Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mayhams Mayhem

I first heard of song-poems (and heard my first one, "How Long Are You Staying"), when Dr. Demento mentioned the genre in 1993. By the time I got around to trying to order that first compilation album, it was out of print, but instead, I got the second volume (and first CD), "The Makers of Smooth Music". And my first favorite song-poem, by a wide margin, was "The Watusi Whing-Ding Girl".

The insane sound of the track - I had no idea it was a one-man band at the time - had me wondering "what the hell is going on here?" I loved the sound of the Chamberlain, the fact that the drumming was rarely in the same song as the rest of the performance, the melody of the thing, the soulful vocal (with its cracking on one note) and the insane solo section.

While I've never been lucky enough to find a copy of that 45, I have recently been lucky enough to find and purchase a close relative of the performance, and not only that, it overlaps with one of my favorite song-poem stories, that of Norridge Mayhams. For this is a Mayhams Collegiate record, credited to "Variety Joe", but clearly (on the A side anyway), Rodd Keith, in his Film City guise of one man band Rod Rogers.

And while this performance is not as off-the-deep-end winningly bizarre as "Watusi...", it's in the same ballpark. Rod has used some of the same backing settings, including that drumbeat, which for some odd reason, plays the fill every FIVE bars, and in the middle of a measure, at that. Not only that, the drums again get completely off the beat with the rest of the track, and the solo section is again messed up - I think there's an edit in there. And of course, there is the fact that we're being encouraged to do a dance step named "The Rattlesnakin' Mama". Everyone groove!

The other side seems to feature a different vocalist, one I'm not familiar with, although the backing track seems very likely to be another Rod Rogers' special. I love the deep vibrato on that one setting that recurs throughout.

While you're enjoying "You Left Me Honey Honey", particularly the distinctive yelp near the end, please also notice that the songwriter credits on the two sides are different, and yet each is a name used regularly by Norridge Mayhams. Also enjoy Mr. Mayhams' record label design, which is one of my favorites, one which is far better than most of the designs used by major labels over the years.


Stu Shea said...

I appreciate that Rodd tells us that we need to "keep the beat." would that he could have told his Chamberlain the same!

thisispop said...

I believe the performer on the b-side might be Norridge Mayhams himself. Sounds an awful lot like his earlier stuff - before he started using various song-poem studios to revamp his work.

Incidentally, Mayhams revisited this song several times, re-recording it on at least two occasions with slightly different lyrics, first as Rock n' Rollin' Honey (You Left Me Baby Cause I Had No Money) on Co-ed records in 1958 and later as Rock ’N’ Roll ’N’ Honey for his 1976 compilation 'Our Centennial Album'.

pea said...

i've got that go-go beat loop in my chamberlin... it does indeed loop after 5 bars!

Bob Purse said...

Thanks for all your comments. I've wondered which tracks feature Mayhams' vocals.

That's a really weird fact about the Chamberlain - I suspect that was a mistake, why would anyone need a pre programmed five bar fill? And why would Rodd keep returning to it!?

KL from NYC said...

"You Left Me Honey Honey" is listed four times (as either A or B sides) on his page at It's also listed as a B-side in a promo ad on the same page.
Actually, it's not bad -- I wonder if one of the UK Northern Soul DJs has it on his playlist.

Sammy Reed said...

These links aren't working now.