Monday, January 23, 2017

An Amazing Find

Before we get to a truly spectacular, nearly undefinable find, here's another vintage song-poem ad, in this case from a 1919 edition of "Photoplay" magazine, courtesy of Pete. This one has a great sales pitch, and an even better drawing! Feel free to print this out and send it in - I wonder what would happen!?!?
And now!!!!!
The Halmark saga continues, in a direction I never would have guessed. In the last few years, I've come to realize that some of the endlessly repeated Halmark backing tracks began life as music beds for covers of 1960's hit songs, including "Gentle on My Mind". I've also come across a record purporting to present "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" as a Halmark original, and, most recently, found a record where Halmark actually made a good-faith effort to record a backing track that sounded like it fit in the '70's.
What I didn't expect this time, and what nothing I'd ever heard or seen about the label had indicated before, is that they accepted vanity projects. And that is the only possible explanation for the existence of the song "Love is Where You Are", identified only as having been written by "Mike" (no last name) of Lowden, Iowa. My guess is that's Mike singing it, too. And a more incompetent performance (of nearly four minutes) I've rarely heard, on a song-poem or anywhere else. This record truly blows my mind. I will say no more, but would love to hear the reactions of the rest of you, in the comments. My guess is that your mouth drops open and stays that way - I know mine did.
The remainder of the EP contains the typical Halmark cheesiness, made even more unlistenable by a ridiculously trebly mix, one which hurts my ears at times. First up is a particularly bad lyrical construction called "Just a Tiny Bit of You", sung by the inevitable Jack Kim (although, as is true more often than not with this label, no one is identified as a performer on the label). This is set, by the way, to the backing track from Halmark's aforementioned version of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix".
To my ears, the worst of the three "standard" Halmark tracks on this EP is the religiously themed "This is the Salvation Way" sung by Kim and his wife.
But for sheer ridiculousness, you CANNOT beat "When I Write to You", a song-poem about writing poems which contains some of the worst, simplistic lyrics I can ever recall hearing. Seriously: "Writing a letter is lots of fun, when I'm writing". And then there's the big build up to the last line, in which Jack Kim gives his all to excitedly sing what are among the least effective final six words of any song I've ever heard.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

An Inaugural Request

First, here is yet another, nearly 100 year old song-poem ad, in this case from a 1918 edition of Photoplay Magazine, courtesy of correspondent Pete. Thanks, Pete:

And speaking of Pete, he made a request nearly four months ago, which it has taken me forever to get to. However, with the horror that is about to be visited upon us around midday on Friday in Washington, D.C., it turns out that the delay has pushed my honoring of Pete's request to the perfect time. For today, we will remember that point at which multitudes of song-poets descended on the song-poem factories en masse and demanded to have music set to their songs praising a new president: Jimmy Carter.

Jimmy Carter's move to the White House (as was also true of the death of Elvis Presley several months later) came around one of the heights of the popularity of song-poem companies. The volume of product that the big labels pumped out in the mid- and late- 70's is astonishing, and most of it (to my ears, anyway) far crappier than the earlier material. But such was the volume of submissions, that Preview records was able to press an entire album of songs about Jimmy Carter.

And it is this album that Pete asked me about. The most famous song from the album is "Jimmy Carter Says Yes", which was on the first two song-poem compilations, and which is easy to find online. Pete asked me if I owned the album. I don't, but I do have two other tracks from this Gene Marshall spectacular, obtained in my early days of collecting via cassette tape trade. And so, today, here are two songs for one of the great Americans of our time, as we prepare for the assault by one of the far lesser Americans of this, or any time.

First up, the title song from the album, "President Jimmy Carter, We Salute You", written by James Wilson, Jr., and featuring some of the tortured syntax which is a hallmark of his compositions (although it is missing the made-up words that occur in many of Wilson's most interesting songs, such as "Liblanders Cahoot").

Download: Gene Marshall: President Jimmy Carter, We Salute You

And here is the other song I have from that album, "What A Man, A Man's Man! Jimmy Carter", written by the absolutely wonderfully named Waskey Elwood Walls, Jr.

