Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: You once identified a mystery song that someone heard on AMC's Mad Men. It turned out to be "Ladder of Success" by Skeeter Davis.

Seeing how you solved that case gives me hope that you will answer my question.

When Skeeter and Betty Davis started out as the Davis Sisters, their first record, "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know," went to No. 1, which is quite an accomplishment.

Inexplicably, they never had another popular record and are forever known as a One Hit Wonder.

Just how many follow-up records were released by them, if any? Are there any I might even know?
—Amanda Stratton, Vincennes, Ind.

DEAR AMANDA: Inexplicable on the surface, perhaps, but there is an explanation.

Not everyone knew it at the time, but Skeeter (nee: Mary Frances Penick) was the only one of the Davis Sisters not named Davis. She and Betty Jack "B.J." Davis were best of friends from high school, and Mary Frances even lived with the Davis family for a while.

Tragically, early Sunday morning Aug. 2, 1953, two weeks before "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know" made its Billboard chart debut, B.J. was killed when the car in which she and Skeeter were in was hit head-on by a fellow who fell asleep at the wheel. Davis was pronounced dead at the scene.

Skeeter was taken to the hospital with body bruises and superficial cuts, but had no critical injuries as is sometimes reported.

She remained hospitalized for two days just for observation, then was released on Aug. 4th.

The memorial service for Betty, Aug. 6th in Covington, Ky., was said to have drawn the largest crowd ever seen at a funeral in that Ohio River community. Sadly, B.J. was denied the thrill of seeing herself and her best friend having the top-selling country record in the nation.

Having a smash hit made it imperative that the Davis Sisters continue recording, so Betty's older sister, Georgia, filled in as Skeeter's new "sister."

Alas, the magical harmonies perfected by Skeeter and B.J. could not be duplicated. But oh how they tried, again and again.

Over three years, from the summer of 1953 to mid-'56, RCA Victor cranked out a dozen singles, meaning 24 songs, by the Davis Sisters.

Of all those tunes, it is very likely that the only ones well known are "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know," and, to a lesser extent the flip side, "Rock-A-Bye Boogie" (RCA 5345).

Though this was their first record for RCA, the girls did make a few recordings for the Fortune label, and while those tracks were not hits they were very instrumental in getting them signed by RCA.

Being held to One Hit Wonder status was not for lack of trying on the part of the girls or RCA. The company issued the following 11 singles consecutively on 45 and 78 rpm, but not a one them clicked with the C&W dee jays:

RCA 5460: "You're Gone"/"Sorrow and Pain" (1953)
RCA 5607: "Takin' Time Out For Tears"/"Gotta Git-A-Goin' " (1954)
RCA 5701: "You Weren't Ashamed to Kiss Me Last Night"/"Foggy Mountain Top" (1954)
RCA 5843: "Just Like Me"/"Show Me" (1954)
RCA 5906: "Christmas Boogie"/"Tomorrow I'll Cry" (1954)
RCA 5966: "Everlovin' (A One Way Love) "/"Tomorrow's Just Another Day" (1954)
RCA 6086: "Fiddle Diddle Boogie"/"Come Back to Me" (1955)
RCA 6187: "I've Closed the Door"/"I'll Get Him Back" (1955)
RCA 6291: "Baby Be Mine"/"It's the Girl Who Gets the Blame" (1955)
RCA 6409: "Don't Take Him for Granted"/"Blues for Company" (1956)
RCA 6490: "Lying Brown Eyes"/"Lonely and Blue" (1956)

Two years after the Davis Sisters called it quits, Skeeter embarked on a hugely successful solo career.

She did indeed climb the "Ladder of Success."

On Sept. 19, 2004, at the age of 72, Mary Frances Penick died as a result of breast cancer.

IZ ZAT SO? Here is one remarkable sidebar to "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know" reaching No. 1.

From the January 1944 inception of charting country music singles, to August 1984, and "Mama He's Crazy" by the Judds, the Davis Sisters are the only all-female unit, consisting of two or more members, to top the C&W charts.

That's over 40 years in what was then a male dominated genre.

Compare that to these 17 all-female acts who topped the Pop and Rock charts during the exact same time period (number in parenthesis indicates multiple No. 1 hits):

Andrews Sisters (3); Angels; Chiffons; Chordettes; Crystals; Dixie Cups; Emotions; Fontane Sisters; Honey Cone; LaBelle; Marvelettes; McGuire Sisters (2); Shangri-las; Shirelles (2); Silver Convention; Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer; and Supremes (with Diana Ross) (12).

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. 

Copyright 2014 Osborne Enterprises - Reprinted By Exclusive Permission