Friday, April 12, 2024

How Charming!


Well, I've been super busy, and it's been almost two weeks since I posted. I really don't have much time even now, so I won't say too much about this week's Tin Pan Alley item, featuring Ellen Wayne singing about "The Charm of a Texan's Smile". It's got an appealing, loping beat, and the singer gives quite a winning performance. I find the few things the lyrics actually say about Texans to be somewhere between suspect and flatly untrue, in my experience, anyway - looking at you, Senator Ted Cruz (among many others) - but maybe these things were more true 64 years ago or so, when this was recorded. 

(Oh, one line rings true: I'm sure Texans still learn all about The Alamo, but somehow, I have my doubts that schoolchildren in Texas learn that the battle was about whether Texas would be allowed to have slavery, an that "we" weren't on the right side of that argument.)

Note the references to Hawaii and Alaska - since this record came out around 1960 or so, those are extremely topical, given that both states were new to the union the previous year. 


The flip side is what Billboard would have probably called a "Rock-a-Ballad" at the time (or at least, a few years earlier). It's called "The Church on the Mountain", and everything is put together reasonably well, to very little effect. 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Halmark: The Label Christian Song-Poets Prefer 10-1

This week, Christians are celebrating Holy Week, and so I thought what better time to feature a religion dominated record from that most religious of song-poem labels, Halmark. I don't know what it was about Halmark that attracted so many more religious oriented song-poets than utilized the other labels, but there's no doubt of the difference. Pick up any two or three Halmark releases and you are likely to find at least one, and maybe two or three songs with a Holy theme. 

(My apologies to Jewish readers, in that I have corrected the above paragraph, in which I indicated that Passover was also this week. I was sure I had heard that information, and even looked it up double check, but only looked that the dates, not the month, which is April and not March. Sorry about that.)

I have very little to say about today's offerings - really only a comment on one of them - so I will just line them up and let you enjoy them. Keep in mind that Halmark rarely labeled the performers on on their releases, preferring to provide the names and addresses of the song-poets. As it happens, these four songs all feature Jack Kimmel, in one case duetting with his wife Mary Kimmel: 

Side one features "I Am Thankful" and "Christ Jesus Touch": 



Side two starts with the one song I'd like to offer a comment on. It's called "Things Just Don't Happen". So first "Things Just Don't Happen"? That phrase means that whatever things you are expecting won't be happening - it's an expression of dismissal of a possibility or, from the other side of the coin, disappointment about what didn't occur. I assume the song-poet's thoughts, based on the rest of the lyrics, was "Things Don't Just Happen", which is a completely different thought - things happen for a reason, they are... planned, caused.  

And this is yet another lyric of the type I mention last week, artless lyrics whose writer gave no thought to whether they could be fit into musical phrases. My favorite is probably "it's not a guess on the issues of life", but there are a few others. In fact, eventually, the singer has to narrate words that simply don't work musically, at all. 


The EP ends with the only non-religious number of the set, "Dancing, Loving, Dreaming". Unless I'm reading too much into the lyrics, it sounds like this is the song of a man returning from time in the armed forces, and looking forward to his reunion with the one he loves. 



Saturday, March 23, 2024

Forlorn Norm


It's been eight months since I featured Norm Burns, and that's just too long. Here we have a pair of songs which are both about love, but which otherwise have very little in common, subject-wise. One is a forlorn expression of sadness at the wedding of a former flame and the other is a celebration of new love. I do think they share something else in common, though - that frequent feature of song-poem lyricism: The artless effort - the use of phrases which are not poetic and/or which are simply not phrased in such a way that they can be rendered effectively in musical fashion. 

For example, in the supper club-y "Lily! Oh White Lily!" we hear the decidedly unmusical phrase "during the wedding ceremony". I also want to pay special tribute to the drummer on this track, who could just as well be a loop of a set of two snare drum taps. The guitarist, on the other hand, seems to be really trying, and a few of those guitar fills are kinda nice. This song goes on forever, doesn't it?  

