DEAR JERRY: Here's a guessing game for you!
I am searching for a peculiar song that I think is titled "Guessing Game." The male lead singer is backed by a group whose only job is to repeat "guessin' games." It is mostly made up of song snippets, such as "Come Go With Me" (Del Vikings) and "Little Darlin" (Diamonds) ... and is truly weird.
It must be rare because I can't even find an MP3 of it on the Internet.
Sam Ward, Mississauga, Ontario
DEAR SAM: No need to engage in guesswork, as this is a very familiar tale of two Melbas.
And it truly is "truly weird."
First came "Guessin' Games," a May 1957 single by Bob Crewe, backed by an unnamed vocal group (Melba 119).
Yes, this is the same Bob Crewe who wrote and produced some top-selling records in the 1950s and '60s, including most of the 4 Seasons' hits.
Bob Crewe's "Guessin' Games" is a pretty good doo-wopish song, but it makes no reference or sampling of any other tunes. What it does have is an unidentified group singing the phrase "guessin' games," three times at the start and six more at the ending.
It's merely an educated guess, but I think the unnamed group on "Guessin' Games" is Four of a Kind.
They not only sound very similar, but Four of a Kind also had records on Melba, including "Dreamy Eyes" (#117), that came out right before "Guessin' Games."
Another of their releases is "(Our Song) Dedicated to You" (Melba 110), and it and "Guessin' Games" were both written and produced by the team of Frank Slay and Bob Crewe.
I can't hear Bob Crewe's vocal without thinking this is how it would have sounded if the singer were Johnnie Ray. It's just another guess, but as a top singing star in the 1950s, Ray may have influenced Crewe.
Seven months later, Melba issued another "Guessin' Games," this time by bandleader Morty Craft (Melba 122).
That is the version you are seeking.
With Morty's handiwork, the first 10 seconds feature the same singers heard on Crewe's record, but singing "guessin' games" six times.
And that's the extent of Craft's portion of the track.
The remaining two minutes are a non-lyrical, poorly-edited, montage of 1957 hit songs, in this order:
"Little Darlin'" (Diamonds)
"School Day" (Chuck Berry)
"Little Darlin'" again (Diamonds)
"With All My Heart" (Jodi Sands)
"Come Go With Me" (Del Vikings)
"So Rare" (Jimmy Dorsey)
"Mama Look at Bubu" (Harry Belafonte)
"Butterfly" (Charlie Gracie)
"Love Is Strange" (Mickey & Sylvia)
This record provides no clues on the label or in the grooves about its purpose. My guess is that one could play "Guessin' Games" for music loving friends, and see how many in the mishmash they could identify.
Another guess of mine is about Morty's inserts being mostly instrumentals, with some brief vocal clips. By not playing other artists' vocals, the hope would have been to avoid litigation over unauthorized usage. As far as I know, there were no legal problems with this record.
Here's more from the "truly weird" category; Morty Craft's "Guessin' Games," backed with "All Mixed Up," came out on Tod 122 around the same time as Melba 122, and "All Mixed Up" is the same recording as "Guessin' Games."
One unaccountable difference is that the writing credit for "Guessin' Games" is "Slay-Crewe," but on "All Mixed Up" (same track), the only composer shown is "Craft." Not even a mention of Slay and Crewe, who clearly wrote "Guessin' Games."
Regardless, Morty Craft, who also happened to own both Melba and Tod Records, was not the writer of any tunes sampled. Arrgh!
You say you had no luck finding an MP3 to hear, but I suspect your online hunt may have been derailed by searching for "Guessing" instead of "Guessin' Games."
You'll be glad to know both Melba recordings are easily located on YouTube. Here are the direct links:
Bob Crewe's "Guessin' Games"
Morty Craft's "Guessin' Games"
IZ ZAT SO? You've heard the term "one-hit wonder" to describe a musician with only one hit, but it could also apply to a label, in this case Melba.
Their one hit was "Church Bells May Ring," by the Willows (Melba 102), that spent 11 weeks on the pop charts and peaked at No. 11 on the R&B charts, in 1956.
While this is a very popular record among R&B and doo-wop collectors, and valued at $100 to $150, first pressings with a slightly incorrect title, "Church Bells Are Ringing," go for double that amount.
Here are four other collectible R&B Melba singles:
Monarchs "Pretty Little Girl" (Melba 101): $50 to $100
Tokens (Featuring Neil Sedaka) "While I Dream" (Melba 104): $50 to $100
Legends "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" (Melba 109): $75 to $125
Willows "Little Darlin" (Melba 115): $50 to $100