Saturday, August 08, 2020

Johnny Williams and His Hot Spot

First off, I must acknowledge that I've taken more time than usual (maybe than ever) between posts. I only posted twice in July. I'm hoping to not have this happen again.

 I have now returned to correcting/updating formerly broken links, and in my reverse chronological order pattern, I have now repaired posts from September of 2012, including a nearly unique Halmark entry - featuring a guitar and vocal specialty on one side! - a clever and funny Gene Marshall record, an early Real Pros 45 featuring their one-man-band performer on one side and Rodd Keith on the other, and another Rodd Keith record (as Rod Rogers), on the tiny Lutone label.

 And NOW!!!!

I may have mentioned a few times - such as every time I post one of his records - how much I love Johnny Williams and his decidedly unprofessional, off the cuff sounding and barely in control vocal style. So every time I manage to put my hands on one of his records, it's a sure bet that it will end up here within a few days or weeks.

And while today's offering is not perhaps among his masterpieces, it's close enough. As you can see above, it's got a superbly catchy titled, "I've Got a Hot Spot In My Heart For You", and it's got everything I could want from Johnny - a hyperactive guitar intro, a fun, bouncy backing, simple, but effective lyrics and a highly energized vocal from the lead singer, who as usual sounds like a 70 year old man who is missing some of his teeth.

 I really have to wonder what Tin Pan Alley was thinking in employing this guy, and putting him in front of almost comically revved up backing. What's more, I would love to know what the customers thought, upon hearing Mr. Williams' interpretation of their lyrical submissions.

On the other hand, it's true that Tin Pan Alley generally did a better job of superficially capturing the trends of the day in real time than most song-poem labels, and that by this point (this record is from around 1959) some rock and roll was getting fairly silly and at times frantic - this record does capture a bit of the energy of a record like "Wear My Ring Around Your Neck" - if little of the talent or quality. But even compared with the hit records I'm thinking of, this is just over-the-top weird and ridiculous. And man, do I love it. 

Download: Johnny Williams - I've Got a Hot Spot In My Heart For You

As I've also said before, I do not, however, believe that Johnny Williams was a singer capable of effectively putting forward a vocal on a ballad and/or on material requiring sensitive feelings. And that's what we have on the flip side "You Went Away". He is, typically, completely over his head. Also, what is that groaning sound that recurs at several points here - it sounds sort of like the bass, or its amp, is malfunctioning. Any guesses?

 Download: Johnny Williams - You Went Away

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Trouble, Trouble Blues

Greetings - updates to the old posts will have to wait until next time. It's been a terrifically busy 10 days, and I wanted to at least get a post up...

I've rarely featured the Ronnie label here. I find most of their records very bland and samey. I don't know if they were part of the Globe empire - there is some overlap in the quality of that blandness, and Sammy Marshall was the star of both companies. But I discern an even blander sheen on most Ronnie releases than I do Globe. 

Which made this record a pleasant surprise. I make no argument for "Trouble, Trouble Blues" (by May Redding) being great, or outstanding in any significant way, but it does have a bit of energy, mostly in the rhythm section, and even sounds a bit like an early Sterling release in certain aspects. Plus, the guitarist tries to actually do something during the solo. Something. All that said, I think it should be at least 20 bpm faster and then there might have been more to work with. 


The aforementioned Sammy Marshall shows up on the flip side, in the guise of "Ben Tate", a name he was only billed under on this label, as far as I know (another reason I'm doubtful as to the Globe link). 

This one is an out and out car crash, mostly because the bass player seems to think he's playing in a different song entirely. Aside from a couple of hysterical Tin Pan Alley records from the mid '60's, I don't think I've ever heard this many flubs on a song-poem record. I mean, the whole thing blows, but at least waiting for the next flub from the bass is entertaining. 


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Dreamy Music to Make Your Inners Glo

Happy Second Half of the Year. Let's hope it's better than the First Half. 

I have updated another month's worth of broken posts, October of 2012 in this case. We're getting there.....

This week's fixes include a special post of a Bob Storm record sent to me by Darryl Bullock, a set of two disparate offerings from Tin Pan Alley, a pairing of Cara Stewart and "The Mystery Girl" singing a song with a mangled title, and a fairly awful Dick Kent number on MSR. 

