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!