Wednesday, March 25, 2020

He'll Amputate Your Head!

First up, as I have been doing every post for some time now, I have gone back and fixed another month's worth of earlier posts. In this case, it's August of 2013. That month featured four posts, including a couple of Vietnam related efforts on Tin Pan Alley which were sent to me, the longest song-poem I've ever heard, on Halmark, a two-artist release on the tiny Spa Records label, and a swinging record on one of the earlier labels, Arco Records.


Next up, here is another in the collection of ads found for us by Brian Kramp, this one from Virginia:

Thanks, Brian!

And now, on with the countdown:

Now if you've ever seen the Song-Poem documentary, "Off the Charts", you've seen an interview with Gene Marshall, and you've also seen him in the studio. One word that wouldn't seem to apply to him is "Mean". And yet here we have a mouthful of a title, "The Meanest Man in the World is Me", with Gene singing his heart out, performing lyrics which certainly indicate that the protagonist of the song would at least compete for such a title. 

This one is full of fun, unexpected lines, funny and weird enough that I'd really rather not give away the pleasure of experiencing them for the first time, aside from that wonderful quote in the title. So, without further ado, here's some epic meanness: 


On the flip side, we have a record with as timely a title for today's crisis as I can imagine, "When You Call Your Doctor". However, this is 150 complaint about sitting for far too long in the waiting room, with a bit of a punchline built in. I wonder how many other songs have ever been written about having to wait for the doctor? 


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Simple and Effective

Good day, y'all, 

I hope everyone out there is well. And stays well. 

Today, I have updated another month worth of moldy old broken posts, and made them shiny and new, none shinier than an absolutely wonderful early record from Norm Burns. The other corrected posts are those featuring a 1980 release on MSR featuring two of their stalwarts, a record on the Jersey label, a label not seen before or since, also featuring two singers, one of them not known to have made any other song poem records, and a nice supper club style record from Rodd Keith

Also, in our ongoing series of vintage song-poem ads, courtesy of Brian, here's an outstanding one, all about the "Composagraph" - no need for that fussy middleman at Sterling, Preview or Noval for you - the Composagraph will write your music for you!!!!

And speaking of Rodd Keith, which I was, briefly, before the Composagraph interrupted me... Today's feature is the first Rodd record I've featured here in nearly three months, which is quite an oversight. It looks like this:

Both sides of this record credit "The Raindrops" as the backing band, and both of which have a distinct country feel. And I must say, I am very much taken with the first on I'm sharing, "I Know". This could hardly be a simpler record. Don't let that "2:10" timing on the label fool you - this record is barely 105 seconds long. And Rodd, by my count, only sings for about sixty seconds of that time. And what's more, the song title, "I Know", is only uttered once, in the middle of a much longer string of words.

And yet... these words genuinely get to me. These are effective, concise lyrics, painting a full picture of the singers experience and state of mind. The first verse is literally only three lines longs, ending with:

"There in the debris is a part of me, I know it so well, today"

That's almost Roger Miller worthy - and there is hardly higher praise from me. The second verse is just as short, and just as good.

Download: Rodd Keith and the Raindrops - I Know

The flip side, "I'll Never Hold You Again", lasts just about twice as long as its flip. What seems to be a simple after-the-breakup song turns out to be something quite a bit more by the end. This doesn't grab me to any degree close to "I Know", but , it's another solid song-poem country turn by Rodd and the band.

Download: Rodd Keith and the Raindrops - I'll Never Hold You Again

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Four Song-Poem Stalwarts on One EP

Happy March! 

First, here are the links to the posts I have fixed, in this case, from October of 2013: There is a fairly awful performance on Tin Pan Alley (that post also contains a link to a truly horrendous vanity release, also on Tin Pan Alley), an acetate from 1972 which sounds like it's from 1952, a very late period MSR release, which, against all odds, is actually interesting, and a Gene Marshall/Vietnam record

Today, we have another EP on the "Air" label, a label which seems to have existed largely, if not entirely, to release the works of other song-poem factories. Even after all these years, I have no real insight into why such an arrangement was made. Every one of the three song-poem outfits represented here had their own typical way of releasing their product, even if two of them didn't have their own specific "house" label. I'm pretty sure I'll never understand this particular side of the business.

As mentioned in the title, this particular EP contains performances from four different singers, one each from the Halmark and Lee Hudson production companies, and two from the Globe song-poem factory.

Side one starts with Sammy Marshall (Globe), here cunningly disguised as Sonny Marshall, with a song titled "God's Bouquet" one which certainly has it's lyrical heart in the right place, yet manages to stay well within a world I would call "aggressively trite". God made flowers in all sorts of colors, you see, and made people in all sorts of colors, too. We love all the flowers. Why can't we love all the people, too? Sing it, Sammy-Sonny!

