DEAR JERRY: I find it interesting how often someone picks a hit vocal and releases it as an instrumental. Occasionally, both versions become popular.
Less often does a hit instrumental also become a big seller when words are added, or so it seems.
Did a Rock Era vocal and instrumental version of the same song ever appear together in the Top 10? Perhaps “Picnic” or “Only You”?
Marvin Babcock, West Bend, Wisc.
DEAR MARVIN: Neither of the tunes you mention qualify, though “Picnic” comes close.
The instrumental, titled “Moonglow and Theme from Picnic,” by both Morris Stoloff and George Cates, reached the Top 10. The “Picnic” vocal by the McGuire Sisters did not, stalling at No. 13.
There are three Top 10 vocals of “Only You” (Platters; Hilltoppers; Ringo Starr), and one instrumental (Franck Pourcel's French Fiddles). However, Pourcel's 1959 hit came 15 years before Ringo's and four years after the other two.
Yes, it's a rare combination, but not unheard of. One example that does meet your criteria is “Unchained Melody.”
The instrumental (Les Baxter, His Chorus and Orchestra), along with two vocals (Al Hibbler and Roy Hamilton), all held spots in the Top 10 in May of 1955.
Staying with the same topic, but with a somewhat shady slant, read on:
DEAR JERRY: I have an old cassette tape recording of miscellaneous oldies, one of which is a vocal version of “Raunchy.” No one I've known ever heard “Raunchy” with lyrics. Have you?
According to handwritten notes on the tape box, the singer is Will Shade. Never heard of him. Was this out at the same time as the big hit instrumental?
Jim Stotts, Jackson, Tenn.
DEAR JIM: Yes to both, but just answering your two questions does not begin to cover this story. “Raunchy” written and first issued by Bill Justis, was immediately covered by Ernie Freeman, whose version sold nearly as well. Both came out in November 1957.
Then, in late December, “Raunchy” became the first rock and roll instrumental to reach No. 1 nationally.
That same month, “The New Raunchy” came along (Decca 30539) with teen-oriented lyrics (by Red Sovine and Cindy Walker) sung to the familiar “Raunchy” music: “Come on baby do the Raunchy song; come on with me and do the Raunchy song; we'll rock it and we'll stomp it baby, all night long; baby don't you know it's my favorite song;” etc.
The singer is none other than country superstar Webb Pierce. Probably to distance himself from such a daringly different style pure rock and roll and not the least bit country the pseudonym Shady Wall is used.
As for the similar sounding Will Shade, he is an old-time Memphis blues singer whose only known record is “She Stabbed Me with an Ice-Pick” backed with “Better Leave That Stuff Alone” (Victor 21725). This 1928 single is now a hefty $1,000 to $2,000 item.
The “stuff” warning from Shade regards drinking “canned heat,” the highly addictive methanol in Sterno cooking fuel: “Canned heat is just like morphine, it crawls all through your bones; I gave my woman a dollar to get herself something to eat; she spent a dime for an egg roll and 90-cents for that ol' canned heat;” etc.
Yes, this is the concoction that inspired the '60s group named Canned Heat to pick that name.
IZ ZAT SO? Be it intentional or coincidental, Webb Pierce's choice of Shady Wall as a nom de guerre for “The New Raunchy” might have amused Rep. Shady R. Wall (D-Louisiana).
When the record came out, the real Shady Wall had just completed his first two terms as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives (1948-1956).