Si el Señor será tan*

Cover illustration: Two mexican peasants pushing a horse-drawn cart and photo of Les Paul and Mary Ford

Cover illustration: Two mexican peasants pushing a horse-drawn cart and photo of Les Paul and Mary Ford

I have always been taught to say “the Lord Willing” whenever I spoke of future plans in my life. Over the years, I have grown to respect and to repeat the phrase. It is one of those phrases that hits me just about every time I hear it.

Well, it hit me again with the 1955 song Amukiriki, which is Spanish for “The Lord Willing.”

Amukiriki is a melodious little song written by Bob Russell and Jerry Livingston that charted in 1955, reaching the number thirty-eight position. The only charted recording was by Les Paul and Mary Ford. This song was not one of the duo’s greatest hits, certainly nothing like How High The Moon, Bye Bye Blues, The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise, and Vaya Con Dios. The song apparently was used in a film entitled Amukiriki that featured Les Paul and Mary Ford. The film was inspired by the true travel adventure of Senora Adriana de Zola in Baja California, Mexico. (I have not been able to find any other information about this film.)

Les Paul (birth name: Lester William Polsfuss) met country-western singer Iris Colleen Summers in 1945. They began working together in 1948, at which time she adopted the stage name of Mary Ford. They were married in 1949. The songs they recorded featured Mary Ford harmonizing with herself and Les Paul’s multiple guitars. Paul and Ford used the now-universal recording technique known as close miking, a system in which the microphone is less than six inches from the singer’s mouth. This produces a more-intimate, less-reverberant sound than is heard when a singer is one foot or more from the microphone. When implemented using a pressure-gradient (uni- or bi-directional) microphone, it emphasizes low-frequency sounds in the voice due to the microphone’s proximity effect and can give a more relaxed feel because the performer is not working so hard. The result is a singing style that diverged strongly from the unamplified theater-style singing, that was heard in musical comedies of the 1930s and 1940s.

Les Paul had hosted a fifteen-minute radio program, The Les Paul Show on NBC Radio in 1950, featuring his trio (Ford, rhythm player Eddie Stapleton, and himself) and his electronics, recorded from his home and with gentle humor between Paul and Ford bridging musical selections, some of which had already been successful on records, some of which anticipated the couple’s recordings, and many of which presented re-interpretations of such jazz and pop selections as In The Mood, Little Rock Getaway, Brazil and Tiger Rag.

The show also appeared on television a few years later with the same format, but excluding the trio and retitled The Les Paul & Mary Ford Show (also known as Les Paul & Mary Ford at Home) with Vaya Con Dios as the theme song. Sponsored by Warner Lambert’s Listerine mouthwash, it was aired on NBC Television during 1954-1955, and then syndicated until 1960. The show aired five times a day, five days a week for only five minutes (one or two songs) long, and therefore was used as a brief interlude or fill-in in programming schedules. Since Paul created the entire show himself, including audio and video, he maintained the original recordings and was in the process of restoring them to current quality standards until his death in 2009.

During his radio shows, Paul introduced the fictional “Les Paulverizer” device, which multiplies anything fed into it, such as a guitar sound or a voice. It was Paul’s way of explaining how his single guitar could be multiplied to become a group of guitars. The device even became the subject of comedy, with Ford multiplying herself and her vacuum cleaner with it so she could finish the housework faster. Later, Paul created a real Les Paulverizer that he attached to his guitar. The invention allowed Paul to access pre-recorded layers of songs during live performances so he could replicate his recorded sound on stage.

* Si el Señor será tan is Spanish for “If the Lord shall will it so.”

THE LYRICS
Amukiriki (The Lord Willing)
Words and Music by Bob Russell and Jerry Livingston

Amurkriki, amukiriki, amukiriki
The Lord willing I’ll be with you
A distant journey, a safe tomorrow
Amukiriki
Then you’ll hold me as I always want you to

In Mexico, amukiriki is as old as Mexico
And it means the Lord be willing
If the Lord shall will it so
Only then will there be harvest
Only then will rivers flow
No more adios to you
I’ll be close to you
If the Lord shall will it so

So I say “amukiriki”
With you deep inside my heart
Knowing that the Lord be willing
We won’t always be apart
After many purple twilight’s
We will see a morning glow
And I will run to you
Bring the sun to you
If the Lord shall will it so

THE RECORDING

Les Paul and Mary Ford

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Nostalgia For a Lost Love

Autumn-Leaves
The Beatles’ 1965 song Yesterday may be the most recorded song according to The Guinness World Records, but Autumn Leaves has to rank up there pretty high, as evidenced by the number of recordings in this post. And these recordings are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Originally, Autumn Leaves was a 1945 French song entitled Les Feuilles Mortes (literally “The Dead Leaves”) with music by Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma and lyrics by French surrealist poet Jacques Prévert. The Hungarian title is Hulló levelek (“Falling Leaves”).