Download: Norm Burns - Lily! Oh White Lily!


If you really want to have some fun with artless lyrics, though, I offer up the flip side, "Locked Hearts". These are not so much unmusical as they are simplistic and repetitive, not to mention that they rhyme "Hearts" with, um, "Hearts"

So your love and my love, they are the key to our hearts

So let's find the find the key so that we can open our locked hearts

That rhyme is null and void. 

There only appear to be four lines to the entire lyric, (well, eight if you want to divide each of the phrases into two separate lines.)

Download: Norm Burns - Locked Hearts


Monday, March 11, 2024

A March Treat - a Full Star-Crest Album - And it ROCKS! (Well, Once)

 I have a treat for you today!

It's a full song-poem album. And it's on the mustiest of fusty old early 1960's labels, Star-Crest. I don't have a lot to say about it. The singer is Tony Rogers, who I have featured on this site twice - nearly ten years ago, and more than a year after that, and a label which I have featured in the past both here, and ages ago at WFMU

Here are the front and back covers, which, aside from song titles, were largely interchangeable from album to album. Note that, on this one, Tony Rogers doesn't even get a mention - just a tiny rendition of his name on the labels themselves. 

Star-Crest tracks tend to sound like not only were the musicians not aware of the Rock and Roll Revolution, but that they'd missed The Big Band Era, too. I'll really only make three more comments. 

The first is that, as they did on several other releases, the folks at Star-Crest included a song that everyone would know, perhaps to fool the listener (presumably a friend of one of the song-poets featured) that this is a legitimate release. Otherwise, why would there be a rendition of "Oh! Susanna"? 

Second, I have not separated the tracks. To do so would have pushed this post back another week at least. So there are just two files to download, one for side one, and one for side two. 

And third, the winner here is definitely, "Rockin' All Over the World" which is on side one, starting at 10:55. The good folks at the session make there very best attempt as a drummer, guitarist, tenor sax and violin can do, after a day of playing music that was otherwise about 40 years out of date, if not more. I'm actually impressed at how (relatively, and only relatively) close they came to being convincing, given how comically bad the folks at Noval did with a similar set of lyrics, although that label's Rock and Roll product, Rock, Rocking All the Time, is both more unintentionally hilarious and somehow, much more endearing. 


Thursday, February 29, 2024

Minimalist Lyrics, With Frank Perry

Okay, a few things before we get to today's feature. 

First, I heard from a correspondent named Jay, who has found the most phenomenal picture. Please research (here and elsewhere) W.L. Horning if you are unfamiliar with this man's work. With that said, I share with you now a picture of W.:L. Horning that Jay managed to discover. 

The picture had a caption which read: 

Wesley Horning, Denver Composer He learned to compose by picking out tunes on guitar.

If you have heard any of his "compositions" you will doubtless find that statement extremely hard to believe. Anyway, here he is: 

The other thing I want to share is that Sammy Reed has posted an entire song-poem album, one of the countless editions of "Music of America" collections which appeared on Hollywood Artists. There are some doozies on that album, which is posted here.

And now:  


I get a kick out of today's 95 second feature, because it features what must be among the shortest bits of song-poetry ever committed to a song-poem record. When I saw that Frank Perry would be singing "You're Messing With the Wrong Guy", I assumed that Frank's performance would be a first person warning to someone that he himself (Frank or the song-poet) had had quite enough of... something and was offering a warning to stop messing with him

But nope, that's not it. In fact, the lyrics couldn't be less specific. Or less wordy. I hope you'll forgive me for ruining the surprise, but over some super peppy Chamberlin backing, the following four lines are all there is to the lyric here. Anything else is repetition or slight variance: 

Baby, you're messing with the wrong guy

Don't you know that guy will get you down. 

You're fooling with the wrong type of people

Don't you know they're trying to make a fool of you. 

And that's it. I also enjoy the hard stop at the end. 

