Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: After reading your recent piece about "Address Unknown," by an outfit from the Bay State (Massachusetts) named the Baystaters, I became curious as to whether or not any groups, named after their state's nickname, actually had hits.

I realize most nicknames don't lend themselves to being a recording group name, such as the Grand Canyon State.
—Yolanda Cisneros, Northhampton, Mass.

DEAR YOLANDA: Some states have more than one nickname, but we'll try to match up only with commonly used names.

Framing the question as you have — a group from a state whose nickname is also their name, and with at least one hit to their credit — I find only three that qualify.

The most obvious example is from your neighbor to the south, Connecticut, the Nutmeg State.

The Nutmegs, from New Haven, created an R&B classic in 1955 with "Story Untold."

Hailing from Arcadia, Ind., not far from Indianapolis, came the Hoosier Hot Shots. This bunch from the Hoosier State had numerous hits in the 1930s and '40s, and were even featured in several western movies. The members changed along the way, but they continued to perform into the '70s.

If you suspected the Mormon Tabernacle Choir were from the Mormon State (Utah), you'd be right. In 1959 their "Battle Hymn of the Republic" marched right into the Top 15.

DEAR JERRY: One of my early rock records is "Right Around the Corner," by Boyd Bennett.

I noticed the writing credits simply state "Singleton-McCoy," with no first names. When dealing with fairly common names like these, why wouldn't they use their given names. It's not like there isn't enough room on the label.

Any chance they are Shelby Singleton and Van McCoy?
—Freeman Taylor, Chicago

DEAR FREEMAN: Not a bad guess since Shelby and Van have individually written, arranged, and produced many hit songs, but they did not collaborate on "Right Around the Corner," or anything else for that matter.

The true tunesmith tandem responsible for "Right Around the Corner" is Charlie "Hoss" Singleton and Rose Marie McCoy. Their prolific eight-year partnership began in 1954 with "Hurts Me to My Heart," a No. 1 hit for Faye Adams.

Though "Right Around the Corner" never made much of a splash chartwise, three excellent versions came out in 1956.

The 5 Royales had the first recording (King 4869), made for the Race or R&B market. The same company then had Boyd Bennett wax it for their country and rock customers (King 4874). That may seem strange now, but for one label to have the original issue, plus one or more cover records, was not uncommon then. Both King singles came out in January, only a few days apart.

Several months later, an RCA Victor group, one unfortunately saddled with the name The Country Gentlemen, recorded their R&R version of "Right Around the Corner." Coupled with the Wheels' doo-wop ballad, "My Heart's Desire," the RCA single came out in December.

The Country Gentlemen's smooth group harmony was first-rate, and either or both sides could have been pop-rock hits, but not without a name change.

Country music programmers and juke box operators had no interest in pop music similar to the Crew-Cuts, and pop-rock music prospects didn't bother to audition a new country release, especially by an unknown act.

Billboard even took note of the contradiction. In their Dec. 29, 1956 Reviews of New Pop Records, they say: "These gentlemen, who make it clear they are NOT from the country, cover a couple of R&B tunes that have yet to happen in their original versions [i.e., 5 Royales and Wheels]. Good sound."

If the company or the group didn't want to change the name, they should have at least put something like this on the label:

The Country Gentleman (They May Be Gentlemen, But This Is Not Country!)

IZ ZAT SO? The average person might not recognize the names Charlie Singleton and Rose Marie McCoy, but they would surely recognize some of their 1,800 compositions, some written individually and some together.

Any of these BMI Award Winning Songs sound familiar (best-selling version noted)?

"Don't Be Angry" (Nappy Brown); "Don't Forbid Me" (Pat Boone); "Gabbin' Blues" (Big Maybelle with Rose Marie McCoy); "Hurts Me to My Heart" (Faye Adams); "I Beg of You" (Elvis Presley); "If I May" (Nat King Cole); "It's Gonna Work Out Fine" (Ike & Tina Turner); "Just As Much As Ever" (Bobby Vinton); "Lady" (Jack Jones); "Mambo Baby" (Ruth Brown); "Spanish Eyes" (Elvis Presley, Al Martino); "Strangers in the Night" (Frank Sinatra); "The Wheel of Hurt" (Margaret Whiting); and "Trying to Get to You" (Elvis Presley).

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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