Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Worm Steamed Into A New Junction

I appreciate all the fans and comments I have received at this blog spot. But things change, the locomotive went into the roundhouse for a tuneup and reemerged with a new livery and a new station.
The Earworm in person.

From now on if you want to check on the music of the Great American Popular Songbook just switch tracks and head into  for more good music and comments. I may sneak back here every now and then....but till then......adieu!!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now

The Earworm was feeling better this morning and I awoke with a couple of songs ringing in my head, among them what I thought to be an Irving Berlin classic. But I was a bit off the mark.

"I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" was a very popular tune published in 1909 and written by Joseph E. Howard and Harold Orlob will lyrics by Will M. Hough and Frank R. Adams. So much for Irving.

I think I came to the erroneous conclusion of its authorship because it sort of sounds like something he would write. Pleasing lyrics. 3/4 time. Very beautiful melody that will curl around your cerebellum and nest there for a while. If my pal to, whom I assured that this was a Berlin number, is reading this - my humblest apologies.

Joe Howard, born February 12, 1878 in New York City is the first Tin Pan Alley fixture turned up by The Worm who was not born in Eastern Europe. He wrote music with a lot of folks, probably his best collaboration was with his wife composer Ida Emerson with whom he had many hits including "Hello Ma Baby", part of Michigan Frogs repertoire from that classic Warner Brothers/Chuck Jones cartoon "One Froggy Evening."

Michigan as himself!
You remember. The one where the guy gets a singing, dancing frog out of a tin box he found while demolishing a building and ends up losing his money, his home, his job and his mind when Michigan would only perform for him. And no one else.

It contained several classic songs from the American Songbook including "I'm Just Wild About Harry", and a song written for the cartoon, "The Michigan Rag" from whence the frog got his moniker.  Steven Spielberg in Jones's PBS biography called "One Froggy Evening, released in 1955, the "Citizen Kane" of animated films. High praise indeed.

But getting back to the song. "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" was introduced in the Broadway show entitled, " The Prince of Tonight" which fell into oblivion leaving only this tune. I find it lovely...somewhat sad and melancholy. Maybe that's the reason I felt it "Berlin-ish" because of the mood invoked by a song he did write about the same time called, "What'll I Do?" which also laments love lost.

Very seldom is the verses sung, usually just the chorus, which shortens it somewhat.

The verses, or the intro, is a little less melancholy as the narrator berates a young man for leaving one girl behind to romance another and a suggestion that she may be doing the same thing he is. And the rhythm is a little faster then I like.

I like?  I like Harry Nilssons' version of the song from his "A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night" album released in 1973 years before doing standards would ever become popular, but it is considered a fine example of Nilssons' virtuoso chops. Harry was charming to listen to. He had a voice. The album title is a play on Shakespeare's Henry V Act 4 where the chorus referrers to Henrys visit to his troop as a "little touch of Harry in the Night." I never knew that.

Nilsson left us too soon. He died of a heart attack in January of 1994, a little over 20 years ago.

I never quite figured out Harry. I mean he wrote such good songs, "One" or "Coconut" ("You put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up!"....I always see Muppet's when I hear that song) or "Without You" and he sang "Everybody's Talkin' Bout Me"  for which he received a Grammy in 1970,  from the movie "Midnight Cowboy". It was written by Fred Neil, however. Not by Harry.

He never exploded all over like everyone said he would. They said he was a new Beatle.

He had a modicum of commercial success in the 1970's in spite of the fact her seldom ever gave concerts or went on any tours. Maybe that was the reasons he never really took off. He recorded a lot. He mode a tv cartoon, "The Point" in which he wrote all the songs. Remember "Me and My Arrow"? He was an odd duck who had close friends ranging from Mickey Dolenz of "Monkee" fame, Paul McCartney and John Lennon who he was very close to and went on occasional drinking binged with. He was deeply shaken by Lennon's assassination and was a strong advocate for gun control after his death.

I love his voice and who knows what wonderful things he would have produced if he had a lived a bit longer.

So long till tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Steve Goodman - In Memorium

The Earworm wasn't feeling well this morning so I gave him the day off and will concentrate instead on one of the best singer-songwriters this country has ever produced.

Steve Goodwin passed away around this time of year thirty years ago, dying of kidney and liver failure as a result of leukemia in Seattle Wash. on September 20, 1984. I didn't realize it had been that long.

I first heard of Steve probably around the same time you did with the release of the Arlo Guthrie hit "City of New Orleans" which Goodman penned while campaigning for Edmund Muskie in the 1970's.

Guthrie tells the story that, after he had finished a  late night gig in New York, he was asked by his friend to listen to "this young dude who's been pestering me." Arlo saw this little guy out of the corner of his eye with a guitar in his hand. He thought..."Oh no! Not now. I'm really beat. Some other time." But Steve was persistent and Woody's boy finally said..."Ok. Buy me a beer and as long as I'm drinking the beer you can do what ever you want." Steve bought the beer. Arlo listened and a while later he recorded what would become for Goodman a song that, as he later said...."Saved my ass!"

My brother gave me a couple of his vinyls in the mid 80's ("Artistic Hair" and "Santa Ana Winds" which were both pressed on his own label, Red Pajamas) and told me to listen to this guy. I would like him. I did and I do.

He plays a mean guitar and has a very self depreciating style of delivery with a pleasant voice that never bores you. And prolific? Well I guess.

Steve discovered he had leukemia around the summer of 1967 while attending Lake Forest College in his home town of Chicago where he was born into a middle class Jewish family on July 25, 1948 and decided to spend the rest of what life left him; focusing on songwriting and performing which he had been doing since before 1964.

