Monday, November 13, 2017

MOVIN' WITH PAPA!!!



 
I could have this chronology quite mixed up, but it appears to me that, near the end of his time running the Film City empire, Sandy Stanton began releasing a good number of his factories productions on the newer, Action Records label. Most of the known Action releases seem to have been released after the end of the last few known Film City releases, and essentially feature the same cast of characters, plus and minus a few, frequently accompanied by the ubiquitous Chamberlin.
 
Today's feature, 'Move with Papa", sung by the occasional Film City/Action warbler known as Frank Perry, is notable for some fun, silly lyrics, and, particularly, the atrocious work done with the Chamberlin: whoever made this track provided a second track of chording which is just slightly - and aggravatingly - out of tune with the rest of the track. The final chord over the rest of the track is a particular howler.
 
Oh, and while I'd love to think that the co-writer of these tracks was the great English comic actor Terry-Thomas, that seems unlikely.
 
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I can't actually work up much to say about the flip side, "Like An Angel So Sweet", which is a fairly typical non-entity from the genre and from this label.
 

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By the way, I do have a plan to try and keep up to a once-a-week posting schedule again, starting this week. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Cool Cats Are On Star-X

Before I get to this week's offering, I need to share a link that Darryl Bullock sent me, of an astounding Halmark record featuring Bob Storm, which has been shared for the world on youtube. While this might not raise many eyebrows, were it to be released today, it certainly would have been the conversation piece in the early '70's, when it was actually released. I will say no more - I don't think I have any other words for this anyway. 

Have a listen, here. Thanks, Darryl


The AS/PMA website tells us that Star-X was a song-poem label, and of this there seems no doubt, given that it released discs by Sammy Marshall and the great Roger Smith. I have some question as to the actual story behind today's record, but the A-side is so fun I thought I'd share it anyway. The concern for me is that both sides were written by a team, and the same team. Then again, the performances are so ham-fisted they certainly sound like a group that was churning out demo-level renditions. Those with more knowledge than me can chime in with whether they think this is a song-poem, a vanity record or a legit release.

When I saw the credited artist, Dick Mason, I had guessed it would be Dick Kent in disguise. However, this record is from 1958, a bit early for him to have been the singer, I think, and besides that, it sounds nothing at all like him. I have no idea who this singer is.

The stronger of the tracks, by far, as I've indicated, is the A-side, "Cool Cats". These folks don't really understand rock and roll, aside from perhaps the guitarist, but they have a good time approximating it, and the result is infectious, rather ridiculous fun. Plus, the lyrics are certainly song-poem level, if that helps anyone in determining whether this is animal, vegetable or mineral. ,

Download: Dick Mason and Chorus, Music by the High Fives - Cool Cats
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The flip side, "Heavy Heart", has very little to recommend it, to my ears. The ponderous vocal and cookie-cutter, morose lyrics sound a lot like 100 other forgettable song-poem records.

Download: Dick Mason and Chorus, Music by the High Fives - Heavy Heart
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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Teacho's Working Overtime!


It's been too long since I've featured the great Teacho Wiltshire. An early stalwart at Tin Pan Alley, Teacho is one of the relatively few people named on Song-Poem release labels who went on to have a significant career in the legitimate music business. His name can be found in the production and arrangement credits of dozens, or more likely, hundreds of hits and near hits from the 1960's.

This, however, is from long before all that, late 1955, to be precise. It's a charming ditty titled "Working Overtime". This one was actually released twice by TPA, with two different flip sides. Sadly, I do not own the release with "Are You Willing" on the flip side, since it was indicated to be " The One and Only Rock 'n' Roll Waltz!", right on the label. But still, I doubt it would have lived up to the entertainment value of "Working Overtime".

Darryl Bullock, in a post featuring several TPA releases (although not this one), has a nice quote from an interview with a relative of label honcho Jack Covais, which includes some comments about this record. You can read that here. And glory be, Billboard even reviewed the thing! They got the copy with "Are You Willing" on the flip, but they still offered up thoughts on this one, opining dryly that "The singer's R & B efforts seem misplaced", and giving it the equivalent of a "D".

Well, I like it just fine. Judge for yourself! Without further ado, here is Teacho Wiltshire, His Piano and Orchestra, with "Working Overtime"

Download: Teacho Wiltshire, His Piano and Orchestra - Working Overtime
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On the flip side, the same combo performs a truly overwrought rendition of something called "Waters of Telufa". A quick web search does not immediately indicate exactly where this concentrated dampness can be encountered, but Teacho's mannered performance doesn't lead me to want to go there, anyway.

Download: Teacho Wiltshire, His Piano and Orchestra - Waters of Telufa
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Peculiar and Unique Cluelessness of the Song-Poet


That the average song-poet is not in the least bit up to the task of constructing an effective lyric for a pop record is so clear as to not be worth arguing. The list of ways song-poets have missed the boat on songwriting is long and often comical. It includes, but is hardly limited to, choosing an unwieldy title, constructing lyrics which cannot possibly scan well when sung, tortured rhyme schemes, dumb concepts and mangled English.

Which brings us to today's feature, and a few words about Answer Records. As you no doubt know, way back when, any time there was a particularly unusual big hit record, or a novelty record, or a hit which was much bigger than the typical hit of the day, there would usually be multiple answer records. A few of them even became big hits, and at least one - Hot Rod Lincoln - became a bigger hit than the song which inspired it. One thing I've never seen on an answer record was the phrase "answer record" in the song title. Another thing I've not seen is an answer record which got the name of the original hit song wrong.

