Monthly Archives: May 2014

Song With a Spelling Lesson

AlbuquerqueNewMexico

A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E was written by bandleader Ralph Flanagan (music) and Herb Hendler (lyrics). It is a fun song to sing with its swing rhythm and refrain, and as an extra bonus, anyone who learns the song also learns how to spell Albuquerque, not a small accomplishment in itself!

It has been reported that Herb Hendler liked the city of Albuquerque and wanted to write a song about it to express how he felt. A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E was the result.

Ralph Flanagan

Ralph Flanagan


The other half of this team was a young arranger by the name of Ralph Flanagan. After serving in the merchant marines during World War Two, Ralph Flanagan became a studio musician for RCA Victor Records in New York and began arranging for such bandleaders as Charlie Barnet, Hal McIntyre, Gene Krupa, Boyd Raeburn and Blue Baron.

During the Glenn Miller revival of the late 1940s and early 1950s, RCA Victor re-issued all sorts of old Miller recordings and airchecks and was looking for new ways to continue the momentum of the Miller popularity. Record producer Herb Hendler hired Flanagan to record some Miller songs for a minor record label. When Hendler later went to work for RCA, Flanagan was working as a staff arranger for the Mitchell Ayers Orchestra that was playing on the Perry Como television show. Hendler suggested to the RCA powers- that-be that Flanagan front a Glenn Miller-type band and make some recordings in the Miller style. Actually, Flanagan had no connection whatsoever with the Miller Orchestra, but Hendler figured that by creating a band that sounded something like Miller’s old civilian band, RCA would either create a popular new band or at least stimulate the sales of old Miller records.

Flanagan wrote some new arrangements and used musicians from the Perry Como Show to record them in 1949. RCA Victor mounted a huge promotional campaign and the records began to sell. Heavy disc jockey play prompted requests for the band to tour ballrooms in the East and Midwest. With that development, however, Hendler found himself with a problem. Despite the popularity of the recordings, there was no actual Ralph Flanagan Orchestra. The orchestra was strictly a pick-up studio band. So, Hendler, with the help of Bernie Woods, formed a touring band.

In March of 1950, with a new, young group of touring musicians, Flanagan set out on the road with his Glenn Miller-sounding band. Propelled by the heavy RCA promotion of the MilIer style records, the ploy worked. The Flanagan band quickly became the most sought-after band in the country. Among the band’s most popular hits were Hot Toddy, The Blues from “An American in Paris,” Joshua, and The Red We Want Is The Red We’ve Got (In the Old Red, White and Blue). The other hit the band had was released in 1953 and is the subject of this post – the novel tribute to New Mexico’s largest city, the aforementioned, A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E. Johnnie Lee Wills also recorded the song in 1953 (a copy of which I have not been able to locate). The song also appears on the CD compilation More Songs Of Route 66, released in 2001, performed by the Country/Western group Asleep at the Wheel (a copy of which I have included even though this recording is beyond the time-frame of my blog: 1945-1955). There are other recorded songs entitled Albuquerque, but they are not this song by Flanagan and Hendler.

THE LYRICS
A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E
Lyrics by Herb Hendler, Music by Ralph Flanagan 1953

A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E Albuquerque, Albuquerque
Gotta go, gotta go back to New Mexico,
Where my true love waits for me.
Gonna go, gonna go to a gal that I know
In A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E
I’m gonna take that old train to a nest in the west
That’s a new address for me
Gonna burn up the track
‘Cause I’m on my way back
To A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E.

Refrain:
Albuquerque, Albuquerque here I come
On the Chi-LA express.
Gotta letter near my heart from my sweetest gal
And that letter near my heart says yes.
I’m the one, I’m the one, I’m the one she loves best
‘Cause she gotta lotta mail from me
I’m the one guy she knew, who knew how to spell
A-L-B-U-Q-U-E-R-Q-U-E.

By the way, one can also sing the name of the city to the Mickey Mouse Song: ALB – UQU – ERQUE. I like how UQU comes out as a measure by itself.

THE RECORDINGS

Ralph Flanagan and His Orchestra [vocals by Ralph Flanagan and the Singing Winds]
Asleep at the Wheel

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Nights Down in Old Alabam’

one step

Alabama Jubilee is a song written by George L. Cobb and Jack Yellen. The song is a popular marching band song, and when accompanied by the lyrics, the song describes a musical party in the South (hence, Alabama Jubilee)

The first known recording was that of comedy team of Arthur Collins and Byron G. Harlan in 1915. The song is considered an American popular standard. The most popular versions of the song were by Red Foley in 1951 and the 1955 instrumental version by the Ferko String Band. Other versions of the song during the period covered by this blog include: Muggsy Spanier, The Fontane Sisters, Hank Penny, Chet Atkins, Firehouse Five Plus Two, The Dukes of Dixieland, and Teresa Brewer and the Dixieland Band. Today, the song is usually recorded as an instrumental piece. The 1915 lyrics to Alabama Jubilee are an embarrassment to us now, as are many of the old popular songs. Thankfully, we have moved away from such songs that use racial terms such as “Aunt Jemima” and “darkies,” both of which are used in Alabama Jubilee.