Download: Gene Marshall: What A Man, A Man's Man! Jimmy Carter

See you next week. If there is a next week.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Love That Drumming

Howdy, Y'all,

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! To kick off the new year right, here's an amazing ad, again sent by correspondent Pete, dated 1918, from Photoplay magazine, and encouraging all songwriters to have a go at "writing the SONG HIT OF THE WAR". That's a spin I hadn't encountered before, and a fairly reprehensible one, if you ask me. Just astonishing.

And now....

Today, a record on Preview which is unusual for a couple of reasons. First, it has Gene Marshall on one side and Rodd Keith on the other. That's not unheard of, but it's far from typical. Second, Rodd is credited here as "Ken Roberts", a moniker that he appears to have used only on a handful of records, circa 1970-71. I believe this is the only "Ken Roberts" record that I own. Finally, my preference, by a wide margin, is for the Gene Marshall side, which would not typically be anybody's guess if you were to combine these two singers during Rodd's Preview years, much as I often just love Gene Marshall's performances.

And admittedly, the Gene Marshall song here, "Someday I'll Find a New True Love", is no great shakes as a song or a lyric, and the vocal is fine, but nothing special. But I dig the hell out of the band's performance, especially some truly special work by the drummer, whoever it was. This is not something that I am typically drawn to, but boy, do I love the drumming on this record, even if its just a series of nice - at times Ringo-esque - fills. See what you think!

Download: Gene Marshall: Someday I'll Find a New True Love

From the flipside, here's Rodd, as Ken Roberts, with a song titled "Blueprints On My Heart" (although the sung lyric is "Blueprints To My Heart"). Either way, that's an interesting metaphor, and I'd appreciate someone doing something interesting with it, but this is dreary by every measure. Draggy, uninspired musically, and it seems to go on forever (even though it's barely three minutes long). Your mileage my, of course, vary.

Download: Ken Roberts (Rodd Keith): Blueprints On My Heart

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Don't Drink and Drive


Vintage song-poem ads will return next!

I will however, provide a link to something wonderful. Sammy Reed has posted downloadable and playable links to 23 tracks from earlier in this site's history, all of them dating to those posts where my own links were lost, due to the downfall of DivShare. You can visit that post here. Thanks, Sammy! I do hope to repopulate this site at some point, but something else always takes me away from that project

I have never featured the "Promo Records" label before today, and so am correcting that oversight today with a most appropriate ditty. I own perhaps 18 or so of this labels' records, and this is the first one which caught my ear enough to say "you have to share this right away".

Like the Halmark and Noval labels, Promo records did not name their performers, and indicated the budget nature of their work even further by simply typing the song titles and lyricist's names on a generic, un-numbered label. These were also not "records" as are typical shared here, but are more accurately described as Acetates, and one-sided ones at that. (Although I am sharing two songs here, they are not both sides of one record, but two separate records.)

About half of the Promo Records acetates I own were written by Mable Rowlett, and were purchased at the same time, in a bundle. "I Saw a Crash On the Highway" is clearly the outstanding number from the bunch. The phrasing of that title, and the lyrics of some of the verses of the song are all curiously indirect, given that the lyrics make it clear that the narrator of the song caused the crash, which involved fatalities, and that the cause was drinking and driving.

On this New Year's Eve, I hope everyone takes Mabel's lyrics to heart.

Download: No Artist Named: I Saw a Crash on the Highway

For comparison sake, here is another Mabel Rowlett offering from the Promo Records label, a much more typical number, on a religious theme, titled "On This Mountain".

Download: No Artist Named: On This Mountain


Monday, December 26, 2016

Do You Feel a Draft?


I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! To start this week's post, here is another gift to us from Pete, who tells me that this ad dates back all the way to a 1914 edition of Photoplay! Write in now - he even offers Free Criticism!!!

