Monthly Archives: October 2013

Painful Patriotism

Movie poster for Hollywood Canteen

Movie poster for Hollywood Canteen

Many of the songs in 1945 had to do with various aspects of World War Two. Among other things, those songs spoke of the pain of separation, of the desire to be home again, and of the anxious waiting to see a loved one return, exemplified in such songs as I Dream Of You (More Than You Dream I Do), I’ll Wait For You Dear, A Little On The Lonely Side, Saturday Night (Is The Loneliest Night In The Week), Sentimental Journey, He’s Home For A Little While, At Mail Call Today, Put Another Chair At The Table, Stars And Stripes On Iwo Jima, Homesick – That’s All, and Waitin’ For The Train To Come In.

But there was one song that was a little different in its approach than all the rest. It was not a song filled with the pain of loneliness or homesickness or anxiety. No, this song was about a different kind of pain. The song is entitled (I’m Getting) Corns For My Country and is about a young miss who volunteers at the Hollywood Canteen. Because she was so active as a “patriotic jitterbug,” she is not only losing weight, but also getting corns on her toes!

Here is how she explains her plight:
I’m gettin’ corns for my country
At the Hollywood Canteen
The hardest workin’ junior hostess
You’ve ever seen
I’m doin’ my bit down here for Uncle Sam
I’m a patriotic jitterbug
Yeah, yeah, that’s what I am

I’m getting’ corns for my country, you should see the pounds fly
I’m getting’ down the waistline and I don’t even try
I don’t need a DuBarry or a Westmore course
‘Cos my weight’s been taken over by the Army Air Force

We’re not petite as sweet Joan Leslie, but then we never mind
When those GI’s knock the South, we’re glad that we’re the healthy kind
The way those cowboys from the prairie expect us to sashay
I think I’d rather two-step with their horses any day

We’re gettin’ corns for our country, though the goin is tough
When we think we can’t go on, we find we can’t get enough
So if you hear of a soldier, sailor or marine
Tell him to look us up at the Hollywood Canteen

I used to be aesthetic, they say, oh yes I was, really I was
I served the drama, arts and the ballet
But the theatre guild came over and said, “Forget about Pavlova “
Learn to cut a rug, so now we’re jitterbugs

I’m getting’ corns for my country, so I’m really all in
In a week from now we’ll be here with our usual vim
So if you hail from the Bronx, Des Moines or Aberdeen
Come down and ask for us at the Hollywood Canteen

The song was composed by the writing team of Leah Worth, Jean Barry, and Dick Charles, and was introduced in the 1944 film Hollywood Canteen by the Andrews Sisters.

The Andrews Sisters

The Andrews Sisters

There are three references in the song would have been understood when the song was released in 1945, but might need some clarification for us today.

Reference 1: “I don’t need a DuBarry or a Westmore course. . .”
The reference here is to the famous DuBarry Success Courses instituted in 1940 that set the standards for beauty and well-being for women during that era. Women by the thousands either attended the courses at the Richard Hudnut Salon on Fifth Avenue or took the correspondence Success Course at home. From the Success Course, women learned how to become beautiful, successful women no matter what their financial or social status.

The other reference in this line is to Westmore, a name that has been associated with the make-up department in the Hollywood film industry since 1917. Percival (“Perc”) Harry Westmore was a prominent member of the Westmore family of Hollywood make-up artists. He rose to the position of Head of the Warner Brothers make-up department, and with his brothers (Bud, and Wally) founded the studio, The House of Westmore on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. He worked with well-known Hollywood actresses of the period, including Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis and Kay Francis. “Perc” was involved in The House of Westmore beauty product range, and one promotion run by the company gave away copies of Perc Westmore’s Make-up Guide. One such advertisement described Westmore’s achievements as “responsible for the coiffure and make-up of such great stars as Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Merle Oberon, Olivia de Havilland, Brenda Marshall… and at one time or another has worked with practically every great star of Hollywood.”

Bud Westmore is credited on over 450 movies and television shows, including To Kill a Mockingbird, Man of a Thousand Faces, The Andromeda Strain and Creature from the Black Lagoon. For his involvement in Creature from the Black Lagoon , he assisted the designer of the Gill-man, Disney animator Millicent Patrick, though her role was deliberately downplayed and for half a century, Westmore would receive sole credit for the creature’s conception. He was sometimes credited as George Hamilton Westmore. The largest building on the Universal Studios Backlot is named in his honor.

Walter “Wally” James Westmore’s career began with the highly successful Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) in which the transition of Fredric March from Jekyll to Hyde was considered groundbreaking in the field of film make-up. He eventually went on to work on more than 300 films, mostly for Paramount

Perc, Wally and Bud Westmore

Perc, Wally and Bud Westmore

Reference 2: “We’re not petite as sweet Joan Leslie, but then we never mind. . .”
Joan Leslie was born Joan Agnes Theresa Sadie Brodel in Detroit, Michigan. She began performing as a singer at the age of nine as part of a vaudeville act with her two sisters; Betty and Mae Brodel. She later began her Hollywood acting career while still a child, performing under her real name in several movies, beginning with her debut in the MGM movie Camille (1936) with Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor.

The young actress soon signed a contract with Warner Bros. In 1941, Leslie got her first major role in the thriller High Sierra with Humphrey Bogart, playing a crippled girl under her new billing as “Joan Leslie.” She also starred in Sergeant York and The Wagons Roll at Night in that same year. Later in 1942 she appeared as James Cagney’s wife in Yankee Doodle Dandy, and at the age of 18 in 1943, she starred in The Sky’s the Limit with Fred Astaire. In 1946, exhibitors voted her the most promising “star of tomorrow.”

During World War Two, she was a regular volunteer at the Hollywood Canteen, where she danced with servicemen and granted hundreds of autographs. In 1944, she starred with Robert Hutton in the Warner Bros. film Hollywood Canteen. Like most of the Hollywood stars in the film, she played herself, but the fictionalized plot had her falling in love with a soldier (played by Hutton frequenting the canteen.)