Despite critical acclaim, Goodmans recording never sold particularly well (Bob Dylan even played piano as Robert Milkwood Thomas on "Someone Others Troubles.") and by 1973 he was still living in a $145-a-month apartment just a few blocks from where his beloved Chicago Cubs blundered into obscurity every fall. "The doormat of the National League...." he would pen in his classic song, "A Dying Cub Fans Last Request" which I had a chance along with another gentleman to perform in my brother Garys show, "Play Ball" which hit the boards in the Players Ring in Portsmouth a few years ago. It's a great song and, just a few days after his death in 1984, The Cubs clinched first place in the National League East for the first time since 1945. And a song he wrote called "Go Cubs Go" is still played today when the Cubbies win. "Hey Ernie. Let's play two."
Steve wearing his beloved Cubs hat.

Then came "City of New Orleans" and a firm foundation for Steve to stand on and go forward.

I love his songs. They are warm, uncomplicated and speak deeply of our fears, our hopes and dreams along with gentle humor. Even when things go wrong. Which happen to all of us occasionally. His rendition of "My Old Man" brings tears to my eyes, but, on the Youtube clip, his guitar strap slips off his guitar before he sings, (Tell me about it!) and in a live album, "Artistic Hair" when he sings a holiday standard, "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" he forgets the words at one point but easily covers it by singing....."It's really absurd. When you don't know the words. To "Walking in a Winter Wonderland." Beautiful!

Please find and play some of Steve Goodman's stuff. I recommend "Affordable Art", "Santa Ana Winds" and "No Big Surprise: The Steve Goodman Anthology".  there are also many artist's besides Arlo who have covered him including John Prine, John Denver, David Allan Coe and Joan Baez.

Hopefully the Earworm will be feeling better tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

April Showers - A Lullaby

This morning the Earworm gave me two songs.

"April Showers" and the French national anthem "La Marsiellaise".

I think I will focus on the first.

"April Showers". Written by Louis Silver and B. G. DeSylva it was introduced in a 1921 Broadway show called "Bombo" and featured "Jollie" himself, Al Jolson, surly one of the most electrifying acts ever to tread the boards.

He was born Asa Yoelson in Snrednicke, Lithuania in 1885 (once again that incredible connection between the Eastern European Jew and American music) and died in this country in 1950 after completing an exhausting tour of Korea, entertaining the troops, something he insisted on doing through two wars.
"Jollie" without blackface.

I like Al Jolson. In spite of the "black-face" he worked in. With white gloves and highlighted eyes and mouth, Jolson became, for his time, the Elvis of the music industry.

Don't get me wrong. Working in "black-face" nowadays would be considered racist, rude, and ridiculous. But Jolson didn't have a prejudicial bone in his body. Frankly, he was too busy promoting himself and his act to be bothered with hating anybody. He had a phenomenal ego and was always pushing his way to the front. But racially biased? Never.

And the Elvis part? Several sources, including the tome "The American Songbook" by Ken Bloom (published in 2005 by Blackdog and Levanthal) states that he was connection between jazz, ragtime and the popular "square" ballads at the turn of the last century, Like Elvis and Irving Berlin he made black music palatable to the white audience.

He sold that song and wrung out your heart at the same time. Catch him on Youtube. Even the more recent stuff shows the power he had with an audience.

The critic Robert Benchley said that ".... the word personality isn't strong enough for what Jolson has. And unimpressive as the comparison may be, the only one in history to equal his power was John The Baptist."

Wow. Elvis and JtB all in one piece'

But back to "April Showers" as a lullaby.  Ask Rose and my children.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, my kids requested lullaby's from me or my wife as we tucked them into bed after a long day of school or play and we would oblige.

Rose would sing those songs her own parents would sing to her. Songs like "Playmate, Come Out And Play With Me" or perhaps from the James Taylor songbook - "Sweet Baby James"....."The first of December was covered with snow and so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston." You know the rest.

My parents, a generation before hers, had such ditties as "Mairsy Doats", "Sue City Sue" and others including the post title, "April Showers". The song contained in its lyrics what many call the "bluebird effect". A song with bluebirds mentioned was popular. Like:

Barry's lastest CD.
"So keep on looking for a bluebird and listening for a song whenever April showers comes along." - "April Showers". Or:

"If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow why oh why can't I" - "Over the Rainbow".

So I would sing songs to them as I did to the kids from my first marriage. In their case, sometimes they would carry transistor radios to bed and listen to a story-telling over the air from a show I did in the evening over the local station WEMJ in Laconia NH in the 1970's.

Some other songs I would sing as lullaby's?

Pat Boone's "April Love", The song "Buffalo Gals" from the perennial Christmas classic "It's A Wonderful Life", Jimmy Driftwood's - "Tennessee Stud" and Barry Manilow's "Copacabana".
By the way. Have you heard Barry's surprise album for Halloween? Its a cd filled with duets he does with only dead people. Yep.

More from the Earworm tomorrow.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Don't Sleep In The Subway - Petula Clark

I always thought this song sprang full blown from the Broadway musical "Subways Are For Sleeping", but alas, I was wrong........again.

The Earworm placed this song in my head and, in turn, it brought forth a flowery chum-bucket of memories.

This was written by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent to be recorded by Petula Clark and released in April of 1967 on Pye Records in GB.
Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch

Hatch and Trent were a songwriting team from Great Britain who arrived a bit before and then rode the crest of the "First British Invasion".

Hatch made a name for himself as a writer, arranger, producer and keyboardist for many well known performers including Clark, The Searchers, Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker, Connie Francis, Pat Boone and many others. He also wrote under several names during this time including Mark Anthony and Fred Nightingale.

The song, length just under three minutes, contains a textbook of musical styles from pop, to classical and symphonic. The chord progression, and I strummed it with the guitar to see if it was true, (it was) is based on the familiar baroque piece "Pachelbels Cannon.

The chorus employs a Beach Boy type melody and then breaks into a symphonic series of  wails to be followed with Pets' lovely intonations.

