Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Return of Gary Roberts

First, I have - as promised - gone back and updated yet another month's worth of previously damaged posts, in this case, the month of August, 2014, which featured three posts: an odd late-era Film City release sung by Jim Wheeler, three quarters of an Air EP (the missing song explained in the notes), and a sort of wonderful 1950's Tin Pan Alley number

With that out of the way, here's what this week's record looks like: 

One of my intentions at this site is to document virtually every Gary Roberts record that I come across. Not because he was a great singer - based on the evidence, he wasn't even a good singer. Not because his records stand out as song-poems - but rather, just the opposite. They are, with a couple of exceptions, utterly prosaic. Gary Roberts and the majority of his releases are exactly what I would describe as the average song-poems: badly written lyrics, corny, unimaginative music and barely competent (if that) singing.

Plus, it's worth noting that, for song-poem fans who discovered the genre during a certain era, Gary Roberts' voice was the first one they ever heard singing a song-poem. His rendition of the utterly amazing "Do You Know the Difference Between Big Wood and Brush" led off the first vinyl reissue of song-poems, and the subsequent first CD re-issue of song-poems, back in the '90's, and I have it on good authority that "Big Wood and Brush" was the single most popular song-poem among those who discovered the genre via those re-issues, back in the 1990's and early 2000's.

For both of those reasons - the fame of his biggest "hit" and the utterly stereotypical-ness of his oeuvre, I want to spread the joy of a Gary Roberts record whenever I find one. And it's been over a year and a half.

Today's song is "Gold and Silver", a record that fits everything I just said about this artist and his work at the Sterling label. An added minus is the truly awful sound of the pressing. "Gold and Silver" shows precious (heh) little creativity in any area, and features just enough poorly phrased lines and badly structured music to keep things mildly interesting.

Download: Gary Roberts - Gold and Silver

An appropriately loping beat introduces the flip side, "Cowboy's Song of Oregon". The lyricist has had enough of those New York rodeos (?), and will resume the Cowboy life as practiced in Oregon. Is it my imagination or does this side seem to be slowing down, to the point where one expects it to stop any time, on a couple of different occasions?

Download: Gary Roberts - Cowboy's Song of Oregon

Thursday, October 31, 2019

An Odd, Grand Record

The ongoing updates to the broken postings will resume next time around.

Today, I have one of the more peculiar records from my collection. Its contents in and of themselves are not unusual, for those familiar with song-poems and with the labels involved, but their appearance on the Grand Recording Co label was, fro me, at the very least.... unexpected.

The AS/PMA shows Grand Recording Co to be a concern related to the much more well known Halmark outfit, and the small Chapel label that seems to have predated Halmark. This seems to be based on two things - one, the address for Grand was in the same metropolis - Quincy, MA, as Halmark, and two, the existence of the single record (an album) which AS/PMA was privy to when the website was a going concern. Presumably, the sound of that Grand Recording Co album was consistent with that of Halmark.

And that's what I thought I was getting. And when I listened to the most song with the most promising title on the EP, "We'll Never Ration Liberty", that's what I got. And that ridiculous Halmark sound continued into the second song of the EP. But then I flipped the record over.... And I heard two songs that were clearly from the great Preview label, including one featuring Rodd Keith that had a smoking backing track.

This provides more of a link than I knew of in the past between Ted Rosen's slimy business in Massachusetts (for I see no way that he wasn't involved, given the address of the "co" and the contents of the record), and the more talented - and somewhat more slick about their shadiness - folks at Preview. But beyond that, I have no insight into exactly what business dealings led to there being two West Coast song-poems on a New England label.

Regardless, it's absolutely an EP worth hearing, or at least (to these ears), three fourths of it is worth hearing. Let's begin, shall we?:


Leading off is the aforementioned "We'll Never Ration Liberty", featuring the voice of the man most often identified as Bob Storm - although there have been enough contradictions about that name and the Halmark voices to leave me scratching my head. And it's a great, ridiculously patriotic lyric paired with my all time favorite Halmark backing track, the one most memorably used for "Lady Off Pedestal at Notre Dame" (although here, it is stripped of the backing chorus, so Halmark clearly had multi-track reels of their recycled classic tracks.

The vocalist seems a bit bored at times - I've never heard him sound more like he's phoning it in. But the cranky lyrics - and the singer's choice to pronounce "Ration" with a long "A" - as well as that bouncy track, and a nice final note, all keep me coming back for more, again and again.

Download: No Artist Named (Bob Storm) - We'll Never Ration Liberty

Next up is the same singer, happily enough singing over my second favorite Halmark track, the one best used on "My Hamburger Baby" (a song I love so much that I recorded a cover version!) In this, case, after a spoken introduction, we get "If I Had One Wish", one of those "we should all love each other" songs, long on platitudes, and completely absent of actual ideas for making things happen, featuring a much more Bob Storm-ish over-the-top performance.

Download: No Artist Named (Bob Storm) - If I Had One Wish


Let's flip the record over, shall we?

As mentioned, the flip side really caught me off guard. Within three seconds, I was thinking "This is a Preview production". And so it is. And I must say, it's not one I'd share if it wasn't part of an overall more interesting EP. Gene Marshall is professional as ever, but the song, lyrics and arrangement of "You're the One" are all deadly dull.

Download: No Artist Named (Gene Marshall) - You're the One

The biggest surprise was yet to come. The last track, "Love Me, Baby, Love Me", clearly features Rodd Keith. The lyrics leave a lot to be desired - and thereby leave the song to be only so-so, despite an effective vocal. But the backing track is great! It's a solid soul mover, featuring some great horns, sounding like something that would have been produced in Memphis in 1966. I'm certain I've never heard this track on a Preview 45, and I wish it had been used with material that lived up to its quality.

