Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I am curious about one of my Marty Robbins albums, a 1964 release titled “R.F.D.” (Columbia CS-9020).

There is no song by that title on this LP, no reference to it in any of the tracks, and no explanation in the notes as to what it means, or stands for. All it says on the back cover is “Good things come in packages marked R.F.D.”

I have never seen a package with that marking, so can you please tell me what this is all about?
—Marlene Dryden, Winston-Salem, N.C.

DEAR MARLENE: Until now, it seemingly stood for Robbins Flummoxes Dryden!

Unless you've always been a city dweller, you might have crossed paths with this initialism and not known it. RFD, normally shown without periods, is postalese for Rural Free Delivery.

The term could not be more accurate, as the service it provides is free mail delivery (and pick up) for those in rural areas.

Introduced in 1899, RFD primarily served farmers in outlying areas who could not easily get to town to conduct postal business. Then, and for a few decades to follow, their only mode of transportation was horse powered.

The arrival of the horsepower era, and automobiles, did not spell the end of RFD. Even today, those outside the city limits still receive that same free delivery, by carriers on what are simply called “rural routes.”

Though Marty's mysteriously titled “R.F.D.” album seems to have no connection, several other folks did record real RFD tunes. Spanning 63 years, here are a few (rural) free samples:

(1947) “Anyway in Texas, RFD” (Louis Prima and His Orchestra); (1950) “RFD Blues” (Jimmie Dolan); (1987) “RFD 30529” (T. Graham Brown); (2007) “RFD Home” Andy Bryner; (2008) “Mayberry RFD” Gary James Farias; and (2010) “RFD” Phil Manzanera & Quiet Sun.

“RDD 30529” is the zip code for Commerce, Georgia, about which this native Georgian sings.

The Bryner and Manzanera tracks are instrumentals.

Despite the title, “Mayberry RFD” is not about the TV sequel of that name. It is a brilliant tribute to the original Andy Griffith Show, with nearly all of the main characters lovingly referenced.

DEAR JERRY: I have found some wonderful kinescope performances online of Your Hit Parade, the popular 1950s television show.

While watching well-known recording artists singing the top hits of the week, I wondered how they handled things when one of Top 10 turned out to be by one of the Hit Parade regulars.

Considering the number of hits by Dorothy Collins; Gisele MacKenzie; June Valli; Snooky Lanson; and Russell Arms, this situation must have come up — though I find no video examples of it.

For example, when “Crying in the Chapel” was popular, did June Valli sing her own hit on the show? Someone would have to. How could it not be her?
—Kelly Hunter, York, Pa.

DEAR KELLY: As for the last question, June could not because she left Your Hit Parade in June 1953, opening the door for Gisele MacKenzie to replace her. Unfortunately, “Crying in the Chapel” came out just one month later.

By September, the tune was No. 1 on Cash Box, No. 4 on Billboard, and being sung each week on Your Hit Parade by either MacKenzie; Collins; Arms; or Lanson.

Two years later, Gisele's “Hard to Get” landed in the Top 5 on all the charts, thus it qualified for the Hit Parade Lucky 7. Of course MacKenzie performed her own hit, something not done by any other artist in Hit Parade history.

Notice it is Lucky 7 (sponsor Lucky Strike picked the name) and not 10. In this half-hour program, Your Hit Parade managed to present only seven ranked songs, plus a couple of “extras,” such as seasonal, holiday, or topical tunes.

IZ ZAT SO? As a surprise tribute to Gisele, the week “Hard to Get” would have been No. 2 or 3, Hit Parade announcer Andre Baruch introduced her performance with assorted laudatory comments:

“Number one this week … the song the survey finds in first place … the top tune all over America, as determined by Your Hit Parade survey, which checks the best sellers in sheet music and phonograph records. “The song most heard on the air and most played on the automatic coin machines … an accurate and authentic tabulation of America's taste in popular music. Gisele MacKenzie sings “Hard to Get.”

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