Download: Sonny Marshall - God's Bouquet

Next up is Halmark's entry, "How Much Do I Love You?", identified as being sung by one "Bob Parker", who sounds a lot more (to me) like the singer most often identified (when he's identified at all on Halmark's inconsistent releases) as Bob Storm. This is typical Halmark bombastic, over-emoted garbage, not good at all, of course, but also not ridiculous enough for me to recommend it.

Download: Bob Parker - How Much Do I Love You?


With side two, we return to the Globe company, and a somewhat more rarely heard vocalist, albeit one who recorded extensively for the label, Joan Auburn (sometimes credited as Joanne Auburn). She's heard here with a slow countrified ballad titled "Meaning of Love". She has a warm, inviting voice, and makes this material far better than it deserves.

Download: Joan Auburn - Meaning of Love

The folks at Air saved the best (by far the best) for last, with Lee Hudson's favorite vocalist (and maybe mine, too), Cara Stewart, singing "I Love You So". I've said it before, and surely I'll say it again: this sounds much like many of her other records, but God, what a sound that is, and what a wonderful singer.

Download: Cara Stewart - I Love You So

Saturday, February 29, 2020

He's Starvin' To Death!

Happy Leap Year Day!

First, I want to mention to those who went to my previous post within a day of it being posted, that I didn't have the links to the repaired posts up until this error was pointed out to me by reader "reservatory", and I am very thankful for having had that pointed out. The post has been working since then. 

Next, I am happy to announce that I have corrected yet another month of previously broken links, in this case, November of 2013. That month included a most excellent Tin Pan Alley record about dancing dishes, a befuddling release from Halmark, a typically incompetent entry from the folks at Noval Records, and an equally typically wonderful release from Rodd Keith during his Film City days. Enjoy!

And just before getting to today's most wonderful feature, here's another song-poem ad courtesy of Brian:

And I chose that one on purpose, because today, I am again featuring what I think of as the golden age of Tin Pan Alley song-poems, and a ridiculous singer that I just wish I had more records by, Johnny Williams.

How could anyone resist a record called "I'm Starvin' to Death? And seeing as how the usually over-the-top Johnny Williams is the artist, I was expecting something very special, and I wasn't disappointed.

The folks at the song-poem website has this release pegged to 1962, presumably because of an ad somewhere in a trade paper from that year, and that certainly sounds about right, or as close as one could come to judging when this absolutely off-kilter release might be from.

I know we're in for a fun time with that rollicking piano intro, and the Johnny comes in, offering his emotion-laden, about to go off-the-rails interpretation of the lyrics and tun. And what lyrics! There are a lot of highlights here, but the peak has to be the bridge ("if only someone loved me, I'm quite sure I wouldn't mind"), and particularly the last line of that bridge, heard for the first time at 1:09. This is a masterwork of ridiculousness.

Download: Johnny Williams - I'm Starvin' to Death

Now, for all the ways I love Johnny Williams' upbeat releases - and I've written this before - he was not suited to slow numbers, because he really wasn't a singer, as much as what used to be called a "Personality".

"Cross the Raging River" is not an interesting song, lyrically or musically, regardless of the singer, but this again plays up his absolute lack of ability to appropriate deliver this sort of material.

Download: Johnny Williams - Cross the Raging River

Friday, February 21, 2020

Wish Upon a Kiss


First, I want to confirm that I have fixed up another month's worth of posts from the past, in this case, December of 2013. That was a month filled primarily with Christmas and New Years-related song-poems, including ones by Sammy Marshall (an acetate!), Halmark, Norm Burns, and a thoroughly wonderful one by a child named Beth Anne Hayes. There was also a non-holiday post featuring Rodd Keith - ten re-connected song-poems for you to enjoy!

And, as promised, here is another song-poem ad located by Brian Kramp, who had me on his podcast earlier this month. This one advertises a business in Tarzana, CA: 

Something very odd happened this week. I had previously - in the middle of January - made a sound file of a Film City record featuring Frank Perry on one side and another singer on the other side, intending to use it for my next post. And as I always do, I did a web search to make sure I wasn't sharing something readily available elsewhere. No significant hits popped up. When I went to write this post, I rechecked, just in case I hadn't before, and wonder of wonders, my friend Darryl Bullock had, in the meantime, shared the exact record I was going to put up here in mid-February, on his "World's Worst Records" blog. What are the chances that we'd both grab the same record in the same month? Anyway, you can hear that record here

So I went back to the Film City stack and found another Frank Perry record, and I'm glad I did, because I get a real kick out of the lyrics to both sides of the record, in different ways. 

The first side I'm including there, "Wish Upon a Kiss", has what strikes me a very clever set of lyrics for its chorus, with the quick phrasing of several similar words into a catchy tongue twister which works both on that level and as an observation about a moment in one's life. The verses are only so-so, but Frank Perry does a good job with the material and the whole thing "works" for me. 


