Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas With Gene Marshall

Time is fleeting, as I'm sure it is for many of you reading this, but I wanted to get the promised Gene Marshall Christmas record to you, and here it is. Sorry about the cruddy sound quality - the record is fairly beat up in places, and I'm not sure the vinyl quality was ever that good. The A-side, which even fits in some New Year wishes, is "Merry Christmas All":

And the flip is "Christmas Day":

A Happy Christmas, Merry Holidays and a Very New Year to everyone who reads The Wonderful and the Obscure. Thanks for stopping by, and for all of the encouragement, whether here, in e-mail, or just by your visits!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Some Really Special Christmas Music

I don't often cross promote, and I don't know how many of you who read this site aren't always regular readers of the WFMU blog (probably few, but who knows), but I didn't want this Advent to end without providing a link to my favorite new Christmas music this year, which I posted at WFMU nearly a month ago. It's an album from the early '70's by The Sacred Heart Singers of Ewen, Michigan, and it can be found here. Have a listen - it's really something special.

I'll have one more Christmas song-poem here, on Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Alice's Dream for Christmas

More Christmas music today, with a bonus, something that came with this record, when I found it! The performer is Jeff Lawrence, and unless this is another pseudonym for Rodd Keith - and I don't really hear that, myself - Mr. Lawrence is one of the rarer singers on song-poem records, with this name only turning up on three records in the genre that I know of. It certainly sounds like Rodd on the Chamberlin, though!

Here's the bonus: The seller who gave up this prize to me also had a clipping from a small Iowa town, all about the song-poet, Alice Winkler, and how her song is featured on an upcoming 45 release - this very record! You can read it yourself:

The flip side is the peppy "I'm a Happy Man", credited to the same singer, and with even more apparent Rodd Keith involvement on the ubiquitous Chamberlin:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Name: Santa; Occupation: Superman

All praise today to song-poem Omer Rawhouser, for his sparkling lyrical effort, "Santa is a Superman", which you'll now hear, courtesy of Gus Colletti. And praise to the anonymous Tin Pan Alley musical miricle makers, for providing such a dandy setting for Omer's lyrics. Go, cats!:

I cannot, alas, provide the same praise and enthusiasm for the flip side of this record, "When Grandpa Planted the Christmas Tree":

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Very Cara Christmas

To quote a one of my closest friends, "It's Christmastime in the City, and I am Happy". And so, I'll spend the next three weeks sharing some lovely Christmastime Song-Poems.

First up, an offering from the silky voiced Cara Stewart, who, in her inimitable style, sings about "Christmas in the Poconos":

Interestingly, the American Song-Poem Archives page for the Air label indicates that this record was released with two typos, indicating that "Carl" Stewart was to be heard singing "Christmas in the Pocnos". Neither of these errors is on my copy, nor is the flip side's title spelled the way its listed at AS/PMA. It's surprising to me that a song-poem label would have bothered to send out a corrected label, but that seems to be what happened here.

That flip side, "Good-By, Mr. Hard Luck, Good-By", is actually my choice for the better of the two songs, with a typical upbeat Cara Stewart bouncy beat, playful piano, echoey bass and alluring vocal. Only my desire to focus on Christmas music led me to share this one as the flip side, and not the main release of the week. Enjoy!:

AS/PMA dates this record to 1962, by the way. This information probably came from Billboard or another trade paper, and it also seems likely to be from that era, based on the address, which features a "Zone" rather than a Zip Code.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Society's Clever Games, With Gene Marshall

Today's High-School-Social-Studies-Lecture-via-Song-Poem comes from Gene Marshall, telling us (and saying it "One More Time") that "Society Plays a Clever Game on the Black Man". Aside from apologizing for the poor condition that I found this record in, I think I'll let Gene, and song-poet Otis Jake, Jr., expound on the title subject themselves:

If you thought that side was beat up, you ain't heard nothin'. The flip side, "Pledging My Love" was so damaged that I gave up, mid-attempt, in trying to clean up the sound. There were just too many scratches. And quite frankly, the song didn't deserve the effort:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Stay At Home Mom

Before I get to this week's record, a few links that I've been planning to share for ages, and keep forgetting/delaying.