Andrea King, Joan Leslie, Robert Hutton, Lynne Baggett and Angela Greene in a scene from Hollywood Canteen

Andrea King, Joan Leslie, Robert Hutton, Lynne Baggett and Angela Greene in a scene from Hollywood Canteen

Reference 3: “I’m gettin’ corns for my country/At the Hollywood Canteen. . .”
The Hollywood Canteen, a former livery stable and nightclub, the Old Barn, was located at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard, off Sunset Boulevard. From 3 October 1942 to 22 November 1945, the Hollywood Canteen served as a club offering food, dancing and entertainment for servicemen and women, usually on their way overseas. Even though the majority of visitors were United States servicemen, the Canteen was open to servicemen of allied countries as well as women in all branches of service. A serviceman’s ticket for admission was his uniform and everything at the Canteen was free of charge.

The driving forces behind the creation of the Hollywood Canteen were actors, Bette Davis and John Garfield, along with Jules Stein, President of Music Corporation of America, who headed up the finance committee. Bette Davis devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to the project and served as its president. The various guilds and unions of the entertainment industry donated the labor and money for the building renovations. The Canteen was operated and staffed completely by volunteers from the entertainment industry. By the time the Canteen opened its doors, over 3,000 stars, players, directors, producers, grips, dancers, musicians, singers, writers, technicians, wardrobe attendants, hair stylists, agents, stand-ins, publicists, secretaries, and allied craftsmen of radio and screen had registered as volunteers.

Jack Carson, Jane Wyman, John Garfield, and Bette Davis in a scene from Hollywood Canteen

Jack Carson, Jane Wyman, John Garfield, and Bette Davis in a scene from Hollywood Canteen

Stars volunteered to wait on tables, cook in the kitchen and clean up. One of the highlights for a serviceman was to dance with one of the many female celebrities volunteering at the Canteen. The other highlight was the entertainment provided by some of Hollywood’s most popular stars, ranging from radio stars to big bands to novelty acts. At the time the Canteen closed its doors in 1945, it had been host to almost three million military servicemen and women. Today, the site of the original Hollywood Canteen is occupied by a parking garage for an office building on Sunset Boulevard. The East Coast counterpart of the Hollywood Canteen was the Stage Door Canteen.

Bette Davis serves a serviceman at the Hollywood Canteen

Bette Davis serves a serviceman at the Hollywood Canteen

By 1944, the Canteen had become so popular that Warner Brothers made a movie entitled Hollywood Canteen. Starring Joan Leslie and Robert Hutton, the film had scores of stars playing themselves. It was directed by Delmer Daves, who also wrote the screenplay. In the film, two soldiers on leave spend three nights at the Hollywood Canteen before returning to active duty in the South Pacific. Slim Green (Robert Hutton) is the one millionth G.I. to enjoy the Canteen, and consequently wins a date with Joan Leslie. The other G.I., Sergeant Nolan (Dane Clark) has the chance to dance with Joan Crawford. Canteen founders Bette Davis and John Garfield give talks on the history of the Canteen. The soldiers enjoy a variety of musical numbers performed by a host of Hollywood stars, and comedians. Many of those doing cameos in the film had previously volunteered to work at the Hollywood Canteen or provide entertainment. They include: The Andrews Sisters, Jack Benny, Joe E. Brown, Eddie Cantor, Kitty Carlisle, Jack Carson, Joan Crawford, Faye Emerson, Sydney Greenstreet, Alan Hale, Sr., Paul Henreid, Joan Leslie, Peter Lorre, Ida Lupino, Dorothy Malone, Dennis Morgan, Janis Paige, Eleanor Parker, Roy Rogers (with Trigger), S.Z. Sakall, Zachary Scott, Alexis Smith, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Wyman, Jimmy Dorsey and The Golden Gate Quartet.

Only one recording of Corns For My Country reached the Billboard charts. That recording was made by the Andrews Sisters, which debuted on 13 January 1945 and peaked at #21. Singer/comedian Cass Daley also recorded the song, but it did not make the charts.

To listen to a version of the song, click on the song title. To download a song, click on the song title, and then right click on Save target as
The Andrews Sisters, Vic Schoen and his Orchestra (I’m Getting) Corns For My Country
Cass Daley, Al Slack and his Orchestra (I’m Getting) Corns for My Country


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An Irish Lullaby. . . Or Maybe Not!

Killarney, Ireland

Killarney, Ireland

Here is a song with an Irish title (Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral), an Irish-descended composer (James Royce Shannon), Irish dialog in the lyrics, and a part of the Songs of Ireland Collection. The song must be Irish. Right?

But wait a minute! While the song has been enduring as a lullaby sung by mothers to their little children and most people consider this tune to be a traditional Irish tune, its origins are quite American!

James Royce Shannon was really James Royce, an American, and Royce is not an Irish name; it is the old form of the English name Rice. Royce/Shannon is a prime example of the use of pseudonyms to make a song more saleable. Shannon, born James Royce in Adrian, Michigan, became one of America’s more prominent actor, composer/lyricists of the Tin Pan Alley era. Royce added Shannon to his name to create a pseudonym for his writing efforts. He organized his own theatrical company and toured the United States and Europe. Shannon also was the drama critic for the Detroit Free Press for several years. His most famous song is Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, written in 1913 for the musical production Shameen Dhu, (Gaelic for “Black-haired Jamie”), produced by Chauncey Olcott, which was staged in New York in 1914 and ran for thirty-two performances. Its story line is set in Ireland in the late 1700s. This Broadway musical was an Irish love story set in Ireland in the late 1700s within the background of Ireland’s struggle to gain freedom from British rule.

James Royce Shannon also wrote the lyrics to The Missouri Waltz in 1916. That song had originally been published by the composer, Frederick Knight Logan in 1914 as a waltz without words. Shannon added the words and the song has since enjoyed the status of a lasting hit, becoming the state song of the State of Missouri and also as a song regularly played by President Harry S. Truman while in the White House.