Download: No Artist Named (Rodd Keith) - Love Me, Baby, Love Me

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Dick and Bobbi

As has been the case for several weeks now, before getting to today's offering, I want to update you as to updates. I have moved back another month, and have now made new connections for all posts from October, 2014. They include: A Hal(l)mark Bob Storm special, a minimalist Mike Thomas number on Tin Pan Alley, a jawdroppingly ridiculous Gene Marshall record about Nixon, and an very late, and depressing, MSR effort by Rodd Keith, or, rather, Rodd Rogers

And speaking of MSR....: 

I'm just not much of a fan of this label, particularly its output after the death of Rodd Keith. But I know there are plenty of MSR fans out there, so much so that the compilations that were released a few decades ago were subtitled after the label.

Despite my general disinterest, I do find this one, "Bye Bye" to be a minor pleasure, a nice, bouncy, almost polka-esque number, sung with more gusto than it deserves by Dick Kent. The sing-songy melody here reminds me more than a little of the repetitive melodies created by William Howard Arpaia, for those who know about him. That is not meant as a compliment.

Download: Dick Kent - Bye Bye

On the flip side, as she so often was with Dick Kent (or, if you prefer, he on her backside), is Bobbi Blake, singing a curious lyric titled "My Souvenir". Again, this is a nice vocal, but this one suffers, as to many latter-day MSR records, from the sound of a certain deeply chintzy, early synthesizer, a model which renders many of those records unlistenable, at least to my ears.

Download: Bobbi Blake - My Souvenir

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Hilly-Dilly Billie (With a Rainbow Twist)

Good evening!

As my ongoing repairs to the earlier posts at this site continue, today, I can announce that I have fixed all four posts from October of 2014, which together feature a whopping eleven song poems. These include a Norm Burns number, Three songs from a Star-Crest album, a Brosh EP and a Rod Rogers special. 

And now...

One of the few things I've found I can truly count on in this song-poem collecting game is this: If i find a Phil Celia record which features a ridiculous title, it's going to be a winner. A quick listen through my previous Phil Celia postings will prove this to be the case. (Note - several of the links within those posts are not yet repaired.)

Today's feature is no exception. I have no idea what "Hilly Dilly Billie (with a Rainbow Twist)" meant to the song-poet, but the combination of that song's lyrics and Tin Pan Alley's minimalist version of Rock and Roll (which to my ears owes more than a bit to supper club combo music), results in something eminently listenable and very enjoyable. Phil never gives any indication that he knows what he's singing is ridiculous, as he (as always) gives the song and the lyric his all.

Download: Phil Celia - Hilly-Dilly Billie (with a Rainbow Twist)

That is not to say that everything Phil Celia (let alone Tin Pan Alley) touched was turned to gold. "The Night is Beautiful", on the flip side, is almost the quintessential dull, uninspired song-poem lyric and equally creativity-free setting.

Download: Phil Celia - The Night is Beautiful

Monday, September 30, 2019

Where They Use Their Bodies, Not Just For a Hobby!

Okay, so first up, in my ongoing goal of re-upping all of the old posts, I have now cleaned up the four posts I made in November of 2014. That month featured a ridiculous Mike Thomas record on Tin Pan Alley, a back-to-back series of two posts featuring Halmark-styled releases from the same company, prior to it being called "Halmark", and a sleazy record from Gene Marshall. You can find them, in that order, right here

Continuing something I said in the last post, I'm still not finding much time to do anything that I don't have to do (although that should change soon), so I'm not going to blather on about today's record. I'm sure there are at least some readers who don't go in for my lengthier posts anyway.

So I just bought this ridiculous and very poorly pressed record, a late-era offshoot of Film City on the Big Sound Records label (the only one I've ever seen on that label), and I enjoyed the lyrics on both sides of the record, despite the terrible sound and uninspired performances. The songs are credited to Frank Lane, who I suspect is Frank Perry, but I'm not sure.

First up, here's a song decrying all the bad things about "Divorce", featuring the line I quoted for the name of this post:

Download: Frank Lane and the "Swinging Strings" - Divorce

And on the other side, an equally busy Chamberlin track backs up Frank Lane, again, on the saga of "Rodeo Joe", about as half-assed as a lyric and performance as I can imagine:

Download: Frank Lane and the "Swinging Strings" - Rodeo Joe

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Norridge, Rodd and Tom Dooley

Ya know, I love my hobbies, especially those that let me share parts of my collection here and on my other blog. And I love my work. If anything, it's gotten richer with a promotion a few years ago, and a more recent redefinition. But it became clear this month that, under that redefinition, Septembers are going to ridiculously busy for me. I'm going to try to prepare in advance for my blogging sites in the future, but this year, I really haven't had the time to dedicate to much posting. 

So I tried to catch up today, the first time I digitized anything in weeks. First, as I have been doing recently, I re-upped a set of old broken posts, in this case, five from December of 2014. You can find those here - the first four feature Christmas and religious song-poems of varying quality, while the last one... well, that's the one featuring "The Beatle Boys", which is one of my two favorite song-poems ever. 

And I will also acknowledge that today's offering may not be a new one to some percentage of the readership. Two decades ago, when the song-poem audience was reaching whatever zenith it reached, a CD reissue of a remarkable album was issued. That was Norridge Mayhams' "Our Centennial Album", credited to "Norris the Troubadour, Seaboard Coastliners". This album collected 29 songs that Mayhams had written, all of which he had paid various song-poem factories (and the like) to record for him. Most, if not all of these tracks had previously been released on 45's on Mayhams' label(s), and as they came from various companies, they actually featured a number of different vocalists and bands, all appearing under the name of one or more of his nom-de-plumes. 