First, occasional correspondent "KL from NYC" has hepped me to a record blog which has occasionally featured song-poems. You should go to this site anyway, as much of what's being offered there is just amazing. Here are the song-poems I've found (or KL linked me to) from the last several months, which I've just searched:

And second, here is a link to Darryl Bullock's marvelous blog, "The World's Worst Records":

Darryl knows a LOT about song-poems and their history, and has shared a lot of information and music with me, over the years. He frequently features song-poems, and as of this moment, his newest feature is a Norm Burns special. His definition of "worst" doesn't always match up - in fact, I love that Norm Burns number - but his featured material is almost always great.

And now, on with the countdown:

Today's title was actually going to be "Stay At Home, Mom", but I thought I'd prolong the facts of this record for readers a few more moments by removing the comma. The previously unknown (by me) Lillian Mars gives a sassy shout-out to a woman whose "child lives in the gutter", and who apparently really needs to get back home. It's a toe-tapper for sure!

On the flip side, we get some painfully poor lyrics about a meetup, which led to the singer's loving relationship, all accompanied by the slightest of piano-bass-drums trio backing:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rock... Rocking.... ALL THE TIME

Today, I am extremely happy to offer up the online debut of a song-poem which really should have been widely known before today. I hope you enjoy this record as much as I do.

I don't normally post the same label or artist the same week (or even the same month), and didn't expect to be doing so this week. And even last Sunday, when I learned I had a lead on a copy of one of my all time favorite song-poems, I still didn't think I'd be sharing it, because I was sure it was already in common circulation.

But a few days of research has convinced me that this record - one of my top ten favorite song-poems - has NEVER been shared online. I will therefore say that I don't know of a better song-poem that has not yet been heard by the general collecting song-poem public. And I must rush to rectify this situation.

Most song-poem collectors - whether seekers of records or of MP3's and CD's, will know the flip side to this Noval release, which is "The 23rd Channel", and which is fabulous in its own right. It appeared on the third volume of the "MSR Madness" CD series, and was remade by Gene Merlino (Gene Marshall) for the film "Off the Charts".

But here's what I don't understand - with all of the well-deserved attention given to this song, no one has ever shared its flip side, which is even better. . I would even name it as one of the strangest records I've ever heard, and yet one which encapsulates the song-poem experience in many ways - the odd lyrics, the off-the-cuff performance, the poor match of lyrics to music, the mystery of it all, and on and on....

I first heard this song on a tape, supplied to me by Phil Milstein (thank you, Phil!), well over a decade ago, and it moved to the top of my heap immediately.

It's called "Rock, Rocking All the Time", and I hardly know where to begin in describing it. Perhaps with the lyrics, which beg us to not "blame" the singer for wanting to rock all the time, but then allows that this desire to rock all the time is how "everybody feels" (so why would we blame him?). "Oh La La, Oh, La, La, There They Go", is pretty good, too.

Or there is the fact that the tune is set to a beat that is far from "rocking", being more suited to one of the slower numbers from the Swing Era. And of course, one of the instruments driving the piece is that most rocking of instruments, the Vibraphone.

The vocalist really can't sing, which is not always a problem in real rock and roll, but his minimal ability is more in the area of "bad lounge singing", so even that doesn't fit. The whole thing adds up to a truly amazing performance, and it's capped off (hilariously, and incredulously, if you ask me), with a musical coda in which the band finally decides that they really are at a swing session, and go to town, with a big two bar solo for the vibraphone.

It is impossible for me to overstate how much I love this record. I even love the fact that you can hear the end of the count-off at the start. If there were an Abbey Road of song-poems, this would be on it. I hope you find as much to love in this deeply peculiar record:

For completeness sake, and for those who may not have it, here is the almost-as-deeply-magical flip side, "The 23rd Channel", heard here off of my new copy, not from the CD. You can also hear the end of a count-off on this side, and that's not heard on the CD release.

This has to be in the running for the best Double A-sided song-poem release ever. I can only think of a couple of competitors, both of which featured songs by Edith Hopkins, who was not really your typical song-poet. So maybe I consider this the Hey Jude/Revolution of Song-Poem singles.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Hooray for Noval Day!

