Friday, September 17, 2021

Vintage fakes (1948-1952)--Buttons and Bows; Syncopated Clock; Lover; Cry; Come on-a My House


Before I forget, I want to note that these are all 78 rips.

So, exactly what are vintage fakes?  Well, as far as sound recordings go, the post-WWII knockoffs are certainly old and early as knockoffs go.  But were they the first of their type?  Obviously, no.  There were the Hit of the Week records of 1930-32, and, back in the late 1910s and 1920s, there were budget knockoffs (on the pre-CBS Okeh label, for instance) of big hits like Avalon, Whispering, and Dardanella, to name three one-time monster hits.  However, it seems to me that the major precedent, when we're talking fakes/knockoffs, would have to be the famous radio show, Your Hit Parade (1935-1953), which also ran on TV from 1950 to 1959.  (Source: Wikipedia, of course.)  So, listeners of the past were used to hearing hit approximations and reinterpretations and wouldn't have been too shocked to encounter same on budget labels.  Of course, the big difference between the Your Hit Parade fakes and the Tops/Eli Oberstein/SPC/Extended Play Records/Broadway, etc. fakes would be the latter's attempt to confuse the buyer as to the difference between the official hit version and the knockoff.  The budget fakes did their darnedest to pass themselves off as the hits, as opposed to sound-alikes or knockoffs (though they emphasized the money-saving aspect of going with their releases).  The cheapies worked hard to blur the original/knockoff distinction--a distinction which seems obvious to us today, but maybe not as obvious when the 1950s and 1960s knockoffs had their kickoff circa 1948.  Their knockoff kickoff.

And it's those early, late '40s/early '50s knockoffs we're going to hear today--a small percentage thereof, anyway.  I did two posts of vintage fakes in 2018 and 2019, but, listening to the CD-Rs the other day, I wasn't happy with some of the restorations.  In particular, Iverne Whittaker's 1949 Buttons and Bows (on Tops) sounded a good deal noisier than it should.  Luckily, this time, I tamed that particular exercise in hiss quite nicely.  Now, these were tough rips, given the cheapness of the pressings and the ravages of old, heavy tonearms, and I'm obsessive about removing clicks and pops, except in those instances where the task becomes hopeless--such as, on the Les Paul/Mary Ford knockoff, The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise (featuring a multi-tracked Mimi Martel and what are probably multi-tracked guitars--billed as "The Freddy Laine Orchestra").  I did my best with that one, and left the rest to fate.  And the Music Club Hit Tunes Come on-a My House had a sufficient number of surface clicks for ten 78s, but I managed to reduce those about 75 percent.  Most of these, however, cleaned up very well.

Not surprisingly, our playlist is a mixture of gems and duds--the latter, starting with that 1949 Tops Buttons and Bows, on which the singer vastly overdoes the hill-person accent on the vocal, all atop a chintzy organ background.  The flip is an improvement, with a group called the Blenders blending fairly well (though what I take to be the tenor voice is consistently off).  I refer to Underneath the Arches, a likely-not-widely-remembered 1948 hit--this version seems to be inspired by the Andrews Sisters' highly successful recording.

The super-versatile Mimi Martel, who was sort of the Patti Page of the budget set, does great work on Lover, Wheel of Fortune, Cry, and the Mary Ford fakes (I believe "The Toppers"=an overdubbed Mimi)--and the Tops Lover has to take the prize for the most daring budget attempt of its time.  Mimicking Les Paul and Mary Ford was a big enough assignment for a junk label, but even thinking about copying the over-the-top Peggy Lee/Gordon Jenkins Lover (1952) took guts.  Amazingly, the results aren't too shabby, though the arranger wisely opted to fade out early.  Kaw Liga--by "Hap" Williams, no less, and ripped from a worn-out Victory Extended Play Records EP--is pretty decent, despite the Clark Bar-budget sound to it.

And there are some flat-out gems, including a good Buttons and Bows from 1948 (on a badly pressed Varsity 78 that cleaned up surprisingly well)--a version sure to erase the memory of the Tops dud.  And there's a spirited I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts which almost definitely takes off from the mega-hit Merv Griffin version, and a charming Syncopated Clock (no "The"--Royale was saving on ink).  No Help Wanted is technically excellent, though it fails to capture the Sun-before-Sun-Records sound of the 1952 Carlisles original on Mercury, on which Chet Atkins played riffs we've been programmed to associate with original Elvis lead guitarist Scotty Moore.  The Guy Mitchell knock-offs are pretty good (Belle, Belle My Liberty Belle and The Roving Kind), though neither vocalist succeeds in capturing Guy's emphatic but smooth touch--they sort of overdo things.  Interestingly, the Elliott Everett version of Belle spells it "Bell."  A typo or just another attempt to save on ink?  The two Come on-a My House fakes, both great fun, demonstrate the wisdom of terming these records "knockoffs" instead of "sound-alikes," given that the first effort, courtesy of Eli Oberstein's Music Club Hit Tunes label (you've heard of that one, I'm sure), more or less follows from Rosemary Clooney's hit (if you don't count the piano subbing for the harpsichord), whereas the Owl Records fake by Jean Ryan is anything but a sound-alike, with the musicians giving the Saroyan-Bagdasarian number a Klezmer treatment.  Effective, but not remotely a sound-alike.  Ross Bagdasarian, of course, is much better known as David Seville, and William Saroyan was the famous playwright and novelist.  Believe it or nuts.