Download: Frank Perry and the "Swinging Strings" - You're Messing With the Wrong Guy


The flip side, "Going to Memphis" threatens (on the label) to be almost four minutes long, but it's actually just under three minutes. And this song honestly doesn't have many more words than "Messing", despite having an extra 75 seconds to say it. Perhaps you won't be surprised to see that the same song-poet wrote both of these masterworks. I find this side a whole lot less interesting than its flip side. It plods along, doesn't it? 

Download: Frank Perry and the "Swinging Strings" - Going to Memphis


Saturday, February 24, 2024

Gary Roberts: Bluesman Extraordinaire!


Those of you unfamiliar with Gary Roberts would do yourselves a favor and peruse this set of posts (which will start with this very post, until I post another Gary Roberts record). You will not be disappointed. You also can't go wrong listening to this classic

Those of you who are familiar with the song-poem work of Gary Roberts might have several words to use to describe his performances. I'm guessing that well down below word 100 on that list would be "Bluesman". 

And yet, that's what the bosses at Sterling assigned Gary to become, for the song "Remembering". The results are just as one-fifth assed as you might expect. Only the pianist here sort of seems to understand the genre, and the proceedings made even more delightfully incompetent by a blues harp solo which is shows off just about the equal to Gary's blues chops. (Now, admittedly, the appeal of the blues harp is 100% lost on me, but even as someone who avoids the instrument in that style of usage, I can recognize when it's being used by someone who has no idea how to use it.)

I note with some amusement that this is the very highest record label number found so far on which Gary Roberts' name appears, and that his tenure there lasted barely 100 label numbers (and he was not on all of those releases). I can just imagine - although I have no belief that this actually happened - that after hearing this performance, the folks at Sterling cut their losses and moved on to someone else. 

Download: Gary Roberts - Remembering


In comparison, the flip side, "You Did Me Wrong", sung by Shelley Stuart, is a solid piece of entertainment. But only in comparison. The lyrics are artless, in the style that song-poets have achieved since the genre came into being ("Why are you doing this the way you are?"), and they read more as a series of prose sentence than as poetry or lyrics. A sense a bit an attempt at proto-disco by the band at the 1:33 point, although the beat is a bit slow for that. Other than that, musically, this is sort of a throwback to Sterling's earlier days, when Shelley Stuart showed up more often, along with Norm Burns, particularly in the use of all that echo. 

This is also the second highest numbered Shelley Stuart release on Sterling which has been found, to this date...

Download: Shelley Stuart - You Did Me Wrong


Monday, February 12, 2024

Another Piece of the Norris Puzzle

To start today's post, let me just reiterate that, any time I come to own a previously unknown / unshared record linked to the fabulous Norridge Mayhams (AKA Norris the Troubadour), it will get shared here, and very promptly. 

I will do this even though many of these records have a dubious - or even virtually no - connection to song-poems. The link remains that, at a certain point in the 1960's, Norris stopped performing his own songs (or, as in this case, hiring and no doubt paying existing outfits to record them), and started using the song-poem companies to record his songs. But even at that point, as he had always done, it seems likely that he wrote both the words and the music for his material, so even when he used the song-poem companies, his releases were a little different than the standard material found on those releases. 

However, I find his story - and his music - endless fascinating, and so will always share with you what I find. And here's something believed to be unique among the tens of thousands of people who utilized the song-poem companies at one point or another. Norridge Mayhams wrote an actual, honest-to-goodness popular hit record. The song was "We'll Build a Bungalow", and you can hear the hit version here. Note the absence of Mayhams' name on the label. He spent years trying to sue his way into both receiving writer's credit for and receiving the profits of his song. 

