DEAR JERRY: Of special interest to me is when you do a “whatever happened to” feature. Now I would like to suggest Matt Lucas a good '60s artist that I haven't heard squat about for over 30 years.
As a Canadian living in Windsor, I recall that Lucas had several R&B-style hits in the Windsor-Detroit area. Most notable among them is probably “I'm Movin' On.”
I once went to one of Matt's concerts, and standing out in my memory is my surprise to see that he was a white singer. Though the label “blue-eyed soul singer” was usually attached to the Righteous Brothers and to the young Tom Jones, no one epitomized that term more than Matt Lucas.
Whatever happened to this energetic entertainer?
Kris Harper, Buffalo, N.Y.
DEAR KRIS: Matt is still energetic, and he is still entertaining. He is constantly touring and performing worldwide at clubs and various rockabilly music festivals.
I recently spoke to the “Blue-Eyed Blues Wonder,” who shares with us some of his memories of those early years especially in the segregated south.
“In Memphis, when we first shipped “I'm Movin' On” to the local dee jays, the reaction was pretty much that it was too wild and crazy. Worse yet, the white pop music format stations wouldn't touch it.
“I even went in person to some of the Memphis area stations, so they could see me. It didn't matter. They said I sounded too black, and considered the song too wild.
“I got tired of hearing that so I went to WDIA, one of top R&B stations in the world. Memphis legends Rufus Thomas and B.B. King were just two of the famous dee jays there. Rufus Thomas asked me “how come your own folks won't play your record?” I said, “Rufus, they say I sound too black."
“Rufus then asked to hear “I'm Movin' On.” After playing it he said, “Matt, you do have a lot of soul and you're gonna have a big hit here. I am going to play the heck out of this record.”
“He played it quite often, then got everyone at WDIA to play it. Then the other black stations jumped on it.”
“From that, the record became a big hit in Memphis. It then made the playlists of the white radio stations, like WHBQ. The white radio stations had to play the record because it was a hit, but it all started with Rufus Thomas on WDIA. Next thing I knew, it was climbing all the national (Billboard, Cash Box, Record World, etc.) charts.”
At about this same time, Rufus Thomas was very a hot R&B artist himself, with all of his “dog” hits. He had “The Dog,” then “Walking the Dog,” followed by “Can Your Monkey Do the Dog.”
Fortunately, most of Matt's recordings are easily available on one “Greatest Hits” CD. For titles and ordering information, write: Blue Jam Records, PO Box 96, McAlpin FL 32062.
My maiden name was Sweeney, and as a teenager in the '50s I took a lot of good-natured teasing because of a hit song.
I am quite sure the true title is “Call Me Sweetie,” but my friends used to always sing “call me, Sweeney.” Then followed a part about being bitter (sweet-bitter, get it?). The singer is a female with a powerful voice.
Be a sweetie and identify this long lost tune for me.
Janet Sweeney-Morgan, New Haven, Conn.
DEAR JANET: I must take advantage of this opportunity to increase my sweetness ranking.
Your mystery song is “Don't Call Me Sweetie (Cause I'm Bitter),” a summer '57 hit for Eileen Rodgers (Columbia 40908).
Perhaps because your friends did want you to call them, they intentionally omitted the “Don't” from the title, thus leaving it in your memory sans the first word.
You are quite correct about the great voice of Eileen Rodgers. Her Top 20 hit, “Miracle of Love,” is one of the finest pop female vocals of the era. “Treasure of Your Love” is another gem.
IZ ZAT SO? The 1963 hit single of “I'm Movin' On” is Smash 1813 ($8 to $12); however, the original issue came out on Renay 304, a tiny Memphis label. This first pressing can sell for over $100.