The Beginning of the End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE RECORDING

Nat “King” Cole

OTHER RELATED D-DAY RECORDINGS

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

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D-Day Dodgers?

The Commonwealth War Cemetery at Cassino

The Commonwealth War Cemetery at Cassino

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE RECORDINGS
Hamish Imlach
Ian Campbell Folk Group

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Adorable Doo-wop

doo-wop3

Adorable was a major hit in 1955, beginning its popularity in the Rhythm and Blues genre of music. The song was written by Buck Ram, born Samuel Ram. Ram was a talent manager with his own firm, Personality Productions, and an A&R (Artists and repertoire) man when Tony Williams, the brother of singer Linda Hayes, auditioned for him. Ram was looking for a group to sing the songs he wrote and found the voice he was looking for in Williams. He transformed the Platters and changed their rhythm and blues style, building around Williams’ voice to make them sound like the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots. He is best known for his long association with The Platters and also wrote, produced and arranged for the Penguins, the Coasters, the Drifters, Ike and Tina Turner, Ike Cole, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others. In addition to Adorable, Ram also wrote Only You (And You Alone), The Great Pretender, Magic Touch, and Twilight Time.

Adorable was the perfect doo-wop song, containing all the necessary elements: melody, voice, and emotion. It first reached the Billboard charts in the rhythm and blues category by The Colts, followed with a cover version by The Drifters. On the pop charts, the song was covered by The Fontane Sisters, who originally sang as back-up singers with Perry Como.

The song speaks of a young man’s dream girl. To him, she is not only adorable, but also lovable, kissable, huggable, and excitable. In the lyrics of the song, she is “all that I hoped my love would ever be.”

Here are the complete lyrics of the song.

THE LYRICS
Adorable
Words and music by Buck Ram

Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby
You’re adorable, sweet as can be
You’re adorable, a dream girl to me
You’re all that I hoped my love would ever be

(Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby)
You’re so lovable, when you’re in my arms
You’re so kissable, when I hold your charms
You’re mine, you are so divine, my adorable one, dorable one
You must have come from heaven
Because you thrill me so
My heaven starts at seven sharp
You start my heart to glow, glow, glow
(You start my heart)

You’re so huggable, so clinging, so nice
You’re excitable when kissed once or twice
And soon you’ll be mine alone, you adorable one
(Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby)

You must have come from heaven
Because you thrill me so
My heaven starts at seven sharp
You start my heart to glow
(You start my heart)

So lovable, so clinging, so nice
You’re excitable when kissed once or twice
And soon you’ll be mine alone, you adorable one
(Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby)

Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby
Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby
Adorable, dorable, dorable, dorable baby

As mentioned above, this song was the perfect doo-wop song. For the uninitiated, Doo-wop is a style of vocal-based rhythm and blues music developed in the African American communities in the 1940s, and achieved mainstream popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. It emerged from New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and areas of greater Los Angeles, including El Monte and Compton. Built upon vocal harmony, doo-wop was one of the most mainstream, pop-oriented R&B styles of the time. Singer Bill Kenny, one-time lead singer of the Ink Spots, is often noted as the “Godfather of Doo-wop” for his introduction of the “top & bottom” format used by many doo-wop groups. This format features a high tenor lead with a “talking bass” in the song’s middle. (I have included an example of this style here)

From the outset, singers gathered on street corners, and in subways, generally in groups of three to six. They sang a cappella arrangements, and mimicked instruments since instruments were little used: the bass singing “bom-bom-bom,” a guitar rendered as “shang-a-lang,” and brass riffs as “dooooo -wop-wop,” This art dates back to The Mills Brothers, who first came to fame in the 1930s with their mimicking of instrumental music.

There is general acknowledgement the first hit record to use the syllables “doo-wop” in the refrain was the 1955 hit, When You Dance by The Turbans. Previously, the scat backing vocal “doo-wop” is heard in The Clovers’ 1953 release Good Lovin’ and in the chorus of Carlyle Dundee & The Dundees’ 1954 song Never. Other early uses include the 1955 song Mary Lee by The Rainbows, which contains the background “do wop de wadda,” and the 1956 smash In The Still Of The Night by The Five Satins, which features a plaintive “doo-wop, doo-wah” refrain in the bridge. After some time, the term “doo-wop” finally caught on as both a description and category for R&B vocal group harmony. The definition expanded backward to include rhythm and blues groups from the mid-1950s, then cascaded even further back to include groups from the 1940s.

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

THE CHARTED RECORDINGS
The Colts
The Drifters
The Fontane Sisters

THE 1950s DOO-WOP SOUND
When You Dance (The Turbans)
Good Lovin’ (The Clovers)
Never (Carlyle Dundee and the Dundees)
Mary Lee (The Rainbows)
Will You Be Mine (The Swallows)
In The Still Of The Night (The Five Satins)
?????????????????????????????????????
THE 1940s DOO-WOP SOUND
Tiger Rag (Mills Brothers – example of the group mimicking instruments)
Write Me A Letter (The Ravens)
It’s Too Soon To Know (The Orioles)
Coffee, Cigarettes And Tears (The Larks)
Oop Bop Sh’Bam (Dizzy Gillespie – part of what might be considered “nonsense lyrics” as pertaining to doo-wop were influenced by songs such as this 1947 rendition by Dizzy Gillespie, which may have led to later groups that utilized such things as “oop shoop,” “bip bam,” and “sh-boom.”)
It Don’t Mean A Thing (Duke Ellington – the horn section makes sounds that tend to simulate “boo-wop, boo-wop, boo-wop.”)
doo-wop

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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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