Movie poster for the film Les Portes de la Nuit

Movie poster for the film Les Portes de la Nuit


The Italian born, French singing idol Yves Montand introduced the song in the 1946 film Les Portes de la Nuit, a gloomy urban drama set in post World War II Paris. Scriptwriter and poet Jacques Prevért and director Marcel Carné had been responsible for a string of films spawning the French “poetic realism,” a genre upon that the American film noir movement was based. Although Les Portes de la Nuit was a commercial failure, it fared much better when released in the United States several years later under the title Gates of the Night.

As the 1940’s waned, so too did the public’s appetite for the Tin Pan Alley style ballad. With decreasing demand for his sophisticated talents, lyricist Johnny Mercer found himself penning words for instrumentals. In the case of Les Feuilles Mortes, Mercer would not have thought twice about renaming what was literally “The Dead Leaves” to “Autumn Leaves.” “The Dead Leaves” may have been an appropriate song title for the somber Les Portes de la Nuit, but it would not do for an American popular song.

Initially the public showed little interest in Autumn Leaves. Jo Stafford was among the first to perform the Mercer version. Autumn Leaves became a pop standard and a jazz standard in both in French and English, both as an instrumental and as a vocal number. There is also a Japanese version called Kareha sung by none other than Nat “King” Cole!

On December 24, 1950, French singer Edith Piaf sang both French and English versions of the song on the radio program The Big Show, hosted by Tallulah Bankhead. The Melachrino Strings recorded an instrumental version of the song in London in August, 1950.

In 1955, however, all that changed. Pianist Roger Williams recorded a million-seller, number-one hit rendition of the song that stayed on the Billboard charts for six months. Williams’ recording is the only piano instrumental to ever reach the number one position on the Billboard chart. Williams’ success opened the door for a second spate of covers by Steve Allen, Mitch Miller, Jackie Gleason, Victor Young, and the Ray Charles Singers. All of these versions charted on Billboard’s chart. These covers would be followed by hundreds of renditions in subsequent decades.

In 1956, Columbia Pictures produced a film entitled Autumn Leaves starring Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson. It is a generally well-reviewed tale of a spinster marrying a young man who has mental problems as a result of his ex-wife’s (Vera Miles) affair with his father (Lorne Green). Nat King Cole once again sang the song (this time in English) during the credits.

Frank Sinatra included a version of the song on his 1956 album Where Are You? Andy Williams released a version of the song on his 1959 album, Lonely Street. Raquel Bitton recorded a version in 2000 that appears on her album Raquel Bitton sings Edith Piaf. Jerry Lee Lewis released a version that is a real surprise. This version is from the unissued Caribou sessions from 1980, produced by Eddie Kilroy while Jerry Lee Lewis was with Elektra. Around forty tracks were taped at the Caribou ranch in Colorado in November and overdubs were made in 1981 and 1982, but no tracks were officially released. Listen to it and see what I mean.

In 1962, Serge Gainsbourg wrote a song entitled La Chanson de Prevert. This is a song about a song, for it is about Les Feuilles Mortes and how its power to revive memories kept dead loves alive. References to Verlaine’s Chanson d’Automne hint at its relation to classical French literature.

Greek-Cypriot recording artist Alexia Vassiliou recorded the song for her first 1996 album, In a Jazz Mood. The song also appears on Iggy Pop’s 2009 album Préliminaires as the opening track. A version by Eva Cassidy is one of the highlights of her seminal live album Live at Blues Alley (1996). The Electronic duo Coldcut recorded a cover of the song for their 1993 album Philosophy, featuring guest vocalist Janis Alexander on vocals.

And finally in the Pop field, British blues/rock guitarist Eric Clapton recorded a cover of Autumn Leaves in 2010.

In the jazz genre, this tune took almost ten years to catch on as a jazz number, and 1957 saw three excellent recordings. There were versions by Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington.

The Ellington version, taken at a very slow tempo, and featuring Ray Nance on violin is a delight. Nance’s violin playing represented almost the total opposite of his trumpet playing, and he is at his soulful best on Autumn Leaves, where he plays an exquisite, emotional solo; he then fills along with vocalist Ozzie Bailey. The album, Ellington Indigos, offered a different, more sentimental side of the Ellington ensemble and has rarely been out-of-print since it was released.

Singer/pianist Patricia Barber mesmerizes with her version of Autumn Leaves. With her rendition, the song is refurbished with a torch singer’s touch.