I know I featured Norm Burns fairly recently, but this record popped up on eBay recently, and I was more than a little intrigued by the title, and was very happy to come away from the auction as the winner. And so, I thought I'd share it all here with you, especially since the weather in much of my country has been so.... drafty recently.

You see, in the song "Ballad of the Green Machine", Ol' Norm, or, more specifically, his lyricist, Edward Carter, recently (in terms of the date of this record) faced the possibility of being drafted, and seems to have signed up willingly instead, if I follow the lyrics correctly, for a three year tour. And so, we get a longish (by song-poem standards - more than 3 1/2 minutes) trip through the soldiering experience.

While not as witty as Tom Lehrer's masterful tribute to the army - and if you haven't heard that, you really should - that's not really a fair comparison, as I'm not sure anyone's lived up to Lehrer on any subject he ever tackled. On it's own merits, this has a bit of dry wit to it, here and there, which I appreciate. And what's more, this is very likely also the only song-poem ever (and I'm willing to bet, one of the few songs of any type, ever) to make reference to Ptomaine Poisoning. I only wish it was a bit livelier - the tempo is really draggy.

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars: Ballad of the Green Machine

The flip side, "Just Drifting Along", does just that, and has very little that I find to appreciate. Your mileage may vary. I do get a weird kick out of the fact that they extended the song by going into a key change in the last several seconds, only to slowly fade the song out, with no further vocal, perhaps to drag the length over two minutes (yet still nearly 30 seconds fewer than what is listed on the label).

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars: Just Drifting Along

Thursday, December 15, 2016

From Ronnie to JFK

Greetings, Song-Poem fanatics!
First off, I'd like to thank reader Graham, for a flurry of comments, some of which were prods for me to start repopulating the old posts with working files. I hope to make a concerted effort to do this soon, and hearing that people are clambering for them (he's not the first) helps push me in that direction. I will announce this when I managed to actually start fixing the old posts. 
Second, here is yet another ad from a 1931 issue of Modern Screen Magazine, courtesy of correspondent Pete:
My guess is that the results of this ad's promises would have been sheet music, rather than a record. Thanks, Pete!
And third, here's a record from Ronnie. Ronnie Records that is. I have not featured the Ronnie Label very often. I find their typical product slick, soulless and exceedingly boring. Those aspects are not entirely absent among the four songs on this EP, but there are some things that make me want to share the record. Like many Ronnie records, this one features Sammy Marshall, or, as he was known to purchasers of Ronnie's products, Ben Tate.


First up, a song I'm featuring as a tie in to the new, highly acclaimed motion picture Jackie, which came out last weekend. It has the clunky title, "Our President (J. F. Kennedy)", and insipid lyrics to match. A true winner!

Download: Ben Tate (Sammy Marshall) - Our President (J. F. Kennedy)

 Next up is perhaps the calmest, most sedate sounding song ever recorded about a "Plane Crash". The writer sounds quite resigned to her fate, secure in the knowledge that she's in God's hands now. This is the antithesis of "D.O.A." by Bloodrock.

Download: Ben Tate (Sammy Marshall) - The Plane Crash

Flipping over the record, we find the quintessential Ronnie Records/Sammy Marshall team up, with one of the quintessential song-poem titles, "I Love You". I can't work up enough interest to say anything funny, pithy or otherwise interesting about this song...

Download: Ben Tate (Sammy Marshall) - I Love You

However, I GUARANTEE that one listen to the last song, "Please Don't Laugh", will be worth the price of admission. I will not spoil the surprise, but I will say that most listeners will specifically be unable to "not laugh" upon hearing what the good folks at Ronnie did for this song-poem.

Download: Ben Tate (Sammy Marshall) - Please Don't Laugh

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Flying Saucer Freight!

