DEAR JERRY: When the Beatles first arrived on the scene in America, I began collecting everything by them, or about them, on records.
One Beatles novelty I have read about but still not found is “I Want a Beatle for Christmas,” by Becky (not Brenda) Lee.
Can you confirm its existence? If so, please provide as many details as possible.
Frankie Simone, Lancaster, Pa.
DEAR FRANKIE: You have the correct title, but working with just two-thirds of the singer's name may be an obstacle.
The young lady's full name is Becky Lee Beck and her musical Christmas wish did indeed come out as a single in late '64 (Challenge 59272).
The writer of “I Want a Beatle for Christmas” and the man behind these and other sessions involving Becky is my pal, John Suhr himself a recording artist and producer, and one who never fails to answer my questions. Today he reminiscences about recording Becky Lee:
“In the fall of 1964, I took Becky Lee, and her brother Bobby, to Nashville to do two tracks for a single.
“We did “I Want a Beatle for Christmas,” then one titled “Puppy Dog” for the B-side. Humorously, during the break on “Puppy Dog,” you can hear me barking like a dog.
“The original single is tough to find, though I did buy one on eBay recently for $25. But there's a reissue of “I Want a Beatle for Christmas” that's more obscure.
“In 1968, Becky returned to Nashville and we cut a spin-off I wrote titled “I Want a Chevy for Christmas.” “We put that on one side and the original “I Want a Beatle for Christmas” on the other side, and used them as promotional giveaways at a local Chevrolet dealership (Bill Heard).”
DEAR JERRY: In the late 1960s I worked at Charles Fuller Productions in Tampa, a studio that did everything from commercials and jingles to making hit records.
Blues Image and the Royal Guardsmen were just two of the bands whose hits came from that studio.
I worked on commercials during day and with the bands at night. I even played bells on the “Snoopy's Christmas” sessions.
Late one night, after recording some Blues Image tracks, we all went out to eat. Afterwards, at about 1:00 a.m., we went to a playground and sat on the swings, just talking about music. I was there with Mike Pinera and some other Blues Image members.
Suddenly we saw some strange lights in the sky.
While we sat, the lights came too close for comfort. Fearing abduction by aliens, we ran to the car.
The next week we recorded “Ride Captain Ride,” with lyrics like “upon your mystery ship, on your way to a world that others might have missed,” inspired by that strange night and a scary event.
Do you have any recent news on the Blues Image? Are they still together?
Phyllis Crosby, Tampa, Fla.
DEAR PHYLLIS: Though the “Ride Captain Ride” lyrics indicate the action begins at San Francisco Bay instead of Tampa Bay, we now know better.
Never again will I hear this million-seller (Top 5) and not think of its X-files connection. Thank you for sharing a story unknown to most earthlings.
Blues Image Mike Pinera, Skip Konte, Malcolm Jones, Manuel Bertematti, and Joe Lala managed just one chart follow-up to “Ride Captain Ride,” and it (“Gas Lamps and Clay”) did not crack the Top 80.
In 1970, lead singer Pinera joined Iron Butterfly. In the months ahead, Konte hooked up with Three Dog Night, and Lala signed on with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
After one huge hit single and three albums, Blues Image (1969-'70) disbanded.
IZ ZAT SO? Frankie Simone's above reference to Brenda Lee is interesting, apart from the similar name. Brenda's earliest singles (1956) credit her as “Little Brenda Lee (9 Years Old). Becky was only 10 when Challenge issued her debut single.
A year later, 11-year-old Becky wrote both sides of her second single: “Oh Please!” and “I'm Crying” (Shur 105).