The 1958 Cannonball Adderley recording of Autumn Leaves has inspired generations of jazz players. The arrangement, commonly credited to Miles Davis (who is also featured on trumpet here) actually comes mostly from Ahmad Jamal. Nonetheless, this is a recording that really caught on. The following year, Bill Evans made his recorded debut with his groundbreaking trio alongside bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. Their version of Autumn Leaves is comparably influential to the Adderley version and offers an essential look at the interplay of these three musicians.

Finally, Autumn Leaves has been included in at least these films: Les Portes de la Nuit (1946, Yves Montand), Autumn Leaves (1956, Nat King Cole), Hey Boy! Hey Girl! (1959, Keely Smith), Addicted to Love (1997, Stephane Grappelli), Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997, Paula Cole), and Sidewalks of New York (2001, Stan Getz)

LYRICS
Autumn Leaves [Les Feuilles Mortes]
Music: Joseph Kosma
French Lyrics: Jacques Prévert
English Lyrics: Johnny Mercer

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

C’est une chanson, qui nous ressemble
Toi tu m’aimais et je t’aimais
Nous vivions tous, les deux ensemble
Toi que m’aimais moi qui t’aimais
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s’aiment
Tout doucement sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable les pas des amants désunis

THE RECORDINGS

1. CHARTED VERSIONS [1955]
Roger Williams
Steve Allen/George Gates
Mitch Miller
Jackie Gleason
Victor Young
Ray Charles Singers

2. OTHER RECORDINGS
Jo Stafford
Nat King Cole [Japanese Version]
Edith Piaf
The Melachrino Strings
Serge Gainsbourg: La Chanson de Prévert
Frank Sinatra
Andy Williams
Raquel Bitton
Jerry Lee Lewis
Alexia Vassiliou
Iggy Pop
Eva Cassidy
Coldcut [Janis Alexander, vocals]
Eric Clapton

3. JAZZ VERSIONS
Cannonball Adderley
Bill Evans Trio
Coleman Hawkins
Dizzy Gillespie
Duke Ellington
Patricia Barber

4. MOVIE VERSIONS
Yves Montand Les Portes de la Nuit (1946)
Nat King Cole Autumn Leaves (1956)
Keely Smith Hey Boy! Hey Girl! (1959)
Stephane Grappelli Addicted to Love (1997)
Paula Cole Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997)
Stan Getz Sidewalks of New York (2001)

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From the Front Door to the Back Door

at my front door2

At My Front Door is a R&B song from 1955 that was popular on both the R&B charts as well as the Pop charts. The song, written by John Moore and Ewart Abner is about a guy waking up one morning to the sound of knocking at his front door. The person knocking on the door is his “crazy little mamma” who had left him. From the lyrics of the song, this was not the first time that she had left and then came back knocking at his door.

The song first appeared on the Billboard R&B charts in 1955 with a recording by the doo-wop group, The El Dorados. The song reached number one on the R&B charts. Pat Boone later did a cover version that charted at number seven on the Pop charts.

The El Dorados were formed in Chicago in 1952, originally as “Pirkle Lee and the Five Stars.” The group was comprised of Pirkle Lee Moses Jr. (lead vocals), Louis Bradley and Arthur Basset (tenors), Jewel Jones (second tenor/baritone), James Maddox and Richard Nickens (both baritone/bass). When Moses Jr. was discharged from the United States Air Force in 1954, they changed their name to The El Dorados.

As the El Dorados, they were signed to a contract with the Vee-Jay Records label and made their first recordings in mid-1954. After a string of unsuccessful singles, they recorded At My Front Door (also known as “Crazy Little Mama”) in 1955, and it rose to number one on the Billboard R&B charts, and number seventeen on the Pop charts. At My Front Door was a landmark of the genre; it had every ingredient, from a simple, catchy theme to first-rate harmonizing and Pirkle Moses’ finest lead. The song featured Al Duricati’s pounding drum rhythm and a rousing sax solo. The so-called “baby talk” pre-finale by Moses Jr. made the record soar even further, and the lyrics about that “crazy little mama” became legendary. The El Dorados did not enjoy sustained success or notoriety and really were not a top-echelon doo wop group.

After Basset and Nickens left the group, they continued to record as a quartet. The original group split up in 1957. Moses stayed in Chicago and formed a new version of The El Dorados with members of another group, The Kool Gents. Meanwhile, Bradley, Jones and Maddox moved to California, and renamed themselves The Tempos.

The label dropped The El Dorados in 1958, and Moses Jr. subsequently toured with a succession of backing vocalists. In 1969, he resuscitated the group name with new members, at the same time as a former member of The Tempos, Johnny Carter, also toured with another set of El Dorados. The two competing groups merged in the late 1970s, and subsequently continued to tour and record as The El Dorados until Moses’ death in 2000.

