Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I became a Johnny Mathis fan in the mid-'50s when I first heard “Wonderful Wonderful.”

Over the years, his amazing voice was heard on hit after hit, making him one of the top Pop music stars ever.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find no mention of his whatsoever on a list of the Top 300 best-selling U.S. albums according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

What gives here? Isn't “Johnny's Greatest Hits” the longest-running hit album in history? How can it not be near the top of their list, much less given no mention whatsoever?

Why isn't Johnny right there with Elvis, Sinatra, Stones, Beatles, and other legends?
—Bobbi Callahan, Hanover, Pa.

DEAR BOBBI: Of course he should be — and in many ways he is.

And unlike Presley, Sinatra, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Brian Jones (of the Rolling Stones), Mathis is the only one of those superstars still performing.

As for the R.I.A.A. Top 300, there are some key factors that skew those numbers when comparing sales from one generation to those of another.

Many industry observers — myself included — believe the playing field is so uneven that no satisfactory cross-generation comparisons can be made.

Most significant is the ever-increasing population.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, our current national head count, approximately 300 million, is only 40 million short of doubling since the 1957 release of “Wonderful Wonderful.” Then it was just 170 million.

Because the number of record buyers parallels that of the general population, it is easy to see why sales, being directly proportional to marketplace size, are much greater in the '70s and '80s than in the '50s and '60s.

The R.I.A.A. best-selling albums list confirms this. Only one in their Top 40 is a pre-1970 issue, (“The Beatles”), and it came along in December 1968.

We should probably limit referencing the R.I.A.A. list to albums made after 1970, and the later the better.

A superior assessment of '50s and '60s recordings is comparing their sales to others from the same years.

Doing that, “Johnny's Greatest Hits” is indeed the all-time chart life champ.

This collection debuted on Billboard's Top LPs chart April 14, 1958 and remained there until July 27, 1968.

Nothing else by another Pop or Rock artist in the '50s or '60s is even close to this 10 year-plus run for “Johnny's Greatest Hits.”

The distant runner-up is “Heavenly,” another Johnny Mathis album that survived for about five years (1959-1964).

The others high on the list are mostly Original Cast and Soundtrack recordings (“My Fair Lady;” “Oklahoma;” “The King and I;” “Camelot;” “South Pacific;” etc.).

DEAR JERRY: When I was a child, one of my family's records was “I Don't See Me in Your Eyes Anymore.” I even remember the flip side, “I'll Keep the Lovelight Burning in My Heart.”

It is difficult to believe how well I recall both songs but have no idea as to the singer's identity, but that is the case.

The only other details I know are the singer is a woman, and the period is early '50s.

Any help is appreciated.
—Wayne London, St. Catharines Ontario, Canada

DEAR WAYNE: Considering your family name I'm surprised the label name didn't stick with you. It is London!

In early 1949, six artists recorded “I Don't See Me in Your Eyes Anymore”: Perry Como; Kitty Kallen; Buddy Clark; Jan Garber; Stardusters; and Vera Lynn.

At the same time, six versions of “I'll Keep the Lovelight Burning in My Heart” came out: Dick Haymes; Louis Armstrong; Patti Page; Jerry Wayne; Bill Lawrence; and Vera Lynn.

After some high-tech analysis, Vera Lynn is the one name that jumps out as having waxed both tunes. Vera's is the single you seek (London 403).

“I Don't See Me in Your Eyes Anymore” is actually the B-side, the A-side being “I'll Keep the Lovelight Burning in My Heart.”

IZ ZAT SO? Bobbi Callahan's mention of Elvis, Sinatra, Mathis, and the Beatles inspires this week's trivia tidbit.

According to Joel Whitburn's “Billboard Albums, 6th Edition (1956-2005),” each of those ranks among the all-time Top 10 album chart artists:

1. Elvis Presley; 2. Frank Sinatra; 3. Beatles; 4. Barbra Streisand; 5. Rollins Stones; 6. Johnny Mathis; 7. Elton John; 8. Bob Dylan; 9. Neil Diamond; 10. Temptations.

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