Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Have you ever seen "Dear Mr. Play Boy," by Hot Breath Hannah? It's on the Atlanta label NRC, known for recordings by Joe South, Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, and of course their biggest hit, "Robbin' the Cradle," by Tony Bellus.

Don't know where this odd one came from, but I certainly never heard it on the radio.

She sings one mysterious line about a man "wearing dads." Any idea what that means?
—Andre Pierce, Mill Valley, Calif.

DEAR ANDRE: You would not have found Hot Breath Hannah's record on any station's playlist, when it came out in the spring of 1964.

"Please Mr. Play Boy" and "Looking for a Man" (NRC 45-378) is a custom recording made specifically to promote men's products sold by H.R. Kaminsky & Sons, Inc. (New York and Atlanta), and not intended for radio.

In "Please Mr. Play Boy," Hot Breath Hannah, accompanied by the piano pounding boogie-woogie beat of the Paul Mitchell Trio, is reacting to an ad running in Playboy magazine.

Actually, this display ad appeared nationwide in many magazines and newspapers, but Hot Breath singled out Playboy, and Hugh Heffner (Mr. Play Boy), to hear her plea:

"Dear Mr. Play Boy, send me a guy like the one I see in your ad. Dear Mr. Play Boy, send me a he like the brute you show wearing Tads"

Now you know the mysterious word is Tads, described in these ads as "lavishly tailored trousers." The dapper young man in the drawing is surrounded by six swooning, bikini-clad babes, and a promise that "nice things happen to guys who wear Tads … priced at $7.95 to $18.95."

The record came packaged in a custom sleeve, boldly stating it is a "Free 45 RPM." It was available at Kaminsky's clothing stores as well as by mail.

Because NRC (National Recording Corporation) manufactured the discs without knowing exactly how they would be used, the labels bear no connection whatsoever to Kaminsky's, Tads, or any other products. The label is no different than what one might expect with any other record.

It is the picture sleeve, which perplexingly shows the title as "Pleese Mr. Playboy," where all the product information is found.

After 49 years, the Tads have seen better days, but we do know that nice things happen to guys, and gals too, who still have this souvenir giveaway. Based on the quality of the recordings and the very limited distribution, recent sales of the record with sleeve have been in the $150 to $175 range.

So much for "Mr. Play Boy," but there is still one more "Playboy" on today's schedule:

DEAR JERRY: While watching a Golden Girls rerun, my aunt asked if I knew what a fine singer Betty White was. I told her I had no idea Betty was ever a singer.

I went on eBay and found only one record by Betty White, "Playboy." Is this the actress, or another woman with the same name?

Was that a phase of her career that I missed? Did she make many records?
—Julia Turlock, Salt Lake City

DEAR JULIA: The "Playboy" 45 you spotted is known as a ghost record, one of thousands made in the 1950s and '60s. It is simply when someone records an established hit, trying to make their version sound as close to the original as possible.

Ghost records were usually rushed out to stores so they could be on sale at the same time as the popular versions, but at perhaps one-third the price.

Betty White's waxing of "Playboy," the Top 10 hit in 1962 for the Marvelettes, is surprisingly good for a ghost record, as is the flip, "That's Old Fashioned," by the Shaw Brothers (Caravelle 2002). Their side is of course the Everly Brothers' tune, also a Top 10 hit at the time.

However, Caravelle's Betty White is not the venerable actress, nor is she Betty White the "Prominent Authority on Ballroom and Popular Dancing," who made her first series of dance instruction albums in 1960. There is also a Betty J. White, a soul singer with a couple of Erie (not eerie) records in 1979.

Your aunt must have heard Betty sing on one or more of her TV appearances, either as someone's guest or on her own "Betty White Show." Though she sang countless times, and brilliantly I might add, I have never seen a phonograph record by Betty. The next one that turns up will be the first.

Fortunately, many of those shows, some as early as 1954, are accessible online, especially on YouTube. Now you can quickly acquaint yourself with that phase of Betty's career.

IZ ZAT SO? Betty White's trophy case must be bursting at the seams. For her 62 years on television, she has 25 prestigious awards, including seven Emmys. None of this comes as a surprise.

What is a shocker is that this superb singer, who apparently never made a record, is also a GRAMMY Award winner.

Not for singing, but for talking.

Not for a record, but a compact disc edition of her book, "If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) Read By the Author" (Penguin Audio Book). For this, Betty was the winner in the 2011 Spoken Word category.

Now 91, and still going strong, here's a heartfelt 'thank you' to Betty for all the smiles she's given us.

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

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

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