The El Dorados followed up their hit with an “answer song” entitled Bim Bam Boom. An answer song (or response song) is, as the name suggests, a song (usually a recorded track) made in answer to a previous song, normally by another artist. The concept became widespread in blues and R&B recorded music in the 1930s through 1950s. Answer songs were also extremely popular in country music in the 1950s and 1960s, most often as female responses to an original hit by a male artist. Sometimes an answer record imitated the original very closely and occasionally a hit song would be followed up by the same artist. Some examples of answer songs include It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, written by J. D. “Jay” Miller in 1952 and originally sung by Kitty Wells, was a response to The Wild Side Of Life, made famous that same year by Hank Thompson; That Makes It was Jayne Mansfield’s response to The Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace (1958), suggesting what the girl may have been saying at the other end of the line; Oh Neil! was Carole King’s response to Neil Sedaka’s Oh! Carol (1959); and my personal favorite, the little-known Where’s-A Your House?, Robert Q. Lewis’ response to Rosemary Clooney’s Come On-A My House (1951).

Rather than a song about a “crazy little mama” knocking on the front door in the morning, Bim Bam Boom is a song about someone who looked like “something from the Brookville Zoo” knocking at the guy’s back door about midnight.

THE LYRICS: AT MY FRONT DOOR
At My Front Door
Words and Music by John Moore and Ewart Abner

Crazy little mama come knocking, knocking at my front door door door
Crazy little mama come knocking, knocking at my front door
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking, just like she did before
Woke up this morning with a feeling of despair lookin for my baby and she wasn’t there
Heard someone knocking and much to my surprise
There stood my baby looking in my eyes
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking, just like she did before
If you got a little mama and ya want to keep her neat
Keep your little mama off my street
Same thing will happen like it did before
She’ll come knock, knock, knocking atmy door
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking, just like she did before
If you got a little mama and ya want to keep her neat
Keep your little mama off my street
Same thing will happen like it did before
She’ll come knock, knock, knocking atmy door
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking, just like she did before
Crazy little mama come knocking, knocking at my front door door door
Crazy little mama come knocking, knocking at my front door
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking, just like she did before

If you got a little mama and ya want to keep her neat
Keep your little mama off my street
Same thing will happen like it did before
She’ll come knock, knock, knocking atmy door
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking, just like she did before
Yi yi yi yi yi yi
Crazy little mama come knock, knock, knocking, just like she did before
Oh oh oh oh oooooooooo

THE LYRICS: BIM BAM BOOM
Bim Bam Boom
Words and Music by Jewel Jones

Someone come knocking at my back door
Somewhere along about midnight
Someone come knocking at my back door
Somewhere along about midnight
I wonder, yes I wonder
Yes, I really-really wonder
Who could that someone be

Somewhere along about 11:44
I heard someone knocking at my backdoor
Hurried to the kitchen to look what I could see
Behind a little sleep, I had a fairly good see
Someone come a-knocking at my back door
Just like they did before

She was a foxy little mamma with great big hips
Pretty long hair and ruby red lips
Five feet two and eyes of blue
And knew exactly what to do
She went, bam-bam-bam, boom-boom-boom
Knocking at my back door

No, you’re wrong, I had a ring-side seat
She great big ears and funny little feet
Six feet two, polka dot blue
And she looked like something from the Brookville Zoo
Bam-bam-bam and a-boom-boom-boom
Knocking at my back door
Bam-bam-boom, yeah, bam-bam-boom
Yeah, bam-bam-boom, yeah, bam-bam-boom
Yeah, bam-bam-bam and a-boom-boom-boom
Knocking at my back door

Six feet two, polka dot blue
She looked like something from the Brookville Zoo
Running wild, tried to smile
Her teeth fell out in a little while
Bam-bam-bam and a-boom-boom-boom
Knocking at my back door

(Bam-a-lam-a-lam… aaaaahh)

Bam-bam-boom, yeah, bam-bam-boom
Yeah, bam-bam-boom, yeah, bam-bam-boom
Yeah, bam-bam-bam and a-boom-boom-boom
Knocking at my back door
Oooooh…

THE RECORDINGS

At My Front Door
The El Dorados</strong
Pat Boone
Dee Clark

Bim Bam Boom
The El Dorados

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Goodbye to an Eternal City

Trevi Fountain Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain
Rome, Italy


Arrivederci Roma (English: “Goodbye, Rome”) is the title of a popular Italian song, composed by Renato Ranucci (Renato Rascel), with lyrics by Pietro Garinei and Sandro Giovannini. It was published in 1955 and was featured as part of the soundtrack of the 1958 Italo-American musical film with the same title, released as Seven Hills of Rome in English. In the movie, the song is sung by Mario Lanza, who starred in the film. Carl Sigman wrote the lyrics for the English language version of the movie.

