Monday, July 25, 2016

A National Songwriters Guild Acetate

First up, yet another song-poem related ad, many thanks to Pete! This one a generic, straight to the point for lyrics and songs, from way back in 1935:
And now, here's something a bit unusual:  

Here we have an acetate from the National Songwriters Guild organization. This label was associated with the much larger Tropical label, and the more often fairly interesting Carellen label. Read all about it here (with more information on the Tropical page, to which that page links). many of the known National Songwriters Guild records are unnumbered acetates.

And I zoomed out a bit on the label scan of this one so that you can see the decrepit condition of this record, which will be confirmed when you hear it, particularly the other side of the record. There are no artists listed here, just the lyricist (same person on both sides), and I'm particularly amused by the incompetence displayed on "There is No Ending".

There is a sing-songy nature to the rhyme scheme, where the easiest and most obvious rhyme is grabbed 90% of the time - you can guess what word is coming next. The exception is my favorite word use, in which that lyricist, having discovered that "ending" rhymes with "pending", uses that word, one that does not occur often in song lyrics, and which (to my ears) keeps on drawing attention to its use, and the lazy quality of the lyric writing that causes it to be there. That's how I reacted, anyway.

Download: No Artist Named - There is No Ending

On the flip side is the upbeat "I Gambled with Love and Won", sung by a different singer than "Ending". This one, as mentioned, is beat to hell, but the fun, bouncy organ playing drives the song for all of its 100 or so seconds, and the jolly singer (and surface noise) keeps me from focusing quite as much on the equally obvious lyric work.

Download: No Artist Named - I Gambled With Love and Won

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

He Don't Wanna Be Right

Here's everyone's favorite Norm, Norm Burns, this week masquerading as "Norman Burns and Singers", with a bouncy, peppy little number, titled "Is It Wrong?". This features the lovely, sterling work of the Sterling combo on piano, guitar, bass and some wonderfully brushed drums. The words are pretty durn simplistic and direct, but I sure love the sound of that little combo, and I'm always up for Norm on an upbeat groover like this one.

Download: Norman Burns and Singers - Is It Wrong?

I'm not, however, always up for Norm in mid-tempo mode, singing ponderous, earnest lyrics set to a dull tune. That's my description of the song "Friendship". It does have a weird solo on harmonium (or something...), which is quite unusual for a Sterling disc, but that's as far as my interest goes. My guess is that there are others who will like both songs equally, or like this one better, or not like either of them. Such are the ways of song-poem love.

Download: Norman Burns and Singers - Friendship

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sammy's Tears

First up, here is yet another vintage song-poem ad. This one is from 1948. Unlike the others, this one has a clear and direct link to some of the music I've shared here. It's from Five Star Music Masters, which has its own AS/PMA page here, and which seems to have been either a predecessor to or otherwise intimately linked to the later (and fabulous) Sterling label, home of my all time favorite song-poem singer, Norm Burns. Amazingly, this company seems to have continued to operate (to some degree at least) well into the cassette era of the '90's.

Thanks, yet again, to Pete, for these wonderful ads!

And now, here's this week's feature!

It's everyone's favorite, weepy ol' Sammy Marshall, singing with his copyrighted pained voice on the country tinged "The Next Tear That Falls". This has some nice guitar, too buried in the mix for my taste, and a swinging beat that seems a bit too peppy for the lyric. As you can see, this appeared on the tiny Globe-related Pledge label, whose known output seems to have been limited to 1962-63.

Sing it, Singin' Sammy!

Download: Sammy Marshall - The Next Tear That Falls

More weepage is featured on the flip side, the much more morose "Tears and Champagne". This has the requisite ugly (at times obnoxious) sax playing, small chorus singing many of the lines with Sammy, and the lead vocal mixed WAY TOO HIGH above the backing track. Enjoy!

Download: Sammy Marshall - Tears and Champagne

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Subject Rarely Heard About in Song-Poems, Plus, a Full Album!

I know posts have been sparse around here lately, due to other pressing matters in my life, as well as a vacation, so to make up for the lack of four posts a month for the past few months, today, I'm offering up an entire song-poem album. And not just one of those 10 song Film City jobs, but a 20 song, nearly one-hour-long album from the folks at Hollywood Artists! Like nearly all of their albums, this is titled "Music of America", and it is label number HAR-81 in that series, putting it nearer to the end of their run than the beginning.