Does the phrase Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral have any meaning? Various sources state that the word “tooraloo” is an Anglo-Irish word meaning “Goodbye for now! ‘’ll be seeing you.” It may be a variant of “tootle-oo.” The expression can be dated to circa 1910, and it was also used in James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922: “Toraloo,” Lenehan said, “see you later.” The word is also similar to the Australian expression, “too-a-roo.”

Conceivably, the expression “tooraloo” could have nothing to do with “Too Ra Loo Ra,” despite the apparent similarity. It may be just a nonsense word. Certainly, some songs use it this way.

On the other hand, “Goodbye for now” or “See you later” seem like reasonable themeS for a lullaby, in much the same way “rock-a-bye” in Rock-a-bye Baby has this meaning. The main point is that to the extent that “too ra loo ra” has a meaning at all, the connotation is “Goodbye for now.”

The popularity of Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral in the 1940s stems from the success of Bing Crosby’s hit from the Paramount Pictures film, Going My Way in 1944 in which Crosby plays a young, unconventional priest of Irish decent at St. Dominic’s Roman Catholic Church in New York City.

Bing Crosby sings Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral in a scene from Going My Way

Bing Crosby sings Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral in a scene from Going My Way

In the film, a series of events highlight the differences between Father “Chuck” O’Malley (Bing Crosby) and Father Fitzgibbon’s (Barry Fitzgerald) styles, as they deal with events like a parishioner being evicted and a young woman coming to the church having run away from home. The most consequential difference of opinion between the young easy-going priest, O’Malley, and the old curmudgeonly cleric, Fitzgibbon, arises in their handling of the youth of the church, many of whom are consistently getting into trouble with the law in a gang led by Tony Scaponi (Stanley Clements). Father Fitzgibbon is inclined to look the other way, siding with the boys because of their frequent church attendance. Father O’Malley, instead, seeks to make inroads into the boys’ lives, befriending Scaponi and eventually using this connection to convince the boys, against some initial reluctance, to become a church choir. The noise of the practicing choir annoys Father Fitzgibbon, who finally decides to go to the bishop and ask for Father O’Malley to be transferred away. In the course of the conversation, Father Fitzgibbon infers the bishop’s intention to put Father O’Malley in charge of the parish. To avoid an uncomfortable situation, instead of making his initial request, Father Fitzgibbon asks the bishop to put Father O’Malley in charge, and then, resigned to his fate of losing control over the church, he informs Father O’Malley of his new role.

Distressed, Father Fitzgibbon then flees the parish, leading to a search. He returns late at night, and as Father O’Malley puts the older priest to bed, the two begin to bond, discussing Father Fitzgibbon’s long-put-off desire to go to Ireland and see his mother, whom he has not seen in forty-five years, since he left Ireland as a young priest to come to America, and who is now over ninety. Father O’Malley puts the older priest to sleep with an Irish lullaby,Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral.

Here are the lyrics as sung by Chauncey Olcott (1914)
[Verse 1]
Over in Killarney,
Many years ago,
Me Mother sang a song to me
In tones so sweet and low;
Just a simple little ditty,
In her good old Irish way,
And I’d give the world if she could sing
That song to me this day.

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Hush now don’t you cry!
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, That’s an Irish lul-la-by

[Verse 2]
Oft, in dreams I wander
To that cot again.
I feel her arms a-hugging me
As when she held me then.
And I hear her voice a humming
To me as in days of yore,
When she used to rock me fast asleep
Outside the cabin door.

[Repeat chorus]

Please note: Some versions have as many as fifteen verses.

To listen to a version of the song, click on the song title. To download a song, click on the song title, and then right click on Save target as

Chauncey Olcott (1914) Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral
Bing Crosby, John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra (1944) Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral
Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra (Instrumental) (1945) Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral

Kate Smith, Jack Miller and his Orchestra (1946 – did not chart) Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral

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Two-Timed Too Many Times

And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine, a popular song and jazz standard was first published in 1944. The lyrics were written by Joe Greene, with music composition by Stan Kenton and Charles Lawrence.

Probably the best known version of the song was recorded in 1944 by Anita O’Day along with Stan Kenton’s orchestra. A version was also recorded by Ella Fitzgerald the following year.

The song was also performed in part by Lauren Bacall in the 1946 movie The Big Sleep. In the film, the song is played by a band and casually sung by Vivian Rutledge (Lauren Bacall) at a gambling casino while observed by private detective Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart).Some sources state that Bacall (who, incidentally, does her own singing) is accompanied by a group known as The Williams Brothers. I have not been able to verify whether this information is correct or not. I will say that the information is possibly correct because The Williams Brothers were a singing quartet who formed in the mid-1930s and were in Hollywood at the time that The Big Sleep was filmed. (The most famous member of the brothers was Andy Williams, who later went on to have a solo singing career and recorded well into the 1970s.) In 1943,the group was under contract with the MGM studio and appeared in such films as Janie (1944), Kansas City Kitty (1944), Ladies’ Man (1947), and Something in the Wind (1947).They also appeared with Bing Crosby on the hit record Swinging On A Star (1944). Some later accounts alleged that the Lauren Bacall’s singing in The Big Sleep was done by a very young Andy Williams, dubbing for Bacall, but studio memos and production reports make it clear that the singing voice heard in the film is Bacall’s own. If, indeed, the Williams Brothers are the group that sings with Lauren Bacall, their performance in the film is uncredited.
Lauren Bacall sings And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine from The Big Sleep

Lauren Bacall sings And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine from The Big Sleep

The song tells the dark story of a two-timing guy who “indulged in fancy spending” on the ponies, girls, gin, roses, rings, cars, and furs. When his wife complains, he “socked her in the choppers.” This low-life has his come-uppance when one of his girlfriends shoves him in the river, drowning him. The guy has the last word, however. His wife finds out he had no insurance!
The lyrics are as follows:

He would spend it on the ponies
He would spend it on the girls
Buy his mother gin and roses
For her poor old henna’d curls

And when his wife said “Hey now!
What did you get for me?”
He socked her in the choppers
Such a sweet, sweet guy was he!