As I do whenever I feature either an Edith Hopkins composition and/or a record on her custom label (out of Emporia, Kansas), "Inner-Glo", I will again explain that Ms. Hopkins is my favorite song-poet, based on the high quality of her (large number of) best songs, and also that she was a bit of a curio in the song-poem world in that, although she used the song-poem factories, particularly Globe, it appears that she wrote all the words AND music to her songs, so she was not technically fully part of the song-poem world. Additionally, although it doesn't apply here, she also wrote and commissioned records of certain songs meant to be directed at the legitimate radio/record store/Billboard magazine world, most notably with (but not limited to), the incomparable "What's She Got (That I Ain't Got)", by Betty Jayne.

Anyway, what we have today is a Hopkins special from that Inner-Glo label, from about 1964, and sounding all the world like some sort of brilliant mixture of a Patsy Cline song with production one might have found coming out of certain early '60's Los Angeles studios.

Whatever you want to call it, I think "That's the Place I Should Be" is just lovely. The lilting melody, the appealing duet vocals, and the loping 6/8 beat played by creating a wonderfully dreamy sound. And... I may have mentioned this before, but I adore the sound of a vibraphone, and the presence of one on both sides of this record (including a solo in each track!) is the perfect addition.

Download: Kris Arden - That's the Place I Should Be

The flip side, "Should I Forget", doesn't have as much going for it - its main attraction for me is some fabulous vibraphone flavoring and another solo. Otherwise, while it's structurally somewhat similar to the flip side, and the lyrics are considerably better than the vast majority of song-poems, there's not much to set it apart from 100 other slow 6/8 weepers.

Download: Kris Arden - Should I Forget

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Happy Birthday, America!

Howdy, everyone!

I have again updated a month's worth of posts, in this case, November of 2012. These include a Sammy Marshall "special" (with a few comments celebrating the re-election that week of Barack Obama - and weren't those the days?), a happy Rod Rogers record (and a comment on an unexpected death of a family friend) and two different Gene Marshall records - one with an otherworldly instrumental section played by flute quartet (or an imitation thereof), and one specifically shared for that year's Thanksgiving Day. That November was certainly a month of up and down emotions at our house. Can't believe that was almost eight years ago... 

Before I get to today's offering, I also wanted to offer up this rather amazing little newspaper clipping, sent along by Brian Kramp: 

Rod Eskelin, mentioned at the top of the second column, was, of course, Rodd Keith. Thanks, Brian!

And now.... 

We're just a few hours from heading into July, and towards a rather subdued version of our annual national birthday party, this weekend.

So what better time to offer up a song-poem written for the biggest of national birthday's anyone alive at the time can remember, the Bicentennial. And what better (worse?) label to provide us with a song literally titled "Happy Birthday, America" than Halmark. In this case, they turned to label stalwart Jack Kim - this is one of the relatively few releases on the label where they credit the singer - and then seem to have actually commissioned original music for the lyric, rather than one of them moldy old backing tracks.

I said "original music", but am I the only one that, after hearing the opening "Bicentennial! Bicentennial!", expected to next hear "men have named you", so similar is the opening to the old song "Mona Lisa"....

Beyond that, the song-poet seems to believe that the US has done only three things worth mentioning. One is the winning of many battles on behalf of ourselves and the for the freedom of others. Fair enough. The only other two things worthy of comment, apparently, occurred in quick succession in 1968 and 1969, and while impressive and wonderful, hardly seem like the only things a decent country would have accomplished in 200 years.

All I'm saying is, the song-poet seems to be sort of giving just a bit of short-shrift to America's accomplishments.

Download: Jack Kim - Happy Birthday, America

A moment ago, I mentioned that it was relatively rare for Halmark to name their singers on the labels of their records. That likely has to do with the designs they favored, the most common of which list just the name and address of the song-poet, confusing and confounding record collectors forever since, at least those unfamiliar with song-poems - they tend to think the listed writer is the singer.

Anyway, perhaps they also shied away from listing the singers because they were so inexplicably bad at it. A remarkable number of Halmark records in my possession which do show a named singer, show the wrong named singer. Most often this is a male singer identified on the label of a record sung by a female singer. But I've also got records where the names of frequent label performers Bob Storm and Jack Kim are mixed up.

