Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: When will someone release a compilation CD of Jerry Fuller's many great songs? I think he is one of the most overlooked of the teen-pop artists.

I have several of his 1950s and '60s Challenge singles, but I know there are lots more songs out there.

A few that are digital disc worthy are “Betty My Angel”; “Shy Away”; “Tennessee Waltz”; “Guilty of Loving You”; “Double Life;” “First Love Never Dies;” and “I Only Came to Dance with You,” with its amazing violins at the end.

I know that Jerry worked closely with Ricky Nelson, another favorite of mine. How many of Rick's hits did Fuller write?
—Chip Bickford, Milwaukee

DEAR CHIP: Wait no longer. Thanks to Britain-based Ace Records, the compilation CD you seek is now easily available from numerous online sources.

Titled “Jerry Fuller - A Double Life: The Challenge Recordings 1959-1966” (Ace CHD-1209), this 24-track collection has one or both sides of 17 of Jerry's 20 total singles during those years: from “Betty My Angel” (1959) through “Double Life” (1966).

The only cut of the ones you list that is missing here is “First Love Never Dies,” originally the flip side of “Guilty of Loving You” (1961). Since it also received a lot of air play, it definitely should be included and it's unfortunate they missed it.

Jerry Fuller loved working with Rick, and wrote 23 songs for him in the early 1960s.

One particularly impressive stretch for Nelson-Fuller team came in 1961 and '62. In that two-year span, four of Rick's biggest hits are from the pen of Jerry Fuller: “Travelin' Man”; “A Wonder Like You”; “Young World”; and “It's Up to You.” In total, these four sold approximately 10 million singles.

The other three significant hits of that period, and their writers, are: “Hello Mary Lou” (Gene Pitney); “Everlovin'” (Dave Burgess); and “Teen Age Idol” (Jack Lewis).

It first came to my attention in 1996 that Jerry Fuller, one of the most influential people in the music industry, and with 20 consecutive singles for Challenge, somehow never warranted an LP.

It isn't that Challenge was a singles-only label, as they issued four Jerry Wallace and four Champs albums. While these were their top acts at the time, in that order, Challenge also released LPs for artists not nearly as famous, or successful, as Jerry Fuller. A few among those are Diane Maxwell; Ray De Michel; Yvonne Shubert; Rhythm Rockers; and Jerry Wiggins (the third Jerry in their stable).

I brought this up in a March '96 phone conversation with Jerry Fuller, telling him it is certainly time for a compilation CD, and that I would push for the project if I knew who to push.

He agreed, and gave me the contact information for Jack Jackson, in Master Licensing and Compilations of the Challenge Masters at Sony's Nashville office.

I spoke with Mr. Jackson about getting Jerry's music on CD, but it wasn't among their immediate plans. Unfortunately it wasn't in Sony's plan at all, at least not until December 2008, when Ace came to the rescue.

IZ ZAT SO? Some might be curious about the “Double Life” part of the title on “Jerry Fuller - A Double Life: The Challenge Recordings 1959-1966.”

Though not known to the general public, “Double Life” (Challenge 59329) is wildly popular among collectors, especially in the UK, of Northern Soul music.

Its popularity has driven prices for this 1966 single into the $100 to $200 range, about 10 times as much as Jerry's other Challenge records.

And the correct title is just “Double Life,” not “A Double Life.”

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