DEAR JERRY: Is Don McLean's “American Pie” the longest hit single song from the golden age of rock and roll? I believe there is at least one other recording that plays longer than “American Pie,” but I can't think of it.
Robert J. Forry, Woodstock, Va.
DEAR ROBERT: I must first point out that there is no source known to me that lists songs by running times. That leaves only an aging memory to scan for the answer.
I cannot think of a hit song from the period you mention that runs longer than the 8:32 version of “American Pie.”
For the convenience of radio stations, some seven-inch single records came with the complete track on one side, but most have this classic split into two parts. Some other lengthy hit tunes on 45s that come immediately to mind include “Hey Jude” (Beatles), “MacArthur Park” (Richard Harris), “Light My Fire” (Doors), and “Like a Rolling Stone” (Bob Dylan), but all are well under eight minutes.
In the olden days of analog and vinyl, it would have been a manufacturing challenge to squeeze more than eight and one-half minutes onto one side of a single. Of course there are a number of very long songs on albums, many of which consume all or most of one entire side of the disc, such as “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (Iron Butterfly) and “The End” (Doors).
These drawn-out tracks actually got a lot of air play, especially by late-night dee jays who appreciated as many 20 minute work breaks as they could program. Regarding this bit of radio chicanery, I have extensive personal experience. (Zzzzzzz!)
DEAR JERRY: During the recent ABC-TV feature, “Two Bunnies,” we hear the old song “Gee Whiz.” Neither I nor my husband can recall who made this tune popular, though we both remember it very well.
We know that you will know.
Eve Gillian, Southern, Conn.
DEAR EVE: I will know.
Since I did not have “Two Bunnies” on my must-see-TV list, I have no idea which “Gee Whiz” they played. However, I'll bet it's one of these three:
The original issue of “Gee Whiz” came out in 1958, by Bob and Earl (Class 231). Though it wasn't much of a hit, a 1960 remake by the Innocents made the nation's Top 30 (Indigo 111).
At exactly the same time as the Innocents rode the charts with “Gee Whiz,” Carla Thomas issued “Gee Whiz” (Look at His Eyes), a completely different song (Atlantic 2086). This soulful track outsold all the other gee whizzes, eventually reaching the Top 10.
It would seem more likely that a show about Bunnies would feature the Carla Thomas tune more so than either of the ones by male singers.
I do know at least one other household that watched “Two Bunnies.” A letter very similar to yours, asking about “Gee Whiz,” arrived from Ron Paluch, of Des Moines, Wash. (RJPAL69@AOL.COM)
Did the Sons of the Pioneers record this song or is it by someone else? In trying to find it, I have contacted some dealers, but none had it, at least not based on the information I have at the time.
Donna M., Evansville, Indiana (email@example.com)
DEAR DONNA : Except for the label and number, which I am about to provide, you already have most of the essential information.
The correct title is “Old Man Atom,” and it is by the Sons of the Pioneers (RCA Victor 0368). This single, a real departure from what we normally heard from the Sons of the Pioneers, came out in August of 1950.
IZ ZAT SO? In 1934, Leonard Slye, Bob Nolan, and Tim Spencer formed the trio known worldwide as the Sons of the Pioneers. In 1937, Slye left the group to pursue an acting career as Roy Rogers (“King of the Cowboys”), with Trigger (“Smartest Horse in the Movies”).