Monday, April 04, 2016


Last week, I wrote, regarding an particularly odd record called "Lonesome Sad and Blue", that one of the reasons the record resonated with me is because a good part of the melody strongly resembled that of the lovely song "Spanish is the Loving Tongue". Frequent commenter Timmy went even further, suggesting that litigation would not have been out of the question.

But that thievery pales in comparison to today's masterwork, a record I find nothing short of astonishing. Someone named Elbert Ward decided to take it upon himself to write out the words to Mel Tillis' "Ruby (Don't Take Your Love to Town)", and send them, almost verbatim, to the good folks at Tin Pan Alley records. Mr. Ward changed a few words here and there - my guess is that this was done to somehow make him think that he "wrote" these words, but it's also possible that he was simply hearing the original words incorrectly. Regardless of the reason, the changes make virtually no difference in the overall direction, meaning and story of the song.

This is the third time I've come across this phenomenon. First, it was a "lyricist" who simply submitted the words to the chestnut "Nobody's Child", and then it was the genius who took the lyrics to the classic (sic) "Watching Bobby Grow" and changed the name of the child to that of the "lyricist's" own child.

This one seems more egregious to me, because the original of this one is a more familiar song and also a better song, certainly better than "Watching Scotty Grow". I have to wonder what Mr. Ward thought he was accomplishing. Did he think getting his name on the label meant he actually wrote Mel Tillis' song? The only thing original that was going to come out of this transaction - which he would have paid handsomely for - is the music, a portion of the collaboration he had no part in. And my guess is that anyone who heard the record of "his" song, would say, "hey, YOU DIDN'T WRITE THOSE WORDS".

Speaking of the music, though - the folks at Tin Pan Alley seem to have had a ball with this one, perhaps (speculation, of course) because they likely knew it was a rip-off, within the rip-off that it already was. There is a bluesy, garage band feel to this one, and nothing is left on the table. The solo, while not technically very good, is energetic, and, to my ears, exciting. Mike Thomas is fairly "eh", but that's to be expected.

Download: Mike Thomas - Ruby

On the other side is more fun from Elbert Ward. Perhaps (speculation, of course) learning that there was a song called "Stairway to Heaven" (maybe you've heard of it), and perhaps listening to it and finding out, to his eternal disappointment, that it was not a religious number per se, perhaps he decided that the title concept was an excellent idea, but that the trip needed to be a somewhat faster one. Voila! A "RAILWAY TO HEAVEN"!

And then, as you'll hear, he threw in a bunch of New Testament references, not really tied together all that well. Or at all. But you know how it is.

Download: Mike Thomas - Railway to Heaven


Stu Shea said...

This is incredible. On one hand, it seems to take a page from the idea of the folk process, in which a lyric/story ("The Saddest Story," "Stagger Lee") gets passed around and added to. On the other hand, of course, such process does NOT usually work on popular songs written and recorded months before. Regardless of the twisted, benighted birth of this record, it may be the best thing I've heard you play by the TPA/Mike Thomas assemblage. Thank you!

Timmy said...

Shocking! George Harrison is cringing in his Nirvana... (Yes, it's possible) I actually like the rip-off song of all time. "Railway" is cool, to, in a sublime sort of way.