According to the songs co-writer Trent, the title lyric was suggested by the 1961-62 Broadway musical "Subways Are For Sleeping", with book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (who provided the book and screenplay from that timeless movie, "Singin' In The Rain") and music by the ubiquitous Julie Styne. (I knew we'd get a Golden Age American Songbook reference in here some how.)

In his book "American Popular Songs", Alec Wilder states one of his favorite Styne songs is "Time After Time" from a forgettable 1947 movie "It Happened in Brooklyn."

The lyrics tell the story of someone advising her sweetheart against storming out after an argument built on "silly pride" and asks him to comeback. "Don't sleep in the subway, darling. Don't stand in the pouring rain."...are words of advice we should all heed.

Petula Clark always stymied me. Who was she?  A "bird" (the English slang word of the day for "girl")? Not really. She always appeared a bit older then George Harrison, Gerry Marsden, David Bowie or Mick Jagger. Yet, with her short skirt and knee length white vinyl go-go  boots, was always lumped together with that gang from Great Britain that liberated our record players for so many years and became known as "The First Lady" of the British Invasion.
Petula advising us not to sleep in the tube.

Her lineage with the English public went back at least twenty years when she was an entertainer with the BBC during World War 2. She was so popular a comic strip was created featuring her. She later went on to record many records in French as well as English having success with such songs as "Baby Lover", "The Little Shoemaker" and "Prends Mon Coer".

During the 1960's her popularity exploded worldwide with such upbeat hits as "Downtown", I Know a Place". "My Love" and "A Sign of the Times", and she has sold more then 68 million records in her career.

She appeared in many movies, my favorite being Sharon in the last movie Fred Astaire ever made, the Hollywood version of "Finians Rainbow"

She will always look and sound like a million bucks in my minds ear and eye.

More from the Earworm tomorrow.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Heartaches and Slovenia

I could make up an elaborate story of how I woke up this morning with Ted Weem's version of "Heart Aches" on my mind. But I think the "earworm" must take Sundays off because I didn't. In fact, most unusual, I got nothing except an extreme craving for several cups of black coffee.

 Al Hoffman
And so I go with a song and arrangement of a tune that is one of the catchiest, swinging-est, ditties I have ever heard. Also, I have a chance to review a recent cd given to me one afternoon several weeks back while I was shmoozing with David Colburn (owner and possessor of a plethora of stringed instruments) and Ben Lamper, a sweet guy and a heck of a guitar mechanic (and player).

The tune first.

"Heartaches" was first published in 1931 music by Al Hoffman and lyrics by John Klenner. Hoffman was born in Minsk, Russia in 1902 (there's that Russian connection from yesterdays blog again!) with lyrics by John Klenner. It's should be noted here that Hoffman was a veritable stew pot of melodys, giving us such numbers as "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Bo" (with Jerry Livingston and from Disneys ubiquitous "Cinderella") and the same bubbling wordy "Mairzy Doats" which in the 1940's became such a popular song that The New York Times and Newsweek commented on its success .

There were other, very pretty songs that fell from his pen such as "Allegheny Moon", "I  Apologize" (Billy Ekstein),  "Fit As A Fiddle" (remember Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor soft-shoeing across the stage with duel fiddles in "Singing in the Rain."?) "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heat Makes", ("Cinderella" again with Livingston for Disney) and so many more.  "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd a Baked a Cake."? Yep. That one also.

But the Ted Weems Orchestra cut the first recording in 1933 for Bluebird Records using everything in the bands arrangement book to sell this song with its infectious latin beat and shuffling rhythm. First, there is a guitar inspired opening doo-wacka-do followed by trumpets in time and reeds happily skipping after in the next line. Then comes what I think is a washboard and finally, the piece that really sells this song for me, whistling by Elmo Tanner.

Tanner, billed as the "Whistling Toubador" used his throat muscles, much like Bing Crosby, when he  warbled and it is just the bees knees!

Elmo himself!
But the song really never went anywhere until about fourteen years later when a disc jockey by the name of Kert Webster from 50,000 watt clear channel WBT in Charlotte NC began featuring it on a show at night called "Midnight Dancing Party".

It soon was being requested all across the country and Weems, who had dissolved the band in 1942 when the boys went off to fight and Pitrello had just about killed the recording industry, regrouped for a few years to take advantage of his new found fame.

This song is one of the happiest tunes I can think of and when it's playing, I just can't go to sleep.

Now the cd.

Listening to "Guitar Tales", an all guitar instrumental cd by Slovenian/American musician Sasho Zver made me want to do two things I always feel like doing after I listen to a guitarist who possesses consummate skill and joy like Sasho. Either bust my own guitar ala Peter Townshend (The Who) into a million pieces or apply to Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Which, oddly enough, is where Sasho graduated a few years back.

He has performed all over the world for many years in places like the UK, Germany and Austria, Belgium, Italy etc. beginning when he was nine and continuing non-stop since.

I had a chance to meet him briefly and was charmed by his honesty and humbleness and my admiration increased when I listened to this cd.

The first cut, "Heat In Nashville" pays homage to that place where (as John Sebastian sang) those "Nashville Cats" gather. It's pretty and follows the finger-pick styling of Chet Atkins.

Incidentally, Sasho traveled in 2007 to Nashville to perform at the "Chet Atkins Appreciation Society" convention.  That is a heavy thing to add to your biography!
Sasho Zver and guitar..... kneeling.

"Come on Foot" and "Mark's Suite" follows in a solid manner with "Eternity" floating ethereally above my computer. "Mojca" is endearing and lovely as is "More Love" (any royalties from this composition will go to "Raising the Blues" a non-profit dedicated to bring music to children undergoing medical treatment, therapy, and children with emotional, physical and educational disabilities. Go on line to find out more about this.)

"Highland Aire" brings forth the tang of heather in the glenns with its Celtic probing. All the songs feel right and are cleanly brought to life by this master musician along with some help by friend Peter Huttlinger.

