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!