Then, up to the plate stepped song-poet Neil Gibson, who, in around 1976 or so, submitted his masterwork to the Preview company. What he wrote was a response to the then-fairly-recent hit "Help Me Make It Through the Night", what he titled it was "Answer To: 'Take the Ribbons From My Hair'". The thing is, there isn't a song titled "Take the Ribbons From My Hair", at least not that I can find. My thinking is that if you are inspired enough by a song on the radio, that you want to produce and promote an answer song, you ought to know the name of the song in question. And then you might want to create your own title.

After all, Jody Miller's "Queen of the House" was not titled "Answer to: 'Trailers for Sale or Rent".

Download: Gene Marshall: Answer To - "Take the Ribbons From My Hair"
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The flip side of this record is a song called "Handful of Teardrops". Question - who the hell holds teardrops? This is so clunky a phrase that in all of the internet, a Google search shows it to have ever been used only eight times.

The song lives down to its title, and while there are a couple of really nice, complex piano fills near the end, that's the only saving grace. The most notable thing about it is the absolutely horrendous quality of the recording, the production and the pressing. This record sounds awful.

Download: Gene Marshall - Handful of Teardrops
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Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Great Roger Smith


Here's a record I've owned for all of about five hours, and I couldn't wait to share it with all of you.

Because today's featured singer is Roger Smith. He primarily recorded on the Air label, but his name turns up on a dozen other, smaller labels; in this case, the tiny "Top Rock" label. The blandest of names masks one of the most unusual singers of song-poems in the field. I have only heard a handful of records he recorded, but have loved every one of them. He had a borderline ridiculous, yet endearing way of selling a song.

The reason I have never featured Roger Smith here is that most of the tracks I own which were released under his name, I own only as MP3's, those graciously gifted to me by fellow collectors. and I have generally not featured records that I don't personally own. And the only Roger Smith record I did own, prior to today, has already been shared on another blog. I see that the post I refer to, now has dead links, so maybe I should share that record, soon, but in the meantime, here's the better of the two sides, posted to Soundcloud. It's one of my favorite records ever.

Today's offering, which doesn't quite match that track for sheer wonderfulness and insanity, is still 100% wonderful. It's called "Same Old Stuff" - a mention in Billboard dates this release to late 1961, but it seems to exist pretty much out of time, a rather peculiar and unique mix of elements of Western Swing, Dixieland and Roller Rink Organ. And if I haven't already made it clear, it's magnificent from start to finish. As if that musical backing wasn't enough to draw me in for multiple listens, Roger Smith again provides a weirdly compelling and inimitable vocal. I love this singer, and I love this record.

Download: Roger Smith, Western String Band - Same Old Stuff
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As much as I've just praised the Roger Smith side of this record, I don't want to neglect the flip side, which is just as wonderful in its own way. It helps that the singer is Cara Stewart (that always helps), but in addition, this is a funny song with some inspired lyrics about the implications of having a lot of kids on one's love life. If I'm taking the lyrics literally, I believe the writer intends us to think the protagonist of the song has 15 children. Cara Stewart does her usual great job of selling the material, and Lee Hudson's group, with that indelible guitar sound, support her nicely.

Download: Cara Stewart, Lee Hudson Orch - Eeny Meeny Miney Mo
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Not that you asked, but an even better song, on a similar subject (at least in the early verses) - and one of my very favorite records ever, is by Jimmie Driftwood, and can be found here.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Is That You, Popeye? Nah, It's Just Billy Grey


It's always a good day when I get to share the sounds of the perpetually ridiculous Billy Grey. I don't have nearly enough of his records, or else I'd feature him more often. His borderline incompetence, paired with the material his bosses at Tin Pan Alley gave him to sing, topped by the genuine incompetence of the band TPA used at that moment all result in records that are stunning in their entertaining awfulness.

First up, let's hear Billy sing the plaintive cry of a normal, idiot American (and proud of it), in the song "I Am Just What I Am". Here's a fun game - count the number of times that the bass player doesn't follow the chord structure, and then add in the time (near the end, in the last bridge) that the rest of the band seems unable to agree on what the chords are supposed to be:

Download: Billy Grey - I Am Just What I Am
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The flip side, "Tongue Tied" may well circulate among song-poem collectors. It was part of the original set of downloadable songs on the AS/PMA site, but somehow never migrated over to the otherwise "complete" set of those downloads that cropped up years later at the WFMU blog.

This one is also worth hearing, for it's general half-assed-ness, but also for a fairly weird turn taken by the lyrics. 

Download: Billy Grey - Tongue Tied
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Saturday, September 09, 2017

Dick Kent's Home Is His Castle

Before I get to this week's feature, I have quite a bit of housekeeping - a variety of comments which I want to acknowledge, share with the readers and/or respond to. 

First, regarding what I thought was a mysterious performance labeled as being by "Rod Rogers" on Halmark, of all places, a great blogger and frequent commenter here, Darryl Bullock, has indicated that there indeed was another song-poem performer who went by that name, aside from Rodd Keith. He writes: 

Surely the vocalist on Trailways Bus Driver is Nu Sound's dreadful Todd Andrews? Incidentally, there is also at least one Rod Rogers 45 on Nu Sound, 1008: Don't Be A Dope/Birds And Bees And The Stork (both L. Smith). I don't have a copy of the latter but I'd put money on that Rod Rogers being Todd Andrews rather than Rodd Keith 

Regarding a post from February, featuring a singer identified as "Dan Monday", who I indicated was Rodd Keith, I heard the following from our friends at the excellent record label Roaratorio

Just as an FYI.... Rodd Keith was *not* the singer known as Dan Monday, on any of the records, as far as I know. I think this misconception was fueled in part by the misattribution of the Dan Monday track "General Custer's Story Remains Legend" on 'I Died Today' to Rodd... but they were most definitely two different vocalists. Milford Perkins also gets lumped in with the Rodd pseudonyms on occasion, but he too was a different vocalist.