Now I've speculated that "Bob Storm" may not even have just been one guy, so different are some of the records released under his name. But people know who Jack Kim is/was - Jack Kimmel was his name, and his voice is very distinctive. I have records with his name on them which are clearly the man identified most often as "Bob Storm", and "Bob Storm" records labeled as being by Jack Kim.

In this case, we have Jack's wife Mary Kimmel, but the label says "Jack Kim.

That was a lot of text with nothing to say about the song. That's because the flip is an uninteresting, unoriginal paean to God, similar to approximately 549 other Halmark releases, and using one of those deadly backing tracks. It's written by the same song-poet as the a-side, and titled "Oh Lord Thou Art Powerful".

Download: Labeled as Jack Kim - Oh Lord Thou Art Powerful

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Not So Standard Father's Day Song-Poem


It's been over two weeks since I posted here, and that's because I have been spending all of my blogging time constructing an enormous post for my other, reel-to-reel tape blog, commemorating my 60th birthday, which was yesterday. It's made up of various recordings I've made from age three right through a couple of years ago, with more than two dozen tracks in all. It is admittedly sort of self-indulgent, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime post, and I wanted to write an "I Was Here" post. If you're interested, you can find the post here.

It was also a bit more work than usual to fix the next old month's worth of posts, as I find that in December of 2012, I posted five times, including two posts containing many more links than usual. In total, the month of December contains a might 19 song-poems, plus a link to ten more at WFMU.

Because it was December, I chose to highlight Christmas songs throughout the month. And so it is that you will find posts featuring Christmas music from the Noval label, from Shelly Stuart (with Norm Burns on the flip), from Sammy Marshall, and an EP from Cara Stewart. Plus, two weeks before Christmas that year, I posted ten Christmas song-poems at WFMU, in a post you can find here. So, for a Christmas Eve post, I shared the flip sides of nine of those ten records (explaining along the way what happened to the tenth one), and that post is here.


For today, I wanted to find something for Father's Day. So I looked through the various possibilities, and most of what I found were songs about dead fathers, except for one which was about talking to father about mother, who just died. Then I came across one where dear old dad is' not really the star of the song, yet is enshrined in the song title. And, as it turns out, the song itself is fairly funny, and goofily clever enough to be a good choice for this site, Father's Day or not. Here's the title:

Silly or weird song-poem titles, more often than not, end up attached to disappointingly average or poor song-poems, but that's not the case here. This is a charmingly silly lyric, and the band has some fun creating an appropriate music bed for it. But now, I'm going to shut up now and let you discover its charms.

Download: Mike Thomas - My Father's Jersey Cows

The flip side, written by the same song-poet, does not have the same pull on me as "Cows", but even here, attached to a unimaginative, slow plod of a beat and band performance, there are some interesting, fairly left-field lyrics for a love song such as "The Dark Side of My Heart". Something better could have been made of this.

Download: Mike Thomas - The Dark Side of My Heart

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Big Irish Mike and The Fisherman


Before I do anything else, I want to share with you a video that I made. Early in the shutdown, my church asked for happy videos - anything under two minutes - to send out to the congregation while we were alomst all spending lots of time at home.

My thought was to perform one of my favorite Ragtime pieces, a song I learned, by rote, off of an album when I was perhaps 16 or 17. As I say in the clip, I'm a sloppy pianist, but I make up for that in enthusiasm. And I've been forgetting to link to this client for two months now, so here it is. An added bonus (?) you get to see my charming visage and the rest of me, too. Click the link for the video!

A Ragtime Nightmare

I'm sure that was excitement enough, but I have also spent the early evening today fixing another month's worth of posts.. We're all the way back to January of 2013, so that's another year I've fixed!

That month featured a post featuring a classic Preview release owned by a friend of mine, which I identified as Rodd Keith, a statement which several song-poem fans disagreed with. I also shared a wonderful EP on Air records (featuring not one but TWO fantastic songs), two versions of the same song on an early Film City single, and a pair of songs with some interestingly odd lyrics, sung by Gene Marshall.

And speaking of Gene Marshall.....

