Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I caught part of a performance by a unidentified fellow on the Comedy Channel.

I was amused by one song he sang that, if lyric repetition is any indication, would be titled something like "Will You Love Me."

The humor is in certain auto parts and functions being described in a way that could also apply to an aging man, such as "will you love me when I can no longer shift my gears"? I can't remember any of the other foreseeable conditions.

This comic said it was a 60-year-old song, but that doesn't mean it was ever made on a record.

Was it, and if so, who sang it? —Nell Fitzgerald, Ripley, Ohio

DEAR NELL: I always knew that auto mechanics class I took in high school would one day pay off.

Against all odds, "will you love me," sung 20 times in just 75 seconds, is not the title. No, that would be "The Automobile Song," a line that is not heard even once during the song.

"The Automobile Song" was indeed a record (78 rpm), by the Pearl Trio (Featuring Larry Vincent), and issued in 1947 (Pearl 56).

That comedian's estimate of how old this song is turns out to be fairly close.

The young man in the story "was an automobile mechanic" who, "in terms of his profession," asked his sweetheart:

"Will you love me when my carburetor's busted," followed by other possible breakdowns, each preceded by "Will you love me":

… when I cannot shift my gears
… when I need a new condenser
… when my clutch begins to slip
… when my battery needs recharging
… when my pump is on the blink
… when I haven't got a cent, and my connecting rod is bent
… when my jalopy is a wreck
… when my vacuum cup is empty
… when my rear end's worn and torn
… when my rims are old and rusty
… when I cannot blow my horn
… when my inner tube is busted
… when my tank begins to leak
… when the junkman says no use, and my nuts and bolts are loose

DEAR JERRY: Who is the female vocalist featured on Frankie Avalon's recording of "Why"? I can't find anyone anywhere who knows. Since she is not given any credit on the label, she may have just been a session singer.
—Robert Veatch, Crossville, Tenn.

DEAR ROBERT: Because I have no ironclad proof, I will provide an educated guess, along with the reasoning for my pick.

For their first three years (1957-1959), Chancellor's talent roster was predominately male, with Frankie Avalon and Fabian being their top two acts.

Only three solo female artists had records during those years: Jodie Sands, Fran Lori, and Patty Brandon. Of those, Fran Lori sounds more like the person we hear singing with Frankie on "Why" (Chancellor 1045).

Chancellor even released records by Lori just before and soon after No. 1045. Those two are "Forgiveness" (1035) and "If You Only Knew" (1050). In fact, Fran was the only solo female on Chancellor from mid-1958 until early '61.

Lori had the motive (to sing on an eventual No. 1 hit alongside a major pop star); the means (a sweet voice and no other appointments that day); and the opportunity (already a Chancellor artist with studio access).

Whether I'm right or wrong, just having this topic in print may inspire someone to contact me who knows for certain. If I do learn more, you'll know about it right away.

IZ ZAT SO? For 22 months, from July 12, 1958 to May 14, 1960, there was not a single week when Frankie Avalon didn't have one or more tunes among the nation's Top 100 hits.

During 1959, Frankie had eight different songs on the charts: "I'll Wait for You"; "Venus"; "Bobby Sox to Stockings"; "A Boy Without a Girl"; "Just Ask Your Heart"; "Two Fools"; "Why"; and "Swingin' on a Rainbow."

Five made the Top 10 and the two single-word titles ("Venus" and "Why") reached No. 1.

Avalon's chart success was so strong in 1958 and '59 that he is the only one among the 40 highest ranking rock era artists of the 1950s, who did NOT have a hit before 1958!

Frankie's dream year earned him Photoplay Magazine's Most Popular Vocalist of 1959, and the Disk Jockey Association's title of the 1959 King of Song.

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:

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

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