cantaloupe eyes come to me tonight

WHEN I ARRIVED AT MY OFFICE on a day in early 1987, I was handed a package that had ar­rived ear­lier. As I worked at home more often than “at work,” my schedule of ar­riving and de­parting varied from day to day. My job was ed­itor of a line of price guides for record col­lec­tors pub­lished by O’­Sul­livan Wood­side and for­merly as­so­ci­ated with other au­thors.

I didn’t have an of­fice at the building that housed O’­Sul­livan, Wood­side & Co., a small pub­lishing outfit better known as O’­Sul­livan Wood­side. OW con­sisted of a tiny of­fice where Don Wood­side presided over the ac­qui­si­tion and selling the price guides and the books of Norman W. Walker.

The rest of the building housed the printing ap­pa­ratus of COL Printing, where John O’­Sul­livan han­dled var­ious printing projects for local com­pa­nies and also printed the books that Don sold.

I had been there less than a year and al­ready had two books under my belt: the 1985-86 edi­tion of the Rock & Roll Record Al­bums price guide, and the Elvis Presley Record Price Guide.

All looked hunky-dory in my world.

 

We were playing in Florida and the girls at the time had these big old sun­glasses. She took off these glasses and she could stop a clock. I said, “She’s kind of in dis­guise.”

 

I went to my “desk” (a table in the common room where meet­ings and lun­cheons were held) and opened it. I knew it was a record: the 13x13x1-inch box was a give-away. I just wasn’t ex­pecting any­thing like a record.

The only thing I re­ceived at OW was let­ters com­pli­menting my books.

Or cri­tiquing them.

In­side was a copy of THE BEST OF JOHN FRED & THE PLAYBOYS (Sug­ar­cane SR-100, 1984), au­to­graphed by John Fred to me with a nice note. There was also a fan letter from Fred to Umphred (!) along with a busi­ness card.

 

JohnFred photo closeup 600

John Fred Gour­rier at the height of his fif­teen min­utes of fame in the late ’60s.

Shirley and Agnes

So, of course, I im­me­di­ately called the number on the card and found my­self in a con­ver­sa­tion with John! He was coaching sports at a local high school, working as a pro­ducer with Irma Thomas, playing gigs with the Play­boys. He also made some spending money wheeling and dealing old 45s. But first, a little back­ground on John:

John Fred Gour­rier was born in 1941 and formed John Fred & The Play­boys in 1956. They had a minor hit with Shirley (Montel 1002) in April 1959 on both Bill­board and Cash Box. The group ap­peared on Alan Freed’s show, but when Dick Clark in­vited him to do Amer­ican Band­stand, Fred turned him down to play a bas­ket­ball game!

John Fred was a su­perb ath­lete, playing base­ball and bas­ket­ball in high school and at Louisiana State Uni­ver­sity and South­eastern Louisiana Uni­ver­sity.

He con­tinued recording for re­gional com­pa­nies, is­suing three more sin­gles on Montel, fol­lowed by three on Jewel and one on N-Joy. In late ’65, Jewel placed the group on their Paula sub­sidiary, where they had a re­gional hit with Agnes Eng­lish in early ’67.

John Fred & His Playboy Band made the Big Time with Judy in Dis­guise (With Glasses), which reached #1 in Jan­uary 1968 on both the Bill­board Hot 100 and the Cash Box Top 100. The song was a pop gem: the title was a play on the Bea­tles’ Lucy In The Sky With Di­a­monds (about all they have in common), but the music was up­tempo rhythm & blues pop.

Be­cause the song was a parody with an ir­re­press­ible beat and hook, Fred was con­sid­ered by some to be a nov­elty act. The wit and in­sight in the record go un­no­ticed by most writers and even Fred fans. His follow-up records were rarely given any air­play on Top 40 radio. Even today, many web­sites place Judy In Dis­guise in their Bub­blegum Rock cat­e­gory!

After his fif­teen min­utes of in­ter­na­tional fame, Fred con­tinued to per­form in bands. He also coached high school sports, re­mained a fix­ture at con­certs and shows in his home­town, and hosted a pop­ular local radio show, The Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll. (Wikipedia)

 

Judy in Dis­guise (With Glasses) - John Fred and His Playboy Band

Cantaloupe eyes come to me tonight

Judy In Dis­guise (With Glasses) was written by Fred with Playboy An­drew Bernard. Fred was in­spired by a minor event while touring in 1967: “We were playing in Florida and the girls at the time had these big old sun­glasses. One of the guys was hus­tling this chick. She took off these glasses and she could stop a clock. I said, That’s it! That’s what gave me the idea. I said, She’s kind of in dis­guise.

Judy in dis­guise, well that’s what you are!
A lemonade pie with a brand new car.
Can­taloupe eyes, come to me tonight.
Judy in dis­guise with glasses.

Keep wearing your bracelets and your new ra-ra.
Cross your heart with your living bra.
A chilly sweet sparrow with guys.
Judy in dis­guise with glasses.