Today, we have two interesting lyrics from the pen of one Myrtle Snow. I chosen to go first with "Big Irish Mike", a tale of Irish drinking, Irish brawling and an Irish punchline. Ho Ho Ho. 

Listen carefully to the story related by Gene Marshall: 


On the flip side we have Bobbi Blake in her guise as "Barbara Foster", which Preview used on her releases. This is the tale of a woman who wouldn't mind her fisherman husband leaving her to go fishing so often, if only she didn't suspect he was fishing for something other than fish, and if only she didn't believe that maybe someone else was out there trying to catch him. This is a warm, inviting vocal, and she really sells the lyric. 


Monday, May 25, 2020

Making Due with Just a Few


First up, here is yet another Song-Poem ad, courtesy of Brian. This one is just a little blurry:

Next, I will share the latest month's worth of updates to previous broken links, which in this case are for February of 2013. That month featured a split feature on a vanity label called Patmar, a Real Pros record where I seem to have misidentified the singers on both sides of the disc, a Valentine's post from Halmark, and a Rodd Keith countrified number.

And speaking of Rodd Keith, he is featured again today, in his earlier guise as Rod Rogers and the Swinging Strings. On this Film City release, he does a typically nice job creating a music bed with the Chamberlin, but two things stand out for me in this performance.

The first is that the song-poet has not provided Film City with enough lyrics for a two minute song, perhaps not even enough for a one minute song. After an initial verse, we are treated to elements of the same, remaining lyrics for the last 90 seconds of the song, expanded nicely with multiple instrumental breaks.

The other is that those lyrics that are present seem to have presented Rodd with little chance to format them into a typical song or chord pattern. To my ear, after that opening verse, the lyrics come out of him seemingly at random, with little sense of consistent or memorable melody or, really, much of a coherent chord structure. I'm not sure he could have done much better, given what he was offered, but this really sounds tossed-off.

It's worth noting that this is one of the highest numbered Rod Rogers records on Film City. Publishing information I found in a web search dates the copyright on the song to December of 1968, which is actually after I thought he'd moved to Preview, and his name disappears from the Film City label less than 100 numbers later (although one of my all time favorites from Rodd, "The Watusi Whing-Ding Girl" came even later in his tenure).

Download: Rod Rogers and the Swinging Strings - You Stole My Heart Cupid

As more indication that Rodd was on the way out the door, the flip side of this record is performed by Rodd's eventual replacement, Frank Perry (indeed, this record number is a full 80 releases prior to anything by Perry documented at AS/PMA). The offering here is a downright torpid number - I doubt that's Rodd on the Chamberlin - in which even the song-poet doesn't seem to have known how to spell his loved one's name, given the confusing title: "Lea, My Leah". There aren't a ton of lyrics to this one, either.

Download: Frank Perry and the Swinging Strings - Lea, My Leah

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Truth and Universal Truth: The Inspirational Songs of Michael Kasberg

Several weeks ago, I posted a song-poem single written by the singularly unusual and wonderful song-poet, Michael Kasberg. I mentioned that, once he got the song-poem bug, he really went to town, creating his own label, and churning out several albums of his idiosyncratic material. I had a few requests for more Michael Kasberg, and today, I am honoring those requests.

But first, I want to update you yet again as to the fact that I have corrected the broken links on another month's worth of posts, in this case, those from March of 2013. These include a typically odd and disjointed entry from Mike Thomas on Tin Pan Alley, an above average record for the Noval label (which admittedly isn't saying much), a typically stodgy release on Film-Tone, and a Gene Marshall record featuring a really poor choice of words on one side and blatant plagiarism on the flip side. I've actually updated the text on that last one to indicate that the folks at Preview seem to have recognized the thievery and turned the publishing credit over to the holder of the copyright on the song being ripped off.

And now on to Michael Kasberg, with that full album as promised, "Truth and Universal Truth: The Inspirational Songs of Michael Kasberg".

Mr. Kasberg seems to have used the folks at MSR, perhaps exclusively, for his releases on his own Kay-Em label. Here, he credits Richard Kent (much more well known under a similar aka, Dick Kent), Barbara Foster (who I believe is Bobbi Blake - I'm sure Sammy Reed can confirm or rule this out), and Joan Merrill, who I am not familiar with. I don't see a date my copy of the album, but the AS/PMA website lists it as having been released in 1982 (with all of his albums having been produced between 1978 and 1984, the latter date lining up with the end of known production from MSR).