It's always a happy day 'round my place when I become the owner of a previously unknown Noval record. Their records are among the most obscure, and tend to be fairly odd, even within the song poem world. That's above and beyond the fact that they never named a performer on the label, and credited their arrangements to one of a handful of single named men (in this case, "Jay").

"The Capitol of My Heart" is peppier and far less logubrious than the typical Noval release, with a quick beat and a happy sax solo, going along with some downright weird lyrics - my favorite has to be "You're the County Seat of My Love", and the whole thing raps up in just 90 seconds. Here you go!:

The flip side, "A Waltz For You", is much less interesting to me, aside from the genuinely poor lead vocal:

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Take Him Back

Time is tight this week - hence the late posting - but I wanted to include some relevant links, before sharing a nice Sammy Marshall feature.

First - and this may be old news to some - there is a new Rodd Keith compilation LP (Vinyl!) on the market, titled "My Pipe Yellow Dream", on the Roaratorio label. It can be found here, and is well worth the money. It even has liner notes from Dick Kent!

And Second, I've recently posted two Film City records to the WFMU blog. Neither of them is a song-poem - they're both vanity pressings as far as I know - but as I believe almost all of the Film City records had Chamberlin playing by Rodd Keith, they might be of interest to some of you (even if, as explained in the second post, I have some doubts about Rodd's involvement in one of them). The records are "Scotch Tape" by Lana Johnidas, and "Portland Rose Song" by Bert Lowry.

And now, here's Sammy Marshall himself, singing in a vocal style that will never be mistaken for anything from Tennessee, with a musical backing to match that non-Tennesseean feel, on the song "Take Me Back to Tennessee".

By the way, this record was released on the tiny Sherwood label, but the above song also was released, presumably in the same version, on the even tinier Fun label, with a different flip side.

Here's the flip side, "Open Your Heart":

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Real Pro

While every record I've ever seen on the Cinema label features a generic group called "The Real Pros", most of these records actually feature the usual suspects from the Los Angeles song-poem world - Rodd Keith, Dick Kent, Bobbi Blake and the rest. Actual, REAL pros.

But it's the earliest Cinema releases that fascinate me. While containing that same group name, these actually feature what appears to be a one-man-band, or at least a single keyboardist and a singer. The keyboard is one of those ubiquitous early '70's models that the family down the street always had in their living room. They had pre-programmed drum tracks, and if you pushed down a couple of keys at the left end, you had a chord background for your song. More talented pianists could actually use the drumbeats and play an entire left-and-right handed song.

For a moment, anyway, these keyboards seem to have been acceptable for use on major label record releases - at least if the sparkling review that Billboard gave to Robin Gibb's embarrassingly amateur first album (which has this sort of keyboard all over it), in 1970, can be believed. I've even noted what I believe to be one of these keyboards on a Leonard Cohen album or two.

Whoever played on these early Cinema releases knew how to get the most out of the limited machinery, as evidenced by the uniquely weird "Deep Freeze Mama", and the downright wonderful "I'm Having My First Heartbreak". But my real question is: who was the singer on these records? It appears to be the same guy on all of them, or at least a few guys with the same vocal qualities. I don't think I've ever heard it on any other label's song poems. Despite his sort of loungy qualities, I tend to enjoy this singer.

All that is a long set up to yet another Astronaut record, "Handful of Moon Dust", one whose lyrics are unusual in that they are from the point of view of a homesick Astronaut, who is glad to be back on Mother Earth.

The opening to the flip side "Until You Change Your Ways" sounds particularly like a few tracks on that Robin Gibb record I referenced. I don't have much more to say about this offering, aside from noting that both of these sides bear a production credit to "Quimby, Jr.", which I don't think I've noticed on Cinema records before, although I now see that it's on at least a few other early records from the label. Does this mean that the label was initially linked to the legendary Tropical label, run by Robert Quimby? There's nothing on the song-poem website to suggest this, but still, ooh, it makes me wonder....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rod Rogers: Ladies Man

Today, another marvelous pairing on the Film City label, from the pen of Walter York, and the genuis of Rodd Keith, as Rod Rogers. The better of the two is "Sixteen Sweethearts Later", in which we hear of a love affair interrupted by not one fling, not a few flings, but SIXTEEN relationships, certainly more than most people can claim in a lifetime. This performance contains a wonderful Chamberlin solo which is pretty much a perfect example of the typical Rodd Keith keyboard solo, particularly the musical figure at about the 1:09 point, which crops up again and again and again on his records.

