Tuesday, February 02, 2016

A Missile Heading Straight to the Top of the Charts!

Here's a previously unknown song-poem label, Missile Records, clearly a branch of Sandy Stanton's Film City family of labels, as evidenced by the presence of late-era Film City mainstay Jimmy James (best experienced on "Free Love for Sale" and "Mini Girl Song", both of which can be heard here), and the identification of the Chamberlin backing as "The Swinging Strings".

And it's that Chamberlin backing that drew me back into the A-side of this record, after the first listening. One of my all time top 25 song poems is a record called "My Point of View", but Gus Hewstan (see below), which I shared on this site ages ago, in a post which contains dead links, due to the divshare collapse.

One of the many things I LOVE about the Gus Hewstan record is the backing setting that whoever played the Chamberlin chose for the track. And I'd never heard that particular setting before or, until this record, since. And then, here it was, on Jimmy James' performance of "What a Fool I Am".

It's not used to as great effect, but it's still an interesting, busy and even convoluted beat, although slowed down here from the other record. Jimmy James offers up a soulful vocal, duetting with himself here and there, and there is the usual film city/Chamberlin weirdness of sound to draw me in.

Download: Jimmy James with the Swinging Strings - What a Fool I Am

On the flip side, double-tracked (and sometimes harmonizing) Jimmy informs us of the song-poet's amazing insight, that "Today Was Tomorrow Yesterday". And I'm a sucker for these mechanical sounding Film City products, so this one appeals to me, as well.

Download: Jimmy James with the Swinging Strings - Today Was Tomorrow Yesterday

Since the original posting no longer works, here is the Gus Hewstan record I referred to above, in all its glory.

Download: Gus Hewstan with the Film City Orchestra - My Point of View

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sammy Country

Today, a record which would have fooled me. If I didn't know Sammy Marshall's voice (disguised here as Sonny Marcell), and didn't know about song-poems, the first side of this record is competent and professional enough, including the lyrics and melody, that it would have convinced me it was a legitimate release aimed at the country market of the early or mid 1960's.

It's not that it's necessarily all that great, and it certainly doesn't have that special something that either makes a song-poem wonderfully weird or that makes a legit record sound like a hit, but that's actually sort of why it stands out to me. The lyrics all work, at a level rarely heard on a Globe company song-poem, and the performances all fit well. This sounds like a genuine (but failed) real label release. Does anyone else hear that?

Download: Sonny Marcell - It's For You That I Yearn

I'm not sure what the story is on Modern Records. I was inclined to think that the songwriter here, A. C. Olsen, set up the label with the help of the Globe song-poem factory, but the only other documented release on the label was written by someone else. Perhaps a few friends in the Nashville area set up the company.

Whatever the story, nothing I said about the A-side applies to the B-Side, "Your Empty Arms". The opening guitar is slightly out of tune, the arrangement is bland, the lyrics are both clunky and they have been given melodic choices which play up that clunkiness, before those involved gave up completely and have Sammy/Sonny start talking the words.

But more than anything, there is an edit at the 1:16 point which is probably the worst edit I've ever heard on a song-poem record. It results in a measure with seven beats, and which clearly cuts from one take to a different one, one with a different production sound and which is in just a tiny bit lower key (maybe an eighth of a tone).

Given what it is that appeals to those who collect song-poems, I wouldn't be surprised if this half-assed side is the more popular of the two, among those listening to today's post.

Download: Sonny Marcell - Your Empty Arms

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

It's Leap Year - The REST of the Story

Last week, I shared the story (well, speculated is a better term) of Tom Clare and his eponymously named record label, and offered up what may very well have been the first record on that label, all of which you can find here.  At the time, I commented that Mr. Clare seemed to have the traditional purpose of Leap Year wrong, in that it was not prime time for men to seek a mate. But I also indicated that there were reasons to think he knew full well of the tradition of women pursuing men during Leap Year (and specifically, on Leap Year Day).

That proof is here, on what may have been the second release on the Clare label (and for all we know, there may only have been two releases. This time, it's my beloved Cara Stewart, again with the supremely tasteful and lovely backing of Lee Hudson, singing "It's Leap Year (I'm Gonna Get My Man)". This record is beat to hell, but still quite enjoyable.

Download: Cara Stewart, Lee Hudson Orchestra: It's Leap Year (I'm Gonna Get My Man)

As is often the case when I use a specially themed song for a special date or time of year, I've ended up featuring the lesser of two songs: The flip side of this record is where the real action is. I've always really enjoyed "I've Got an Answering Echo", and would have to say it's the best of the four songs I've heard which resulted from the Clare. It's not unusual, in terms of the Cara Stewart/Lee Hudson team, but it does display their best qualities, being an uncommonly pretty record, with a sweet backing track and a winning vocal. And again, please forgive the dreadful surface noise on what is a very beat up record.