Here's an edited, rearranged version of what I wrote about Michael Kasberg back in December:

Kasberg's songs feature tortured syntax, a sense of jokiness, and a "slightly off" feeling throughout much of his material, and all of this shines through on most of his songs - certainly more often than not. The word "idiosyncratic" could have been invented for Mr. Kasberg.

I am not going to highlight anything specific from this album, but rather, just let you enjoy it from start to finish. I've simply digitized it in two files, side one and side two. The titles can be seen in the scans of the record labels and in small print on the photo of the back cover. I also encourage you to read this enlarged scan of the text found in the center of the back cover, as it is just as enjoyable as the music:

I have not checked these files for any skips or electronic glitches - I simply didn't have time to listen to the entire thing twice - if there are any imperfections, please let me know, and I will fix the section as soon as I get the chance.

Download: Richard Kent, Barbara Foster and Joan Merrill - Truth and Universal Truth: The Inspirational Songs of Michael Kasberg, Side One

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Brother Gone in San Jose


I have just completed refurbishing yet another month's worth of song-poem posts, in this case, April of 2013. That month's posts included a one-hit-non-wonder on Tin Pan Alley, a Chicago Cubs-related 78 on Stylecraft, another 78, this one a Globe acetate, featuring both Sammy Marshall and a really nice entry from Kris Arden, and a patriotic entry from Rod (Keith) Rogers on Film City. 

Plus, here's yet another song-poem ad, about as simple as they come, found and shared by Brian Kramp:

In the waning days of the Tin Pan Alley label, all of the songs were turned over to a band called "New Image", and they appear on the final few (documented) releases on the label, dominating perhaps the last 200 releases (I'm guessing here, as only a few dozen from this period have actually been documented, all of which are by New Image). 

The sound doesn't differ much from what the label had been putting out, for the most part, since the early '70's at least - a tiny combo with a somewhat tinny sound, playing largely blues-related three and four chord numbers, in this case with a female singer who emotion-laden vocals make it clear that she was invested in the process, but whose actual ability is not always up to the task. 

I rather enjoy "Gorgeous Day in San Jose". It's as basic as they come, but the singer's voice appeals to me (as this singer often does), and the melody is simple but effective. I am quite taken with the writer credit - "Brother Gone" - and wish I knew the story there. 


For the flip side, "Little Church in the Valley", the composers at Tin Pan Alley (and the members of New Image) made the interesting choice to pair the thankful and religious lyrics offered by the song-poet with a set of bluesy chords and a progression which are typical of pleading, often sexually frank songs of love, whether wanted, fulfilled or gone wrong. It's a weird mashup to my ears.

Download: New Image - Little Church in the Valley

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Gary in the Country


Time is short this week, so I won't have a lot to say, but I did make the effort to repair yet another month's worth of posts. So this week, you can again enjoy those posts I originally shared in May of 2013, including: A Caveman Records release featuring both Cara Stewart and Sammy Marshall, a Norm Burns number with some pretty funny lyrics and offbeat performance (for Norm, anyway), a Gene Marshall single, and a fairly awful Frank Perry tribute to Mother, on her Day

And in our continuing series of song-poem ads, provided by Brian Kramp, here is a most basic and simple one, perhaps an ad that was for a single provider of the service, rather than a company: 

And now:

When is it NOT the right time for Gary Roberts? Not today, because today is a perfect time for Gary and his vocal chords. For today's first song, "Right From Their Land", I actually find that he offers up a stronger performance than on many of his "I'm-Seeing-This-For-The First-Time", deer in the headlights performances.

The song is about the people who worked the land and sang about their lives and enjoyed sometimes difficult but always rewarding lives while creating traditional American Country Music. Unfortunately, the backing sounds nothing like either what passed for Country Music in the mid 1970's (when this record was undoubtedly made), or in the early days of the Carter Family, etc., to which it refers.

