Monthly Archives: April 2014

Thank you, Sister Monica Joan

JENNY
The older I have become, the more I have become a sensitive, sentimental, soppy emotional basket-case. I can get teary-eyed with little or no provocation these days. A case in point occurred recently as I was watching the PBS series entitled, Call the Midwife. The series is a warm-hearted BBC drama based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth (called Jenny Lee in the show) and the work of midwives and the nuns of Nonnatus House, a nursing convent, part of an Anglican religious order, coping with the medical problems in the deprived Poplar district of London’s desperately poor East End in the 1950s, the same period that this blog celebrates with its music.

I must admit the show has a habit of opening my tear ducts. It is also capable of springing real surprises – and it did so in abundance in a recent episode because it not only opened my tear ducts, but also gave me a pleasant surprise. It was a serendipitous moment to say the least.

Never mind the plot – the unexpected surprise for me came when Jenny Lee (played beautifully by Jessica Raine), a pretty, prim, proper, and prissy midwife with perfectly permed dark hair was leaving Nonnatus House in a black cab and Sister Monica Joan came forward to bid her farewell.

Now in her nineties, Sister Monica Joan (played with perfection by Judy Parfitt) is a retired nun who lives full-time at Nonnatus House, cared for by her fellow sisters. She has an eccentric, mercurial personality, and is obsessed with cake, astrology and knitting, in no particular order. It is never entirely clear how much of Sister Monica Joan’s eccentricity is due to the frailty of age, or (as Jenny suspects) sheer wilful naughtiness. She is a well-read woman with a singularly well-furnished mind, but, now in its failing state, her mind is more of a disordered warehouse than of a well-ordered store. The result is that one never knows what will begin in her mind and end up coming out of her mouth. In bidding Jenny a tearful farewell, she reached back into that chaotic storeroom of hers and came out with this:
Jenny kiss’d me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!

Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss’d me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss’d me.

I must confess that Sister Monica Joan nearly broke my heart with that quote. She may be somewhat batty, but generally she is brilliantly astute and relevant and strangely enough, she comforts the person involved.

Nurse Jenny Lee is flanked by Sister Julienne on her right and Sister Monica Joan on her left in a scene from Call the Midwife

Nurse Jenny Lee is flanked by Sister Julienne on her right and Sister Monica Joan on her left in a scene from Call the Midwife


What a delightful surprise that those words should turn up in such an unlikely context. Those are the words of James Henry Leigh Hunt (best known as Leigh Hunt), an English critic, essayist, poet and writer. “Jenny Kissed Me” is one of Hunt’s most popular poems and celebrates a happy encounter with Jane Welsh Carlyle, whose nickname was “Jenny.” One of the stories behind the poem is that during one winter Hunt was sick with influenza and absent for so long that when he finally recovered and went to visit the Carlyles, Jane (Jenny) jumped up and kissed him as soon as he appeared at the door. Two days later one of the Hunt servants delivered a note addressed, “From Mr. Hunt to Mrs. Carlyle.” It contained the poem, “Jenny Kissed Me.” The poem was first published in November 1838 in the Monthly Chronicle.

The poem, “Jenny Kissed Me” has been described variously as whimsical, charming, simple, and unaffected. Many readers encounter it for the first time during their school-age years and remember it all their lives. I know that is what happened to me and I have loved that poem ever since. Numerous girls have been named “Jenny” as a result of the fond memory of the poem. The insightful ending to “Jenny Kissed Me” invariably brings a smile to the reader’s face.

In 1947, a version of the poem was sung by The Delta Rhythm Boys with music by Charles Green and Jordan Smith. In the 1950s, the poem was set again to music by Sid Tapper and Roy Brodsky. Both Eddie Albert and Guy Mitchell made recordings of this version of the song. None of these versions ever made it on the Billboard charts, but they were typical of the period.

Still another version was written by Eric Barnum especially for a cappella choirs. I have included each of these versions.