Howdy, folks! First, here's another gift from Pete, a song-poem ad from a 1931 issue of "Modern Screen Magazine". You get a FREE BOOK, too!:

And now:

Determining the provenance of Fable Records releases is a real challenge. A good percentage of them seem not to be song-poems, but rather a mix of vanity records, label honcho Sandy Stanton's own compositions done by friends and hangers-on, and attempts at legitimate hits. I shared many of my favorite the (likely) non-song-poem Fable releases back at, and I suggest you look for "Fable Label" there.
Regarding this record, though, I have no doubt. If you search through the "Catalog of Copyright Entries" (a really fun read), you'll find that today's song-poet was later credited with co-writing songs with both Jack Covais and Lew Tobin, each of whom was the head man at a song poem outfit (Tin Pan Alley and Sterling, respectively). That settles the matter for me.
Here we have the previously unheard Jimmy Wasson, with the ever-present Sandy Stanton Combo, performing Ms. Murray's most excellent "Flying Saucer Freight", at a rollicking good, freight train styled tempo. I'm personally mystified as to what the Flying Saucer references mean, as none of the rest of the song seems to be concerned with Outer Space, but maybe someone more in tune with the jive of them time (or, perhaps, familiar with train lingo) can hep me to what she might have meant.
Regardless, here is yet another mover and groover from Sandy Stanton's wild combo, and a fairly inspired lyricist:
As seems to be a recurring refrain here, I have no such glowing words for the flip side, also supplied by Ms. Murray, the exceptionally earnest and dull, "No Matter What You Do", also sung by Jimmy Wasson:
On a personal note, I don't want the day to go by without acknowledging that this would have been my dad's 95th birthday. Wish you were here, dad!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Oh, Thank Heaven!!!

As promised, I'm back in a more timely fashion this week, with a very enjoyable little ditty. But first, courtesy of the very adept researcher, Pete, here's yet another song-poem ad, in this case from a 1962 edition of Radio/TV Mirror Magazine:
By the way, "Nordyke", which had been a significant player in the sheet music version of the song-poem scam, had become, by this point, perhaps the most ridiculous of the song-poem outfits, putting out material on the "Film-Tone" and "Star-Crest" labels which sounded like it was from at least 25-30 years earlier than the years those releases actually came out (the early '60's). Search here and at WFMU for either of those labels and you'll hear what I mean. Much more on Nordyke can be found here.
And now....

Here's the third entry that I'm sharing from a later-era Tin Pan Alley crew who called themselves (or who Tin Pan Alley called) The Melodiers. The previous two sets of tracks are unfortunately from the time period for which all of my uploads have been lost, but hopefully, someday, I'll make new links for those posts. But this group hasn't let me down yet, having offered up one good side for each of the (now three) 45's. Here they are with yet another winner, a tribute to, of all things, Spaghetti.
I thoroughly enjoy this record. The band is still playing in the minimilist style favored for years by the label, but they are much more together than usual, and there's something playing along in the background - so softly that I'm not sure what it is - which compliments the guitar nicely. And the singer is taking the silly lyrics completely seriously, which helps a lot. A minor pleasure, to be sure, but still a pleasure.
I can't quite work up the same enthusiasm - or indeed, any enthusiasm - for the flip side of the record, "Keep in Touch With Heaven", written by the same song-poet. It's a pretty non-descript mid-tempo number which is fairly uninspired on all counts, particularly near the end when the composer of the music seems to have run out of lyrics to go with the music he'd written, and the singer just stops singing, mid phrase, for several beats. 


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Back From an Unexpected Break, Or: What the Hell is He Singing About?

So..... I just took the longest break from posting here that I ever have, and did so immediately after saying that posts were about to become more frequent. So what happened, I might (or might not) hear some of you saying? 

Well, first it was the CUBS. As you may know (and if you don't, please learn this now), baseball is perhaps the best thing on earth. And the CUBS are the real reason Baseball exists. They are nice enough to let the other 29 teams play (and even let them win almost all the time). But without the CUBS, baseball would be a vast wasteland. And glory be, as you might have heard, if you were paying extra close attention, the CUBS rode the train all the way to the World Series, for the first time in my life, and won the dang thing for the first time in the lifetimes of 99.8 percent of humans currently alive. So that kept me busy. And by the way: YAY!!!!

