I recall a hit song in the 1960s from one of Troy Donahue's movies, possibly Rome Adventure. All I can remember is Al De La. It is a beautiful song that I'd love to hear again. Can you help?
You've got the title, at least phonetically. It is Al Di La and is, indeed, from Rome Adventure. It is found on that soundtrack album. The vocalist is Italian singer-actor, Emilio Pericoli, and it became a top 10 hit in the summer of '62. (Warner Bros. 5259). Two other marvelous versions of Al Di La charted later, first by Connie Francis (1963), and then by the Ray Charles Singers (1964).
"Misirlou' and "Miserlou'
My brother and I grew up in Liverpool, England; he was an avid collector of records, especially Dixieland and progressive jazz. One he had, Misirlou, is a piano solo by Jan August, though we never could find any other records by him. The musician has always remained a mystery to us. Was he a solo artist or a member of a band?
Misirlou, a top 10 hit in early 1947, became Jan's best known tune stateside. My UK charts go back to only '52, so I don't know how it fared there, but it must have been popular for your brother to have brought home a copy. Jan August (real name Jan Augustoff) began as a pianist with Paul Specht's Orchestra. Later he played piano and xylophone for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. But Jan had been a solo act for several years when Misirlou came out. From 1949 to '51, August accompanied singer Roberta Quinlan on her NBC variety show. August is also remembered for Bewitched (Bothered and Bewildered), the 1950 hit from Broadway's Pal Joey, performed with Jerry Murad's Harmonicats.
A drastically different rendition of Miserlou (and with a different spelling) has become a rock instrumental classic: Dick Dale's 1962 release. Buoyed by its choice as the dominant piece of music in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction, it became known to a new generation while also endearing itself to baby boomers who grew up on 1960s music. Since then, Miserlou has been featured in more radio and TV commercials than it's possible to recall, and it is on the playlists of most oldies format radio stations and satellite services.
Also, Dick Dale's Miserlou has one of the most instantly recognizable opening notes ever recorded.
Not just a one-time hit
I recently watched a street performer in Daytona Beach performing his puppet routine to a song that included these words: "Is you is or is you not my baby." Can you tell me anything about this song, such as the artist, correct title, availability, etc.?
Not having been to Daytona Beach since 1975, I missed this puppeteer's show, which means I don't know which version of Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby is part of the act. Most notable are the three waxings that became hits: Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five, from the film Follow the Boys (1944); Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters (1944); and Buster Brown (1960), my favorite of the bunch. These are available on different LPs and CDs. Among other artists to record Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby are Cootie Williams, Billy Butterfield, Dinah Washington, Errol Garner, Barry Harris, Joe Jackson, Anita O'Day, Sonny Stitt, and the Syndicate of Sound.
Iz zat so?
Among the No. 1 folk/country and western hits of 1944 are tunes by the nation's top C&W singers at the time, stars such as Al Dexter (Pistol Packin' Mama and Rosalita), Ernest Tubb (Soldier's Last Letter) and Tex Ritter (I'm Wastin' My Tears on You). Inexplicably, the tune topping those country charts in the summer of '44 is Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby, by R&B hitmaker, Louis Jordan. Conspicuous by its absence is a hillbilly twang or a cowboy drawl. There's not a trace of either in Jordan's version of Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby.
Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column. Write Jerry at Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368, e-mail: jojerryosborne.com, or visit his Web site: www.jerryosborne.com.
World Features Syndicate