ASK FRED

Mojo (UK) - - Contents -

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.

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