Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: My first two questions are about my favorite female vocalist of the '50s, Joni James. Why was her career so brief? Did she ever hit the top of the charts?

My last question regards Marty Robbins. Did he ever record a song titled Dixie Flyer? I have just about everything he ever made but I cannot find this track anywhere.
—Kim Warner, Jackson, Tenn.

DEAR KIM: When to comes to pop stars of the '50s, very few of the females were much better than Joni James. However, as the decade progressed and the record industry moved more toward rock and roll, Joni and most of the era's non-rockers saw their chart reigns fade.

Still, I wouldn't describe her career as brief. It's hard to find a time between 1952 and 1960 when Joni James (born Joan Babbo) was not on the charts. She had eight Top 10 hits, one of which, "Why Don't You Believe Me," did reach No. 1 in 1952. Her versions of "Your Cheatin' Heart" (1953) and "How Important Can It Be" (1955) both peaked at No. 2.

There must be at least one LP missing from your Marty Robbins Collection - his 1964 album titled R.F.D. (Columbia CL-2220 [mono], CS-9020 [stereo]). That's where you'll find "Southern Dixie Flyer," which I assume is the tune you seek.

For all you city folks, R.F.D. is postalese for Rural Free Delivery.

DEAR JERRY: There are three songs from the early '60s that I would very much like to first identify and then search out. I'll bet you can help.

The titles are something like:
1. "Bobby Lane."
2. "They Call Me the Rockin' Lady."
3. "Bacon Fat."

Any chance you know the artists who recorded these?
—Tom O'Connor, Chicago

DEAR TOM: I can put artists from that time period with those titles, but I can't be absolutely certain they are the same recordings you are seeking. Anyway, here goes:

1. In 1961, Phil Gary recorded a tune titled "Bobby Lane (Triodex 106).
2. Someone calling herself Penny Candy did "The Rockin' Lady (From New Orleans)" in 1959 (Flippin' 201).
3. "Bacon Fat," originally a 1957 hit for Andre Williams, came out in 1960 by the Triads (Ringo 111).

In keeping with your notes, none of these were hits. In fact, none even appeared on Billboard's "Bubbling Under the Hot 100" charts.

Now that you have artists, labels, and numbers, finding the original singles should be possible.

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