Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I recently heard for the first time what apparently is one of Neil Diamond's first recordings, but this song is a duet with a female.

The title could be “Young Girl” (not the Gary Puckett hit), but that's merely a guess based on the words sung.

I didn't even know he dueted with anyone before Barbra Streisand and “You Don't Bring Me Flowers.”

Where did this recording come from?
—Gary Blakely, Waukegan, Ill.

DEAR GARY: From a 1967 single, titled “Sand” (Reprise 0629). However, other than having a man who sounds a wee bit like Neil, I assure you Mr. Diamond had nothing to do with this tune. “Sand” is by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. Which is not to say Neil recorded strictly as a solo artist before his flowery duet with Streisand, in 1978.

About four years before anyone heard of Neil Diamond — 1966 and “Solitary Man” — he and a high school chum (Jack Parker) waxed four of his originals for Duel Records. Those came out in 1962 on two singles, both credited to Neil & Jack.

First came “You Are My Love at Last” backed with “What Will I Do” (Duel 508), then “I'm Afraid” and “Till You've Tried Love” (Duel 517).

Neither record charted, though Billboard did give Neil & Jack a tiny mention in their Record Reviews, along with a three-star rating for “I'm Afraid.”

Their debut Duel disc is valued around $400, with the follow-up closer to $250.

DEAR JERRY: I remember hearing an incredibly strange (in a fun way) song on the radio. This was early in 1959, which I know because a couple of months later I graduated from high school.

I say strange because only a few lines are real words. One of the few is “of all the animals in the world, I'd rather be a bear.” Most lyrics are nothing but mumbo-jumbo, making it impossible to get a title, and ultimately to find it.

It's not “I'd Rather Be a Bear,” is it?
—Arlene Zachary, Prescott Valley, Ariz.

DEAR ARLENE: Nope, no Ursidaes in this title, that is unless one was named “Shombalor.”

By Sheriff and the Ravels, “Shombalor” (Vee-Jay 306) is loaded with meaningless nonsense, similar to the more familiar “Rubber Biscuit,” originally by the Chips (1956) and revived by the Blues Brothers (1979).

Coincidentally, neither of these '50s groups made another record. “Rubber Biscuit” and “Shombalor” are both coveted by doo-wop and R&B collectors, and often sell in the $50 to $100 range.

Co-written by E. Sheriff and actor/singer Aki Aleong, “Shombalor” did come out in early 1959, just as you recall.

In 1961, Aki Aleong became the first Top 40 (teen-oriented) singer on Frank Sinatra's Reprise label to have a hit. Aki charted, especially in Los Angeles, with his second single: “Trade Winds, Trade Winds” (Reprise 20,021).

Two years later, when surf music ruled, Aleong returned to Vee-Jay and produced their first surfing album, “Come Surf with Me,” credited to Aki Aleong and the Nobels (Vee-Jay 1060).

Finding “Shombalor” on vinyl may not be easy, but it is on the 1993 CD, “A Taste of Doo Wop, Volume One” (Vee-Jay NVD2-709) — one of a three-disc, 75-track collection of R&B, most from the Vee-Jay vaults.

IZ ZAT SO? While researching stuff in 1959 on the “Shombalor” case, something on the Cash Box Top 50 for that year jumped out at me: the Fleetwoods have two entries: “Come Softly to Me” (No. 10) and “Mr. Blue” (No. 16).

More significant is that the Fleetwoods are the ONLY group with more than one record in Top 50 of 1959.

Even among solo performers, only five had more than one entry among the year's Top 50. Here are those five and their songs according to their 1959 year-end ranking:

1. “Mack the Knife” (Bobby Darin)
4. “Lonely Boy” (Paul Anka)
6. “Personality” (Lloyd Price)
8. “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” (Paul Anka)
11. “Stagger Lee” (Lloyd Price)
12. “Dream Lover” (Bobby Darin)
17. “(Now And Then There's) A Fool Such As I” (Elvis Presley)
19. “A Big Hunk O' Love” (Elvis Presley)
26. “I'm Gonna Get Married” (Lloyd Price)
33. “Lipstick on Your Collar” (Connie Francis)
43. “Frankie” (Connie Francis)

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