And her tears flowed like wine
Yes, her tears flowed like wine
She’s a real sad tomato
She’s a busted Valentine
Knows her mama done told her
That her man is darned unkind

How he loved the old race horses
He would bet them every day
One day he caught a winner
And the cabbage wasn’t hay!

He indulged in fancy spending
Ordered rings, cars and furs
But alas, alack
Like a stab in the back
She found out they were not hers!

And her tears flowed like wine
Yes, her tears flowed like wine
She’s a real sad tomato
She’s a busted Valentine
Knows her mama done told her
That her man is darned unkind

He got mixed up with a Maisie
He got mixed up with a Flo
So Flo shoved him in the river
He’ll not get mixed up no more!

His wife then draped herself in black
That showed her figure fine
Then she cussed him out
The two-faced guy
No insurance could she find!

And her tears flowed like wine
Yes, her tears flowed like wine
She’s a real sad tomato
She’s a busted Valentine
Knows her mama done told her
That her man is darned unkind

Stan Kenton and his Orchestra, vocals by Anita O’Day And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine
Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Long and his Orchestra; backing vocals, The Song Spinners And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine

Lauren Bacall (from the soundtrack of The Big Sleep) And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine

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You Talk Too Much

There are several theories as to where the phrase “yada. . .yada” comes from. This phrase is a modern-day equivalent of “blah, blah, blah,” meaning, of course, a disparaging response, indicating that something previously said was predictable, repetitive or tedious.

The earliest of these theories is that the phrase first appeared in the 1947 American musical Allegro by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers contains a song called Yatata, Yatata, Yatata, about cocktail party chatter.

Closely tied to the above idea is the theory that the phrase may be found in an advertisement in an August 1948 edition of the Long Beach Independent: “Yatata … yatata … the talk is all about Chatterbox, Knox’s own little Tomboy Cap with the young, young come-on look!”

Lenny Bruce did use the phrase in his 1961 recording of Father Flotski’s Triumph, a story of a prison riot led by an inmate named Dutch. In the piece, the Warden says: “All right, Dutch. This is the Warden. You’ve got eighteen men down there – prison guards who have served me faithfully. Give up, Dutch, and we’ll meet any reasonable demands your men want… Can you hear me? This is the Warden.” Dutch responds: “Yada, yada, yada, yada, yada, yada, Warden.”

Bruce also used something very like the phrase in his Essential Lenny Bruce in 1967: “They’re no good, the lot of them – ‘Yaddeyahdah’ – They’re animals!”

Still others claim that the term “Yada yad” itself is first found in singer-songwriter Dory Previn’s album Mythical Kings and Iguanas in March 1971, which included the song Yada Yada La Scala:
Yada yada La Scala
yada yada yada yada yada
Let’s stop talking talking talking
wasting precious time
Just a lot of empty noise
that isn’t worth a dime
Words of wonder
words of whether
should we shouldn’t we
be together
Yada yada yada yada yada

Many will point out that the phrase was popularized in the United States in the late 1990s by the TV show Seinfeld, in which it appears as a catchphrase in the Season 8, Episode 19, entitled “The Yada Yada,” originally aired on 24 April 1997. In this episode, the story-line centers around the phrase (in the duplicative “yada yada” form). Since its pop-culture debut, we have added the phrase to our collective lexicon by saying “yada yada yada” when we want to gloss over sexual encounters, avoid incriminating details, or when cutting out parts of a story to get to the punch line. While this theory has some merit, I am certain that I heard the phrase long before the Seinfeld show.

In some quarters, the answer as to the origin of the phrase “yada, yada” is that it came from the word “yatter,” a British word meaning “idle talk, chatter.” I do not believe that many Americans are familiar with the word, but it is at least understandable how “yatter” might become “yada, yada” in British English and then cross the Atlantic in that form, but is it in any way the origin of the term? I doubt it.

There is further a theory that the word “yada” is a Hebrew word that means “to know.” Actually, the word is versatile and has several meanings depending on the context: yada can mean “is dedicating ourselves to a person so we can engage them with our love and affection.” Or yada can mean “understanding the needs of those around us and taking care of them.” Or yada can mean “faithfully living out our covenant relationship with the LORD in every area of our life.”

All of those versions, and including “yada yada,” probably took the lead from existing words meaning incessant talk – yatter, jabber, chatter.

Of all the theories, however, the one that I find most credible is that the words “yada, yada” are American in origin and emerged during or just after the Second World War. The words were preceded by various alternative forms – “ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta,” or “yaddega, yaddega.” I offer as my proof, a song that reached popularity, not in the 1990s, not even in 1947, but in 1945. The song is entitled Ya-Ta-Ta, Ya-Ta-Ta (Talk, Talk, Talk), written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke and was made popular by two recordings: by Judy Garland and Bing Crosby and by Harry James and his Orchestra, with Kitty Kallen handling the vocals.

The Crosby-Garland version of the song is a dialogue between the two. Each, in answer to a question, goes on and on and on and on – until the other says that the only way to stop the incessant talking is to kiss the other person. (Try getting away with that today. But, remember, this was 1945 and things were different, or at least more innocent, then.)

The Harry James version is certainly a nice enough version, but because it is a solo version, it lacks the bantering between the two principals and therefore is not as much fun as the Crosby-Garland rendering.

Judy Garland and Bing Crosby

Judy Garland and Bing Crosby

Here are the lyrics as performed by Garland and Crosby:
Crosby: Love your skimmer Judy, where did you grab it?

Garland: My hat?
Oh Bing, how nice of you to ask me that.
Because there’s a very interesting story
connected with this hat, there really is.
I was walking down the street the other day,
ran into Mllicent Palmer, you know Millicent Palmer,
a very dear friend of mine.

Crosby: How do I get involved?

Garland: Well we walked around the corner for what passes
for a millinery shop and she looked in the window and
saw my hat and said, “that is for you”
I went in, the saleslady put it on my head and I
thought it was a little matronly

Crosby: Time

Garland: oh… now … wait, no wait

Crosby: Cut
When I got my arm around you and we’re going for a walk
Must you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, talk, talk, talk
When we’re sitting close together in a cozy taxi cab
Must you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, gab, gab, gab
Aristotle, mathematics, economics, antique chairs
The classics, the comics, darling, who cares?
There’s a brand new moon this evening and the weather should be fine
If you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, same old line
I’ll politely close your lips with mine

Garland: How’s your golf Bing?