Download: Cara Stewart, Lee Hudson Orchestra: I've Got an Answering Echo

Monday, January 04, 2016


Today we salute Kansan Tom Clare, who felt the drive to create lyrics for songs (and perhaps the music, too -  who knows?), and had the wherewithal to form his own label and contract with one of the best song-poem factories to produce his songs.

Yes, he chose the Lee Hudson company, who assigned his stable's dependable male performer, Jeff Reynolds, to record what was perhaps the Clare Records label's first release, one which is particularly appropriate in this first week of 2016 - "It's Leap Year Man".

I love the sound of this record. It features perhaps the most lush, thick harmonies behind the lead vocal on any Hudson recording - that's an area in which he usually excelled, but he outdid himself here. The whole track has a wonderful, dreamy feeling to it. The only place it falls a bit is in the lyrics: For reasons which will become clear in another post, Mr. Clare was clearly aware of the Leap Year tradition that it is on Leap Year Day when the women can and should pursue the men. Yet, these lyrics are all about the male protagonist portraying Leap Year as a special time which will help him get the right girl. Huh?

Well, don't let that distract you. Just luxuriate in the wonderful sounds created by Lee Hudson and Jeff Reynolds:

Download: Jeff Reynolds - It's Leap Year Man

To my ears, lightning did not strike twice, in any way, on Mr. Clare's second offering, "I Will Forgive, But I Can't Forget You", which sums up the focus of the lyrics in one clunky title. This seems to go on way too long, even at a brisk 114 seconds.

Download: Jeff Reynolds - I Will Forgive, But I Can't Forget You

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Helping You Get In That Winter Mood!

It's been hard to tell it around these parts (just outside of Chicago), especially with temperatures yesterday above 60, but Winter began either on December 1st (if you listen to the Meteorologists) or three days ago (if you listen to almost everyone else).

To help get you in the mood, here's a record from Tin Pan Alley, from the label's mid-to-latter days, a period when their hiring standard seems to have been "only allow people who have minimal talents on their instruments or in singing".

At least either the typesetter or the song-poet himself kept with the incompetence theme, spelling the word "Icicle" as "Icycle" (I only just noticed this, so if you are a perfectionist, you'll need to change the spelling on the downloadable track).

It's worth noting that at one point the lyrics move us into August - I'm not at all sure we weren't there from the start. If so, Eleanor Shaw is singing to something that isn't even there.

Download: Eleanor Shaw: The Little Icycle

The less said about the flip side, "Always", the better. Suffice it to say that Irving Berlin has nothing to worry about.

Download: Eleanor Shaw: Always


Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Blog Post Title (Confusing)

So it appears that Gertrude Faith decided that she had material that had to be heard, and she contracted through the Globe Records song-poem factory for a few of her lyrics to be turned into song, sung by label superstar Sammy Marshall. This seems to have been in 1962 or 1963. In her case, she decided to form her own label, naming it after the biggest town in her area, Cheyenne, WY, just about 40 miles from her local burg of Pine Bluffs, WY.

Okay, so far so good - many other song-poets did the same. But let us look at the songs featured on one side of this record (which may very well have been the only record ever issued on Cheyenne Records). It seems to be about the men who guard the nuclear missiles pointed at the Godless Commies, and the guards' fervent hopes that those missiles never have to be used. And it is in a slightly different style than most of the records Globe produced, with the martial beat and 91 second length.

Still, not totally unusual. But why, oh why, did Gertrude decide on the aggressively un-commercial, confusing and ridiculously clunky title, "The Bird (Missile). Will we ever know why? Would anyone, then or now, looking at that title, have any chance of knowing what it was about? These are the things I ponder when I have nothing more important to do.

Download: Sammy Marshall and the Rays - The Bird (Missile)

A far more typical lyric, title and Globe Records performance can be fond on the flip side, "Game of Love", which predates the big hit single of the same name by a couple of years. If I'm understanding this lyric, this ballad is sung to a young lovely for whom Sammy was once guy # 1. But now she's up to guy # 9, and still she's not happy. Yes, both records involve people grouped into a set of 9. Paging John Lennon!

Download: Sammy Marshall and the Rays - Game of Love

By the way, thanks to the person who posted a comment about a file link being broken on the post about "One of Satan's Angels". I have fixed the problem!

Monday, December 07, 2015

Questions Questions Questions

I think this is just one of those weeks when I let the featured song speak for itself. And even if I didn't think that, I'm not sure what I'd say about Gene Marshall's performance of "Black Questions", because I have absolutely no idea what the hell this song is about. In fact, I welcome all commenters who wish to chime in and speak to the meaning of G. A. Bamisendu's idiosyncratic lyrics. Please. I beg you.