It's not clear to me how the writer knows for certain that Dan Monday is not Rodd - it certainly sounds like him to me - and I admit that I've not written to ask, due to the general busyness that I've alluded to, but I will defer to the folks at Roaratorio, whose knowledge and insight about Rodd far surpass mine. 

Finally, Jake writes to ask: 

Are you aware of any song-poem companies that are still active or is this pretty much a dead medium in the 2010s?

It's not I can't answer this for certain - but I strongly suspect that the scam is still out there. It certainly was a decade ago, when a friend of mine was an avid collector of recent CD releases of song-poems on the then-current song-poem labels. Also, in the late '90's, a few of us got together and purchased a song-poem based on a poem by a late acquaintance of one of our group - I believe the price was $200 - and I think we did business with the folks who now run whatever the current name of Halmark Records has become. To be certain about its continued existence, one might buy a copy of The National Enquirer, or some other similar rag, and look in the classified ads, but that's not something I'm going to do. I know for a fact that the poetry version of this scam (in which people are self published, or have their poems narrated on CD) still exists. 

Thanks, everyone, for writing - I really appreciate all comments!

And now, on with the countdown!


Today, we have the singer best known as "Dick Kent", sounding very young, singing in what I'm guessing was early in his career, trying to "advance" himself up the ladder of success, on the Advance label, under the name "Dick Castle". The song is "A New Love", and the entire, fairly pleasant, non-taxing enterprise sounds like something Paul Anka might have released in the early '60's (which is when I'm guessing this dates from), including Dick himself sounding more than a little bit like Anka. Although I hasten to say, Dick Castle/Kent, like 98% of the vocalists who have ever been recorded, is a better singer than Mr. Anka.

Download: Dick Castle, Vocal, with Page Cavanaugh - A New Love
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The flip-side, "Dream One Dream At a Time", is a far duller trip, to my ears, a lyric as clunky as the title, and a music bed which has nothing to recommend it.

Download: Dick Castle, Vocal, with Page Cavanaugh - Dream One Dream At a Time
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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hand Me Down Girl


I thought I heard a little bird whisper in my ear "you haven't featured an MSR 45 in almost 15 months". So I went to the box, found one from that label's early days (being that I am strongly non-partial to their latter day releases), and found a nice little song from Bobbi Blake, written by that famous song-poem "Dee", a lyric with a sad story to tell, titled "Hand Me Down Girl". The lousy sound quality is rests entirely on the shoulders of those who pressed this record.

Download: Bobbi Blake - Hand Me Down Girl
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On the flip side, we have an unusually uninspired offering from Rodd Keith (listed here as Rodd Rogers), on "Me and My Guitar".  Not that the songwriter gave him much to work with. At least in this case they gave the guitar a prominent role - I've heard several song-poems about certain instruments which hardly feature the instrument in question, if at all.

Download: Rodd Rogers - Me and My Guitar
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Monday, August 21, 2017

A Travelogue with Sammy Marshall

I really do intend to get back to posting once a week... I can hardly believe how busy my home and work life is getting - I truly intended to get back to once-a-week posting - it's Summer, for God's sake, how much can there possibly be to do. I had no idea....


The question for today is: Did Alice Lindhout write today's pair of songs in some sort of official capacity, with a mandate to publicize Palm Springs and the then-brand new Aerial Tramway into the San Jacinto mountains (this would have presumably been in 1963 or, more likely, 1964). Or did she simply take it upon herself to send it two sets of lovely lyrics about her environs and their most recently added feature?

Which is the true story, she (or the city) paid the good (?) folks at the Globe Song-Poem Factory to produce her two songs, with Sammy Marshall offering stellar vocals, and press them up on the "Souvenir Records of Palm Springs and Aerial Tramway" records label. I'm guessing there weren't a lot of releases in the label's catalog.

But these two are lovely, particularly the bouncy "Come On Down". It's a minimalist arrangement, driven by chugging piano and what sounds like a quartet of Sammys, although it could just as well be a real vocal group, supporting Sammy's enthusiastic lead vocal. Whoever is singing (and playing) is a winner from start to finish.

Download: Sammy Marshall: Come On Down
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The flip is a more sedate story of The San Jacinto Mountains, here mislabeled as "The Sanjacinto Mountains". Oddly, Ms. Lindhout's lyrics portray the very first reason for going to area being that it grants wishes, with the specific wish one should make being a wish that Sammy Marshall would "be your fella". That would not be my wish.

Download: Sammy Marshall: The Sanjacinto Moutains
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Sunday, August 06, 2017

Mystery Upon Mystery


Here is a new addition to my collection of Halmark 45's. And it presents a number of mysteries, at least one of which is completely unseen (at least by me) up to this point in the saga of the song-poem industry.

I very excitedly bid on, and watched myself win, this Halmark 45, because its label indicated that the vocalist was Rod Rogers. This seemed to me an impossibility. Rodd Keith worked in Los Angeles, and the folks at Halmark (in Boston) could very well have barely been aware of him. Rodd had also retired that particular spelling of his nom-de-song-poem when he moved from Preview (where he was Rodd Keith) to MSR (where he remained Rodd Keith for a time then became Rodd Rogers). The name Rod Rogers (in that spelling) hadn't regularly appeared on records since he'd left Film City, in the mid '60's. Given that the majority of the Halrmark records which can be dated seem to come from 1973-76 (although they existed well before and after these dates), it's not even certain that Rodd Keith was still alive when this recording was released. Could Rodd Keith have made a record, near the end of his life, for the Halmark label?