Crosby: My golf? Ho-ho I’m really moving that ball out there, striking it a ton.
I had a sixty-nine Sunday, should have been a sixty-five.
Terrific wind blowing, couldn’t drop a single putt, it was murder

Garland: Oh, I lost my head with this question

Crosby: …and of course the equipment, you just can’t get any golf balls anymore
the actors are hoarding them all…and the caddies, huh, they want an
annuity for eighteen holes. You’ve got to take an option on one to be sure
he’ll show up.

Garland: Cut

Crosby: Sorry

Garland: When the parlor lights are lowered and the family isn’t in
Must you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, chin, chin, chin
When there’s music softly playing and I’m sitting on your lap
Must you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, yap, yap, yap
Forward passes, second baggers, or a jockey who is hot.
Or boxing, or hockey, darling, so what?

Crosby: I’ll attempt some other evening.

Garland: Well you can call for me at nine

Crosby: Calling?
But if you ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, ya-ta-ta, same old line

Garland: What do you mean the same old line?

Crosby: Same line

Garland: You asked me about my hat,
You’ve been standing there for an hour and a half talking your big fat head off

Crosby: I thought….

Crosby: ….about golf

Crosby: I just….

Garland: You didn’t even let me finish my story….

Crosby: I told you what I would do

Garland: Oh darling, let me finish

Crosby: Steady, steady

Garland: Oh

Crosby and Garland: It’s so nice to close your lips with mine.

To listen to a version of the song, click on the song title. To download a song, click on the song title, and then right click on Save target as
Bing Crosby and Judy Garland, Joseph Lilley and his Orchestra Yah-Ta-Ta
Harry James and his Orchestra, vocals by Kitty Kallen Ya-Ta-Ta

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Who Murdered Chlo-e?

Swamp by Aleks Dush

by Aleks Dush

It has always puzzled me why a 1927 show tune would make the Billboard charts in 1945. After all, the song had already charted in 1928 with an elaborate version by Paul Whiteman and his Concert Orchestra. The song in question is Chloe and in 1945, it made the Billboard charts with a version by Spike Jones and his City Slickers. Spike Jones was famous for adding gunshots, bells, whistles and other effects into songs, making them sound crazy. He would also parody songs, (as he does with Chloe) although usually this would consist of singing a song in a different mood, e.g. a happy love song might be sung in a sobbing tone. So this old sentimental song, Chloe was murdered as only Spike Jones could!

I believe that I found an answer – not necessarily the answer – to my question as to why the song became popular in 1945. In my research, I found tucked away on page A-5 of the 7 April 1945 edition of the Lewiston (Maine) Journal Magazine Section, the following short article:

The highly individual playing of Chloe by Spike Jones and his City Slickers, which has been heard only by American men at the battle fronts and never heard or seen by any member of the public, is the highlight of the orchestra’s appearance in Bring On the Girls, the Paramount Technicolor musical starring Veronica Lake, Eddie Bracken, Sonny Tufts, and Marjorie Reynolds.

“Paramount obtained the rights to use the song in the picture and now that Spike Jones and his boys have executed the number in their own arrangement, it will mark the ending of an interesting story.

“Two Christmases ago, Spike and the lads appeared in a “Command Performance” short wave radio program to be heard only by U.S. fighting forces. They chose to play Chloe, burlesquing it all the way through. Merely being heard and not seen, they were a sensation as they sang the interludes, gags and strange sounds. A few recordings were struck off from the program’s transcription for Spike and the boys. They have never recorded it commercially, or used it on any subsequent radio program.

“Signed by Paramount for a stint in Bring On the Girls, Spike brought along his Chloe. A set was built, a routine worked out and the number is comically pictorial as well as auditory.”

Movie poster for Bring On the Girls

Movie poster for Bring On the Girls

Spike Jones recorded the song featuring a vocal by Red Ingle for RCA Victor and the recording debuted on the Billboard charts on 28 April 1945. It seems as though Spike Jones’ version is based on the Paul Whiteman record of Chloe of 1928 and that Red Ingle’s vocal is also a kind of a parody of Austin Young’s on the Whiteman record, with a bit of Ted Lewis thrown in for good measure. (Listen for yourself, as both the Spike Jones and Paul Whiteman’s recording can be heard below by clicking on them.) Another humorously murderous version was cut by singer (?) Leona Anderson in 1957 for her aptly-titled 1957 album, Music to Suffer By. Ms. Anderson, it should be noted here, was from the same vocal school as Mrs. Miller, Florence Foster Jenkins and Mme St Onge. (You haven’t lived until you hear songs murdered, (excuse me – sung) by these fine ladies. Anderson reveled in the limitations of her voice and her publicity proudly proclaimed her as “the World’s Most Horrible Singer.”

Spike Jones lyrics

Someone’s calling

Hello! You don’t say? You don’t say? You don’t say?
Who was it?
He didn’t say.

No reply
nightshade’s falling, hear him sigh

Where are you, you old bat
Empty spaces meet his eyes
Empty arms outstretched
He’s crying
Through the black of night
I’ve gotta go where you are

Whether it’s here, whether it’s thar
I wanna be thar, wherever you are

If it’s wrong or right
I’ve gotta go where you are

Hello, Chloe, waddayouknowy
I just got back from a vaudeville showy

I roam through the dismal swamplands
Searching for you
Cause if you have lost it
Let me be there too (three, four, hup)
And through that smoking flame
I’ve got to go where you are

Thunder or lightning, shower or snow
When I get a call, I’ve gotta go

For no place can be too far
Where you are
Ain’t no chains can bind you
And if you live, I’ll find you
Love is calling me
I’ve got to go where you are

Ain’t no chains can bind you
And if and if you live, ha-ha, I’m gonna find you, my pretty baby
Love is calling me

Hello! You don’t say? You don’t say?
Who was it?
Same guy!

