Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Jennie in West Haven, Connecticut recently asked you about the possibility of seeing Kiss on television in 1969.

Though that was not possible, Jennie may have confused them with a group called the Hello People.

I recall them performing mime-rock in white face paint, in the late 1960s.

Perhaps you know the Hello People? They had a brief run and somewhat of a counter-culture following.
—Richard Holloway, Brookfield, Wisc.

DEAR JERRY: Though they don't have much in common with Kiss, other than the face makeup, I remember seeing a group called the Hello People many times on the Johnny Carson TV show. This was in the late '60s and early '70s. Maybe that's who Jennie saw.
—Nancy in Oconomowoc, Wisc.

DEAR RICHARD & NANCY: You two Badgers are probably right.

If it is white face paint that sticks out in Jennie's memory, then there is an excellent chance it is the New York-based Hello People that she spotted on TV.

Indeed, there are far more differences than similarities between the two acts.

Each member of the Hello People's makeup and overall appearance is identical to any street corner mime you'd encounter on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

There is in fact a French connection to the Hello People. Their mime gimmick came from Marcel Carne's 1945 movie, “Les Enfants du Paradis” (a.k.a. “Children of Paradise”).

In this cinematic epic — regarded as one of the greatest films ever made — the central character is Baptiste Debureau, a theater mime. It is he who inspired the Hello People.

To that basic whiteface mime look, Kiss added an outrageous amount of glitz, such as flashy costumes, garish makeup, and a noisy, grandiose stage show.

In a Marcel Marceau-like tradition, the Hello People incorporated authentic theatrical mime routines into their act.

In concert, between vocal numbers when most acts might engage in chit-chat, the Hello People did not speak. They used hand-lettered signs, along with hand and body gestures, to convey their thoughts and whitty bits to the audience.

Then they would sing the next song in a normal manner.

Over 10 years — from mid-1967 through '76 — the Hello People produced a cluster of singles and albums. However, only one of these charted: “The Handsome Devils,” a 1974 LP.

Members came and went, but core Hello People include: Sonny Tongue, Gregory Geddes, Bobby Sedita, Larry Tasse, Michael Sagarese, Norman D. Smart, Peter Weston, and Ron Blake.

DEAR JERRY: From your recent 12-string guitar feature, I discovered the significance of this instrument to many of the artists and recordings I love.

You mention Blind Willie McTell as one of the pioneers of that style, so I went online hoping to pick up a few of his early records.

Yikes! I couldn't believe how high his old 78s are priced! I couldn't find a single one for less than several hundred dollars. I checked eBay and other sites, and the story is the same.

Is this the real market, or did I just wander into the shark's den?
—Marty Mitchum, Kankakee, Ill.

DEAR MARTY: A patient and determined shopper may find some bargains on some of Blind Willie's 78 rpms, but the market on pre-war blues records has been quite bullish lately.

Between 1927 and 1941, McTell recorded for these labels: Victor (1927-'29); Vocalion (1933-'34); Decca (1935); and Library of Congress (1940-'41).

I located 22 different 78s on these four labels, with prices ranging from as low as $200 to as much as $800.

A record collector would want the original 78s, but if it's just the music you seek, his complete catalog is found on numerous vinyl LPs and compact discs for far fewer bananas.

IZ ZAT SO? All of the above 78s are issued as by Blind Willie McTell, but there are many others credited to an assortment of pseudonyms.

Among these are: Blind Sammie (Columbia, 1929-'31); Harris & Harris (Victor, 1930); Georgia Bill (1931-'32); Hot Shot Willie (Victor, 1932); Barrelhouse Sammy (Atlantic, 1949); and Pig 'N Whistle Red (Regal, 1950).

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