Saturday, March 17, 2007
Trouble in the Amen Corner (Campbell)--Archie Campbell, 1960. From RCA Camden LP.
Saith the Lord has the feel of Elvis at RCA, except it's Ferlin Husky at Capitol. Ferlin was a lot smoother than Presley when it came to this kind of ballad, maybe because he wasn't trying to melt the speakers:
Saith the Lord (Scrivner-Kirk)--Ferlin Husky and His Hush Puppies, 1956. From Capitol 78.
Now we go from country gospel to a hymn by John (Amazing Grace) Newton, with a tune arranged from Bach. Homer Rodeheaver does his usual good job with this interesting number:
How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours (Newton-Bach)--Homer Rodeheaver, circa 1950. From 10" LP.
Next, a Charles-Gabriel-athon: eight classic numbers with tunes (and, in three cases, words) by that super-talented tunesmith. The man knew how to write gospel music:
There Is Glory in My Soul (Davis-Gabriel)--Ralph Carmichael Quartet, 1965. From Word LP.
Glory Song (Oh, That Will be Glory) (Gabriel)--Criterion Quartet, 1908. From Victor 78.
Higher Ground (Oatman-Gabriel)--The Tabor Family; from LP.
His Eye Is on the Sparrow (Martin-Gabriel)--Blue Ridge Quartet, 1966? From vinyl.
Send the Light (Gabriel)--The Lewis Family, 1976. From cassette.
Where the Gates Swing Outward Never (Gabriel)--Ron and Pat Secrest; from vinyl.
Will the Circle Be Unbroken (Habershon-Gabriel)--Blue Ridge Quartet; from Rimrock label LP .
Brighten the Corner Where You Are (Ogdon/Gabriel)--The Browns, 1960. From RCA 45. (Left over from last Sunday's Corner-athon!)
Next, it's Sunday School time, courtesy of Roy and Dale. The second number, a Stuart Hamblen gem, was also recorded by Rosemary Clooney, The Cowboy Church Sunday School, Hamblen himself, and the Lewis Family.
The Circuit-Riding Preacher--Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and family, 1960. From RCA Camden LP. ("I'd rather get my lesson by watching what they do."--Roy Rogers. Did Roy spy on his ministers?)
The Lord Is Counting on You (Hamblen)--Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, 1960.
On to some terrific, fancy harmonizing by the Rebels Quartet:
Love Is the Key--Rebels Quartet. From vinyl.
We close with a 12" gem from my shellac collection--the Hayden Quartet singing (and talking) Church Scene (from Old Homestead). The songs are Nearer, My God, to Thee; The Palms; and Robert Lowry's 1877 roots-of-country classic Where Is My Boy Tonight. Sounds pretty good for a scuffed-up 1904 78, no?
Church Scene (from Old Homestead)--Hayden Quartet, 1904. From Victor 78.
See ya next Sunday!
Lord of the Dance writer Sydney Carter.
The great Irish tenor John McCormack.
We start off with an ancient Irish folk number that is neither 1) Irish, 2) folk, nor 3) ancient.
In fact, the hymn Lord of the Dance was written in 1963 by the British poet and songwriter Sydney Carter (1915-2004), who adapted the Shaker tune Simple Gifts (Joseph Brackett, Jr. , 1848) for the melody. I guess that Riverdance used the song without giving proper credit--tsk, tsk.
Donald Swann, a marvelous musician best known as one half of the comedy duo Flanders and Swann, performs Lord for us on this excellent 1964 recording:
Lord of the Dance (Sydney Carter)--Donald Swann, 1964, from the Argo EP Donald Swann Sings Songs of Faith and Doubt by Sydney Carter.
We continue with two magnificent performances by John McCormack, beginning with THE Tin Pin Alley Erin classic of them all, in this blog's opinion:
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling (Olcott-Graff-Ball)--John McCormack, 1916 .
The Foggy Dew (Milligan-Clay)--John McCormack, acc. by Spencer Clay, piano; 1913.
And what St. Patty's Day would be complete without the fine fiddling of Don Richardson of North Carolina?
Irish Washerwoman; Wearing of the Green; Rakes of Mallow--Don Richardson (Columbia A-3424, 1921).
And we have Dennis Day, Merv, a return performance by John McCormack, and the velvet crooning of Buddy Clark. We take St. Patty's Day seriously at this blog:
St. Patrick's Day Parade (Johnny Lange, Hy Heath)--Dennis Day with Henry Reni and His Orchestra, 1951.
The Kerry Dance (James Lyman Molloy)--Merv Griffin, 1952.
Macushla (Rowe-MacMurrough)--John McCormack, 1911.
Peg o' My Heart (Alfred Bryan, Fred Fisher)--Buddy Clark, 1947.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Whew. Let me take a quick break. (Italics overload.) Okay, I'm fine now.
Grean, of course, was Charles (The Thing; Never Been Kissed) Grean. And the Rollerskates tune, of course, existed prior to 1958, though I don't know how much prior. Probably very. Betty started out with gospel greats The Johnson Family Singers but moved to pop (with an emphasis on novelties) in the 1950s. For a while, Betty and Charles were husband and wife.