Anyway, Norris recorded (and paid for others to record) "Let's Build a Bungalow" on his own labels more than a half dozen times, from the 1940's through his final records in the 1980's. But I'm going to guess that my new acquisition, heard below, is the first recording of the song, and it appears on Norris' own Co-Ed label, on a 78, which I'm guessing is from the late 1940's (although the lousy sound quality suggests to me the recycled shellac which was used near the end of World War II). It's credited to Carl Bostic and His Orchestra, a conglomeration which appeared on other Co-Ed 78's, as well, including one that I've shared before on this site, in a most excellent performance of an excellent song

For all of the reasons that I described above, this is probably better described as a Vanity Record than a Song-Poem, but again, in the interest of bringing more Norris/Norridge Mayhams to the world, I'm sharing it here. I'd like to draw particular attention to the almost random nature of the piano solo, particularly from 1:45 to 2:10. Some measures feature only a single note, others have flurries of notes which seem played almost by accident. 

Download: Carl Bostic and His Orchestra - We'll Build a Bungalow (You Spell It For Two)


On the flip side, Carl Bostic and His Orchestra return, with a song called - and I want to get this right, exactly as it appears on the label - "I WANT A Co-ED by my SIDE". In case you just thought "Co-Ed was a clever label name, with a clever and unique logo, well, no. Norris was obsessed with all things college, and wrote songs about various aspects of college for much of his life. For me, the highlight of this song is the rather unusual use of language in spots, which is a trademark of Norris' compositions, although the pianist, yet again, makes some unusual choices in both the solo and in his fills. 

 Download: Carl Bostic and His Orchestra - I WANT A Co-ED by my SIDE



Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Now THAT'S What I Call Lyrics!

Every now and then I hear a new-to-me song-poem record that has that something extra that just completely captures me. One of the relatively recent times this happened was with a record on Tin Pan Alley by Jimmy Dee called "That's the Life For Me", and nearly two years ago, I labeled it my favorite song-poem purchase of the year, in this post

Well, I recently was lucky enough to purchase another Jimmy Dee record, and while I don't think this is anywhere near as good as "That's the Life For Me", I still wanted to win the record (on eBay) as soon as I heard the song file excerpt. And that's because "Cry Baby Blues!" contains a single lyrical line that made me laugh out loud, all by myself, and I literally kept laughing about that line through the rest of the song's playing time, during that first listen. 

And I don't think I'll say too much more. It's got a great sound, bouncy and infectious - I love late '50's Tin Pan Alley song-poems as much as any in the genre. But that line just kills me. Hopefully, you'll laugh, too - if not, then I suppose you and I laugh at different things. Or maybe setting you up to hear it will ruin that moment. I hope not. 

Download: Jimmy Dee - Cry Baby Blues!


The flip side is "Heavenly Melody", and if the flip side didn't already convince me that Jimmy Dee shouldn't have done slow material (and it sorta did), this one seals the deal - I don't dig this at all, at all. 

Download: Jimmy Dee - Heavenly Melody


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Born Loser

Looks like it's been just over six months since I featured Gene Marshall, and I must rectify that! 

I think maybe I've just been a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of Gene Marshall records in my collection that I haven't shared, as well as the fact that, well, most of them are exceedingly bland, musically, often despite the typically masterful vocal work by our man Gene. The records made for Preview after Rodd moved over to MSR, as well as the records that Gene made for other labels, under multiple names, are usually lacking that something special that I try to feature here as often as possible. The exceptions from that era and those other labels are usually the result of something outstanding or weird about the lyrics themselves. 

Nothing stands out about the lyrics of "Born Loser", but man, do I love the bluesy backing the band is providing here, almost undoubtedly with a major assist, if not with the whole arrangement from, Rodd Keith. The interplay of the guitarist and the keyboard is compelling - and those keyboard fills are absolutely magical - and the drumming is as excellent as it usually was in this area of the Preview label. Gene's reading of the lyric is a bit more workmanlike than it is on many of the records I've shared here, and a couple of the embellishments don't land quite right, but that's only a deficit in terms of comparison to Gene's best work - he still sounds great. 

Download: Gene Marshall - Born Loser


On the flip side, we have the far more generic "Loving Each Other". The band - again, especially the guitarist and pianist - are doing some nice stuff, but in the service of a bland arrangement of a bland song. Oddly, I actually find Gene's vocal to be stronger here than on "Born Loser" but only by a matter of a few degrees, and that certainly doesn't make me like this side better. Nope. The whole thing is over in 109 seconds. 

