Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Song A Day: Roy Drusky & Priscilla Mitchell, "Yes, Mr. Peters"



JULY 27, 2017

“YES, MR. PETERS” (WRITERS: STEVE KARLISKI–LARRY KOLBER)

ARTISTS: ROY DRUSKY AND PRISCILLA MITCHELL

RELEASED 1965 ON 7” 45 AND LOVE’S ETERNAL TRIANGLE LP

Here’s a classic country “cheating song” with a brand new twist.

"Yes, Mr. Peters” is witty, and a bit gimmicky, but also racked with guilt and foreboding and eroticism.

Roy Drusky was a singer, songwriter, and DJ who, in 1960, began a successful sojourn on the country charts with producer Owen Bradley, who also helmed Patsy Cline’s big “countrypolitan” smashes. Drusky also was active in copyright administration for songwriters.

Over the next few years, Drusky enjoyed eight top ten country hits. At some point early in 1965, Mercury Records chose to team him with Priscilla Mitchell, wife of singer/guitarist Jerry Reed, on a passel of songs.

Steve Karliski and Larry Kolber, songwriters active in pop and country, penned “Yes, Mr. Peters.” Diverse artists including as Bobby Goldsboro, Patti Page, Faron Young, Mel Carter, and Gene Pitney had recorded Karliski’s songs prior to 1965, but “Yes, Mr. Peters” would be his biggest success. Kolber had co-written “I Love How You Love Me” and “Patches” with Barry Mann.

While Priscilla Mitchell had never been a successful lead singer, she'd sung backup in Nashville, written songs with Reed, and also recorded pop under the name Sadina. Her “I Want that Boy,” issued early in 1965, wasn’t a hit despite being a spot-on southern take on the Shangri-La’s girl-group “my guy's 'good bad' but not evil” trip.

So Drusky and Mitchell recorded an album’s worth of songs and Mercury prepared one of them, “Yes, Mr. Peters,” for release as a 45.

In spring 1965, Roy Drusky’s “(From Now on all My Friends are Gonna Be) Strangers” was a country hit, but its chart impact was dented by Merle Haggard’s competing version. In mid-May, as that song slipped down the country charts, Mercury Records released the Drusky/Mitchell duet, “Yes, Mr. Peters,” to radio and to the record shops.

The innovation on “Yes, Mr. Peters” certainly doesn’t come from the sound—it’s utterly conventional 1965 country pop. The experienced Shelby Singleton and Jerry Kennedy produced it, and it’s clearly meant to be a hit. If Floyd Cramer isn’t playing the piano here, someone is imitating his signature style pretty good. The echoed electric guitar chording and electric bass are very much in vogue, and the backing vocalists come in just when you expect.

No, it’s the lyrics and the delivery that make this record stand out. The song begins with a ringing phone, and the listener is plunged into a conversation between two people well aware of what they’re doing and the danger they’re facing. It’s pretty smoky, and especially in the last verse, one can get the feeling that the couple may even enjoy their erotic little game of insinuation.

Listen to “Yes, Mr. Peters.”

The song climbed the charts fairly slowly, picking up steam in July and eventually reaching #1 on the Record World, Cashbox, and Billboard country charts. Mercury featured its new star duet in an album, Love’s Eternal Triangle, and over the next couple of years released two more Drusky/Mitchell “cheating” singles that were somewhat lesser country hits.

On his own, Drusky had five more country top 10 hits through 1974 then essentially became a legacy performer often featured at the Grand Ole Opry. Mitchell, whose career was less of a focus to her, had no more big hits. Roy Drusky passed away in 2004, Priscilla Mitchell ten years after that.

Interestingly, Steve Karlinski recorded his own version of “Yes, Mr. Peters” in New York, duetting with Mimi Roman, a 1950s country star who by this time was singing jingles. In September, after Drusky and Mitchell's version's chart run, Columbia Records issued it. It’s not clear whether this is a demo of the song that made its way to Mercury, whether it was recorded pre-Drusky and shelved, or whether it was recorded specifically for release in the wake of Drusky and Mitchell’s success.

The success of “Yes, Mr. Peters” also inspired an extremely witty “answer record” from Justin Tubb (Ernest’s son) and Lorene Mann. “Hurry, Mr. Peters” reached #23 on Billboard‘s country singles chart, closing the circle quite nicely on four characters in a weird situation.

Listen to “Hurry, Mr. Peters.”

3 comments:

  1. Alright, I'm thoroughly flummoxed by these records. Why is the guy in the first song calling the woman "mr. Peters", and why is the woman in the second song singing as if she's talking to a woman? I'd say this was far too early for a LGBTQ aspect to a country song. I'm genuinely mystified.

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  2. Actually, I figured while listening that the FIRST record would have the SECOND's message at the end in some way. Ha. At least, these records make you wonder what is going on. The second one is performed live on a youtube spot, if you wanna see it.
    When I was 15, I was listening to the radio and on came Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood's "Did You ever?" It made me wonder what was going on in a similar way. The one thing I really remember was thinking "HOW can they play this on the radio?" I guess Roy's song was an early version of such double entendres.
    Anyone from Chicago might get a kick out of "The Girl from Chicago" by Benny Bell (flip of "Shaving Cream"). WLSClark

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  3. Bob, in the first record, he's calling her "Mr. Peters," who's his boss, as a ruse so that he can get out of the house to "work late."

    In the second, the wife is ACTUALLY TALKING TO HIS BOSS, who's she's having an affair with.

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