THE RECORDINGS

JENNY KISSED ME

The Delta Rhythm Boys
Eddie Albert
Guy Mitchell
Baylor A Cappella Choir

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CARPE DIEM

again2
Again is a popular song of the 1940s, written by Lionel Newman, with words by Dorcas Cochran. It first appeared in the movie Road House (1948), sung by none other than the female lead, Ida Lupino. In the film, Lily Stevens (Lupino) plays a sultry, tough-talking, thirty-ish, chain-smoking chanteuse from Chicago who has spent too many nights in an atmosphere of stale cigarette smoke and beer-guzzling – but she gets to croon Again, the torch song for which this film is famous. Susie Smith (Celeste Holm), the cashier at the road house says of Lily, “She does more without a voice than anyone I’ve ever heard.” And she is right. Lupino did all of her own singing. There was no dubbing of her singing as there had been in her previous film Escape Me Never.

Ida Lupino sings Again in the 1943 film, Road House

Ida Lupino sings Again in the 1943 film, Road House

Lupino knew she could sell a song and so did the studio’s musical director, Lionel Newman. He would compose two numbers for her in the film, The Right Kind (lyrics by Don George and Charles Henderson), and Again (lyrics by Dorcas Cochran). Lily’s road house debut would start off with the already popular hit from 1943, One For My Baby by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. The song had been written for Fred Astaire and was introduced by Astaire in The Sky’s the Limit. A year prior to the release of Road House, Frank Sinatra put out the first of his four recordings of One For My Baby, thereby corralling the blue and moody tune as “a man’s song.” That is, until Ida Lupino took a crack at it. Again is the perfect follow-up song to One For My Baby.

Sorry, there is no recording of Again by Ida Lupino, which is a shame. If you want to hear her rendition of the song, watch the 1948 film, Road House. It is currently available on DVD.

The song says it all. Don’t let great moments pass you by, write them down or take a picture for they will never happen again.
THE LYRICS

Again
Words by Dorcas Cochran
Music by Lionel Newman

Again, this couldn’t happen again.
This is that once-in-a-lifetime, this is the thrill divine.

What’s more, this never happened before,
Though I have prayed for a lifetime,
That such as you would suddenly be mine.
Mine to hold as I’m holding you now, and yet, never so near,
Mine to have when the now and the here disappear,
What matters, dear,
For when this doesn’t happen again.
We’ll have this moment forever, but never, never again.

By 1949, versions by Vic Damone, Doris Day, Tommy Dorsey, Gordon Jenkins, Vera Lynn, Art Mooney, and Mel Tormé all made the Billboard charts.

An instrumental rendition was used in the film, Pickup on South Street (1953).

THE RECORDINGS

(To listen to a song, please click on the arrow)

Doris Day (John Rarig and his Orchestra; backing vocals: The Mellowmen)
Gordon Jenkins and His Orchestra (vocals by Joe Graydon and mixed chorus)
Mel Tormé (Sonny Burke’s Orchestra)
Vic Damone (Glenn Osser and his Orchestra)
Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra (vocals by Marcy Lutes)
Art Mooney and his Orchestra (vocals: Johnny Martin, Madelyn Russell, Art Mooney Choir)
Vera Lynn (Bruce Campbell’s Orchestra)
Instrumental selection from Pickup on South Street (Lionel Newman and the 20th Century-Fox Orchestra)
AGAIN8

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Adieu, Ciao, Sayonara, Auf Wiedersehen – In any language, it is still “Goodbye”

adios2

The song Adios was written by Eddie Woods, set to music penned by Enric Madriguera and was first released by Tony Pastor & His Orchestra in 1941. In that same year, Glenn Miller and his Orchestra recorded a hit version of the song. As far as the Billboard charts are concerned, the song did not surface again until 1952 when Gisele MacKenzie recorded the song, backed by Buddy Cole and his Orchestra.

The song tells of the anguish of saying “Adios” – goodbye. The person leaving (it could be either a man or a woman) speaks of the fond memories of what used to be in their relationship. At he end of the song, there is a note of hope that the person who left and said “Adios” will return and there will be no more goodbyes.

