Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Here is a complex question that I'll bet is unlike any you have ever received.

I'm sure you will agree that most recordings that do not become hits at the time issued, do not later become famous.

Yet I am certain there are some exceptions, though I can't really name one.

Of all the recordings that never made the best-sellers lists, which would you pick as the one that is best known?
—Kenneth Sherwood DVM, Cleveland, Ohio

DEAR DR. SHERWOOD: You would win that bet! No one before you has ever asked this question.

Using both Billboard and the Cash Box charts as our reference sources, there is a recording that jumps out at me — one that never made the Top 100 on either of the national surveys, yet we hear it all the time.

My vote is for “Miserlou,” the sizzling surf-rock instrumental by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones.

First issued in 1958 (Deltone 4939), years before we described anything as “surf” music, it attracted no attention.

In early 1962, shortly after the chart hit “Let's Go Trippin'” made Dick Dale a star in Southern California, they reissued “Miserlou” (Deltone 5019). Despite his regional notoriety, and distribution support from Capitol, the tune still failed to crack the national charts. For the record, many California radio stations played this release of “Miserlou,” and it did chart on many local surveys.

Capitol even released this astounding instrumental on their own label (Capitol 4939), but nationwide chart success was seemingly not meant to be.

Buoyed by its choice as the dominant piece of music in the 1994 film, “Pulp Fiction,” “Miserlou” became known to a new generation while endearing itself to baby boomers who grew up on 1960s music.

Since then, this tune has been featured in more radio and TV commercials than it's possible to recall. It is also now on the playlists of many oldies format stations, who revere it as a bona fide hit of the past.

Dick Dale's “Miserlou” may not have made the Top 100, but you can now hear it more often than many songs that sold a million.

DEAR JERRY: I heard a song in the recent film, “Return to Me,” starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver, that I can't find anywhere.

The singer of this tune is definitely Dean Martin. There is no mistaking that wonderful voice.

From the ending credits, I see the title is “Good Mornin' Life,” written by Robert Allen and Joseph Meyer.

I have checked every Dean Martin album, but not a one contains “Good Mornin' Life.” As for a “Return to Me” soundtrack, I have been told that one does not exist.

You are my last hope!
—Andrea Fisher, Des Plaines, Ill.

DEAR ANDREA: Not only is Martin's 1957 recording of “Good Mornin' Life” easily available, you even have choices of formats, track combinations, and price ranges.

Though it would not be my first pick, a “Return to Me” CD does indeed exist (RCA B00004S59G). What's more, I find it currently offered by several music sellers online, including for $13.99.

Besides “Good Mornin' Life,” the soundtrack includes the title track, “Return to Me,” also by Dino. The remaining 11 tracks are by an assortment of known and unknown artists — which is why I would prefer either of the following two options.

“The Classic Dino” is a 16-track collection of somewhat hard-to-find songs, made for Capitol in the mid-'50s. Every one of these selections is, as the title implies, a classic! This LP should be available for $20 to $30.

Then there is the ultimate — a lavish, eight-CD boxed set, coincidentally titled “Return to Me” (Bear Family BCD 15959). Among its 190 tracks, made between 1956 and '61, you will find “Good Mornin' Life.”

Online dealers, again including Amazon, sell this set for around $200.

IZ ZAT SO? The only surf-themed record to reach No. 1 is Jan & Dean's “Surf City.”

The highest chart position attained by a surf instrumental is No. 2, and that honor goes to the Surfaris for “Wipe Out.”

Both of these are musical alumni of the summer '63 class.

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