Anyway, I say all this to offer a bit of history, but also to acknowledge that a certain, unknowable size number of those of you reading this may well have already heard these two songs, or even own them on a copy of that CD. But for those who don't, I really can't pass up sharing this 45, as the first song I'm putting up is among my top 20 favorite song-poems ever - it's my favorite from the album (there is one song on the album that I love much more - a version of "Mary Ann McCarthy" - but the version of that record that I love is not the one on the album. I find the one on the album to be fairly terrible). 

Anyway, here it is: 

On the Centennial Album, this is identified as "Tom Dooley Last Will and Testament", which is in keeping with the lyrics, but this title, "Tom Dooley Testament", works just as well. Norridge Mayhams clearly paid for the folks at Film City to produce this track, and Rodd Keith - no doubt thinking it would be released under the name Rod Rogers - provides one of his finest creations ever. And he didn't even get his preferred name on it - just "Seaboard Coastliner"

This is just damn cool. I don't have another, better word for it. The lyrics are interesting, Rod almost never did anything more slinky and sexy with the usually very clunky chamberlain - every voicing and musical choice is fantastic - and his vocal performance is loose, sly, soulful and understated all at the same time.

Many, maybe even most, of Mayhams' releases have fairly poor sound. My speculation is that he received the acetate or actual 45 from the company involved - in this case, Film City - and then mastered his 45 directly from the vinyl he received. I have no proof of this, but that's sure what it sounds like. In most cases, it is the detriment of the material, but in this case, it gives the proceedings a suitably spooky, even otherworldly feel. I'm not any other record I've ever heard sounds quite like this.

If you've not heard this before, I'd love to hear what you think.

Download: Seaboard Coastliner - Tom Dooley Testament

On the flip side, there is a positively schizophrenic Christian Revival-style song, :"Jesus Will Be Coming Soon", a song which starts with a bouncy, Spiritual setting, then into a 1950's organ driven inspirational number, and back into the Spiritual, all in less than 105 seconds, complete with a truly terrible edits near the start. For this one, Mayhams' company of choice was the Globe song-poem factory, with Sammy Marshall taking the lead, again billed as "Seaboard Coastliner".

I really have to wonder what the average record hound thinks, when coming across this record, with the billing the same on both sides, two totally unrelated subjects (a murderer's reflections / the second coming), sung and played but are what are clearly two different singers and bands.

Download: Seaboard Coastliner - Jesus Will Be Coming Soon

I should be able to get to more frequent postings now.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Onliest Jack Carlin on Fable Records


I have again endeavored to re-up another months worth of earlier-posted song poems, in this case the three records I shared in January of 2015. This is a slow process, but at least it's started. Starting today, you can again enjoy a truly wonderfully ridiculous record by Phil Celia on Tin Pan Alley, a very rare Star-Crest single, featuring two songs that total 189 seconds between them, and the lovely and talented Norm Burns, who is not letting mom off the hook!


And now..... 

Posting songs from the Fable label is sort of a crap-shoot. While there are a handful which are almost certainly song-poems, and plenty more which seem very likely to have been attempts at hits, that leaves a bunch which are just goofy enough or off-kilter in some way to make them seem likely to be song-poems, or at best vanity records, with Fable doing the honors of providing the performers for someome's completed lyrics and music.

I actually suspect the latter of today's record, but I'm posting it anyway, because a.) it deserves to be heard and b.) I've received requests over the years to continue sharing Fable releases, of which I have many, and which are starting to go for higher and higher prices at auction.

Both sides of this record were written by the wonderfully named Calasanz Joseph Jones & Thelma Hester Jones - I got this information from the Catalog of Copyright Entries, where the Jones' are listed as composers of a few songs. Again, my guess is that they paid Fable to record their songs - perhaps they even picked the singer, Jack Carlin, who does not appear on any other cataloged Fable release. Fable even went so far as to send this record to Billboard in late 1956, where it was dutifully reviewed (every record Billboard received got a mention, in those days), and given very poor prospects for any success.

On both sides, Carlin is backed by label honcho Sandy Stanton and the Fabel Label All Stars, billed just like that: "Fabel". I will have to look to see if any other Fable release has that billing.

Oh, and the songs? Well, for one thing, they may both qualify as the two longest titles I've ever shared on this site, each of them having a lengthy main title and a significant subtitle. And the subject of both songs is, generally speaking, laziness.

First up is "I Got One Foot in the Grave (And the Other Won't Behave)". If nothing else, the prominent bum guitar note a the 1 1/2 second mark gives me the impression that making this as professional and hit-bound a record as possible was not on the agenda that day. But the whole thing is clever and funny, and quite enjoyable, well never quite sounding completely on the level.

Download: Jack Carlin, Music by Sandy Stanton and the Fabel Label All Stars - I Got One Foot in the Grave (And the Other Won't Behave)

Continuing the theme, in a minor key this time, the flip side is titled "The Onliest Thing I Won't Do (Is Work Work Work). This side sounds considerably more song-poem-ish to me, with its thudding beat and a guitarist who occasionally sounds like he's not following the same chord changes as the rest of the band. Jack Carlin also sounds far less like a professional singer on this track.I find this side to be a genuinely odd combination of sounds and arrangement choices.

Download: Jack Carlin, Music by Sandy Stanton and the Fabel Label All Stars - The Onliest Thing I Won't Do (Is Work Work Work)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

What Has He Done?

Arrgh! Probably with my file sharing site have kept me from posting for about two weeks. I assume the problem was only with me, as no one has complained of broken links on my recent posts. 

And speaking of broken links, I have no reconnected the four posts I made back in February of 2015. Now, once again, you can enjoy the full splendor of a classic Bob Storm emote-a-thon, a truly amazing record by Rod Barton about political problems in the Congo, Dick Kent with a simple solution for everything, and some sample kisses from Cara Stewart

And now....

