by Stephen Propes~


uthor Bob Leszczak, known on-air as Big Bob O’Brien, has been in the radio game since it was still a career, working at various stations, including an oldies DJ on ‘CBS-FM, among the leading signals in the Big Apple, pretty much the pinnacle of the industry. Though no longer on local radio, he is still heard on the weekly syndicated “Solid Gold Scrapbook.”

To those in the vinyl game, Bob is better known as a constant presence at record shows, which have become as much a competition for that month’s holy grail record and bragging rights thereof, carefully culling out those 45s good enough for his collection, about which little is known, but must be impressive based on what he buys.

By combining his knowledge based on years of jockeying and collecting and with a passion for original sounds, Leszczak is a natural to write a tome like Who Did It First?

who-did-it-firstNow the world of original songs can be a tricky business indeed, but Leszczak nails it, pretty much, that is. No work of this scope, over 350 songs, will be without the occasional gaffe, and it’s my job to point out a few. In its favor, Who Did It First? is heavy on background information, relevant quotes from artists and songwriters Leszczak either knows or has interviewed and in some cases, mention of legal problems caused by copying a hit song and all sorts of trivia about the groups who recorded these hits and, in most cases, stiffs, that now command attention and bucks in the collector market.

I mentioned gaffes. One that stood out was the original label of Barrett Strong’s “Money,” which was not Anna, as Leszczak asserts, but Tamla, which leased this hit out in 1959, becoming a major label a few years down the road. Another example is the group called the Chiffons who covered the Shirelles’ “Tonight’s the Night.” They were not the “He’s So Fine” Chiffons, but a West Coast group who used the Chiffons name only once.

But the real stickler was not Leszczak’s doing, it was a determined copyreader. Apparently, there’s an inviolable rule in these circles that all titles with adjacent words repeated twice must be separated with a comma. Thus, though the Flip label of Richard Berry’s “Louie Louie” shows it just that way, the copyreader knows more than Berry and Flip, correcting it to read “Louie, Louie.” Dave Marsh faced the exact same problem in much larger scale in his book “Louie Louie,” and won. But in publishing, issues like this don’t die, so we’re stuck with one title in print, another title on the label, which Leszczak dodges by showing the original original label (no commas), “Louie Lovie,” thus apparently keeping peace in the family.

Stephen Propes, author of Old School, 77 Years of L.A. R&B and Soul Records 1934 – 2011