DEAR JERRY: One of my scratchy old 45s is “Are You Mine” by Sonny James. I believe I bought this Capitol single back in the 1950s, or whenever it first came out.
Anyway, as you probably know, Sonny James sings with an unidentified female on this tune.
It's not really a duet in the usual sense since they don't ever sing together. They just have alternating verses.
This woman's voice sounds so familiar to me but I just can't put a name with it. I even ran through a list of Capitol's better-known '50s female singers Kay Starr, Peggy Lee, Wanda Jackson, Jean Shepard, June Christy, Rose Maddox, etc., etc. but this girl's style is different than any of those artists. She really sounds good!
Can you name this mysterious lady?
Ronald C. Taylor, Evansville, Ind.
DEAR RONALD: During my years as a dee jay (1962 - 1976) I frequently played “Are You Mine,” a 1958 release (Capitol 3962), and it always frustrated me that anyone with such a prominent part remained anonymous. An announcer likes to tell the audience who they're hearing, and this is not just a background singer. Normally, a singer of such prominence would be credited on the label, though, as you know, only Sonny James is named.
Okay, no problem I thought. All we have to do is track down Sonny James and ask him. Since he made just this one duet, he will surely know her name.
Arrgh! Here is Sonny's letter of response regarding “Are You Mine”:
“As for the female vocal on “Are You Mine,” I have asked different ones, plus trying to remember myself, but for the life of me I cannot come up with who she is.
“I know that may seem strange but I'm stumped!
“One of the reasons is that I don't know if I recorded the song in Nashville or at the (Capitol) Tower in California. I was doing sessions at both places at that time, plus in Dallas, Texas.
“Wish I could be of more help, and if I should come up with her name in the future, I'll let you know.”
So this case remains unsolved - for now. Perhaps the singer herself, or someone who knows her, will see this column and come forth so we can hereafter properly credit her fine work.
Certainly someone who sang with one of country music's all-time greatest stars would remember the experience, even if Sonny himself is stumped.
Then again, maybe she was in the Witness Protection Program?
UPDATE: A few years later we solved this mystery. Read about it here.
DEAR JERRY: Terry Kath, of the group Chicago, died in an accidental shooting? When? How did it happen?
Jim A. Heiring, Kenosha, Wisc.
DEAR JIM: Terry Kath, Chicago's 33-year-old lead guitarist, accidentally shot himself to death on Monday, January 23, 1978, while playing with a gun after a party.
Kath spent the afternoon in the Woodland Hills, Calif. Home of road crew member Don Johnson, visiting and drinking with friends. The party broke up and only Kath and Johnson remained. Terry, a gun buff who frequently went target shooting, took out a pistol he usually carried and began twirling it around like a western movie gunslinger.
Johnson asked him to stop playing with the gun, but Kath replied “Don't worry. It's not loaded, see.” Kath then put the pistol to his head and pulled the trigger to prove his point. There was an powerful explosion and Terry fell to the floor. He died instantly.
IZ ZAT SO? In the mid-'70s, Chicago had five consecutive No. 1, numerically titled albums: “Chicago V, Chicago VI, Chicago VII, Chicago VIII” and “Chicago IX.” To better appreciate this feat, consider that only the Beatles had more consecutive No. 1 LPs (eight).