Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I recently heard Dick Clark being interviewed regarding Bobby Darin.

He said “Mack the Knife,” which he urged Bobby to not release as a single, turned out to be his only No. 1 hit.

Is this true? I would have thought some of his others would have also topped the charts.
—Michael Beechwood, Wickliffe, Ky.

DEAR MICHAEL: Dick Clark is correct, though four of Darin's hits came very close.

“Splish Splash” reached No. 3, but couldn't get past Perez Prado's “Patricia” and Ricky Nelson's “Poor Little Fool” (1958).

“Dream Lover” peaked at No. 2, kept from the top rung by Johnny Horton's “Battle of New Orleans” (1959).

“Things” stalled at No. 3, with Neil Sedaka's “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” and Little Eva's “Loco-motion” blocking Bobby's path (1962).

“You're the Reason I'm Living” also peaked at No. 3. Over a two week period, these three releases jumped over Bobby: the 4 Seasons (“Walk Like a Man”), Ruby and the Romantics (“Our Day Will Come”), and Skeeter Davis (“The End of World”).

An unrequited love made Skeeter Davis consider the end of the world in 1963, but about 20 years earlier the invention of the atom bomb and other real-life events brought that fear to the minds of many.

Naturally, the recording industry could not ignore a topic of such notoriety. Read on:

DEAR JERRY: After watching “Fat Boy,” a Paul Newman movie about the making of the atomic bomb, it made me think of a post-war song about this very topic.

The name Hawkshaw Hawkins comes to mind with regard to this tune but since I can't find it on any of his albums it may be by someone else.

There are a couple more songs from the mid-'40s about the bomb that were played a lot, but I don't know the details. Do you know of some others?
—Nadine Miller, Fife, Wash.

DEAR NADINE: The correct title of that 1989 film is “Fat Man and Little Boy,” and it is based on the Manhattan Project. Both “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” are code names for the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan.

Nearly 61 years ago (August 6, 1945), the B-29 Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb — a weapon known to the military as “Little Boy” — over Hiroshima, Japan.

Three days later, a second bomb, code named “Fat Man,” was detonated above Nagasaki.

Soon thereafter (August 15) Japan offered an unconditional surrender, thus bringing an end to World War II.

In the months ahead, several singers, representing most popular styles of music, recorded tunes with an atomic connection.

To use a common music industry term for a flop, most of these records were bombs.

Among them we find Hawkshaw Hawkins and his waxing of “When They Found the Atomic Power,” which came out in early 1947 (King 611).

This track is on the easily available Hawkshaw Hawkins CD, “I'm a Rattlesnakin' Daddy: The King Anthology, 1946-1963.”

In the six decades since the war, many other atomic bombs came along, but here are six issued in the mid-to-late '40s:

1946: “Atomic Cocktail” (Slim Gaillard Quartette, Atomic 215); “When the Atom Bomb Fell” (Karl & Harty, Columbia 36 982-4).

1947: “Atom and Evil” (Golden Gate Quartet, Columbia 37 236-4); “Atomic Energy” (Sir Lancelot, Charter 102).

1948: “Atom Bomb Baby” (Dude Martin's Round-Up Gang, RCA Victor 20-2985). Included because of the title and its timing. It is about “a jet propelled atom bomb baby, a super charged uranium gal.”

The only one that did become a hit is “Atomic Power,” a summer '46 issue by the Buchanan Brothers (RCA Victor 20-1850) that made the C&W Top 5.

With their rhyming names, Chester and Lester Buchanan even had a sequel: There's a Power Greater Than Atomic (RCA Victor 20-2553), which did not chart.

IZ ZAT SO? Just when you thought there would be no new ideas for concept albums, along comes “Atomic Platters: Cold War Music from the Golden Age of Homeland Security” (Bear Family Records, BCD 16065).

A musical Manhattan Project of sorts, it crams about 120 atomic-themed songs, such as those mentioned above, on five CDs.

The lavish boxed set also includes a DVD with nine short-subject civil defense and anti-Communist films and a huge hardbound book of Cold War era photos and notes.

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