Saturday, February 24, 2007
And, Hallelujah! The Lord works in mysterious ways. To wit, the Lord just blessed me with the first LP by Bob "Chaplain of Bourbon Street" Harrington. My first thrift search for Christian comedy recordings (including stand-up), and a reissue of Laughter, Truth and Music was sitting in a box, just waiting there for me to give it a home. Totally weird.
And mysterious. The mystery being why God is dealing with such trivial matters when there's a universe full of issues He needs to tend to. I mean, I'm grateful for your help, God, but please get with the program. Thank you.
Priorities, God. Priorities.
Anyway, Harrington is exactly the man I wanted to find. A little Googling revealed that the bold and braggy Bob was giving stand-up style sermons (more stand-up than sermon) as early as the 1960s, and so of course I wanted to hear his stuff--the earlier, the better.
You know, if I had a quarter for every Harrington LP I've passed up while thrifting (spoken-word Christian material isn't my thing), I'd... have a lot of quarters. A LOT of them.
Anyhow, here's an example of Harrington's stand-up preaching. I'm guessing 1966 on the year, and for several reasons: 1) the third LP released after this one is dated 1966, and 2) Harrington mentions Medicare, which means this material can't be any earlier than 1965, and 3) JFK's assassination is referred to as a recent event. So, 1965 or 1966. If this isn't stand-up comedy, I'd love to know what it is:
Bob Talking About His Wife--Bob Harrington, 1965 or 1966. From World Records LP #1.
And this one:
Airplane Story of Witnessing--Bob Harrington, 1965 or 1966.
I quote from the 'FMU piece: "Christian stand-up comedy is a relatively new phenomenon, the start of which can be pinned down to the nineteen seventies."
Took a lot of work to disprove that one, didn't it?
P.S.--The Cathedral Quartet will show up next post--I promise!
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
WFMU's post From Subculture to Major Industry: Mike Warnke and The Roots of Christian Stand-Up Comedy weakens its case(s) somewhat by never makes its subject perfectly clear (Christian comedy? The first Christian comedy album? Humor aimed at Christians?). It always helps to let one's readers know exactly what one is writing about. However, the piece does make a number of amazing claims.
For instance, the author talks about a "tradition of a long line of homespun comedy personas from the folksy Andy Griffith to Grandpa 'I'm No Communist' Jones, and even the satirical Brother Dave Gardner ('What will preachers do when the Devil is saved!?')." A tradition to which comedian reverend Grady Nutt belongs. A tradition which starts with... Andy Griffith?
Hm. If the author is referring to homespun comedy personae who made religious-themed comedy recordings, we're talking about Philip Lord (Seth Parker), Phil Harris, and Wendy Bagwell--folks like that. Homespun humor itself (without any further qualification) dates back--on discs, anyway--to folks like Len Spencer and Charles Ross Taggart. Which 'FMU surely knows. (It does, doesn't it?)
And we're going to listen to a 1929 selection by Charles (Chic) Sale, a comedian and author with an amazing resume. Dig this information from The Outhouse Museum website :
Charles "Chic" Sale was a forty-five year old stage actor and comedian when he wrote a book entitled "The Specialist" in 1929. This book of fewer than 3,000 words was inspired by the antics of a local carpenter named Lem Putt from Charles' hometown of Urbana, Illinois, who specialized in the building of "privies"
Charles first created a vaudeville production of "The Specialist" which played to audiences from coast to coast. The threat of potential copyright infringement on Charles' stories motivated him, with the help of two newspapermen, to write a book of his act, also entitled "The Specialist".
The book quickly gained acclaim with over a million copies sold and fan mail pouring in at such a rate that Chic was forced to postpone his show for six months in order to respond personally to each letter.
Chic's name started to become at "privy" synonym. Much to Charles' chagrin,'Chic Sales' were being built everywhere. "That is a terrible thing to have happen," said Charles.
Charles died in 1936 and would never have believed that during the war soldiers would stumble upon outhouses on lonely Pacific islands bearing homemade 'Chic Sale' signs.
Now we know. Anyway, on this recording, The Substitute Parson, Charles performs a parody of a rural church service--one that brings back memories of the little country church where I once served as organist. This is Christian humor through and through, since Sale is assuming a high degree of familiarity with the targets of parody--the announcements, sermon, etc. Humor for Christians qualifies as Christian humor/comedy in my book, even if a 78 is not an album, per se. Long-playing records existed around this time, but they weren't very well-known. And they weren't vinyl microgroove LPs, either.
Anyway, Sale's voice was underrecorded on this, so... my apologies for the hiss. Both sides have been joined as one. Cue the organist:
The Substitute Parson--Charles (Chic) Sale, 1929. From Victor 78.
Good thing Andy Griffith came along and introduced homespun-persona humor to a hungry world.
Next: The Cathedrals laugh it up in 1970.
The bad drive, waiting for its trip back to HP. Once I get a return label....
