BARRY LEVINE: Just wondering about a few things

THE OLD ROCKER: Christmas tunes time is here? Aaaallllvviiiin!!

Johnny Mathis (Special photo)

Johnny Mathis (Special photo)


Barry Levine

JUST WONDERING … why, of all the beautiful holiday music produced, only one Christmas song from the beginning of the modern rock ‘n’ roll era in 1955 through 1970 reached the Top 5 on the charts? The tune — “The Chipmunk Song” by David Seville — reached No. 1 on Dec. 22, 1958, and remained there for four weeks.

JUST WONDERING … if people will ever tire of hearing Grace Broussard sing “I’m Leaving It Up to You.”

Dale and Grace had the No. 1 hit in the country 50 years ago with the song. Broussard, the female part of the duo, is still performing, singing with one of her brothers’ bands several times a week. Asked if she is still singing “I’m Leaving It Up to You” when performing, she quipped, “The people never would let me out of the place if I didn’t sing it.”


Chuck Berry (Special photo)

The song, obviously, still connects with rock fans even after 50 years have elapsed.

JUST WONDERING … why Chuck Berry, one of the all-time rock ‘n’ roll greats, had to wait 17 long years before one of his hits climbed to the top of the charts?


Allen Sherman (Special photo)

“My Ding-a-Ling” rose to No. 1 in October 1972. Berry, whose music influenced the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys, among others, first hit the charts with “Maybelline” in 1955. He followed with several Top 10 hits, including “School Day” and “Rock & Roll Music” in 1957, and “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Johnny B. Goode” in 1958. He then waited 14 years for his next major hit, his novelty song “My Ding-a-Ling,” which was recorded live at the Arts Festival in Lanchester, England, in 1972, to strike gold. It was one of the few No. 1 hits to be recorded in front of a live audience.

JUST WONDERING … how Connie Francis will celebrate her 75th birthday on Dec. 11?

Returning to her hotel room following her performance at the Westbury Music Festival in New York in 1974, she was brutally raped. She was so overcome emotionally by the attack that she was unable to continue her superb music career.

After her first 10 releases failed to place on the charts, she finally scored with “Who’s Sorry Now,” which rose to No. 4 in 1958. She followed that with 35 Top 40 hits including three that landed at No. 1: “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” and “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own” in 1960 and “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You” in 1962. Besides being a major hit producer, Francis appeared in several movies, co-starring in the 1960 film “Where the Boys Are.”

JUST WONDERING … why R&B crooner Lenny Welch never enjoyed the commercial success he should have had with his outstanding voice?

Welch had one of the best cheek-to-cheek songs of the early 1960s when “Since I Fell for You” jumped to No 6 on the charts in 1963. The song originally was a hit for Annie Laurie and Paul Gayten in 1947.

The following year, Welch covered “Ebb Tide,” which reached No. 25. The song was a No. 2 hit for the Frank Chackfield Orchestra in 1952.

That was Welch’s last Top 25 hit. With his silky smooth voice, he should have been a chart regular.

JUST WONDERING … how many people realize that Johnny Mathis, who has sold more than 350 million records worldwide, was a superb athlete?

A star athlete at George Washington High School in San Francisco, he played basketball and was a star hurdler and high jumper. He continued his athletic career at San Francisco State University on an athletic scholarship. In 1956, Mathis had the opportunity to try out as a high jumper for the U.S. Olympic team that was scheduled to compete in Melbourne, Australia.

Mathis had to make a decision — go for the Olympics or continue his budding music career. He opted to go for the gold, music gold.

He had 20 Top 40 hits, including four that reached the Top 5: “It’s Not for Me to Say,” which reached No. 5 in 1957; “Chances Are,” No. 1 in 1957; “Gina,” No. 5 in 1962; and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” No. 1 with Deniece Williams in 1978.

In addition to his Top 5 hits, Mathis is well-known for several other ballads, including “Wonderful, Wonderful,” “The Twelfth of Never,” “A Certain Smile,” “Misty,” “What Will Mary Say?” and “Small World.”

JUST WONDERING … why Allen Sherman is more known for his single hit record in 1963, “Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh,” than his work in television? The song reached No. 2 and was Sherman’s only song to reach the Top 30. Sherman was the creator and producer of the TV quiz show “I’ve Got a Secret,” which was broadcast from 1952 through 1967.

Garry Moore was the show’s primary host, and the original guest panelists were Bill Cullen, Henry Morgan, Faye Emerson and Jayne Meadows. Betsy Palmer and Bess Myerson later joined the panel, replacing Emerson and Meadows.

Barry “The Old Rocker” Levine writes about entertainment for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at dot0001@yahoo.com.