Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Years ago you ran a letter from someone wanting an entire CD of nothing but different versions of “My Blue Heaven.”

While my song choice is not the same, I am a lot like that person.

I recently decided to collect as many different recordings as possible of “Stars Fell on Alabama.”

Whether or not I'll burn a CD probably depends on how many tracks I find, but right now I have eight. How many do you know?

Which ones do you prefer?

What year was this great song written, and who had the big hit with it?
—Marilyn Moreland, Elgin, Ill.

DEAR MARILYN: “Stars Fell on Alabama” definitely qualifies as a Jazz standard, but in researching your question what surprised me most is how many versions exist in other styles of music.

It took only three days to corral over 120 different mp3s of “Stars Fell on Alabama.” alone offers over 60.

Having eight means you have barely scratched the surface. I estimate a minimum of 200 recordings made, and that's just in the U.S.

Yet, with all those renderings, by so many brilliant artists, this song has only been a chart hit twice, both in 1934.

The original is by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians (Decca 104), and it hit No. 1. A cover by Richard Himber & His Orchestra (Victor 24745) reached No. 2.

Earlier that year, Frank Perkins wrote the music and Mitchell Parish the lyrics.

Though it happened over a century earlier, the real-life inspiration behind “Stars Fell on Alabama” is said to be the spectacular 1833 Leonid meteor shower.

My favorite vocal versions are by Frankie Laine, Dean Martin, and Ricky Nelson. Each is different, all are great.

From the instrumentals, I'd pick two with a sax lead: Ben Webster and Stan Getz.

Besides those five, here is an alphabetical sampling of other well-known stars whose “Stars Fell on Alabama” is easily available: Cannonball Adderly (with John Coltrane); Eddy Arnold; Jimmy Buffett; Harry Connick Jr.; Bing Crosby; Doris Day; Jimmy Dorsey & Orchestra; Percy Faith & Orchestra; Ferrante & Teicher; Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong; Four Aces; Erroll Garner; Woody Herman & Orchestra; Lennon Sisters; Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians; Oscar Peterson; Frank Sinatra; Kate Smith; Kay Starr; Sonny Stitt; Mel Torme; and Lawrence Welk & Orchestra.

DEAR JERRY: Last month, as you know, Paul Davis died.

Among Paul's memorable hits, “I Go Crazy” will always be the one he is best known for.

The writer of his obituary noted that “I Go Crazy” set the record for most number of consecutive weeks on Billboard's charts, which was 40.

Being unfamiliar with nearly all Pop music after the '80s, I don't know if Paul's record still stands. If not, who is the new champ?
—Eddie Silva, Lancaster, Pa.

DEAR EDDIE: Paul Davis (April 21, 1948 - April 22, 2008) died of heart failure the day following his 60th birthday.

When “I Go Crazy” reached its 40th straight week in the Hot 100 (May 20, 1978), Paul became the all-time singles longevity king.

Then the crown transferred to Davis from Johnny Mathis, whose “Wonderful! Wonderful!” had a 39-week chart run in 1957.

In late '82, Paul's reign gave way to Soft Cell's “Tainted Love,” and a 43-week run that remained unbeaten for the remainder of the decade.

From the '90s forward, numerous acts moved through this honor's revolving door — one of which is LeAnn Rimes. LeAnn's “How Can I Live” lived on the charts for an amazing 69 consecutive weeks (June 21, 1997 - October 10, 1998).

Until someone reaches 70 weeks, the longevity royals will be ruled by Queen LeAnn.

IZ ZAT SO? “How Can I Live” shares one perplexing characteristic with two-thirds of the leading chart survivalists: They persevere seemingly without end while never topping the charts.

Over the past 60 years (1948 through 2007), only one-third of history's most enduring hits reached No. 1.

We'll make the point using only the four titles mentioned above. Here are their chart peak positions: “Wonderful! Wonderful!” (No. 14); “I Go Crazy” (No. 7); “Tainted Love” (No. 8); and “How Can I Live” (No. 2).

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