My favorite? "Play that Rag". I've always been a sucker for ragtime!

Thumbs way up for this cd. "Guitar Tales" by guitarist Sasho Zver!

More tomorrow!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Down Yonder and Tsarist Russia

I never thought I would find any connection between a popular American song, and the Czar of all the Russia's. But perhaps I am too naive because I find that there are least three composers of the American songbook, and God knows there are probably a lot more, who were born in Russian lands and raised in Tin Pan Alley.

George and Ira
Todays song-in-my-head is "Down Yonder", or perhaps better known as, "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee". with melody by Lewis Muir and L. Wolfe Gilbert, born in 1886 in Odessa in what is now known as Ukraine  but back in the day was part of the vast Russian Empire.

Irving Berlin was born a few years after Gilbert in 1888 in Tyumen Russia.  His original name was Israil Isidore Belin and he along with Gilbert was among the many Jewish immigrants at the begining of the last century who wrote what would become nation defining music.

This mighty amalgamation of American music also includes another who left Russian Jewish footprints in the duel genius of the Gershwin brothers, George and Ira, who's grandfather, Jakob Gershovitz,  was a mechanic for Czar Nicholas' Army, thus earning him the right of free travel as a Jew in this increasingly growing intolerant country.

Jakob retired to St. Petersburg and it was there his son, Moishe, who worked as a leather cutter fell in love with 19 year old Rosa Ruskina and they immigrated to New York in the late 1800's where they were later married, giving us two sons who in turn gave us some of the best songs ever written.

"Down Yonder" was used and recorded by Al Jolson, the great black-faced performer who, while performing as a racially infused and stereotypical African American,  brought sound to the movies in 1929 in "The Jazz Singer" and, down on one knee, carried this song along with him.

The words were composed while Gilbert watched stevedores unloading a steamboat on the Mississippi and brought it to Muir who added the tune.

Gilbert later wrote words to "Ramona" and "The Peanut Vendor."

"Down Yonder" was recorded by many folks over the years, including Judy Garland, Louis Jordan, Dean Martin and two guys known as Chas and Dave ,an English pop rock duo who created a musical style known as "rockney" which mixes pub singalong, Boogie Woogie, pre-Beatles rock and roll and humor.  They are quite well kown and opened for "Led Zeppelin" in 1979.

Who knew?

Here are the words:

L. Wolfe and the sheet music to "Down Yonder"

Railroad train, railroad train, hurry some more;
Put a little steam on just like never before.
Hustle on, bustle on, I've got the blues,
Yearning for my Swanee shore.
Brother if you only knew, you'd want to hurry up, too.

Down yonder, someone beckons to me,
Down yonder, someone reckons on me.
I seem to see a race in memory
Between the Natchez and the Robert E. Lee.
Swanee shore, I miss you more and more;
Ev'ryday, my mammy land, you're simply grand
Down yonder, when the folks get the news,
Don't wonder at the hullabaloo.
There's Daddy and Mammy, there's Ephram and Sammy,
Waitin' down yonder for me.

Summer night, fields of white, bright cotton moon ?

My, but I feel glad I'm gonna see you all soon!
'Lasses cakes mammy bakes, I taste them now.
I'll see my sweetie once more,
There's lots of kissing in store ..

American popular music owe much of its hubris; it's value as a national treasure, to the many men and women newly planted on this shore, either of their own volition or, sadly, those brought over here in chains.

Through them, a rough seed was planted. A seed that contained hard work and perseverance and a fierce determination  that would pull them up by their bootstraps and see them through. To many it was true, such as Gilbert, Berlin and the Gershwin's.

Someday soon I will devote a blog or two to the eastern European Jew and his vast contribution to The Great American Songbook.

I looked on YouTube to find a good representation this song and I almost immediately unr this gem. I don't know the names of these three gentlemen. Couldn't find them any where. But their fingers should be cast in gold!
There isn't any vocalizing on this - what I consider one of the finest versions of this song I've ever heard.

Friday, September 19, 2014

One Song - Many Paths

Russ. You always look good with a tux.
Today the song I found perched in my brain was "Prisoner of Love", a powerful ballad written by Russ Columbo and Clarence Gaskill with lyrics by Leo Robin, who wrote the words to several hits, including "Love In Bloom" (remember Jack Benny and his fading violin?) and "Louise" for Maurice Chevalier. Ah, I can see him now, strolling down the Rue de la Paix with his straw hat and cane...lower lip bulging....Awww-haw-haw my cheri! But , I digress.
When I first heard the song this morning, the name Russ Columbo (Born Euginio Ruggerio Rudolpho Columbo in the early part of the last century) came to mind, for it was he who first made a major recording of this very emotional number. Well, he was part composer. I'm not sure which part.
He was one of the first musicians (he was a whiz bang violinist as well as snappy baritone) to realize the intimacy of the newer microphones like the ribbon and condenser developed in the late 20's and 30's. It was he along with Bing Crosby who recognized how personal a song could get and the other crooners soon fell in line.
However, his career was cut short by fate a little over eighty years ago, on September 2, 1934  when Columbo and a photographer friend, Lansing Brown Jr. were fooling around with a pair of antique dueling postols in Browns apartment. When he (Brown) lit one and it went off the bullet ricocheting and hitting him in the heard. He died awhile later. Who knows how far he could have come. He might have easily rivaled "Der Bingle" for he was, shall we say, a bit more handsome then Harry Lilias.
Nevertheless, Bing admired him and learned the art of hugging the microphone and slowly making love to it,
I like Russ's version of the song along with a do-over a few years later in 1946 by Perry Como, the "Singing Barber". Como's approach to singing was as laid back as you can get without falling asleep at the mic. However his version is one of the few songs that makes the hair stand up on my head, no pun implied. He really injected it with a little passion, especially towards the end.
But the song does not stop in your grandparents time. Oh no my friends.
In 1957 "The Platters" did a version which rose into the the top 100 on the charts. It wasn't as big a hit as "The Great Pretender" or "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" but tenor Wayne Miller put his own spin on this ageless song.
Did I say "soul" earlier?
Well it don't get more soulful then James Browns version.
Yes, if you remember back in the 60's "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" busted his chops on this ageless melody.
So as I follow the tunes I arise with each morning, I find I am rowing a boat in a deep and endless sea of memories and information.
So long till tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hindustan and Beyond