Come to me tonight.
Come to me tonight.
I’ve taken every­thing in sight,
ex­cept for the strings of my kite.

Judy in dis­guise, that’s what you are.
A lemonade pie got your brand new car.

Can­taloupe eyes, come to me tonight.
Judy in dis­guise with glasses.

Judy in dis­guise, what you aiming for?
A circus of hor­rors, well that’s what you are!
You made me a laugh of asses—
I guess I’ll just take your glasses.

I still re­member my re­sponse to hearing Judy In Dis­guise on WARM (“the Mighty 590”) for the first time in late ’67: What is this shit?!!? Of course, I was 16 and a very very good boy so I al­most cer­tainly didn’t say “shit.” Hell, I prob­ably didn’t even think like that then! I prob­ably said “crap.” But you get the mes­sage.

And the group’s name: John Fred and His Playboy Band. Keer­i­m­inies, I en­vi­sioned them as a bunch of (old) 30-year olds who thought a band name that linked them to Hugh Hefner was hip.

Hah!

So every time Judy In Dis­guise came on the radio, I reached for the dial to see if WILK was playing any­thing de­cent. But how long can you hold out on a record as goofy and won­derful as Judy In Dis­guise?

In 1971, I found a used jukebox copy for a nickel at one of the many tiny shops that sold smokes, mag­a­zines, candy, base­ball cards, comic books, and an­thracite coal sou­venir shops on Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square and took it home and fell in love with it!

 

Fred_Best_LP_fc

This album con­tains John’s chart hits and those sin­gles that didn’t fare so well. This is mostly ’60s pop but fea­tures a few sur­prising tracks, like his reading of John Lee Hook­er’s Boogie Chillen (the record label reads “Boogie Chil­dren” but Fred sings it the way Hooker wrote it, “chillen”). And Fred had a big ad­mirer of this recording (see photo below taken at the In­ter­na­tional Hotel).

Unzippering kite strings

Part of the fun of 45s on the radio in the ’50s and ’60s was de­ci­phering the lyrics. The record is mixed in such a way that parts of Fred’s lead vocal are muf­fled. There are al­ter­na­tive read­ings of the lines that I opted for above in­clude, none of which any more sense than mine:

•  “un­zipper the strings of my kite” in­stead of “ex­cept for the strings of my kites”
•  “chimney sweep sparrow with guise” in­stead of “chilly sweet sparrow with guys”
•  “you made me a life of ashes” in­stead of “you made me laugh of asses”

The best ver­sion I could find on the In­ternet for dis­cerning the words is on the gmtPlus9(-15) web­site (and whose hy­per­link is now gone), and it is not de­fin­i­tive.

An in­stru­mental bridge be­fore the final chorus has Fred “Oh,” “Ah,” and “Uh”-ing in a manner that I can only de­scribe as or­gasmic. How they got a cum-scene past the sce­narios is re­mark­able. But even more re­mark­able is that rock­writers and his­to­rians have somehow not glommed onto the fact that a cum-scene is hap­pening and never write about it.

The song was also #1 in Ger­many and Switzer­land but pooped out at #3 in Great Britain. “When I met John Lennon, he thought [Judy In Dis­guise] was great,” Fred re­called. “He said the first thing he was going to do when he got home was write a song called ‘Froggy In A Pond With Spec­ta­cles.’ ”

As a noun, rah-rah’s can be in­ter­preted as a temper tantrum or a type of shoe that was pop­ular in the ’60s.

 

FredJohn_Elvis

In 1970, John was in­tro­duced to Elvis by Wayne Cochran at the In­ter­na­tional Hotel in Las Vegas. “Wayne knocks on the door,” Fred re­mem­bered. “He says, ‘Hey, E! I got a guy from the South that wants to see you!’ So Elvis says, ‘Well, if he’s from the South, bring him on in here.’ So Wayne says, ‘Elvis, I want you to meet John Fred.’ Elvis stopped and said, ‘John Fred and the Play­boys … Boogie Chillen’.” (Spec­tropop)

Discography and price guide

Judy In Dis­guise (With Glasses) was an in­ter­na­tional smash, ap­pearing on sev­eral im­prints in coun­tries where Paula had no dis­tri­b­u­tion. This gallery here presents the Paula orig­inal 45 fol­lowed by pic­ture sleeves from other coun­tries. The values as­signed are ap­prox­i­ma­tions.

 

Fred_Judy_wlpx

Fred_Judy_45_plp

A white label promo copy of Paula 282 graded EX/NM sold on eBay for $163 in 2012. An­other copy in lesser con­di­tion sold for $78 in the same year. I haven’t a clue as to why it is so valu­able. The pink label record below it is also a promo, noting the PLUG SIDE. I as­sume that it was pressed after the single took off and ad­di­tional pro­mo­tional ef­forts were used to push the record up the charts.