Gary tries to add a bit of twang to the vocal, but the backing is the generic latter-day Sterling, which is not a terrible sound, but has nothing to do with what he's singing.

Download: Gary Roberts - Right From Their Land

On the flip side, we have "My Texas Queen", a story of love found, kept and treasured. The author is clearly expressing deeply held feelings (even if they expressed in a fairly ham-fisted way), and Gary and the backing group do nothing to ruin it, while not really doing anything special with it, either. Just another middling song-poem.

Oddly enough, there is more country styling - at least in the piano part - than anywhere in the song about old-timey country music on the flip side.

Download: Gary Roberts - My Texas Queen

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Hello, Dolly!

Hello, all you home-bound readers and listeners!

Today, I have corrected all four posts from June of 2013. These include a one sided acetate on the Noval label, a really nice offering from Rodd Keith, the only known song-poem release - and it's an absolutely wonderful one, on Tin Pan Alley - by Eddie Eltman, and a Halmark release which may or may not feature Bob Storm on both sides. You be the judge. 

I also have another song-poem ad, courtesy of Brian Kramp, this being another one from the Five Star Music Masters, which was directly connected to the Sterling song-poem company: 

And NOW!!!:

Dolly-O Curran, along with her husband, Jack, seem to have been among those relatively few song-poem customers who truly understood what the various labels and outfits were doing, and took full advantage. Many, perhaps even more or all of Dolly-O's song-poem submissions, which went to multiple companies, initially came out on those labels themselves. These included MSR, Halmark, Preview, the Globe family of labels, and very little doubt others. I've featured her work, as featured on other labels, a few times. 

But Dolly-O would then take at least some of her song-poems and re-issue them on her own, eponymous label, from her home in South Bend, Ind. The good news is that this gives a good picture of a unique lyricist, who sometimes knew her way around a turn of phrase and sometimes got lost in the weeds. The bad news is that these re-releases seem to have been mastered directly from the originally released 45s, and as such, are often of poor quality, are mastered very softly, and may not even quite run at the right speed. 

Today's offering is a Dolly-O EP, hot off the US Mail, direct from eBay to my mailbox this week, and features one old favorite, and three I've never heard before, including one with quite the odd set of lyrics.

And the first song up on side one is that lyrical oddity, a ragtime-esque, bouncy number titled "A Brand New Pair of Scissors". Whoever put together the label for this record forgot to include the singer's name, but someone has written in "Big Al 'Voice Giant'". I do not recognize this vocalist, nor does the style remind me of any particular label.

But oh, that song! I'll mostly let you discover it's lyrical wonders, while only observing that there are not a lot of songs about scissors, and certainly there are far fewer songs that have choruses that start with the single word "Scissors!"

This is by far my favorite of the four songs heard on this EP.

Download: Big Al "Voice Giant": A Brand New Pair of Scissors

Next up is a performance of the song "Good Night My Love But Never Goodbye". As befits such a mouthful of a title, the story here is fairly convoluted, starting with a statement of falling out of love, but actually being (as the title would suggest) a story of a love story. The singer is identified as "Dick Kean", but I'm pretty sure this is Dick Kent, and I wouldn't be surprised if the original release ran a little faster and higher in pitch.

Download: Dick Kean - Good Night My Love But Never Goodbye

Next up is the previously featured number, which was shared here a decade ago (and therefore, its files have not yet been repaired). On the original release, it was credited, much more logically, to Suzie and Rodd (since Suzie Smith sings the whole song, accompanied only on the choruses by Rodd Keith). Here, "I'm the Wife" is credited to Rodd and Suzie. Here's what I wrote about it, almost ten years ago:

Here's one which is a favorite of my great friend and fellow song-poem maven, Stu, one which I just obtained my own copy of, this week. It's a Rodd Keith production, although he takes a back seat on the lead vocal, turning that duty over to Suzie Smith, and providing not only the arrangement, but a nice harmony vocal. The record is credited to Suzie and Rodd, and is titled "I'm the Wife". 

This is a really nice set of lyrics, and I was a bit surprised to find that they were from the pen of one of the weirder song-poets, Dolly O. Curran, who, along with her Dolly-O label, I've written about before. Paired with an excellent arrangement, the result is a first class record which, with perhaps a little tightening up of some clunky lyrics, and a few other changes, could have been something, or at least maybe in an alternate universe where song-poems competed with the "real labels" for airplay. 

