Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I found this statement in the Jerry Fuller biography posted by "All Music" (

"Although Fuller had originally written 'Travelin' Man' with Sam Cooke in mind, he quickly realized he had Rick Nelson's number."

I seem to recall reading that Jerry not only didn't have Rick's number, but that he was shocked to find out that Rick knew of the song.

Since you have interviewed Fuller before in the column, can you look into this?
—Kevin Ricks, Bakersfield, Calif.

DEAR KEVIN: The first part of that sentence is true, the remainder is not — at least according to Jerry Fuller himself.

Here is his account of the "Travelin' Man" adventure — from trash can to million-seller:

"It's the first song I wrote that Rick recorded, but I didn't really write it for him. I wrote it for Sam Cooke.

"I researched how they refer to young girls in Germany (fraulein) and Mexico (senorita), and added Hong Kong, Alaska, and Waikiki to play upon the 'in every port I own the heart of at least one lovely girl' concept.

"After I finished writing, I called Glen Campbell and we went into the studio. Glen played guitar while I sang it like I thought Sam Cooke would. We recorded it on an acetate, or demo disc. We took that demo to J.W. Alexander, Sam Cooke's manager, and he said 'I'll give it a listen when I get a chance.' He must have played it at least once because Joe Osborn, who just happened to be in the office next door, heard it through the wall.

"Joe went over to Alexander's office and asked if he still had that traveling song he'd just played. J.W. reached into the trash can, retrieved the demo, then gave it to Joe.

"Osborn, the bass player in Nelson's band, played it for Rick who liked it and quickly recorded it. I had not yet met Joe, so when he called me and said 'Rick just heard your song and he's recording it,' I said 'Rick who, and what song?'

"He said 'Rick Nelson, and "Travelin' Man."

"No kidding, how'd HE get it, I asked. Joe then told me the story, and added: 'Rick is wondering if you have any more songs.'

"My quick reply: 'I got about 80 more and I'll get 'em right over to you!"

"Travelin' Man" went to No. 1 on all the charts, and, backed with "Hello Mary Lou" (Imperial 5741), sold over six million records.

Rick eventually recorded nearly two dozen more of Jerry Fuller's songs, several of which became huge hits

Alphabetically, here is the complete list (1961-1985), provided for us by Kent McCombs:

"A Stone's Throw" (unreleased)
"A Wonder Like You"
"Ain't Gonna Do You No Good"
"Baby You Don't Know"
"Break My Chain"
"Desire" (by the Trophies, including Rick)
"For Your Sweet Love"
"Hey There, Little Miss Tease"
"History Of Love"
"I Tried"
"It's Up To You"
"Just Take A Moment"
"Ladies Choice"
"Peddler Man"
"Poor Little Heart" (lost and unreleased)
"Poor Loser"
"Scratchin' " (by the Fleas, including Rick)
"Sweet Little Loveable You"
"That Warm Summer Night"
"Travelin' Man"
"You Got Me Gone"
"Young World"

Imagine how history would have been affected had the trash been picked up before Joe Osborn asked for and received that acetate.

DEAR JERRY: A few times in recent months you have written on the topic of instrumentals, and that gives me hope you will answer a question that no one else has been able to do.

Right about the time "Ahab the Arab" (Ray Stevens) was popular, there was an exotic instrumental that was the perfect companion, musically that is.

I clearly recall once when the dee jay played the two back-to-back and cleverly called it a "harem pairem."

Ahab's bold adventure takes place somewhere in the Middle East and this recording is definitely in that style, but without lyrics there are no other clues.

The instrumentation is unlike anything you'd hear in this part of the world, and I've heard nothing like it since.

Does any of this strike a chord with you?
—Pamela Mellon, Owensboro, Ky.

DEAR PAMELA: Yes, specifically a G-chord, 'G' in this case meaning Greece.

The exotic gizmo in the instrumental half of the harem pairem is called a bouzouki, and nowhere on earth is the bouzouki more significant than in Greece. It is as cherished there as a guitar is in the western world, and has been for nearly a hundred years.

Maintaining the harem connection — remember Ahab's secret paramour, Fatima, was plucked from the Sultan's harem — the title of this summer 1962 single is in fact "The Sultan's Harem" (Era 3076).

The primary artist credited on the label is violinist Hrach Yacoubian, but the stunning bouzouki solo is by Iordanis Tsomidis, one of Greece's most accomplished bouzouki masters.

Want more? There are numerous YouTube videos featuring Greek megastar Nana Mouskouri with bouzoukia accompaniment.

While you are there, reacquaint yourself with "The Sultan's Harem."

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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