You can see the scene in which the song is performed in the film Bring On the Girls on YouTube.

On a more serious note, Chloe (sometimes spelled Chlo-e) is a 1927 show tune with music by Charles N. Daniels, writing under the pseudonym of “Neil Morét.” and lyrics by Gus Kahn. It is now regarded as a jazz standard.

The show from which the song comes was an Ethel Walters vehicle entitled, Africana. This marked the Broadway debut of Waters, and began her rise to stardom. Produced by Earl Dancer and principally written by Donald Heywood, the show opened on 11 July 1927. Chloe – to which the title is frequently, and usefully, modified, and is used hereafter – may have been placed in this revue as a later addition to the production. Unfortunately, Waters’ never recorded Chloe, and it is not listed among the known songs that she sang in Africana. In 1934, Heywood re-fashioned Africana into an operetta, but it did not include Chloe or any other external number. It closed after just three performances.

Chloe tells a story. The verse is sung by an omniscient narrator, describing the struggle of a lonely character, conducting a long and determined search for a character named “Chloe” in the “dismal swampland.” The searcher then picks up the chorus, with its line of “I got to go where you are,” declaring that “If you live, I’ll find you.”

The score is marked “In a tragic way” and while—owing to its narrative opening — it is not necessarily gender-specific, its range and melodic line suggests that it was designed for a low voice. While its topic hearkens back to the milieu of minstrel-type material, the music is uncharacteristically rich, dark hued, expressive and atypical of the Jazz Age, looking forward to the more muted and reflective sound of depression-era songwriting.

Among serious recordings, the first recording of Chloe was made for Columbia in Los Angeles in September 1927 by singer Douglas Richardson, a vocalist with ties to Charles N. Daniels; it was followed by another Columbia by The Singing Sophomores made in November of 1927. The first female vocal versions of Chloe were made by Valaida Snow and Eva Taylor, and Bessie Brown. The first instrumental recording of Chloe was made by the All-Star Orchestra for Victor, with a vocal chorus by Franklyn Bauer in December 1927. This is identified in the Victor ledgers as “the Fud and Farley Orchestra, directed by Nat Shilkret,” indicating the probable participation of Fud Livingston and Max Farley. Nat Shilkret recorded another arrangement of it for Victor with his Rhyth-Melodists in March 1928.

However, the record that appears to have popularized Chloe is an elaborate 4 minute, 24 second version by the Paul Whiteman Concert Orchestra recorded in 1928 with vocals by Austin Young. The Whiteman version was not the only popular version in 1928. Other 1928 recordings of the song included Bob Haring and the “Colonial Club Orchestra,” the Tracy Brown Orchestra of Chicago with a vocal by Sam Coslow, and Sam Lanin under the name of The Gotham Troubadours. It was also sung on record by Henry “Red” Allen in 1936.

However, instrumental versions far outdistance the vocal ones. The most respected instrumental version is the 1940 recording by Duke Ellington’s Famous Orchestra, featuring solos by Tricky Sam Nanton and Jimmy Blanton; Ellington’s arrangement makes a radical overhaul of Daniels’ harmony, and places the verse after the chorus. Among other notable pre-war instrumental versions of Chloe is Benny Goodman’s from 1937, Art Tatum’s piano solo from 1938 and those by Tommy Dorsey and John Kirby, both from 1940.

After the war, it was recorded by such jazz and R&B artists as Kenny Graham, Sonny Thompson, The Ravens, Charlie Mariano, Cal Tjader, Ray Anthony, and Eddie Heywood.

George Melachrino arranged Chloe for string orchestra; Bunk Johnson – in his last session in 1948 – recorded it in a traditional jazz setting, and Ry Cooder has performed it as a guitar solo. A non-jazz oriented recording of Chloe was made by guitarist Mickey Baker in 1962.

The most well-known vocal version of Chloe is that by Louis Armstrong, who did not record the piece until 1952. Ray Conniff included it with a chorus on his 1965 LP Love Affair and Dinah Shore released her version that same year.

Traditional lyrics

Chloe! Chloe!
Someone’s calling, no reply
Nightshade’s falling, hear him sigh
Chloe! Chloe!

Empty spaces in his eyes
Empty arms outstretched, he’s crying

Through the black of night
I’ve got to go where you are
If it’s dark or bright
I’ve got to go where you are

I’ll go through the dismal swampland
Searching for you
For if you are lost there
Let me be there too

Through the smoke and flame
I’ve got to go where you are
For no ways can be too far
Where you are

Ain’t no chains can bind you
If you live, I’ll find you
Love is calling me
I’ve got to go where you are

In order to hear how Chloe has evolved, I have arranged the recordings as best as I can determine in chronological order. To listen to a version of the song, click on the song title. To download a song, right click on the song title, and then right click on Save target as

Chloe (the 1945 charted version)
Spike Jones and his City Slickers, vocals by Red Ingle Chloe

Chloe (all the above versions listed chronologically)
1927 The Singing Sophomores (Male Quintet with Piano) Chloe
1927 Harold “Scrappy” Lambert, orchestra unidentified Chloe
1927 All-Star Orchestra, vocals by Franklyn Bauer Chloe
1928 Eva Taylor Chloe
1928 “The Original” Bessie Brown Chloe
1928 Shilkert’s Rhythm-Melodists (organ solo by Fats Waller) Chloe
1928 Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orchestra, vocals by Austin Young Chloe
1928 The Colonial Club Orchestra, vocals by Bob Haring Chloe
1928 Tracy-Brown’s Orchestra, vocals by Sam Coslow Chloe
1928 Sam Lanin (The Gotham Troubadours), vocals by Irving Kaufman Chloe
1936 Henry “Red” Allen and his Orchestra Chloe
1937 Valaida Snow (The Queen of the Trumpet) Chloe
1937 Benny Goodman and his Orchestra Chloe
1938 Art Tatum Chloe
1940 Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra Chloe
1940 Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra Chloe
1940 John Kirby and his Orchestra Chloe
1948 Bunk Johnson Chloe
1951 Kenny Graham Afro-Cubists Chloe
1952 Louis Armstrong, with Gordon Jenkins, his Chorus and Orchestra Chloe
1952 Sonny Thompson Chloe
1952 The Ravens Chloe
1954 Charlie Mariano Chloe
1955 Cal Tjader Mambo Quintet Chloe
1955 Ray Anthony and his Orchestra Chloe
1956 Eddie Heywood Chloe
1957 Leona Anderson Chloe
1962 Mickey Baker Chloe
1965 Ray Conniff and the Singers Chloe
1965 Dinah Shore Chloe
Date unknown George Melachrino and his Orchestra Chloe
Date unknown Ry Cooder Chloe