I say this every time I share one of her songs, but Edith L. Hopkins sure could write a catchy song. She wasn't exactly a song-poet, as she wrote both the words and the music. And she seems to have gone for the legit market at times. But at other times, she engaged the services of various song-poem factories, particularly after she opened up her own label, Inner-Glo Records. So it is that we have multiple Edith Hopkins numbers sung by the likes of Sammy Marshall.

For his Inner-Glo releases, Sammy was renamed "Sandy Singer", but in every other way, this is a standard early period Globe/Sammy number, except that, to my ears, "What Have I Done?", has a wonderful, country edged and lilting melody, and Sammy provides one of his best heart-on-his-sleeve, pained vocals. The main drawback here, and it's a good one, is that the sound quality is nothing short of atrocious, as if the 45 was mastered directly from an acetate. 


"Never to Know" is on the flip side, and nothing I said about "What Have I Done?" applies. This is a fairly deadly 6/8 thing, done in a dreary arrangement that seems to go on forever. 


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Hey, Everybody, Time to Poo-Poo!!!

The first time I saw this label scan, in an eBay auction a few weeks ago, I knew two things: 1.) I was going to buy it no matter the cost and 2.) I was going to share it as soon as I had a chance to hear it. As it turned out, it didn't come close to breaking the bank - not much money at all!! And it arrived Saturday morning while I was at a convention, so this is the closest I could come to "as soon as I had a chance". It did not disappoint. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the label for Honeywell Jackson's "Ricky Rocky Poo-Poo-Poo":

This record is certainly a mystery - Honeywell Jackson does not show up anywhere else in the Tin Pan Alley, or overall song-poem discography. The sleeve it came to me in appears to be original, and is dated 1962, which is fairly consistent with its numbering (early 1963 might also be correct).
And the song turns out to be.... you guessed it.... a song about a dance move! Why, of course. And while most of you could probably imagine a dance move called the Poo-Poo-Poo, this doesn't resemble what I'm guessing you're imagining. There is actually little to it, as you'll hear. The oddest thing about it, besides the title, is that the singer (well, the song-poet) indicates that he does this dance whenever he has a free moment, but then immediately confirms that it's a line dance which requires a leader. Well, which is it - a solo thing or a group dance?
Regardless, there's almost no way a song with this title was going to disappoint. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:
The flip side features "The Deans", who show up on only two documented TPA records, making this a truly unusual disc for the label. The singer here - performing "Pretty Lola" - could well be one of the other label male vocalists of the day. The song is a fairly dreary doo-wop styled ballad about a couple of folks with rhyming names who "laughed when they learned" that they had names that rhymed with "cola". I can't imagine that this would have been a surprised, but the writer? Well, he'll "be durned".
Updates to previously broken links will continue with the next posting.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Trips to the Moon, With Gene Marshall, Part Three


It's almost time to complete our three week trip to the moon with Gene Marshall, but first, I wanted to do a little promotion: 

Some of you own, or are aware of my "The Many Moods of Bob" collection, an album of comic songs which I put together in the late '90's, and which went up online on the Happy Puppy label several years later. Well, since that time, I have continued to write and record both comic and serious songs, although a lot more of the former, recording them whenever I had enough time. And now, after 19 years, this 19 track album is available. It's called "A Few More Plans". 

There's a wide variety of material - songs set to psychedelic style, calypso, jazz, rhumba, gospel, and much more, all featuring my style of humor and songwriting. Three of them have been featured on the Dr. Demento show in recent years. Mostly, it's me: my voice and my keyboard (and a few other instruments in places), but a few tracks feature family members and a friend.

Mixed in are four instrumentals. One of these - the title track - is a fairly insane trip through sound which wouldn't be out of place as the accompaniment to a silent movie. The other three instrumentals are simply revved up versions of songs I've been playing forever. There's also a remake of a beloved, very obscure commercial (of all things), a remake of a song-poem, and a rendition of a song my brother once dreamed, during a nightmare, more than 50 years ago. 

I have been writing and recording songs - serious and decidedly not so - since I was 16 years old, and I believe that, as a set of material, this is by far the best project I've ever produced in those 40-some years, and I would love it if you'd have a listen. It's located here: 

You can listen to all the songs for free on the site, and read the lengthy notes attached to each song (under "lyrics" - there was no other way to do it), and if you'd be so kind as to buy it (which allows the download of the material and all the notes and the front and back covers), it's only two dollars.

One more thing: I'm not really on social media, for a variety of reasons, and I would very much like it if  - on the chance that you enjoy the material - you'd consider putting up links to my project on whichever of these sites you are part of. If you choose to do that, I'd really appreciate it. 


And here's another announcement: I have re-upped three more posts from around the time that my previous file-hosting site, Divshare, went down for the count. So now, if you'd like, you can once again enjoy and download a truly bizarre Preview release here, a Mother's Day special (with a shout-out to dad, too), here, and a bit of a mystery on Sterling here

I will continue this project as often as I can. 


Finally, we're at the final stage of our Moon Shot Trilogy. Some time after last week's tribute to the initial landing on the moon (250 or so label numbers later), here's a patriotic tribute to the brave men who took part in that flight, titled "Astronauts Moon Flight", and again, of course, sung by Gene Marshall. 


On the flip side, Gene gets to tackle another piece of history, in this case, via a war ballad, honoring the Battle of "Shiloh", an early major event in the Civil War, 1862. The words are quite respectful, and seem to be acceptably accurate, and Gene handles the song well, although musically, none of this holds my attention. 


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Trips to the Moon, With Gene Marshall, Part Two

Well, today is the day! My younger daughter turns 26 today! Yippee!!!

Wait, while that's true, it's not why I'm posting a set of special themed records this month and, particularly, today. Today, in case you've been melting and not able to pay attention, is the 50th anniversary of the day that a human first walked on the moon.

