DEAR JERRY: I just discovered your column, and am hoping you can help me solve a musical mystery.
I remember a song from the late 1960s that I recall as, according to the lyrics, “taking a trip down to Africa Benny, I'm going to get there and now.”
I heard it often about the same time “Quentin's Theme” was a hit. About that time, I watched it being performed on a TV variety show, perhaps by Bobby Darin, or maybe Andy Williams. The singer even had a red Irish setter on the stage, because of a line in the song about a “red dog running free.”
Ring any bells? Thank you in advance!
P.B. Bagenski, Clearwater, Fla
DEAR P.B.: You have provided more than enough details to ring all the required bells, though your recollection of the lyrics that make up the title put you a few thousand miles too far south.
The correct title is “Abergavenny,” not Africa Benny.
Situated in the South Eastern corner of Wales, Great Britain, only 20 miles from the English border, lies the picturesque town of Abergavenny. It is also about 140 miles (225km) west of London.
The owner of the red dog, who sings the praises of Abergavenny in this summer 1969 hit, is Shannon. Lest we confuse this Shannon with another single-name recording artist, popular in the mid-'80s (“Let the Music Play”), that one is a female he being U.K. born and she a Washington D.C. native.
At the time “Abergavenny” was a pop hit, either Bobby Darin or Andy Williams could have unleashed their rendition on a TV variety show.
As for Benny, I'm told he and the Jets later played numerous sold-out concerts throughout Africa.
A bunch of old 78s has been handed down in my family, and I assure you I have no way on earth to play a 78 record.
Still, on the chance there is something of value there, I keep hanging on to them.
I am enclosing a list of the artists and titles, and if you should happen to spot anything of consequence, I'd appreciate knowing about it. Might even make my day.
Linda Hillman, Rockford, Ill
DEAR LINDA: Thankfully, your list has only about 20 titles to examine time well spent I might add.
All but one are somewhat inexpensive, say $5 to $10, but there is one winner in the stash.
You have a Paramount label 78 of “Hometown Skiffle,” by a gathering of six of their talents in the 1920s and '30s: Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, Will Ezell, Charlie Spand, Papa Charlie Jackson, and the Hokum Boys.
Like most 70-year-old records, this one is quite scarce, especially in anything close to mint condition. Unlike most 70-year-old records, however, this one commands big bucks.
Earlier this year, a near-mint copy of this single sold at auction for over $1,200. Consider your day made!
IZ ZAT SO? The singer who recorded “Abergavenny” as Shannon performed in the '50s and '60s as Marty Wilde, and had two very memorable hits: “My Lucky Love” (1959) and “Bad Boy” (1960).
Marty is also the father of '80s star Kim Wilde (“You Keep Me Hangin' On; Kids in America,” etc.).