Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: My question is about “Big Man,” one of my favorite songs by the Four Preps

Who is the piano player on this track? Is it one of the Four Preps, or an anonymous session man?
—Nick Hobart, New Port Richey, Fla.

DEAR NICK: Since those powerful piano chords are vital to the greatness of “Big Man,” it is about time the uncredited player gets his due.

He is Lincoln Mayorga, a very famous arranger and pianist whose keyboard chops and arrangements adorn hundreds of recordings.

Lincoln contributed so often to the Four Preps recordings that he became known as the Fifth Prep.

In the summer of 1960, Mayorga and Ed Cobb — one of the four singing Preps — assembled a group of studio musicians to make some rock instrumentals for Capitol, the same label for which the Four Preps then recorded.

Though the personnel shifted over the next two years, all of those tracks came out credited to the Piltdown Men.

Capitol issued a total of six Piltdown singles (12 tracks), but only their first, “Brontosaurus Stomp,” became a hit in the US.

Not surprisingly, especially considering the story behind the name, the Piltdown Men did much better in Britain, where “McDonald's Farm” (flip side of “Brontosaurus Stomp”); “Piltdown Rides Again;” and “Goodnight, Mrs. Flintstone” all made the New Musical Express charts.

Throughout the '60s Lincoln remained one of the busiest men in the industry, adding his touch to hit records by Johnny Mathis, Vikki Carr, Ketty Lester, Frank Zappa, Mel Torme, Barbra Streisand, Phil Ochs, Andy Williams, Quincy Jones, and many other stars.

In an interesting 1961 diversion, done for Reprise Records, Lincoln and Ed Cobb teamed with Al Garcia, Fred Mendoza, Vince Bumatay, and Art Rodriguez and, as the Link-Eddy Combo, hit the R&B charts with the instrumental “Big Mr. C” (Reprise 20,002).

Somehow Mayorga also found time to be the staff pianist for Walt Disney Studios. There he worked on several film soundtracks, including “Chinatown,” “Pete's Dragon,” “The Competition,” “Ragtime,” and “The Rose.”

Lincoln is still touring and performing, mostly in the northeast. He usually does solo piano classical and semi-classical recitals, along with his favorite music of great film composers, many of whom he worked with in Hollywood.

This just in! More on “Big Man” — courtesy of Todd Everett:

Good column on Lincoln Mayorga. And now ... the rest of the story.

There are actually two piano players on “Big Man!” Lincoln told me that in order to establish that especially big sound, a second one was used, played by Dudley Brooks.

Brooks is best known as the pianist on nearly all of Elvis Presley's Hollywood sessions from 1957 through the mid-'60s.

DEAR JERRY: Love your recent piece on Ricky Nelson, and it prompts me to ask whether or not this trivia tidbit is true:

I heard on a Chicago oldies station that the album “Ricky” is the first No. 1 LP that credits the artist only by their first name. True or false?
—Brenda Snyder, Franklin Park, Ill.

DEAR BRENDA: False! “Ricky” is the second one. A year earlier (1956), “Elvis” topped the album charts, thus being the first (title) without a last (name).

Of the first 80 hit albums by Presley, only the first (“Elvis Presley”) and last (“Elvis Aron Presley”) have titles that use more than just “Elvis.”

For the record, one other title includes his full name but only in reference to a street: “From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee.”

The reverse situation — a title being a last name only — happened just a few months before “Elvis,” with the release of “Belafonte,” by Harry of course.

I didn't include Liberace in the latter category since he used only the one name professionally, even though it is his real surname.

IZ ZAT SO? Popular music historians, especially those fond of “Brontosaurus Stomp,” have often asked if there is an interesting story behind the group's chosen name, the Piltdown Men.

There is, and music lovers who coincidentally dabble in paleontology would know it well. Everyone else is probably in the dark.

The great Piltdown pretense of 1912 is among the biggest scientific deceptions in history.

That is when British archaeologist Charles Dawson stunned the science world with his “discovery,” in Piltdown (Sussex, England), of seemingly humanoid fossils and skulls.

What Dawson announced as the Missing Link — an interconnection of man and ape — turned out to be nothing other than a combination of human and animal remains.

Not until 1953 would the truth be told. Over 40 years passed before the technology existed to conclusively expose Dawson's inventive hoax.

The Piltdown Man didn't really exist, after all. But the Piltdown Men did.

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