Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne

DEAR JERRY: I read your explanation of what constitutes a cover or a remake, and want to see if my reasoning as to why there were more in the '50's than later makes sense.

It seems to me, having been a teen in the '50's, that before Alan Freed popularized the term "rock & roll," the music of that genre was known as "race music" or rhythm and blues, and had its origins among blacks.

A lot of their tunes were covered by the popular white artists of the day and were released to a much broader audience.

It wasn't until after rock became mainstream that the black artists got the acceptance and the play on Top 40 stations making covers less viable than before.
—Myron Havis via e-mail (3-11-21)

DEAR MYRON: Independent of the history of cover records, portions of your theory are factual.

However, the stratagem of covering someone else's recording began long before anyone thought of rock and roll music.

Beginning with songs of the 1800s and early 1900s, as issued on Edison cylinders then later on 78 rpms, virtually every popular song inspired covers.

In the '30s, there were five charted recordings of "Stardust" (1931) and of "Stormy Weather" (1933), plus dozens of other versions that failed to chart.

In the late '40s and early '50s, nearly every hit written and recorded on MGM by Hank Williams got covered immediately by someone on each of the other majors. Labels covering Hank's "Your Cheatin' Heart" for example, included: Capitol (Jan Garber), Columbia (Frankie Laine), Decca (Louis Armstrong), and RCA Victor (Betty Brewer).

There were others. MGM even covered itself — not an uncommon event given radio's narrow programming philosophies — having their pop star Joni James record the song. Hank got played by the country stations, while Joni James and Frankie Laine dominated on the pop stations.

As rhythm and blues and rock and roll became prevalent formats, two more sources for fresh originals were added to the mix. And though originals by black artists being covered by white artists received the most publicity (read: criticism), covering knew no direction. Yes, white artists covered blacks but blacks also covered white. C&W covered pop. Pop covered C&W, etc., etc. Race, as in a group of persons connected by common origin, was not as much a factor as race, as in a contest of speed. In a dash for the cash, the labels raced to make their version the hit version.

DEAR JERRY: Around 1966 I picked up a copy of "Deserie," by the Charts (Wand 1112) thinking that it was the original, but just on a weird label. But much to my pleasure it was, lyrically, the same song, by a group with the same name. It is very upbeat with heavy background music and not a ballad like the original.

I have never been able to find any mention of it in record reference books. Nor have I ever met anyone in the business who recalls it.

The flip side is "Fell in Love with You Baby." What is the release date? Is it the same group? Why didn't it get any air play? Can you tell me anything?
— Bill "Stuck in the '50s and '60s" Peterson, Olympia, Wash. (3/4/21)

DEAR BILL: The Charts, who first issued "Deserie" in mid-1957 (Everlast 5001), reworked and updated their doo-wop classic in 1966. This drastically different version is the one you have. As you will see below, both the Everlast (1957) AND Wand records were played on the radio and were on regional charts.

FYI: As a follow-up single, the Wand Charts followed "Deserie" with "Livin' the Nightlife" (Wand 1124), also in 1966.

You may be surprised to know, though long-considered an R&B classic, neither the 1957 original release, nor the '66 version of "Deserie," failed to make any position on Billboard's R&B Best Sellers. However, "Deserie" fared quite well in various regional markets, and even the flip side, "Zoop," and the Charts follow-up "Dance Girl" (Everlast 5002) charted in some scattered areas.

I pulled out some of my radio station surveys that listed the Charts, and you will see that both versions of "Deserie" by the Charts did very well on some regional charts. I'll list only the peak position for each:
"Deserie" (1957 Everlast) KYA #1 (San Francisco); KOL #3 (Seattle); KWBR #3 (Oakland); KOBY #5 (San Francisco); KPHO #12 (Phoenix); KEED #17 (Eugene).
"Deserie" (1966 Wand) WJLB #7 (Detroit); WJMO #12 (Cleveland); WDAO #22 (Dayton); KYOK #25 (Houston); WMCA #46 (New York); WAMO #48 (Pittsburgh).

