DEAR JERRY: I read with interest your piece about the Royal Guardsmen, since I was there at the studio when they recorded in Tampa in the late sixties.
I recall one story from then about Snoopy (Peanuts) cartoonist Charles Schulz filing a lawsuit, and “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” was rerecorded using some goofy names.
Fortunately, things worked out and all the Snoopy songs were cleared by Schulz for release by the Royal Guardsmen.
At this same studio, the Blues Images (“Ride Captain Ride”) and other top bands recorded.
What ever happened to Phil Gernhardt, the record producer? How about Charles Fuller, who owned the studio in Tampa where all those Laurie hits were recorded?
How are the guys in the group doing?
Those times were a real blast in my life.
Phyllis Crosby, Tampa, Fla.
DEAR PHYLLIS: Having missed this blast from the past, I have no information about Phil and Chuck. However, my pal Barry Winslow, lead singer of the Royal Guardsmen, can and will answer you personally:
“Hi Phyllis! Those were great times for sure.
“As far as I know, Phil Gernhardt is still producing records in Nashville. The last time I was in Music City, at Curb Records, I saw a sign in their lot indicating his parking space.
“I don't know about Chuck Fuller. We started recording in New York City at Laurie's own studio after the hit single. Chuck was definitely a neat guy.
“It was probably Charles Schultz's lawyers that did the suing. I don't think Charles really cared either way.
As for the other Royal Guardsmen, I haven't really kept in touch that much since I left the band, and that's really a shame, but life has to go on.
“I spoke to three of the guys Chris Nunley, Bill Taylor, and Bill Balough a few years ago, and they were fine. I think they're still doing okay.
“Unfortunately, Tommy Richards died in 1976 or '77 from a brain tumor. We were all in shock and miss him very much.
“Hope this answers your questions. Have yourself a great 2005!”
DEAR JERRY: My husband thinks he knows pop music better than I do, but I disagree and need your help to prove it.
In the car, we recently heard “I Don't Have a Wooden Heart” on one of those all-oldies satellite channels. But since there is only music and no talking, the name of the singer was not given.
I believe the voice to be that of Jim Reeves, who I know from several other big hits. Hubby says Reeves did not record this song and the singer is someone else, though he does not know who.
We anxiously await your verdict.
Cheryl Gibbons, Federal Way, Wash.
DEAR CHERYL: You may have to endure more gloating after this, but even though I was not with you in the car that day, I am certain the singer you heard is not Jim Reeves. He did not record this song.
The No. 1 hit of “Wooden Heart” (1961) is by Joe Dowell, and that is surely the track you heard. Making this assumption more a certainty is that Dowell's vocals can sound very similar to those of Gentleman Jim.
On “Lilli Marlene (Lady of the Lamplight),” one of the 34 tunes on the new CD, “Joe Dowell - Wooden Heart” (Bear Family BCD-16647), you'd probably swear they had mistakenly added a Jim Reeves track to the album.
All of this Joe-Jim comparison is, of course, a considerable compliment to Mr. Dowell.
For lots more information about Joe Dowell, as well as the complete “Wooden Heart” story, or to order the new Bear Family CD, visit JoeDowell.com.
IZ ZAT SO? As most folks know, the original recording of “Wooden Heart” came out in 1960 as one of the tunes on the Elvis soundtrack album, “G.I. Blues.”
For that session, the predominant instrument is an accordion, played by Jimmie Haskell.
Rather than using an accordian, the Joe Dowell “Wooden Heart” session is fronted by an electric organ attuned to simulate the sound of an accordion.
Surprisingly, the Nashville session player at the keyboard that day (May 26, 1961) is none other than Ray Stevens.
A few months later, this musical genius would begin a string of about 30 chart hits -- some humorous (“Ahab the Arab”; “Gitarzan”; “The Streak,” etc.), and some serious (“Everything Is Beautiful”; “Mr. Businessman;” “Misty,” etc.).