DEAR JERRY: Long ago their was a special song played often on the radio, especially during the holidays.
I call it a song but it was one of those spoken ballads, with something being recited against a music background. Unfortunately, I don't remember the title.
The singer reminisces about a childhood gift toy without ever identifying it.
There were even radio station contests that challenged listeners to name the toy to win a prize.
Having missed hearing the correct answer to the riddle, it has haunted me all these years.
I do recall the toy went “zip when it moved, bop when it stopped, and whirrrrr when it stood still.”
What is the title? Who wrote and sang it? And what is the toy?
Al Wright, Tampa, Fla.
DEAR AL: The song details are no mystery. It is “The Marvelous Toy,” a 1963 hit for the Chad Mitchell Trio (Mercury 72197).
From the pen of singer-songwriter Tom Paxton, this tune has also been recorded by such folk stars as John Denver, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.
Though described as a gift in the “The Marvelous Toy,” there isn't one reference in the lyrics about the toy being associated with ANY occasion. Not Christmas. Not a birthday. Not even Groundhog Day.
Regardless, by coming out at the end of the year, “The Marvelous Toy” instantly became a holiday playlist favorite of radio stations.
It also became the Chad Mitchell Trio's biggest hit.
Oh yes, this is not a narrative at all. It is sung from start to finish.
Unfortunately, the toy's identity and purpose remains unsolved. But as any good MSI (Music Scene Investigator) team should, let us review the clues.
Besides the aforementioned zipping, bopping, and whirring, here are the other facts now in evidence:
The marvelous toy has many bright colors.
There are two big buttons on its bottom that look like green eyes.
It has a lid that can be twisted.
It is capable of both marching and chugging.
As for this investigator, I'm with Chad Mitchell who grudgingly confesses: “I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will.”
Besides the vinyl original, “The Marvelous Toy” is available on several different CDs. I have it on “Havin' a '60s Hootenanny” (K-Tel 60172).
DEAR JERRY: Recently, while watching “The Caine Mutiny” film, I was left with a couple questions I hope you can answer.
Unless I misunderstood the credits, the character of lovely singer May Wynn is played by … May Wynn.
I realize some big time celebrities play themselves but isn't this unusual for an unknown?
Wynn lip-syncs, which is not suprising. When an actor doesn't sing they lip-sync to a recording made by a qualified singer. If they can sing, they lip-sync to their own recording.
Which is it with Wynn? Is it really her singing “I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me”?
Val Kramer, York, Pa.
DEAR VAL: May Wynn is indeed lip-synching to a studio recording of “I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me.” Reportedly, the actual singer is Jo Ann Greer, whose singing voice is heard in several other films in the 1950s.
This standard is included on the extremely rare and valuable soundtrack LP, “The Caine Mutiny” (RCA Victor LOC-1013), but it doesn't seem that a single came out at the time by Wynn.
Before joining the glitzy “Caine” cast Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Jose Ferrer, E.G. Marshall, Lee Marvin, Claude Akins, etc. May Wynn worked professionally using her real name: Donna Lee Hickey.
In “The Caine Mutiny,” Donna liked her character's name so much she adopted it as a stage name, and all subsequent acting and singing jobs billed her as May Wynn.
Not long after completing “The Caine Mutiny,” the role for which she is still best known, Donna married actor Jack Kelly. They tied the knot in 1956, one year before he became TV's Bart Maverick.
IZ ZAT SO? Recalled immediately after being produced, due to legal wrangling, very few copies of “The Caine Mutiny” got into circulation. Those that did are exceptionally valuable. Most were destroyed by RCA.
Featuring original music as well as film dialogue, including the entire court-martial scene, a 1954 original “Caine Mutiny” soundtrack LP can sell for $10,000.