Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: As a Rosie child, I discovered on one those made-for-TV mail order albums bought by my parents, a song about “Rosie the Riveter.” It has an R&B flavor with excellent group harmony. And of course I felt a connection to the name used.

Now, two generations later, I have no idea who the group is, or any other information about this tune. Then to my surprise, the post office recently issued a stamp honoring Rosie the Riveter. I had no idea this was a real person.

What can you tell me about the recording, and about the real Rosie the Riveter?
—Rosie Sanchez, Sheffield, Ala.

DEAR ROSIE: The artwork used on the stamp is taken from a widely-circulated poster produced in 1942.

The Rosie the Riveter campaign honored contributions made by women to the WW2 effort while so many men entered military service.

More than six million women worked in what were then non-traditional jobs — such as operating a rivet gun in airplane manufacturing plants.

This blue collar female work force was symbolized by that poster, as well as the 1942 recording of “Rosie the Riveter,” by the Four Vagabonds.

The name Rosie was chosen simply for its smooth alliteration with “Riveter,” just as with names like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Fantastic though it seems, during a 1942 celebrity-supported war bond drive at Willow Run Aircraft Factory (Ypsilanti, Michigan), famous actor Walter Pidgeon took special notice of an assembly line employee, Rose W. Monroe. He knew at once he'd found a real-life Rosie.

Pidgeon's discovery soon appeared in films as Rosie the Riveter, the exact task Rose performed on American B-Class bombers at Willow Run.

Rose W. Monroe died in 1997 at the age of 77.

In early 1943, the year after Rosiemania began, the Four Vagabonds issued their harmonious version of “Rosie the Riveter” (Bluebird 30-810). This is surely the version you heard as a child.

Nowadays, buying an original 78 rpm of this classic recording would likely cost $50 to $75.

I have found several CDs with other renditons of “Rosie the Riveter,” and a few others featuring the Four Vagabonds, but have not yet located one with their version of “Rosie.”

DEAR JERRY: Who was the first British solo artist to have a No. 1 hit on the US charts?

Also, who is the first British group to do the same?
—Brian Nicholas, Somerset, England

DEAR BRIAN: Your question provokes more questions than you realize, but I'll provide several answers from which you can select the appropriate one.

If you mean the very first British subject to have a No. 1 hit in the US, then that would likely be George J. Gaskin. “The Silver Voiced Irish Tenor,” as he was known, had nearly two dozen stateside chart-toppers between 1891 and 1904.

A few months before Gaskin, actor Russell Hunting, while living in England, began a string of comedy recordings that reached No. 1 here.

Since we do not yet know Hunting's birthplace, you can decide if he qualifies by simply being a resident.

Often questions like yours are intended to be post-1950, and if that is your aim then the answer is Vera Lynn.

Vera, who became one of Britain's most popular female singers in the 1940s, made it to No. 1 here in 1952 with “Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart,” ironically a German title.

Finally, if you want a rock era reply, it is London-born and London-named Laurie London, and he did it in early 1958.

London's pop-spiritual No. 1 hit is “He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

Somewhere in all of this should be the answer to your question.

IZ ZAT SO? The first rock era No. 1 hit for someone born outside the United States is “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” an instrumental by Perez Prado.

Prado, “The Cuban Mambo King,” first sailed to the top of the charts in April 1955.

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