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Banned in Boston and Everywhere Else For That Matter

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

James Caesar Petrillo

James Caesar Petrillo

Why this happened is the subject of this post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who Murdered Chlo-e?

Swamp by Aleks Dush

Swamp
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

Chloe!
Chloe!
Someone’s calling

(ring)
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

Chloe!
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

(ring)
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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Homecoming

gonna love him5

Perhaps the most memorable film about the aftermath of World War Two was The Best Years of Our Lives. The ironic title refers to the troubling fact that many servicemen had “the best years of their lives” in wartime, not in their experiences afterwards in peacetime America when they were forced to adapt to the much-changed demands and became the victims of dislocating forces. However, it could be argued that the servicemen also gave up and sacrificed “the best years of their lives” – their youthful innocence and their health – by serving in the military and becoming disjointed from normal civilian life.

The story depicts the lives of three enlisted men who face an uncertain future at the end of World War Two. Army Sergeant Al Stephenson (Fredric March) comes home to a family that has grown up while he was away at war and a banking job where his bosses have little interest in supporting the men who risked their lives in the name of freedom. Handsome decorated Army Air Force captain and bombardier, Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) faces a dead end job and a war bride he barely knows. After losing his hands in battle, sailor Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), the hometown’s former football hero, has a harder time adjusting to others’ attitudes and his own fear of pity than any physical challenges. The challenges of each of these three homecoming veterans capture the spirit of a country recovering from a war that affected the lives of every American. The movie never glosses over the reality of altered lives and the inability to communicate the experience of war on the front lines or the home front. The Best Years of Our Lives was the first major Hollywood production to deal with the problems faced by veterans returning from World War Two. At the time, most producers thought the war-weary public was more interested in escapist entertainment, but producer Samuel Goldwyn proved them wrong by turning this into the top-grossing film of the decade.

Dana Andrews and Virginia Mayo in a scene from The Best Years of Our Lives

Dana Andrews and Virginia Mayo in a scene from The Best Years of Our Lives


Approaching the subject of coming home after World War Two from a different perspective was a song by Frances Ash entitled, I’m Gonna Love that Girl (Guy) Like She’s (He’s) Never Been Loved Before. As can be seen from the way I have written the title, the song can be sung by either a female or male singer. The song speaks of the years of separation and waiting, of the feelings of missing and kissing, and of the hopes of never parting again and of being together forever. In its own way, I find the song every bit as poignant as the film The Best Years of Our Lives. Read the words in the context of the aftermath of a devastating and dislocating war and you will see what I mean. I have used here the words as if sung by a returning serviceman.
I’m gonna love that gal
Like she’s never been loved before
I’m gonna show that gal
She’s the baby that I adore

When she’s in my arms again
Our dreams will all come true
Then the years between might never have been
We’ll start our lives anew

I’m gonna kiss that gal
Like she’s never been kissed before
And though I miss that gal
She’s the baby I’m waitin’ for

We’ll never part again
She’ll hold my heart again
Forever and ever more
I’m gonna love that gal
Like she’s never been loved before

At the time of its first popularity in 1945, this song charted on the Billboard charts with recordings by two artists – Perry Como and Benny Goodman. Other non-charted versions were made by Dinah Shore, Randy Brooks, Betty Grable, and Paula Green. To listen to a version of the song, click on the song title. To download a song, right click on the song title, then right click on Save target as.
Charted versions

Perry Como, Russ Case and his Orchestra I’m Gonna Love That Gal
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, vocals by Dottie Reid I’m Gonna Love That Guy

Non-charted versions

Dinah Shore (from the 25 October 1945 radio show, Bird’s Eye Open House with Dinah Shore) I’m Gonna Love That Guy
Randy Brooks and his Orchestra, vocals by Marion Hutton I’m Gonna Love That Guy
Betty Grable (from the 1951 film Call Me Mister) I’m Gonna Love That Guy
Paula Green and her Orchestra, vocals by Paula Green I’m Gonna Love That Guy (Like He’s Never Been Loved Before)

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No Navajos On this Trail

navaho trail4
As I was researching the song, Along The Navajo Trail, I began to wonder just where the Navajo Trail was located. There were other trails that I could find. I knew about the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail, even the old Chisholm Trail, but where was the Navajo Trail?

I knew, for instance, that the Oregon Trail was a two thousand-mile historic east-west wagon route and emigrant trail that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon. The eastern part of the Oregon Trail spanned part of the future state of Kansas and nearly all of what are now the states of Nebraska and Wyoming. The western half of the trail spanned most of the future states of Idaho and Oregon.

I also knew that the old Chisholm Trail is believed to have started at Donna, Texas or at San Antonio, Texas. From 1867 to 1871, the trail ended in Abilene, Kansas. Later, Newton, Kansas, and Wichita, Kansas, each served as the end of the trail. From 1883 to 1887, the end of the trail was Caldwell, Kansas. Ellsworth, Kansas, was also considered a major influence of the trail. A song was written about the old Chisholm Trail that dates back to the 1870s when it was among the most popular songs sung by cowboys during that era. Based on an English lyrical song that dates back to 1640, The Old Chisholm Trail was modified into a cowboy song.

Yet another trail I knew about was the Santa Fe Trail, a nineteenth-century transportation route through central North America that connected Franklin, Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico. This trail served as a vital commercial and military highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880. A song by Al Dubin, Edwina Coolidge, and Will Grosz tells of the Santa Fe Trail.