 And as promised last week, here we have part two of our Gene Marshall triple play, all about travels to the moon. And apropos of today's anniversary, the title of the song is "Footsteps on the Moon".

Admittedly, this is far from the most exciting or even interesting record that I've ever shared here (or even that I've shared this month), but I think given the magnitude of the event and the anniversary, it's the perfect song-poem for today. Sing it, Gene!

Download: Gene Marshall - Footsteps on the Moon

On the flip side is a brief record  - "I Can't Make You Cry" - that I find fairly peculiar, lyrically. The writer (and of course, Gene, is his vocal) is despairing that his beloved is far too young to be in love with him, the tell-tale sign being that he can't make her cry. I guess I'm trying to picture how young a young woman would be who doesn't periodically cry, or who is unable to cry in response to something done by a boyfriend. And even if such a person exists, why is that the deciding factor for the writer?

By the way, the sudden increase in volume at 1:24 is not something I did. The record plays like that.

Download: Gene Marshall - I Can't Make You Cry

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Trips to the Moon, With Gene Marshall, Part One

Well, we're back from vacation and I'm ready to rock and roll you... TO THE MOON!!!!

But before I get to that, I wanted to make sure everyone knew that, as promised, I have begun to re-up the broken files from prior to the summer of 2015. Today, I have restored three posts from spring of that year, a Gene Marshall post featuring the song "Beer Belly Polka", which can be found here, a Rod Rogers Film City classic featuring two patriotic ditties, which you can find here, and a ridiculous Mike Thomas record (but I repeat myself) from Tin Pan Alley, which can be found here

I will try to continue to fix the broken links as frequently as possible. 

And now, back to that satellite we all know and love!: 

As you've probably been unable to miss out on hearing, we're coming up on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, which took place on July 20th, 1969. Since there is an entire sub-genre of Astronaut-related song-poems, I'm going to take the rest of the month, once each weekend, and treat you to one of Gene Marshall's musical treatises, one fanciful and the other two in tribute to those intrepid outer space explorers.

Since we're not yet on the actual anniversary just yet, I'll start with the imaginary trip to the moon, on a record which was likely made not long after the actual moon shot. It has the completely unwieldy title of "Fly With Me Darling On a Rocket to the Moon", and for some reason it features some backup singers who sound as if they've never read music before (well, it is likely that they'd never seen this music before singing it). The  lyrics smack of someone using a rhyming dictionary while trying to shoehorn those rhymes into her poem.

Gene, on the other hand, does a wonderful job, and the peppy band does its job, too, particularly a fairly wonderful, at times hyperactive drummer - that drummer gives more to this backing track than this simplistic, sing-songy lyrics had a right to expect

Download: Gene Marshall - Fly With Me Darling On a Rocket to the Moon

The flip side, "Masque", has little to offer, aside from trying to figure out why the song-poet decided on the unnecessary alternate spelling of "Mask". The backing band sounds more like the minimalist, barely talented folks on late '60's Tin Pan Alley records than the usual stellar Preview band.

Download: Gene Marshall - Masque

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Ted Lane Sound

I get a kick out of today's billing, and that's what's referenced in the name of this post. More on that just below. But first, I am featuring today one of the singers at the Sterling label, who hasn't been featured enough (because she's not on that many records, and because I have even fewer than that), Shelley Stuart. I have consistently - during three other posts feature her work - misspelled her name as Shelly, despite the fact that the correct spelling was clearly evident on the labels of all three records featured in those posts. I hope to fix those posts, or at least the labels, soon.

Anyway, in this case, Shelley has a peppy, pleading number to sing, titled "Come and Take Care of Me". She is accompanied (as is the case with her label mate on the flip side), by "Ted Lane's Orchestra", a combo which shows up infrequently enough on Sterling records that it is not found on any of the records indexed on the Sterling page of the song-poem website. But here's the thing: You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who can tell the different between Ted's band and Lew Tobin's ensemble, which is usually credited (if a backing "orchestra" is identified at all. This is clearly the same band. So what's the story there? I recognize that I may well be the only person who cares.

Download: Shelley Stuart, Ted Lane's Orchestra - Come and Take Care of Me

On the flip side is everyone's favorite Norm, Norm Burns, here going by the more formal Norman Burns, backed again by Ted and the boys, led off by a loping and appealing guitar introduction, and then going into a tune, "Little Butterfly", that is completely in Norm(an)'s wheel house. It's fairly slight, but his vocal is appealing,and I sure do like that repeating guitar phrase.

Download: Norman Burns, Ted Lane's Orchestra - Little Butterfly

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Sugar Fluff Doll

Before I get to this week's posting, I wanted to share with everyone that, as a result of one of my other collecting passions - the collecting and sharing of interesting recordings found on reel to reel tapes - I have now been featured on a major podcast called Ephemeral. The story in question is about Merigail Moreland, who I featured at WFMU many years ago. The show is about 40 minutes long, and can be heard here.
And now.....