The flip side, featuring a nice Rod/Rodd duet vocal, as well as more wonderful Chamberlinning, is "Instant Love". I sure do love this sound!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Does He Sound Angry?

Linford Haughton was angry. Yes, despite having one of the all time cool names - one which would absolutely keep me from getting angry, just by thinking about - he was angry. He put his thoughts to paper, named them "Darling, You Make Me Angry", and sent them in to the Sterling house of Song Poems. But I ask you, did Norm Burns - whose singing I adore, but still - express anything approaching anger in his reading of Mr. Haughton's outburst? I think not:

On the flip side, we have the sad tale of a man who has been left "Always Alone":

Sunday, October 02, 2011


Computer problems have delayed today's feature long enough, so I'm not going to type a lot and add to the delay. Suffice it to say that it's another great, winning Tin Pan Alley entry from Phil Celia, with that early rock and roll sound that he was not really all that suited for, singing about a girl nicknamed "Dimples"!

From the flip side, here's a more middle-of-the-road offering, "The Prairie Wind":

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cara Mia

I sure do love Cara Stewart. Admittedly, her records nearly all sound fairly similar, each of them being structured along one of about three or four templates, but each of those are such great templates, with Lee Hudson usually playing a low-rent Les Paul to her sultry Mary Ford. Today's offering has the fairly ridiculous title, "What Time Does the Last Moon Leave?", and it appeared on the little known "Advance Records" label.

You might be fascinated to learn that, based on an ad in Billboard that the author of these two songs took out, this record dates not to the 1950's or even the 1960's, but some time in late 1970 or early 1971. It was, says the ad "very apropos for the moon shot" (the first of which, of course, had been 18 months earlier, a time delay which is actually quite "timely", in terms of how quickly song-poem musicians keep up with trends).

The flip side is more of the same, in terms of the sound, and is titled "My Ladder of Dreams".

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hobby Horse Round-Up

"Charming" is not a word that I use very much. And it certainly isn't a word that I'd use to describe very many song-poems. But there are a few, and exhibit A may be today's feature, Gene Marshall's performance of "Hobby Horse Round-Up". These are genuinely sweet, whimsical words, set to a fairly appropriate backing, with a particularly well selected bass line.

I could always do without that God-awful synth that they were using by this point, and Gene reads the melody wrong early in the performance, but these are minor complaints. It's actually a tribute to Gene Marshall and the other song-poem singers, that they so rarely flubbed a word or a melody, since they were very likely seeing these words and music for the first and only time, upon singing them. And his warm, sweet vocal here fits the lyrics well. A winner.

Now, onto the flip side, where we find the deeply odd "Riders of the Purple Sky", complete with disco beat (I dig the drumming at about 1:35), Clavinet, and inscructable lyrics, wherein the riders are actually of several Purple Things (sage, sky, day), and it seems that far more is being imparted than 100 seconds could possibly contain. What's it all about, Gene? What's it all about, Priscilla? Another winner!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Every Boy He Knows

It seemed like it was about time for some Sammy Marshall, so just in time, I came up with today's feature, which appeared on the very rare Lydian Records label. This is the only record I've ever seen on Lydian, and it's the only one listed in the Lydian Records discography at AS/PMA.

Please note that this record, "Every Boy I Know", features what someone has determined to be "The Nashville Sound". While this is technically true (Lydian was provided with its tracks, like dozens of other tiny labels, by the Globe Records song-poem factory, based in Nashville), I can't imagine anyone actually thinking that either side of this record represented any "sound" that a music fan would think was associated with Nashville.

