Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I had an interesting conversation with a friend about some of the cover record specialists of the 1950s, and we suspect Pat Boone is the king of the cover hits? How many did he have?

Boone probably has the greater overall sales, but my friend thinks the Crew-Cuts had more hit covers than Pat.

Can you supply some facts to enlighten us in this area?
—Jim & Roger in Lakeland, Fla.

DEAR JIM & ROGER: You guys have covered the covers quite well, but here are some supporting observations:

Because his sales were so great, it may appear that Pat Boone made many cover records. In fact, he did not. Only 10% (six of 60) of his chart hits fall into that category.

Remember, to be considered a “cover” record, it must be a single (never an LP track) issued at roughly the same time as the original, and be solely intended to compete with the original — “compete” being the key qualifier.

Simply recording a song made first by someone else should never be described as a cover. Call it a remake, call it a new version, or just call it a recording. But please don't call it a cover!

When it comes to Boone, that is an important distinction. Many of his hits were popular long before he waxed them.

One of his No. 1 hits, “Love Letters in the Sand,” is a good example.

Written in 1931, by J. Fred Coots (music), Nick Kenny, and Charles Kenny (words), it was a hit that year for Ted Black and His Orchestra.

Pat recorded “Love Letters in the Sand” but he did not cover it. Doing so would mean he issued it three years before his birth (June 1934), a highly unlikely occurrence.

Here are Pat Boone's six covers that reached the Top 20, with the original artist shown in parenthesis. All of these came along in just 12 months, from April 1955 to April '56:

1955: “Two Hearts” (Charms); “Ain't That a Shame” (Fats Domino); “At My Front Door (Crazy Little Mama)” (El Dorados).

1956: “I'll Be Home” (a Flamingos original, though Boone's record charted two weeks ahead of them); “Long Tall Sally” (Little Richard); “Tutti Frutti (Little Richard).

As for “Speedy Gonzales,” the original single came out in February 1961 by David Dante (RCA Victor 7860). It did not become a hit at all.

Dot issued Pat Boone's version in May of '62, over one year later, which establishes that Boone did not cover Dante.

What happened next makes for a bizarre twist in the annals of cover records.

In late July, with Boone's disc already in the nation's Top 10, RCA reissued David Dante's version, assigning it a new selection number (RCA Victor 8056).

Wacky as it seems, RCA then attempted to cover Pat Boone, thus giving Dante the rare distinction of having both the original (1961) and a cover version (1962) of “Speedy Gonzales”

Since Pat clearly established his “Speedy” as the hit rendition, David's single once again attracted no attention. Most people have never heard it.

These days, Pat Boone can be heard hosting “Then and Now,” a syndicated Sunday afternoon program on the Music of Your Life radio network.

Oh yes, Roger is right about the Canadian quartet, the Crew-Cuts. Of their 14 hit songs, 11 are covers.

DEAR JERRY: Having lived in England as well as here, I am aware of the many U.S. hits recorded by British artists. Most if not all of them are inferior to the U.S. originals, which makes me wonder if they were able to this because the U.S. record was not issued in the UK.
—Priscilla Millwood, Milwaukee

DEAR PRISCILLA: Watching a song become successful in America, while knowing our version did not jump the Atlantic, usually meant someone in Britain would record it for the UK market, especially in the '50s and '60s.

When a song in those years proved itself in America yet went unissued overseas, artists in other countries raced to have their version in stores first.

IZ ZAT SO? Britain's New Musical Express top hits charts began in mid-November 1952.

For their first 20 weeks, all of the No. 1 hits, as well as most of the other chart records, are U.S. recordings that are no different than those heard here at the time.

Finally, in mid-April 1953, a British artist — a group called the Stargazers — topped the NME chart. Their breakthrough hit, “Broken Wings,” is a cover of an Art & Dotty Todd tune issued in both the U.S. and UK.

Though the Todd couple's “Broken Wings” did not chart stateside, it flew right into the UK Top 10.

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