Back in the day any mention of India and the far east always elicited to many folks romantic visions of exotic beauties in saris, sitar music, chutney, incense and saffron. And many composers struck out to corral songs they felt would appeal to western audiences.
Such was the song "Hindustan", the tune I awoke with this morning.
It was published in 1918 and written by Oliver Wallace (words) and Harold Weeks (music). It became an immediate hit after it was recorded by the Joseph C. Smith Orchestra, a society band that played the Plaza Hotel in New York and went on to a modicum of fame.
The tune was usually played as an instrumental, but if you want the words, here you go:

Camel trappings jingle, harp strings tingle
With a sweet voice mingle underneath the stars
Singing memories are bringing
Temple bell are ringing, calling me afar'

Hindustan, my Hindustand, where we stopped to rest our tired caravan
Hindustan, my Hindustan, where the painted peacock proudly spreads his fan
Hindustan, my Hindustan, where the purple sunbird flashed across the sand
Hindustan, my Hindustan, where I met her and world began

Shades of night are falling, nigtingales are calling
Every heart enthrolling, underneath the stars
Sighing, like the night wind dying
Spft my heart is crying for my love afar

Hindustan, my Hindustan............(repeat above)

Several good swing tunes uses the "Indian theme" and found success with "Song of India", based on a melody written by classical composer Rimsky-Korsakov from his opera "Sadoka" and was arranged for Dorseys band by Tommy and Red Bone. It features that smooth trombone of Dorsey accentuated by his use of a straight mute.
"On the Road to Mandaly" is based on the poem by the great "jingoistic" Rudyard Kipling from his book of poems published in 1896, "Back Room Ballads and Other Verses" and it includes the famous pean to a water boy "beastie" "Gunga Din".
Music was added in 1907 by Oley Speaks.
This particular song is a groaner and has been a staple of leather chested baritones for years, including Nelson Eddy. Until Frank Sinatra got a hold of it, with arrangement by Billy May and included it in his "Come Fly With Me" album on Capitol back in 1958.
Sinatra received some criticism for changing Kiplings words, but to me, this song really kicks out the jams,
Heres the lyrics:

By the old Moulmein Pagoda
Looking eastward to the sea
There's a Burma broad a settin'
And I know she thinks for me
For the wind is in the palm trees
And the temple bells they say
Come you back, you British soldier
Come you back to Mandalay
Come you back to Mandalay
Come you back to Mandalay
Where the old flotilla lay
Can't you hear their paddles chonkin'
From Rangoon to Mandalay
On the road to Mandalay
Where the flyin' fishes play
And the dawn comes up like thunder
Out of China 'cross the bay
Ship me somewhere east of Suez
Where the best is like the worst
Where there ain't no Ten Commandments
And a cat can raise a thirst
'Cause those crazy bells are callin'
And it's there that I would be
By the old Moulmein Pagoda
Looking lazy at the sea
Looking lazy at the sea
Come you back to Mandalay
Where the old flotilla lay
Can't you hear their paddles chonkin'
From Rangoon to Mandalay
On the road to Mandalay
Where the flyin' fishes play
And the dawn comes up like thunder

And then the songs just ends....with a massive gong stroke.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Maggie and God: Never Alone

Yesterday morn I awoke with a tune published in 1927 bellowing in my brain. Honestly, I don't understand where these things come from! It was, what they called back then, a "novelty" number entitled "I Never See Maggie Alone". Written by Everett Lynton and Harry Tilsley, it tells the story of a frustrated suitor who never seems to find time alone with his girl (the aforementioned Maggie) to pitch a little woo
The lyrics find her father, her mother, her sister and her brother everywhere, from a dimly lit living room to the end of a fishing line to even under the hood of this poor shnooks car!
The song was a big hit with the flapper set and was recorded over the years by folks as diverse as Slim Whitman to Ray Charles. This particular version I found on Youtube features a yodeling Kenny Roberts. It's a little piercing but you get the idea.
And here are the words:
I've got a special problem with my girlfriend Maggie,
Privacy is very hard to get.
I've tried and tried to find some way to get her all alone,
But nothing that I've tried to do has quite succeeded? Yet!

She brings her father, her mother, her sister and her brother.
Oh, I never see Maggie alone.
She brings her uncles and cousins, she's got 'em by the dozens.
I never see Maggie alone.
And if I phone her and say to her "Sweet,
Where shall we meet, supposing that we eat?"
She brings her father, her mother, her sister and her brother
Oh, I never see Maggie alone.

Maggie dear just won't go out alone.
Seems that she must have a chaperone.
When we go out, wherever we are bound,
There is always somebody around.

She brings her father, her mother, her sister and her brother.
Oh, I never see Maggie alone.
One night while we were out walking and she got tired of talking,
She invited me up to her home.
I turned the lights down, 'cause they were too bright.
Oh what a night, when I turned on the light,
There was her father, her mother, her sister and her brother
Oh, I never see Maggie alone.

Maggie dear is very sweet to me,
When she's near I'm happy as can be,
I long to say, "I want you for my own,"
But I never can see her alone.

