DEAR JERRY: After reading your column on the first recordings by Tony Bennett, then using the pseudonym Joe Bari ("Vieni Qui"/"Fascinating Rhythm"), it made me curious about the first works of Frankie Laine.
So I went to Wikipedia and found this version of how he started:
"Laine cut his first record in 1944, for a fledgling company called Beltone Records. The sides were called "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning", (an uptempo number not to be confused with the Frank Sinatra recording of the same name) and a wartime propaganda tune entitled "Brother, That's Liberty", though the records failed to make much of an impression."
Is this an accurate account of his debut as a recording artist?
Anthony Arzenta, Chicago
DEAR ANTHONY: When using Wikipedia it is important to know that they are not the creators of their information, merely a hosting site where anyone can submit practically anything, or even edit articles posted by other people.
This specific paragraph is accurate to some extent, though at times a bit stingy with the details. There are also mistakes, both grammatically and factually.
We'll address only the latter.
Yes, Laine cut his first record in 1944, though the label is "Bel-Tone" (hyphenated).
He recorded "That's Liberty," but I've yet to verify a label with "Brother" in the title.
Finally, the full title on the label is just "In the Wee Small Hours," without "In the Morning"; however, the entire line is heard in the lyrics.
For a year, neither song appeared on records. Then, when Japan surrendered to the Allies (August 14, 1945) and brought WW2 to an end, the release of "That's Liberty" seemed appropriate.
Of course the flip side was "In the Wee Small Hours" (Bel-Tone S-0255).
Using tracks by session folks Gene Sargent (guitar) and Wini Beatty (piano), Bel-Tone advantageously milked their only two Frankie Laine tunes with three different combinations:
"That's Liberty"/"In the Wee Small Hours"
"That's Liberty"/"Six Rears Its Ugly Head" (B-side by Gene Sargent)
"In the Wee Small Hours"/"You're a Character, Dear" (B-side by Wini Beatty)
Any of these 70-year-old 78s can now fetch $50 to $100.
But wait, don't call yet! There is still one more chapter in this peculiar story.
When Bel-Tone folded the tent and declared bankruptcy, in November 1947, Gold Seal, a Chicago-based label, picked up Laine's Bel-Tone masters and rereleased "That's Liberty" backed with "In the Wee Small Hours."
Unlike any of the Bel-Tone issues, this label (Gold Seal 7262) curiously credits "Frankie Laine with the Hollywoodsmen." Who knows why?
As for "That's Liberty" being "wartime propaganda," that is simply not the case. A more accurate description would have been "wartime patriotism."
Hear it right here
As an aside, Wini Beatty would be far more likely to be associated with propaganda than Frankie Laine. Much of Wini's music was for the Key label, whose motto at one time was "World's Top Anti-Communist Records."
I assume you already know that Frankie Laine (née, LoVecchio) was born in the Windy City.
DEAR JERRY: My wife's name is Susan, and she thoroughly enjoyed seeing how many late-'50s and early '60s song titles include her name.
Mine, although not uncommon, apparently doesn't appeal to writers of music.
In fact, other than "Alexander's Rag Time Band," neither of us can think of a single beginning with either Alexander or Alex.
If anyone can, it would be you
Alexander Chase, Cheyenne, Wy.
DEAR ALEXANDER: In checking four key decades (1940-1979), and ignoring the oft-recorded "Ragtime Band" records, I found just six titles for you and half of those are about non-humans!
In the others, Alexander is a hybrid waterfoul, a baby bovid, and a beetle.
1941: "Alexander the Swoose (Half SwanHalf Goose)" - Kay Kyser and His Orchestra (Columbia 36040)
1962: "Alexander Graham Bull" - Jesters (Amy 859)
1962: "Alexander, You're the Greatest" - Susan Summers (Diamond 115)
1969: "Alexander" - Mary Taylor (Dot 17225)
1970: "Alexander Beetle" - Melanie (Buddah 5060)
1970: "Alexander's Song" - Elly Stone (Columbia 45184)
IZ ZAT SO? There is a cute story behind the 1962 instrumental titled "Alexander Graham Bull," and here's how they explained it in the June 30th issue of Billboard:
"The new mascot at WKBW, Buffalo a live baby buffalo has been named Alexander Graham Bull. In his honor a local vocal group, the Jesters, recorded a new [instrumental] single with "Alexander Graham Bull" backed with "The Buffalo."
Apparently the station held a contest, inviting listeners to submit a name for the bison. I'm sure "Buffy" was suggested, but the winner was Alexander Graham Bull.