Sadly, that's not the case. The song is called "Daddy I Love You", and it's quite clearly sung by the husband and wife team of Dodie Frost and Jack Kimmel, who were Halmark stalwarts (with Kimmel's name usually shorted to "Jack Kim", when he was credited at all). It's sung over one of Halmark's patented, reusable backing tracks - and they didn't even bother starting over again when the tape stuck a bit and caused a glitch at the very beginning. I find the Frost/Kim Halmark records to be particularly, egregiously horrible, and this one is no exception.

The song itself is a fairly desperate answer record of sorts to the massive hit song "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast", by the very unfortunate Wayne Newton, which hit number four in Billboard in 1972. While in that song, the father is leaving the mother, only to be pulled back in, for one more try, due to the calls of his daughter, in this case, the child herself is narrating: the mother died in childbirth, and rather than the poignant, life altering moment (or, at least, intended so) of the original song, her lyrics are mostly a complaint that, when her daddy would take her out for a stroll, he would, literally, walk too fast for her. Given the lyrics to this thing, it's downright weird that the title is "Daddy I Love You", which is hardly the main point of the lyrics.

But I would LOVE to know how Rod Rogers' name got attached to this thing.

Download: Dodie Frost and Jack Kimmel (Labeled as Rod Rogers): Daddy I Love You
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Okay, so that's one mystery. When I got done with my disappointment after hearing that Rod Rogers was not on "Daddy I Love You", I flipped the record over and saw that the Frost/Kim team were credited on the flip side. For a moment, I thought - "Maybe the artist credits were reversed, and THIS will be Rod Rogers".

But it's not. However, it's also not Frost and Kimmel! It's quite clearly a vanity recording! As I found in a record I posted in January, Halmark apparently pressed up their song-writer's own recordings from time to time. Or, in this case, someone outside of the Halmark facilities singing the song-writer's song. For, unless there are other mistakes on this record (which is entirely possible), this song was also written by the composer of "Dadd, I Love You", Mrs. Aristy Ledford.

The song has the unlikely titled "My Trailways Bus Driver", and it's a true winner. I don't doubt that Mrs. Ledford wrote the song, or at least that some woman did, at least given that it was written in those hetero-centric days, as the lyrics have a definite, "I'm attracted to the male bus driver" tilt to them. Why, then is the vanity recording performed by what appears to be a mail vocalist?

And what a song (and recording) it is. For one thing, if the early lyrics are to be trusted, the driver is apparently holding the singer while driving the bus. Then there's the whole focus of the song, which is literally a tribute to the driver of a bus doing his job. The sound quality is abysmal, and the "High Fidelity Vocal and Orchestra Directed by Ted Rosen", which are described in exactly that way on the label, consist here of a single six-string guitar.

Download: Labeled as Dodie Frost and Jack Kim - My Trailways Bus Driver
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Who is singing this song? Why did Frost and Kimmel get the credit? Why did Mrs Ledford pay for one song to be produced by the Halmark factory yet submitted another one complete and on tape, sung by a male singer with his guitar? And how on earth did the name of Rod Rogers (who may well have been dead by the time this record was released) end up on this 45?

I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this matter!



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Zombie Song-Poem

It's always a good time for an early Tin Pan Alley record - in this case, one from 1956. And with the recent death of George Romero, there couldn't be a better time for a tribute to the man behind the modern zombie film, than a Tin Pan Alley song-poem about....yes.... ZOMBIES! 

Here's "Zombies Dance in the Night". It's sung by Alberta Jordan, whose name turns up on only a handful of TPA singles. And that's too bad, because she had a fun sound to her voice, which would have enhanced any number of song-poem records. The AS/PMA website lists one Jordan record, and I own two others, both of which I've now shared here (the other is currently mothballed, due to the loss of the links to my earlier posts.

The record has a bump and grind beat, which is an interesting choice for a song describing Zombies dancing. The author did not provide a whole lot of lyrics, leading to a lot of "La-La-La's" at a few points. But they still paint quite a picture.

Download: Alberta Jordan: Zombies Dance in the Night
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The flip side, "Mister Radio Operator". And this is a fine, fun record, with a swinging, early rock and roll beat, with a nice sax solo, and a great feeling throughout. I'm not sure where the protagonist is located, but in the song, she's beginning the title character to somehow manage to pull in a strong signal so that she can hear her favorite music. Alberta Jordan does has a weird way of pronouncing words ending in a long O - including "Radio" - not sure where that accent comes from.

And how do I know this record is from 1956? Well, I did a search for the titles as well as the name of the label, and I found this listing. It seems that label honcho Jack Covais was thorough enough (proud enough?) of his co-writing credits - for writing the music - that he took the time to copyright these songs.

Download: Alberta Jordan: Mister Radio Operator
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Monday, July 17, 2017

A Mid-Summer Treat - A Full MSR Album from 1971!


I thought I'd send out something extra special today, especially in light of the fact that I've been sharing more like three "song poems of the week" each month instead of four for most of the year.

So.... here's a FULL album from MSR, titled "New Songs for '71", featuring Dick Kent and the Lancelots on most of the tracks, and Bobbi Boyle (Bobbi Blake, I do believe) and the MSR singers on the remainder.

Just a few notes:
     - I believe that "Hot Pants and Leather Boots That Shine" has traveled the song-poem collector  circuit, although I'm not sure. I just know that I'd heard it before getting this album.
      - Even though that's the case, it is not, by far, in my estimation, the most interesting track here. The next to last song on side, for example, "Do Right", stood out to me for it's ridiculously simplistic sloganeering, and the final track on side one, "California City" is a marvel, in the way it seems to be wanting to tell a story, but simply repeats the same incomprehensible and pointless anecdote twice.
      - The most amazing track here, by far, is on side two, and is called "Forty Going North". I was actually inspired to get up and make sure I still had the same album on the turntable, so different was this from anything else on the album, and indeed, from anything else MSR was doing around this time. Truly an amazing track.

