Friday, June 7, 2013

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Greetings from the Chemical Capital of the World!

Unfortunately, even here there is no chemical solution for my music mystery, one involving Sam Cooke.

Around the time Elvis returned from Germany, one of our local dee jays mentioned that Elvis and Sam Cooke were the only artists with two songs in the WAMS Top 30.

Presley's two were "Stuck on You" and "Fame and Fortune," and I know one of Cooke's was "Teenage Sonata."

Nowhere can I find even a peep about the second Sam Cooke hit that week.

Every available source, online plus music books and album liner notes, say "Chain Gang" is the follow-up to "Teenage Sonata," but it came several months later and can't be the one.

What is this song that seems like it never was?
—Cleo Hoyle, Wilmington, Del.

DEAR CLEO: It is funny that you recall that quirky Top 30 tidbit about Wilmington's Authentic Music Survey (WAMS reverse acronym, or "backronym"), but not the Sam Cooke tunes that made it worth mentioning.

For the week of April 17, 1960, they rank "Teenage Sonata" at No. 13 and dropping, and "You Understand Me" at No. 30 and rising.

So the real follow-up to "Teenage Sonata" (RCA Victor 47-7701) was "You Understand Me" (RCA Victor 47-7730), and then came "Chain Gang" (RCA Victor 47-7783).

These three, plus "If You Were the Only Girl," the B-side of "Teenage Sonata," came out in 1961 on a Compact 33 Double EP (RCA Victor LPC-126), titled "Sam Cooke Sings."

Other than this EP and the original 45, "You Understand Me" seems to have fallen through the cracks. Inexplicably, this terrific tune is not on any of Sam Cooke's LPs.

Hear it here!

The astute observation you recall so accurately must have been made by one of these WAMS Fabulous Five: Willie Gaylord; Roger Holmes; Mel Bernam; Jack Barry; or Gene Miles.

For the record, both of the Elvis hits were back-to-back on one record (RCA Victor 47-7740), whereas the two Sam Cooke titles were on separate singles.

DEAR JERRY: An interesting blog called "Country's Top 10 Most Influential Artists" makes this statement about Lefty Frizzell: "At the height of his popularity he had four songs in the Top 10 simultaneously, a feat only matched by the Beatles a decade later."

Calling this "a feat only matched by the Beatles" implies no one else had four or more of the nation's Top 10 spots, regardless of time period or genre.

I'll bet there are a few earlier stars — Bing Crosby comes to mind — that equaled or even surpassed having 40% of the Top 10.

Can you provide some specifics to back me up?
—Marty Fuhrman, Halifax, Nova Scotia

DEAR MARTY: Limiting Mr. Frizzell's feat to just C&W history would have been best.

Had the blogger recruited either one of us to proofread, the Beatles would either be left out of the discussion, or accompanied by additional and essential details. As I now know, that means a few more hours of research.

Since most of William Orville "Lefty" Frizzell's bios make mention of his superb Top 10 achievement, but without providing titles and a date, let us begin there.

It was April 14, 1951 when "I Love You a Thousand Ways"; "Look What Thoughts Will Do"; "Shine, Shave, Shower (It's Saturday)"; and "I Want to Be with You Always" were all in the Country Top 10.

Now for some testimony on your behalf:

Not only did Bing Crosby have five of the Top 10 hits several times, there was one week in July 1944 when the only position in the top six he didn't claim was No. 3. Harry James managed to sneak in there.

Joining Bing in the Had Half of the Top 10 Club are the orchestras of Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey, with both bands achieving it multiple times.

IZ ZAT SO? Besides being singers, what do these folks have in common: Andrews Sisters; Bing Crosby; Jimmy Dorsey; Trudy Erwin; Glen Gray; and the Mills Brothers?

Just happens they all recorded for Decca Records, far and away the most dominant label of the 1940s. Not RCA Victor. Not Columbia. Not Capitol.

Recordings by these stars are why, on more than one occasion in the mid-'40s, nine of the Top 10 hits were Decca singles.

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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