Enric (sometimes Enrique) Madriguera wrote the music for the song. He was a violinist of Catalan origin who was playing concerts as a child before he studied at the Barcelona Conservatory. In the late 1920s, Madriguera played in Ben Selvin’s studio orchestra at Columbia Records in New York, and served briefly as that company’s director of Latin music recording. In 1932, he began his own orchestra at the Biltmore Hotel, which recorded for Columbia until 1934. His music at this period was mostly Anglo-American dance or foxtrot, frequently jazz-inflected, although he had a modest hit with his rumba rendition of Carioca (1934). By the 1940s, he was recording Latin American music almost exclusively. (His composition Adios became a national hit in 1941.) Madriguera appeared in a number of “musical shorts” including Enric Madriguera and his Orchestra in 1946 where he performed a number of songs including some that featured his vocalist-wife Patricia Gilmore.
adios3

LYRICS

Adios
Words by Eddie Woods
Music by Enric Madriguera

Adios, in leaving you, it grieves me to say adios,
I’ll be so lonely, for you only
I sigh and cry my adios,
Adios to you.

And in this heart, is mem’ry of what used to be
Dear, for you and me set apart
Moon watching and waiting above
Soon it will be blessing our love.

Adios for happy endings I’ll return, dear to you
With a love true, no more bid you adios.

CHARTED RECORDINGS

Glenn Miller and His Orchestra (instrumental version, charted in 1941 and again in 1948)
Gisele MacKenzie (Buddy Cole Orchestra –Buddy Cole, organ solo)

OTHER POPULAR VERSIONS

Enric Madriguera and His Orchestra
Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra
Stan Kenton and His Orchestra (vocals by Jerri Winters)
Billy May and his Orchestra
Esquivel and his Orchestra
Don Costa and His Orchestra
Paul Weston and His Orchestra
Carmen Cavallaro
Julie London (Ernie Freeman and His Orchestra)
Rosemary Clooney and Perez Prado Orchestra
The Andrews Sisters (Skip Martin and His Orchestra)

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The River is Wide and Deep

missouri8
The line, “The river is deep and the river is wide, hallelujah!” is from Michael, Row The Boat Ashore, originally, a Negro spiritual first noted during the American Civil War at Saint Helena Island, one of the Sea Islands of South Carolina, but those words could just as easily refer to another song.

That other song is entitled Across the Wide Missouri (also called Oh Shenandoah or simply Shenandoah) is a song of uncertain origin, dating at least to the early nineteenth century. Shenandoah was first printed as part of William L. Alden’s article “Sailor Songs,” in the July 1882 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.

The song had become popular as a sea chanty with sailors by the 1880s. Sea Songs and Shanties, Collected by W.B. Whall, Master Mariner (First edition in November 1910), states that the song probably originated from American or Canadian “voyageurs,” who were great singers. Thomas Moore drew inspiration from them in his Canadian Boat Song. The author goes on further and states that he heard the song sung over fifty years prior to publishing the book, which places its origin at least a fair bit earlier than 1860. Besides sung at sea, this song figured in old public school collections.

Alfred Mason Williams’ 1895 Studies in Folk-song and Popular Poetry called it a “good specimen of a bowline chant.” One popularly accepted explanation, taken from a 1931 book on sea and river chanteys entitled Capstan Bars, the author, David Bone has the song’s origins in Virginia. Bone maintains that Oh Shenandoah originated as a river shanty song and became popular with crews on sea faring vessels in the 1800s, and is basically a boatman’s song.

George Caleb Bingham immortalized the jolly flatboatmen who plied the Missouri River in the early nineteenth century. These same flatboatmen were known for their chanties, including the lovely Oh Shenandoah. This boatmen’s song found its way down the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to the American clipper ships, and thus around the world.

The Jolly Flatboatmen (1846) by George Caleb Bingham

The Jolly Flatboatmen (1846)
by George Caleb Bingham


Another feasible explanation is that Oh Shenandoah originated with Scot-Irish settlers and the lyrics referred to their term of confinement as indentured servants. “The seven (long) years” mentioned in most lyrics was the common term of indenture servitude in early America. Over the years, the song has been known by different titles including, Shennydore, The Wide Missouri, Across The Wide Missouri, The Wild Missourye, The World of Misery, Solid Fas, Rolling River and Oh Shenandoah.