Download: Gene Marshall: Black Questions

By the way, the song poem database informs me that G. A. Bamisendu also provided the lyrics for a song called "Luster Galore", which is a hell of a phrase. Also note that the label claims the song is over three minutes shorter than it actually is.


On the flip side, there's a peppy pop song called "Get Ready Miss Betty". The first thing that occurred to me about this record is how similar the backing instrumentation and arrangement is to the all time Gene Marshall classic "We Are the Men Counting Sheep", which you can hear here. Sure enough, their label numbers differ by only a few digits. My guess is that they were recorded the same day, or at the very most, a few days apart.

This one isn't in the same category as "Counting Sheep", but it has a driving, forceful band, with some wonderful drumming, and is definitely worth a spin or two.

Download: Gene Marshall: Get Ready Miss Betty

And a very happy 94th anniversary of my father's birth to everyone out there. Wish you were still here, dad.  

Friday, November 27, 2015

Music of America! A Full Album from Your Friends at Star-Crest

Howdy, Y'all,

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving, at least those who are in the areas which celebrated this holiday yesterday. And for all of you, I give thanks that you continue to read and listen to this site, and that I have continued to have this opportunity to share all of this wonderful, weird music with you.

As promised (or at least hinted at) in my last post, today, for the first time, I am posting an entire song-poem album. Previously, I had limited this level of posting to the WFMU blog, but with that no longer being an option, I've decided to periodically post full albums here.

One thing I'll not be doing, though, is making individual tracks out of all of the songs on an album - there is just too much time needed to separate and post them in this way. Instead, I'll highlight my favorites with two or three best-of tracks, then post both sides of the album in their entireties.

This week, the album in question is one of the many released by the deeply weird folks at Star-Crest, in this case, LP # 8400. It's likely that this was their 84th album (or thereabouts) rather than their 8400th album, given that every one of their album numbers ends with a double zero. And they didn't bother changing their album covers much, choosing instead to just slap on a sticker telling you which release number you were lucky enough to be holding. The front cover looks like this:

And here is the back cover:

The album, on the A-side, is credited to Robert Ravis (who you can also hear on a full album here), Tony Rogers and Linda Collins. They do not sing together, as you will hear. Here is the A-side's record label:

Robert Ravis does not appear on the B-side, so its label is only credited to Tony Rogers and Linda Collins, as you can see below:

Yes, you will be able to hear a full 24 songs below, 22 of them song-poems. For, as you may have noticed, like other song-poem outfits, Star-Crest sometimes made a point of including a few popular songs among the entries of their customers, so that Ms. Meeks, who submitted "Just One More Chance", can say that her song was on an album right alongside the title song to "The Desert Song" and that big hit "Mr. Sandman".

Before the files containing both full sides of the album, here are my three favorite entries. First up, Tony Rogers with "It's a Small World" (no, not that song). I enjoy the march music behind Tony, as well as the trip around the world to be found in the lyrics.

Download: Tony Rogers: It's a Small World

Oh, and did I forget to mention? Except for the aforementioned "The Desert Song", which is a bit longer, nearly all of the songs are within shouting distance of being 90 seconds long.

My two favorites from this album are both sung by Linda Collins. First up, from side one, is "Who Knows?", which starts off being about how she doesn't really understand her man, but by the end, she is making a startling (for the era) cry out for some rather intimate satisfaction. This, for me, is the high point of the album:

Download: Linda Collins: Who Knows?

Moving over to side two, we have one of the few clever lyrics to be found on an album which is otherwise made up of uninspired tales of devotion, and equally uninspired tales of loss. Again, we have Linda Collins, singing "Just One More Chance", the tale of an older person who hopes that life hasn't completely passed her by, complete with some downright weird lyrical choices (find me another song with the line "I wash my feet with any old soap"!) and a goofy bit of playing with words at the end.

Download; Linda Collins: Just One More Chance

And now, if you're still with me, here are the complete album sides. First, the A-side:

Download: Robert Ravis, Tony Rogers and Linda Collins: Music of America (LP 8400), Side One

And here is the B-side:

Download: Tony Rogers and Linda Collins: Music of America (LP 8400), Side One


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Are Those Like Charlie's Angels?

This is one of those weeks where there's barely been time to do anything. As a result, as occasionally happens, I've had to find time to make a few MP3's and am now slapping them up on the site for your perusal and enjoyment. 

I quite enjoy this slice of countrified Preview material, performed by the faceless group "The Sunbeams", who are documented to have turned up on only two such Preview discs. I'm not recognizing the singer on this song, which has the unwieldly title of "I Fell in Love with One of Satan's Angels". Perhaps one or more of you know him by his velvet tones. 


