Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I have an old album of 78 rpms by Gene Krupa, which I would guess was made around 1939 or '40. I also have many 78s, including “Heartbreak Hotel” and a Davy Crockett one that came out in 1955.

Whenever I tell my friends about these, they all say they must be worth a lot. But the story is different with many old-record and antique shops that I have called. One woman summed it up by saying these are all Frisbees and, essentially, worth absolutely nothing.

Is this true? It would break my heart to throw them in the garbage. What happened to posterity? A hundred years from now, will people not wonder what an original 78 looked and sounded like?

I didn't expect big bucks, but I certainly thought someone would want to pay something for them. Is this antique dealer right, are just really just Frisbees?
—Rita J. Walaszek, Norridge, Ill.

DEAR RITA: It's a matter of finding the right marketplace.

As you have no doubt learned from that antique dealer, a collectible can have significant value to certain buyers, yet be viewed as absolutely worthless to others. There are jazz collectors who might relish the chance to buy a Gene Krupa 78 album, all Presley 78s are in demand (buyers for these are easy to locate) and many fans of the mid-'50s Davy Crockett craze would consider that 78 essential.

Don't forget the importance of good condition. Old records that are badly worn may indeed fall in the Frisbee category.

In general, just because something is old does not necessarily make it valuable. This is a fact often misunderstood by those outside the collecting world. They tend to think of a record from the early 1900s as being worth more than one from the '50s. Usually the opposite is true.

DEAR JERRY: You wrote a very interesting piece on Ersel Hickey awhile back. Well I have my own Ersel Hickey mystery that I'd like your help with.

I'm trying to find out how his hit song “Bluebirds Over the Mountain” came to be credited to Northern Songs (the Beatles' publishing company) on the “Beach Boys 20/20” album, as well as their single of it.

I've got a Ronnie Hawkins version of the song which credits Torpedo Music (BMI).

My recently-issued “Ritchie Valens Greatest Hits” credits Brother Music.

This credit has led many to assume Ersel Hickey to be a pseudonym for Paul McCartney, which is certainly not the case.

This topic has come up for discussion several times, and I would like to put it to rest once and for all.

Since you seem to be in contact with Ersel Hickey, perhaps it might be possible to ask him the story behind this bit of confusion, or else forward my request to him.

Thanks for any assistance you can provide in this matter.
—Frederick W. Harrison, Toronto, Canada

DEAR FREDERICK: Almost as if it were meant to be, your letter arrived on the same day that Ersel Hickey called to tell me about a new rock and roll phone card thing that somehow involves him. He said he would send me some samples, and when they arrive I will share those details.

As for the three different publishers, Ersel puts it this way:

“In the beginning, Torpedo was the publisher of “Bluebirds Over the Mountain.” When the Beach Boys chose to record my song, they bought the publishing rights. That put it in the hands of their company, Brother Music.

“Later, Northern Songs bought the rights for European release of “Bluebirds Over the Mountain.” Worth noting too is that several other publishing companies have bought certain limited publishing rights to the song in other areas of the world.

“That's why you can find “Bluebirds Over the Mountain,” and many other songs as well, on labels that credit any number of different publishing houses.

“Finally, I'd like to thank those of your readers who wrote to me and requested autographed photos, as well as my “Rockin' Bluebird” album.”

At the suggestion his name might be a pseudonym for Paul McCartney, Ersel simply couldn't stop laughing.

IZ ZAT SO? The Billboard chart for the week April 23, 1955 shows three different recordings of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” in the Top 10: Bill Hayes at No. 1, Fess Parker (TV's Davy Crockett) at No. 6, and Tennessee Ernie Ford at No. 7.

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