Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Just saw an interview with Robert David Hall, a.k.a. Dr. Robbins, medical examiner on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Since they mentioned “last night's presidential election,” I know it took place in November 2008.

Hall said he was going to Austin to record an album of original songs, which really surprised me. Like millions of CSI viewers, this is a side of my favorite TV coroner that I never knew.

Did he ever complete his album?
—Gillian Willbury, Santa Cruz, Calif.

DEAR GILLIAN: Finally, Robert David Hall's dream project is a reality.

Titled “Things They Don't Teach You in School,” this CD is on his own label, Robert David Hall Music (RDHM01).

All but three of the 12 tunes are written or co-written by Robert, including the title track.

One I'm especially fond of is “For Judy,” written for and dedicated to his wife. Judy must love the line “You've got a heart that sets you apart … and more soul than Motown in its prime.” I know I do.

On June 19th, Hall fulfilled another of his childhood dreams; a guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.

“I've been listening to the Opry since I was a little kid,” the 62-year-old actor told “The Tennessean” before taking the stage.

“I wanted to play guitar and be a musician ever since seeing Roy Rogers and Gene Autry movies. I was seven.

“I ended up joining a theater company, but I still played music all the time. When I started getting paid as an actor I realized the way you make money determines your career directions.

“Now, all I want to do is be in tune and sound good. After all, how many people get the opportunity to sing and play on the Grand Ole Opry stage?”

DEAR JERRY: One of those internet-only oldies radio stations played a song that is surely by Dion and the Belmonts, but one I have never heard.

They have no dee jays (usually a plus) so no title was announced, but it sounds very much like “A Teenager in Love.” Most likely it's a follow-up.

From the lyrics, I'm guessing it is “A Long Way.” It's great and should have been a hit!

What can you tell me about this tune?
—Don Hayes, Vincennes, Ind.

DEAR DON: Probably everything that matters.

This track, titled “Such a Long Way” (Laurie 3080), is by the Belmonts without Dion. In fact, it came out the same week in January 1961 as Dion's second solo hit, “Havin' Fun” (Laurie 3081), his follow-up to “Lonely Teenager.”

Backed with the delightfully doo-wopish “We Belong Together,” a regional hit of sorts, this is the first post-Dion record for his Belmonts: Carlo Mastrangelo, Angelo D'Aleo and Fred Milano.

You are right on both counts: “Such a Long Way” borrows heavily from “A Teenager in Love,” and it should have been a hit.

IZ ZAT SO? Despite being the Rock Era's No. 1 label for singles sales, Columbia achieved that rank with mostly non-rock recordings. This applies specifically to the parent company and not their subsidiaries (Epic, Okeh, etc.).

From January 1, 1955 through February 9, 1963 — the Golden Age and peak period for rock and roll music — Columbia had no flourishing rock artists , and only one Top 10 rock hit: Buzz Clifford's “Baby Sittin' Boogie” (1961).

It sounds impossible, but they offset their aversion to the teen scene with a bevy of pop, folk, and country stars, all with impressive Top 10 credentials:

Tony Bennett; Brothers Four; Don Cherry; Rosemary Clooney; Vic Damone; Doris Day; Jimmy Dean; Percy Faith & His Orchestra; Four Lads; Terry Gilkyson & Easy Riders; Johnny Horton; Stonewall Jackson; Frankie Laine; Johnny Mathis; Guy Mitchell; Mitch Miller; Fess Parker; Johnny Ray; Marty Robbins; and Joan Weber.

Then Columbia signed Dion DiMucci, who immediately became their first rock star. His Columbia debut single, “Ruby Baby,” reached No. 2 in February '63.

In June 1965, a Columbia rock record finally claimed the No. 1 position: “Mr. Tambourine Man,” by the Byrds.

As for rock's Silver Age, the British Invasion, Columbia again remained on the sidelines. Not once during the '60s did they even have a Top 25 hit with a foreign-based act.

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