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For Me – For You

That’s For Me was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II and included in the 1945 version of the musical film State Fair.(See my blog for 9 October entitled “Melancholy Spring Fever” for more on State Fair.) In the 1945 version of the film, Vivian Blaine sings the song. In the 1962 version, many of the original songs were given to different characters. In this case, instead of Blaine’s character singing the song, the song is sung by Pat Boone, portraying Wayne Frake.

Vivian Blaine in a scene from State Fair

Vivian Blaine sings That’s For Me in a scene from State Fair

Vivian Blaine portrays Emily Edwards, a beautiful red-haired singer of a band performing at the fair, who attracts the attention of Iowan farm boy Wayne Frake, played by Dick Haymes. They fall madly for each other, only for Wayne to find out in the end that Emily is married. Wayne does not know that she is married when he first meets Emily. He actually learns that her husband has left her and that the marriage has been on the rocks for a year. Wayne, however, goes back to his old girlfriend in the end and finds happiness. That is how it had to be by 1945 moral standards.

Recordings that charted were made by Jo Stafford, Dick Haymes, and Kay Kyser and his Orchestra.

The recording by Jo Stafford reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart at #4, lasting 4 weeks on the chart. The recording by Dick Haymes reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart and lasted 10 weeks on the chart, peaking at #6. Kay Kyser’s version pulled up the rear, peaking at #12 and remaining on the charts for 2 weeks.

There were several other representative recordings of the song, most notably by Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Artie Shaw.

The song as introduced by Vivian Blaine has the following lyrics:
Right between the eyes
Why the belt that blow I felt this morning
Fate gave me no warning
Great was my surprise

I saw you standing in the sun and you were something to see
I know what I like and I liked what I saw
And I said to myself, “That’s for me.”

A lovely morning, I remarked, and you were quick to agree
You wanted to walk and I nodded my head
As I breathlessly said, “That’s for me.”

I left you standing under stars, the day’s adventures are through
There’s nothing for me but the dream in my heart
And the dream in my heart, that’s for you
Oh my darling, that’s for you

The song is later reprised by Margy and Wayne (Jeanne Crain and Dick Haymes).
A lovely morning I remarked
And you were quick to agree
You wanted to walk and I nodded my head
As I breathlessly said, “That’s for me.”

Margy and Wayne
I left you standing under stars
The day’s adventures are through
There’s nothing for me but the dream in my heart
And the dream in my heart – that’s for you!
Oh, my darling – that’s for you.

Jo Stafford, (unidentified orchestra) That’s For Me
Dick Haymes, Victor Young and his Orchestra That’s For Me
Kay Kyser and his Orchestra, vocals by Michael Douglas and The Campus Kids That’s For Me

Doris Day, Les Brown and his Band of Renown That’s For Me
Frank Sinatra, Axel Stordahl and his Orchestra That’s For Me
Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars That’s For Me
Artie Shaw and his Orchestra, vocals by Hal Stevens That’s For Me

State Fair (1945 )
Vivian Blaine That’s For Me
Jeanne Crain (voice dubbed by Louanne Hogan) and Dick Haymes (Reprise) That’s For Me: Reprise

State Fair(1962)
Pat Boone That’s for Me

Sheet music for That's For Me

Sheet music for That’s For Me

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Melancholic Spring Fever

Since Twentieth Century-Fox could not make a film version of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Oklahoma! in 1945 because that particular Broadway musical would remain a “hot ticket item” until near the end of the decade. The production ran for 2,212 performances, finally closing on 29 May 1948. That being the case, the studio did the next best thing. They hired Rodgers and Hammerstein to pen the score for State Fair, Fox’s remake of the non-musical film of Philip Duffield Strong’s 1933 novel, State Fair. Directed by Walter Lang, the film starred Janet Gaynor and Will Rogers in the leads and was an Oscar© nomination for Best Picture in 1933.

Movie poster for State Fair (1933)

Movie poster for State Fair

The 1945 musical remake downplayed the older characters in favor of the younger members of the cast. Set during the annual Iowa State Fair, the story concentrates on the Frake family. Each family member has his own reason for attending the fair: Abel Frake (Charles Winninger) intends to win the blue ribbon with “Blue Boy,” his prize hog. Melissa Frake (Fay Bainter) hopes to defeat her longtime snooty rival in the food contest. She wins when the judges become intoxicated on the alcohol in her entry. Margy Frake (Jeanne Crain) falls in love with fast-talking journalist Pat Gilbert (Dana Andrews), and Wayne Frake (Dick Haymes) woos footloose and fancy-free vocalist Emily Edwards (Vivian Blaine). Even Abel’s prize hog “Blue Boy” perks up when he sees the sow in the next judging pen!
Movie poster for State Fair (1945)

Movie poster for State Fair

Though the film follows the time-honored template of musicals in the 1940s, this musical foreshadows the rest of the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon and demonstrates the undetectable complexity of pure narrative songwriting. The story is simple enough and Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote only six songs for the film. But those six songs were so well placed that no one felt shortchanged. For example, It Might As Well Be Spring is arguably one of the finest songs that Rodgers and Hammerstein ever wrote and it deservedly won the Oscar© for Best Song in 1945. It is a perfect marriage of melodic line and lyric. Just listen to Rodgers’ twitchy melody on Hammerstein’s lyrical line “jumpy as a puppet on a string” and you hear the genius that was Rodgers and Hammerstein.