The flip side is "It's a Long Time (Now It's Too Late)", which features a lyric that I admittedly cannot comprehend. Most lines seem to be pining for a lost (or never had) love, while the third line of the song indicates that his loved one is with him.

By the way, the cruddy sound is from the pressing, not from my turntable or other sound equipment.

Monday, September 05, 2011

For Labor Day

What better way to pay tribute to the working men and women of our country and world on Labor Day (well, America's Labor Day, anyway) than with a look at one of those jobs which is so indispensable that its practitioners can't even get Labor Day off - the Policemen and Policewomen of our cities, towns and villages. The song is "We Proudly Hail Our Police". And what better man to do it than Frank Perry, who is woefully under-represented among the listings of song-poems to be had. And what better accompaniment than the that fabulous band "The 'Big Action Sound'", which is nothing more than the ol' Chamberlain!

The AS/PMA website has this record as being from the early '70's, which seems fairly amazing. I'm assuming that this comes from some sort of listing in a trade publication or an ad in the same, since the AS/PMA folks didn't know the artist for either side of the record. Their dates tend to be correct, though.

On the flip side, we have the Chamberlain man himself, Rodd Keith, in his guise as Rod Rivers, also with the fictional "Big Action Sound", on a less than stellar effort, "To Love". The lyrics here get positively circular, and more than a bit hard to follow:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

He Never Wins

Don't let the slinky piano opening figure fool you - it's not going to be some slinky, sexy, mysterious record, although the band seems to think this was a possibility. And the words to the song ("But I Never Win") here and there, suggest what might have been (although other lines are true clunkers). But then, the folks at Sterling assigned the track to the style-challenged Gary Roberts, and we end up with a quintessential song-poem record.

Ponderous is the word for the flip side, "Man on the Moon", handled by Shelly Stuart, who has not been featured on this site before. She did some good records for Sterling, although this isn't one of them. The song posits that the space program, and the landing on the moon, were the handiwork of God, rather than NASA, which seems to me quite a shortchanging of the scientists, astronauts and others who managed to achieve what they did in so short a time. We'll dedicate this to the Shuttle program, which ended earlier this summer.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Oh, Go Not Yet!!!

Before I get to this week's feature, I wanted to alert you that I've just posted a non-song-poem offering from the Film City label - a vanity record which almost certainly features Rodd Keith on the Chamberlain, and a deeply odd record it is, too, to the WFMU blog, here. And now, on with the countdown:

Today, our attention turns back to the throaty, appealing vocals of Ellen Wayne, songstress for the Tin Pan Alley label. Here's an early '60's effort, with appropriately jazzy backing, a 95 second length, and a just-short-of-ridiculous title, "Go Not Yet, Oh, Go Not Yet". This is another sound I just can't get enough of!

On the flip side, we hear "(I'm) The Clown", and if anyone can tell me how the addition of parethesis helps that title (rather than just calling it "I'm the Clown"), I'd be very appreciative:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

In Elvis' Memory

Another "Elvis Week" in Memphis (marking the anniversary of his death) is upon us, and what better way to pay tribute than with a Song-Poem. And like the last Elvis tribute record shared here (early last year), this one is by those Cinema Record stalwarts, The Real Pros. The title of this record "The Memory of Elvis Presley", seems to me to indicate that Elvis had a heretofore unmentioned talent for remembering things, and the first line of the song "Elvis did so much to help the poor", is unproven, as far as I know, and pretty much leaves me baffled. And that last rhyme, as the song is fading out, has to be heard to be believed. Try it out for a spin!

About that B-Side, “We Got the Blues”... Well, I find it pretty much unlistenable. Oh, and if you’re going to make a song with “Blues” in the title, it would nice to set it to a musical style that at least has some semblance of the blues, rather than a generic, badly recorded dance track with a predictable major/minor progression, and a solo section that doesn't really bother to include a solo. However, your mileage may vary:

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Chariots of the Gods

Time is exceptionally short this week, as I head off to a fabulous all-weekend-long activity, so I'm just going to offer today's Bobbi Blake feature, which also, unfortunately, features the absolutely terrible sound and pressing quality that MSR was noted for, at this time. Here's "Chariots of the Gods":

And a sad story indeed, is heard in this flipside, "Dear Sister":

Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Love That Sound!

