Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: One of our community FM stations plays anything and everything. Their format is simply "we have no format."

They recently played a song that tickled my fancy, one apparently titled "I'm Eighteen," and is by a fellow named Ray.

Searching online I found a similar title by Alice Cooper, but that is definitely not the same song.

Can you accomplish for me what the Net could not?
—Myrna Dow, Manchester, N.H.

DEAR MYRNA: What I can do that the Superhighway cannot is find and repair the flaw in your keywords.

The two words you recall are actually "I'm Métis," which is pronounced very much the same as "I'm Eighteen."

Though technically not a homophone, the effect on the listener is quite similar.

The singer of "I'm Mighty Proud I'm Métis" (full title) is Ray St. Germain, who wrote the song to honor his Métis heritage, and you can count on hearing it during every one of his concerts.

The Métis are recognized Aboriginals in Canada, who originated from mixed-race relationships between native women and European men.

Now that you have all of the necessary details, fire up the Net again and you will easily find St. Germain's award-winning album "My Many Moods," with the lead track being "I'm Mighty Proud I'm Métis."

While surfing, you will probably stumble onto Ray's autobiography, with the clever title: "I Wanted to Be Elvis, So What Was I Doing in Moose Jaw [Saskatchewan, Canada]?"

Ray St. Germain is enshrined in both the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and the Manitoba Aboriginal Music Hall of Fame.

DEAR JERRY: "At Last," the Etta James hit in the 1960s, is one of the most frequently chosen songs by girls on the various talent competition shows.

Makes me wonder how they even know about a song that predates some of their parents.

Wasn't there another recording many years earlier, either by Billy Eckstine or a similar baritone?
—Bossier Bill, Shreveport, La.

DEAR BILL: Etta James clearly 'owns' this song, making her version the one that a singing competitor would choose to best display her vocal abilities.

As to how they know a 1961 release, it could be in part due to "At Last" continually being resurrected on the 21st century talent shows, especially The Voice, American Idol, and America's Got Talent.

The team of Mack Gordon (words) and Harry Warren (music) wrote "At Last" in 1942, and it quickly became a Top 10 hit for Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, featuring vocalist Ray Eberle (Victor 27934).

A decade later, "At Last" was revived by two more bands with two more male singers.

Ray Anthony and His Orchestra's waxing came out in early 1952 (Capitol 1912), and it features lead singer Tommy Mercer.

What sets Ray Anthony's Capitol entry apart from the other big band vocals is that Mercer is joined by a choral congregation named "The Anthony Choir."

Also from 1952 is the version you describe, and it is credited to Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra (Decca 27998).

However, Johnson's brilliant baritone is Arthur Prysock, not Billy Eckstine.

I would rate the Johnson-Prysock rendition as the best of the pre-Etta period.

In 1953, the Dreamers Featuring Richard Berry gave "At Last" shoppers a doo-wop alternative (Flair 1052), but there were few takers.

At last, after 19 years of one male singer after another, Etta James recorded what would be the definitive "At Last," and ultimately her only Hot 100 entry in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

IZ ZAT SO? Ironically, Etta James' best-known song is not exactly her most successful, at least not if based on Billboard's Hot 100 record charts.

The first week of February is when "At Last" reached its highest position, a not-so-high No. 47.

Overall, Etta had nine other hits that outdid "At Last," all peaking between No. 39 ("Don't Cry Baby") and No. 23 ("Tell Mama").

The total chart run for "At Last" was just eight weeks. Coincidentally, she also had nine records with chart runs of from nine weeks ("Trust in Me" and "Stop the Wedding") to 15 weeks ("All I Could Do Was Cry").

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