Limbo Rock

An excerpt from The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman:

Sheldon [Jon] gave Billy Strange a quick call in California and asked his permission to add some lyrics to the composition [Monotonous Melody] (“Certainly,” Strange had replied), whereupon both men then went back to their respective careers.

. . . Several months after the now-long-forgotten call from Chubby Checker’s manager, Billy Strange sat at his kitchen table one day, going through his mail. As he tore open one of the envelopes sitting before him, he pulled out what looked to be a check of some kind from BMI, one of the two big competing companies that collected airplay royalties on behalf of songwriters and publishers (ASCAP being the other). Strange had become used to seeing the occasional tiny check trickle in from BMI for some minor thing he had written along the way.

As he looked more closely, however, Strange suddenly noticed that this was no tiny check. It was in the staggering amount of sixty-three thousand dollars-more money than he had ever seen in one place, might ever see.

Billy Strange sat back in his chair, stupefied.

Figuring there obviously had been some kind of accounting mistake or mailing error, Strange allowed himself the luxury of enjoying the check for a few minutes, dreaming of what all it could buy. Then, with reality setting in, he decided he had better put in a call to BMI. No use keeping what isn’t yours.

“Hey there, this is Billy Strange. I’m a songwriter registered with your company and I’ve got a check here from you guys for sixty-three thousand dollars that I’m sure isn’t really mine. Can you look into it for me?”

After Strange held the line for a couple of minutes, the BMI rep came back with just one question.

“Are you the same Billy Srange that wrote a song called ‘Monotonous Melody’?”

“That would be me.”

“Well, your song was recorded under the name ‘Limbo Rock’ by the Champs, and then again by Chubby Checker. Both versions were hits, especially the one by Checker. The money is all yours.”


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