Strife at the Opry? But how?
You’re waiting for a knock and the turning of a lock – until then, enjoy Dellar’s space, TOTP and C&W lore! Why was singer Skeeter Davis banned from the Grand Ol’ Opry in the ’70s? Marilyn Black, via email
Fred says: Skeeter raised the ire of the Opry hierarchy in December 1973 after an incident in which she criticised the Nashville police force. The row began when the Christ Is The Answer Crusade and their 30 trucks hit Nashville. On Saturday, December 8, on a break between spots on the Opry, Skeeter saw several Jesus people arrested at the local shopping centre, where they were accused of harassment. When she returned to the Opry stage, she told the audience, “This is really something that I should share… they’ve arrested 15 people just for telling people that Jesus loves them. And that really burdened my heart, so I thought I would sing you all this song.” Skeeter launched into Amazing Grace. She refused to apologise and was later suspended indefinitely. But a year later she was back, remaining until her death, aged 72, in 2004.
WHO WAS LIVE FIRST ON TOTP?
I know artists mimed on early editions of Top Of The Pops, but who was the first to actually perform live? Jim Harvey, via email
Fred says: The honour goes to Edinburghborn blues vocalist Tam White, who sang a live cover of Jack Scott’s hit What In The World’s Come Over You on the show’s March 13, 1975 edition. A member of The Boston Dexters in the ’60s, he recorded with The Buzz in 1966 but then faded until scraping into the Top 40 with his Mickie Most-produced RAK single. In 1987 he sang the vocals for Big Jazza McGlone (played by Robbie Coltrane) in John Byrne’s TV series Tutti Frutti. A stonemason by trade, he played minor acting roles on TV and appeared in the Mel Gibson film Braveheart.
WHO FIRST COVERED THE BEATLES?
How soon after Love Me Do appeared was the first Beatles soundalike 45 released, and who recorded it? An obscure Tin Pan Alley chancer tipped-off, or a Merseybeat insider? And what about the US? Thom Chippendale, via email
Fred says: The first performer in the UK to cover a Beatles song was Kenny Lynch, who, on March 15, 1963, released a version of Misery (HMV, POP 1136), with an orchestral backing by Harry Robinson. Lynch had been on various bills with The Beatles and later graced the cover of Macca’s Band On The Run in 1974. The first North American cover is believed to be Del Shannon’s vers i on of From Me To You, which surfaced on the US Big Top label and on Quality in Canada in 1963. That year, Shannon appeared with The Beatles, Lynch, The Springfields and others at a concert series at the Royal Albert Hall, presented by the BBC under the title Swinging Sound ’63.
MORE SPACE ODDITIES
Your Ray Bradbury question caught my eye with its picture of Mercury astronaut, Wally Schirra, and the bit about hearing music in space. This all falls right into my background both in astronomy as well as my long interest in the American manned space program. Wally said the music he heard had been around for 12 years, so there is no way it could be floating around Earth (so to speak) since, if in the form of radio broadcasts, it would have been 12 light years out in space. Maybe he was being pranked by some terrestrial broadcaster or even people at NASA. One other Ray Bradbury-related incident from when I was [working] at the Washington Planetarium. We were trying to come up with an idea for a new [film] show in the late ’70s/early ’80s, and someone suggested a script to be written by the bard of sci-fi. We agreed on a topic – the origin and development of the universe – and he began writing it. When it came back – and after an extensive in-house review adhering to the Smithsonian’s strict guidelines of being factual and scientifically correct – there were some things we felt had to be corrected. Bradbury did not agree, since scientists changed their minds all the time. At that point, we parted company. Tom Callen, Stockholm
Fred says: One more Scandinavian note on the Ray Bradbury question. Reader Arild Strømsvåge emailed to add that there’s a Norwegian band called Sing My Body Electric, led by one of Norway’s foremost contemporary poets, Terje Dragseth.
WERE THE SPUTNIKS FRENCH FRIED?
Whenever the name Sigue Sigue Sputnik comes up, a good but unreliable friend will remind us of the time he saw them booed off at a French festival. And he insists they were the support for The Forest Hillbillies. Please confirm or bury the story.
Blaise Thompson, via email
Fred says: This was the Trans Musicales festival in Rennes, just prior to Christmas 1985. It seems Sputnik, then little known, did not please the punters. Soon after, the South London Mercury interviewed guitarist- singer Matt Andrews, one of the three Forest Hill brothers, who recalled: “We were headlining that night. Everyone was say i n gth at Sputnik were going to be big but, at the time, they hadn’t brought out a single. There was a near-riot on-stage and we nearly didn’t go on.” Happily, the Hillbillies soon placated the Gallic bottle-throwers. So, yes, it did happen.
All God cons: (clockwise from top) Skeeter Davis feels the spirit; Sputnik’s Martin Degville and his mum in happier times; Fabs early adopter Kenny Lynch; TOTP live trailblazer Tam White; the ever-interstellar Ray Bradbury in his Tardis.