DEAR JERRY: While talking about music with a retired Memphis dee-jay, Dickie Lee's 1964 hit "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)" came up. He said that long ago there was a column of yours with some fascinating "Laurie" background.
I am a "Laurie," who would love to read more about this song, so is there any chance you can locate that piece? Laurie Petersen, Collierville, Tenn.
DEAR LAURIE: Your friend was not exaggerating when he said "long ago." Here is the column you reference, one that first ran almost 20 years ago (November 1999):
DEAR JERRY: Every time I read your column I learn something. Now, I believe I can share some knowledge with you and your readers.
Recently you wrote (again) about "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)," as recorded by Dickie Lee, and how it has become a Halloween favorite. I was not aware of this fact, though I can understand why it is. Allow me now to add some background on the song, as well as its writer, Dr. Milton "Mitt" Addington.
Mitt was my husband's only first cousin, and they grew up very close to each other. As little boys they wrote books together. My husband's career was as a NASA aerospace engineer and Mitt became a psychologist, based in Memphis, Tenn. However, Mitt's hobby, and first love, was songwriting. In fact, he became know in Memphis as the Rock and Roll Psychologist.
"Laurie" was inspired by a Halloween-like ghost story, submitted in 1964 by a teenage girl, that ran in a Memphis newspaper. The fictitious story was about a boy who falls in love with the ghost of a teenage girl.
Taking a cue from that story, Dr. Addington penned "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)," which Dickie Lee recorded. As they say, the rest is history.
Oh yes, the girl who wrote the story was Cathie Harmon, then just 15 years of age. To compensate Cathie, Mitt even shared the songwriting royalties with her.
Proving that even a psychologist can learn a few things, Mitt liked to recall one very enlightening experience.
In the mid'-50s, Sun Records owner, Sam Phillips, called him and asked if he'd like to write some original songs for a new artist that Sun had signed. Phillips then played some tapes of the new singer at work, after which Addington said "But Sam, that's rock and roll and I can't write rock and roll!"
You can probably guess the outcome of this situation. Mitt had just declined to write songs for a young Elvis Presley. Since then, he never refused to write music for any singer.
Among Mitt's hit tunes are several pop and rock classics, that continue to be played around the world: "Five O'Clock World"; "Through the Eyes of Love"; and "The Girl I Can't Forget." Over 50 of his tunes were recorded.
Mitt passed away in 1979. He was just 55.
June Allen, Huntsville, Ala.
DEAR JUNE: What a wonderful and informative story. Thank you so much for sharing it.
As I have previously stated, "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)" remains one of the most frequently discussed songs in the history of this feature. I'm thrilled to have these fascinating background details.