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Ink Spots marked a first

Dear Jerry: I have three questions for you: 1. What was the name of the singer or group that, in the late-'40s, broke the color barrier in the South by becoming the first black act to appear in a popular Southern night club?

2. What was the name of the song that was banned from some radio stations in the late-'40s because of the line: "he beats the hell out of me"?

3. I have lived in Canton for only eight years, but I understand the legendary Alan Freed once worked here. Which station was he with, and when? _ Jesse Lukens, Canton, Ohio

Dear Jesse: Numerically, here are the answers:

1. In November 1948, the Ink Spots were booked by the Monte Carlo club in Miami, becoming the first black act to headline at a popular Southern nightspot. After opening the door for other black stars, the Ink Spots were followed in Miami clubs by Bill Robinson, Ella Fitzgerald, and Cab Calloway, respectively.

2. Years before signing with Capitol Records, Kay Starr recorded Good for Nothin' Joe, which does contain the line: "he beats the hell out of me."

In early 1949, while Kay was in the Top 10 on Capitol with So Tired, Modern Records dug up Good for Nothin Joe and issued it without Kay's knowledge.

Kay Starr personally obtained a cease and desist order that halted production, distribution and airplay of the tune. Meanwhile, some disc jockeys banned Good for Nothin' Joe, deeming it offensive.

3. Alan Freed, best known for radio stints in Cleveland and later New York, joined WAKR, Akron, in 1945, and worked there for about five years. Before WAKR, Freed worked in New Castle, Pa.

The controversial Freed, who contends he coined the phrase rock 'n' roll, was still several years away from the big bucks _ starting at WAKR for $60 a week.

Dear Jerry: When was the first 45 rpm single issued? I have asked many people this question. Some say it was 1948, some say 1949, and others estimate it was not until 1950. Can you settle this once and for all?

While on the subject, can you tell me the title, artist, and label of the first 45? _ Larry E. Altemose, Brodheadsville, Pa.

Dear Larry: Actually, we answered this question about three years ago, but it's a good one and worth repeating.

The first 45 rpm singles, which were manufactured by RCA Victor, appeared in early 1949. Their release coincided with RCA Victor's introduction of the famed 45 rpm Victrola, the phonograph designed to play 7-inch singles. For this important event, RCA issued a series of colored plastic 45s, covering several different styles of music.

Other major labels (Columbia, Decca and Mercury) followed shortly thereafter with their own line of "little records with the big holes." Most of the independent labels jumped on the 45 rpm bandwagon in 1950, though only with selective releases for the next couple of years. By 1954, the 45 rpm was the format of choice for nearly every label.

Since RCA simultaneously issued a dozen or so 45 rpm singles in 1949, there isn't one particular disc that came first. If, however, you want to go by the catalog numbers, then the first 45 would be That's All Right backed with Crudup's After Hours (RCA Victor 50-0000), by Arthur Big Boy Crudup, now a $60 record.

1990 World Features Syndicate