I have not separated out the tracks - they are linked here simply as side one and side two.

Enjoy!!!!      

Download: Dick Kent and the Lancelots and Bobbi Boyle and the MSR Singers - New Songs for '71, Side One
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Download: Dick Kent and the Lancelots and Bobbi Boyle and the MSR Singers - New Songs for '71, Side Two
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Friday, July 07, 2017

First, I Will Serve My Country


Well, here we are, with a patriotic tune, appropriate for the week, just a few days late for Independence Day. And it's an early effort by Norm Burns and the folks at Sterling records, from that brief period when they were making a few wonderful, early-'60's sounding rock and roll records. The release comes just a few label numbers after the unimpeachable "Darling, Don't Put Your Hand On Me", which may well be my favorite song-poem record, and which you can hear here.

"Twenty-Three" isn't the equal to that masterpiece - and what is? - but it's a solid record in the same genre, clearly cut from the same cloth, with another unique Norm Burns vocal, and a lyric that tells its story effectively enough. Interesting enough, the lyricist here is female, but wrote a song from the point of view of a young man who has been drafted.

Download: Lew Tobin's Orchestra, Vocal, Norman Burns - Twenty-Three
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On the flip side is a straightforward, sad ballad titled "Lost in Hopes of You". The singer's been gone for awhile, and has learned that, in his absence,  his sweetheart has found another. Since this has the same lyricist as "Twenty-Three", it seems at least possible that writer Mary Genco saw this song as being from the perspective of the same person who was portrayed on the flip side, a few months later.

Download: Lew Tobin's Orchestra, Vocal, Norman Burns - Lost in Hopes of You
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Friday, June 30, 2017

My Heart Has a Flat


I love many of the 1960's Preview label releases. But as the early '70's move into the mid '70's, I tend to find fewer and fewer of the recordings on this label to be of interest, as more and more of them feel like poorly arranged, tossed off, forgettable nothings.

So I didn't have a lot of hope for this record, which seems to date from around 1974. But I was pleasantly surprised - delighted, actually, to find a funny, pun-filled record. "A Check Up With Love" is certainly not the first - or even close to the best - record to use car metaphors to describe a relationship, but it's a well done example of that concept, with several genuinely unusual, dryly humorous lyrics (although someone should have told the song-poets that no one has ever called it a "window-shield".

Gene Marshall does a solid job singing it, although it's not up to his standards. He was probably sight reading (as was usually the case) and he sounds a bit unsure here and there, tripping over the unexpected turns of phrase (I do love the little "yeh" at 1:33). The band sounds good, particular the excellent drumming.

Download: Gene Marshall - A Check Up With Love
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On the flip side, a more typical recording of the era, built around the phrase "Why Waste Time, Time Does Not Waste On Us", a trite thought which somehow puts me in the Yakov Smirnoff. The song is heard in a suitably blandly professional performance.

Download: Gene Marshall - Time Does Not Waste On Us
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Friday, June 23, 2017

My Minutes with Demento

In July of 1975, I was a month beyond my 15th birthday. I was hooked on buying all things Beatles, watching (and recording) episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus every Sunday night on our local PBS station, and cutting a bunch of lawns for money.

Over the course of a few weeks, I heard from two different friends about a radio show they knew I'd love, The Dr. Demento show, heard Sunday nights over WSDM, 97.9 (SDM = "Smack Dab in the Middle" of your dial). On July 20th, I gave it a listen.

I was hooked from the very first song, "The Q5 Piano Tune" by Spike Milligan, an amazing feat of nonsense wrapped up in a hooky, noisy and extremely well produced package (not surprising, as it was produced by George Martin). As the show went on, I heard several more excellent records that I'd had no idea existed, in styles and genres I barely had known about, as well as a few that I'd grown up knowing, such as "Three Little Fishies" and "The Purple People Eater".

I was getting very into this new show, but then, near the end of the episode, came "My Boomerang Won't Come Back" by Charlie Drake, and I was over the moon. The record is a masterpiece of production (and, again, by George Martin!), has funny lyrics, great harmonies and an absolutely indelible tune. I have no doubt it was the record I listened to the most over the next two or three months, and remains one of my very favorite records.

For that treat alone, I made sure to listen the next week, and the next, and the next, in the hope of hearing something else that I would love. I was usually rewarded with something else wonderful. I was hooked on Dr. Demento's show. And like most things I fall headlong into, I have continued to be into Dr. Demento, full bore, ever since. His show changed stations a few times in those early years, but it eventually landed on WLUP (curiously, the station which took over the frequency of WSDM), and stayed there for more than 30 years, before the show itself moved to an online-only presence.

Over the course of those years, I recorded nearly every episode on reel to reel, copying onto cassette tape after cassette tape all of the material that I loved, and there was far too much of that loved material to mention here, although I will point out that his show was the source of my introduction to Thurl Ravenscroft, whose career I celebrated here.

Being a major record collector myself, Dr. Demento (AKA Barry Hansen) became a hero to me, for his collection, his knowledge and his desire to/excellent ability at sharing his collection with the world.

I even got a song on his show. After I completed a self-produced, privately distributed cassette tape of funny songs, I sent off a copy of a few of them to the good Doctor, and was rewarded a few months later when my song "Bad TV Acting" (a parody of "Sweet Soul Music") got a spin on the show (later, the entire cassette album was posted online, here).

