Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I need to know if my grandfather is yanking my chain. He tried to convince me there once was a song on a 78rpm with the title "Abercrombie and His Zombie."

He said that some folks have a dog or a cat for a pet, but on this record, Mr. Abercrombie had a Zombie.

Is there any truth to this yarn?
—Corey Winskey, Baton Rouge, La.

DEAR COREY: Other than the erroneous reference to pets, there is plenty of truth here. Considering it's been 72 years since the tune came out, grandpa's memory is not too bad.

The correct title is "Abercrombie Had a Zombie," which you coincidentally used in your comments. It is a 1940 single, a 78 of course, written by Mort Greene and Vee Lawnhurst, and recorded by "Fats" Waller and His Rhythm (Bluebird B-10967).

Rather than adopting a living corpse as a pet, Abercrombie's zombie is nothing more than a mixed drink.

Most mixologists concoct a zombie using assorted rums; lime juice; falernum (sweet syrup); Angostura bitters; grenadine; Pernod; cinnamon syrup; grapefruit juice; and other exotic additives.

As a result of their popularity at the 1939 New York World's Fair, zombies quickly went viral. Coinciding with the sudden popularity of the drink, as well as the Fair, was Waller's "Abercrombie Had a Zombie."

In this humorous song, Abercrombie is normally a "meek and quiet" law-abiding fellow who, after a zombie or two, morphs into an out-of-control menace.

DEAR JERRY: In "Romeo and Juliet," the Reflections sing "I'm gonna put Romeo's fate right smack dab …" followed by what?

No one I've asked knows what those next few words are. Can you tell me?
—Kathy Sager, Milwaukee

DEAR KATHY: In William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," the fate of both key characters is the principal storyline.

In the 1964 hit song, it is the singing Romeo's hope to "find work tomorrow," thus avoiding a tragic ending for he and his Juliet. Optimistically, the plan, as well as the complete verse, is to "put Romeo's fate right smack dab on a date."

All of which is a roundabout way to say it's either get a gig or get dumped.

DEAR JERRY: An album I bought in the 1970s is the "Mahogany" soundtrack (Motown M6-858), and on the front cover it states "A Berry Gordy Film, Diana Ross in Mahogany."

Then just recently I spotted a very similar looking Motown LP (label only) on eBay, again with "A Berry Gordy Film, Mahogany, a Paramount Picture" prominently shown. This one is numbered M6-861.

Because the label image was small, I could not make out the tracks.

With only three numbers between them, this one must have also come out the same time as the film. Is it merely a repackage of M6-858?
—Sam Hobart, Clovis, N.M.

DEAR SAM: If the image were easier to read, you would know the only connection between the "Mahogany" soundtrack LP (M6-858) and M6-861 is they both include the "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)," along with the reference to it being from "A Berry Gordy Film."

No other tracks appear on both albums.

The "Mahogany" soundtrack came out in October 1975, and the self-titled "Diana Ross" LP followed in January '76. Both are fairly common.

IZ ZAT SO? One World's Fair reference in "Abercrombie Had a Zombie" that might be a mystery to most of the current population is "he never tried to wade in the Aquacade."

Billy Rose's Aquacade was a music, dance, and synchronized swimming show, and probably the Fair's most popular attraction.

While under the influence of multiple zombies, Abercrombie mistook the swimmers' venue for his personal wading pool.


Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column. Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368 E-mail:   Visit his Web site:

All values quoted in this column are for near-mint condition.

Copyright 2012 Osborne Enterprises- Reprinted By Exclusive Permission