I bought a roadster, two-seated, I even had it heated,
So that I could see Maggie alone.
While we were driving and kissing, the engine started missing,
And we were a long way from home.
I jumped right out then as fast as I could.
Found what was wrong, for when I raised the hood? (Guess who!)
There was her father, her mother, her sister and her brother
Oh, I never see Maggie alone.
I never see Maggie alone.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, this a.m. I heard a hymn as I staggered into the bathroom but could not remember the title. As I usually do in these circumstances, I wandered around the house for several long minutes humming the song over and over. No words, mind you. Just the tune.
So I ended up doing what I usually do when I can't remember a song.
I asked my wife, who, after a few minutes hesitation said - "Oh God Of Loveliness".
Bingo! and here it is as done by a fabulous choir from St. Teresas Parish from St. Johns Newfoundland.
So my morning "name that tune" went from the ridiculous to the sublime. I must admit I do find the first song rather catchy. Maybe I'll try to learn it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rosin The Bow (Or Beau)

Todays song: 9/15/2014 - "Rosin the Bow". traditional. Also known as "Rosin the Beau" and the melody was used for "Acres Of Clams".

This mornings song was trapped in my head for several hours until I picked up one of my song books (and one of the best you could ever invest twenty-five bucks in) called "Rise Up Singing" and edited by Peter Blood and Annie Patterson.
Up till that moment the melody was driving me crazy and the words were equally illusive. I thought it had the words....."....and I have been frequently sold." but I couldn't for the life of me wrap my earworm around it.
And then, as I opened the book, there it was.
"Rosin the Bow"
If you hear the melody you will know it after just a few notes. It's a very infectious tune and just cries out for audience participation; repeating the last line of this chorus-less song.
     "Take a drink for Old Rosin the Beau......."
     "Surrounded by acres of clams.................."
Did I mention the melody is used for "Acres of Clams" (which was gathered by John and Alan Lomax in their collection of American Folk Songs)?
As a New Hampshire boy I remembered the melody very well after Charlie King used it as a scaffold to hang upon it anti-nuclear lyrics.
     "It's the nukes that must go and not me..........."
This was the rallying cry of "The Clam Shell Alliance" a group of New Hampshire rebels who's protest and largest non-violent occupation of the Seabrook Nuclear Reactor in the mid and late 70's gained nationwide attention.
This song went through many changes over the years and was used in many political and social causes over the years.
I posted this video clip of the song because, first, the performer, Matthew Vaughn, had chosen the version from the book I mentioned earler and because he has a voluble and breezy style of presenting his material. His guitar is from the -  "Hey. So it aint an expensive Martin. Get over it!" - school of thought which I like. Although I wish I had an expensive Martin and, yes, I had a guitar like Matthews and I gave it to my son Andy years ago and bought an acoustic electric Washburn which I now use on my Youtube flics and gigs. He now plays better then me, bought a better guitar and gave the old one to his older brother who it now playing almost as well as me. Theres a moral in this somewhere.
Matthew Vaughan has placed on his plate the task of youtubing all 1200 songs of this prodiguous book. I'm not sure how far he has gotten because "Acres of Clams" is about the second or third song alphabeticaly in this tome, Good luck my friend. I will check in with you now and then to see how you are doing.
This young man has a more then passable voice and looks somewhat like Harry Connick, Jr.
Destiny awaits, Matthew

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Take Two

Today I'll be posting two earworms for the price of one. Why? Because in attempting to post one yesterday I managed to accidentally delete several hours of work. I never said I was a smart man. Just a computer-challenged man unable to get a teenager to show me what to do.

Yesterday song: 9/13/2014 - "Theme From Gunsmoke" written by Rex Koury with words added later by Glen Spencer. There were several titles given this song over the years like "Empty Saddles" and "Dusty Trails". Tex Ritter sang a version of it for the B side of his hit record "The Wayward Wind". Such diverse folks such as Lawrence Welk and Duane Eddy produced instrumental versions. The vocal meandered with lyrics featuring ghostly cowboys and other nebulous images.
The radio version of "Gun smoke" debuted in 1952 and ran till June of 1961. It featured William Conrad as the stony voiced Marshall Matt Dillon and was one of the first "adult" western as it tackled issues of drug abuse, murders, rapes, insanity and murder without
blinking and left Hoppy, Gene, Cisco, Roy, The Lone Ranger (thanks Clayton Moore, who would have turned 100 today) in the dust.

Today: 9/14/2014 - "Goodnight My Someone" written by Meredith Wilson from his musical
"The Music Man" with story by Wilson and Franklin Lacey. It glommed 5 Emmys after it's Broadway debuted in 1975 and sung in the movie version by town librarian Marion (played by Shirley Jones) and accompanied by Amarrillis as she practices her cross hand piece.Professor Harold Hill later does a duet with her using this song and "Seventy Six Trombones". Many years ago our oldest son John played the part of the lisping little boy "Winthrop" from this show for a highschoool production. He was pretty good.
Meredith Wilson was involved heavily with movies and broadcasting, receiving several Oscar nominations for various film scores including Charlie Chaplains' "The Great Dictator".
 He was born in Mason City Iowa in 1902 and received an education at the Juilliard School of Music before becoming a flute and piccolo player with John Philip Sousa famous band and moving to Hollywood where he eventually became music director for the NBC network affiliate out there.While at this job he became a member of the "George Burns and Gracie Allen Show" where he played their shy music director. He later went on the compose many serious classical pieces like  Symphony No. One in F Minor and Symphony No.2 in E Minor. He received praise for his music as, "complex" and "well crafted" with sometimes "starting counter point.
Wilsons other Broadway shows include "The Unsinkable Molly Brown', later made into a movie starring Debbie Reynolds and "Here's Love".