Flash forward a few more years, and an episode of the show was done which paid tribute to Elvis, 25 years after his death. I wrote a very favorable post about it in the Dr. Demento Usenet Newsgroup (remember those), and someone in his camp forwarded it to Dr. Demento himself. Thus began an occasional correspondence between us. This was more than I would ever have dreamed of, but over the last couple of years the correspondence has became more frequent, starting with my making suggestions for the show, and offering up items from my own collection. Soon, he and I were going off on tangents and writing to each other about our lives, our collecting, etc.

Hearing that Dr. Demento and I would someday become friends would have probably put the 16 year old, or 26 year old me into shock. And yet, that's what had happened. I had, by this point, started recording my own material again, and I began sending some of these songs to him, as well. Since early last year, he's played four of these, and has featured several additional items from my collection, several of them song-poems.

When I learned last fall that Dr. Demento would be appearing live in a theatre about an hour from my home, around Halloween, I quickly bought a ticket, and inquired with him whether he thought there'd be a chance for us to meet before the show. The answer was yes, and so, last October, prior to what was a wonderful presentation, I got to spend about 20 minutes with the Good Doctor, in the theatre's "green room".

What did we talk about? Lots of things, including, of course, being a collector and ways of having a collection. But does it really matter? Someone I considered a hero, someone who built an amazing career out of something I've done as a life-long hobby, is now a friend. And we had a really nice conversation, and that's what matters. Since then, our conversation continued, via e-mail. So have my submissions of records from my collection for the show: Just last week, he played "The 23rd Channel", a ridiculous Noval label song-poem, during a segment on television.

Thank you, Dr. Demento - Barry Hansen - for more than 40 years of entertainment, for the myriad beloved songs and other recordings you've introduced me to, and for welcoming me into friendship with you.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

An All Time Favorite


Today is my 57th birthday, although I prefer to look at it as being 19 for the third time. Regardless of all that, I'm going to give a gift to you - a record which I've owned for a long time as part of a shared tape exchanged from long, long ago, but only acquired on vinyl in the last few days. And it is, as indicated in the title, an all-time favorite of mine. I was actually amazed (in searching, prior to making this post) that it never seems to have been shared by anyone before.

It's Rodd Keith, in his Rod Rogers mode, in a recording clearly made at the Film City song-poem factory, but released by a vanity label run by Roy "Curly" Rivers and Evelyn Sheets, who wrote songs together, and who combined their last names to form the Shevers label.

What's so special about this one? Well, there are several records made by Rodd Keith in a country vein wherein he sounds like he's less than serious about the genre, and seems to have his tongue in his cheek to varying degrees. For this song, however - the aptly named "Poverty" - his complete contempt for the material and the style fairly drips off of the grooves. The addition of a few added sounds tied into the lyrics is a nice touch. (The awful edit at 1:01, on the other hand, might be another indication of the level of seriousness with which he took this particular recording.)

Perhaps his intentions wouldn't be as clear if we didn't have Rodd's other records to compare this to - if all we knew was that this record sounded if it was made by an idiotic backwoods hick. But we know what he could do when he was serious, or even doing something lighthearted that he respected. This is just a complete deconstruction of a genre.

The couple behind the scenes at Shevers seem to have not been bothered by this - or perhaps it's what they asked for - as this is actually a single lifted from an entire album of songs that they commissioned, one which goes for a whole bunch of dollars, on the rare occasions that it turns up for auction.

ENJOY!!!

Download: Rod Rogers - Poverty
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On the flip side - and also from the "Singing in the Country" album, is a much more typical Rodd Keith Film City era record, titled "Luella". This track has a swinging Chamberlin track, with some creative soloing and voicing choices. The song has an interesting lyric, and Rodd sounds fully engaged with this one, with good reason, I'd say.

Download: Rod Rogers - Luella
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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Don't Make Love On a Merry-Go-Round!

Before getting to this week's offering, I want to write about a new project, a massive undertaking being made by a wonderful (and not at all obscure) person who has been my closest friend for what is now approaching 40 years, Stu Shea. Stu is also a frequent commenter here, and I've already commented on several of his new posts.
 
Stu is now featuring "A Song a Day" on his site, and not just the song, but typically, extensive background information, thoughts on the performer and song, and other information. In over a month of posts, he's featured music from a wide variety of time periods, genres and performers. It's already an impressive project, and it can be found here. I'll also link to it on the right.
 
 

Air Records doesn't seem to have been in the business of creating song-poem recordings, as least as far as I can tell. Instead, by some process and for some reason, they released the work of various song-poem factories, and as often as not, more than one production house would be represented on a single 45 or EP. In the case of today's feature, we have three songs from the Globe factory, two of which feature Sammy Marshall under one of his slightly adjusted names, as well as a very nice entry, from the almost always very nice Lee Hudson outfit.

First up is a song which will be of interest, if it's not already known, to the Vietnam War Song Project, as it's "A Soldier's Prayer" by "Sonny Marshall". This is a particularly treacle-laden number, complete with a lengthy spoken word section in which the soldier speaks directly to God.

A side note - I always look to see if the songs I'm considering have been posted anywhere before, in the hopes to avoid duplicating someone else's work (last week notwithstanding). The only reference I found to this record was in a book about "Music of the Vietnam War", in which the author dedicates a paragraph to the song, not knowing it was a song-poem (or, most likely, what a song-poem is), and expressing a certain level of confusion as to the type of songs which were paired on the EP, with this deeply religious, serious song. That page can be found here.

Download: Sonny Marshall: A Soldier's Prayer
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My favorite of the four tracks also comes from the Globe stable, with label stalwart (who I have not featured here before) Joan Auborn, with the bouncy and silly "Dizzy Love" from which comes the title of this post. The typically, fairly sterile Globe band backing doesn't do the material any favors, but the sweet, lighthearted lyrics, and especially the warm lead vocal make up for the lack of energy by the band.

