Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


When “Diane in Milwaukee” wrote asking how many versions we knew of Dusty Fletcher's “Open the Door, Richard,” we had no idea the answer would — like Fletcher's recording — require two parts.

Last week we itemized the first 15 “Richard” records, all of which came out in either January or February of 1947. In case you missed it, they are:

1. Dusty Fletcher. 2. Jack McVea and His All Stars. 3. Bill Samuels and the Cats 'n Jammer Three (Vocal By Sylvester Hickman). 4. Dick Peterson and the Vocal Yokels. 5. Charioteers. 6. Three Flames (Vocal by “Tiger” Haynes). 7. Count Basie and His Orchestra (Vocal Refrain by Harry Edison & Bill Johnson). 8. Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five. 9. Pied Pipers. 10. Merry Macs (With Orchestra Directed by Sonny Burke). 11. Bill Osborne and His Heptette. 12. Tosh “One String Willie” and His Jivesters. 13. Hank Penny. 14. Big Sid Catlett Orchestra. 15. Walter Brown with Tiny Grimes Sextet.

Our Part 2 of “Open the Door, Richard” picks up right there with more on Walter Brown's recording, and the story behind this Billboard headline: “WOR Slams Door on Richard.”

In a press release dated March 1, 1947, WOR, flagship station of the Mutual Broadcasting Company, announced an immediate ban on Walter Brown's “Open the Door, Richard” (Signature 1006).

Referring to the song in general, and its widespread media attention, as “a nuisance,” WOR went so far as to advise their comedians to “lay off the Richard gags.”

That very same day, while admitting nothing, Signature Records president, Bob Thiels, announced a recall of the Walter Brown discs, “because of some allegedly blue lyrics.”

Thiels respected the might of the Mutual network, with their 400 nationwide affiliates, and knew ignoring their edict was not an option.

Interestingly, the Signature interpretation is the only one with Richard's side of the story. Turns out he wasn't exactly sleeping, as he admits when he opens his window:

“Okay, okay, what's all the excitement about down der man?”

A man in the crowd answers with a question of his own:

“Hey, who are you up der wit yo head stuck out da window?”

“I'm Richard!”

“You are Richard? Well get away from that window and come on down here and open this damn door.”

Richard's retort: “Now listen here. I'm in here havin' myself a ball! I got me a fine mellow little chickie, and the blue lights are on. My ol' wife's way down in Birmingham, Alabama. Then everybody starts hollerin' for me to open the door. Phil Harris wants me to open the door. Bing Crosby wants me to open the door. Jack Benny wants me to open the door. If I wouldn't open it up for them, damn if I'll open up for you. Why can't you give a man a little peace?”

“That's what you been gettin' [peace and piece being homophones]!

You come out here and open that door and give us a little. Hey, wait a minute. Man, this door ain't even locked. Hey, look out Richard. Here we come.”

Returning now to our count:

16. Hot Lips Page (Apollo 1041). Page joined 14 other locked-out roommates of Richard's on Billboard's Honor Roll of Hits. Whatever the ranking each week for “Open the Door, Richard,” they credited the song to 15 different artists — essentially, a 15-way tie.

17. The final 1947 entry came in March when Melo-Tone released an uncredited “Open the Door Richard,” backed with “The Old Rainmaker.” After many years dormant, numerous artists revived “Open the Door, Richard.” None became hits, but here are nine more who at least knocked on the door:

1959: Red Blanchard (Dot 15901); Ernie Barton (Phillips International 3541); 1960: Dusty Fletcher (Savoy 1585, a 45rpm reissue of National 4012). 1961: Bill Doggett (Warner 5502). 1964: Pigmeat Markham (Chess 1891). 1965: Lennie Roberts (Deck 926). 1966: Billy Adams (Sun 401). 2000: Cuban Boys (P&P 7002). 2001: Al Simmons (Casablanca Kids 13T7).

This brings our total to 26 different “Richard” recordings, in just the U.S. Many others exist from beyond our borders.

IZ ZAT SO? As happened with the Beatles album with the recalled Butcher Cover, 19 years later, the ban and recall made Walter Brown's record the most sought-after “Open the Door, Richard” by collectors. It is now valued at about $100, four to six times the other 1947 releases.

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