When I first featured the Lutone label, many years ago, I speculated that there was perhaps only one release on the label. Since then, I've obtained a few other records from Lutone, and am now featuring the label for the third time.
This isn't a full song-poem label, but more of a hybrid of vanity and song-poem. Label titan Luton Stinson wrote both the words and the music for his songs, unlike the vast majority of song-poets, but then engaged the various song-poem factories to make recordings of his masterpieces. So it was that the Film City company ended up with one of Mr. Stinson's songs, and Rodd Keith (under his Film City guise of Rod Rogers) ended up recording "Sugar Fluff Doll". This is a bouncy, happy little confection, and Rodd handles it beautifully from start to finish, complete with an infectious little solo. I sure do love that Chamberlin sound.
On the flip side is something a bit curious. The song is "Black Bottom Inn", and Luton Stinson appears to have really thought he was on to something here, as he commissioned its recording at least three times, including once that I have featured before. And this is the least of the three by a long shot. In fact, because I find this version - by Lance Hill out of the Globe factory - so tepid and uninspired, I'm going to fix the link on the previous posting so you can compare, even if you weren't reading this site before the earlier links went down.
First, here's Lance Hill's version, complete with little "whoop whoop" vocalizing, which sound to me a bit like someone trying to copy Roger Miller, without even the most basic of understanding of what made Roger Miller's vocalizing so great.
And now, here's the link to the version I posted five years ago, by Jeff Reynolds - I just think it's fabulous - slinky and sexy and completely in keeping with what's going on in the lyrics. (This post also contains a link to the third version, a '60's rocker which is from Tropical Records, yet another song-poem outfit). The repaired post can be found here.
By the way, I'm going to do my best to use this as a starting point to repair the other broken links. Obviously, I haven't even posted every week for some time, so I'm not making promises, but I'm going to try.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Truth in Advertising

First up, a quick answer to someone who commented on a post last month. Yes, the "Air" label I feature here from time to time is the same label which released Hasil Adkins' first record. There are multiple labels within the song-poem universe that Adkins work was somehow connected with, at least for a few moments.

The song-poem world is filled with labels that tried to present themselves to the public with highfalutin names which seemed to indicate some actual connection to the legitimate music industry, such as "Hollywood Artists", "Film City" and "National Songwriter's Guild". There were also labels which chose names which sounded as much like a legitimate endeavor as any Columbia or RCA, including "Sterling", "Allstar", "MSR" and "Columbine". And then there is Halmark, which might well have been trying to confuse people into thinking they were somehow connected to the well known card company and TV sponsorship behemoth, even going so far to use the spelling "Hallmark" at times, which was likely a licensing no-no, albeit one which the larger company probably remained blissfully unaware.

Today's featured label made no such attempts. A seemingly bare bones company, not known to have any connection to any other song-poem outfit (a rarity in itself), Promo Records (much like Halmark often did), simply put the name of the song, and the song-poet, not bothering to mention the performer - although they went the extra non-mile and simply had the information typed onto the label, making the nature of the record just that much more apparent, to those in the know.

All of the records listed on the "Promo Records page at the song-poem database are one-sided acetates, and that's largely what I own, too - a bunch of them. But today, here's what appears to be an honest-to-goodness single release (although the crappy sound may indicate it actually is another acetate), with songs on both sides, credited to the author of the lyrics, which no doubt would confuse anyone not in the know, as the lyricist is male, and the singer female.

Both songs are pretty low-key, with basic instrumentation playing basic country arrangements. But there is something that connects with me about "Why Did Love Send Your Arrow?" I enjoy the chord changes, really like what the guitarist is doing in certain spots, and the singer's emoting strikes me as effective and sincere, even when the lyrics fail her and hit a spot (near the end) where they simply don't scan with the music at all. See what you think.

Download: No Artist Named: Why Did Love Send Your Arrow?

On the flip side is the Gospel-inflected "My Prayer". Whatever I found to enjoy on the first song is absent here. This is very earnest, but doesn't have any aspects that connect or entertain me. While it's only 20 seconds longer than "Arrow", it seems almost twice as long to me.

Download: No Artist Named - My Prayer

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"The Suffering of a Serviceman's Wife" and Other Overwrought Titles

I'm back!!! As I've probably written nearly every year, the month of May is about the busiest one there is in my life - particularly the third week of the month, and as a result, I often end up posting less in May. Such is the case this month, with only two postings. But on the other hand, both were of EP's, so there's been a total of eight songs shared, and that's something....

The folks at Halmark certainly received more than their share of portentous, overwrought lyrics. On the AS/PMA website, Phil Milstein made a guess that this might be due to where Halmark tended to advertise - in "Writer's Digest" - perhaps pulling in a far higher number of people who thought of themselves as having great potential as serious authors and lyricists.

Whatever the cause, ridiculous, ponderous and pretentious song titles and lyrics abound on Halmark records. But never have I seen quite the collection of song-titles as came to me on this EP. Making all that much funnier is that all four tracks are attributed to Bob Storm, Halmark's resident over-the-top baritone (heard in my last post, as well), while in fact only one of the songs here seems to be sung by the singer typically labeled as Bob Storm - in fact, two of them have a lead vocal sung by a woman.

First up, the only true Storm vocal and the one with the least over-done title, is "Unapproachable". For that latter reason, it's probably the least interesting of the four songs to me.

Download: Bob Storm - Unapproachable

Now, le'ts get to those juicy titles, starting with the one reference above. This is yet another Vietnam-related number, titled, yes, "The Suffering of a Serviceman's Wife", sung of course, not by the identified Bob Storm, but a female vocalist. Seems her man's been wounded over there, and she considers him "half a man".

The song is full of such musically flowing phrases as "fighting for something you thought had a good cause" and "I was expecting to see the same smiling face". Certainly there is good material to come out of this situation - and such songs exist. But this author comes off as petulant and irritated that the army gave her a different person than the one who left her - which I guess is to be expected with this title - his own struggles are pretty much a side note until the final line.

Download: Labeled as Bob Storm - The Suffering of a Serviceman's Wife

Our favorite female Bob Storm is back again for the Broadway-esque 6/8 thang whimsically (and perhaps a bit less ridiculously) titled "Honeymoon on the Moon". In recent years, some of us have discovered that several of these mysterious Halmark backing tracks are actually dead ringers for existing songs' arrangements, including those for "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Gentle On My Mind". I'm guessing this is another one, but can't put my finger on the song.

