Sunday, October 21, 2012

New Oldies - Mystery Girl by Billy Cook


Billy Cook was born William John Cook on 25 August 1942 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mom and dad, Daisy and Billy, along with his sister Peggy, all lived in a big house in Lester, Pennsylvania. Just like me, Bill was a big fan of gangster movies starring James Cagney, and television shows like The Untouchables. Bill graduated from Bishop Neuman High School in Philadelphia in 1960.


Bill also loved to sing, but he liked dancing even more. As a six foot tall teenager with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes, he landed a job as one of the top dancers on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. His unique dance style was a wild and almost mesmerizing spin on the classic Jitterbug. Although he personally preferred being called Bill, everyone on the Bandstand team always called him Billy. He had dreams of becoming a Broadway dancer one day, although few of the fellow dancers on the show shared that ambition. On one of his American Bandstand appearances, Billy had to endure a really short haircut. He wasn't thrilled with the way it looked and couldn't wait for his hair to grow back.

Billy made just one record, but it's a good one. This side sounds commercial enough to have become a hit back then. It's from the Lawn label, a subsidiary of Swan Records in Philadelphia.



Here's Mystery Girl by Billy Cook on Lawn 204 from 1963:





And here's the flip side, This Little World (Has A Moon Has Stars And You):



While working with Dick Clark, Billy frequently danced with Barbara Levick and Pat Molittieri. He and Pat became close friends and stayed in touch with each other for many years.




Pat Molittieri also made a really nice record of her own a couple of years before Billy made his record. It's about dancing, of course! Here's The USA by Pat Molittieri on Teen Magazine 414 from 1961:



Billy also got to know a lot of teen singing idols through his work on Bandstand and ended up becoming friends with Johnny Tillotson from Jacksonville Florida.


Here's one of my very favorite Johnny Tillotson records. This song peaked at #42 on the Billboard Hot 100 after hitting the charts on 18 January 1960 and staying there for 14 weeks. It did slightly better regionally, going to #25 on 1050 CHUM in Toronto and #31 on Cashbox.


Here's Why Do I Love You So by Johnny Tillotson on Cadence 1372 from 1960:



You can read more about Billy Cook and all the dancers on American Bandstand in a great blog called The Princes And Princesses of Dance. They've even put a video clip on YouTube featuring Billy Cook.

Of course, you can also hear Billy Cook's record, Pat Molittieri's record, and ALL of Johnny Tillotson's records on MusicMaster Oldies. While you're listening, feel free to roll up the rug, kick off your shoes, and dance like you're on American Bandstand!

3 comments:

  1. That "Mystery Girl" song, I see that it was written by one of the Juniors, as in Danny & the Juniors, Joe Terry. Given the overall sound of the song, I take him to be the same guy, like something Danny and the Juniors would have recorded...

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    1. I can't find any reference to the song ever being recorded by Danny And The Juniors. However, I see it was also done by Mark Valentino on his self-titled album on Swan LP 508, also released in 1963. Both came out three years after Danny And The Juniors were signed to Swan Records in 1960 where they released their final chart hit, Twistin' USA. Good observation! I'll keep hunting for more covers of this song.

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  2. Joe, just a note - while it's nice to have the Johnny Tillotson track in stereo, this is a re-make. I can't find its source, but the tremolo guitar sound is different as is the chorus, and the tempo is a bit slower. It isn't bad at all - it's just not "it."

    I must add that I like Billy Cook's B side better than the A - interesting tempo changes that he actually makes work. Thanks for the discovery!

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