Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: My mystery song was played by an urban country station in the Windsor-Detroit area, in the mid-'70s. I am no longer in that area, but have never heard it again anywhere.

It is a beautiful ballad about love grown cold, featuring a great vocalist with simple piano-guitar-drum backing.

Most of the verses end with "there's no sense in living anymore," but it's more about frustration than suicide. Neither Bing nor Google searches even suggest anything with that title.

Can you?
—Marianne Schulte, Oshkosh, Wisc.

DEAR MARIANNE: Sorry to say, I cannot suggest anything with that title.

But the news is not all bad. I can definitely unravel your four-decade-old musical mystery.

The line you recall so well is, as you say, at the end of the chorus. You just need to back up a bit to discover the title. Here's how they fit together:

Seems like I can't live with you
But I can't live without you
I know that time will never change us
So there's just no sense in living anymore

Titled "Seems Like I Can't Live with You, But I Can't Live Without You," this is the flip side of "Dancin' Fool" (RCA Victor 10075), by the Guess Who featuring Burton Cummings.

This 1974 single came out at a time when most country programmers had drifted away from traditional C&W music, while adding pop and soft rock to their playlists. For awhile they called their hybrid format "modern country," or "countrypolitan."

Those stations would not touch the rock-disco "Dancin' Fool," but "Seems Like I Can't Live with You, But I Can't Live Without You" was very countrypolitan.

To cite some of the modern country hits at the time, we can begin right at the top. Billy Swan had the No. 1 song, with "I Can Help."

Other crossover hits that year included: "Back Home Again" and "Annie's Song" (John Denver); "Let Me Be There" and "I Honestly Love You" (Olivia Newton-John); "Sundown" (Gordon Lightfoot), and, perhaps the purest rock and roll record to make the country Top 10, Elvis Presley's "Promised Land."

Though "Seems Like I Can't Live with You, But I Can't Live Without You" didn't make the charts, to have gotten some spins in Windsor is not surprising. The Guess Who is one of Canada's most famous bands.

DEAR JERRY: I am a 15-year-old pianist, who happens to enjoy playing in the ragtime and honky-tonk style.

One of the records my father gave me to learn is "Roulette," by Russ Conway (Cub 9034), and I love it!

Did Conway have other recordings in this style? Was "Roulette" ever a hit?
—Cal Millington, Portsmouth, Ohio

DEAR CAL: Russ made many, all in that style. As for question two, it depends on whether you were east or west of the Azores, in mid-1959.

In the U.S., Russ Conway remained virtually unknown. Not even his two biggest UK hits charted in the U.S., even though both were picked up by American labels, such as Capitol ("Side Saddle") and MGM's Cub imprint ("Roulette").

In his homeland, it was a completely different story for this honky-tonk instrumentalist. Between 1957 and '63, Russ had 20 charted hits. Of those, 17 made the Top 30; seven reached the Top 10; and two even claimed Great Britain's No. 1 position. This is even more impressive when you consider how much their charts were dominated by American rock and roll, and other teen-oriented styles. Neither describe Russ Conway.

His biggest hit, "Side Saddle," topped the New Musical Express for four weeks in the spring of 1959.

Russ finally surrendered the coveted position, but only for the next eight weeks; three for Buddy Holly ("It Doesn't Matter Anymore"), and five for Elvis ("A Fool Such As I"). That's when Conway's "Roulette" returned him to the No. 1 slot.

For three weeks in June and July of '59, the Top 10 included both "Side Saddle" and "Roulette," which is quite remarkable.

I know of no other 1950s or '60s instrumentalist with two separate records in the Top 10, and that goes for the record world on both sides of the Azores.

IZ ZAT SO? In 1959, "Side Saddle" stayed in the UK Top 10 for 18 consecutive weeks! To better appreciate that feat, consider that only one rock era instrumental in U.S., surpassed it, and by only one week!

Perez Prado's "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" remained in our Top 10 for 19 weeks in 1955.

Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column. Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368 E-mail:   
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All values quoted in this column are for near-mint condition.

Copyright 2012 Osborne Enterprises- Reprinted By Exclusive Permission

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