Friday, September 12, 2014

Time To Start Something Special

     Each morning when  I get up there are several lthings I do. Put on my slippers. Remove my CPAP mask (and those with sleep apnia know of what I speak), and I shuffle over to the burea to select my uniform of the day. This involves underwear (boxers). T-shirts. (cotton, plain) some kind of outer shirt and pants. Then I look in the mirror to make sure I haven't accidently morphed into a 6 foot axelotl or giant Asian cockroach.
     Having ascertained that I haven't, I start down  stairs for the coffee. And a song pops into my head. Unbidden. Uncalled for. It just blooms like a tinkling musical flower. And it is usually always different.
     There might be Gilbert aned Sullivan on the menu. Or Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, Yitzak Perleman. Django Rheinhardt. Sometimes it's Broadway. Occasionallhy it night be a ditty I wrote. But it is always different.
Every morning like clockwork - a new song!
     A week ago or so I started tracking these daily tuneful bon-bons on my site and I quickly realized that I need to spend more time on the daily songs without wearing out my welcome on the other site. Plus I get to expand my daily observations on my morning serenade.
     I will post new songs here from now on and, of course I will still comment on live music concerts, new CD's and new performers.
     If possible I will find a Youtube video of the song I get or I might possibly plink on my guitar and play it myself. I may be close to 72, but I still can be understood.
     So look here from now on when an Earworm wiggles it's way into your cranium, And please feel free to let me know what your "song of the day" is from time to time.
     Music is too good for silence. We need to talk up tunes more.
     Adios till tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

I do a bit of "busking" when the summer sun begins to draw tourist to our fair town. Not anything special. I usually bring a couple of instruments and a tip jar (in case someone would like to contribute to my beer habit and gas guzzling car - or is it the other way around?) Anyway, it is fun to sit in the sun next to the water and gives me a chance to view folks from a different angle and, in some cases, provide fodder for my blogs.

Sunday my family and I took a ride to Portsmouth to pick up one of my sons after a weekend of fun with his college friends at a beach in Kittery Maine. While waiting we walked about Prescott Park in the older part of Portsmouth, near Strawberry Banke, a restored 17th century village that duplicates life as it might have been lived back then on the New Hampshire coastline.

Shepp Shepard at Prescott Park
Portsmouth NH
Just a few minutes into our stroll, I spotted a gentleman, tucked into the side of a bench and hard upon a seawall overlooking a small clutch of lobster boats. He was playing a "Dell Arte" guitar - a"Selmer-MacCafferie" look-alike and an instrument I have been trying to save up enough money to buy for the last 20 years or so. His is a "petite Bouche" model and he was playing it with consummate skill and intensity.

I love "Gypsy Jazz", a kind of acoustic swing music popularized by Django Reinheardt and the Hot Club Quintet of Paris in the 1930's and 40's. When an accident to his left hand left him the use of only three fingers, Django developed a totally new style of jazz, using speed and triadic chords. He helped bring the guitar to the front of the band and made it a lead instrument.

I sat down and listened to this man play, and I felt happy. Gypsy Jazz does that to me. How could I not tap my feet or snap my fingers as these notes shimmered off the fingers and strings and spilled over me like a musical shower; washing away my troubles and cares?

The man playing the soulful guitar was Richard (Shepp) Shepard and is one third of a jazz trio, "Ameranouch"; the name developed from "American" which they are and "Manouche" the tribal name of the aforementioned  Django Reinhardt.

The other members of this "tribe" include Michael Harrist on upright bass and Jack Soref guitar.

"Shepp" was kind enough to talk with me for a half hour or so and even played a request. "Nuages" or "Clouds" in French was performed with loving care for its creator, Django and then Shepp paused and demonstrated how he has approached this iconic of all Gypsy Jazz anthems.

His take was pure American with a kick-ass hard bop approach. I was overjoyed. Silently I gave thanks knowing this style of music will never fade away. In fact, it has been reborn with a cleaner edge and a blazing rhythmic pattern.

"Ameranouch's" latest cd is titled "Hot".

 And it is! Thoroughly!

There are six songs all composed by Ameranouche and they provide many minutes of pure delight. Each one contains crisp lines and golden chords of pure joy.

"Canto" begins with a flamenco riff and dives headfirst into this Spanish gypsy influenced toe tapper that spins around like a bright red skirt to flow out from a perfect body and topped with eyes of flame and warm arms with fingers making love to castanets. (Whew! What a vision!" These guys are good!)

"Mambo 13" begins with assorted clicks and taps, perhaps made on half filled wine glasses and goes to the body of the guitar and rolls accross the floor with perfect rythym. (And occasional grunts from the boys.)

My favorite from this CD is "Johnny's Swing" written for Shepp and his wife Marias son John Russel' It truly roars out of the speaker and takes you along for a ride. It has a crisp pace and a bop style that appeals to my feet.

""Sweet Solitude" and "Hot" (protect your cd player from spontaneous combustion) are all smooth capable tracks that feature "Ameranouchs" gypsy flavored jazz with bop rifts and blues tones. These are men who are in a groove and they pave the way for the last piece on the album.

"Suite Maine" is a three part piece ("Drive", "Silloutte" and "Sunset Jericho") that allows the group to stretch out. It starts with a smooth flow of notes, a morning perhaps in Maine. It then allows a vision of pine trees, lakes and the outdoors and then the sun sets. But wait! What's this? Crickets. Gypsy jazz and a nighttime chorus are woven into a beautiful picture of sound.

 (L to r) Richard (Shepp) Shepard, Michael Harist and Jack Soref
I had a hard time determining between Shepp and Jack when they take the lead and, though it would be unfair to make comparisons (for they have a style all their own), their playing reflects the daring of Berrelli Legrin and the speed of Joe Pass, with a tightness and quality you would expect from a top notch group.  Michael provides the stability necessary from the lower end of the string family and he is more then adequate when it comes to bowing a riff.

"Ameranouche" is pure pleasure and you can catch them next at The Riverwalk Cafe and Coffee House in Nashua NH August 1st and The Greenroom in Somerville Mass. August 2nd.

This cd is worth getting. Add it to your collection of small group jazz for a smooth ride home. Or, if you need a little background to your next porch party. Perhaps a quiet evening in the pad with your favorite one? Whatever, I wouldn't steer you wrong would I? I haven't so far.

