Ask "Mr. Music"
Jerry Osborne

In syndication since 1986, and now in our 31st year — Over 3,100 questions answered
Most recent column here — 19 years of archived ones are linked below


FOR THE WEEK OF AUGUST 14, 2017

DEAR JERRY: My parents played a silly record that was about a man whose wife was abducted by a horse thief. It likely is from the early 1950s. Since I never heard it on the radio, it probably was not a hit.

From these clues, do you know the title and singer?
—Emily Kush, Springfield, Ore.

DEAR EMILY: You are right on all counts; it is a silly song from the early '50s, and not a chart hit. By Dizzy Gillespie and His Orchestra, the exact title is "You Stole My Wife - You Horse Thief" (Capitol 797). On the flip-side is "Say When."

Nothing in the lyrics suggest the wife was stolen, or abducted. Rather, she willingly rode off with the horse thief. Perhaps she fancied the two of them as a Bonnie and Clyde team, but without the violence.

Issued in December 1949, "You Stole My Wife - You Horse Thief" easily could have been played at your home in the early '50s.

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie (October 21, 1917 - January 6, 1993) is not only regarded as one of America's greatest jazz trumpeters, but is equally esteemed for developing other musicians, especially those playing bebop and modern jazz.

Those influenced by Gillespie include: Charlie Parker; Lee Morgan; Miles Davis; Clifford Brown; Fats Navarro; and Chuck Mangione.

Remarkably, Dizzy Gillespie never had a nationally charted record, neither an album nor a single.

As for awards, his jazz albums garnered 17 Grammy nominations, but only one LP was a winner. That came in 1975 in the Best Jazz Performance By a Soloist category, for "Oscar Peterson and Dizzy Gillespie" (Pablo 2310-740).

Oscar Peterson plays piano on this LP, but it was Gillespie's solo trumpet artistry that captured the Grammy.

In 1986, The Recording Academy honored Dizzy with another Grammy, this one being their prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

Just to refresh your memory, here are three verses of "You Stole My Wife - You Horse Thief":

Last night you came to dinner
My wife was makin' stew
You made me lose my dumplin'
While she ran off with you

You stole my wife, you horse thief
The wife that I used to adore
You stole my wife, you horse thief
But don't bring her back any more

Near the end is a verse where Dizzy does what Jerry Lee Lewis would later be famous for; including his name in the lyrics:

My wife and I would quarrel
But she was all to blame
She led me 'round in circles
Now "Dizzy" is my name

You didn't ask about availability, but Gillespie's original of this tune is one of 25 tracks on the 2000 CD compilation, "Capitol Records From the Vaults, Vol. 3: Capitol Jumps 1944-1953." (Capitol 724352554423).

DEAR JERRY: I collect music and coins, and my inquiry spills over into both hobbies.

A numismatic newsletter mentioned a campaign in the early 1950s, cooked up by the jukebox industry, to persuade the U.S. Mint to produce a 7-cent coin.

They wanted more than five cents per play, but were hesitant to double the price to a whopping ten cents. They favored a single coin that would split the difference. Is this really true? It sounds absurd.
—Lloyd Bradford, Kirkland, Wash.

DEAR LLOYD: Absurd describes the proposed 7-cent coin, but the industry did give it a shot.

Numismatists know the Department of the Treasury stopped minting a fractional coin — a half-cent piece — in 1857.

Nearly a hundred years later, they clearly had no interest in creating a goofy coin, just for jukebox operators to bridge the gap until they were ready to up the price to a dime.

The bigger issue then was whether the industry should jump from a nickel to a dime for one selection, and from six plays for a quarter, to three.

At the forefront of this endeavor was "The Cash Box" magazine, always a source of news and information for coin and vending machine operators. In fact, their sub-head at the time was "The Confidential Weekly of the Coin Machine Industry."

The January 7, 1950 issue began with two lengthy editorials on this subject. Here are excerpts from an unsigned, full-page piece:

"Trade Agrees . . . IT'S a 10-cent PLAY!

"For over seven years now 'The Cash Box' has been urging this field to go to a 10-cent play.

"This was the reasoning of all leaders in the business who foresaw that this industry could not continue profitably on nickel play.

"In fact, 'The Cash Box' was the very first publication in the country to bring forth the fact that the United States Mint should produce a 7-cent coin. Proving, in the editorial which we printed, that such a coin would mean tremendous savings as well as better business for hundreds of industries all over the country.

"But, knowing what a great length of time would elapse prior to the minting of a 7-cent coin, we returned to the suggestion (and appeal) that the trade had better turn to 10-cent play.

"The nickel today is the penny of yesterday. What with increased overhead, increased cost of machines, and increased cost of operation, the 5-cent coin can no longer present a profit margin to the operator. He must obtain at least 10-cent per play. The dime is the difference between profit and loss.

"Tho 'The Cash Box' has been singing this tune for over seven years, it now, triumphantly, sings it again. The dime is today the logical coin for play on any type of amusement and entertainment product in this industry.

"The field cannot survive on pennies. And the nickel is the penny of yesterday."

IZ ZAT SO? As of their 19th Anniversary Edition (August 5, 1961), "The Cash Box" shortened their name to just "Cash Box."

Now for some random jukebox notes:

The popularity of the jukebox in the U.S. peaked in 1956-1958, when at least 750,000 units were experiencing a metallic waterfall. In the 1960s and '70s, tape cartridges and portable players, requiring no pay to play, reduced the number of jukes in service to around 200,000.

The most popular jukebox ever was the Wurlitzer 1015, also known as "The Bubbler." Introduced in 1946 with a $750 price tag — that's $10,094 in today's money — over 56,000 units sold the first year.

In 1949, Seeburg's Select-O-Matic 100 was the first with 100 selections. By the mid-'50s, boxes with 200 selections were being manufactured. Seeburg produced the first jukebox to play 45 rpm singles. Previously, all boxes played 78s only.

Because each operator could determine the amount required to play their records on their machines, prices varied widely. In the 1970s, long before the digital era, jukeboxes could be found in the same region that still played one selection for five cents, and others charging as much as 25 cents.

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