DEAR JERRY: Recently while working on a house for an elderly couple, I noticed an interesting item thumb tacked to the garage wall. I was instantly drawn to it as the content got my attention. It was a hand bill-program for the Surf Ballroom Winter Dance Party, Monday February 2, 1959.
It has the names and pictures of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, and Dion and the Belmonts. At the bottom is a banner with the name of Frankie Sardo.
After a bit more discussion about the piece, I was asked if I would like to have it. Of course I said I would love to have it, and the owner carefully removed it from the wall and handed it to me.
I was moved by the gesture and truly prize this item.
I do not recognize the name Frankie Sardo, nor do I know “Take Out,” which is described as “his new hit song."
In general, I am fairly knowledgeable on '50s and '60s rock and roll, and am always winning trivia contests. Could it be that this singer and his song is one that I just missed.
Any info on any of this will be greatly appreciated .
J.R. Hesse, Palm Harbor, Fla.
DEAR J.R.: Frankie Sardo is indeed mentioned at the bottom of the poster, in type the same size as the four headliners, but without a photo. He is labeled an “Extra Attraction,” along with a plug for his “New Hit.”
However, they made a significant error by showing Sardo's tune as “Take Out.” The correct title is “Fake Out” (ABC-Paramount 9963).
Billboard magazine's record reviewers ran a glowing endorsement for “Fake Out,” as well as its flip, “Class Room,” crediting both with potential. The magazine made this disc a “Spotlight Winner the Pick of the New Releases,” in their October 6, 1958 issue, saying:
“Sardo bows on the label [ABC-Paramount] with two strong readings. 'Fake Out' employs many phrases currently in vogue with teens. 'Class Room' is a breezy, topical theme that should also generate teen interest and attract teen coin. Both sides are rockers.”
Even with concert tour publicity and favorable trade magazine critiques, neither “Fake Out” nor “Class Room” landed a spot anywhere on the Top 100.
Regardless, Frankie Sardo did not disappear the day of the crash (February 3, 1959). He continued to record regularly through 1962, landing short-lived disc deals with Lido, 20th Century-Fox, Newtown, SG, Studio, and Rayna.
Judging from your picture in the paper, you may be too young to remember this song, but I'm asking anyway.
Do I remember it correctly, or am I nuts?
Fred Bramer, York, Pa.
DEAR FRED: There are no signs of nuttiness on either count.
Yes, there is a mid-'40s hit song titled “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well,” and yes, I am too young to remember it at least at the time it became popular. I celebrated my first birthday as this tune topped the charts. I have since made it a point to learn as much as possible about the music of the first half of the previous century.
Perhaps, in a tactic that flies in the face of conventional touchups, I should have that shot altered to make me look older.
“Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well,” a No. 1 hit in the summer of '45, is by Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra (Decca 18674).
IZ ZAT SO? As with nearly all of the big bands and dance bands, Lucky Millinder frequently relied on featured vocalists. On “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well,” the singer is none other than legendary blues shouter Wynonie Harris.
The following year, 1946, Harris himself a topic of several past columns kicked off a very successful solo career.