Please enjoy this delightfully peppy song about having a cheating spouse: 

Download: Rodd and Suzie - I'm the Wife

(By the way, that rendition is of considerably lower sound quality, and runs about a quarter to a half-tone lower than the Preview release, which is consistent with my opening comments.)

Finally, we have Sam Ronson and the Rompers, with the very oddly titled "By Gum Can't Make the Grade". This song, and the Scissors one earlier, come from the more indescribable side of Dolly-O's lyricism, along with one of my all time favorites, which she also wrote, "Lady Off Pedestal at Notre Dame".

Unfortunately, this part of the record is damaged, and despite multiple tries, I cannot get it to play straight through at three spots where it skips, so I have digitized it as it plays.

This song goes on and on, with a vaguely south-of-the-border feel, and finishes up at over four minutes. The story is one of a person who never wins or succeeds at anything, and features an abundance of tortured verbiage, sentences twisted into pretzels in order to end with words that rhyme. From someone who had proven her ability over and over again, this is laughably bad. And ending a song with a triumphant "Yes! By Gum!" is pretty funny, too.

As with the first track, I do not recognize this singer and nothing about the "sound" of the record suggests any particular song-poem company. Any thoughts?

Download: Sam Ronson and the Rompers - By Gum Can't Make the Grade

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Keep Your Claws To Yourself

I hope everyone is doing well, in Sheltering-In-Place land, and that you're all staying six feet away from your computer screens. 

As always recently, I have updated another month of previously broken links. In this case, that means the fine month of July, 2013. You remember that time, don't you - back when we had a real President? Those were the days. 

That glorious month, I offered a Gene Marshall tribute to Canada, a pair of great Rod Rogers numbers on Film City, a Cara Stewart special on the tiny "Puget Sound" label, and a Tin Pan Alley post featuring a couple of sides that were sent to me by a correspondent. That last post, a celebration of the fact that my previous hosting site had come back to life, also included a bonus, one of my absolute favorite records ever made (a non song-poem). Fixing that page gave me the opportunity to re-listen to that wonderful record about a half-dozen more times. It's gotta be in my all time top 250. 

And here, as has also been the case recently, is yet another ad from Brian

On to this weeks offering: 

I will immediately admit, as I did with a previous offering on "Pacer Records" that I have no proof that this was a song-poem label. If it wasn't, it's fairly clear to me that it's the next thing over, a vanity project. As I said previously, the owner and proprietor of Pacer, songwriter Opal Skaggs), did write at least one song submitted to a song-poem label, and another performer on Pacer also had releases on what were undoubtedly song-poem labels.

That would be good enough for me to decide to share this record, as long as it was worth sharing. And the quality if up to snuff: I think this is an excellent song and record. It's got a fantastic title, too: "You'll Never Get Your Claws In Me". And the sound is one not too far removed from the late '50's sound of Fable Records, another outfit where there is often a lack of clarity about whether we're listening to a song-poem, a vanity release, or an attempt to make a hit record.

That sound, which holds a deep appeal to me, is sort of a modified western swing (here with barely any percussion, which is an interesting difference), with some really nice guitar playing, and an excellent vocalist in one Patty Sigler. The lyrics are really effective, too. The difference between this record and the Fable records is that a variety of online sources (including copyright information) indicate beyond a doubt that this record came out around 1967-68, which is pretty far out of date for this sound (a hallmark of song-poems).

Anyway, whatever it is, I think it's eminently worth hearing, so by all means, please hear it!

Download: Patty Sigler - You'll Never Get Your Claws In Me

On the flip side, we have a slightly slower number, the backing of which puts me in mind of some Carl Perkins records, as well as the early Beatles BBC renderings of the same. (Again, performances from ages before this release.) It's called "Some Day He Will Pay", and while I don't think it's quite as strong as "Claws", it again has really good lyrics, a fine harmonized vocal and that stellar backing sound. Still really nice.

Download: Patty Sigler - Some Day He Will Pay

Next time, I'll be back with a no-doubt-about-it song-poem. In the meantime, tell me what you think this one is!

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