Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: For obvious reasons I always loved Robin Luke's “Susie Darlin'.”

After that song, I never again heard anything by him. Is he still alive?

I would love to know a bit more about Robin, and his most famous recording.
—Susie Meyer, Lakeland, Fla.

DEAR SUSIE DARLIN': I could enlighten you a bit, but why bother when Robin Luke knows much more about your namesake hit, and graciously agreed to share some memories with us:

DEAR JERRY: I wrote “Susie Darlin'” when I was a 16-year-old junior at Punahou Academy, in Hawaii. I first sang it there at a high school variety show.

A man approached me after the show and asked if I'd like to make a record.

Certainly I agreed and we went to an apartment where we recorded on a portable tape recorder. For this low-budget session, the echo chamber was nothing more than this man's bathroom walls.

We were often forced to stop and restart recording because the apartment building sat next door to a hospital. While loud sirens of ambulances arriving at the hospital ruined many a take, the record finally came out in Hawaii on Bob Bertram's Bertram International label (B-206).

I am often asked if there was a real-life Susie, such as a girlfriend, who inspired my writing the song.

Well, yes and no.

Susie is real, but not a girlfriend. She is my little sister, who was just a five-year-old at the time.

I decided to put her name on it to keep me out of trouble with all the high school girls I knew, or wanted to know.

Fortunately, “Susie Darlin'” reached No. 1 in Hawaii and remained there for many months.

One vacationing mainland tourist who heard it was Randy Wood, owner of Dot Records, which was then a big and successful company.

Randy licensed the tune for Dot (45-15781) and gave it nationwide U.S. distribution (Hawaii was then about a year away from statehood). It became a Top 5 hit, and eventually a million-seller.

Though I recorded for Dot for about five more years, I never left school. I moved to California and got my undergraduate degree from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles.

Next stop was Columbia, Missouri, and the University of Missouri where I received an MBA and PHD in business and marketing.

I have been a professor and academic administrator since 1971, and am now heading the marketing department in the College of Business at Missouri State University, in Springfield. I've been here for 23 years.

When time allows, I do perform at oldies shows and have done so around the world. It's amazing how popular '50s and '60s music still is!
—Robin Luke, Springfield, Mo.

DEAR JERRY: One type of album I don't read much, if anything, about are collections of oldies by assorted singers.

While in high school, for example, many students even brought “Oldies But Goodies, Vol. 1” to school. It seemed everyone bought that one.

Did it or any others like it from the Vinyl Era ever hit No. 1?
—Gina Smith, Paducah, Ky.

DEAR GINA: Known as Various Artists Compilations, some, such as Original Sound's “Oldies But Goodies” series, have sold very well.

These collections are not the same as Soundtracks, Original Casts, and other stage and screen LPs, though many do include a sampling of those selections.

The first “Oldies But Goodies” volume made its chart debut in mid-1959, and remained there for well over three years. That is extraordinary for a compilations album.

As the top-selling entry in what would eventually be a 14 volume series, Vol. 1 peaked at No. 12 — no doubt due in part to huge sales at your high school.

Between 1950 and 2000, only one Various Artists Compilation topped the album charts: “Stars for a Summer Night” (Columbia 1) a 1961 collection of Pop, Classical, Jazz and Show tunes.

Some samples in each category are: “Like Love” (Andre Previn); “Summertime” (Ray Conniff); “Nutcracker Suite” (Leonard Bernstein); “Waltz No. 7 in C-Sharp Minor” (Alexander Brailowsky); “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair” (Dave Brubeck Quartet); “Star Eyes” (Art Van Damme Quintet); and “Can-Can” (New York Philharmonic Orchestra).

Unlike most successful compilations, this one contains no hit singles.

IZ ZAT SO? Direct from Robin Luke comes this week's trivia tidbit:

“I played most of the instruments myself on “Susie Darlin',” one of which is actually an ordinary Schaeffer pen I had in my pocket.

“That clickity-click-click sound heard throughout “Susie Darlin'” is me hitting my pen with a couple of sticks.”

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