (1961)
"See See Rider" (1962)
"You Better Find Yourself Another Fool" (1964)
"Fly Me to the Moon" (1965)
"Think Twice" (with Jackie Wilson) (1966)

Now that you have a list of LaVern's 22 tunes on the R&B charts, it seems appropriate to tally six records that made the Top 100 on the Pop & Rock charts, but not on the R&B surveys:

"Humpty Dumpty Heart" (1957)
"If You Love Me" (1959)
"Wheel of Fortune" (1960)
"Shadows of Love" (1960)
"Bumble Bee" (1960)
"You're the Boss" (with Jimmy Ricks) (1961)

The "Play It Fair" single (Atlantic 1075), peaked at No. 2 in 1955. It and 19 more of LaVern's finest tracks can be had on the "Soul on Fire" CD (Atlantic 7 82311-2). This collection includes two sensational tunes from her early years: "Soul on Fire" (1953) and "Tomorrow Night" (1954).

Regarding Tony Williams, you are confusing the jazz musician, who died nearly five years later than the famous lead singer of the Platters.

The Tony Williams who died on February 23, 1997, two and one-half weeks before LaVern Baker, was 51. This Tony Williams was one of the industry's top jazz drummers. He first gained notoriety in the 1960s as a child prodigy with the Miles Davis Quintet.

Tony Williams, the great lead singer of the Platters, passed away on August 14, 1992 of complications from diabetes, similar to LaVern Baker. Emphysema, a smoker's curse, also contributed to Tony's demise. He was 64.

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