 

Fred_Judy_wlp

Fred_Judy_45_1

Fred_Judy_45_red

Ap­par­ently, the white label records are the first press­ings of Paula 282. Judy In Dis­guise (With Glasses) / When The Lights Go Out. Aside from the pink promo and the stock white label press­ings (both above), the web­site 45cat.com pic­tures four pink label vari­a­tions, two red label vari­a­tions, and one yellow label pressing.

I se­lected one of the pink la­bels that varies in the set­ting of the type from the pink label promo, a red one with a bb-sized cut-out hole drilled through the lower left. A re­al­istic NM value for any of these would ap­pear to be $10-20.

 

Fred_Judy_HipPocket

Fred_Judy_HipPocket_R

Judy In Dis­guise was also is­sued as part of Philco’s ex­per­i­mental Hip-Pocket Records in­tro­duced in 1968. They were 4-inch records on flex­ible plastic is­sued in a cover that could fit into a back pocket and be sat on without dam­aging the record. They orig­i­nally sold for 50¢ but were re­duced to 39¢ and then dis­con­tinued in 1969.

The sleeves below are the ones that I could find on the In­ternet; others might exist. As I am no au­thority with non-American records, no values are as­signed to them.

 

Gallery of pic­ture sleeves

 

Fred_Judy_PS_Bra

Brazil: Con­ti­nental 50.076.

A very groovy sleeve lifted from the second ver­sion of the Paula LP. I like the art better here with the white back­drop in­stead of the black on the Amer­ican album.

 

Fred_Judy_PS_Den2

Den­mark: Cal­i­fornia C-282.

Strange sleeve with an an­tique photo of Fred with a cheese­cake photo that looks like it might have been used to ad­ver­tise a cheesy re­make of Crea­ture From The Black La­goon.

 

Fred_Judy_PS_Eng

Eng­land: State­side RSS-122.

A non­de­script sleeve that doesn’t de­serve com­men­tary.

 

Fred_Judy_PS_Ger

Ger­many: Vogue DV-14692.

Tasteful sleeve de­sign but the model doesn’t have any real Ju­dy­ness about her, no ra-ra, no can­taloupe eyes.

 

Fred_Judy_PS_Ger_smith

Ger­many: Vogue DV-14792.

Based on the cat­alog number, it didn’t take Vogue long to de­cide that a new ver­sion by an Eng­lish band with a large German fol­lowing should com­pete with the orig­inal. And why not put the new record in the same sleeve as the orig­inal and con­fuse the cus­tomers to the point where they don’t buy ei­ther?!!?

 

Fred_Judy_PS_Ger2

Ger­many: State­side C-23.693.

I don’t know which came first in Ger­many, this State­side re­lease or the Vogue above. The folks at State­side that de­signed this sleeve should have been sent packing to look for jobs out­side of an art de­part­ment.

 

Fred_Judy_PS_Ger_re

Ger­many: Con­tempo 6.11310.

On of the ex­tra­or­di­narily bleh! generic sleeves that popped up around the globe in the ’70s to hold a reis­sues.

 

Fred_Judy_PS_It

Italy: Curium DE-2691.

This is the same photo that was used on the Paula AGNES ENGLISH album from which Judy In Dis­guise was pulled as a single. After the single be­came a hit, this album was reti­tled JUDY IN DISGUISE and given new cover art (see the sleeve for Con­ti­nental 50.076. re­leased in Brazil above).

 

Fred_Judy_PS_Jap2

Japan: Seven Seas HIT-1492.

Japanese pic­ture sleeves from the ’60s are noted for their orig­i­nality and beauty and quality and this ain’t one of those sleeves!

Me and John and Judy in 1968

Back to 1987 and my con­ver­sa­tion with John: We had a lengthy talk in which he com­pli­mented my record album price guide and in­quired if I was going to do a 45 guide. Ap­par­ently he was buying and selling old 45s, many of which came to him ef­fort­lessly due to his back­ground. He was also working on a new record with Irma Thomas with him as her pro­ducer.

“Do you like spicy food?”

And I told him that while my mouth re­ally en­joyed spicy food, the rest of my di­ges­tive system re­belled against my mouth’s taste for such cui­sine.

“Well, if you ever get down here to Louisiana, I’ll take you out on the bayou to some places to eat where we will be the only white people and it will be spicy!”

Alas, I never made it down there and now it’s too late:

In 2002, John Fred re­leased his final album, SOMEBODY’S KNOCKIN’.

In 2005, John Fred died at the age of 63.

In 2007, John Fred was the first in­ductee into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

In 2007, John Fred was in­ducted into the Delta Music Mu­seum.

 

JohnFred AndHisPlayboys LP 1000

HEADER IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was taken from the front cover of his first album JOHN FRED AND HIS PLAYBOYS (Paula LP-2191, 1966). I had to crop it rather se­verely to fit into the slot avail­able for fea­tured im­ages on this theme.

 

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