Download: Gene Marshall - Loving Each Other



Sunday, January 14, 2024

Patty Payne's Pain


Let's celebrate with two weepers from the waning days of Film City!

This record's label number os 4120, just 25 lower than the highest numbered Film City disc documented. And it features one Patty Payne (along with the ubiquitous "Swinging Strings", who does not show up on any other listed release on the label. There were a few discs by Patty Stanton (presumably a relative of label boss Sandy Stanton), but this doesn't sound like her, to me. 

Patty Payne has a nice aching quality to her voice, and I wouldn't be surprised if she made other song-poem records (or perhaps even legit records) under another name. Perhaps someone out there with more of an ear for the female singers of song-poems can suggest if this is the case. 

And these two songs are definite downers - especially side one, "Don't Hang Up Now". The singer is calling an ex, "one last time", and spends the call running down how hurt she is, how she's prayed for him to change, and all of the chances she's give him. That's weepy enough, but in the last verse of this nearly four minute (!) song-poem we learn the tragic reason why this is absolutely the last time he'll hear from her.    

(By the way, whoever was playing the Chamberlin for the label, by this point, did not have skills anywhere near those of Rodd Keith. The arrangement is pedestrian and really clunky at times, even for a Chamberlin.)

Download: Patty Payne with the "Swinging Strings" - Don't Hang Up Now


The flip side is perhaps not quite as tragic, but also, not coincidentally, was written by the same song-poet. Perhaps she was the first person named on this page

Anyway, in "Daddy's Found a New Love", well... Daddy has found a new love. And Mommy is talking to Daddy about how hard it will be to have to tell her children all about the situation, and how the children are missing him. Along the way, she mentions some of the things she's heard about the new love - both good (her looks) and bad (how she treats men). 

This side of the record is beat to hell, by the way. The song quality is nearly as bad as any record I've ever shared here. 

Download: Patty Payne with the "Swinging Strings" - Daddy's Found a New Love


Friday, December 29, 2023

She Wants Him Back. He's Just Passing Through


I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday season, whatever it is you celebrate or don't celebrate. Here's hoping for a fabulous 2024. 

Whatever happens next year, though, it will happen without one of my favorite people in the world. Tommy Smothers died this week, and I want to just say a word or two here. That's because I think The Smothers Brothers - in addition to what they did for the expanding of boundries in television (and for letting Pete Seeger back on the air) - they were, in my opinion, one of the half dozen greatest comedy acts of the 20th century. I'm probably forgetting someone or some team, but I'd put them with Monty Python, The Marx Brothers, Shelley Berman, George Carlin and David Letterman and the staff of "Late Night" on that short list. 

And specifically for Tommy, I'd say that I'm not sure anyone ever had better comic timing or a more fully realized comic persona. And he was a hell of a guitar player, too, something that flew under the radar, but of which he was very proud. 

My favorite political site, has a nice write up about Tommy, saying far more than I want to here, and doing it better than could. 

Here are my two favorite Smothers Brothers tracks, both of which make my personal all-time favorite top 200 tracks ever recorded: Mediocre Fred and Crabs Walk Sideways.

Also, please keep reading after the song-poem post below, as I am debuting my latest recording, a parody song I've been working on, off and on, for the last seven months or so. 


For the last post of the year, I have a sweet record from the early days of the Globe song-poem factory, featuring the honey-voiced Kris Arden and the ubiquitous Sammy Marshall, both acoompanied by the usual gang, here identified as "The Keys". This record is from early enough in Globe's existence that they hadn't fallen into the bland, interchangable backing sounds that crop up repeatedly on later releases. 

Oddly, the AS/PMA page for this label has the artists reversed, each credited with the wrong side, and that error has made its way onto other discographies, as well. AS/PMA also dates the release to 1962, but this three star non-recommadation ("moderate sales potential") from Billboard says 1961. I was amused to see, a few slots down from that listing, Eddie Holland's "Jamie" - which is a GREAT record and which did chart top 40 pop and top ten R & B - relagated to a very poor two star rating. 