The film tells the story of Marc Revere (Mario Lanza), an American TV singer of Italian heritage who travels to Italy in search of his jet-setting fiancée, Carol Ralston, played by Peggie Castle. Revere moves in with his comical and good-hearted cousin Pepe Bonelli (Renato Rascel), a struggling artist who also befriends a beautiful young girl, Raffaella Marini (Marisa Allasio), whom Revere had met on a train, and who develops a crush on him.

After some difficulty, Revere lands a contract to sing in a fine nightclub, but misses his opening night due to unforeseen circumstances during a date with Carol. A helicopter sequence showcases landmarks of Rome from the air. This would be Lanza’s next-to-last film, for he died a year later on October 7, 1959.

Among the selections that Lanza sings in the film is Arrivederci Roma, performed in the Piazza Navona (and recorded) with a young street urchin, Luisa Di Meo. In typical Lanza fashion, the star had encountered the youngster while in Rome and insisted on her appearing in the film. Lanza also performs a sequence of imitations of famous singers of the era — Perry Como, Frankie Laine, Dean Martin, and Louis Armstrong – performing When The Saints Go Marching In and committing to film what was one of his favorite party performances. Opera selections include “Questa o quella” from Rigoletto

Sigman, who had a great deal of success as an English lyric writer for foreign tunes, had fallen in love with the Italian language during World War Two and always hoped that he would find a way to write a song featuring the word “Arrivederci.” He just loved the sound of that word, and this tune provided the perfect melodic opportunity. When he submitted the finished lyric, he was not surprised that the publisher asked him to change one line. Just about all publishers asked for at least one change, if only to prove that they were paying attention. Knowing this, Sigman usually had a backup line at the ready, and in this case he substituted “City of a million moonlight places” for a line that has been forever lost. The song is not a touristy song, but rather one of the many melodies of those unforgettable ’50s and ’60s in which Rome was by far the most romantic, lively, imaginative and hospitable place on earth.

Arrivederci (or a rivederci), which literally means “until we see each other again,” is a common Italian equivalent of “goodbye.” The original lyrics express the nostalgia of a Roman man for the dinners and short-lived love affairs he had with foreign tourists who came to Rome. It recalls the popular legend associated with the Trevi Fountain.

There is a lesser known version of the song, with the same melody but a new set of English lyrics by Jack Fishman, published in 1955 entitled Arrivederci Darling. Both versions of the song, in Italian and English, enjoyed lasting and widespread success in the following years.

The song charted in 1955 with a recording by (“Her Nibs, Miss”) Georgia Gibbs. The song charted later in the 1950s with versions in 1958 by Roger Williams and Mario Lanza
The most famous version in English of the song was by Perry Como, but it was also recorded by a wave of Italian-American singers, including Vic Damone, Connie Francis, Dean Martin, and Jerry Vale. Many non-Italian-Americans have covered it as well, including Abbe Lane with Tito Puente & His Orchestra, and Percy Faith,

THE LYRICS

Arrivederci Roma (Goodbye to Rome)
Music – Renato Ranucci; English lyrics – Carl Sigman

Arrivederci Roma,
Goodbye, goodbye to Rome.
City of a million moonlit places,
City of a million warm embraces,
Where I found the one of all the faces
Far from home!

Arrivederci Roma,
It’s time for us to part.
Save the wedding bells for my returning,
Keep my lover’s arms outstretched and yearning,
Please be sure the flame of love keeps burning
In her heart!

City of a million moonlit places,
City of a million warm embraces,
Where I found the one of all the faces
Far from home!

Arrivederci Roma,
It’s time for us to part,
Save the wedding bells for my returning,
Keep my lover’s arms outstretched and yearning,
Please be sure the flame of love keeps burning
In her heart!

Arrivederci Roma,
Roma, Roma, Roma …

THE RECORDINGS
Arrivederci Roma
Georgia Gibbs
Mario Lanza
Roger Williams
Vic Damone
Perry Como
Connie Francis
Dean Martin
Jerry Vale
Abbe Lane
Percy Faith
Ray Charles Singers

Arrivederci Darling
Anne Shelton
Edna Savage
Jo Stafford

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Banned in Boston and Everywhere Else For That Matter

While I was researching my last posts for music pertaining to D-Day, I became acutely aware that a significant number of songs were recorded a cappella in 1943. Vocalists such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Dick Haymes were singing without orchestral accompaniment and backed by a vocal chorus. I found out that these recordings were the result of a recording ban by the musicians’ union that began in 1942.

James Caesar Petrillo

James Caesar Petrillo

Why this happened is the subject of this post.

On 1 August 1942, the American Federation of Musicians, at the instigation of union president James Petrillo, called a strike against the major American recording companies because of disagreements over royalty payments. Beginning at midnight, 31 July, no union musician could record for any record company. The strike did not affect musicians performing on live radio shows, in concerts.