And Bob Hilliard, lyricist for Be My Life's Companion and Shanghai, also wrote Any Day Now, Please StayMexican Divorce, Tower of Strength, and other numbers for Burt Bacharach.

Now that I've typed your ears off, it's time to savor these vintage knockoffs, all of which hopefully sound better than the previous rips.  And there are a couple of "new" selections in the mix.  Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD: Vintage Fakes (1948-1951)

Buttons and Bows--Iverne Whittaker, Assisted by the Blenders, 1949
Underneath the Arches--The Blenders, 1949
I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts--"Skeets" Morris With Jimmie Livingston and His Orch., 1950?
Syncopated Clock (Anderson)--Elliot Everett and His Orchestra, 1951
Buttons and Bows--Barbara Brown With Orchestra, 1948
A Penny a Kiss, A Penny a Hug--Elliot Everett and His Orch. With Vocal Refrain
"A"--You're Adorable--Barbara Brown and Johnny Frank With Orchestra, 1949
Maybe You'll Be There--The Varsity Orch., Vocals by Frank and Chorus, 1948
Lover--Mimi Martel, The Hal Lomen Orchestra, 1952
Until--Johnny Frank and Barbara Brown With Orchestra, 1948
No Help Wanted--Hillside Four (1952?)
The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise--Mimi Martel, The Freddy Laine Orch., 1951
Belle, Belle My Liberty Belle--Bud Roman, The Freddy Laine Orch., 1951
Tiger Rag (ODJB)--The Toppers With the Les Morgan Quartet, 1952
Wheel of Fortune--Mimi Martel, The Les Morgan Orch., 1952
Cry (Kohlman)--Mimi Martel and the Toppers, The Hal Lomen Orch., 1952
Be My Life's Companion--Mimi Martel With the Hal Lomen Orch., 1952
Kaw Liga--"Hap" Williams, 1953?
The Roving Kind--Bud Roman With the Tops Choristers and Hal Lester's Orch., 1951
So Long (It's Been Good to Know You)--The Tops Choristers With Hall Lester's Orch., 1951
Come on-a My House (Bagdasarian-Saroyan)--Elliott Everett and His Orch. With Vocal Refrain
My Truly Truly Fair--Elliott Everett and His Orch. With Vocal Refrain, 1951?
Bell, Bell, My Liberty Bell--Elliott Everett and His Orch. With Vocal Refrain, 1951?
Come on-a My House--Jean Ryan, 1951?
Shanghai--Jean Ryan, 1951?



Diane said...

Wow, another fabulous history lesson in your notes on knockoffs! I so enjoy reading these dissertations. Thanks, Lee, as always.

Ernie said...

Whew, what a list!

Bagdasarian and Saroyan were cousins, I believe. They seem to show up in each others work now and again.

Bryan said...

Hi Lee, thanks for another 2-time player LP. Had to listen to it a second time for good measure doing my usual stuff. Most of these I have never heard of. Although these I know of:
Button and Bows (Hope and Shore versions) The first version reminds me she is trying to be a female Hope.
Syncopated Clock - I like Leroy Anderson
Wheel of Fortune - my dad liked Kay Starr
Tiger Rag - My dad liked the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers
Come on-a My House - Rosemary Clooney
Otherwise, they seemed new to me? After I lost my parents at an early age, approximately 1991, this type of music just vanished from me hearing it. I only started listening to this type of music again around 2005 more or less. Comfort music. Maybe you can share another selection one day, but please do it for yourself first, not for anyone else. Get my drift, as they say. I am just glad you are around and stay safe. Times are really bad in so many ways. Bless you. Bryan

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Diane and Ernie,

Thanks! And I'd read about B. and S. (B. and S.?) being cousins. Funny, when you think about it. A Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and the guy who brought us the Chipmunks. Re my dissertation, my text went through three drafts--there was much to tell, and I wanted it to flow. The first couple of tries, it didn't...


I imagine, even with your parents playing music from this era, some of these would have been lost to time. And I never had the pleasure of hearing the pop from this era from my parents, since they were completely into jazz and Classical. The closest my mom and dad came to pop was Broadway musicals, which I don't remember either of them playing on the family hi-fi. It was in the Navy that I investigated postwar pop--Guy Mitchell, Clooney, Como. In fact, I think Perry Como was my introduction to the before-Elvis period, since I loved Como from the first time I heard him.

Larry said...

Great collection! One might even say it's the Tops.

I really appreciate the work you put into these 78s.