DEAR JERRY: You once wrote that in March of 1952, Johnnie Ray owned half of the Top 6 chart positions: “Cry” (No. 1); “Please Mr. Sun” (No. 3); and “The Little White Cloud That Cried” (No. 6).
You pointed out that “The Little White Cloud That Cried” is the flip side of “Cry.”
My understanding is that songs on the charts got their positions based on sales. If true, then how can “Cry,” be
No. 1, and the flip side, “The Little White Cloud That Cried,” only reach No. 6. One side simply has to sell just as many as the other, right?
Bob Cole, Lakeland, Fla.
DEAR BOB: On the surface, your logic is flawless. When a two-sided record sells at a retail shop, the buyer always takes home both sides.
However, in the years including Johnnie Ray's heyday before UPC bar codes and point of purchase electronic scans, other factors skewed the logic.
One is the weekly reports supplied by coin machine operators listing the songs getting the most plays at their juke box locations. Though a “sale” of a different kind, someone paying to hear a tune on the juke is indeed a sale, and always more for one side of a single than the other.
Another sale of sorts is radio station play, also reported and considered in the overall chart process. Stations usually play one side the hit side of a record only. For those that do become two-sided hits, there is still one that gets more spins than the other.
In the example you cite, it's easy to imagine “Cry” getting played on jukes and on the radio far more often than “The Little White Cloud That Cried.”
One final factor is that some record shops actually kept track of which side a customer asked for at the time of purchase. More buyers would have requested a copy of “Cry.”
If you really want to immerse yourself in music chart history, request a book catalog from Record Research Publications, PO Box 200, Menomonee Falls WI 53052-0200. They can also be reached by phone (262) 251-5408, or online: recordresearch.com.
This group sounded a lot like the Steve Miller Band, but I can't find this song on any of Miller's albums. I believe the chorus makes frequent mention of the California town of Sausalito.
I realize these are mighty few clues, but if you have the answer I would be very grateful.
Jonathan Green, Evansville, Ind.
DEAR JONATHAN: Your mystery tune is “Sausalito Summernight” (Regency 7339), a Top 25 hit for the Dutch band known as Diesel.
On this, their only American hit, Diesel does sound a lot like Steve Miller and his gang.
DEAR JERRY: I have a Hawaiian music album by Larry Rivera, which I bought on the island of Kauai. One of the songs on the LP, which Rivera says he wrote, is “Sweet Leilani.”
Interestingly, none of the other recordings I've seen of “Sweet Leilani” credit or even mention Larry Rivera. So who really did write this song?
Mary Jane Tutaj, Wauwatosa, Wisc.
DEAR MARY JANE: Based on your obvious knowledge of Hawaiian music, I will rule out the possibility that Rivera's tune is a different piece of music than the Academy Award winning classic.
The ASCAP directory states that Harry Owen wrote and published “Sweet Leilani” in 1937, it being just one of dozens of his Hawaiian compositions. For 12 years, Owen, and his Royal Hawaiians Orchestra, had their own CBS television show.
Bing Crosby's vocal of “Sweet Leilani” is one of his many No. 1 hits.
IZ ZAT SO? Despite the separation of record sides in the accounting process, one double sided hit sold so well that both sides showed up at the No. 1 position: Elvis Presley's “Don't Be Cruel” backed with “Hound Dog.”