Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: By my count, Chubby Checker made at least five hit songs with a twist theme: “The Twist”; “Let's Twist Again”; “Twistin' USA”; “Twist It Up”; and “Slow Twistin'” (with Dee Dee Sharp).

This got me wondering if anyone ever had more different hit records using the same specific topic.

A certain dance would be okay, but not dancing in general. Also excluded should be limitless generic themes, such as love; kiss; blues; summer; Christmas; etc.
—Elise Marsh, Patterson, N.J.

DEAR ELISE: Even though you shortchanged Chubby a bit, missing “Teach Me to Twist” (with Bobby Rydell) and “The Twist (Yo, Twist)” (with the Fat Boys), his seven twist hits are but a proverbial drop in the bucket compared to Cal Stewart's dominance in this interesting challenge.

For more than a quarter-century (1898 - 1924), this famed singer-storyteller entertained the nation with his homespun humor.

Most of Stewart's tunes and tales involved the endless adventures of Uncle Josh (Weathersby), a made-up character from the imaginary New England town of Punkin Centre.

By the time Cal told his last “Uncle Josh” story, his body of work included over 150 different 78 rpm records, 30 of which appeared in the Top 10. That fact alone is astounding. In the past 60 years, only three artists made more appearances in the Top 10: Elvis (38); Madonna (37); and the Beatles (34).

Since Uncle Josh is the recurring topic, and his name is always included in the titles, he is the specific theme that makes Cal Stewart the answer to your question.

We can't list them all, but here are a few examples selected from Cal's amazing body of work:

“Uncle Josh and the Fire Department”; “Uncle Josh and the Lightning Rod Agent”; “Uncle Josh's Arrival in New York”; “Uncle Josh at a Baptizing”; “Uncle Josh at a Baseball Game”; “Uncle Josh at a Camp Meeting”; “Uncle Josh at Delmonico's”; “Uncle Josh at the Circus”; “Uncle Josh at the Dentist”; “Uncle Josh at the Opera”; “Uncle Josh at the White House”; “Uncle Josh Buys a Victrola”; “Uncle Josh Buys an Automobile”; “Uncle Josh Has His Photo Taken”; “Uncle Josh's Huskin' Bee Dance”; “Uncle Josh in a Cafeteria”; “Uncle Josh in a Chinese Laundry”; “Uncle Josh in a Department Store”; “Uncle Josh in an Auction Room”; “Uncle Josh in Police Court”; “Uncle Josh in Society”; “Uncle Josh on a Bicycle”; “Uncle Josh on a Fifth Avenue Bus”; “Uncle Josh on a Street Car”; “Uncle Josh on a Trip to Boston”; “Uncle Josh on a Trip to Coney Island”; “Uncle Josh on a Visit to New York”; “Uncle Josh on the Radio”; “Uncle Josh on Wall Street”; “Uncle Josh Patents a Rat Trap”; “Uncle Josh Playing Golf”; and “Uncle Josh Takes the Census.”

DEAR JERRY: I just watched a wonderful show called “Sisters of Swing,” about the Andrews Sisters: Patty, Maxene and LaVern.

I know LaVern died first, but when did the other two pass away?
—Connie Davidson, York, Pa.

DEAR CONNIE: Not being familiar with “Sisters of Swing,” I have no idea whether or not they gave the impression all three sisters are deceased. If so, they are mistaken.

LaVerne Sophia Andrews, a contralto, was the first-born of the girls. Born July 6, 1911, she succumbed to cancer May 8, 1967.

Soprano Maxene Angelyn Andrews, born January 3, 1916, died October 21, 1995 after a massive heart attack.

The sole surviving sister is 92-year-old Patricia Marie Andrews.

Patty, a mezzo-soprano and lead singer of the trio, was born February 16, 1918.

IZ ZAT SO? Though they have no hit records to their credit since the summer of 1951, the Andrews Sisters continue to rank as the all-time top-selling female pop vocal group.

The exact numbers vary depending on the source, but estimates of about 600 recordings made, resulting in approximately 100 million records sold, are probably not far off.

Just in the U.S., this trio of Greek-Norwegian ancestry hit one chart or another with around 125 hits, more than anyone in the modern era except Elvis Presley, with at least 165.

Along the way, Patty, Maxine, and LaVern found time to appear in 17 feature films, a silver screen output that tops any other singing group, female or otherwise.

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