DEAR JERRY: A couple of years ago, I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
I was so surprised that Connie Francis and Neil Diamond were not inducted that I wrote them a letter, which they never answered.
How do you feel about this situation? Maybe you can put something in your column about it.
Fred C. Nelson, Milwaukee
DEAR FRED: You have no idea how many times this topic has been thrashed about in this feature.
We have gotten countless letters over the years, expressing pretty much the same frustration as you, though most with a great deal more rage.
You can bet your unanswered letter to them is but one among many. It's hard to imagine what answer they could possibly come up with to justify inducting dozens of lesser qualified artists while ignoring some true superstars, such as the two you ask about.
Percy Sledge (five Top 40 hits) and Patti Smith (one Top 40 hit) inducted ahead of Connie Francis (35 Top 40 hits) and Neil Diamond (37 Top 40 hits)? Are you kidding me?
Pick any criteria: number of hit singles; albums; total sales; worldwide impact;, years performing; idol factor; etc., etc, there is still no comparison. No contest.
Since this goes far beyond ignorance it must be political, but I have given up trying to make any sense of it. Many in the industry feel the R&R Hall's credibility is nil because of such lunacy. I even hear from people who root against Cleveland's sports teams because of this issue, a tactic that strangely enough seems to be working quite well.
You will be pleased to know both Connie Francis and Neil Diamond are among the charter batch of 2007 inductees in the Hit Parade Hall of Fame, where the choices are made by votes from general public, who, in this case, are infinitely more informed than the RRHOF.
Finally, here is a note I received to one of my columns in 2004 on this touchy topic, sent by an equally mystified and frustrated Floridian:
DEAR JERRY: Thanks so much for the kind words and support in your column. I trust you got the cassette I sent of some songs for a new album.
As for the R&R Hall of Fame, I'm as much in the dark as you are.
Connie Francis, Parkland, Fla.
DEAR CONNIE: Grrrrrrrrrrrr! Just thinking about this again makes me growl. (I did get the tape, and love it. Thanks!)
We best move on to something else ... like a nice pre-Bread story:
DEAR JERRY: Readers in general, and especially the person who wrote about the early David Gates record, “Jo-Baby,” may enjoy knowing it also came out on a small Baltimore label, Rescue Records. Oddly though, it was released under the names “Jennie & Jay.”
I found it on a record hunt while working for a Washington D.C. radio station.
Bob O'Brien, WYUU-FM, Tampa Bay, Fla.
DEAR BOB: This hyphenless “Jo Baby” (Rescue 102) came out in 1962, five years after the original Gates issue.
Made for a tiny label in Tulsa (Perspective 500), this 1957 single credits “The Accents (Vocal By David Gates).”
One year later, the same “Jo-Baby” resurfaced on a Nashville label (Robbins 1008), this time by “Dave Gates & the Accents.”
Both the Perspective and Robbins singles have “Lovin' At Night” as the flip side. David was just 16 when he recorded these two songs.
By just looking at the Rescue label, which reads “Jo Baby (David Gates), Jennie and Jay, (Arranged & Conducted by Jack Gale),” one might assume Gates is either “Jay,” or is somehow involved with this track. However, his name on the label is merely an indication that he wrote the song for Jo Rita, his high school sweetheart whom he later married.
Also of interest, the Rescue single is not even the first recording of “Jo Baby” by Jennie and Jay. Their first single of David's beautiful ballad came out in 1959 (Town 1963), a follow-up to “Ruthie” (Jay Wing 5803). Jennie and Jay is a pseudonym for Patricia and Joe Ritter, a sister-brother duo from the Baltimore area.
As for Jack Gale, while working as a dee jay at WITH-AM, he discovered the Ritters and got them into the studio in 1958 to record “Ruthie,” then again to make “Jo Baby.”
IZ ZAT SO? Between 1957 and '60, David Gates made five records, all of which are now in the $150 to $350 range.
Except the two issues of “Jo-Baby” mentioned above, they are credited to David Gates: “Jo-Baby” (Perspective 500); “Jo-Baby” (Robbins 1008); “Walkin' and Talkin'” (East West 123); “Kiss and Tell” (Jads 301); and “You'll Be My Baby” (Mala 413).