Download: Joan Auborn - Dizzy Love
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Flipping the record over, we're again greeted with Sammy/Sonny Marshall, and an even more canned sounding track backing him up on the song "Talk, Talk, Talk". The way that the folks at Globe fit that title into a rapid-fire melody didn't do the lyrics, or Sammy/Sonny any favors - it's remarkably clumsy sounding. And this is a remarkably bouncy setting for a song in which the singer complains that no one likes him, that everyone talks crap about him, and, based on one set of lyrics, he's apparently about to die.

Download: Sonny Marshall: Talk, Talk, Talk
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Finally, we have the track submitted by the great Lee Hudson company, featuring his standard male singers, Jeff Reynolds on the song "My Valentine". It has elements of the features which make many of the Hudson records stand out from the typical song-poem release, but doesn't have as much varied instrumentation or energy as most of the company's best work.

Download: Jeff Reynolds - My Valentine
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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Hard Sell

I have always tried to avoid posting records which have also been posted on other blogs or elsewhere, but today, I'm making an exception, first because this is such an extraordinary one-sided record (a copy of which I only recently obtained - and I couldn't be more pleased!) and second, because the download at the only other posting is no longer available, due to the same divshare meltdown that too most of my earlier posts. The poster was Darryl Bullock, he of the masterful "World's Worst Records" blog, which is linked, to the right, and the post in question, which you can find here, has far more detail than I could hope to have put together. The post is there, the track is not.

For those who didn't just click on that link, this is a holy grail for lovers of the Halmark label. For here we have the sales pitch, complete with a performance by Bob Storm over what may well be a canned backing track, for the lugubrious product that Ted Rosen at Halmark. The sales pitch is remarkable in its ridiculousness, and goes a long way to explaining how anyone would have been satisfied in the typical overwrought, often unbearably unctuous performances that came out of Halmark - they were submitted by people who thought this record was good.

Download: Bob Storm - In That Mood Again (with Sales Pitch)
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And I really encourage you to read the much more detailed and researched post by Darryl Bullock, linked above.

And hey, look - the owner really loved and played this record - it's got one of those plastic doo-hickeys in it to fit it to the spindle!:


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I Dreamed I Heard Joe Hall Last Night



 
I have very recently picked up two records - the first two in my collection - by song-poem singer Joe Hall. His name dominates the earliest known releases on the Sterling label - a favorite of mine - and then disappears, never to appear again, around the time that Norm Burns shows up, with barely a dozen known releases to his name. So I thought I'd share this previously rather unknown warbler with all of you. To me, he sounds more than a bit like the latter day Film City singer, Jimmie Jones.
 
But there I go, burying the lead, all for the chance to put a joking reference in the title of my post. Because the real news here is that we have yet another "song-poet" who made minor changes to an existing song, and presented the results as his own. Granted, this is not the wholesale theft of "Nobody's Child", which was submitted to a song-poem company without one word changed, or even "Watching Scotty Grow", which was submitted to another company with the name of the child changed. (Those examples will be able to be found elsewhere in this blog if I ever find the time to fix the older posts.)
 
Because there are lyrical changes here. But a simple reading of the words to "Old Black Joe", and a listen to Floyd Davis' "Old Miner Joe" will show those changes to be largely cosmetic. I really have to wonder if Mr. Davis proudly played this record for his friends and said "listen to the song I wrote!", and if so, if anyone pointed out that Stephen Foster wrote nearly the same song more than a century earlier.
 
Have a listen!
 
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The flip side, featuring the truly unwieldy title "In the Garden of Home Sweet Home", is as clunky a song as its title suggests it will be. Not much here to make the song entertaining...
 
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Friday, May 12, 2017

Kitchen Table Boogie


Howdy, everyone!

Well, problems getting Opendrive to accept my uploads, and some truly busy job and home requirements have  left me nearly a week behind. Hopefully, today's offering makes up for the delay.

As I've documented several times, Prior to mid-1972, the Cinema label's releases (always labeled as having been performed by "The Real Pros") usually featured a  one-man-band operation, and then, during 1972, the label slowly transitioned over to the MSR gang (which would soon take over the label's product almost entirely).  And I've also probably made it clear that my tastes run to the former over the latter by a wide margin. So it is that I have another one of those early Cinema releases today, albeit one with a significant difference from the others I've shared.

On the side of the record featuring the remarkable and ridiculous "Kitchen Table Boogie", we have the early Cinema label vocalist I've come to know and love, and he's got a doozy for us. Here we have another lyricist who seemingly grabbed any word that rhymed with the end of the previous line, then created a line that could end with that rhyming word. Man, Combine that with a wah-wah styled keyboard setting, a swinging beat, and some wild soloing at the end, and it's a complete packing. In Fact, That's Country Style!

Download: The Real Pros - Kitchen Table Boogie
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The difference comes up with the rather bland flip side, a song with the clunky title "Wondering Memories". Here we still have the same home-organ console, played very likely by the same person who is on most or all of the other Real Pros records from this period. But the singer in this case is a woman, a vocalist I don't recognize, and who does not have much vocal personality (or talent). Perhaps I've heard others from this label/era with this or another female vocalist (perhaps I've even shared one), but if so, I don't remember it. The song is very forgettable, the only thing that stands out me being this exceptionally poorly written couplet: "More Heartbreak Could Be Fatal / Especially For Me".

Download: The Real Pros - Wondering Memories
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Mary Maddox' Greatest Hit


Here's a neat record from our friends at the Preview label, featuring a singer who is not documented to have been credited on any other song-poem record, on Preview or any other label. She is listed as Mary Maddox. I am absolutely not the expert in the voices of the female singers from the Preview/MSR/Cinema world, so perhaps this voice is quite recognizable to some of you, but I certainly don't recognize her.

