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Ask "Mr. Music"
November 8, 2010
"Who was the Masked Marvel"
Let's continue our feature here at DigitalDreamDoor: Ask "Mr. Music." Now in its 25th year of syndication (1986-2011), Jerry Osborne's weekly Q&A feature will be a regular post every Wednesday from now on.

Be sure to stop by Jerry's site for more Mr. Music archives, record price guides, anything Elvis, buy & sell collectibles, record appraisals and much more. I thank Jerry for allowing the reprints.

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Ask "Mr. Music"
"Jerry Osborne"
November 8, 2010 - "Who was the Masked Marvel"

In your recent coverage of the tamouré you mentioned how the record company (Philips) had a dance contest, with the winners getting a free trip to Tahiti.

That reminded me of another record company contest, one described on an insert coupon that I found many years ago in a stack of old 78s. The headline reads: "Paramount Masked Marvel Contest Entry Blank."

Unfortunately, this little entry form was loose, but some text offers a clue as to which record it came with:

"I have listened to one of your Paramount records, No. 12805 by the Masked Marvel, and am herewith listing what I think is his correct name. It is understood that if I have given the correct name you will send me free one Paramount record, and my choice in case I win is: No. (Paramount number goes here)."

"This blank to be mailed on or before Oct. 15, 1929 to: The New York Recording Laboratories, Port Washington, Wisconsin."

Also shown is a drawing of a man, who looks like Fred Astaire, dressed semi-formal but wearing a Lone Ranger mask. Is Astaire the Masked Marvel? Do I win a free record?

- Hannah Franklin, Beloit, Wisc.


It isn't every day I hear from someone whose name is a palindrome (still waiting for mail from Anna and Ogopogo).

Sorry, no free record.

Despite the familiar warning from Jim Croce, when we pull the mask off the ol' Masked Marvel we reveal... Charley (a.k.a. Charlie) Patton.

Even without the mask, it is unlikely anyone would get a clue from a drawing that looks more like generic clip-art than either Fred Astaire or Charley Patton.

The need to hear the Masked Marvel in order to identify him, coupled with a very assertive advertising campaign, brought customers into record stores in droves. There they could listen to the mystery record, grab some entry forms, and see a list of other Paramount releases from which winners could take their pick.

Concurrently, Paramount ran display ads in the print media, primarily the Chicago Defender (motto: "The World's Greatest Weekly - The Mouthpiece of 14 Million [black] People").

Unlike the over-the-counter blank forms, newspaper ads included both song titles: "Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues," and "Mississippi Boweavil Blues." The B-side is the genesis of all boll weevil tunes, the best-known being "The Boll Weevil Song" by Brook Benton.

In music, whether 1929 or 1961, cotton farmers still conversed with malicious anthonomus grandis out "looking for a home."

Print ads even provided this "helpful hint," one about as helpful as saying the singer is a male: "The Masked Marvel is an exclusive Paramount artist." Did anyone really think otherwise?

The ads also offered the Masked Marvel record with an entry form, mailed C.O.D., which accounted for most of the sales.

"Send no money! Pay the postman 75-cents for each record ordered, plus a small C.O.D. fee when he delivers the records," reads the mail-order coupon. Back then, all postmen (mailmen; salesmen; milkmen; breadmen; icemen; servicemen; etc., etc.) were men - woMEN being the exception.

It sure worked. Paramount's first pressing of 10,000 copies soon sold out, a huge success for unknown songs by an unidentified singer. It was all about the contest, and the chance to win a free 75-cent record.

Making things a bit of a challenge is that Charley was still unknown to most folks. Before the Masked Marvel release, he made only two records.

The first is properly credited to Charley Patton, "Pony Blues" (Paramount 12792), but for "Prayer of Death, Parts 1 & 2" (Paramount 12799) he uses the pseudonym Elder J.J. Hadley.

Then again, the Masked Marvel's distinctively unintelligible, yet passionate, vocal style may have been the clincher for some, even with "Pony Blues" as the only basis for comparison. For the record, they also accepted J.J. Hadley as a correct answer.

Fact is, no one sounded like Charley Patton. Not then, not ever.

Second and subsequent pressings of No. 12805, with no mention of the Masked Marvel or the contest, all credit Charley Patton.

Charley Patton


First issues (Masked Marvel) of Paramount 12805 have recently sold in the $6,000 to $7,500 range.

The other 25 Charley Patton 78s, be they Paramount (20) or Vocalion (5), are a bit of a bargain - only $3,000 to $4,000.

With a retail price of 75-cents in 1929 (about $9.30 in today's money), how many Charley Patton 78s do you wish you or your parents would have bought and kept?

MORE: Ask "Mr. Music" -
"Curtis Mayfield - accident, album, death"
"Who was the Masked Marvel"
"Davy Jones Presents, record label"
"Al Green & Johnny Nash"
"Tamouré, Tahitian dance"
"Jo Ann Campbell - Wolverton Mountain"
"Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On & Highway Man"
"Hawaiian musics Frank Ferera"
"Paul Revere and the Raiders instrumentals & Song from Hair"
"Beatles 14 tunes in the Top 100, & The last mono-only albums"
"Connie Francis early years, and Names of states in hit titles"
"Gene Pitney, and David Janssen"
"Payola scandals, and Chubby Checker dance hits"
"Why vinyl sounds richer, Elvis and Beatles on Cash Box, Big Bad John answer songs"
"Vinyl Record Day - 'Mad Men' song"
"Cast Your Fate to the Wind, two versions"
"RFD Songs" and "Your Hit Parade"
"Hit Songs as both Vocal and Instrumental"
"Robert David Hall of CSI, plus the Belmonts without Dion"
"Cal Stewart's Uncle Josh Songs, & Andrews Sisters"
"The Collector's Edition T.A.M.I. Show"
"The Girl from the Next Farm Over" & "Tangerine Dream"
"Paul & Paula's "Hey Paula"
"'50s Rockers Ages" - "Songwriters Hall of Fame"
"Lyrics or Music" and "Billy Squier"
"Connie Francis, Neil Diamond, and David Gates"
"The High Numbers and Grading Vinyl"
"Louie Louie"
"Willie Nelson duets"
"Don't Do It" by "Little Charlie and the Nightcats"
"Frank Sinatra Spectacular, with Johnny Carson"
"Sam & Dave Medley" and the knife in "Moody River"
"Love Will Keep Us Together" and "Same Old Fool"
"Tony Orlando or Bertell Dache?"
"Foreign language hit songs in the U.S."
"The Overlanders" and "All-male Top 10"
"Songs with a bullet" and the name "Browning"
"Yesterday and Today, Beatles - Song: Submarine Race"
"Elvis Presley songs based on classical pieces."
"Introducing the Beatles" album value
"Answer Songs"
"Tchaikovsky's "Pathetique" & "I Belong to You" by Peggy Lee
"A Lovers Hymn" and Songs naming the 12 months
"This Old House," by Rosemary Clooney
"The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction"
"Deana Martin", "Buchanan and Goodman"
"A Hard Day's Night" - Beatles
"British Christmas tunes" and "Fingertips Part 1"
"Backward tape technology" and "Rock Era Christmas tunes"
"Red Velvet Slippers" and "A Christmas Gift for You"
"Jerry Lee Lewis" and "See See Rider"
"Bonanza Theme Song"
"Come Softly to Me" by the Fleetwoods

Mr. Music
Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column.
Jerry's Question page: Ask your question here.

Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368
Visit his Web site:

All values quoted in this column are for near-mint condition.

Copyright 2010 Osborne Enterprises- Reprinted By Permission

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