Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Variations on a >hic!< Theme

We're less than a week away from the Labor Day weekend, a time of year infamous for fender-benders (and far worse), often caused by a driver's overindulgence in spiritus frumenti. There's nothing funny about that, of course...but I'm not here to stand on a soapbox either. There are dozens of anti-alcohol sites and forums that handle the serious side of alcohol abuse quite nicely.

I'm lucky...I've never felt the need to drink to excess (except on rare occasions, when I know I won't be anywhere near large machinery for quite a while). But I have several friends (5 or 6) who did at one time. They're all sober now, having taken the pledge anywhere from ten to twenty years ago.

This post is dedicated to them...

A while back I was listening to an ancient comedy 78, and was surprised to find that it reminded me of a cut I have by comedian Henry Morgan...and there was a Charlie Weaver cut that was related as well...

Mrs. Dugan's Discovery, a story in Irish dialect (in 1908, all minorities were fair game), was written by Ellis Parker Butler, and was published in the August, 1908 issue of Good Housekeeping. There's a reprint of it here: http://www.ellisparkerbutler.info/epb/reading.asp?id=3734 . It's about a lady who finds twelve bottles of champagne in her cellar and decides to dump them, one by one...but as she goes, she drinks one tumblerful from each bottle, with predictable results.
A slightly modified version of the monologue was recorded late in 1916, by Steve Porter:

46199 Steve Porter: Mrs Dugan's Discovery Columbia A-1940
late 1916: Porter, comic monologue.

I was quite amazed...this little record seems to have inspired a few comics.

Mrs. Dugan has to sneak up on the bottles and can only catch one by pretending to ignore it. That reminds me of one of my favorite Robert Benchley stories (The Real Public Enemies)...where inanimate objects take on minds of their own. (In order to open a newspaper to a particular page on the open top deck of a bus, he has to exclaim aloud that he really wants to go to another page entirely, then wrestle with the paper to go to the page he intended to go to in the first place.)

Nearly 35 years later, there's this Henry Morgan cut, recorded sometime in the early 1950s on a 10" Riverside LP, and reissued a few years later on a Judson 45:

Henry Morgan: Twelve Bottles
The similarities astonished me (gosh!).

Finally, a slightly different take on the story...Charlie Weaver (Cliff Arquette) is getting progressively drunker (and sillier) as he waits for his friends to arrive at his New Years Eve party.

Charlie Weaver: Happy New Year, Happy New Year from the 1959 LP Charlie Weaver Sings For His People - Columbia CL 1345
Link killed 2 March 2010 - downloaded 52 times

There...that should holdja for a while. Stay safe and (somewhat) sober, and I'll see you after the holiday.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hei and Aloha!

Here's a recently-found curiosity...a pleasant-sounding Hawaiian side, found in Columbia's Finnish series. According to
http://www.yle.fi/aanilevysto/firs/C16000.htm , a rather comprehensive page dealing with Finnish-American recordings, it dates from 1928. I wonder if the composer, Leo S. Roberts, is the same person who wrote Ching Chong in the 1910s.

109995-1 Hawaijan Yƶ, Valssi Stein-Ostman Orketeri Columbia 3099-F
NYC, 22 or 23 November 1928: Unknown personnel.

I found it particularly interesting that there were little accents played on a vibraphone...fairly early use for that instrument.

The flip side is also rather pleasant, written by Arthur A. Penn (composer of Smilin' Through). To me it sounds like a cross between one of Leroy Shields's melodies for the Hal Roach comedies and maybe a Puccini aria, but translated into Finnish. The vocalist is uncredited.

109997-1 Stein-Ostman Orketeri Ja Laulaja: Aamuinen Koi!
Columbia 3099-F
Same as before.

According to the same website, they also recorded these at the same session:

109994-2 Merenneito-sottiisi
109996-2 Honolulun kuutamo, valssi (Fred Lawrence)

...so there's another Finnish-Hawaiian hybid 78 out there.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Flogging, Blogging...

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I'm very familiar with the McKinney's Cotton Pickers' version of Never Swat a Fly, which features Bill Coty singing the first verse (and some great solos, but we know that!). The two other versions I posted (both from syndicated radio shows of the period) both had an extra verse I was unfamiliar with.

I wondered just how many verses to this song there really were, so I checked some of the song lyric sites on the Web. I noticed that all of the sites that mentioned the second verse (apparently there's a version by the Abe Lyman band that has the second verse, but I don't have it) all have these lines:

Never spray a nit
With a great big can of Blitz

Blitz? What's that? Lightning in a can? I know Blatz Beer, but not Blitz (although I heard there was a Blitz beer in Washington State at one time). I'm sure the lyric in question is really about a can of Flit, a permethrin-based insecticide made by Standard Oil. It makes far more sense to me. And 1930 (the year of the song) is about two years into a long-running advertising campaign for Flit, featuring the artwork of Theodore Geisel, alias Dr. Seuss. You can see more Flitwork here:
http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dsads/flit/index.shtml .

Anyway, I wondered how someone might confuse the "F" and "B" sounds...to these ears there's quite a bit of difference. And then I remembered the controversy over Eddy Duchin's 1938 Ol' Man Mose...the record was banned in the UK for the supposed use of a naughty word. The granddaddy of all naughty words, actually. The Dreaded Effenheimer.

Patricia Norman sings that Mose is dead and has kicked the buck, buck bucket. But there are indeed moments in the record that it sounds like she's singing...er...something else. Does she? I'll leave the verdict up to you.

For what it's worth, the author of the Wikipedia entry on Duchin thinks she does. He also says that's the earliest use of the word on record...he's obviously never heard Lucille Bogan's 1935 record of Shave 'Em Dry. If you haven't heard it, it's something else indeed...absolutely filthy lyrics backed by some great blues piano (played by Walter Roland) You can find that cut here:
http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2006/03/smut_mp3s.html .

{Now there's a recently issued CD by Archeophone, Actionable Offenses, containing cylinder recordings from the 1890s that are guaranteed to raise eyebrows. That can be found here
http://www.archeophone.com/product_info.php?products_id=90 . Oh yes...two good friends of mine worked on that project...they know who they are. Glad to see the album selling as well as it is, guys!}

I guess that if you were recording at 78 rpm, in addition to watching your p's and q's, you had to really watch your b's and f's.

It occurred to me that Ol' Man Mose is considerably hotter than the usual pleasant, if somewhat bland, style of society dance music that Duchin usually performed. The flip side, Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, is pretty hot too. http://www.box.net/shared/4at2crqhnm


Now for some unfinished business: That weird-sounding short audio excerpt at the end of my last post was recorded in Bucharest in 1930. It was part of that Brunswick Radio stash I mentioned before. Did anybody hear the cymbalom in the background? That was a little clue for the recording's location...if someone mentioned Hungary or Vienna (cymbaloms are sometimes found there too) I'd have given him an Honorable Mention (and a Komodo Dragon). Those sandwiches will have to age a little longer...until someone answers one of my quiz questions correctly. I hope the winner is another fan of Bob & Ray.

Here's the recording again, but with the spoken intro by Vincent Sheehan, host of the Plymouth World Tour show. http://www.box.net/shared/juru3xpdc1