Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor
Along with 3-D, I’m also a sucker for 50’s music, which I define as any pop or rock music that’s the same age as I am, give or take ten years. Fortunately, unlike 3-D, I get a weekly helping of vintage pop and rock, thanks to Saturday night radio – specifically Vermont Public Radio and a program called My Place. Hosted by long-time Vermont DJ, Joel Najman, the hour-long program explores the early days of pop and rock.
Each program generally has a theme centered around an artist, a composer, or even just a word – say the secret word and Joel will give you twenty songs featuring it, along with a lot of fascinating trivia about the songs. Just recently, the magic word was house, and all the songs featured houses. Sounded like a loser to me; I figured he’d have to give up halfway through the program. Well not only did he last the hour, and an entertaining one at that, but he plans a second program on the subject. (Actually, you can usually tell there’s a second program coming when he doesn’t include an obvious song such as House of the Rising Sun.)
By way of example, two house songs by Rosemary Clooney from the first program. C’mon a My House, was a song about lavish entertaining in Armenia, written and originally recorded by two Armenian American cousins – William Saroyan, the noted author, and David Seville (yeah, the chipmunk guy). The other song, This Ole House was written and first recorded by Stuart Hamblen who, on a hunting trip with actor John Wayne, came upon a dilapidated old house and found a dead body inside, which inspired him to write the catchy tune that both he and Rosemary Clooney recorded. The deep base voice featured on both versions (“Ain’t gonna need this house no longer, ain’t gonna need this house no more”) belonged to Thurl Ravenscroft who later became the voice of Tony the Tiger (“They’re gre-e-e-at”) and sang in How The Grinch Stole Christmas (“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”). Talk about trivia overload. If you’re fascinated by this kind of stuff, My Place is the place to be Saturday at 8 p.m. EST. You can listen to it from anywhere on the Internet – go to http://www.vpr.net/listen/stream and look for the live stream.
Some might say, and they do, that my fascination with 50’s music borders on obsession, although it’s been tempered of late with greater appreciation of other kinds of music. Several years ago, I ran across Top 50 lists for each year in the 50’s. I’m also a total sucker for lists so, having these lists, I found it necessary to record the top 50 for each year.
Starting off was easy. An Oldies but Goodies collection of 40 great hits offered on late night TV for a mere $4.98 got me off to a roaring start: Earth Angel, Get a Job, Tears on My Pillow, Kansas City and many more. I found plenty of other collections in record store bargain bins, at flea markets, at garage sales. Of course, each collection had duplicates of songs I had already recorded, but that was to be expected. Eventually, however, a collection of two dozen songs might have only one or two songs I didn’t already have. Did I buy it? Need you ask?
So what had been the easy task of picking the low hanging fruit became more and more difficult. Enter obsession. You have the Top 50 for 1957 completed – except for that elusive #23 that seems to have gone into hiding. What will you do to get it? Suddenly you’re the Man with the Golden Arm, Ray Milland in Lost Weekend, someone who needs a nicotine or chocolate fix. You must have #23. This is where you start buying records at full retail price or even at a collector’s price. You’re buying records you don’t even like – Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, Pat Boone’s Greatest Hits, Anita Bryant in Her Little Homophobic Corner of the World – the Lennon Sisters, for God’s sake.
But now I have my tapes even though they’re of dubious quality, and today I could probably find all the songs in one afternoon on the Internet. But they’re recorded, it’s history and the monkey is off my back. What’s this? The Top 100 books of the 20th century?