Saturday, July 23, 2005

My First Reel

Per Michael's request, in response to my "listening list" a few weeks ago, I have posted several files to the site which is linked to the left and above.

Without a doubt, my favorite of this batch is "Jamaican Rhumba" by Percy Faith and his Orchestra, and here's a little story to go with that number, as well as "Jungle Fantasy".

In late 1952, my dad bought one of the first reel to reel tape recorders which was on the market, a Concertone behemoth. The company was based in California, and when the machine arrived, it came with a reel of tape already on it. The tape contained five complete songs, all of them studio recordings, banded with leader between the tracks, plus a short accordian and tuba polka at the end of the tape, literally running out at the end of the tape. There was nothing written on the tape or the box.

My parents recognized the singer on the first song on the tape as Doris Day, and also assumed this was an outtake, as she can be heard complaining about how she "goofed it up again" at the end. The other songs were unknown to anyone in the family. Two of them were Latin styled instrumentals, one was a rather horrid song, featuring a male vocal with chorus and orchestra, and one was a nice recording featuring a female singer and orchestra.

I came into the world eight years later, and grew up with this tape, along with dozens of other, home recorded tapes, many of which predated my existence. I found the same fascination with this strange, intriguing studio recorded tape as my brother had before me, but neither of us ever learned anything more about it. My favorite tune on the tape was the first of the two latin numbers - this was undoubtably because it had the same melody as a song called 'Mango Walk", which was featured on one of my favorite kids 45's (a record of songs of many lands, in this case, Jamaica or Trinidad, I think). I mean, it was the exact same song, chorus and verse. Since I'd already grown up with some calypso music, that probably also made this one a favorite me, too.

Flash forward to sometime in 2003 or 2004. During a conversation with my brother, we come to realize that the internet may be able to tell us something about what's on our tape. Very quickly, we're able to determine that all three of the vocal performances on our tape were released, perhaps in other versions, on the Columbia label, in 1952, one by Doris Day with Percy Faith, one by Guy Mitchell with Mitch Miller's orchestra, and one by Rosemary Clooney with Percy Faith! The two female releases were even hits in Billboard!

Okay, so we thought, that leaves the instrumentals. What did Percy Faith release in 1952 or so. This took a little more time, but eventually, we discovered the titles of our two mystery songs, Jamaican Rhumba (that's the "Mango Walk" one), and "Jungle Fantasy". The following Christmas, my brother and I surprised each other when each of us gave the other the reissue of the Percy Faith album (from 1953) which contained those two recordings.

We've even discovered that at least three of the five tracks on the tape have errors or differences from the released version (the accordian piece at the end has errors, too), making it likely that this was some sort of reel of "good but not perfect" takes from a Columbia recording session or sessions!

And if that's not cool, I don't know what is!

So anyway, I've uploaded both of those songs (from the released version - I'm keeping the outtake versions for myself), as well as a third song from the CD (Wow! Wow! Wow!) that I greatly enjoyed. While there are some of Percy Faith's hits that I enjoy, particularly "The Song from Moulin Rouge", most of his records are fairly sedate. This stuff, on the other hand, I find to be positively infectious (in the case of "Jamaican") and intense (in the case of "Jungle").


Michael said...

Go Percy!! Wow Wow Wow is right! I can see why you had to hunt it down after all these years!!!

Michael said...'s a ghost town 'round here! Strike up the band, I say! Give me some more of the wonderful and the obscure!! Give us this day our daily bashleo!!!

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