A song written by Ballard MacDonald and Harry Carroll in 1913 speaks of The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine. The song is not really a about a trail at all, but about the singer’s love for his girl, June, who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The opening lyrics set the scene:
In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia,
On the trail of the lonesome pine—
In the pale moonshine our hearts entwine,
Where she carved her name and I carved mine;
Oh, June, like the mountains I’m blue—
Like the pine I am lonesome for you,
In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia,
On the trail of the lonesome pine.

And in keeping with the “trails” theme that I seem to have started, there are the “Trails” about which Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sing. Their song, Happy Trails, written by Dale Evans Rogers, was the theme song for the 1940s and 1950s radio program and the 1950s television show starring Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Rogers, always sung over the end credits of the program.

But having said all that, I am still at a loss to locate the Navajo Trail. So, right or wrong, I have come to the conclusion that this “trail” is comparable to the “trail of the lonesome pine” of 1913, or the “happy trails” of the 1940s. That is to say, the Navajo Trail only exists in the imagination of the songwriter. I was hoping that there was something more, but the only “Navajo Trail” that I could find was a trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, named the Navajo Loop Trail. This trail requires hikers to descend eight hundred feet down the side of the Bryce rim, and then at the end of the hike to climb right back up that slope. Even with its name, I do not believe that this trail has anything to do with the Navajos.

I even had hopes that the Navajo Trail in the song referred to the “Long Walk of the Navajo,” also called the “Long Walk to Bosque Redondo.” This walk, like the “Trail of Tears” of the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations, refers to the 1864 deportation and attempted ethnic cleansing of the Navajo people by the United States government. In this dark and tragic page in American history, Navajos were forced to walk up to thirteen miles a day at gunpoint from their reservation in what is now Arizona to eastern New Mexico. Some fifty-three different forced marches occurred between August 1864 and the end of 1866. No, the song is not about that experience.

So, if Along the Navajo Trail is not about any trail or about the Navajos in any way, what is the song about? Rather than having to do with the Navajos, this country/pop song, written by Dick Charles (pseudonym for Richard Charles Krieg), Larry Markes, and Edgar De Lange in 1945 has to do with praising the beauties of the American West. Terms such as sunlight beginning to pale, slumbering shadows, night and crickets callin’, coyotes makin’ a wail paint a picturesque portrait of experiences one can have out under a beautiful western sky. Here are the entire lyrics.
Every day, along about evening
When the sunlight’s beginning to pale
I ride through the slumbering shadows
Along the Navajo Trail
When it’s night and crickets are callin’
And coyotes are makin’ a wail
I dream by a smoldering fire
Along the Navajo Trail
I love to lie and listen to the music
When the wind is strummin’ a sagebrush guitar
When over yonder hill the moon is climbin’
It always finds me wishin’ on a star
Well whatta ya know, it’s mornin’ already
There’s the dawnin’, so silver and pale
It’s time to climb into my saddle
And ride the Navajo Trail

Along The Navajo Trail was featured in at least two films, Don’t Fence Me In (1945) and Along the Navajo Trail (1945). Both films starred Roy Rogers; Dale Evans; Trigger, Roy Rogers’ beautiful Palomino horse, often billed as “the smartest horse in the movies;” and grizzly sidekick, George “Gabby” Hayes. It should come as no surprise that there are no Navajos, or Native Americans of any tribe for that matter, to be found in either of these unremarkable Roy Rogers films. While there were no Navajos on this trail, there were Gypsies! The only people of color in Along the Navajo Trail are Spanish-speaking Gypsies, who are given the same Hollywood stereotyped portrayal as were Mexicans and other Latinos in the “oaters” of the 1940s. Besides depicting them as wearing quaint clothing and travelling in garish wagons, Gypsies of this period were portrayed as people who were always suspected of either stealing or cheating. While it is a sub-plot to the film, the Gypsies provide Hayes’ character with some comic relief in which he attempts to cheat the Gypsies, and is in turn cheated himself. At the end of Along the Navajo Trail, Rogers, Evans, and the rest of the cast gather to sing the title song, and then supposedly they all live happily ever after. Remember, this was 1945 and that’s the way things were in 1945.

There were several recordings of the song, three of which charted on the Billboard charts, namely; the versions by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, Gene Krupa, and Dinah Shore.

Included below are the charted versions, plus some other versions that were popular as well. Since I mentioned some other “trail songs” in this post, I have included versions of the songs that I mentioned.

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

CHARTED VERSIONS
Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters
, Vic Schoen and his Orchestra (#2) Along The Navajo Trail
Gene Krupa and his Orchestra, vocals by Bobby Stewart (#7) Along The Navajo Trail
Dinah Shore, Al Sack and his Orchestra (#7) Along The Navajo Trail

NON-CHARTED VERSIONS
Roy Rogers
Along The Navajo Trail
The Sons of the Pioneers Along the Navajo Trail
Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage Along The Navajo Trail

OTHER “TRAIL” SONGS
The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine Rex Allen, Victor Young and His Singing Strings The Trail of the Lonesome Pine
Along The Santa Fe TrailGlenn Miller, vocals by Ray Eberle Along the Santa Fe Trail
The Old Chisholm Trail Andy Parker and the Plainsmen The Old Chisholm Trail
Happy TrailsDale Evans and Roy Rogers Happy Trails

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