The song was featured in the 1951 film Across the Wide Missouri, based on historian Bernard DeVoto’s book, Across the Wide Missouri. The film dramatizes an account of several fur traders and their interaction with the Native Americans. The song was also heard as a part of a medley in the 1962 Cinerama film, How the West Was Won and was prominent in the soundtrack of the 1965 movie, Shenandoah, starring James Stewart.

There are many sets of lyrics. Some lyrics tell the story of a roving trader in love with the daughter of an Indian chief; in this interpretation, the rover tells the chief of his intent to take the girl with him far to the west, across the Missouri River. Other interpretations tell of a pioneer’s nostalgia for the Shenandoah River Valley in Virginia, or of a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War, dreaming of his country home in Virginia. The song is also associated with escaped slaves. They were said to sing the song in gratitude because the river allowed their scent to be lost.

While the origin of the song is unclear, in the 1950s, writing credits were given to Erwin Drake and Jimmy Shirl and it was their version that charted for both the Paul Weston and Hugo Winterhalter recordings.

Here are the lyrics that are associated with versions of the song from the 1950s.

THE LYRICS

ACROSS THE WIDE MISSOURI (1950)
Words and music by Erwin Drake and Jimmy Shirl

Oh, Shenandoah’s my native valley.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah is my native valley.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah, it’s far I wander.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah, it’s far I wander.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah has rushing waters.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah has rushing waters.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah, I love your daughters.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah, I love your daughters.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah, I long to see you.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah, I’m boun’ t’ leave you.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah, I’m boun’ t’ leave you.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah, I’ll never grieve you.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah, I’ll never grieve you.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Another version of the song

My lady love she stands a waitin’ far across the wide Missouri
On the banks I hear her calling to me
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri.

For seven years I’ve been a roamin’ seven years I led the valley
Now I live just for my true love to see
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri.

I’m pushin’ off when dawn is breaking goin’ cross the wide Missouri
Where my love she stands a waitin’ for me
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri. (a ro la lee)…

By the 1950s and 1960s, Across The Wide Missouri or Shenandoah was solidly anchored in the American music culture. Two recordings made the Billboard charts in 1951. Both recordings were released under the title Across The Wide Missouri. The recording by Paul Weston and his Orchestra, with the Norman Luboff Choir reached number nineteen on the Billboard charts and following close behind at number twenty-one was a recording by Hugo Winterhalter’s Orchestra and Chorus, with the vocal refrain by Stuart Foster.

Others groups during the Folk Music Revival of the 1960s, such as The Weavers, The Kingston Trio and the Brothers Four, wrote their popular versions of the song and included the song in their albums and concerts.

More recently, Bruce Springsteen released yet another version of Shenandoah on his 2006 album, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. The listener cannot help but feel the energy of the song as Springsteen brings the song to climax and the music begins its fade to the soft chords at the end.

Whatever the origins of the song may be, the song has the distinct feeling of pure Americana.
missouri7

THE RECORDINGS
Click on arrow to hear the song
Paul Weston and His Orchestra (vocals by The Norman Luboff Choir)
Hugo Winterhalter, His Orchestra and Chorus (vocals by Stuart Foster)
OTHER RECORDINGS (NON-CHARTING)
Ray Price
The Kingston Trio
The Weavers
Harry Belafonte
John McDermott
The Robert Shaw Chorale
How the West Was Won (film)
Across the Wide Missouri (film)

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Almost Remembering the Alamo

ALAMO
One night in 1946, songwriter Joe Greene was asleep in Los Angeles and had a dream. Greene relates: “I was lying in bed with a broken arm. About two o’clock in the morning, I suddenly woke up – half asleep, half awake – then all of a sudden like a miracle, I saw a picture of the Indian [Native American] in front of the Alamo. I woke up my wife. I could still write with my right hand, so I started writing the melody, and my wife wrote down the lyrics as I told them to her. I finished the song in twenty minutes.”

The song was Across The Alley From The Alamo. The melody is lilting And cheery, but if you stop and think about it, the music hardly goes with the subject matter, which is about a Navaho and a pinto pony whose fate is to be run over one day by a train. It is a musical non-sequitur, but it does capture the droll melancholy that is San Antonio, home of the Alamo.

