Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: On a night out of dining and dancing, in the early 1970s, my late husband took me to a club in Waukesha to hear a band he loved. An excellent group that I saw just that one night.

Now, 40 years later, I am stuck trying to remember their name. It may have been Dick or Dave and the somebodys. Who were these guys?

I can't recall ever having their records, so it is possible they never made any.

What really stands out in my memory is how versatile and talented they were. Every member sang, and each man on the stage played practically every instrument a band could have. It was like musical chairs, but with instruments.

Since that is not very common, it might be the best clue I can provide.
—Evelyn Wallace, Greenfield, Wis.

DEAR EVELYN: That is a mighty good clue, and mention of Dick and Dave was also helpful.

I know of only one band whose members, usually five, routinely switched positions and instruments on stage during their songs, all without missing a beat.

Even more impressive is that each member not only played every instrument on stage, but at least a dozen others from the 40 or so pieces on hand.

Named Dave Major and the Minors, this Illinois-based lounge band was very popular in the upper Midwest, especially in the 1970s.

Along the way, the boys cranked out three LPs: “Someone New” (BC 310); “Dave Major and Minors Second Album” (BC 311); and “ Dave Major and Minors Third Album” (BC 312).

Fronting the band were brothers Dave Perry (“Dave Major”) and Dick Perry.

Not widely known until February 2nd, 2000 was the dark and troubled side of Dave Perry.

That is when Dave broke into the Kingston, Ill (pop. 980) home of Scott Grochowski, and his wife Melodye, with whom Perry previously produced a son and daughter. Reports vary as to whether Dave and Melodye were legally married when the children were born.

Once inside, Perry shot and killed Mr. Grochowski, then turned the gun on Melodye's mother, Janie Sue Harrison, killing her instantly.

Melodye and their 12-year-old son quickly escaped to a neighbor's house and called 911. Their daughter, 11, was not in the house at the time of the carnage.

In what seems suicidal, when the DeKalb County Sheriff's deputies arrived, Dave Perry greeted them in front of the house with a spray of bullets, to which they returned fire and killed him.

A subsequent investigation pointed to a years-long custody battle between Dave and Melodye as the reason three lives were lost. Had Melodye remained in the house, it is likely she too would have died.

DEAR JERRY: Got a kick out of the recent reference to your “How Could This Not Have Been a Hit?” list.

I've never actually created a list, but have often said those words about a song with everything going for it, yet still flopped.

Taking the list idea to an even higher level, my latest one is “How Could They Have Never Had a Hit?”

This applies only to artists with a significant number of good releases, none of which made it.

For me, No. 1 on that list is the Harptones.

What do you think?
—Evan Harris, Eugene, Ore.

DEAR EVAN: I think you made a perfect choice.

What separates the Harptones from most other groups is Willie Winfield, their stupendous lead singer. His incredibly distinctive vocals put him alongside Tony Williams, of the Platters, as the preeminent R&B front men. Unlike the Platters, the No. 1 group of the 1950s, what the Harptones accomplished in the New York area could not thrust them into the national spotlight.

Of their two dozen singles, many of which are considered doo-wop classics, only one registered a blip on Billboard's Hot 100. “What Will I Tell My Heart” (Companion 103) debuted at No. 98 on May 8, 1961, moved up two slots the next week, then vanished for good.

The Harptones definitely rank high on the “How Could They have Never Had a Hit?” list.

Among their timeless tunes that should have been big hits are:

“Cry Like I Cried” (Alphabetically first, and also first on my Harptones list)
“Forever Mine” (Alphabetically second, and my second favorite)
“I Almost Lost My Mind”
“Masquerade Is Over, The”
“My Memories of You”
“No Greater Miracle”
“On Sunday Afternoon”
“Shrine of St. Cecelia, The”
“Since I Fell for You”
“Sunday Kind of Love, A”
“That's the Way It Goes”
“What Is Your Decision”
“Why Should I Love You”

IZ ZAT SO? The sensational 45 rpm Extended Play by the Harptones, aptly titled “The Sensational Harptones” (Bruce BEP-201), is one of the most valuable EPs ever.

If auctioned to the appropriate buyers, this seven-inch, four-track EP might bring close to $10,000.

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