DEAR JERRY: I enjoyed the ABBA feature they've been running lately on the Biography TV Channel, but seeing it raised a couple of questions.
In the pre-ABBA years, they mentioned Benny Andersson being a member of “Sweden's most popular late '60s group, the Hep Stars.” But they didn't name any other Hep Stars. Who were they?
Did they have any records issued in the US?
Hugh Hillyard, Tampa, Fla.
DEAR HUGH: Benny's songwriting and keyboard skills were important to the Hep Stars, but the lead vocalist on most of their tracks is Svenne Hedlund, though a couple of songs do feature Charlotte Walker.
On guitar and backing vocals is Janne Frisk. Their bass guitarist is Lennart Hegland, and Christer Pettersson handles percussion duties.
Perhaps the other members are not identified in the biography because none are likely to be familiar names with North American viewers.
One person you do know, Benny's friend and future ABBA co-founder Bjorn Ulvaeus, sat in and played guitar on some Hep Stars' sessions though not as an official member.
One Hep Stars single, “Sunny Girl” backed with “No Response,” came out in 1966 in both the US (Dunhill 4040) and UK (Decca 22446), but did not chart in either country.
Copies of both of these turn up occasionally on eBay, usually selling in the $30 to $60 range.
Three years later another unsuccessful Hep Stars 45 came along, this time coupling “It's Now a Winter's Day” and “Musty Dusty” (Chartmaker 414). This one goes for about half the price of the Dunhill single.
DEAR JERRY: My favorite oldies station in Chicago plays only two songs by Earl Gray: “The End” and “Swingin' Gently.”
Since “The End” is a vocal and “Swingin' Gently” an instrumental, it got me wondering how common it is for the same singer to have both vocal and instrumental hits.
Has any performer made one of each that reached No. 1?
Delores Givens, Chicago
DEAR DELORES: You might have been drinking Earl Gray (tea) but it is Earl Grant whose singing and keyboard artistry you like.
Since you picked Earl Grant, I will, for this reply, stick with solo artists not orchestras, big bands, groups, choirs, etc.
There are far too many to list them all, but here are a few others whose recordings include instrumentals as well as vocals: Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Bobby Vinton, Junior Walker, George Harrison, James Brown, Glen Campbell, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Nat King Cole, Charlie Rich, Frankie Avalon, Lloyd Price, and Billy Preston.
Herb Alpert is your man with a No. 1 vocal, “This Guy's in Love with You” (1968), and No. 1 instrumental, “Rise” (1979).
This feat is especially rare because, from 1950 through 1979, only five percent of all No. 1 songs are instrumentals.
IZ ZAT SO? ABBA is an acronym representing the first name initial for each of its four members: Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.
Recently, Agnetha's first record has become quite hot in the marketplace. It is “Komm Doch Zu Mir (Come Nevertheless to Me)” backed with “Ich Denk An Dich (I think of You).”
Surprisingly, this 1972 single did not come out in Sweden, her home country. CBS recorded it only in the German language and issued it exclusively in that country (CBS S8415).
Adding to its appeal, Agnetha's first record came in a elegant sleeve picturing the lovely 22-year-old blonde. In recent auctions, these discs with sleeves brought from $500 to $750.