The song is called "So I Can Hold You", and the Preview band do a nice job, turning in a jangly, atmospheric mid-'60's pop hit sound. Ms. Maddox has the most vibrato this side of Ronnie Spector, and there is a nice pleading quality to her voice. All in all, it's a winner in my book.

Download: Mary Maddox - So I Can Hold You
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On the flip side is, unless I'm very much mistaken, the singer most commonly billed as Dick Kent (although, like Gene Marshall, he showed up under many other names). There are little more than a dozen records on Preview by "Freddie Flagg", and as this is the only one of them I own, I don't know if that name always meant Dick Kent was the singer. Before I got this record, I didn't realize he'd recorded for Preview at all.

The song is "The Church Bells Ring", and no one involved appears to have been very inspired by the prosaic lyrics, to turn in anything but an equally workmanlike performance.

Download: Freddie Flagg (Dick Kent) - The Church Bells Ring
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Now They Think That He Is Stupid


I am amazed to find out that, in the long history of this project, only once have I featured the aggressive incompetence known as Billy Grey. I've always loved the statement made about Billy Grey on the American Song-Poem Music Archives Website, which was: One can only conclude, upon listening to his unique treatments, that he was hired strictly to make fun of the customers' lyrics.

In the case of the first song shared today, Billy Grey is paired with a lyricist of similarly limited talent, who submitted a poem containing the key line "They Don't Call It Love Any More", but which the author for some reason thought would work better under the confusing title "Love Any More".

This has all the hallmarks, to my ear, of someone who wanted to use a line (or a word), then tried to think up something which rhymed, and forced that other word into the rhyming line, regardless of its musicality or other appropriateness. Thus we get lines such as the one with which I titled this post, and, even more memorably:

Don't cha think it sounds pathetic
When they say it's genetic

This is, of course, an excellent way to write songs. I believe it was the first thing Cole Porter suggested, when he was asked.

Seriously, I have no idea what the above couplet means, nor do I understand the point the entire lyric is trying to make. Who stopped calling it love? And what do they call it now?

The band's performance is also worth the price of admission. The drummer's showy fills suggest that he thought he was in another, perhaps better, recording session.

All in all, a rewarding concoction.

Download: Billy Grey - Love Any More
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The b-side of this effort is "Foggy Morning", a sad, mournful tale of how everything was peachy yesterday, but today, she has not only stopped loving him, but has left him entirely. There's not much here for me to comment on - this is like at least 80% of the song-poems I listen to - bad, perhaps even incompetently so, but not entertainingly so, at least not to me.

Download: Billy Grey - Foggy Morning
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Monday, April 10, 2017

If It's Circle D, It's Good!


The "Circle 'D'" label, out of Speedwell, Tennessee, seems to have been a teeny-tiny project. And based on the one site I can find that has captured some information on the label, found here, it's connection to the song-poem world seems quite tenuous. The other known releases on the label are largely religious in nature, and the one other label scan found does not feature the same song-writers as are seen on this record (a hallmark of these teeny labels is that often, all songs on the label are written by the same person or people).
 
However, at some point in the mid 1960's, someone named Ruth Ellen White teamed up with two different co-writers (and perhaps composers) to put together songs, and then bought the talents of two very disparate song-poem outfits, Sandy Stanton's Film City factory and the gigantic Globe song-poem operation. Remarkably, they produced records which - despite completely different instrumentation and singers, have the same tempo, general (rolling) beat and key.
 
From Film City, we have chief label star, and one-man-band, Rodd Keith (as Rod Rogers, of course), with a lovely midtempo ditty titled "Out Where the Coyotes Howl". This is not one of Rodd's greatest vocals or Chamberlin efforts, but the thick production has some appeal to me, as do the howls that he helpfully added to the mix.
 
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On the flip side, we have Sammy Marshall, or Sonny Marcell, to be specific. True to its title, "Strumming the Old Guitar" is accompanied by guitar, although it does precious little strumming, and a lot more picking, behind a fairly dreary song.
 
But wait, maybe it's better than I think it is, because, as the label says, "If Its (sic) Circle D Its (sic) Good"
 
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The New Sensation for 68?

 
Today, we have a record from near the very end of Sandy Stanton's Film City empire. Label numbers for Film City's known releases barely extend another 100 numbers beyond this one's #4032 A/B.
 
And what an A-side! Over a bouncy Chamberlin track (very likely a Rodd Keith  production, based on its quality), Patty Stanton sings a ridiculous little song called "Beer Can Drag", the wonders of which I'll let you discover on your own, aside from calling your attention to the way Patty manages to pull three syllables out of the word "suppress" (which is such a musical, lyric-worthy word to begin with).
 
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As fun and contagious as that song and performance are, the song poet for the b-side, "Love Me Darling", saw greatness in the future of that song, rather than "Beer Can Drag", going so far as to inscribe the 45 sleeve with the following question and request:
 
 
 
One listen to "Love Me Darling", however, strongly indicates that such a thought was somewhere between wishful thinking and delusion, as "Love Me Darling", sung by Jim Wheeler, is a terrible song, with a melody that would be a challenge for anyone to remember or follow, let alone sing along with. The tune meanders here and there, and there's a stultifying instrumental break, and in a more general sense, the backing and the vocal are turgid.  
 
My first thought was that the writers of "Love Me Darling" should have heard the flip side and said "well, that's a much better song and performance - why didn't they work that hard on our song?" However, a peek at the label shows that the team that wrote "Love Me Darling", also wrote "Beer Can Drag". Not that either of these songs would have been a "new sensation" in 1968 or any other year, but still...the logical assumption is that they thought "Love Me Darling" was the better, and more commercial of the pairing. Uh, no.

 

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