Friday, December 16, 2016
Merry Christmas from Homer Rodeheaver (1955)
Click here to experience: Merry Christmas from Homer Rodeheaver
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.