Wednesday, May 21, 2008


A friend who is also into the oldies mentioned a title he’d recently requested on WPON – “Doll House” by Donnie Brooks. I certainly do remember Donnie Brooks for his main hit, “Mission Bell.” That one is pretty high up on my list of Top 101 Faves, but try as I might, I couldn’t quite remember “Doll House.” Still, I had the feeling that, if I heard it, I might remember it. Fortunately, someone on YouTube has posted “Doll House” so I was able to test my theory. Ah, it all came back to me, I did faintly remember hearing that song so long ago. And so I should, it was a Top 40 hit!

After that, I decided to look up some info on Donnie (who left us for Rock and Roll Heaven only last year). It seems, like many artists of yesteryear, he ditched his birth name in favor of something a little more career-friendly. Donnie was born John Dee Abohosh. (kind of a mouthful, but really, not all that bad, we music fans have all heard worse). Later, he was adopted by a stepfather and got the new surname, Fairecloth (okay, that sounds a little, um, antiquated for rock and roll, let’s see, what else we got). Once he started performing professionally, he was known as Johnny Faire. That’s kinda snappy; I like that. Under this name, he recorded “Bertha Lou, ” a song that rockabilly artist Clint Miller had better luck with. I became briefly aware of Bertha Lou when writing a chapter (Songs About Real People) for my upcoming book, Peanut Butter and Mashed Potatoes (sequel to Papa Do Run). Bertha Lou may be another rather uncommon, slightly old-fashioned name for a girl, but judging from the lyrics, she is a force to be reckoned with. Before you laugh, let me show you…

Bertha Lou, Bertha Lou
Let me slip around with you
If I could raise some sand
I'd be a mighty-mighty man
'Cause you're so ooooh, Bertha Lou

Bertha Lou, Bertha Lou
Gotta get a date with you
If I could hear you moan
On Mr. Bell's telephone
Ain't no tellin' what I'd do, Bertha Lou

You wear your hair in a poodle cut
You're walkin' down the street like a semi-truck
And everybody knows that you're so sweet
You tickle from head to my ath-a-lete's feet

Hey-hey, Bertha Lou
I wanna conjugate with you
You know my blood is running' wild
And I know you ain't no child
When you do what you do, Bertha Lou
(Rock! Rock! Rock!)

Despite it's obviously heavy-duty sentiment, the song did not do well for Johnny. Throughout all this, however, the label still believed in him, and they tried again - but not before changing his name one more time. What, again!? We may well ask: was he fed up with having to go start over with another new name? Did he feel his career was just going around in circles? Did he offer any resistance? Did this struggle with the label owners turn into a real donnybrook? Who can say… What we can say is that Donnie Brook’s next big hit was the highly sing and danceable “Mission Bell.” That one went all the way to #7. Let’s have a listen.

Donnie Brooks, Doll House

Donnie Brooks, Mission Bell

and, since it's also there, why not check out Ms. Bertha Lou, by Clint Miller

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