Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Many years ago you wrote a piece about the Perry Como hit, “Delaware,” which is made up of clever references to many of the states.

Now I would like to know about a somewhat similar song, very popular in the '70s.

In this one, which I have not heard in about 25 years, the singer compares his lady's qualities to things known to be associated with certain states.

One example might be: “she's as plump as an Idaho potato.” I would like to know all of the state references.

Please add this one to your list of musical mysteries to solve.
—Clint Olsen, Sheffield, Ala.

DEAR CLINT: Potential compliment to Idaho farmers notwithstanding, if you tell her she is as plump as an Idaho potato you are liable to get mashed.

The correct Idaho reference is to their nippy winters.

At least two songs come to mind that fit your description, though only one is from the '70s: “All American Girl,” a 1975 hit by the Statler Brothers (Mercury 73665).

The other one with a similar theme is “Little Miss U.S.A.,” Barry Mann's 1961 follow-up to his Top 10 tune, “Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp).”

In “All American Girl,” the following geographical comments are made about the object of their affection:

“She's got a Texas smile you can see for a mile and a Georgia tan.
A dimple in her chin and soft brown skin like Florida sand.
She's got an L.A. walk, a Mississippi talk and a Boston grace.
An Indiana, apple pie, hope-to-die, mother-loving face.
But she's got an Idaho chill, [and] a Missouri will when she gets mad.
She gets wilder then than a Kansas wind when she breaks bad.
Then she gets calm as a pine in North Caroline after a storm.
And like the Arizona sun we have more fun when she gets warm.”

With the remaining lyrics, the focus shifts to other references, none of which are found in an atlas.

DEAR JERRY: While in town recently, Tony Bennett was interviewed by the [St. Petersburg] Times. In it, he mentioned that his favorite of songs he recorded is “I Wanna Be Around,” and that is was written by Johnny Mercer.

Well, I am from Salem, Ohio, and I believe a lady from Youngstown actually wrote the words and that Mercer wrote the music.

Am I remembering this right?
—Edna Behner, St. Petersburg, Fla.

DEAR EDNA: Pretty much.

Youngstown's very own Sadie Vimmerstedt mailed a letter to Johnny Mercer in 1957 suggesting a song with the lyrics: “I want to be around to pick up the pieces when somebody breaks your heart.”

When the finished song came out a couple of years later as “I Wanna Be Around,” the writing credit showed both Mercer and Vimmerstedt as co-writers.

Though we know Sadie did not write the music, how much Johnny contributed to the words is not exactly known.

Tony Bennett recorded his version in 1962 as the follow-up to his Grammy Award winning signature song, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.” Both tunes achieved Top 20 status.

DEAR JERRY: Time has dimmed my memory, so I am hoping you can tell me which big name band featured Jack Leonard.
—Gerry C. Boltz, Weeki Wachee, Fla.

DEAR GERRY: From 1935 to '39, Jack Leonard reigned as the featured male vocalist with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Though the band churned out many hits with Leonard fronting, the best-known tune is definitely “Marie.”

IZ ZAT SO? In November 1939, Jack Leonard left the Dorsey band and began a solo career.

Undaunted, Tommy Dorsey simply replaced him with a singer from the Harry James Orchestra — a young fellow named Frank Sinatra.

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