DEAR JERRY: I bought a box of records at a tag sale, and discovered a gem I'd never heard before, by a girl group I know nothing about.
It is “Walking in Sunshine,” by Katrina and the Waves. Was their name inspired by Hurricane Katrina?
When did it come out, and was it a hit?
Keith Hopkins, Indio, Calif.
DEAR KEITH: I'm guessing you were not looking at the label as you typed, as the title you give is one preposition off course. It is “Walking on Sunshine” (Capitol 5466).
This tune is the first hit, as well as the biggest, for Katrina Leskanich and her male trio of Waves: Alex Cooper; Vince de la Cruz; and Kimberley Rew. All hail from England.
“Walking on Sunshine” made the Top 10 in the U.S., Canada, and the UK.
This breakthrough smash for Katrina and the Waves, along with their Top 40 follow-up, “Do You Want Crying” (Capitol 5450), came along in 1985, exactly 20 years before Hurricane Katrina began wreaking havoc on the Gulf Coast states.
DEAR JERRY: I have a Whirlpool dish washer, and when I load it a line from a 1950s song runs through my mind. The part that haunts me is “I'm in a whirlpool of love, goin' down, down, down.”
I think it might be one of Brenda Lee's records, but no one I ask knows of her, or anyone else for that matter, singing this particular song.
I am aware that Wanda Jackson made a record of “Whirlpool,” but it is a completely different song.
Wilma Gaston, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
DEAR WILMA: Leave it to those darn kitchen appliances to provoke mysterious memories.
The thrush whirling your neurons is Teresa Brewer, not Brenda Lee. Tessie's cute tune is simply “Whirlpool” (Coral 61948), a January 1958 single.
Despite being one of the highest-rated new releases at the time earning an 80 on Billboard's scale of 100 points “Whirlpool” failed to make any of the national charts.
DEAR JERRY: I remember when you listed all the No. 1 instrumentals, beginning in 1955.
That reminded of when I lived in southeastern Ohio, circa-1954, and an instrumental played quite often. The title is something like “Skokean,” and
I hope you can tell me more about it.
Rosemary Mountain, York, Pa.
DEAR ROSEMARY: You spelled it like it is pronounced, but the correct title is “Skokiaan.”
It originated as an instrumental by the African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia. Issued in Rhodesia in 1947 (Gallotone/Jive GB-1152), “Skokiaan (Tsaba Tsaba Dance)” didn't become an international sensation for another seven years.
That's when the original Rhodesian label reissued “Skokiaan (Tsaba Tsaba Dance)” in the UK, this time credited to the slightly less wordy Bulawayo Sweet Rhythm Band (Gallotone GE-1152), and no “Jive” on the label.
In mid-1954, London Records issued the Gallotone recording in the U.S. (London 1491), sans the sub-title and with Sweet “Rhythms” (plural) Band.
Along with the African original, five cover versions became quite popular in North America in 1954, including two vocals (lyrics written by Tom Glazer):
Ralph Marterie and His Orchestra (Mercury 70432)
Ray Anthony and His Orchestra (Capitol 2896)
Perez “Prez” Prado and His Orchestra (RCA Victor 5839)
Four Lads with Neal Hefti and Orchestra (Columbia 40306)
Louis Armstrong with Orchestra Directed by Sy Oliver (Decca 29256)
The Four Lads waxing is a vocal, as is the B-side of Louis Armstrong's record. Louie's A-side is an instrumental. The Columbia and Decca labels both show the full title “Skokiaan (South African Song).”
One or more of these would be what you heard so often in '54.
Skokiaan is an African homemade alcoholic brew, reminiscent of Kentucky moonshine.
Somewhat surprising is that singer Bill Haley's rendition is an instrumental.
If it's a great vocal you're wanting, I recommend Paul Anka's. You'll find it on his 1963 concept album, “Our Man Around the World” (RCA Victor 2614).