The entire album is below, but I wanted to offer up a couple of choice items from the album, the choicest of which is this offering from singer Steve Day. I can see without doubt that I've never heard a song-poem written on this particular subject before, and I bet you haven't either. That's all I'll say. It's called "Dark Love":

Download: Steve Day - Dark Love

Next up is a song from a favorite, and prolific, song-poem lyricist, whose name some of you might recognize, James Wilson, Jr. While this song "We Love the Kingdom", sung by Stephanie Allen, doesn't approach the award winning level of weirdness in the form of lyrical poetry that Mr. Wilson displayed in some of his greatest hits (such as "Isotopic-Spatial Series" and  "Liblanders Cahoot"), there are still some interesting turns of phrase here.

Download: Stephanie Allen - We Love the Kingdom

And finally, the song that leads off the album, "Don't Leave Me, My Clara", spoken and sung by Carlton St. John. Mr. St. John chooses to talk many of the lyrics (I don't think this really qualifies as "rapping"), but when he does sing, you can tell why the choice was made to have him speak the rest of the words - the lyrics are aggressively unmusical in places, and the good folks at Hollywood Artists did a terrible job of trying to set them to a melody and beat. I'm particularly fond of the section that goes "although we're not married", with the accent on the last syllable of "married".

Download: Carlton St. John - Don't Leave Me, My Clara

And here are both sides of the album, including the songs excerpted, above. A few people wrote to me some time ago about song-poem instrumentals, and I'm happy to say that there is one here, the second track on the A-side, titled "Sky Light". Titles for all of the songs can be seen in the scans of the labels, below.

Download: Hollywood Artists - Music of America (HAR-81), Side One

Download: Hollywood Artists - Music of America (HAR-81), Side Two

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Decaying Dick

First, here is another in the series of ads that correspondent Pete has generously contributed to this blog, this one from 1948, and again from the "Cinema Song Company". Get out your pen, paper and checkbook!

Today, it's our old friend Dick Kent, appearing on an early release from MSR records, with a lyric decrying the state of "This Decaying World" and showing some realy mastery, by singing lyrics which simply do not scan in any way with the music that they've been attached to (and certainly, some of them might not have scanned with any melodies). Sing, Dick!


I can't work up anything worth saying about the somnambulist flip side, "My Dear Mary, besides "ecch".


Monday, May 30, 2016

Freedom Boys

Howdy, everyone, 

As promised, here is yet another vintage song-poem ad, dug up, rescued and sent my way by a reader named Pete. This one is from 1948. THANKS!

 And now for something completely different:

I'm not going to blather on much about this week's feature. Suffice it to say that it is a Vietnam era Tin Pan Alley release, with some truly meaningful thoughts about those who have given their lives for freedom, mixed in with some equally misguided thoughts about the need for our soldiers to have been in Vietnam in the first place, all set to a plodding pace and a rote reading. I'll also throw in that, at nearly four minutes, it's unusually long for a song-poem.

Download: Mike Thomas - Freedom Boys

On the flip side is a tremendously peppy number, titled "Too Young". I think the lyrics here are about wishing to pursue the girl of his dreams at age 17, but not having the will to do what he thinks it takes, although there's enough vagueness here that I realize I may be missing something.

Download: Mike Thomas - Too Young

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Religious Rodd

Howdy, y'all,
First, it's time for my yearly explanation that the middle of May is exceptionally busy around our house, which is why it's been a long time since I posted.
Second, here is the second of our vintage song-poem ads, courtesy of "reader Pete" who sent them to me several weeks ago. I'm intrigued by this one, in that it's from a 1943 paper, and yet uses the name "Cinema", which was a prominent Song-Poem label from the early to the late 1970's (and only during that period). I wonder if there's any connection?
And finally, now, a little Rodd for your Thursday:

Here we have two religious lyrics, both sent to the good folks at Film City by frequent lyricist Clarence M. Boness, whose work I've featured here at least three times before, in what were largely lyrics written in tribute to the military. Here, he has in mind an even higher power than the U.S. Army, et al. And who better to give these songs musical life and power, but Rod Rogers (Rodd Keith), who had a background which included some Gospel singing himself.