So I was busy glued to my TV set and radio for a few weeks. Then there was the horrific news of November 8th and 9th, which not only left me not wanting to do much of anything, but came in the midst of preparations for a huge event I was hosting on the 12th. So I would have a busy bee anyway that week, and I postponed my "OH MY GOD" thoughts and reactions, which were primarily on hold until the 13th. So after a week of not wanting to do anything I didn't have to do, I'm back now, and fully intend to provide song-poem wonderment (and, at my other site, amazing finds on reel to reel tape) on my regular schedule, going forward, for an undefined, lengthy bit of time. 

First up, another wonderful ad from correspondent Pete, in this case, from TV/Record Mirror Magazine. A handful of acetates have been found on this label, but they were also directly related to the very large (and often wonderful) Sterling label. 

Second, I really want to thank those who have been writing and commenting, both over the years, but particularly lately, when there have been nice comments from frequent readers, including (among others) my pal Stu, Sammy Reed (hey, and Sammy - has your e-mail address changed?), Darryl Bullock, and Michael Goodman

But I've also heard from folks who are new to the site, or at least who haven't commented before (or, perhaps recently), and I appreciate all the great feedback, whether it's asking for something in particular, telling me a link isn't working, or letting me know that you've just discovered the site and love it. I'm going to miss some people, for which I apologize, but recently, this group has included Justin, Poucopelo, Drew F., and Rock Smith. I don't usually comment on the site, having no idea if the writer will ever see it, but if your post links to an e-mail address (or a site with an e-mail address), I will respond by e-mail. 

All that said, I have one of those "What the Hell" moments today. And this one is remarkable for a few reasons. While it's certainly possible that there is a lower numbered record in sequence that I'm not personally aware of, this is the lowest-numbered Sterling record I can document to feature Norm Burns, perhaps my favorite song-poem singer. This may well be his very first record, and it seems to date from the mid '60's at the latest. 

And he and the folks at Sterling certainly don't sound quite in-synch yet here. This is one of the worst vocals from Norm, in terms of handling the lyrics and following the melody and chords effectively, that I've ever heard. I don't think he had the act "down pat" yet. It does have the feel of several other early Sterling records that I adore, such as "Darling, Don't Put Your Hand On Me", which vies sometimes for my favorite song-poem record of all. 

That's all icing on the cake though - just WAIT until you hear this thing. Maybe it's because my head's been foggy with championship followed by tragedy, with severe business mixed into all of that, but I can't make head or tail of what this song-poet was getting at, even after listening to this song nearly a half-dozen times. The song is called "For What Reason", which would seem to beg for a question mark, but none is there. That's okay, my brain created the question marks, larger and larger and more numerous, as I listened to this song. 

If you have figured out what he's singing about, please advise. 


Not too much I can say that's worth expounding on regarding the rather turgid, cookie cutter religious number, with the clunky title "Keep Your Eyes Stayed on Him": 


By the way, not that you asked, but the main competition in my heart for the best song-poem ever, to rival "Darling Don't Put Your Hands on Me" is "The Beatle Boys". (And I say that only because I've come to believe that the magnificent and incomparable "What's She Got (That I Ain't Got)" is not a song-poem record at all.)

Glad to be back. I won't be gone so long again, if I can help it!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halmark Records Meet the Actual Sounds of the 70's!

I apologize for the lack of posting this month. It's been tremendously busy, as I've been preparing for a big event I'm part of, had a bit of computer problems, and put everything on hold in order to take the once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet one of my heroes (more on that in a future post).
This will be a bare-bones post - the old-time ads will return next week. But I heard the following record for the first time last week, and something about it really caught my ear, and I wanted to share it: 

