Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Here's a two prong question, a fun one that I doubt you've ever been asked.

Who is the top singles artist who never had a charted album? Then, who is the top albums artist who never had a charted vinyl single?
—Howard Silver, Baltimore

DEAR HOWARD: Yeah, this is a new one alright.

To be fair, we must limit the scope here to no earlier than the 1950s, and the beginning of the LP era.

My pick for the first prong is the McGuire Sisters. From 1954 through '61, Phyllis, Christine, and Dorothy charted one place or another with about 35 songs, including one No. 1 hit, “Sugartime” (1958). Yet, the only McGuire with a hit LP is Barry, with “Eve of Destruction” (1965).

Bill Gaither is my overwhelming choice for prong two. Using several different variations of his name (Bill Gaither Trio; The Gaithers; Gaither Vocal Band; Bill and Gloria Gaither; etc.), he has about 40 albums that did on the charts what his singles could not.

DEAR JERRY: Several men had recordings of ”Funny How Time Slips Away,“ but I have never heard it by a woman. Since I don't hear anything in the lyrics that makes it gender specific, is there perhaps a female version I missed? It would have been a perfect fit for Patsy Cline.

I bought it in the '60s by Johnny Tillotson. Is his the original?
—Margaret Sheffield, Hanover, Pa.

DEAR MARGARET: Johnny Tillotson's 1963 issue of ”Funny How Time Slips Away“ (Cadence 1441) may have been the first one you heard, but his is neither the original waxing nor the first to have a pop hit with Willie Nelson's masterful composition.

Billy Walker was first out of the gate with the tune, in September 1961, but his single (Columbia 42050) barely made the C&W charts, then vanished after just two weeks.

Definitely a shaky beginning, but royalties for Willie were about to increase.

The following month, in Nashville, Chet Atkins signed 18-year-old Jimmy Elledge, and produced his first record. For this they chose ”Funny How Time Slips Away“ (RCA Victor 47-7946). The session featured Floyd Cramer on piano and took place at RCA's legendary Studio B.

Despite the obvious C&W connections (Atkins, Floyd, Nashville), Jimmy's version was strictly a pop, or Top 40 format, hit. Spending 14 weeks on Billboard and peaking at No. 22 qualifies it as a success.

Perhaps because only two years had passed since the Elledge hit, Johnny Tillotson's 1963 version (Cadence 1441) only reached No. 50.

In the summer of '64, soul singer Joe Hinton gave “Funny” a go, and it turned out to be not only his biggest hit (Back Beat 541), but the top selling single overall of Willie Nelson's famed opus. It made No. 1 on the R&B and No. 13 on the Pop chart.

Many females recorded “Funny How Time Slips Away,” though, other than a minor hit for Dorothy Moore in 1976 (Malaco 1033), none made a splash of any consequence.

Here are a few recognizable gals who happily added “Funny How Time Slips Away” to their discographies: Wanda Jackson; Brenda Lee; Diana Ross and the Supremes; Tina Turner; Damita Jo; and Linda Ronstadt dueting with Homer Simpson.

IZ ZAT SO? Amazingly, of all the classics penned by Willie Nelson in the '60s, not once did Willie's own version become a hit, though mostly by design. His primary source of income then was from writing, not singing. That would change big time in the '70s.

Three profitable examples, and those who made them hits, are: “Night Life” (Ray Price, Rusty Draper); “Hello Walls” (Faron Young); and “Crazy” (Patsy Cline).

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