THE LYRICS
Alabama Jubilee
One Step: George L. Cobb and Jack Yellen
(The One-Step is said to be of American origin and is a very simple and easily dance to learn and to perform. Many of the dances of the day (1910s) such as the Turkey Trot and Grizzly Bear steps were modified to fit the one step, sometimes called the Walking Step and the Collegiate Foxtrot was basically a One Step as well. The American One-Step is said to be done in Dog Trot Style (dancing on the balls of feet) and was mixed with the above dances. The One-Step eventually gave way to the ORIGINAL Quick-Step as they were originally pretty much the same dance.)

You ought to see deacon Jones
When he rattles the bones,
Old parson Brown foolin’ ‘roun like a clown,
Aunt Jemima who is past eighty three,
Shoutin’ “I’m full o’ pep!
Watch yo’ step!, watch yo’ step!
One legged Joe danced aroun’ on his toe,
Threw away his crutch and hollered, “let ‘er go!”
Oh, honey, hail! hail! the gang’s all here
For an Alabama jubilee

Mandolins, violins,
Hear the darkies tunin’ up, the fun begins,
Come this way, don’t delay,
Better hurry, honey dear, or you’ll be missin’
Music sweet, rag-time treat,
Goes right to your head and trickles to your feet,
It’s a reminder, a memory finder
Of nights down in old Alabam’.

Hear that flute, it’s a beaut,
And the tunes it’s tootin’, tootsie, ain’t they cute?
Let’s begin, it’s a sin,
To be missin’ all this syncopated music!
Oh, you Jane, once again
Give your legs some exercise to that refrain,
Boy, that’s what makes me so dreamy and takes me
Back home to my old Alabam’.

THE RECORDINGS:
Arthur Collins and Byron G. Harlan
Red Foley
Ferko String Band
Muggsy Spanier
The Fontaine Sisters
Hank Penny
Chet Atkins
Firehouse Five Plus Two
The Dukes of Dixieland
Teresa Brewer and the Dixieland Band

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It Ain’t Necessarily So [Bad]

ain't

Since my last post was about the song Ain’t That A Shame, I thought that I would continue with the same theme as last week and share some more grammatically incorrect “ain’t” songs from this period. In chronological order, the songs are:

AIN’T SHE SWEET
Ain’t She Sweet is a song composed by Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics) and published in 1927. It became popular in the first half of the 20th century, one of the hit songs that typified the Roaring Twenties. Like “Happy Days Are Here Again” (1929), it became a Tin Pan Alley standard. Milton Ager wrote “Ain’t She Sweet” for his daughter Shana, who in her adult life was known as the political commentator Shana Alexander.

AIN’T NOBODY HERE BUT US CHICKENS
Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens is a 1946 song, with music and lyrics by Alex Kramer and Joan Whitney. It was recorded by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five. The single hit number one on the US Billboard Rhythm and blues Juke Box chart and number six on the pop chart. The song was featured on the soundtrack for L.A. Noire, and was then included on a remixed version of the soundtrack with production by DJ Premier. Gonzo the Great and various Muppet characters performed this song on an episode of The Muppet Show.

AIN’T THAT JUST LIKE A WOMAN (THEY’LL DO IT EVERY TIME
In this 1947 R&B classic, Louis Jordan lists women in history who have tormented men. Looking over this pattern, he sees that this is typical behavior, and wants to warn men to watch out. The women mentioned in the song are Eve, Delilah and Marie Antoinette. There’s also a mention of the Roman emperor Nero, who while not a woman, was gay.

Chuck Berry lifted the guitar intro (sometimes played by Jordan’s band on horns) for his song Johnny B. Goode and The Beach Boys Fun, Fun, Fun. Jordan was a big influence on Berry, as well as B.B. King and Ray Charles, all of whom played versions of Just Like A Woman in their live shows. B.B. King would often do a long intro before playing the song, inviting men in the audience to sing along, but warning them that they might not get any “supper” if they do. This was written by Claude Demetrius and Jordan’s wife, Fleecie Moore.

AIN’T NOBODY’S BUSINESS BUT MY OWN
Written by Irving Taylor and made popular by Kay Starr and “Tennessee” Ernie Ford, this 1950 song ranked on both the Country and the Pop Billboard charts. In 1950, when this song hit the charts, Ford [birth name: Ernest Jennings Ford] was known simply as Tennessee Ernie. It was not until 1954 that he recorded under the name of “Tennessee” Ernie Ford. In addition to the Starr-Ford version of the song, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan made a recording that did not chart. On the flip side of Ain’t Nobody’s Business But My Own was a bigger hit [#2 on the Country charts], I’ll Never Be Free, again with Kay Starr.

