Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Apart from a concept LP with an inescapable theme, such as a collection of Christmas songs, which recording is thought to be the world's first long playing concept album?

I have seen Frank Sinatra's “In the Wee Small Hours,” a 1955 issue, described as the first concept album. Might there have been an earlier one?
—Sally Hollins, Dixmoor, Ill.

DEAR SALLY: Yes, about two years before Sinatra's conceptual entry.

Generally regarded as the first concept album is Peggy Lee's “Black Coffee” (Decca DL-5482) a 1953 release.

Originally issued in the 10-inch long playing format, this jazz-pop collection maintains the title track's concept of “feelin' mighty lonesome, walkin' the floor, watchin' the door, and in-between drinkin' black coffee.”

Like most 10-inch albums, “Black Coffee” contains eight tracks: “Black Coffee;” “I've Got You Under My Skin;” “Easy Living;” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy;” “A Woman Alone with the Blues;” “I Didn't Know What Time It Was;” “When the World Was Young;” and “Love Me Or Leave Me.”

By the mid-'50s, consumers wanted more music on their LPs, and the industry standard became the 12-inch disc, most of which offered 12 tracks.

Staying in sync with the trend, Decca repackaged “Black Coffee” in 1956 (DL-8358), adding four songs: “It Ain't Necessarily So;” “Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You;” “You're My Thrill;” and “There's a Small Hotel.”

The 10-inch original sells for about $75, and the 12-inch edition brings about half that.

DEAR JERRY: A song from my reckless youth lives in my mind and I can't seem to find any information about it.

I remember owning it on a 45 rpm, but like many other things from those years, this disc is long gone.

As I recall, the titled is “Plastic Man,” and it is by a group called the Swampseeds.

Is this true or am I merely dreaming?
—D.P., New Port Richey, Fla.

DEAR D.P.: If you are sleeping, you are unusually gifted with historically accurate dreams.

It is definitely “Plastic Man” by the Swampseeds (Epic 10445). The flip side of this early 1969 issue is “Can I Help You.” “Plastic Man” is the third and, as far as I know, the last record by the Swampseeds.

They did have two releases in 1968: “Can I Carry Your Balloon” (Epic 10281) and “Love Is on the Way” (Epic 10371).

Collectors of bubble gum music know the Swampseeds, but mostly for their first single, “Can I Carry Your Balloon.” This tune made many regional Top 40 charts, though the best it did nationally is to reach No. 100 on Cash Box.

Neither of the two follow-ups managed to hit the national charts.

DEAR JERRY: In the late '50s or early '60s, a song titled “Tamoure” got played a lot in the San Diego area. I recall it being by Bob Costa's orchestra.

I have found “Tamoure” by other groups, but none are the version I want, which no one seems to have heard of.
—Allan McCune, San Diego, Calif.

DEAR ALLAN: A version of “Tamoure” came out in mid-1963 (Columbia 42785), but it is by Don Costa and His Orchestra.

Though Don Costa's “Tamoure” did not chart, one by Bill Justis (Smash 1812) — released just about two weeks before Costa's — lingered just beneath the Top 100 for about a month that summer.

IZ ZAT SO? With over 650 songs and 60 albums to her credit, Peggy Lee is remembered primarily as a singer. Yet when she darted off to Hollywood to give acting a try, Peggy turned out to be a natural.

With virtually no significant on-camera experience under her belt, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences honored Peggy with a best supporting actress of 1955 nomination for her portrayal of Rose Hopkins in “Pete Kelly's Blues.”

Joining Lee as nominees that year were Betsy Blair, for “Marty;” Marisa Pavan, for “The Rose Tattoo;” Natalie Wood, for “Rebel Without a Cause;” and the oscar winner in this category, Jo Van Fleet, for “East of Eden”.

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