Anyway, this one works a bit better, to me, than the other three songs here, because it's at least a bit peppy, and the lyrics are actually a fairly decent match for the backing track and singer, although I'm thrown a bit by the female writer mentioning "my pretty bride and me", decades before that was a possibility. Again, not that any of this means I think this is very good, but it's definitely less "bad" than the rest of this EP.

Download: Labeled as Bob Storm: Honeymoon On the Moon

Finally, there is the uniquely titled "Trench Coat, Umbrella and Boots", sung, again not by the man typically called "Bob Storm", but by the Halmark stalwart usually billed as "Jack Kim" - although this is not the only time his vocals have been identified as Storm, or vice versa. But since Jack Kim had a career under his real name, it's at least known that this "Jack Kim" is a match for the similarly named real singer behind the pseudonym.

Over one of the most stodgy and overused Halmark backing tracks, he sings a pathetic story of a pathetic feeling man, with the requisite un-musical phrases such a title would suggest - I'm particularly fond of "Walkin' in My Teardrops..."

Download: Labeled as Bob Storm - Trench Coat, Umbrella and Boots

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Wishful Thinking on Vietnam

I've commented on the Brosh label before. I've never seen a Brosh release which features material that wasn't either a vanity pressing, or clearly from another song-poem factory - it's quite possible that they didn't do anything "in-house" at all. Similar to Air Records (whose label Brosh sort of resembles), most Brosh releases, including today's EP features singers who are well known to have worked for other production houses, specifically, Bob Storm at Halmark, Sammy Marshall (credited here as Sonny Marcell) at Globe and Cara Stewart with Lee Hudson's operation.

In some cases, records of the same some have been found on the Brosh label and on whatever label the song was originally produced by, sometimes with the latter having noticeably better sound quality. Even when a non-song-poem song shows up on Brosh, there is typically some record of the same material showing up on a different label, as well, and as I mentioned, most of these look like vanity pressings. (I will mention that AS/PMA documents that Brosh released the same songs, with two different label numbers, featuring backing by Floyd Cramer and Chet Atkins, but even those songs are known to have been released by another label, as well.)

What a weird label. I sometimes wonder what the average record collector thinks of a Brosh or Air release, upon listening to the haphazard, clearly unrelated material on one of their EPs or singles.

Today's first offering is definitely one of those with abysmal enough sound that it seems to be mastered directly from another 45. Even the surface noise is noticeably different than that of the song which follows it moments later on the same side of the EP. That's too bad, because "How Many Have Kissed You" is a fairly peppy, countrified Sammy Marshall performance, with some effective guitar picking and a lilting melody. I'd like to hear this from a clean copy.

Download: Sammy Marshall - How Many Have Kissed You

The title of this post, though, is in reference to song two, "A Cold and Stormy Night", which is by far the most interesting lyric and arrangement here. The song-poets wrote what could have been a fairly harrowing story of a soldier's experience in Vietnam. I say "could have been" because it doesn't really work. First, the lyrics are hackneyed and obvious - exactly what you'd expect the average person on the street to think a soldier's experiences and thoughts would be. Second, the big lyrical build-up ends with a piece of fiction that can best be labeled "wishful thinking", and ruins whatever emotional resonance the earlier lyrics had delivered.

But the biggest mistake here was when the lyricists sent their poetry to Lee Hudson, who set those words to one of his sultry, romantic, Les Paul-esque backings for the equally sultry, echoey and dreamy vocals of Cara Stewart. I can hardly think of a song-poem where the lyrics and the arrangement/singer/performance were more of a mis-match. See what you think:

Download: Cara Stewart: A Cold and Stormy Night


I don't have nearly as much to say about the tracks on the flip side of the EP. The oddly titled "Drop Me Love" is yet another unctuous performance by Bob Storm, over vapid music, as is so often found on Halmark releases. Come to think of it, Bob Storm and Halmark probably could have given a much more appropriate and performance to "A Cold and Stormy Night" than Lee Hudson and Cara Stewart. Not that I believe it would have been good, you understand, just better matched to the subject and material.

Download: Bob Storm - Drop Me Love

We end up where we began, with Sammy "Sonny Marcell" Marshall, with another track with terrible sound quality, this time without much, musically speaking, to distinguish it. It's Sammy in sad-sack mode, which he inhabited far too often, as he warbles about being "On Your List of Broken Hearts".

Download: Sammy Marshall - On Your List of Broken Hearts

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Leader Wanted!

Before I get to today's song-poem, I want to acknowledge this Friday which is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pete Seeger. I consider Pete to have possessed the greatest voice ever recorded, and I also consider him to be the most important American musician of the 20th Century, when one takes into account his musical, political and social endeavors as a whole. Yes, I can argue this point thoroughly, no, I'm not interested in doing so here. 

But I did want to acknowledge the date, and also add that, on my other blog, "inches-per-second", I have featured an impossibly rare live recording of Pete Seeger with the Weavers, from January of 1958

In these dark days for America, it's somewhat comforting to know that, just over 50 years ago, people felt that things were just about to come apart, just as much as many of us do today. I suspect that these days are even darker, but I was only eight in 1968, so perhaps I can't speak with authority.

My poet Mae Burdette had thoughts about just these issues in 1968, and sent them to Sterling records (the date can be fairly well nailed down by the label number, along with the known dates of other Sterling releases (although it's possible this comes from 1969 - the issues, of course, had not changed in the six month swing around which this record may have been made).

You'll notice that I didn't describe the writer of "Leader Wanted" as a "song-poet", but rather just as a "poet". As you'll soon here, for whatever reason, Lew Tobin (of Sterling Records) made no attempt to have Ms. Burdette's lyrics set to a tune, but rather, had Norm Burns recite them over a music bed. I guess it's possible the author asked for this - if not, I suspect Sterling would have had a complaint on their hands. But it's hard to say why - the lines rhyme and certainly would not have been beyond (or close to it) setting to music.