Kris Arden's offering, "Sundown Valley" is particularly nice, a country flavored shuffle in which the singer tries to coax a someone special to come back to her hometown, with a few enticing things about the town that they experience together. Kris' vocal is just lovely, the equal (in the song poem world) of a Cara Stewart performance, and that's high praise from me, indeed.  

Download: Kris Arden and the Keys - Sundown Valley


It strikes me that Sammy Marshall's turn, on the flip side, could be considered the answer record to "Sundown Valley", and the fact that both of the songs were written by the same song-poet makes that even more possible, although I have no way of knowing for certain. 

Anyway, in "Just Passing Through", Sammy sings of a woman who has fallen in love with him, despite his best efforts to let her know he wasn't going to stick around, which could certainly explain why Kris' man is no longer in "Sundown Valley". 

The music here is a little less compelling - I could certainly do without the sax solo, for one thing - but I am a sucker for that pained tone on certain words and notes, something that Sammy excelled at. 

Download: Sammy Marshall and the Keys - Just Passing Through



And now for something completely different. About six years ago, something inspired me - something insistent - to write a parody lyric for the song "Up Up and Away" by the Fifth Dimension. This is not even a record that I like - not when it came out when I was seven, and not now - and although I've written and recorded parodies in the past, all but one were of records that I love. Anyway, it wasn't until April of this year that I decided to make a track of my parody. 

Anyone my age or perhaps even 10-15 years younger will likely know the song this is based on, but for those who don't, the original can be found here

I decided along the way that I wanted my music track to sound as close to exactly like the original Fifth Dimension track as I could possibly get out of my Midi set-up, and I think I succeeded to the point that the track sounds like a Karaoke track. It is not - I built it from the ground up, instrument by instrument. I worked on it off and on, sometimes on weekends, mostly when I took days off from work. It took me over seven months! 

I am very happy with the final product.... except that I can't settle on which prospective title is better, the one that reflects the original song's title ("Come, Come in and Play") or the one which better reflects the text of the parody ("My Curio Filled Room"). Regardless, I hope you enjoy it, and would love to hear comments, including thoughts on the better title. 

Download: Bob Purse - My Curio Filled Room (AKA Come, Come In and Play)

Monday, December 18, 2023

Is It Too Late? It's NEVER Too Late


The larger song-poem factories must have turned out dozens of records a year. MSR, Film City and Globe, for example, may have released hundreds of records every calendar year. Small labels such as Noval or Star Crest may have released far under one hundred records over the course of their existence. In the middle are companies including Tin Pan Alley and Sterling, who seem to have released about 25-35 records a year, or somewhere around two or three a month. 

I bring all this up because today's release features related titles, and my strong guess is that it was just a coincidence. If Tin Pan Alley was making four to six song-poems a month, there's no way they had much of a backlog of material waiting for release, or enough "in the can" to pair two songs who's titles both ask and answer the same question. 

Ellen Wayne is the singer, and the question in song is "Is It Too Late For Me?" This record is likely from 1960 or 1961, and this song is a slow, weepy ballad, with triplets - both chorded and played individually - on the guitar (that is, when the guitarist doesn't miss the strings). In theory, this sort of thing should appeal to me, but the whole thing is ham-fisted, particularly her overly wobbly, borderline weepy vocal. 

I wonder if the song-poet here, Richards Simmonds, later dropped one letter from his first and last names and became very famous. 

Download: Ellen Wayne - Is It Too Late For Me?


The answer to the question comes from a different song-poet - Louis Gallo (this guy?), on the flip side. And the answer, of course is: "It's NEVER Too Late". And this is an almost infinitely better record than the flip. It's bouncy, swingin' and Ellen's style works much better at this tempo. The guitarist handles the part considerably more effectively and the song doesn't wear out its welcome, lasting less than 90 seconds.   

Download: Ellen Wayne - It's Never Too Late