I much prefer the side titled "Turn to Your Bible", which has a bouncy beat and is generally peppy, which its flip side decidedly is not:

Download: Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra and Chorus - Turn to Your Bible

While listening to the flip side, "Take Over My Life", the word that came to mind was "Turgid".

Download: Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra and Chorus - Take Over My Life

I'll be back on Monday with a Memorial Day-related post!

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Call Your Mother!

Howdy, everyone, 

Before getting to today's feature, I'd like to offer up the first of a series of ads that a reader and correspondent named Pete was nice enough to send my way. Thank you very much, Pete. The first one is an issue of TV/Record mirror in July 1962. I am very dubious of the "Songwriters' Association"'s claims to have placed their songs on either side of the records listed, the first two of which contained genuine smash hits. Just the fact that they asked for "Poems" instead of "Lyrics", to say nothing of the fact that this is based on the idea of an unsolicited lyric being made into a hit record, indicates what these folks were up to. 

Again, many thanks, Pete!


Today, at least in the U.S., is Mother's Day. And who better to sing about his mother than former Governor of Oklahoma Frank Keating? Well, while that is the name on the label, sadly, the vocal here is actually not by a notable American politician. No, even a cursory listen will demonstrate to those in the song-poem know that although the label says Frank Keating, the singer here is Rodd Keith. And a bittersweet lyric it is, indeed, as Phillip A. Daugherty's lyric poignantly recalls his late mother, and looks forward to the day (which he seems to think is coming soon) when the angels will guide him to meet her in heaven. 


So the lesson is, that if she's still around, call your mother. 

On the flip side is another Daugherty lyric, this time to a song titled "Rose Behind the Bar". This one lopes along well enough, with a pleasant melody and a nice vocal from Rodd.


Monday, May 02, 2016

A Panoramic Port of Call

Following the intricacies of some of the smaller song poem label's relationships with the bigger song-poem factories can be a bit of a rabbit hole experience. Today we have the "Panorama", which was, as indicated directly below the label name "A Division of Endeavor Records". But "Endeavor" was also a fairly teeny label, releasing lease masters from Film City and Globe, and perhaps others.
So this is a satellite of a satellite. In this case, it's clear that the recording originally came from Film City, due to the presence of the unwieldy group name, "New Sounds From the Film City Orchestra and Chorus", and the lead singing (on the A-side) by Jim Wheeler.
The song itself is a description of an island paradise, with those new sounds, Orchestra and Chorus all being provided by someone playing the Chamberlin. Please enjoy "Port of Call":
For the flip side, for whatever reason, the good folks at Film City/Endeavor/Panorama put an instrumental Chamberlain arrangement of the song on the flip side. This is not simply the backing track from the a-side, it's a complete arrangement of the melody, built on top of that backing.
 Incidentally, my pal Stu has (in the comments) found two more related items, both involving the man who apparently was a label honcho at Endeavor and Panorama (and who co-wrote this song), Hardie W. Daniel. First, here's a book with a very egotistical name apparently full of his marvelous poetry. And second, here's a blurb from Billboard magazine, about his supplying of records to jukeboxes. I wonder how that went over...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Top Notch Sound of Top Rock

There's not much more I can say about Cara Stewart records. I love them. She has only a few templates, but as with Fats Domino, who also worked with a fairly specific and small palette, they're pretty much all wonderful templates, capable of resulting in some really nice records. Such is the case with "Signal Lights", a nice, mid-tempo shuffle, with male back-up singers, a bouncy band and a unimpeachable vocal.

The Top Rock label may have been the vanity project, via Lee Hudson's song-poem factory, of someone named Les Hilton. It's hard to say, because this is the only record on the label where the AS/PMA website lists the songwriter (interestingly, that page shows a co-writer for the flip side, a name which does not appear on my copy).But my guess is, Les Hilton was the song-writer, or co-writer, on all "Top Rock" releases.