Not that anyone asked me, but... What's my favorite "sound" from within the song-poem world? That's hard to say. Contenders include the sound of Norris the Troubadours 1950's releases, the feel of most of Cara Stewart's records, and the Sterling records crisp production and precise feel. But my favorite of all my be the ridiculously mechanical sound of the Film City song-poem machine, run by Rodd Keith in his Rod Rogers persona, arranging the entire song on the wonderful instrument known as the Chamberlain, and often completing the one-man effect by singing on the final project.

Today, two examples of the result of this process at its most peculiar, as featured on two patriotic songs with lyrics written by Clarence Boness. This record just entered my collection two or three days ago, and I couldn't wait to offer it up! First up is the very brief (105 seconds!) song "The 678th", which features an otherworldly solo which sounds like it belongs on a record about alien invaders, rather than the protection offered by a military troop. What a wacky, wonderful sound:

On the flip side is yet another trip to "John F. Kennedy", again featuring that unique, indescribable Rodd Keith/Chamberlain sound, with only a slightly less odd solo section!:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Not Halmark... Hallmark!

Usually, the records from this company came out as being on the "Halmark" label, and more often then not, they did not credit the vocalist(s). Today's example of the crusty sounds put out by this company does feature the name of the vocalist - the forever amazing Bob Storm - and far more unusually, correctly spells the word by which the company was named: "Hallmark", a spelling used on perhaps one tenth of the records they released (or, at least, of the records from the label that I'm aware of).

What rarely changed was the backing tracks they used. If you are, like me, a Halmark (or Hallmark) aficionado, both of the backing tracks heard here will be like old friends, and may trigger in your mind memories of other songs, better and worse than these two, which were attached to the same tracks. First up, "All Because of You":

And the flip-side, "I Hear Angels Sing":

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blue Memories

There are only a handful of documented releases on the Brosh label (pronounced "Broash", we're told). At least a few of them, as documented on the AS/PMA website, were clearly not song-poem releases, while others clearly were. This one, which likely was the first release on the label, would appear to fall into the latter category. It features Cara Stewart on one side, while the other side features Dwight Duvall, who also pops up on other song-poem labels (he also appears to have made at least one legit record, for the same label that released Dave "Baby" Cortez' "The Happy Organ").

But this inagural release from Brosh is certainly worth a listen or two. Dwight Duvall's voice and delivery are certainly unusual - the only singer I can think of to compare him to is Ray Phillips, who you can hear here. And "Blue Memories" seems custom made for Dwight's talents. Enjoy!

And it's always good to have a chance to share some Cara Stewart, which I haven't done nearly enough on this site. Some may say (and have said) that the vast majority of her records sound very similar, and I guess that's true, but what a fantastic sound it is. Here's Cara with the song "Yearning":

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Sure Wish He'd Shave!

Picture this: It was the late 1960's. You're a woman who came of age during the Eisenhower years, when men were men and knew how to dress, talk, walk and groom themselves like men. Now, the fashions have changed, and many young men have grown their hair out longer than yours has ever been. What's more, they've started growing beards again - that went out of fashion with Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield, didn't it?

What's an upstanding woman to do? I know - write a poem about it, expressing your outrage, and ridiculing this trend - maybe even imply that there's something morally and sexually queationable about it. Then you can have the poem made into a song! I'm sure there are people who will do that for you! So what if you have to pay them, they seem to think you might get a hit record out of the deal?

And so what if they have a guy sing it, and as a result, they change your first person complaint into some sort of weird third person observational rant? And who cares if they attach it to some bizarre setting, where it starts upbeat, slows down to a crawl (leaving "beat" out of the mix entirely for a time), then slowly gathers steam until its at the opening beat again, by the time it ends?

All that is a long-winded way for me to introduce one of my favorite song-poem records, which I can't believe I haven't featured here before, Mike Thomas' amazing rendition of Agnes M. Solan's "My Kind of Man":

The flip side is a pleasant slice of late '60's pop, also by Mike Thomas, "One Little Moment of Day: