FOR THE WEEK OF AUGUST 8, 2011
this is a continuation of a past Mr Music column
When “Diane in Milwaukee” wrote asking how many versions we knew of Dusty Fletcher's “Open the Door, Richard,” we had no idea the answer would — like Fletcher's recording — require two parts.
Last week we itemized the first 15 “Richard” records, all of which came out in either January or February of 1947. In case you missed it, they are:
1. Dusty Fletcher. 2. Jack McVea and His All Stars. 3. Bill Samuels and the Cats 'n Jammer Three (Vocal By Sylvester Hickman). 4. Dick Peterson and the Vocal Yokels. 5. Charioteers. 6. Three Flames (Vocal by “Tiger” Haynes). 7. Count Basie and His Orchestra (Vocal Refrain by Harry Edison & Bill Johnson). 8. Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five. 9. Pied Pipers. 10. Merry Macs (With Orchestra Directed by Sonny Burke). 11. Bill Osborne and His Heptette. 12. Tosh “One String Willie” and His Jivesters. 13. Hank Penny. 14. Big Sid Catlett Orchestra. 15. Walter Brown with Tiny Grimes Sextet.
Our Part 2 of “Open the Door, Richard” picks up right there with more on Walter Brown's recording, and the story behind this Billboard headline: “WOR Slams Door on Richard.”
In a press release dated March 1, 1947, WOR, flagship station of the Mutual Broadcasting Company, announced an immediate ban on Walter Brown's “Open the Door, Richard” (Signature 1006).
Referring to the song in general, and its widespread media attention, as “a nuisance,” WOR went so far as to advise their comedians to “lay off the Richard gags.”
That very same day, while admitting nothing, Signature Records president, Bob Thiels, announced a recall of the Walter Brown discs, “because of some allegedly blue lyrics.”
Thiels respected the might of the Mutual network, with their 400 nationwide affiliates, and knew ignoring their edict was not an option.
Interestingly, the Signature interpretation is the only one with Richard's side of the story. Turns out he wasn't exactly sleeping, as he admits when he opens his window:
“Okay, okay, what's all the excitement about down der man?”
A man in the crowd answers with a question of his own:
“Hey, who are you up der wit yo head stuck out da window?”
“You are Richard? Well get away from that window and come on down here and open this damn door.”
Richard's retort: “Now listen here. I'm in here havin' myself a ball! I got me a fine mellow little chickie, and the blue lights are on. My ol' wife's way down in Birmingham, Alabama. Then everybody starts hollerin' for me to open the door. Phil Harris wants me to open the door. Bing Crosby wants me to open the door. Jack Benny wants me to open the door. If I wouldn't open it up for them, damn if I'll open up for you. Why can't you give a man a little peace?”
“That's what you been gettin' [peace and piece being homophones]!
You come out here and open that door and give us a little. Hey, wait a minute. Man, this door ain't even locked. Hey, look out Richard. Here we come.”
Returning now to our count:
16. Hot Lips Page (Apollo 1041). Page joined 14 other locked-out roommates of Richard's on Billboard's Honor Roll of Hits. Whatever the ranking each week for “Open the Door, Richard,” they credited the song to 15 different artists — essentially, a 15-way tie.
17. The final 1947 entry came in March when Melo-Tone released an uncredited “Open the Door Richard,” backed with “The Old Rainmaker.” After many years dormant, numerous artists revived “Open the Door, Richard.” None became hits, but here are nine more who at least knocked on the door:
1959: Red Blanchard (Dot 15901); Ernie Barton (Phillips International 3541); 1960: Dusty Fletcher (Savoy 1585, a 45rpm reissue of National 4012). 1961: Bill Doggett (Warner 5502). 1964: Pigmeat Markham (Chess 1891). 1965: Lennie Roberts (Deck 926). 1966: Billy Adams (Sun 401). 2000: Cuban Boys (P&P 7002). 2001: Al Simmons (Casablanca Kids 13T7).
This brings our total to 26 different “Richard” recordings, in just the U.S. Many others exist from beyond our borders.
IZ ZAT SO? As happened with the Beatles album with the recalled Butcher Cover, 19 years later, the ban and recall made Walter Brown's record the most sought-after “Open the Door, Richard” by collectors. It is now valued at about $100, four to six times the other 1947 releases.
FOR THE WEEK OF AUGUST 15, 2011
DEAR JERRY: Loved your recap of all those records Simon and Garfunkel made before they started using their real names, and gained fame.
You list four singles Paul Simon made for Amy Records, issued as by Tico and the Triumphs but with writing and production credit to Jerry Landis, another of Simon's pseudonyms.
I don't have any of those but I do have “I Wrote You a Letter” by Dotty Daniels, written by D. Goodman. This one says “Produced By Jerry Landis” (Amy 885). Surely this is another of Paul Simon's early works, but since you didn't mention it, I just ask.
Also, are Dotty Daniels and D. Goodman the same person?
—Vince Delmonico, Bakersfield, Calif.
DEAR VINCE: You are correct, the Jerry Landis who produced the Dotty Daniels sessions is Paul Simon wearing one of his many different hats.
We did not mention it because the focus of that piece was limited to Paul and Art's own recordings. Perhaps the label on the A-side of the Amy disc is worn or torn, but I can tell you it is “Play Me a Sad Song,” written by “Jerry Landis.” His original recording of this song came out in 1961 (Warwick 619), and he thought it would be a good choice for Dotty's first record.
Her's is the same basic song, but Simon's new arrangement and production give it a contemporary 1963 girl group sound.
As you suspect, Dotty Daniels is really Dotty Goodman, and “I Wrote You a Letter” is indeed one of her originals, and a good pick for the B-side.
Thanks to my old pal, Kent Kotal, we connected with Dotty. This delightful lady has vivid memories of being a teenager who suddenly found herself and her first session to be the focus of a star-studded gathering at the Amy studio in New York:
DEAR JERRY: I am the artist formerly known as Dotty Daniels, who, as a teenager in 1963, was produced by Paul Simon for Amy Records.
Our first and best-known record is “Play Me a Sad Song,” and while it didn't make the national charts it still sold quite well in some areas.
For example, I know it went to No. 1 on WAVZ, New Haven, Conn., and was a Jack Walker Pick Hit on WLIB in New York.
I don't know if Billboard ever mentioned my record, but Cash Box magazine did make it a Pick of the Week. They even sent someone to interview me, and that meeting was set up at a place right around the corner from the Brill Building. Because I was just a kid, Amy Records asked Paul Kaufman, a songwriter and my friend, to chaperone me at the meeting.
I don't have a copy of whatever they ran, but would love to see it.
Besides Paul Simon's involvement with the session that produced “Play Me a Sad Song” and “I Wrote You a Letter,” we had Cissy Houston, Valerie Simpson, and the Sweet Inspirations (Doris Troy and Dee Dee Warwick) all providing the background vocals.
I specifically recall Cissy being about six months pregnant with Whitney when we recorded those songs.
Whitney Houston wasn't singing on the session, at least not to my knowledge, but she was definitely in the studio with us, albeit still in the oven.
Also, Big Dee Irwin and Freddie Scott were in on that session as music directors. I believe Freddie recorded “Hey Girl” later that same night, after we finished.
Another thing I don't have a copy of is our follow-up single, “A Casual Look” (Amy 891).
Thank you for your interest in my brief recording career.
Paul Simon circa 1997
I spoke to Cash Box's Archivist, Randy Price, who searched but cannot find an interview-based story in any of their issues from the spring and summer of 1963.
However, Randy did find, in the May 11 issue, their selection of “Play Me a Sad Song” as a Newcomer Pick of the Week.
Regarding your first record, they offer this glowing comment:
“It's more than likely that Dotty Daniels' name'll be a topic of disk conversation in the near future. The thrush's bow [songbird's debut] on Amy has that hit stamp notched into every groove. It's an emotional beat-ballad weeper that the chorus-backed songstress waxes with loads of feeling.”
You were in good company in that issue, as another Newcomer Pick was the Tymes' “So Much in Love,” a No. 1 hit that summer.
One month later, Billboard gave you and Big Dee Irwin a brief plug, both coincidentally in the same paragraph.
Their June 22, 1963 issue ran this regional action comment from their Philadelphia correspondent:
“A&L Distributors, Inc. promotion chief, Harry Fink, reports a sleeper in “Play Me a Sad Song” by Dotty Daniels on the Amy label, with a big start for Dimension label's Little Eva and Big Dee Irwin for “Swinging on a Star.”
IZ ZAT SO? That Paul Simon flourished after producing Dotty Daniels is well-documented. However, all of those involved in that session did quite well.
As lead singer of the Pastels, Big Dee Irwin enjoyed one hit, “So Far Away” in 1958, but “Swinging on a Star” became the first hit to credit him by name.
Freddie Scott's “Hey, Girl” became a Top 10 smash, and kicked off four years of charted singles.
After 10 years of singing with Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson married him (1974) and, as Ashford & Simpson, enjoyed a string of hits in the 1970s and '80s, as singers as well as writers.
Cissy Houston delivered Whitney August 9th. In 1967, after three years of full-time mom duty, she became the lead singer of the Sweet Inspirations.
As for eventual superstar Whitney, she has logged far, far more time atop the albums charts than any female ever.
Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column. Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368 E-mail: email@example.com Visit his Web site: www.jerryosborne.com
All values quoted in this column are for near-mint condition.
Copyright 2011 Osborne Enterprises- Reprinted By Exclusive Permission