Petrillo had long thought that recording companies should pay royalties. When he announced that the recording ban would start at midnight, 31 July 1942, most people thought it would not happen. After all, the United States had just entered World War Two on 8 December 1941 and most newspapers opposed the ban. But by July, it was clear that the ban would indeed take place and record companies began to stockpile new recordings of their big names. In the first two weeks of July, for instance, these performers recorded new material: Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, Charlie Barnet, Jimmy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, and Glenn Miller. Incidentally, in the case of Glenn Miller, these would be his last recordings as a civilian bandleader. By the last week of July, there was a long list of performers cutting records, including Count Basie, Woody Herman, Alvino Ray, Johnny Long, Claude Thornhill, Judy Garland, Glen Gray, Benny Goodman, Kay Kyser, Dinah Shore, Spike Jones, and Duke Ellington, among others.

At first, the record companies could release these new recordings to meet listeners’ needs from their unissued stockpiles, but eventually this supply was exhausted. The companies also re–released deleted records from their back catalogues, including some from as far back as the mid-1920s. One re–release that was especially successful was Columbia’s release of Harry James’ All or Nothing at All, recorded in August 1939 and released before James’ new vocalist, Frank Sinatra, had made a name for himself. The original release carried the usual credit, “Vocal Refrain by Frank Sinatra” in tiny type. It sold about five thousand copies. When the record was re–released in 1943 with Sinatra given top billing, the label read, “Acc. Harry James and his Orchestra” in tiny type below. It was a portent of things to come. The re-released record was on the best–selling list for eighteen weeks and reached the number two slot on the Billboard charts.

As the strike extended into 1943, record companies bypassed the striking musicians by recording their popular vocalists singing with vocal groups filling the backup role normally filled by orchestras.

The strike had an effect on radio shows that used recorded music due to the limited amount of new recordings. Radio programs that relied mainly on records found it difficult to keep introducing new music to their listeners. Martin Block, host of WNEW’s Make Believe Ballroom radio show, circumvented the ban by having friends in England send him versions of records produced in the United Kingdom where the ban was not in effect. He was forced to discontinue this practice after the station’s house orchestra staged a retaliatory strike, which was settled when WNEW agreed not to broadcast records made after 1 August 1942.

Some recording companies did not have an extensive backlog of recordings and they settled with the union after just over a year. Decca Records settled in September, 1943, agreeing to make direct payments to a union-controlled “relief fund,” followed shortly by Capitol Records on 11 October 1943. Capitol had only issued its first records on 1 July 1942, thirty days before the strike began.

Other recording and transcription companies continued to demand that the musician’s union rescind its ban on musicians recording for those companies.
But the union refused to budge, and with competing companies having made new recordings for more than a year, RCA Victor and Columbia finally capitulated, agreeing to substantially similar terms as the other recording companies on 11 November 1944. The end of the strike was not the end of the royalty issue, however. As television was beginning, there were questions regarding musicians and royalties from this new medium, and a similar strike was called for 1948, lasting close to a year, ending on 14 December 1948.

One unexpected result of the strike was the decline of the importance in popular music of the big bands of the 1930s and early 1940s. The strike was not the only cause of this decline, but it emphasized the shift from big bands with an accompanying vocalist to an emphasis on the vocalist, with the exclusion of the band. In the 1930s and pre–strike 1940s, big bands dominated popular music; after the strike, vocalists dominated popular music. Before the strike began, there were signs that the increasing popularity of singers was beginning to reshape the big bands. When Frank Sinatra joined Tommy Dorsey’s band in 1940, most selections started with a Tommy Dorsey trombone solo. By the time Sinatra left the band in 1942, his songs with the band began with his singing, followed by any solos by Dorsey or others.

During the strike, vocalists could and did record without instrumentalists; instrumentalists could not record for the public at all. (Vocalists were not in the union as they were not considered musicians). Until the war, most singers were props. After the war, they became the stars and the role of the bands was gradually subordinated.
The other major cause of the decline of the big bands was World War II itself – and the resulting loss of band members to the military, curtailment of traveling by touring bands because of gasoline rationing, and a shortage of the shellac used to make records.

One more devastating event, that actually predates the AFM ban, also had a tremendously negative impact on big band music and the Big Band era. This was the ASCAP – BMI war of 1941. ASCAP (American Society of Authors, Publishers, and Composers) wanted more money from the radio networks to use their member’s songs. The networks refused and for nearly a year all ASCAP songs were banned from airplay and remote usage. At first the music suffered greatly as BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.,) had nowhere near the list of talented, and well known, composers like the George and Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin and others, as had ASCAP. In addition the networks imposed a “no ad-libbing” rule on broadcast performances! This rule required solos be written out and approved by the networks so no parts of ASCAP songs would seep into improvised solos! The loss in song quality, inspiration, and energy on live broadcasts was noticeable to the public. Then, not long after this obstacle was traversed, came the ill-timed recording ban described above.