The flip side, "All Because of You", pretty clearly features Rodd Keith on the lead vocal - and just as clearly, Rodd Keith on arrangement, although it is still credited to The Sunbeams. Just a nice mid-'60's pop record. 


Coming next week: A BIG post around Thanksgiving, something I would have in the past saved for WFMU's blog. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ridiculously Short AND... Just Plain Ridiculous

Before I share my Tin Pan Alley find for this week, I wanted to pass along a new posting of both sides of a very nice late-period TPA single, recently purchased and posted to youtube by Sammy Reed. You can find both sides of that record here and here.
And now, for a very special episode of "The Wonderful and the Obscure"!:

Okay, I love this record. I do believe that of all of the song-poems I've heard for the first time this year, this is my favorite. I'm intrigued by the stylings of the singer, Johnny Williams, and now wish to find copies of the other half-dozen or so records he made for Tin Pan Alley in the late '50's and early '60's. I love every one of the record's 164 seconds.
And while two minutes and 44 seconds may sound like the length of a typical song-poem, the missing information is that this is the total length of BOTH sides of this record added together. Aside from the albums released by Star-Crest and George Liberace, both of which tended towards raw demo versions of songs, I can't think of another release I've seen containing two songs of 82 seconds each.
None of that would matter if the contents of these sides weren't outstanding - unique - deeply odd - with performances which are captivating in an decidedly off-kilter way. Let's start with the intriguingly titled "Somebody Fiddle! I'm Burning!" 
From the opening countrified instrumental, you'll know something special is happening. And then Johnny Williams comes in, and any suspicions that you had that he might be a moonlighting professional singer go right out the window. He sounds more like crazy ol' Ed at the Senior Center on talent night. And you're never going to improve on the opening lines:
I believe in Roman Nero
He has always been my hero
If anyone asks me why I collect song-poems, I now have another example to share with them. This is gold.

On the flip side, "Darling, I'm So Blue", is a much more conventional song, but it still has that rollicking sound, and another winning, heartfelt and deeply amateurish vocal from Johnny Williams.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Telling Fables

Of all of the labels I learned about, via my expanding knowledge of song-poems, my favorite long ago became Sandy Stanton's Fable Records. I'm not calling it my favorite song-poem label,.because plenty of its releases, perhaps most of them, were not song-poems. Stanton did go on to start Film City Records and discovered Rodd Keith after winding Fable down, but during the Fable years, it seems to have been a catch-all, with song-poem releases, novelty numbers, vanity records and perhaps some attempts at producing honest-to-goodness hits. 

Because of its multi-hybrid nature, quite a while ago I decided to stop featuring Fable on this site, and instead, put together posts at WFMU featuring multiple Fable tracks. You can find those here and here. Unfortunately, I even stepped away from that project, for a few different reasons. 

Now, with the WFMU blog closed, and no other outlet for these wonderful records, I'm going to throw them into the mix here and there, with the caveat that I know some of them are not song poems, and that I'm not sure about most, if not all of the rest. I hope you enjoy them, regardless of each record's individual provenance.

From the category of "maybe a song-poem record?"... comes a 45 sung by Roberta May, featuring two similarly titled songs by someone named Sidney Whitacker. First up is a bopping, swinging number called "Don't Tell Me That Jive". As do many Fable records of this period (this is from 1957), this features some fairly wonderful rockabilly guitar playing. I've been told a couple of times that the guitarist on these sessions was the highly respected (by a few, and woefully obscure to everyone else) Roy Lanham, who was later a member of the Sons of the Pioneers.


The flip side, with two of the same words as the first song, is "Tell Me", a fairly standard, and fairly bland rock-a-ballad, indistinguishable from a hundred other records from the era, except for some truly awful backup singing near the end...


I got a lot of good feedback from my Fable posts, back in 2010 and 2011, and by all means, please let me know if you'd like to hear more, or not hear more from this label. In fact, please let me know in general what you'd like to hear more and/or less of. I aim to please!


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Say No to Dick

I'm not much of a fan of the MSR label, as I've mentioned perhaps too many times. But an exception is their early releases, where the bands were often cooking, and the vocalists - lead and backing - often sound very involved in the lyrics and performances in general. 

Here's an example. The lyrics to "Can't You Say No" are fairly tortured - something about the lyricists complain that the object of the singer's attention has had the audacity to say "no" to the singer, while the singer thinks that his beloved should be saying "no" to everyone else but him. 

In a rarity, I really dig Dick Kent's vocal here. He really sells the lyric and the song. But even better is the backing band , who are playing a track which deserves a better song. and the backing vocalists, who are offering up some wonderful three part harmonies, particularly during the line "say yes to me" which finishes each verse. Good stuff!


I cannot work up the same enthusiasm for the flip side, Dick Kent's performance of "Come Join Us", a story of promoting Christianity to everyone within earshot.