None of which rates as very odd. Some listeners, though, may find it strange that this highly Mitch-Miller-sounding track was recorded for Atlantic, home of Bobby Darin, The Drifters, and Ray Charles (who was there through 1959).
Now, do I give background at this place, or what?
You Can't Get to Heaven on Roller Skates (Moore-Grean)--Betty Johnson, with Orch. and Chorus directed by Charles Grean; 1958. From Atlantic 45.
Though Roger Miller never (to my knowledge) recorded this song, he did record You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd, the message of which is somewhat the same.
This Ole House was a big hit in 1954 for both its author, Stuart Hamblen, and pop singer extraordinaire Rosemary Clooney. But we're going to hear The Cathedral Quartet's fun 1973 rendition, because I think it really brings out the gospel flavor of the thing. That, and because at the moment I have neither Clooney's nor Hamblen's versions.
This Ole House (Hamblen)--The Cathedral Quartet, 1973.
Recall the following claim from WFMU's piece on this subject: "Warnke alone is responsible for what has turned into an enormous multi-million dollar industry--Christian stand-up comedy"--a term the author swaps, numerous times, for the label "Christian comedy."
In other words, 'FMU is telling us that Christian comedy was born around 1976. Which goes a long way toward explaining the presence of two gospel novelty hits in the pop charts of the 1950s, doesn't it?
Keep checking back, folks.
I wrote about our new cat, Tommy, and I said we were going to have him fixed. And that he was hanging around and becoming less paranoid. And so on.
Well, the moment it looked like he was planning to stick around, he began taking off for hours. Then staying away for days. We think he's being scared off by a neighbor cat named Romeo, who hangs around this joint as if he owns it. We don't know what's up with Romeo. Except that he's fixed and friendly. To people, that is--not to other cats.
Which is a problem at this location, since we have a whole lot of other cats. Tom, though, has no issues with anyone. He's nervous around the other guys, but he doesn't bother anyone. And he doesn't play stupid guard-the-fort-style Tomcat games.
We've let Romeo know that he's a holy pain in the butt, but he doesn't quite seem to grasp that his behavior is inappropriate. And we go on lecturing him, regardless.
Anyway, Tom's been showing up for brief periods and gobbling down huge amounts of food. It's obvious he would love to stay, but something's got him spooked out of his kitty mind--again, probably Romeo.
At any rate, we've put off having him fixed, since we're not completely sure he's "ours" (he may be going somewhere else. Dunno). However, the great news is that he tested negative for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). I'm not sure whether or not I reported that. My nerves still get in a knot, thinking about it.
We wish Tommy would stick around. And that Romeo would go home. Unless, of course, he's been booted out, in which case he's welcome. However, we think he's simply playing Musical Houses.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Christian comedy--a history, Part 6: And you thought Christian-bashing started with the Huffington Post
John Standley's 1952 mega-hit It's in the Book was based on a 1929 Victor recording by Charles "Chick" Sale called The Substitute Parson. That much I had figured out from reading a transcript of Standley's routine on the Internet and immediately connecting it to the Sale record. But I had no idea the 1952 version was so mocking, that it was so contemporary in its putdown of Southern-style evangelistic preaching--not until I heard it, that is. Yikes. If The Huffington Post, WFMU, or other ban-the-Bible types had any idea how long their brand of derision has been around, any inkling of how hoary their hipness....
The more things change....
Boy, this record is one for the books, you might say. 1952 just seems way too early for this kind of hipster mockery, but the audio evidence is irrefutable. And a little noisy in spots, too, owing to a slight warp in the 78. Of course, a similar-sized surface anomaly in a vinyl disc would have the tonearm hopping across the grooves, so we won't fret too much.
I'm puzzling a little over why Standley's number was so popular, since it's inferior to the "Chick" Sale record in every regard. Sale's dialect is spot-on; Standley sounds like he's auditioning for Benny Hill. And whereas Sale's routine presents a complete parody of a small country church service, from bulletin announcements to closing hymn, Standley's bit is disjointed and noisy, with the "It's in the book!" punchline a cue for the audience to erupt in laughter (1952's version of "Excuuuuuuuse me"?). Sale's approach is not the least bit insulting to Christians; Standley's attitude might embarrass Bill Maher. Book is clearly a copy of Substitute Parson, but it couldn't be more different in spirit.
Here are both recordings (Sale's and Standley's). I've punched up the sound on the older recording--it needed it.
It's in the Book (Standley-Thorsen), Pts. 1 and 2--John Standley, with Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights, 1952. From Capitol 78.
The Substitute Parson (Sale)--Charles "Chic" Sale, 1929. From Victor 78.
More Christian comedy coming up....
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I know what you're wondering. You're wondering, "Lee, what in the heck are you talking about?" A fair question.
