Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I remember a band called Sniff 'N' the Tears that was quite popular in the early '80s. But since I don't remember any of their songs, when I mention the name of the group to my husband, he just laughs at me and thinks I'm making it up. Am I? Please confirm this for me. Thank you very much!
—Cheryl Elliott

DEAR CHERYL: You did not make up any of this. Sniff 'N' the Tears, in the summer of 1979, gave us one of that decade's best records, a Top 15 hit titled “Driver's Seat” (Atlantic 3604).

Despite the potential displayed on this track, Sniff 'N' the Tears could not follow “Driver's Seat” with another chart record, thus forever lumping this British band into the One Hit Wonder category.

DEAR JERRY: I have what I believe is considered a collector's item, a two-disc set titled “Rockin' with Elvis on New Year's Eve,” recorded live in 1976 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

A friend tells me this 28-track album is an illegal, or bootleg, release. Even so, he would like a copy but can't find it in stores. He offered me $20 for mine. Is it possibly worth more?

So what's the scoop? Is it a bootleg? Is it a rare collector's item?
—Herbert Bussewitz, Chicago, Ill.

DEAR HERBERT: Here's the scoop. Your friend is right about the unauthorized status of “Rockin' with Elvis on New Year's Eve.” It is definitely a bootleg.

However, his offer is but a fraction of the $75 to $125 that this album now fetches, which also answers your last question about it being a collector's item.

A few years ago, a double CD of this now-legendary concert came out with the title “Auld Lang Syne” (Live Archives 1076), though it too is now difficult to find for less than $75.

The demand for these recordings is based on the widespread belief that this hour-and-a-half performance was the greatest show of Presley's career.

DEAR JERRY: Looking back over the rock era, I recall some mighty strange recordings that went all the way to No. 1 in the nation. By this I mean songs that, if you were to play them for someone who never heard them before and told them they were former No. 1 hits, they would think you were nuts.

I'm thinking of ones like “Dominique” (Singing Nun), “The Chipmunk Song” (Chipmunks), “Mr. Custer” (Larry Verne), “Sukiyaki” (Kyu Sakamoto), and “Alley Oop” (Hollywood Argyles).

Of these, and any others you can recall, which would you say is the tune that is most surprising to have reached No. 1.

On another matter, your recent column on Bob Dylan's “Freewheelin'” indicated this to be his first album. Actually, his first was titled “Bob Dylan,” and came out a year earlier.
—Eagle Eye Eddie, Lakeland, Fla.

DEAR EAGLE EYE: Most of those novelty or unusual songs that now seem unlikely to have been played at all much less reach No. 1, became big hits because of some connection to our popular culture — such as “The Chipmunk Song” that jumped on the hula-hoop bandwagon.

I mention this because the one I am selecting as the most surprising No. 1 pop hit is “Convoy,” by C.W. McCall, a 1976 issue that rode the CB craze to the top of the charts.

Even though I didn't care much for it at the time, at least it jived with the citizen's band phenomenon. Now it really sounds alien.

About the Bob Dylan snafu, somewhere along the way, the word “charted” got lost in the transmission. It should have stated that “Freewhellin'” was his first “charted” LP.

IZ ZAT SO? A few years after “Convoy” topped the charts, C.W. McCall — or William Fries if you go by his birth certificate — became mayor of Ouray, Colorado (population 684), a mountain village not far from Telluride.

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