Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Similar to the recent inquiry you got about Nino and April's "Baby Weemus," I've always wondered what or who inspired "The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man," by the Rolling Stones," the flip side of "(I Can't Get No") Satisfaction."

Also, the writing credit for "The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man" is just Nanker Phelge, yet the music seems to be the same as heard years earlier in "Fannie Mae," written and performed by Buster Brown.

How did they get by with that?
—Jason Whitsett, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR JASON: Nanker Phelge was merely a fictitious name used on compositions written by the entire band rather than just Mick Jagger and Keith Richard.

According to their label, ABKCO Music and Records:

"The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man" is a lighthearted jab at George Sherlock, an actual employee of London Records at the time. He even accompanied the group on their first U.S. tour.

"The Stones saw Sherlock as a vain, toupee-topped, seersucker-suited music business flunky, but one who was ultimately harmless.

"In later years, Sherlock expressed pride in having been the subject of one side of one of the world's top selling records ever.

"It is the lyrical content that gives this tune historic importance, and such prodding of authority figures through songs was almost unprecedented at the time.

"For the UK single Decca chose instead to use the country-blues composition "The Spider and the Fly" (also written by Jagger and Richard) as the B-side to "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." The company assumed that the abundance of exclusively American references in "The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man" would have gone over the heads of British listeners."

As for the similarity to Buster Brown's 1960 hit, their only comment is "Musically, "The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man" is loosely based on Buster Brown's "Fannie Mae."

Presumably, there either was some type of agreement between the parties, or there was no need for one.

DEAR JERRY: I'm sure that I was not the only one who was surprised to learn, from your recent column, that "Walk Right In" was originally recorded about 23 years before the Rooftop Singers did it.

Along those lines, how long was "Topsy" around before it became a smash hit for Cozy Cole?
—Alanna Pickford, Portland, Ore.

DEAR ALANNA: In 1937, Eddie Durham, trombonist, guitarist, and arranger with Count Basie's Orchestra, wrote "Topsy."

Not surprisingly, the first band to record Durham's hot little number was Count Basie's, which they did for Decca Records in New York on August 9, 1937.

Rather than couple "Topsy" with one of Basie's unreleased tracks on Decca's shelf, it too got shelved for the next two months.

In mid-October, the Basie band recorded "Don't You Miss Your Baby," and in March of '38 Decca opted to release a single with it as the A-side and "Topsy" relegated to the B-side (Decca 1770).

Neither side clicked for Basie, who at the time had only one moderately successful recording, his now-famous theme, "One O'Clock Jump" (Decca 1363).

Meanwhile, "Topsy" came to the attention of Benny Goodman, who also was recording in New York at the time. Benny recorded it for Victor on November 10, 1938, and this time "Topsy" was the A-side. For the flip they chose "Smoke House Rhythm" (Victor 26107).

Durham's creation was now in good hands. Goodman, a superb clarinetist, had the second most successful band of the 1930s, topped only by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians.

The result was a Top 15 hit for the Benny Goodman Orchestra, and just one of the 27 different songs for them on the Top Hits list in 1938!

Not for another 20 years would "Topsy" return to the charts, and that of course is William Randolph "Cozy" Cole's million-selling rendition in 1958.

Cozy's complete "Topsy" runs nearly seven minutes, much too long for a standard single at the time, so they split it into two parts (Love 5003/5004).

"Topsy II," bolstered by Cole's dazzling 1:18 drum solo, topped both the pop and R&B charts, with "Topsy I" peaking at No. 27.

Inspired by an alliterative colloquialism, Cozy Cole followed "Topsy" with "Turvy," also split for single release as "Turvy I" and "Turvy II" (Love 5013/5014).

Though not nearly as big as "Topsy II," "Turvy II" did reach the Top 25.

Where could Cozy and Love possibly go from here?

Their solution was to put the first two titles together, and with "Everything Is Topsy-Turvy" (Love 5016) they created a trilogy of sorts, although this disc did not chart.

There may not be a connection, but a year before Cole's "Topsy" (1957), Benn Joe Zeppa waxed a rockabilly tune titled "Topsy Turvy" (Era 1042) that includes the lyrics "Everything Is Topsy Turvy."

IZ ZAT SO? "Topsy" is the only two-sided instrumental where one side of the record reached No. 1, and the other side ranked somewhere in the Top 30, on either Billboard or Cash Box.

Also, "Topsy II" was the second biggest instrumental hit of 1958 (after "Tequila"), and No. 22 on that year's Top 50 records overall.

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