DEAR JERRY: I have searched all the top mail-order and online sources for music, but continue to strike out when it comes to finding things by the Bell Sisters.
Were they really sisters? What were their ages when they had their hits? How many were there? Are they still with us?
If not already issued, their biggest hit, “Bermuda,” and several that followed (some with Phil Harris, I believe) ought to be put out on CD.
Might you know of a place to purchase their tunes?
Jo Carrier, Lancaster, Pa.
DEAR JO: That I do, and so shall you.
The Bell Sisters Cynthia and Kay Strother are indeed real-life sisters.
In 1951, at just 16 years of age, Cynthia wrote “Bermuda.” She and Kay, then 11, sang it on “Peter Potter's Search for a Song,” a Los Angeles TV show that introduced and judged new talent similar to Fox TV's “American Idol,” but lacking all of the spicy controversy.
Similar to “Idol,” standard fare then had contestants singing popular songs made famous by other artists. For entrants of any age to perform an original composition was very uncommon at the time, but much more so for ones so young.
The Bells professionalism impressed one of the judges so much that he published the tune, meaning anyone could then record it. Knowing “Bermuda” would be covered by other artists, RCA Victor rushed the teens into the studio to ensure their version would be the first one released. About a week later, “Bermuda” (RCA Victor 47-4422) shipped to stores and distributors, beating Ray Anthony's rendition (Capitol 1956) by just two weeks.
The original, by Bell Sisters, sold much better than the Anthony cover. Their “Bermuda” lingered in the Top 10 for five weeks in the spring of 1952.
Neither matched the success of “Bermuda,” but the girls did have two follow-up chart hits: “Wheel of Fortune” and (RCA Victor 47-4520) “Hambone,” with Phil Harris (RCA Victor 47-4584).
Easily available from various online sellers is a career restrospective, 57-track CD: “The Bell Sisters - The Bermuda Girls.” This set includes everything made by Cynthia and Kay.
For more information, and to order their very comprehensive CD, visit: bellsisters.com. The site is nicely maintained by their nephew, Rex Strother.
Now in their mid-60s, both Bell Sisters are active and doing quite well and Cynthia still receives royalties for “Bermuda.”
DEAR JERRY: Scotty Moore is best known as the lead guitarist on most of Elvis' hits, but I'm wondering if he ever recorded on his own.
Also, did he play on recordings by any other singers?
Pat McGahan, Lakeland, Fla.
DEAR PAT: Besides those 14 years of hits by his most famous colleague, Scotty Moore's lead guitar artistry also enhances recordings by dozens of other singers.
Some that come immediately to mind are: Jerry Lee Lewis, Ral Donner, Ann-Margret, Carl Perkins, Billy Swan, Ernest Tubb, Tommy James, Ronnie McDowell, Sonny Burgess, Ronnie Wood, Chip Young, and Tracy Nelson.
In 1958, Moore co-founded Fernwood Records. Their sixth release (No. 106), “Tragedy,” sung by Thomas Wayne and produced by Scotty, became a Top 5 hit.
Fernwood's next single answers another of your questions, as it is “Have Guitar, Will Travel,” by the Scotty Moore Trio.
Another of Scotty's own issues is an LP issued in 1964, that bears one of the greatest titles ever given an album: “The Guitar That Changed the World” (Epic 24103), a collection of a dozen mid-'50s Presley classics.
Discover much more about Moore online at: scottymoore.net.
IZ ZAT SO? The success of “Bermuda” fueled an international demand for the Bell teens do TV appearances and concert tours, and in 1953, they made their first USO tour of Korea.
Kay, then just 13, became the youngest performer ever to tour with the USO.
Cynthia and Kay also appeared in three feature films: “Cruisin' Down the River; Those Redheads from Seattle;” and “Les Brown Goes to Town.”