Here is a sampling of these recordings made during the recording ban of 1942-1944.
Bing Crosby
If You Please
Oh What A Beautiful Morning
People Will Say We’re In Love
Sunday, Monday Or Always
Perry Como
Goodbye Sue
Have I Stayed Away Too Long
I Love You
Lili Marlene
Long Ago And Far Away
Frank Sinatra
Close To You
I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night
A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening
Oh, What A Beautiful Morning
People Will Say We’re In Love
Sunday, Monday Or Always
You’ll Never Know
Dick Haymes
For The First Time
I Heard You Cried Last Night
I Never Mention Your Name
In My Arms
It Can’t Be Wrong
Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey
Wait For Me, Mary
You’ll Never Know
Dinah Shore
I’ll Walk Alone
Ethel Merman
Move It Over
Ginny Simms
Irresistable You
The Song Spinners
Comin’ In On A Wing And A Prayer
Johnny Zero
The King Sisters
It’s Love, Love, Love
Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet
The Trolley Song
The Four Vagabonds
Comin’ In On A Wing And A Prayer

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The Beginning of the End

US Army troops wade ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944

US Army troops wade ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the Normandy landings during World War Two, also known more familiarly as D-Day. In planning, D-Day was the term used for the day of actual landing, which was dependent on final approval.

On June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a fifty-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” (I have included General Eisenhower’s messages to the troops on D-Day and to the peoples of Western Europe.)

General Eisenhower’s message to the troops
General Eisenhower’s message to the peoples of Western Europe

The assault was conducted in two phases: first, an airborne assault landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and second, an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the coast of France, commencing at 6:30 AM. There were also decoy operations mounted under the codenames “Operation Glimmer” and “Operation Taxable” to distract the German forces from the real landing areas. The landings took place along a fifty-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Normandy. The D-Day cost was high, however. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded – but more than 100,000 soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Adolph Hitler and the war machine of Germany. Though the outcome was by no means a certainty on 6 June 1944, the invasion on D-Day was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.

Since this is a music blog and not a history blog, I began a search to see if there were any songs written about this fateful day. I was able to find a single song written about the event, aptly named D-Day and it was sung by Nat “King” Cole, with the Cole Trio backing him.

Somehow, Cole not only finds a way to make D-Day sound like some hep-cat singing “dee-day,” but also gets across the message of being circumspect and patriotic. In fact, if one strips out the lyrics or ignores the message, what is left is a snappy little swinging jazz number that is both tidy and economic.

It is difficult to believe that this song was about something as brutal as the counterstrike into Europe, seen so graphically portrayed in the opening sequences of Saving Private Ryan.

THE LYRICS
D-DAY
Nat King Cole with the Nat King Cole Trio

You better grab a chair and sit down, Gate, you’re
Gonna hear some news of a military nature.
Relax, while I give you the latest report, sport.

There never was a finer sight
When all our boys were fixed to fight
On D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

We hope they’ll soon be comin’ back;
For now, they’re on a silent track
Till D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

It’ll take more than a weekend,
So let’s be patient and calm.
Cut out that public speakin’,
Or we’ll be the victim of a false alarm.

We got to help – we’re in it, too,
So buy those bonds, and I do mean you,
For D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.
D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

It’ll take more than a weekend,
So let’s be patient and calm.
Cut out that public speakin’,
Or we’ll be the victim of a false alarm.

We got to help – we’re in it, too,
So buy those bonds, and I do mean you,
For D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

D-Day, D-Day, D-Day, D-Day.

THE RECORDING

Nat “King” Cole

OTHER RELATED D-DAY RECORDINGS

Theme from The Longest Day (The D-Day events are told both from the Allied and the German side.)
Theme from Band of Brothers (The film traces a fictional Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division and their mission in World War Two Europe from Operation Overlord (Normandy Landing) through V-J Day.)
Theme from Saving Private Ryan (Soon after the D-day, a small unit of US soldiers are sent on a mission to retrieve Pvt. James Ryan whose four brothers were killed in action.)
Theme from The Big Red One (From North Africa, Sicily, and then on to Omaha Beach at the start of the Battle of Normandy, a sergeant and his men are sent from one battle to another over and over.)
Red Ball Express (The Red Ball Express convoys supply Allied forces after the Normandy Landings on D-Day.)
Theme from Where Eagles Dare (An American general is captured by the Nazis before the Normandy invasion. Fearing he will spill the beans, the British lead a mission to rescue the general before he is forced to reveal the D-Day plans.)

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D-Day Dodgers?

