This is the twenty-second in a series of examinations of music legends and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous music urban legends.
MUSIC LEGEND: Pat Boone recorded Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” but changed the song to the grammatically correct “Isn’t That a Shame.”
One of the more embarrassing facets of popular music history was the period in time when songs written and/or first performed by black artists were then re-recorded by white singers for the “white audience.”
As the white audience was obviously much larger, artists would typically lose out on a good deal of sales (and therefore, royalties) from this practice.
One such example happened when Fats Domino’s hit “Ain’t That a Shame” was released in 1955.
The song was popular on the “black charts,” but soon, a young performer (still in college) by the name of Pat Boone was asked to record the song.
As the legend goes, Boone, who was majoring in English at Columbia University at the time, changed the song to “Isn’t That a Shame.”
The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge, Second Edition: A Desk Reference for the Curious Mind cites this fact in their book.
It is not true.
It IS true that Boone WANTED them to make the change, but the change was never made, and the song was released as “Ain’t That a Shame” (well, actually, I believe it was mistakenly released as “Ain’t It a Shame,” but that was just a typo – the actual song say’s “that”).
It was a big hit, hitting #1 on the charts for a number of weeks.
However, oddly enough, this was one of the rare occasions where the cover version actually HELPED the original, as Domino’s version soon made its way back due to the popularity of Boone’s version, and put against each other, Domino’s version was clearly superior, so it actually re-ascended the charts itself!
MUSIC LEGEND: “Hang On Sloopy” is the Official Rock Song of the State of Ohio.
Forty-eight of the fifty states in the United States of America have official state songs (only New Jersey and Virginia are without state songs – Virginia just recently decided to change their state song so they’re without one at the moment). A lot of these songs are some of the most famous songs ever recorded, like “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Yankee Doodle.”
But only ONE state has an official ROCK song, and that state is the great state of Ohio, home of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame!
That makes some sense, but what’s interesting is WHAT song they chose…
“Hang on Sloopy” by The McCoys?!?
You see, the fellas in the McCoys were from Dayton, Ohio, and over the years, a marching band version of “Hang on Sloopy” had become very popular at Ohio State University football games. Soon, both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns were using the song, as well!
So, in 1985, when a Cleveland columnist wrote about rumors that Washington State was planning on having THEIR own official state rock song, the Ohio Legislature was quick to move, and soon, the following resolution was passed…
HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 16
WHEREAS, The members of the 116th General Assembly of Ohio wish to recognize the rock song “Hang On Sloopy” as the official rock song of the great State of Ohio; and
WHEREAS, In 1965, an Ohio-based rock group known as the McCoys reached the top of the national record charts with “Hang On Sloopy,” composed by Bert Russell and Wes Farrell, and that same year, John Tagenhorst, then an arranger for the Ohio State University Marching Band, created the band’s now-famous arrangement of “Sloopy,” first performed at the Ohio State-Illinois football game on October 9, 1965; and
WHEREAS, Rock music has become an integral part of American culture, having attained a degree of acceptance no one would have thought possible twenty years ago; and
WHEREAS, Adoption of “Hang On Sloopy” as the official rock song of Ohio is in no way intended to supplant “Beautiful Ohio” as the official state song, but would serve as a companion piece to that old chestnut; and
WHEREAS, If fans of jazz, country-and-western, classical, Hawaiian and polka music think those styles also should be recognized by the state, then by golly, they can push their own resolution just like we’re doing; and
WHEREAS, “Hang On Sloopy” is of particular relevance to members of the Baby Boom Generation, who were once dismissed as a bunch of long-haired, crazy kids, but who now are old enough and vote in sufficient numbers to be taken quite seriously; and
WHEREAS, Adoption of this resolution will not take too long, cost the state anything, or affect the quality of life in this state to any appreciable degree, and if we in the legislature just go ahead and pass the darn thing, we can get on with more important stuff; and
WHEREAS, Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town, and everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down; and
WHEREAS, Sloopy, I don’t care what your daddy do, ’cause you know, Sloopy girl, I’m in love with you; therefore be it Resolved, That we, the members of the 116th General Assembly of Ohio, in adopting this Resolution, name “Hang On Sloopy” as the official rock song of the State of Ohio; and be it further Resolved, That the Legislative Clerk of the House of Representatives transmit duly authenticated copies of this Resolution to the news media of Ohio.
And so “Hang on Sloopy” became the first (and only) Official State Rock Song in the United States!
MUSIC LEGEND: Cher’s first single was a novelty song about Ringo Starr.
Young Cherilyn Sarkisian dropped out of high school when she was 16, and eventually found work a few years later working along side an older man who would be an important part of her life for years, Sonny Bono. Bono worked with music producer Phil Spector, and soon, Cherilyn was getting work as a back-up singer on a few Spector recordings (Spector was big on overlapping sounds in his music, so Cherilyn never actually sang with the original artists, she would just sing and it would be edited on to the rest of the track).
Eventually, in 1964, Cherilyn was given a shot at her own single. Spector, though, had a rule about his artists – their names all had to be very easy to remember and they had to sound very “American,” like Darlene Love or Ronnie Bennett/Spector.
Cherilyn Sarkisian was not going to work, so under the name Bonnie Jo Mason, Cherilyn got her first shot…
and it was with a song about the Beatles’ Ringo Starr!!!
“Ringo I Love You” came out in 1964 and quickly disappeared from the charts.
One reason given by disc jockeys of the time was that Cherilyn’s voice sounded too much like a man’s, so the song sounded like a gay love song, which wasn’t exactly going to fly in 1964.
Cherilyn tried another single under the name Cherilyn, but that failed, as well.
Sadly, her two shots at stardom was a failure and her career never recovered…
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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