Sunday, May 26, 2019

Memorial Day, 2019--A Ballad from Vietnam, The Trumpeter, March for Americans

The playlist starts with the profoundly moving A Ballad from Vietnam (The Rain on the Leaves), recorded by Mitch Miller and His Gang in 1965 for Decca.  Not exactly what we expect from Mitch--unless, of course, we know that The Beard was a Democrat and an opponent of the Vietnam War.  This affected me so deeply the first time I heard it, it was a while before I could play it again.  It's gorgeous.  Ferde Grofe's superb Over There Fantasie doesn't have quite the emotional impact for me, but I do get high hearing such theme-and-variations genius in action.  1942's Come Josephine in My Flying Machine may seem like a strange choice, especially since it's Spike Jones doing it, but the brilliant arrangement, which switches from barbershop to boogie in the kind of flawless segue this band could have patented, really speaks to its era.  Or is it "of"?  Whichever, it's a fine, genuinely patriotic number, despite the occasional goofy touch.  Actually, by Jones standards, this qualifies as virtually unadorned. Then it's 1901, and the magnificent Columbia Quartette is singing Good Bye, Dolly Gray, which pulled double duty, war-wise (Boer and WWI).  Since this was a number of years before WWI, it obviously wasn't functioning as WWI song here, but we can pretend.  Gray became a pub standard, or whatever the British term is.  I've completely forgotten.  My brain is officially 62 years old.  Music hall, maybe?

Grofe returns with the 1941 March for Americans, and the sound quality is quite good--better than the pressing, by far.  Ray Conniff's fabulous instrumental The Hop is one I can't find a year for, but we know it's 1944 or earlier, because 1944 was the year Glenn Miller was tragically lost.  The Hop (No At...) is what I call a "jam tune," and jam tunes go back at least to the 1910s.  They are riff-based and blatantly African-American, whatever the ethnicity of the writers or players on a given side, and consist of chord progressions that move around or toward the tonic--essentially, one long I section--with a circle-of-fourths bridge.  Sometimes they have an extended section in twelve-bar blues form, and that's what we have here.  This record rocks like crazy, and anyone surprised to hear a rocking Miller/Conniff combination has listened to too few 78s.  (Always wanted to type " too few.")  Next up is My Dough Boy, a charming one-step by Hugo Frey, who was also Joseph C. Smith's arranger.  Then it's Morton Gould's 1942 American Salute, one of the greatest light works of the 20th century, imo, in a take-no-prisoners rendition by Howard Mitchell conducting the National Symphony Orch. as part of a record series for children.  Why is it that sometimes the kids get the best stuff?  Mitchell knows that the way to play this thing is with a driving beat throughout and quadruple forte on the final When Johnny Comes Marching Home chorus.  I haven't heard another version that touches this one, and the mono mix works so well, I don't even want to hear the stereo mix.  I read that Gould never understood the popularity of this piece, that he just dashed it off to meet a deadline, and maybe that's so.  Often, masterpieces just happen.  Gould's painfully lame Yankee Doodle of 1945 proved he was capable of doing a similar theme-and-variation piece of far lower quality.

The Spirit of This Land is a fun Hit Label oddity that appears to have been written specifically for it.  The narrator may have been trying to sound like Walter Brennan--dunno--but he ends up sounding like a Gunsmoke extra.  ("Any coffee left?  Uh-oh--there comes Dylan.")  Hearing Vaughn Monroe sing Jimmie Driftwood's The Battle of New Orleans (big hit for Johnny Horton, of course) may be a surreal experience, though I could swear Monroe is less phlegmatic than usual here.  He sort of sounds like Tennessee Ernie Ford with throat congestion.  Then the street organ called The Thunderer plays The Stars and Stripes Forever, and the playlist wraps up with Raymond Newell and Ion Swinley's elaborate 1929 rendition (with sound effects and actors) of the 1904 anti-war art song, The Trumpeter (J. Francis Barron--J. Airlie Dix).

Update: Philip informed me that Glenn Miller's The Hop (composed by Ray Conniff) was also known as Victory Hop and V for Victory Hop and was featured in many of Miller's live performances.  Using information from John Flower's Moonlight Serenade, he dates the recording at Feb., 1942.  This is definitely the same number--a live recording can be found on line.

DOWNLOAD: Memorial Day, 2019

A Song from Vietnam (The Rain on the Leaves)--Mitch Miller and the Gang, 1965
Over There Fantasie (Grofe)--The United States Army Band, Colonel Samuel Loboda--Leader and Commanding Officer, 1975.
Come Josephine in My Flying Machine--Spike Jones, v: The Boys in the Back Room and King Jackson, 1942
Good Bye, Dolly Gray--Columbia Quartette, 1901
March for Americans (Grofe)--March for Americans (Grofe)--Meredith Willson and His Orch., 1941.
The Hop (Ray Coniff)--Glenn Miller and His Orch.
My Dough-Boy--One-Step (Hugo Frey)--Joseph C. Smith's Orch., 1918
American Salute (Morton Gould)--Howard Mitchell c. National Symphony Orch., 1961
The Spirit of This Land--Charlie Rogers (Hit Records 155; 1964)
The Battle of New Orleans (Driftwood)--Vaughn Monroe, w. Norman Leyden, his Orch. and Chorus, 1959
The Stars and Stripes Forever (Sousa)--The Thunderer, 1959
The Trumpeter--The Trumpeter--Raymond Newell, Baritone; Ion Swinley, Narrator, 1929.



Buster said...

What an imaginative playlist! Thanks, Lee. Have a good holiday.

Philip said...

Great selection.
"The Hop" -- also known as "Victory Hop" and "V for Victory Hop" featured in a lot of Miller's performances around 1941-42. The recording would seem to date from February, 1942. (I got this from John Flower's "Moonlight Serenade".)

Best of everything on Memorial Day.


Lee Hartsfeld said...


You, too!


Same to you, Philip, and a million thanks for that information. It connects the selection with the holiday perfectly! I must have had some ESP that told me as much. It just seemed right for the day.

Ernie said...

Very interesting playlist here, Lee. Thanks for pulling it all together!