The Commonwealth War Cemetery at Cassino

The Commonwealth War Cemetery at Cassino

As the seventieth anniversary of D-Day approaches tomorrow, our thoughts are naturally drawn to the diminishing band of brothers who made such an important contribution to winning World War Two and thus shaping the modern world, namely, the Normandy veterans, rightly dubbed by Tom Brokaw as “the greatest generation.”

There are members of another group of veterans, however, who will, I suspect, have mixed feelings about the way in which Normandy threatens to scoop the pool of national gratitude. These veterans are the so-called “D-Day Dodgers.”

Never heard of them? Well, here is their story.

Although it was one of the toughest campaigns of the Second World War, the Battle of Monte Cassino, which lasted five months and ended in mid-May 1944, was almost immediately overshadowed by the Allied landings in Normandy two weeks later.

The British and Commonwealth soldiers who fought at Monte Cassino were disparagingly referred to as “D-Day Dodgers,” despite believing that the four successive battles they took part in were easily as gruelling as the liberation of France. Many of them had been continuously in action for a year or more and had fought hard in North Africa.
The infamous remark was reportedly made by American-born Lady Nancy Astor, a society beauty and Great Britain’s first woman MP. Lady Astor’s remarks implied that the troops in Italy were avoiding the “real” war in France, accusing soldiers in Italy of “dodging D-Day.” It was an unwarranted slur.

In actuality, the story of the Allied attack on Monte Cassino, southeast of Rome, and held by the Germans, cost the Allied forces over 300,000 men. As for those who fought there, the British troops who had played such an important part resented the implications of the phrase “D-Day Dodgers.” The French North African troops who battled so well in the mountains around Cassino were never taken to France’s heart as were their comrades of the 2nd Armored Division that liberated Paris. Neither the New Zealanders, nor the equally brave Canadians received quite the praise that they deserved. And few of the gallant Poles who took the dominant monastery at Cassino, were able to go back to Poland after the war.

"When they call us D-day Dodgers - which D-day do they mean, old man?"

“When they call us D-day Dodgers – which D-day do they mean, old man?”


The Italian Campaign certainly cost the Germans more casualties (556,000) than it did the Allies (312,000), and it tied down German divisions that would otherwise have fought elsewhere, some of them no doubt in Normandy, perhaps even on D-Day. It should be remembered that two days before the first Allied soldier came ashore at the Normandy beaches, Allied troops entered Rome. They had already been fighting in Italy for nine long months.

Their story was captured in a song that celebrates the sacrifice of those very brave men who fought and suffered terrible losses in order to liberate Italy from the grip of fascism. In response to the term “D-Day Dodgers,” this song was written and set to the tune of the haunting German wartime song, Lili Marlène, which was well-known to the fighting men.

The song, written by British Lance-Sergeant Harry Pynn of the Tank Rescue Section, 19 Army Fire Brigade, who was with the 79th Division just south of Bologna, Italy, expressed the feelings of those maligned Allied forces who carried out their mission in Italy. Pynn entitled his song, The Ballad of the D-Day Dodgers. There are many variations on the verses and even the chorus, but the song generally and sarcastically refers to how easy their life in Italy was. There was no mention of Lady Astor in the original lyrics, but there are many variations of the lyrics and I include the pertinent verse here .

THE LYRICS
The Ballad Of The D-Day Dodgers
Written by Harry Pynn

We’re the D-Day Dodgers out in Italy,
Always on the vino – always on the spree,
Eighth Army scroungers and their tanks,
We live in Rome, among the Yanks,
We are the D-Day Dodgers way out in Italy,
We are the D-Day Dodgers way out in Italy.

We landed at Salerno, a holiday with pay,
The Jerrys got their bands out to greet us on the way,
Showed us the sights, they gave us tea,
We all sang songs, the beer was free,
To welcome D-Day Dodgers to sunny Italy.

Naples and Casino were taken in our stride,
We didn’t go to fight they just went for the ride,
Anzio and Sangro were just names,
We only went to look for dames,
The artful D-Day Dodgers way out in Italy.

Dear Lady Astor, think you know a lot,
Standing on your platform talking tommyrot,
You’re England’s sweetheart and her pride,
We think your mouth’s too bleeding wide,
That’s from the D-Day Dodgers way out in Italy.

Look around the mountains in the mud and rain,
See the scattered crosses,
Some which have no name,
Heartbreak and time, suffering gone,
The boys beneath them linger on,
They are the D-Day Dodgers who’ll stay in Italy.

I have been able to locate two versions of this all-but-forgotten World War Two song, one by Hamish Imlach and the second by the Ian Campbell Folk Group. Both are included here. (Note: There are more verses and the words differ in places in the Campbell version).

THE RECORDINGS
Hamish Imlach
Ian Campbell Folk Group

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