(C) 2014 by George Locke

Ameranoush Web Site

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Sins of the Fathers

I live in a town which triples in population during the summer. Meredith NH is located on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee and has been the gathering place for well over a century for middle and upper class folks from Boston and other urban areas in New England (we call them "flatlanders") who wish to escape the city when the weather grows unbearable. 
There is money to be had in these here hills.l to r -
Some of the money is spent attending summer theaters which sprout like mushrooms in New Hampshire from June to September,and Meredith has two of them - not mushrooms - summer theaters.  As a 31 year wedding anniversary present from our kids, several of whom have a bit of that theater blood in them, they  gave us two tickets to attend a show, and last night we did just that. It was "Miss Saigon".
"Miss Saigon" is a musical with lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil, and music by Claude Michel Schonberg. They come armed with heavy credibility as they gave us"Les Miserables".
"Miss Saigon" is the 12th longest running broadway musical of all times which is remarkable considering the company they keep such as "The Sound of Music", "Oklahoma","My Fair Lady", "Cats", "Guys and Dolls" and so many more whose titles have become part of the broadway patois for the last seventy-five years.
I wish I had the space to list all the cast and crew from this show which left my wife and I stunned and left me with a 50 year old memory.
"Miss Saigon" is a modern retelling of the Puccini opera "Madam Butterfly" in which a young geisha and a young American Naval officer fall in love. He leaves "Butterfly" with a promise to return someday, which he does but with his American bride. "Butterfly" has had his child in the meantime, and this news which destroys her hopes and dreams causes her to take her own life at the end.  
As Bugs Bunny says at the end of the WB cartoon "What's Opera Doc?", "What did you expect from an opera? A happy ending?"
Now the setting is South Vietnam towards the end of the American presence and a few days before the helicopter lands on the roof of the embassy in Saigon and gave us that iconic picture of frightened Vietnamese clambering over each other to try and escape before the North Vietnamese pour into the city. They would be hunted down and shot as traitors by the new government. (By the way that scene was electrifying and left me numb! Hats off to the director Brian Feehan and tech director, Bryant Cyr!)
It was that iconic photo of the children left behind, and lifted up in despair to the chopper by hysterical mothers which caught the attention of Boublin, Schonberg and Maltby. What we had done to the country, we had done to the women of that country and left thousands of "Bui-doi", children of mixed blood, or "dust" as some carelessly put it.
"Madam Butterfly" is now "Kim" (played to perfection by Quynh My Luu) a bar girl who had lost her parents in an apparent napalming of her village. We see her first night in the bar, operated by a spot on sleaze named" Engineer" (Antonio Rodriguez III) She meets the American marine, Sgt. Christopher Scott (Justin Luciano...what a voice!)
Events progress to the bitter end and Kim takes her own life after giving up Chris and her son "Tam", played by tiny toddler Benjamin Tedcastle with mind blowing innocence and acting chops far beyond what his four year old face and body belies.
But what I really want to talk about is not this play (superb) the actors, directors, crew, technicians and ensemble (professional and up to any standard on Broadway right now!) but about a memory I had.
It was one of the first scenes when Kim agrees to become a hooker at the bar. I suddenly remember seeing this before. For real.
Many years ago when I was embedded as a military correspondent and photographer with the 1st Cavalry in South Korea, I spent time in one of the local villages.
Paju Ri was a typical town in a third world country in the middle of the last century. Dusty and poor with an agrarian culture that was dependent on rice as an economic backbone.
I could travel anywhere and at anytime with my journalist credentials and, as an 18 year old healthy boy, I visited many towns, including Paju Ri.
                                                                                              There was a bar called the Black Cat Club I frequented where I would sample Korean beer (vile), Philippine suds (even viler) and Koreas answer to saki - mokoli! (if you had a death wish!)
And there were girls. Lots of Korean young women spouting American names, Sandra, Jane and Diana. (Diana was a woman I had strong feelings for and decided to rent a "hooch" with her. Hilarity did not ensue and that is a story for another day.)
One Friday night, a new girl was introduced to the GI's gathered. I don't remember her name. But I do remember she did​ not look comfortable even a little embarrassed, perhaps. And she was dressed in her finest clothes, I'm sure. Those on this site who have visited the "Land of the Morning Calm" probably remember the long dresses and high waistline up to the chest or "folk costumes" worn by Korean women.. She was a little on the heavy side and was trumpeted by a local pimp as a "cherry girl". A virgin. I wasn't exactly on speaking terms with that name anymore....but I still remember feeling somewhat awkward at that moment. She was easily my age, and probably younger. I don't recall.
I left the club later that night wondering about her for she had disappeared as the evening progressed.
The next weekend I dropped into the place where everyone knows your name and saw her again. I had to look twice. The change was ugly.
Before there was a fresh face, a timid smile and pretty eyes. Now there was harsh makeup, thick mascara, rouge, crimson lipstick and clothes that were too tight, too provocative and a face in which the smile had run away, perhaps never to return. I grew in unasked for wisdom that night. It was as though a flower had been stepped on and then propped up with sticks, coated in lacquer and sprinkled with confetti. A gentle bird crushed and then stapled to a board. It just wasn't right.
I wondered at the change and what had driven her to seek this way of life.  Did she have parents? Was she a farm girl? 
The show I saw brought me back to those clubs and to a woman whose story was older then time and marched in step with conquering armies of brutish men since we first picked up clubs and learned to kill one another. I have never forgotten this persons face or the sadness that washed over me back then.
The show is remarkable, the acting and singing is excellent. The memories are sad.
Pictures above:  
1. Interlakes Summer Theater cast-"Miss Saigon"(left to right) "Kim", Quynh My Lu, "Engineer", Antonio Rodriguez III, "Chris", Justin Luciano.
2. "Miss Saigon" logo
3. Your truly South Korea, 1960

(C) 2014 George Locke