You might think that only a native San Antonian – a person who has lingered in the shade of the Alamo – could write a song like Across The Alley From The Alamo. Not so. Joe Greene is a native son of Spokane, Washington and a life-time resident of the West Coast. He has never seen the Alamo or ever set foot in Texas. His song was born in an instant and it became a hit almost as fast.

As Greene tells the story, it was just a fluke of luck. He relates: “I had been doing songs for Nat Cole, so the next morning I went to see Nat’s manager, Carlos Gestel. He managed Stan Kenton, Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee. I had three other songs with me that I had written. I’m a pretty good singer, so I sang them. Well, Gastel, he always went by the seat of his pants. He said, ‘Joe, those are pretty good songs, but do you have anything else?’ I told him I had just written a little Western tune. I sang it; he said, ‘Wait a minute,’ picked up the phone and called Mickey Goldsen in New York – he’s a song publisher. I sang it for him over the phone. Mick said, ‘How much advance do you want?’ I named him a four-figure advance. When they dangled a carrot, I knew to grab. He said, ‘Send me a demo.’ That was a Tuesday morning. We called up Tormé, who was in town, and told him to meet us at Eccles Recording Studio at the Pantages Theatre the next morning. Of course, he had been up late that night working, but he met us at nine a.m. and he made the demo. Next we got in touch with Tommy Rockwell, who was in Chicago with the Mills Brothers for a recording session. We played the demo for him over the phone. He said to send the demo special delivery and he’d hold up the recording session. And the rest is history, right?

Well, not quite.

Tommy Rockwell called Greene on Thursday of that same week. Greene could hear the Mills Brothers singing in the background. Another verse was needed for the song. Greene sat down and in about ten minutes wrote the additional verse – a strange set of words about Duz and Lux.

Now, anyone who came of age on Puff The Magic Dragon, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, and Day Tripper knows when a Navaho and a horse are washing beans in soap powder (as in these lyrics), there has to be a hidden meaning. Are we talking about drugs, about some kind if illicit behavior here? Greene says no.

But why Duz and Lux?

“It was just one of those kooky things that happen in this life,” says Greene.

The Mills Brothers version was a hit recording, quickly followed with charting versions by Woody Herman and Stan Kenton.

Joe Green wrote other successful songs, including And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine and Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying. Greene died in 1986 and as far as we know, never saw the Alamo or set foot in Texas.

And it all began with a dream.

THE LYRICS
ACROSS THE ALLEY FROM THE ALAMO
(1946)
Words and music by Joe Greene

Across the alley from the Alamo
Lived a pinto pony and a Navajo
Who sang a sort of Indian “Hi-de-ho”
To the people passin’ by
The pinto spent his time a-swishin’ flies
And the Navajo watched the lazy skies
And very rarely did they ever rest their eyes
On the people passin’ by

One day, they went a walkin’ along the railroad track
They were swishin’ not a-lookin’ Toot! Toot!, they never came back
Oh, across the alley from the Alamo
When the summer sun decides to settle low
A fly sings an Indian “Hi-de-ho”
To the people passing by

Across the alley from the Alamo
Lived a pinto pony and a Navajo
Who used to bake frijoles in cornmeal dough
For the people passing by
They thought that they would make some easy bucks
By washin’ their frijoles in Duz and Lux,
A pair of very conscientious clucks
To the people passin’ by

Then they took this cheap vacation, their shoes were polished bright
No, they never heard the whistle, Toot! Toot! they’re clear out of sight
Oh, across the alley from the Alamo
When the starlight beams its tender glow
The beams go to sleep and then there ain’t no dough
For the people passin’ by

One day, they went a walkin’ along the railroad track
They were swishin’ not a-lookin’ Toot! Toot!, they never came back
Oh, across the alley from the Alamo
When the summer sun decides to settle low
A fly sings an Indian “Hi-de-ho”
To the people passin’ by
Across the alley from the Alamo

THE RECORDINGS

Mills Brothers Across The Alley From The Alamo
Woody Herman and his Orchestra (vocals by Woody Herman, accompanied by The Four Chips) Across The Alley From The Alamo
Stan Kenton and his Orchestra (vocals by June Christy) Across The Alley From The Alamo

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