DEAR JERRY: Last night on TV there was a singing commercial for the Target stores, and the song they use took me back at least 50 years.
By a girl, and titled something like "You're Dynamite," it's similar to one I heard as a teenager, but never again until now.
Who made this record oh so long ago?
Lena Stevenson, Evansville, Ind.
DEAR LENA: "Dynamite" (Decca 30333), released in the summer of '57, was the second chart record for Brenda Lee, then a 12-year-old powder keg whose dynamism quickly earned her the nickname of Little Miss Dynamite.
Though the recording in the Target spots is not Brenda's "Dynamite," their one-minute version is remarkably true to the original.
Unfortunately, the identity of Target's singer is not yet known.
DEAR JERRY: While reading the bio provided on Tony Bennett's web site, one little piece of information has me curious.
Here is their own account of how his stage name went from Joe Bari to Tony Bennett:
"In 1949, Bob Hope came to Greenwich Village to check out my act. He liked my singing so much that after the show he came to my dressing room and said: 'Come on kid, you're going to come to the Paramount Theatre and sing with me.'
"He also said he didn't care for my stage name (Joe Bari) and asked for my real name. I told him it's Anthony Dominick Benedetto. He said 'We'll call you Tony Bennett."
Did he make any records before the name change? Neither his site nor Wikipedia indicate he ever recorded as Joe Bari.
Who were some of the other Italians in the 1950s and '60s who didn't use their birth names?
Vincent Terenza, New Bedford, Mass. DEAR VINCENT: About two years before Tony signed with Columbia, teamed up with Percy Faith and His Orchestra, and recorded the million-selling "Because of You," he waxed two tracks as Joe Bari, for Leslie Records. He was just 22 at the time.
The A-side is actually a duet with Pat Easton. Together and separately they sing "Vieni Qui (Come to Me)" (label shows "Come to Me," but "Come Here" is a better translation).
The reverse, a Joe Bari solo, is the Gershwin brothers' "Fascinating Rhythm" (Leslie 919). Both sides also feature Marty Manning and His Orchestra.
"Vieni Qui (Come to Me)" is a pleasant male-female duet seemingly on a par with many of the other tunes then, and appropriate to accompany a gondola ride; however, the trade reviews were not so kind.
The August 20, 1949 Billboard review really panned it, saying: "poor lyrics, poor vocal, poor disk … in the end it's a nothing."
Suffice to say, the one and only Joe Bari record flopped, which makes it very rare and probably at the top of the want list of every Tony Bennett collector. He may not even have a copy.
Where there is both rarity and demand, there is value, and this elusive record is valued upwards of $2,000.
Besides Tony Bennett (Anthony Dominick Benedetto), here are some more memorable Italian singers, with both stage and birth names which occasionally vary from one source to another:
Al Alberts (Al Albertini)
Annette (Annette Joanne Funicello)
Frankie Avalon (Francis Thomas Avallone)
Sonny Bono (Salvatore Phillip Bono)
Freddy Cannon (Frederick Anthony Picariello)
Lou Christie (Lugge Alfredo Giovanni Sacco)
Perry Como (Pierino Ronald Como)
Don Cornell (Luigi Francesco Varlaro)
Alan Dale (Aldo Sigismondi)
Vic Damone (Vito Rocco Farinola)
Bobby Darin (Walden Robert Cassotto)
James Darren (James William Ercolani)
Lola Dee (Lola DeAngelis)
DeJohn Sisters (Julie DeGiovanni; Dux DeGiovanni)
Johnny Desmond (Giovanni Alfredo De Simone)
Dion (Belmonts) (born Dion DiMucci, which he began using on records in 1963)
Fontane Sisters (Bea Rosse; Marge Rosse; Geri Rosse)
Connie Francis (Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero)
Fabian (Fabiano Anthony Forte)
Gaylords: Ronnie Gaylord (Ronald L. Fredianelli) and Burt Holiday (Bonoldo Bonaldi)
Eydie Gorme (Edith Gormezano)
Buddy Greco (Armando Greco)
Joni James (Giovanna Carmella Babbo)
Morgana King (Maria Grazia Morgana Messina)
Frankie Laine (Francesco Paolo LoVecchio)
Mario Lanza (Alfred Arnold Cocozza)
Carol Lawrence (Carol Maria Laraia)
Gary Lewis (Gary Harold Lee Levitch) (his Italian mother is Esther Calonico)
Johnny Maestro (Johnny Mastrangelo)
Dean Martin (born Dino Paul Crocetti but legally changed to Dean Martin)
Al Martino (Jasper Cini)
Nick Massi (4 Seasons) (Nicholas Macioci)
Lou Monte (Louis Scaglione)
Laura Nyro (Laura Nigro)
Johnny Rivers (John Henry Ramistella). He did record as John Ramistella for one record in 1957
Bobby Rydell (Robert Louis Ridarelli)
Jack Scott (Giovanni Dominico Scafone Jr.)
Connie Stevens (Concetta Rosalie Ann Ingoglia)
Dodie Stevens (Geraldine Ann Pasquale)
Jerry Vale (Genaro Louis Vitaliano)
Frankie Valli (Francesco Stephen Castelluccio)
June Valli (June Foglia)
Timi Yuro (Rosemary Timotea Yuro)
IZ ZAT SO? Not every singer of Italian decent assumed a stage name. From the same two decades, these stars pretty much stuck with their family names:
Edward Brigati Jr. (Rascals)
Felix Cavaliere (Rascals)
Tommy DeVito (4 Seasons)
Julius La Rosa
Jimmy Sacca (Hilltoppers)