State Fair may not be one of the all-time great musicals, but it is one of the tenderest and sweetest ones that has ever come to the silver screen. State Fair is the only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical written directly for film rather than for the stage. It is not about spectacle or riches; it is about family and the lives of everyday people. Not much happens in the film, at least not in terms of action, but emotionally, we run through what feels like a lifetime of emotions and every one of them is as sweet and as sincere as the last.

Living the small-time life causes young Margy to yearn for more. She is in a melancholy mood, singing It Might As Well Be Spring, as she packs for the Iowa State Fair. She muses about how the fair will at least give her a break from seeing and doing the same old things every day on the farm. She has the affection of a kind, but extremely boring young man, Harry Ware (Phil Brown) who she is expected to marry one day and live the same life her mother does. Of her life and her boring beau, Margy sings:
The things I used to like
I don’t like anymore.
I want a lot of other things
I’ve never had before.
It’s just like mother says…
I sit around and mope.
Pretending I am wonderful.
And knowing I’m a dope.

I’m as restless as a willow in a windstorm,
I’m as jumpy as a puppet on a string.
I’d say that I had spring fever,
But I know it isn’t spring.

I’m starry-eyed and vaguely discontented
Like a nightingale without a song to sing.
Oh, why should I have spring fever
When it isn’t even spring?

I keep wishing I were somewhere else,
Walking down a strange new street.
Hearing words that I have never heard
From a man I’ve yet to meet.

I’m as busy as a spider spinning daydreams,
I’m as giddy as a baby on a swing.
I haven’t seen a crocus or a rosebud
Or a robin on the wing.
But I feel so gay,
In a melancholy way,
That it might as well be spring,
It might as well be spring.

Reprise I
I keep wishing I were somewhere else
Walking down a strange new street
Hearing words that I have never heard
From a man I’ve yet to meet.

He would be a kind of handsome combination
Of Ronald Coleman, Charles Boyer and Bing…

(Voices or sound-alikes of Coleman, Boyer, and Crosby are heard)

Reprise II
In our air-conditioned, patent leather farmhouse,
On our ultra-modern, scientific farm,
We’ll live in a stream-lined heaven,
And we’ll waste no time on charm!
No geraniums to clutter our veranda,
Nor single little sentimental things,
No Virginia Creepers, nothing useless!

Jeanne Craine in a scene from State Fair (1945)

Jeanne Crain sings It Might As Well Be Spring in a scene from State Fair (1945)

The film helped make the naturally beautiful Jeanne Crain a star. No wonder, what with those very generous close-ups of her singing. While her voice was dubbed by Louanne Hogan, she does a very good job of acting the songs, especially the song that introduces her and her indecisive character, It Might As Well Be Spring.

The film was remade in 1962 with the same title, this time starring Pat Boone, Bobby Darin, Ann-Margret, Tom Ewell, Pamela Tiffin and Alice Faye. While the stage musical, 1933 and 1945 film were set at the Iowa State Fair, the 1962 version was filmed in Dallas, Texas, where the State Fair of Texas takes place every year in Fair Park.

Movie poster for State Fair (1962)

Movie poster for State Fair

Though his writing partner, Oscar Hammerstein II died in 1960, Richard Rodgers wrote additional songs, both the music and the lyrics, for this film version that included Never Say No To A Man, Willing And Eager, This Isn’t Heaven, The Little Things In Texas, and More Than Just A Friend. All of these Richard Rodgers songs are easily forgettable.

But not the original and enduring It Might As Well Be Spring.

Of the recordings of It Might As Well Be Spring, three versions reached the Billboard charts. Dick Haymes, the original Wayne Frake, made the first hit recording of the song, His recording reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on 8 November 1945 and lasted 12 weeks on the chart, peaking at #5.

The recording by Paul Weston/Margaret Whiting reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on 22 November 1945 and lasted 6 weeks on the chart, peaking at #6.

The recording by Sammy Kaye reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on 20 December 1945 and lasted 4 weeks on the chart, peaking at #8.

Through the years, there have been other significant recordings that have contributed to the song being considered a “Standard” in both the pop and the jazz fields. A partial list artists that have produced significant recordings of this song include Shirley Bassey, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone (on her first album entitled The Amazing Nina Simone, Blossom Dearie (in French) on her Blossom Dearie album, Julie Andrews, Ray Conniff and his Orchestra and Chorus, Andy Williams, Jane Monheit, and Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau and his trio.

To listen to a version of the song, click on the song title. To download a song, right click on the song title, and then right click on Save target as
Dick Haymes, Victor Young and his Orchestra It Might As Well Be Spring
Paul Weston and his Orchestra, vocals by Margaret Whiting It Might As Well Be Spring
(Swing and Sway with) Sammy Kaye, vocals by Billy Williams It Might as Well Be Spring

Shirley Bassey It Might As Well Be Spring
Ella Fitzgerald It Might As Well Be Spring
Sarah Vaughan It Might As Well Be Spring
Nina Simone It Might As Well Be Spring
Blossom Dearie (in French) It Might As Well Be Spring
Julie Andrews It Might As Well Be Spring
Ray Conniff and his Orchestra and Chorus It Might As Well Be Spring
Andy Williams It Might as Well Be Spring
Jane Monheit (performs the song as an up-tempo swing waltz on Live at the Rainbow Room) It Might As Well Be Spring
Brad Mehldau and his trio in a version that runs at about 280 beats per minute in a 7-in-a-bar meter. (The shorter version at the same tempo and meter, without improvised solos but with an extended improvised coda on the turnaround is heard here.) It Might As Well Be Spring

From the 1945 soundtrack of State Fair
Jeanne Crain (voice dubbed by Louanne Hogan) It Might As Well Be Spring
Jeanne Crain (voice dubbed by Louanne Hogan: Reprise I) It Might As Well Be Spring: Reprise I
Jeanne Crain (voice dubbed by Louanne Hogan: Reprise II) It Might As Well Be Spring: Reprise II

From the 1962 soundtrack of State Fair
Pamela Tiffin (voice dubbed by Anita Gordon) It Might As Well Be Spring (1962)

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