Friday, February 22, 2013

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne

DEAR JERRY: As far as I know, the only hit record of "I've Told Every Little Star" is the one by Linda Scott. I have never heard it by anyone else, not even once.

Which accounts for my surprise when an old-timer recently told me it was a popular song back in the 1930s, by someone whose name he could not recall.

If true, I doubt it would have been played on the radio during my lifetime, but you'd think at least once a dee jay playing Linda Scott's version would have mentioned something about it being out long ago by so-and-so.

I'm counting on you for the rest of the story.
—Zoni Herwin, Madison, Wis.

DEAR ZONI: Chances are that very few among the living know this song by anyone other than Linda Scott, though in more recent years other versions are easily available on the Internet.

Jerome Kern, reportedly inspired by a songbird at his window, composed the melody in 1932. His venerable partner, Oscar Hammerstein II, crafted the lyrics. The result, performed by Walter Slezak as schoolteacher Karl Reder, was first heard in the stage play, "Music in the Air."

In December 1932, Victor issued a 78 rpm single by Jack Denny and His Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra featuring Paul Small (No. 24183), backed with "The Song Is You," also from the musical.

Denny's record soon ranked among the country's best-sellers, the only waxing to do so for nearly 30 years, when Linda Scott's bouncy rendition made it to No. 3 on Billboard, in May 1961.

In "Music in the Air," and on all of the record labels from the '30s, the title is "I've Told Ev'ry Little Star." Linda Scott's single (Canadian-American 123) replaces "Ev'ry" with "Every."

By avoiding gender-specific lyrics, Hammerstein created a song that anyone could sing without changing pronouns.

Mary Ellis, former star on Broadway as Rose Marie La Flamme in "Rose Marie" (1924-1926), appears to be the first female to record "I've Told Ev'ry Little Star."

A perdurable centenarian, Miss Ellis (1897-2003) is one of the few who included Hammerstein's seldom heard introductory verses. They account for nearly one minute leading up to the first "I've told every little star, just how sweet I think you are." Jan Peerce is another vocalist who didn't omit the lengthy launch.

Linda Scott, as you know, works her way toward the first verse with about 15 seconds of perfectly executed "dum-da-dum, da-da-da-da-da-da-das."

DEAR JERRY: The music playing at our car club get-togethers is always the oldies, and they recently inspired this trivial pursuit.

We tried to name what would be the first and the last recorded song title, alphabetically.

Here is what we finally agreed on, and would like to run it by you: from "Abacab" (Genesis) to "Zorro" (Chordettes).

Did we nail it, or are we not even close?
—Hot Rod Evans, Jackson, Miss.

DEAR HOT ROD: You didn't nail it on either end, but you came very close. I am impressed with the effort.

Having not stated any parameters, such as time frame, format, or degree of success, opens the field to any recorded song, period.

First is "A" by Barenaked Ladies, from their 1994 "Maybe You Should Drive" album.

The "A" here stands for a mish-mash of words, including: angry; adult; applesauce; Adam; Arthur; argument; apparent; antagonism; attention; algebra; a-yaa; affection; arousal; attitude; arrogance; acting; abhorrently; and asshole.

Pulling up the rear is "Zydecosis," by Lisa Haley and the Zydekats, from the 2002 album, "Talking to the Sun," as well as the 2007 "King Cake," a GRAMMY Nominee in the Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album category.

As Haley's doctor explains in song:

"You caught Zydecosis
All cause of that music
Everybody catching it
And there ain't no cure"

IZ ZAT SO? If the A-Z titles were restricted to Top 60 hits, Zoni would be one-for-two:

It is "A Team" (SSgt Barry Sadler, 1966) and a completely different "A Team" (Ed Sheeran, 2012) through "Zorro" (Chordettes, 1958).

If for Top 10 hits we have "ABC" (Jackson 5, 1970) through "Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah" (Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, 1963).

For No. 1 hits, again it's "ABC" (Jackson 5, 1970) but this time through "Young Love" (Sonny James or Tab Hunter, 1957).

Finally, for hit-making artists (disregarding symbols and initialisms):

Aaliyah (1994) through ZZ Top (1972).

And to think how often we hear "From ABBA to Zappa," which is not correct at either extreme.


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:

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