On the flip side is a song that creates a completely different mood, written by the same song-poet. It's called "Empty Pockets", and its words sure paint a picture. The Chamberlin does not do this tender, sad ballad style any favors, but I have to say, I find the lyrics to this song truly affecting. They are clunky here and there, but mostly, they are a significant step above what is usually heard on a song-poem, but with real backing and better production, I'd probably have been convinced that this was a legitimate attempt at a hit. It's even the rare 3 1/2 minute song-poem that doesn't seem to go on too long.

I really enjoy both sides of this record.

Download: Frank Perry with the "Swinging Strings - Empty Pockets

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Words and Music by "Jim" Stross

I know posting around here has been a little sparse in recent months, and particularly in January, but BOY OH BOY do I have a lot to share today, including eight previously unheard song-poems, all from the same disc.

First up, I am happy to announce that I have been invited to be part of yet another podcast, this one focusing on my own personal 25 favorite song-poem and song-poem related records. This has been in the works for over six months, and the podcaster, Brian Kramp, and I finally did the interview late in January. The podcast can be heard here and here, and if you want to see the list of songs, it can be found here (the list is in reverse order, from 25 up, with a section near the top of a handful of song-poem related discs (which are not actually song poems). It's all explained in the show.

Brian was nice enough to include one of the songs from my recently released album of comic songs, and also to include a cover I performed, live, of one of my favorite song-poem related records, at the end of the show.

Looking over the list, there are some others I might have included - and I've been invited to do a second episode. I think there might be a few replacements in the bottom half of the list, so this is not my absolute top 25, but it's close, and the top 10-12 are unshakable. And as I've mentioned here before, my tastes in song-poems does not necessarily match that of the larger (however large it is) song-poem fandom world - there are, for example, no MSR, Sammy Marshall or Gene Marshall tracks in this top 25, it does reflect that my basic taste in music prefers things from before 1965 in a lot of cases, and a LOT of the fringe of this fringe world is represented.

I hope you'll enjoy it.

Brian has also offered up a multitude of song-poem ads that he's found, since our interview, and I'm going to share those with you, much as I shared a similar collection that was sent to me a few years ago. I don't have a lot of details about them. Here's one from Calgary:


Second, as has been the case for the last several months now, I have fixed yet another month worth of postings, in this case, January of 2014. This was a month I tried out a short lived feature in which I shared song-poems about places, a sort of song-poem travelogue. This includes the earliest known "Real Pros" record, featuring a trip to Napoli, a peppy Rodd Keith trip to Wisconsin, an absolutely wonderful pair of polkas from Cara Stewart, and a soulful vocal from Gene Marshall. I remember deciding to go on that little song-poem road trip, and can hardly believe it was over six years ago!

This completes my postings from 2014, with the exception of a massive post I did upon the occasion of the death of Pete Seeger, which I will have to put back together when I have considerably more time. 


To make up for the slow down in postings lately, I thought this would be a good time to share a song poem album. In this case, "album" is a bit of an overstatement, as this is a ten-inch special, containing eight songs and about 24 minutes of music. But it's a unique entry, in that it represents an otherwise unknown label and song-poet. 

The songwriter - who in this case wrote both the words and music, making this a song-poem/vanity hybrid, is identified as "Jim" Stross, just like that, with quotation marks. He employed the Globe song-poem factory and its stable of singers, providing that key link between vanity project and song-poem release. The label is JKS, presumably Mr. Stross' initials, and the label informs us that the record is "Not For Sale". Don't tell anyone that I bought it on eBay. 

The first side contains the following four songs: Just Before Sunset, One Night in Tucson, Sudden Love & Stop Playing With My Heart. The first three are sung by Sammy Marshall, the final one by Kris Arden. They generally have the typical Globe studios sound. I have not separated them out - here is side one: 


Side two starts with my favorite of the eight songs, a Sammy Marshall dance special - which are almost always fun - titled "Dip, Flip, Twist, Stomp". This is followed by My One Ambition (which has a co-writer and is sung by Kris Arden), Autumn Rain (sung by Mary Kaye), and Santa Claus Means Christmas (sung by Kris Arden). Enjoy!


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Today Street?

It is really my goal to post here every week, and have at least posted three times a month. This month, due to illness and a few other issues, I'm only getting to two posts. 

I have updated/fixed four more posts, in this case, those from February of 2014. These include a bouncy number from Sammy Marshall, a Tin Pan Alley track with some ridiculous drumming, a nice number from Rod Rogers on Film City, and a somewhat offbeat lyric (in the second song offered) by Norm Burns

And speaking of Norm Burns: It's always a happy day when I can share a little of his work with the world. Today's offering carries the odd title of "Today Street". It's a bouncy little mid-tempo number which starts with a typical Sterling band sound, and Norm's typically warm vocal. I do wish the lyrics went in a different direction, though, because the track, minus those lyrics, has significant promise, enough to make it share-worthy.