Also, if you do a search for either of today's records and for Cara Stewart's name, you'll find google books results for both an ad in Billboard for this record, and a listing in a different issue of Billboard where they indicate it has "limited potential".

Download: Cara Stewart, Lee Hudson Orch. - Signal Lights

The flip side, "Don't Break My Dream of Love", has Lee and Cara in dreamy, romantic mode. This side of my copy of the record is beat to hell, so please forgive the sound quality. Back when the AS/PMA website was still an active entity, someone submitted a great, ridiculous line from this song to the "Song-Poem Non Sequitur" page, specifically:

"Please take my lips, abuse them, to your desire." 

I wonder if he took her up on that offer....

Download: Cara Stewart, Lee Hudson Orch. - Don't Break My Dream of Love

Monday, April 11, 2016

Cleverer Than the Av-Er-Age Song Poet!

When listening to a stack of song-poems, the majority of which, I assure you, are wholly uninspired both lyrically and musically, it's nice to come across something unexpected. One of the nicer things to stumble upon is a song for which the song-poet tried to write something creative and a little bit clever.

Such is the case with today's Gene Marshall feature, "Love's End". Plenty of song-poets went for "clever", few that I've heard succeeded as well as does Elsworth J. Leach, here. This is not award winning stuff, but it did bring a smile to my face. I'll not say any more...

Download: Gene Marshall - Love's End

The flip side, "What Good Are the Laws?" is, as the title suggests, a complaint against some of the many things that are wrong in the world, and just as enjoyable as that description suggests, despite another warm, winning vocal from Gene Marshall.

Download: Gene Marshall - What Good Are the Laws?

Monday, April 04, 2016


Last week, I wrote, regarding an particularly odd record called "Lonesome Sad and Blue", that one of the reasons the record resonated with me is because a good part of the melody strongly resembled that of the lovely song "Spanish is the Loving Tongue". Frequent commenter Timmy went even further, suggesting that litigation would not have been out of the question.

But that thievery pales in comparison to today's masterwork, a record I find nothing short of astonishing. Someone named Elbert Ward decided to take it upon himself to write out the words to Mel Tillis' "Ruby (Don't Take Your Love to Town)", and send them, almost verbatim, to the good folks at Tin Pan Alley records. Mr. Ward changed a few words here and there - my guess is that this was done to somehow make him think that he "wrote" these words, but it's also possible that he was simply hearing the original words incorrectly. Regardless of the reason, the changes make virtually no difference in the overall direction, meaning and story of the song.

This is the third time I've come across this phenomenon. First, it was a "lyricist" who simply submitted the words to the chestnut "Nobody's Child", and then it was the genius who took the lyrics to the classic (sic) "Watching Bobby Grow" and changed the name of the child to that of the "lyricist's" own child.

This one seems more egregious to me, because the original of this one is a more familiar song and also a better song, certainly better than "Watching Scotty Grow". I have to wonder what Mr. Ward thought he was accomplishing. Did he think getting his name on the label meant he actually wrote Mel Tillis' song? The only thing original that was going to come out of this transaction - which he would have paid handsomely for - is the music, a portion of the collaboration he had no part in. And my guess is that anyone who heard the record of "his" song, would say, "hey, YOU DIDN'T WRITE THOSE WORDS".

Speaking of the music, though - the folks at Tin Pan Alley seem to have had a ball with this one, perhaps (speculation, of course) because they likely knew it was a rip-off, within the rip-off that it already was. There is a bluesy, garage band feel to this one, and nothing is left on the table. The solo, while not technically very good, is energetic, and, to my ears, exciting. Mike Thomas is fairly "eh", but that's to be expected.

Download: Mike Thomas - Ruby

On the other side is more fun from Elbert Ward. Perhaps (speculation, of course) learning that there was a song called "Stairway to Heaven" (maybe you've heard of it), and perhaps listening to it and finding out, to his eternal disappointment, that it was not a religious number per se, perhaps he decided that the title concept was an excellent idea, but that the trip needed to be a somewhat faster one. Voila! A "RAILWAY TO HEAVEN"!

And then, as you'll hear, he threw in a bunch of New Testament references, not really tied together all that well. Or at all. But you know how it is.

Download: Mike Thomas - Railway to Heaven