I guess we'll never know. And I'm not suggesting that the majority of this is anything more than boilerplate speechifying. And Norm's stilted reading doesn't help, either. But it is worth listening to, and reflecting on how much of this could be said (or sung) by someone today with barely a changed syllable.

Download: Norm Burns - Leader Wanted

On the flip side, we're in supper-club territory, with Norm Burns (again) warbling "Moonlight On the Water" over a modified cha-cha beat. Like the flip side, this is almost three and a half minutes long, an eternity for a song-poem, extended here by a lengthy solo section.

Download: Norm Burns - Moonlight On the Water

Finally, I wanted to share a link to Sammy Reed's page. He recently posted a couple of Halmark songs which use the same backing track as "Life is a Flame", which I (long ago) provided to the ASPMA's MP3 page, and which is a track on the first song poem record I ever owned, long before I knew what it was (like, 1975). In the previous post, Sammy posted an entire Hollywood Artists LP. You can find his site here.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Easter On Tin Pan Alley

Here, just in time for Easter, is a little proselytizing from our friends at Tin Pan Alley, headed up by the always casual sounding Mike Thomas, with a little number that functions as "The Gospel Stories Greatest Hits" in just 140 seconds. Presenting, "Jesus Christ, the Greatest Man".

Download: Mike Thomas - Jesus Christ, the Greatest Man

For the flip side, here's a song-poem performance which has something interesting - there may be other song-poems which change musical styles mid-song, but I can't think of any right now. As you'll hear, this arrangement of "Gypsy Melody" makes a radical turn (well, as radical as one can make it, with a three piece combo of limited talent) about 40 seconds in.

Download: Mike Thomas - Gypsy Melody

Friday, April 12, 2019

Hey! What's on the Flip Side?

Well, the final steps of replacing my car, an audit at work, followed by four days of off-site training have put me behind yet again. Hopefully, I can now post more regularly for a while....

I also wanted to chime in on a discussion which took place in the comments of a fairly recent post, asking about the number of records pressed up by any one of the various labels. I believe the number varied quite a bit between labels, and also within any one label. Somewhere, I have a copy of the sales pitch for one of the labels, and it made it fairly clear that you could pay for a variety of levels of product (demo, small band, full orchestra), for increasing amounts of money, and that you could also pay for a few records, a few dozen records, or several dozen records.

Many years ago, an eBay seller bought the contents of a warehouse of records, and for a while, he was listing, every single week, dozens of Rodd Keith Preview 45's. When a copy of one of them sold, he listed another and another. I believe he must have had 25-50 copies of some of these records, just from what he described in the eBay ads and what he told me when we corresponded, AND these were presumably copies which never went to the song-poet. Plus, there are certain records - mostly on Preview, in my experience - which show up again and again in auctions. Then again, I've rarely seen a copy of ANY Halmark release more than twice, and barely ever more than once.


Here's a keen thought I had: I've been fortunate enough to find copies of several of the records that those in the larger song-poem world released on compilations, during those days when compilations were released. Hell, I even supplied about a half-dozen of those which were released in one form or another, either on disc or on the two online comps that came out (not to mention having provided dozens of tracks for the old MP3 section of the ASP/MA, all of which were later posted to the WFMU blog.

So, I thought to myself, why not share some of the better numbers which appeared on the flip side of well-known (or semi-well know, as this is the song-poem world) song-poem records. So that's what I'm doing today.

I'll start with the flip side of one of my friend Stu's half-dozen favorite song-poems, Norm Burns' "Baby, Set Your Date on Time, which was on the third compilation and is available on Youtube. So here, in all its splendor, is the flip side, "Got No Tears to Spare". This, to my ears, is a nice, bouncy number, featuring the ubiquitous Sterling trebly guitar and a wonderful vocal from Norm, although they extended it a bit unconvincingly with a dull instrumental section. This side is also marred somewhat by a fairly severe scratch, which can be heard from time to time, and which really becomes prominent in the solo, and again in the final seconds.

Download: Norm Burns - Got No Tears to Spare

An all time favorite of many song-poem aficionados is "I Can't Decide (If It's the Beatles, Elvis or Rick)". This Rod (Keith) Rogers masterwork is also readily available on Youtube and has been on multiple compilations, including one of the early song-poem collections and multiple unofficial Elvis-related compilations. 

While I love "I Can't Decide", I also believe that the flip side, "Unload the Shotgun", is equally ridiculous and nearly as fun. Here's Rod(d) in Western mode, complete with shotgun sound effects, and completely ineffective attempts to provide a country backing with the mechanized sounds of the Chamberlin. And it's always fun to hear Rodd trying to go for a Country vocal style - I usually read into it a level of contempt, or at least satire. 


Finally, there is the absolutely lovely and quirkily off-kilter Preview 45 by Judy Layne, titled "Just Runnin' Wild", which can't be found online, but is featured on the wonderful Rodd Keith compilation "I Died Today", which I heartily suggest everyone find and purchase. As was sometimes the case with Preview releases, when a singer who only made a handful of tracks for the label was on one side, Rodd Keith ended up on the other, and such is the case here. He is heard with "The Raindrops", as he often was on peppy, sunny tracks. 

This flip side, "You Can't Fight It", is a bit off-kilter itself, with an awkward 6/8 beat and more country-tinged vocals (a previous owner even wrote "country" on the label, although he or she did not attempt to quantify the sound of "Just Runnin' Wild"). Those country vocals don't mesh well, to my ears, to the setting, particularly the sax fills, or the more pop-oriented lyrics. None of that makes it bad at all - the lyrics, by the fabulously named Rose Ann Gong, are quite nice - but it's a fairly weird record, one which sounds somewhat like aspects of the era's music and yet simultaneously not sounding like anything that would have been on the radio.