What caught my ear was the first track, "Everybody Wanna Dance!". This submission seems to have forced Halmark into the 1970's. Because none of their tired, MOR flavored, or Muzak flavored backing tracks would have fit this lyric at all - it's quite a different lyric than the flowery, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes ridiculously overblown lyrics they usually got. Even the word "Wanna" seems quite a ways out of their typical audience's wheelhouse. And those lyrics: It's about dancing to the latest beats. Click on the Halmark link (or just listen to the other three tracks here) if you want to hear what they usually produced.
No, for this one, they had to actually find someone who could come in and create a backing track that sounded moderately like 1974, complete with a chugging drumbeat, synth effects, guitar parts and live backing vocals. If it weren't for actually seeing the label, I'd have never thought this was a Halmark release. Have a listen!:
And that uses up just about all my time. I'll let you discover the joys of the remaining three flaccid numbers on this EP for yourself. Here they are:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Perkins. Milford Perkins

First, courtesy of the prolific song-poem-ad-searcher Pete, here are two more fascinating ads related to the song-poem game.

The first is a direct, no frills suggestion from a company in New York. It comes from a 1921 edition of Film Fun Magazine:

Then there is this intriguing ad from a 1960 edition of Modern Screen, which, as Pete says, seems to suggest cutting out the middle man entirely - it's a product of some sort which will help you write the music for your poems, too, from a company in Boston:

Moving on to today's record feature....

Today, we're going to hear from the great Milford Perkins. I'm not sure I've ever featured a record released under the name of Milford Perkins before, but if I did, I didn't put his name in the labels for the post. And I'm not doing so here, either, because Milford Perkins was one of the more common pseudonyms for Rodd Keith. In my experience, many of the records released under this name have a country tinge, which probably explains the country-singer-style name he chose for those releases, but that's not what this record is.

Instead, what we have here is a top-notch pop-rock side, titled "Love Is Like a Diamond", which features an indelible melody, a warm, inviting vocal from Rodd, and, best of all to my ears, some fantastic drumming - seriously, the fills on this record are otherworldly, as they are on many Preview records - I'd love to know who this drummer was. All around, an excellent record.

Download: Milford Perkins (Rodd Keith) - Love is Like a Diamond

I have far less to say about the flip side, "Come Back Into My Arms Again". Everyone's doing their job, but nothing about this side is particularly inspired, or even interesting. I do like the fact that the good folks at Preview claimed the song was a full minute longer than it actually is, on the label.

Download: Milford Perkins (Rodd Keith) - Come Back Into My Arms

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Love Bug

First, I want to make sure I mention that I've updated last week's post. I had inadvertently linked to versions of the tracks which were running fast (maybe at 50 RPM instead of 45). Two days ago, I replaced those with corrected tracks, so if you have the old versions, you can go back and download/hear the corrected versions.
Second, here are still more ads from 1922, via the magazine "Film Fun", and courtesy of Pete. There's a "wonderful proposition" in these ads - I wonder how many people took him up on it.
"Reaper Block" was an office building on Washington Street, in the heart of downtown Chicago.

Pete notes that Mr. Hibberler had multiple addresses, although I will add that the two addresses (on Keystone and on Dickens), would both be literally on the corner of Keystone and Dickens. Still, it's weird, especially since those addresses were, and are, for apartment buildings. Last week's post also featured multiple addresses for the same scammer.
And now...:

Some eight years or so before The Walt Disney Company released the giant hit film "The Love Bug", someone named Timberman submitted a lyric with the same title to the Tin Pan Alley song-poem factory, where label honcho Jack Covais took a co-writing credit and gave it to singer Jack Verdi, who seems to have been with the company only briefly (perhaps around a year), and who is listed as having appeared on four documented TPA singles.

It certainly can't be for lack of talent. Verdi sells this song quite nicely, and the TPA team give it a nice music bed, and the whole thing lands somewhere between hipster jazz and rat pack cool, albeit with a budget of perhaps 1/100th of what either of those genres would have had to work with, on a legitimate label. Despite that drawback, the team involved here makes this work from start to finish.

Download: Jack Verdi: The Love Bug

The flip side, "I Can't Sleep a Wink Over You", does not work from start to finish, at least not to my ears. It's overwrought, musically unimaginative and lyrically obvious.

Download: Jack Verdi: I Can't Sleep a Wink Over You