Ask "Mr. Music"
Jerry Osborne

In syndication since 1986, and now in our 29th year — Over 2,900 questions answered
Most recent column here — 17 years of archived ones are linked below


DEAR JERRY: Lately we have been streaming the second season of "ER," intent on watching all 15 seasons.

In one episode a mentally challenged patient named Mitchell keeps singing what nurse Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) describes as "a stupid little song that gets stuck in your head."

It did became contagious, and soon others were infected with the same earworm.

Part of it is "without you ... I'm Napoleon without his Josephine" and continues with more of "I'm (whatever) without (whatever)."

I cannot recall the other verses.

Was this written specifically for this show, or was it an actual record by someone?
—Virgil Hartman, McKinney, Texas

DEAR VIRGIL: This silly song is "I'm a Poached Egg," sometimes shown as "I'm a Poached Egg (Without Toast)."

It was written especially for the 1964 Billy Wilder comedy, "Kiss Me, Stupid," starring Dean Martin, Kim Novak, Ray Walston, Felicia Farr, and Cliff Osmond.

I wouldn't be surprised to find that the "ER" script called for Hathaway to call it "stupid," as an inside joke to tie in with the movie title.

In the film, Orville (Walston) and Barney (Osmond) are aspiring song writers, and Barney's latest creation begins this way:

I'm a poached egg without a piece of toast
Yorkshire pudding without a beef to roast
I'm a haunted house that hasn't got a ghost
When I'm without you

Other rhyming examples of an incomplete existence include:
A doctor without a single pill
A dentist without a tooth to fill
Las Vegas without a slot machine
A gypsy without a tambourine

A mouse trap without a piece of cheese
Vienna without the Viennese
Da Vinci without the Mona Lis (pronounced "lease")
A police force without a single cop
A kangaroo without a way to hop

A western without a hitching post
A network without a coast-to-coast
Venice without a gondolier
Milwaukee without a glass of beer
Switzerland without a mountaineer

Columbus without Queen Isabel
Neiman Marcus without a thing to sell
Mr. Hilton with only one hotel

Any egghead would have me diagnosed
As a poached egg without a piece of toast
Each time I'm without you

Rather than the fictional Barney Milsap, "I'm a Poached Egg" was actually composed by two brothers of some notoriety: Ira (words) and George (music) Gershwin.

In December 1964 a record of "I'm a Poached Egg," by Ella Fitzgerald (Verve 10338) was issued, coinciding with a Christmas release of "Kiss Me, Stupid."

The Verve single didn't chart, but Ella was outstanding as always.

There is also a reasonable digital option, titled "Jukebox Ella: The Complete Verve Singles Vol. 1" (Verve 44007605820), with 36-tracks (1956-1966) on two CDs.

This collection can be found in the $20-$25 range.

DEAR JERRY: About a year ago, you unearthed some songs that apparently didn't sell well enough to make any of the nationwide charts, yet managed to reach No. 1 in at least one part of the country.

I loved that information, and am wondering if you have come across any others.

How about something in the Boise area? We've had some mighty peculiar hits around here.
—Gene Wallace, Boise, Idaho

DEAR GENE: It's always a thrill to find another tune for this beguiling list, and yes, there are some newly-discovered entries.

Though I don't have as many Idaho surveys as I would like, I did manage to find one qualifying title from a station in your area.

Members of this unique club are listed chronologically:

July 1957: Tommy Ridgley "When I Meet My Girl" (Herald 501) KNUZ, Houston
December 1957: Bo Diddley "Say! (Boss Man)" (Checker 878) Nashville Tennessean
May 1961: King Tones Featuring Pete Mervenne "Wish for an Angel" (Musitone 102) WMAX, Grand Rapids, Mich.
June 1961: Janice Ward "When a Girl Gives Her Heart (To a Boy)" (Monument 442) WITH, Baltimore
November 1961: Betty James "I'm a Little Mixed Up" (Chess 1801) WKDA, Nashville
August 1962: Scotty Wayne "Only One" (Talent Scout 1008) KTKT, Tucson
December 1963: Young Men "Charlie Browning" (Bolo 742) KJR, Seattle
April 1966: Birdwatchers "Girl I Got News for You" (Mala 527) WFUN, Miami
August 1966: Playboys of Edinburg "Look at Me Girl" (Columbia 43716) KNUZ, Houston
April 1972: Uriah Heep "The Wizard" (Mercury 73271) KSPD, Boise

IZ ZAT SO? Of particular interest above is the record by Scotty Wayne.

Besides topping the charts in Tucson, "Only You" was also popular in Ohio, reaching the Top 10 in Columbus (WCOL) and Top 30 in Cleveland (WHK).

What was not widely known by anyone at the time is that Scotty Wayne was a stage name used by Baldemar Huerta, who for most of his career performed as Freddy Fender.

His first Top 100 hit, "Before the Next Teardrop Falls," came along in 1975, and went to No. 1 on both the Pop and Country charts.

It also received the Country Music Association's Single of the Year award for '75.

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