I'm talking about T. Texas Tyler's novelty Beautiful Morning Glory, written by Clark Van Ness and recorded for the 4 Star label in 1945. It uses the exact same end-of-verse-word-substitution gimmick as Benny Bell's 1947 Shaving Cream, only a year earlier. Since I'm not an expert on Benny Bell or the deceptive-rhyme song genre, I'm not suggesting that anyone copied anyone else. In fact, I doubt that anyone invented the gimmick--in all probability, it was just there. Sort of like the line "I hear the train a-comin'".
As I think about it, I'm almost sure I've found earlier examples of the form, but of course my memory has gone blank on me. It tends to do that, just to get back at me. For what, I don't know.
Anyway, here's Beautiful Morning Glory in all of its lo-fi splendor. This isn't the worst pressing I've ever come across, but it's in the running:
Beautiful Morning Glory (Clark Van Ness)--T. Texas Tyler, 1945. From 4 Star 78.
Here are two more country gems from the same 78 pile, beginning with Hank's Song, recorded for Capitol in 1953 by Ferlin Husky. Did I have fun splicing out the pops created by the crack near the start? Well... frankly, no.
This is the coolest Hank You-Know-Who tribute I've ever heard. I'm not one of these folks who hears the history of sampling in every other recording of the past, but these lyrics are the on-paper equivalent of audio splicing. Whatever the heck I just typed:
Hank's Song (Tommy Collins)--Ferlin Husky; 1953. From Capitol 78.
I still have no idea what I typed back there. Hmm. Let me know if you have any theories.
And Ferlin is back with a wonderful novelty that truly captures the experience of driving in our part of the country. Except that he forgot to mention herds of deer, people standing at mailboxes, blind turns, and other roadside phenomena that speeding imbeciles ignore while lead-footing their way through these parts. Speed limit? What's that? A new drug law?
Slow Down Brother (Fred Rose-Hy Heath)--Ferlin Husky and His Hush Puppies, 1956.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Sunday, March 11, 2007
This is my only sheet music copy of Fields on Fire, from an R.E. Winsett songbook called Joys Supernal. The song was around long before 1943, though I've yet to pin down the year. (Note: "Arr., Copyright.")
On to the recordings. I don't know how I managed to skip Kitty Wells' version, but I did--must be lying around someplace (in one of my piles of CD-Rs). Meanwhile, let's hear Bill Monroe, The Country Gentlemen, Smith's Sacred Singers, Carl Story, The Chuck Wagon Gang, and The Lewis Family:
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire (Ballew-Brackett)--Bill Monroe, 1954. From vinyl.
(Same)--The Country Gentlemen, 1971. From tape.
(Same)--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1927. From 78.
(Same) Carl Story, 1951. From Mercury label LP.
(Same)--Chuck Wagon Gang, 1986? From tape.
(Same)--The Lewis Family, 1976. From tape.
We've heard the Southern-Aire's Gospel Singers' recording of the gospel standard Echoes from the Burning Bush. Now we're going to hear two other great versions, including an a cappella rendition:
Echoes from the Burning Bush--Carl Story, 1955. From Mercury LP.
Echoes from the Burning Bush--The Harmony Four; from LP.
How about a Brighten the Corner-athon? I've got six versions at Box.net, two of which we've already heard. They're all terrific, so we'll rerun the two in question and add Ella Fitzgerald, The Browns, the Chuck Wagon Gang, and Anita Kerr.
Well, once I've re-uploaded the Browns' version. Something weird is happening with the file. As in, not-playing-wise.
The ragtimey Corner, written in 1913, was a massive hit in its day and has remained popular. The bass voice originally moved in a boogie-woogie fashion on the words "Shine for Jesus where you are"--a striking effect in its day, I'm betting, and still highly effective, at least when performers stick to the part as written. The unaccompanied quartet Heavenward Bound jazzes up the rhythms; Homer Rodeheaver doesn't, though he inserts a couple of funny mini-sketches:
Brighten the Corner Where You Are (Ina D. Ogdon-Charles H. Gabriel)--Heavenward Bound; from LP.
(Same)--Homer Rodeheaver, 1922. From Rainbow label 78.
(Same)--Ella Fitzgerald, 1967. From Capitol LP.
(Same)--Chuck Wagon Gang. From Columbia LP.
(Same)--Anita Kerr, 1975. From Word label LP.
Youngstown, Ohio's own George Bennard (1873-1958) is way better known for his gospel song The Old Rugged Cross than for the tune we're about to hear, 1912's Pentecostal Fire Is Falling. I love them both, but I'm surprised that the foot-tapping Fire isn't the bigger hit, let alone that it's so rarely recorded. But so it goes. I used to use this as a prelude in our small country church--mostly straight from the book, with an embellishment here and there. Sounded great:
Pentecostal Fire Is Falling (Bennard)--Circle Bible College Choir; from LP.
The Harmony Four are too good not to get a second spot this Sunday morning. This is Heaven's Joy Awaits, and dig the contrast in (ahem) tempi between verse and chorus. I'd have typed "tempos," but this is a high-class operation here, ya know:
Heaven's Joy Awaits--Harmony Four; from LP.
See ya next Sunday!