But the title is a metaphor (a fairly ham-fisted one, if you ask me) for everything one might see that was wrong in the world in 1973, and the rest of the lyric promotes the writers solution thereof, which of course is a turn to prayer and religion - specifically, Christianity. Even as a lifelong Christian, which I am, I find this sort of thinking simplistic and fairly ridiculous. Wouldn't a call to action (faith-based or not) be more effective?

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars - Today Street


The less said about the flip side, "Bring Us Together Again", the better. I just don't think either Sterling or Norm Burns were much good at these slow, love ballad type numbers. The brief guitar solo at 1:57 must have taken hours to work out.

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars - Bring Us Together Again

Saturday, January 11, 2020

It's All About the Lyrics


I have a pair of Gene Marshall records which feature some truly memorable lyrics, but first, there is quite a bit of other news and such to go through.

First up: It was earlier last year that I discovered that a podcast had used one of my most ridiculous songs - titled "A Sailing Milk Moustache" - as the introductory music for their year-end show. I reached out to the person behind the podcast, and, after quite a bit of conversation, ended up doing a lengthy interview with him for one of his episodes, all about my history, in terms of my collecting and, particularly, my humorous songs. I was then invited to be a part of this year's New Year's Eve/New Year's Day special.

Interestingly, the show's general theme is (this is from their website):  "A podcast and Website dedicated to understanding the world in which we live from a Christian worldview perspective", although nothing remotely in that area came up in the two shows I was part of.

My interview can be found here, and the New Year show - which I am only part of sporadically, can be heard here.


Secondly, I have in recent days, had two people reach out to me, one directly, and one via a friend of mine, seeking specific song-poem records, neither of which, sadly, are part of my collection, or I'd have helped them myself. One is probably relatively easy to find, being on Preview, and the other is probably a long-shot. If anyone reading this post has either of these records, please let me know, and I will put you in touch with my correspondents.

The first is:

Preview 1453
Rodd Keith 
A: You Only Want To Hurt Me
B: It's Over-It's Done

And the second is:

Film-Tone 200 (EP)
Ken Starr & Orchestra / Vocal Trio
A: I'm A Funny Little Snowman / True Love (Joseph H. Collins) 
B: Wheel Chair Blues 


Third, I want to thank everyone for the continuing comments to this and my other site. I really enjoy reading what people have to say.

And I'd like to link to a site mentioned in one of those comments, the latest installment of Sammy Reed's "Music of the World of the Strange and the Bizarre". It's a reposting of several earlier shows he did, and can be found here. And it's a little late for this, but he also has a complete song-poem Christmas album posted here.

And in answer to another comment, I will endeavor to share an entire Michael Kasberg album some time soon.


And finally, I have updated and fixed the posts from March of 2014. These include an unusually peppy number on Noval, a typically half-assed number by Gary Roberts and the Sterling gang, a fairly awful offering from Tin Pan Alley, and a Preview entry showing everyone making something out of nothing.

And now...


Speaking of Gene Marshall and Preview, that's who and what we're featuring today. And I'll be up front when I say that neither of today's offerings have much to recommend them from the musical end of things - each of them is badly recorded, shows no creativity in arrangement or performance, and generally reek of the malaise that tends to emanate from late-era Preview records (this appears to be from 1976).

But oh, those lyrics! The song I'm cueing up first has the most to offer in this area, and does so repeatedly, while its flip side just has one amazing line, something that I never expected to hear in a song-poem record.

Up first is the fantastically named "So Many 'Minis'", and as you might just expect with that title, this contains a fairly sexist set of lyrics, and in particular, a few lines which would raise many a red flag in today's "me too" era, and rightly so. Gene, as the avatar for the song-writer, is not particular about the human being wearing the "mini", in fact, they seem interchangeable to him, to the point that he concludes, "I wanna take one to bed tonight". There is no mention of getting to know the person behind the mini.

Please be sure to listen to, and enjoy, Gene's (presumably improvised) riffing on the subject of the song during the fade out. It's the highlight of the record, I think.

Download: Gene Marshall - So Many "Minis"

The flip side might hardly merit much more than a short, one paragraph dismissal, especially in comparison with "So Many 'Minis'". I mean, it is dull, it seems to go on forever, and it's about as cookie-cutter as a mid-'70's Preview can get, and it's musically of a style that leaves me exceptionally cold.

That's the way it would be, were it not for the second line of the song, which made me laugh so hard the first time I heard it that I almost choked. Again, not what I expected to hear Gene Marshall - or any other song-poem warbler - sing.

Download: Gene Marshall - My Lady Most Fair