Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: The column about Lefty Frizzell prompted a friend to point out how rare is was for a true country song in the vinyl era to cross over and top the pop-rock charts.

His point being that nearly all of the ones that did get that high were more pop sounding (e.g., Glen Campbell; Bobbie Gentry; Charlie Rich; etc.) than traditional country or western.

By the way, we really enjoyed the interview you did recently on the radio. It was carried locally by WLIP (Kenosha, Wis.)
—Alan Baxter, Waukegan, Ill.


DEAR ALAN: Thank you for listening! I enjoyed spending 30 minutes on WLIP ("Frank Carmichael's Happenings Q&A"), with you and other music lovers in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

Now let's get down to business.

My list of genuine C&W crossovers to reach No. 1 in the pop field begins with Marty Robbins.

Starting with "A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)" (1957), some of his music — while still great — was pop and teen oriented. However, his No. 1 hit, "El Paso" (1959-'60), is an authentic western classic, and as such it clearly qualifies. This tune epitomizes the 'W' in C&W.

Next comes Johnny Horton, whose "Battle of New Orleans" (1959) is much more traditional than his subsequent (1960) movie themes, "Sink the Bismarck" (1960) and "North to Alaska."

Can't overlook "Big Bad John," by Jimmy Dean (1962). When Jimmy speaks or sings, it's pure country.

Then there is C.W. McCall's "Convoy" (1976). It may be a CB novelty, but it's also a country novelty. Copy that, good buddy.

My fifth and final pick is "Harper Valley P.T.A.," from the pen of Tom T. Hall and the voice of Jeannie C. Riley.

This small-town soap opera set to music held the No. 1 pop spot for a week, wedged between the Rascals ("People Got to Be Free") and the Beatles ("Hey Jude"). Talk about a stray in the herd.

Not widely known is that "Harper Valley P.T.A." is one of just two vinyl era songs by a solo female to top both the pop and country charts. Riley accomplished this in Sept. 1968.

The other is Dolly Parton's "9 to 5," in late January and early February, 1981.

DEAR JERRY: I was born and raised on the west side of Philadelphia, so you can imagine my shock when, in the mid-'60s, the local stations played a song that began with "the south side of Philly," etc.

If that isn't the title, then it could be "the west side of Philly." Both areas are mentioned.

I think at one point, someone on the street starts shooting at them.

The singing style is similar to Simon and Garfunkel's, but if it were them I think I would remember it.

More likely it is by someone I never heard of before or after, but who, and what?
—Arthur B. Forbes, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

DEAR ARTHUR: It is by someone you had not heard before, Gene and Tommy, but you probably know them because of their later recordings.

Your recollection of the song's Philadelphia geography is accurate, but let me fill in the gaps in that first verse:

"The south side of Philly is like a constant drizzly mornin'
While the west side of Philly, no one should be born in
But when you are, baby you are
And 'cause you got no father and mother
You're tight with your soul brother
Like Richard and me yeah, like Richard and me"

Right there you have the title, "Richard and Me" (ABC 10981), an October 1967 release.

Perhaps inspired by Simon and Garfunkel's folk-rock style, and ubiquitous urban unrest, Eugene Pistilli and Tommy West wrote "Richard and Me." It was their first and last recording as Gene and Tommy.

Before the end of the year the duo became a trio, with the addition of Terry Cashman. In early 1968, Cashman, Pistilli and West completed their first LP, "Bound to Happen" (ABC 629) and single, "But for Love" (ABC 11047).

What seemed bound to happen didn't. In fact, none of the 1968 ABC records happened for the boys, at least not on the national level. "Richard and Me"sold well in Philly, naturally, but it also reached No. 3 on KSTN, on the opposite coast, in Stockton, Calif.

In early '69, they left ABC and joined Capitol. Their second album, and first for Capitol, is the eponymous "Cashman, Pistilli and West" (Capitol ST-211). Among the 11 tracks is a re-recorded version of "Richard and Me."

Meaning that anyone wanting the 1967 Gene and Tommy tune will still need to find the original ABC single.

IZ ZAT SO? Individually and collectively, Terry Cashman, Eugene Pistilli, and Tommy West recorded using different combinations of their names. In addition to those variations, and Gene and Tommy, they also recorded as the Buchanan Brothers (1969) and Morning Mist (1971).

Ironically, their biggest hit single is the first of six credited to the Buchanan Brothers, "Medicine Man" (Event 3302). It spent 13 weeks on the Cash Box Top 100, and peaked at No. 21.

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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