Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Having always loved the sound of a saxophone, I really need some help identifying a saxy recording from the early '60s.

The title is similar to “Sax on Fifth Avenue,” and I recall the player to be a man named Johnson, or Johnston.

Is this enough to go on?
—Sandy Woodside, Lakeland, Fla.


This sultry number, “Sax Fifth Avenue,” is a 1963 release played by Plas Johnson, a sax legend who is heard on countless sessions resulting in hundreds of hit records.

Notice I said “played by” Johnson, but it is not credited to him.

On “Sax Fifth Avenue,” the artist credit reads Johnny Beecher and His Buckingham Road Quintet, and that is why you would not likely find it filed under Johnson in anyone's inventory.

A fellow Floridian from Tampa, Joe Moley, also wrote asking about “Sax Fifth Avenue.” Now you both know the secret identity of Johnny Beecher.

DEAR JERRY: In the early '70s, I bought out an amusement vendor, including juke boxes, player pianos, game machines, and records. One box contained four or five colored plastic Sun label 78s, by Elvis Presley.

I took them to the Nashville Country Music Museum, where they did not know anything about them, but wanted me to donate them to the museum. I decided to keep them.

Everyone says they are reproductions and they are not worth much, but I did get offers of $25 for the whole set.

I still have them, but would like to know if they are indeed fakes. If they are legit, how do I prove it?

Either way, what is their worth?
—Dennis Elliott, Grayville, Ill.

DEAR DENNIS: This beautiful set of 78s, if complete, includes all five of the Presley Sun singles (1954-'55), faithfully reproduced from original 78 discs.

This is an important distinction, as the sound quality differs noticeably on Sun 45s and 78s from the same time period — the faster speed resulting in superior fidelity.

When issued in late 1978, each disc sold for $12, with the full set of five priced at $40.

Those who told you these are unauthorized (i.e., bootleg) issues are correct. However, to ensure these discs could not easily be sold — intentionally or otherwise — as original 1950s Suns, the manufacturer produced them using gold colored plastic.

Since Sun never made a colored plastic 78 by any artist, none of this batch is not likely to be mistaken for an original.

The $25 offer for the whole set is far too low. Each of these '78 78s can easily sell for $100, or more.

All in all, you made a great find!

IZ ZAT SO? A complete listing of all the top stars and their hits that feature Plas Johnson on sax would fill the entire column.

Still, there are just a few R&R and R&B classics that deserve mention: “The Great Pretender” (Platters); “For Your Love” (Ed Townsend); “Rockin' Robin” (Bobby Day); “Multiplication” (Bobby Darin); “Searching” (Coasters); “The Girl in My Dreams” and “Funny” (Jesse Belvin); “Pretty Girls Everywhere” (Eugene Church); “Stranded in the Jungle” (Cadets); “This Is My Story” (Gene Eunice); “Foot Stompin'” (Flares); “Buzz Buzz Buzz” (Hollywood Flames); “Confidential” (Sonny Knight); “The Girl Can't Help It” (Little Richard); “Convicted” (Oscar McLollie); “Willie and the Hand Jive” (Johnny Otis Group); “Bony Maronie” and “Slow Down” (Larry Williams), and just about every hit by the Olympics.

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