Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I'm writing about the song “Wooden Heart.” I know that Bobby Vinton had a hit version of it, and so did Elvis. But the person I am trying to think of is neither. If I remember correctly, this guy also made the song “Little Red Rowboat.”

Also, was “My Ding-A-Ling” more popular by Chuck Berry or Roger Miller?
—Scott Waltermeyer, Etters, Pa.

DEAR SCOTT: I think we can sort all of this out. Elvis originally recorded “Wooden Heart” as one of the soundtrack tunes for his 1960 film, “G.I. Blues.” Then, his version came out only on the LP in America, while a single of it went to No. 1 in several European countries, including England.

A previously unknown Indiana singer, Joe Dowell, went to Nashville and recorded “Wooden Heart” in a style nearly identical to Presley's original. Proving the worldwide potential of the song, regardless of the singer, Dowell's record (Smash 1708) went right to No. 1 in the U.S.

Between Elvis and Joe, “Wooden Heart” topped the charts around the world in 1961.

Joe Dowell's follow-up, “The Bridge of Love,” didn't fare well, reaching only No. 50. However, his next release, “Little Red Rented Rowboat,” which you mention, minus the “Rented” part, landed in the Top 25.

Inexplicably, RCA Victor tossed Presley's “Wooden Heart” onto the flip side of a 1964 U.S. single of “Blue Christmas.” The following year, they plopped it on the back of the hit “Puppet on a String.”

Bobby Vinton's waxing of “Wooden Heart” didn't come along until 1975.

As for “My Ding-A-Ling,” it is by Chuck Berry. Roger Miller also made some tunes with similar, somewhat goofy titles, such as “Dang Me; Chug-A-Lug;” and “Do-Wacka-Do.”

DEAR JERRY: In the 1960s, my grandfather would sing lines from a song that went something like this:

“Don't let the rain come down, my roof's got a hole in it and I might drown.”

I could swear I once heard this song on the radio, or was it just some ditty grandpa made up?

It's just one of those little memories we have all have that becomes kind of a blur over time
—Kevin Thomas Milwaukee, WI (

DEAR KEVIN: Grandpa was singing you a Top 10 hit from 1964 — a song with two different titles.

By the Serendipity Singers (Philips 40175), some copies show this title as “Don't Let the Rain Come Down.” Others list it as “Crooked Little Man.”

The Serendipity's follow-up to “Crooked Little Man” ranks as one of the strangest hit song titles ever; it is the unforgettable “Beans in My Ears.”

Are you sure your granddad never sang you to sleep with that one?

DEAR JERRY: There is a song I loved in the '50s that I have not heard since it was popular. The title is “Garden of Eden.” Can you tell me who sang it, and the label, etc.?
—D. Barbar, Seminole, Fla.

DEAR D.: “Garden of Eden” is a Top 15 hit, from 1956 (Vik 0226). The singer is a Philadelphia boy named Joe Valino. Joe had a few other releases but none that became hits.

IZ ZAT SO? With so many rock and roll classics to his credit — both as a singer and songwriter — it is ironic that Chuck Berry's only No. 1 hit on the Pop charts would be “My Ding-A-Ling,” a novelty tune recorded just for fun in front of a live audience.

Dave Bartholomew first recorded “My Ding-A-Ling” for King in 1952. A few months later, he jumped to Imperial and remade the song, using slightly different lyrics, as “Little Sing My Ding-A-Ling.” For this go-round, “Sing” is the name of the female ringing his ding-a-ling, and not a verb. In 1954, the R&B group, the Bees, put out the same basic “My Ding-A-Ling” song, but with the title changed to “Toy Bell.” Not much else varies, though, as the lyrics still focus on youngsters playing with “yo-yos” and “ding-a-lings.”

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