THE RECORDINGS

Ain’t She Sweet
Harry James and His Orchestra (1945)
Mr. Goon Bones and Mr. Ford (1949)
Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page (1949)
Erroll Garner Trio (1951)
Henry “Red” Allen (1952)

Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens
Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five

Ain’t That Just Like A Woman (They’ll Do It Every Time)
Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five

Songs Related to Ain’t That Just Like A Woman
Johnny B. Goode: Chuck Berry
Fun, Fun, Fun: The Beach Boys

Ain’t Nobody’s Business But My Own
Kay Starr and “Tennessee” Ernie [Ford]
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan

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A Crying Shame

Woman crying.

The common bit of schoolyard wisdom that “ain’t ain’t in the dictionary,” turns out to be untrue. Every dictionary that I have ever looked in contained an entry for ain’t. Although widely disapproved as nonstandard and more common in the habitual speech of the less educated, ain’t in the sense of “am not” or “are not” has flourished in American English and evidence shows that British usage to be much the same as American.

Ain’t is also used for metrical reasons in popular songs such as Ain’t She Sweet, It Ain’t Necessarily So, and, of course, for the 1955 song by Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew, Ain’t That A Shame.

The recording (Ain’t It a Shame) was a hit for Domino, eventually selling a million copies. It reached #1 on the “Black Singles” chart and #10 on the “Pop Singles” chart. The song is ranked #438 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Antoine "Fats" Domino

Antoine “Fats” Domino

Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr. is the Louisiana Creole French name for the fat man whose honey voice, Creole inflection, rock-steady piano triplets, basic boogie blues and love songs endeared him to the world in the 1950s, as New Orleans rhythm and blues flowed into the mainstream of American pop music. The quasi-biographical song The Fat Man was recorded in 1949 and like many of Domino’s songs, it was co-written by the man Domino came to count on as a producer and arranger, Dave Bartholomew. Domino finally crossed into the pop mainstream with Ain’t That A Shame in 1955, which hit the Top Ten, though Pat Boone characteristically hit Number One with a milder cover of the song that received wider radio airplay in a racially-segregated era. Domino eventually had thirty-seven Top Forty singles.

Fats Domino and his producer/collaborator Dave Bartholomew pioneered the big beat of rock with Ain’t That a Shame. (Domino’s original single bore the title Ain’t It a Shame.) According to legend, Pat Boone suggested the title and lyrics be altered to Isn’t That A Shame to make his whitewashed cover version more appealing to a broader audience but was dissuaded by his producers. Despite his suggestion being rejected, Boone had his first Billboard number-one single in 1955. Thanks to Pat Boone, this was the first song to crossover from the R&B charts to the mostly white pop charts of the day.

Regardless of what it was called, the public preferred Fats Domino’s New Orleans-flavored original and made it a Top Ten hit. Domino’s version soon became more popular, bringing Domino’s music to the mass market a half dozen years after his first major recording, The Fat Man. Bartholomew, who initially had his doubts about the song, warmed up to the simplicity of Domino’s lyric: “Ain’t That A Shame will never die,” he said. “It will be here when the world comes to an end.”

This was Fats Domino’s first hit song that had not been recorded in New Orleans where he lived. He recorded it in a Hollywood studio when he was on tour in Los Angeles. His recording company at the time, Imperial Records, had its engineers compress Domino’s vocals and speed up the song a bit to make the song sound less bluesy and give it more mainstream appeal. This engineering strategy made it more difficult for other artists to cover the song. Fear of imitation was quite legitimate in those days in the early 1950s, as many R&B artists had their songs covered by white pop performers whose versions were often more palatable to their white mainstream public.

This is a heartache song about a breakup that was the other partner’s fault. Although these lyrics reflect the sorrows of a jilted lover, they also capture an important older concept that has relevance for today, namely, the dynamics of shame. This enduring hit showcases Domino’s powerful blues piano and stop-time, swamp-pop texture with an abundance of saxophones, plus his warm Creole-accented voice telling the simple but sincere story of romance found and lost. In 1960, Domino recorded a sequel to Ain’t That A Shame called Walking To New Orleans, in which he goes back to his hometown. (I have included this sequel)

THE LYRICS
Ain’t That A Shame
Words by Fats Domino
Music by Dave Bartholomew

You made me cry, when you said goodbye
Ain’t that a shame
My tears fell like rain
Ain’t that a shame
You’re the one to blame

You broke my heart, when you said we’re apart
Ain’t that a shame
My tears fell like rain
Ain’t that a shame
You’re the one to blame

Oh well, goodbye although I’ll
Ain’t that a shame
My tears fell like rain
Ain’t that a shame
You’re the one to blame

You made me cry when you said goodbye
Ain’t that a shame
My tears fell like rain
Ain’t that a shame
You’re the one to blame

Oh well, goodbye although I cry
Ain’t that a shame
My tears fell like rain
Ain’t that a shame
You’re the one to blame

THE RECORDINGS
Fats Domino
Pat Boone
Fats Domino I’m Walking To New Orleans

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