DEAR JERRY: While recently listening to some of my 1960s records with a friend, when "You're the One," by the Vogues played, he asked if I ever heard the original version. And that it was by a British pop singer named Kathy Kirby.

I said I never knew there was a version before the Vogues, and I'd never heard of Kathy Kirby.

I never pursued the subject, but it seemed like something you could chime in on. So, was there an earlier release of "You're the One" by Kathy Kirby?
— Roy Eversole, Middletown, Ohio (2-21-21)

DEAR ROY: Your music loving friend is partly accurate about Kathy Kirby, who did indeed record "You're the One," and even had a Top 20 hit in the UK in May-June of 1964.

However, her single (Decca F-11892) is a completely different song, written by Ramirez-Stellman.

The Vogues' hit "You're the One" credits the writers as Petula Clark & Tony Hatch, and Petula had their version in the UK Top 25 in November, 1965.

Meanwhile, the Vogues "You're the One" single first appeared on Blue Star (B-229) in July 1965, then Co and Ce (also B-229) took over in August ... eventually peaking on Billboard at No. 4.

DEAR JERRY: Surprisingly, my question is somewhat similar to the one sent by Curtis (below).

I have fallen in love with a foreign language song that plays during Allstate Insurance TV commercials. Other than that, all I can add is it is by a woman.

Can you identify this recording, and how I can obtain it?
—Sharon Holmes, Livermore, Calif. (10-01-20)

DEAR SHARON: I couldn't miss this sensational tune, since this spot runs quite frequently.

The singer is the legendary Edith Paif (1915-1963), a French superstar (nicknamed "The Little Sparrow"), and the song behind the Allstate commercial is "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien," a 1960 No. 1 hit in much of Europe.

One of Piaf's best CD collections is "Edith Paif 30th Anniversaire," a two-disc, 44-track box that includes "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien." This set also includes a 24-page booklet, in both French and English.

DEAR JERRY: I enjoyed our time on the phone, especially learning that you cooked up a way for you to continue answering our questions.

No doubt you have noticed so many Golden Age tunes this summer, but there is one with an authentic early R&R sound, one I'd never heard until a few months ago. Best as I recall, the advertising is about finding a job, etc.

One of the lines is "open up that door." If you don't already have it, I think this is one you would like.
— Curtis Griffen, Clarksville, Miss. (8-23-20)

DEAR CURTIS: The song described is "Open Up That Door (And Walk Right In My Heart)," a spring 1956 single (Savoy 1187) by Nappy Brown. I do like it, and of course I do have it, along with at least a half-dozen more.

Here are some other top singles by Nappy Brown: 1955: "Don't Be Angry" (Savoy 1155)
1955: "Pitter Patter" (Savoy 1162)
1956: "Little By Little" (Savoy 1506)
1957: "Bye Bye Baby" (Savoy (Savoy 1514)
1958: "It Don't Hurt No More" (Savoy 1551)
1959: "I Cried Like A Baby" (Savoy 1575)
1960: "Apple of My Eye" (Savoy 1588)

DEAR MUSIC LOVING FRIENDS: Due to my lifelong passion of researching the history of endless forms of popular entertainment, especially recorded music.

Along the trail, I was frequently asked music trivia. Based on that, in 1986, I created the "Mr. Music" Q&A column syndicated for newspapers. In the summer of 2020, my radio shows and book publishing increased, but that alone might not have caused me to step away from the "Mr. Music" feature.

What really put the brakes on me was when some weasel attacked my PC. All I know is that since then I have been locked out of any MS programs — especially MS Word (Office 10). All our valuable materials are still on my PC, but we cannot access any of our files.

If anyone knows, or has a PC-wise friend, who can assist us open our MS Word files, please contact us one of these ways:

Osborne Enterprises
(360) 385-1200

Now comes the good news:

We have come up with a way where we can still answer questions from readers, but with no day or date requirements. All previous date-related items, over the years, will remain as is. All new topics will always be added to the top of the list on this page, and all previous topics will move down, but they will still remain on this site.

Jerry Osborne: Background and Publishing History

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