DEAR JERRY: Your columns reveal you are very aware of Nana Mouskouri. That's a pleasant surprise because many people have no idea who I'm talking about when I mention her.
I am therefore asking you about a boxed CD collection that, despite not being very old, seems impossible to find. And I have searched online as well as in shops.
It is said to contain all of her recordings in one massive set.
Jayney Benjamin, York, Pa.
DEAR JAYNEY: While massive is a good way to describe this anthology, it by no means contains all of her recordings the actual number of which is mind-boggling.
Nana has thus far recorded approximately 1,500 songs, resulting in 450 albums, and performed in more than a dozen languages.
Reflecting Nana's status as perhaps the world's top-selling female singer ever are her 300 gold and platinum album awards.
All that, and still counting.
The one of those 450 you ask about is likely “Nana Mouskouri Collection (1961-2004).” This French-made (Mercury Universal), 34-CD primarily focuses on 31 albums of French language tunes. It also includes a 132-page book. written in both French and English.
Though this limited edition 673-track compilation is sold out on the retail level, it does pop up at times on sites like eBay and Amazon.com. I have seen it recently offered in the $450 to $475 range.
If you really want to break the bank, consider the perfect companion: “Nana Mouskouri Collection - Complete English Works,” a 2005 release also from Europe's Mercury-Universal.
While not completely complete, this 20 compact disc set features 359 of Nana's songs in English.
Based on ones I've seen offered, this box should only set you back $275 to $325.
Between these two you'll have 1,032 tunes and still be missing about a third of Nana's total output.
Most of her albums came out in Europe, not a surprise since her home has always been there.
Europe is also the home of most of Nana's concerts, though she does tour in the U.S. every few years and those shows are always sold out.
Were it not for us being in another part of the world, more appearances on this side of the Atlantic would have resulted it even greater recognition in North America.
As it is, she managed just two charted albums here, and they came many years apart: “An Evening with (Harry) Belafonte & Mouskouri” (1966) and “Only Love - The Very Best of Nana Mouskouri” (1991).
DEAR JERRY: One of my all-time favorites is “Willie and the Hand Jive,” by the Johnny Otis Show.
Because of Capitol Records' somewhat unusual artist credit, I have often wondered if Otis himself is the singer? If not, who is? Someone in the “Show”?
Having never seen this topic addressed anywhere makes me think it is Johnny Otis singing.
Barry Duchan, Chapel Hill, N.C.
DEAR BARRY: The Johnny Otis Show was a show in every sense, thus the unusual credit.
His concerts and recordings featured many fine vocalists, including: Little Esther (Phillips); Mel Walker; Marie Adams; Marci Lee; Joe Swift; Lee Graves; and the Robins.
However, nearly all of the Capitol tracks feature Johnny Otis. His three top hits, “Willie and the Hand Jive” (1958); “Crazy Country Hop” (1959), and “Castin' My Spell” (1959), are among his many vocals.
Johnny, like Nana Mouskouri, is of Greek descent.
DEAR JERRY: Regarding the letter from Skipper T. Spence about the possibility of the Benton, Illinois radio station playing a Beatles record before WLS, it may be more of an impossibility. Here's why:
In Jim Kirkpatrick's book, “Before He Was Fab: George Harrison's First American Visit,” Jim details George's September 1963 visit to his sister Louise. Included is mention that the Benton radio station played the Beatles then, and even suggests it may have been the first time a Beatles record was aired in America.
It wasn't, of course, as we know that both WLS (February) and KRLA (June) were on the Beatles bandwagon several months earlier.
Note also that Vee-Jay, the U.S. label for the early Beatles records, was Chicago-based, and it would have been a priority for any promotional person making their rounds to deliver the new records to WLS as soon as possible.
John Grochowski, Chicago
DEAR JOHN: Good points! I'm especially surprised no one else made the Vee Jay-Chicago connection.
Thanks to you and all the others whose input made this a fascinating and historically significant topic.
IZ ZAT SO? Here is one early Beatles question we have yet to be asked: When and where in America did the first mention of “The Beatles” appear in print?
Knowing it's only a matter of time, let's tackle this one before someone asks.
The reference I'm picking as the earliest ran in the January 13, 1962 issue of Cash Box, more than a year before WLS played “Please Please Me.”
The very last news item in their International Section reads:
“A new rock 'n roll team, Tony Sheridan and The Beatles, make their debut on the Polydor label with “My Bonnie.” Sheridan was discovered by Polydor producer Bert Kaempfert while playing night spots in Hamburg's famous Reeperbahn.”