Well, replacing the CD/DVD drive was easy. Fifteen minutes, maybe. Four screws, two plugs. Just like our tech said.
And it's working like a charm. Didn't have to download the drivers, for some reason. Fine with me. Maybe they replaced themselves in secret at some point. Who knows.
So, we're back in business. And, meanwhile, I've figured out how to export and mp3-convert tracks from my MAGIX program, which is right handy. That is, I can upload files without burning them to CD first. Far freakin' out.
That was the cool news.
The annoying news: HP didn't include a return packing slip. Sweet. I'll have to phone them. (After I arm myself with all the dang information they'll need--serial no., work order no., etc.)
Best of all, FedEx left the package outside. In a plastic bag. Under the mailbox. In the snow.
Historians of the future will probably NOT call our period of time the "Customer Service Era." Unless they're being cute.
We need some celebratory sounds. Here's one I ripped, exported, converted, etc. last night--Paul Whiteman's wonderful 1945 recording of Bill Challis' arrangement of San. Words can't convey how much I love this one:
San (McPhail-Michels)--Paul Whiteman and His Orch., 1945. Arranged by Bill Challis. From Capitol label 78.
Oh, and HP wants me to fill out a "Customer Service Evaluation." I can't wait!
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
Washington's March--Janice Beck, playing the Noehren organ in the First Baptist Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan. From Musical Heritage Society LP.
President on the Dollar (Hilliard-Springer)--Mitch Miller and His Orch. and Chorus, 1956. (From the same lyricist who gave us Any Day Now.)
A Lincoln Portrait (Copland)--Andre Kostelanetz, conducting the New York Philharmonic; Carl Sandburg, narrator. 1958, from Columbia LP.
P.T. 109--Jimmy Dean, 1962. From LP.
The President's March (Hail, Columbia) (Philip Phile)--Janice Beck.
Right. 1971. And what's wrong with 1971 as a starting date for Christian comedy? Well, for starters, Wendy Bagwell's huge C. comedy hit Here Come the Rattlesnakes appeared on an album (This, That and the Other) a year earlier. As did the Cathedrals' Laughing Song (an update of Ticklish Reuben).
But Christian comedy goes back much farther than that. For instance, Billy Sunday's Homer Rodeheaver was entertaining audiences with stand-up-style humor as early as 1922. How do I know? Because Homer was thoughtful enough to document some of his stage shtick for us:
Brighten the Corner Where You Are (Ogdon-Gabriel)--Homer Rodeheaver, 1922. From Rainbow 78.
And we can assume he was standing up when he offered those humorous lines.
Next up: The Substitute Parson, from 1929.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Anyhow, I have four or five titles that have previously seen the light of blog at this site and at Fields on Fire (which is no more), and so they're sitting at Box, waiting to be heard again--how can I refuse? Hate to resort to reruns, but I have to--and these are plenty fine tracks, anyway. And you may not have caught these the first time around. So, it's hard to go wrong, here.
We begin with the Master Family's 1952 recording of Glory Land March, a tune very similar (to my ears) to The Meeting in the Air.
Glory Land March (J. Masters)--The Masters Family, 1952. From LP.
We recently heard the Harmony Singers' recording of 1905's Awakening Chorus. Now we're going to hear an even better rendition. During my church-organist days, I used this piece now and then as a prelude. Straight from the music--sounded terrific.
Awakening Chorus (Charles H. Gabriel)--Men's Chorus of the Salem United Church of Christ (Parkston, South Dakota). From LP.
Next, a famous number by hymnists Burt Bacharach and Hal David. This one had its day as a gospel number, to be sure:
What the World Needs Now Is Love (Bacharach-David)--The Blackwood Brothers, 1972. From LP.
Bill Grant's Stairway to Heaven is not to be confused with the song recorded by Dolly Parton. It appeared in 1971 on the Ralph Stanley/Clinch Mountain Boys LP Cry from the Cross and was covered by the Bluegrass Gospel Travelers. It's the Gospel Traverlers' version we're about to hear. I know nothing about this group (and the LP is long gone):
Stairway to Heaven--Bluegrass Gospel Travelers. From LP.
"There is power, power, Wonder-working power, In the blood of the Lamb." When Lewis Edgar Jones (1865-1936) wrote these words in 1899, he gave us one of the coolest phrases in the history of gospel song. In fact, sometimes I think "wonder-working power" is THE coolest gospel-song phrase of all.
There's Power in the Blood--The Inspirations. From LP.
We close with a repeat from September--and I wish I could find the tune in any of my songbooks. I checked my most down-home volumes, but no luck. Maybe it's a relatively recent song. That is, maybe it was written after 1940.
I must have this one somewhere in my songbooks....
Echoes from the Burning Bush--The Southern-Aires Gospel Singers. From LP.
Hopefully, my replacement drive will arrive this week. If it does, next week's Sunday morning offerings will include The Hayden Quartet from 1904, some late-Twenties gospel, and other items worth checking in for.