Friday, December 16, 2016

Merry Christmas from Homer Rodeheaver (1955)

CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Merry Christmas from Homer Rodeheaver, 1955

Homer Rodeheaver (pronounced "Rode-hay-ver"!) had a great voice, wrote some nice gospel songs, promoted some great ones (including Brighten the Corner Where You Are), and pretty much set the world's record for total corn with his old-fashioned recitations.  (To use the old cliche, I suspect they were old-fashioned when they were new.)

Here's Homer's idea of a Christmas record--a recitation about 1) death, 2) a little boy making a speech by randomly stringing together memorized phrases, and 3) "an old Negro friend" and his brand of positive thinking.  The fake dialect in the last one is... embarrassing.  Almost hard to believe we're hearing such a thing from 1955, but remember that minstrel shows didn't go out completely until some time in the 1960s.  So, use that as perspective.

Anyway, what could possibly say "Christmas" more than those three items?

This, by the way, is the ranch (link) he keeps mentioning.

Homer's half-sister Ruth was a very good singer, and Paul Mickelson was a highly skilled organist and arranger, so, while these sides may be corn, they're beautifully done corn.  (Word play is needed here, but I can't think of any.  Three hours sleep....)

As a kid, I loved Homer's 1920 recording of Old Rugged Cross (and its superb flip side, Forgive Me Lord), one of my first-ever 78s.  My Dad thought considerably less of it, explaining that Old Rugged Cross is the sort of tune ordinary people like--i.e. his definition of total crap.  This was my cue not to like it, but I made my own decisions in that regard.  Anyway, decades later, when I heard my first electrically recorded Rodeheaver 78, it was like hearing a new singer.  I wouldn't have guessed his voice was so very fine.  Rodeheaver is not generally loved by shellac collectors ("Two hours of searching and nothing but Homer Rodeheaver records!"), possibly in part because 1) he was hugely popular (a no-no for some), and 2) he sang religious songs.  At least he didn't record kiddie material.

I mean, a highly popular singer who waxed gospel numbers and kiddie songs?  Not acceptable--unless you're, say, Bing.  Then it's cool.

Anyway, a fascinating relic here--too corny for words, but so very expertly done.



Mark Spencer said...

What a find! Thanks for sharing this record! It's ironic that Side 1 deals with death because Rodeheaver died of heart failure one week before Christmas in 1955, the year of this recording.

Indyshadow said...

Oh No! The audio file is gone! I was interested to hear this since it was one of the last spoken recordings that Rodeheaver ever made before he died. I just found one of the first...a 78rpm recorded in 1920 explaining the mission of his "new" Rainbow record label. Let me know if you'd like to hear it.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Yes, I'd love to hear that. I'll re-up this recording first chance--later tonight, probably. The problem with Zippyfile (besides the pop-ups) if that it deletes anything that hasn't been downloaded in 30 days.

I've had trouble tracking some of the Rainbows, and memory tells me they were pressed by Gennett, and I suspect the groove widths are narrower than the norm in some cases. Narrower than 2.7 mil.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

The link is back! I did a new rip.

Indyshadow said...

Thanks, Lee! I enjoyed listening. It was especially ironic that he chose to recite “Should You Go First” and play “Beyond The Sunset” just days before he would pass away. Thanks for sharing this rare piece of history!