Reviving this blog

8 03 2015

I had a notion to bring this blog out of dormancy, so I’ve gone through each post and appended clickable links to the song files to be played. Clicking the link will take you to a new window at Box.com with player controls for that song. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s something better than what I had right after the Box player widget went bust some time ago. Some songs might not be available, notably YouTube videos that are no longer active.

Click the link below to access my whole demo song catalog, stored at Box.com.

Standard Issue tunes

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Thanks

24 01 2013

100

Thanks—A. Johnston/S. Coslow, 1933 (Recorded October 12, 2012) Well, here it is: the 100th song to be posted on my blog. I chose this 1933 Bing Crosby hit because I wanted to thank all my listeners for coming by over the past couple of years to visit my site and listen to my music. It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks!





Sometimes I’m Happy (Sometimes I’m Blue)

24 01 2013

099

Sometimes I’m Happy (Sometimes I’m Blue)—V. Youmans/I. Caesar, 1927 (Recorded December 31, 2012) I recorded this song on New Year’s Eve, 2012, just before driving up to New York City to spend the holiday with a couple of good friends. The title says it all: I was happy to hang out with my friends on NYE, but blue because my wife had a bad cold and decided to stay home to take care of our puppy. That’s life!





Reaching for the Moon

24 01 2013

098

Reaching for the Moon—Irving Berlin, 1930 (Recorded November 29, 2012) Here’s another “Moon” song, a lovely Berlin Ballad that I snagged from the recording that appears on the excellent Sinatra compilation, Moonlight Sinatra. I use the baritone ukulele on this one. I had to remix my original recording and work on the EQ to tone down some of the bass, but otherwise, it turned out OK.





Wedding Bell Blues

24 01 2013

097

Wedding Bell Blues—Laura Nyro, 1966 (Recorded October 1, 2012) Laura Nyro wrote this song when she was 18 years old. Genius! I’m a long-time fan. Here, I sing the song with an ironic sensibility: the lyric is from a woman’s point-of-view, but instead of changing the words to a manly voice, I sing it straight…er, I mean, queer…uh, well, youknowhatimean. I was prompted to record this song because of a series of Internet forum exchanges between two male ukulele-playing buddies of mine who can’t stand each other. One of them is named “Bill,” and Bill and my other friend can’t get through a common forum thread without flaming each other. I’ve often thought that they ought to get married, or at least get a room—that way they might work out their differences in private.





Blue Moon

30 08 2012

Blue Moon—R. Rodgers/L. Hart, 1934 (Recorded August 30, 2012) “Blue Moon”‘s familiar melody withstood three other lyric treatments that Lorenz Hart was compelled to write and re-write, thanks to the tune’s changing identity in various Hollywood movies. It was originally called “Prayer,” and then “The Bad in Every Man.” I suspect that by the time he got around to writing the lyric as we know it, Hart became a little punchy and penned the snippy opening verse that begins, “Once upon a time, before I took up smiling/I hated the moonlight.” I learned the verse by listening to a mid-1930s recording by singer and actress Greta Keller. I took an airy, slightly mad turn with this tune, happily singing and playing uke and then adding a vocal trumpet sound in the middle and at the outro.

It’s a simple song that didn’t impress Alec Wilder much:

It certainly is one of the most performed Rodgers and Hart songs. I have never been attracted to it, though I recognize it to be competently written. … but, compared with what Rodgers had been doing up till that time, the song, overall, was definitely undistinguished.”

(Excerpted from American Popular Song—The Great Innovators 1900-1950, edited by Alec Wilder, 1972.)

Tomorrow is an August “Blue Moon,” the second full moon in the month. The next such coincidence won’t happen until July 31, 2015.

Happy Blue Moon, world!





Are You Lonesome Tonight?

17 08 2012

Are You Lonesome Tonight?—L. Handman/R. Turk, 1926 (Recorded August 17, 2012) In honor of the day after the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, I recorded this tune. I’d wager that not many people realize the song was written 34 years before Elvis’s 1960 smash hit. Its composer, Roy Turk is well known for having written many standard tunes back in the early part of the 20th Century: “Gimme a Little Kiss, Will Ya Huh?”; “I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You)”; “Mean to Me”; and Bing Crosby’s unofficial theme, “Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day.”

Here’s to you, Elvis. And Roy. And lyricist Lou Handman. And everyone else who might be lonesome tonight.





There’ll Be Some Changes Made

16 08 2012

There’ll Be Some Changes Made—B. Overstreet/B. Higgins, 1921 (Recorded July 19, 2012, re-mixed August 16) Here’s an old number I learned principally from listening to Mildred Bailey’s recording, but lots of other jazz people did it through the ages. Fats Waller’s and Ethel Waters’s versions are among my faves.

I know so many people these days who are going through rough times. This one is for all my friends out there who are looking for a little change of pace.





Solace, A Mexican Serenade

10 08 2012

Solace, A Mexican Serenade—Scott Joplin, 1909 (Recorded August 10, 2012) Here’s a quick, low-res cell phone video of me playing the Scott Joplin number that many of us will remember from the soundtrack for the film, “The Sting.” This recording is of the “C” and “D” parts of the entire composition; these later sections of the whole were used in the movie score.

For Marvin Hamlisch, in memoriam, June 2, 1944–August 6, 2012.





You Don’t Know Me

5 08 2012

You Don’t Know Me—C. Walker/E. Arnold, 1955 (Recorded August 5, 2012) I recorded this Eddy Arnold Country classic for the Ukulele Cosmos Monthly Invitational challenge. It’s a great lost-love ballad and has always been one of my very favorite tunes. Of course, Ray Charles’s version from 1962 is the most popular take on this tune, rising to #2 on the Billboard charts for that year. In my research, I was pleased to find out that Carmen McRae also cut this tune, in 1956. Anybody who knows me knows what a Carmen McRae nut I am; the song has taken on a new meaning for me now that I have heard it as stamped by one of the queens of jazz.





Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

26 07 2012

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive—H. Arlen/J. Mercer, 1944 (Recorded July 26, 2012) Wikipedia reports that Johnny Mercer came up with this lyric after attending a sermon by Father Divine, where “you got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative” is supposed to have been an actual quote by the (in)famous preacher.

The song was used in the Bing Crosby-Betty Hutton movie, Here Come the Waves. I yanked this arrangement by listening to the master himself, Johnny Mercer, in his recording with Paul Weston’s (aka Jonathan Edwards) band and the Pied Piper vocal group. I sang it through straight, playing the Glyph ukulele, and then added maracas and background vocals.

This song is dedicated to all my pals who, this very weekend, are attending the Hollesley Ukulele Festival, aka “Raystock,” over in Hollesley, Suffolk, England. Hope to see you guys there in 2013!





Last Night When We Were Young

10 07 2012

Last Night When We Were Young—H. Arlen/E.Y. Harburg, 1935 (Recorded July 10, 2012) Harold Arlen told Alec Wilder that he wrote this song expressly for opera singer/actor Lawrence Tibbett. Tibbett’s performance of the song was cut from the movie, Metropolitan, though, but the tune lived on in well-known pop versions by Sinatra and Judy Garland, among others.

I love the song, and tried my best to do it justice. Represented here is version 10 of my recorded efforts, so, yeah, I tried and tried! Since there is a loud vocal part toward the end, I kept getting the levels wrong, blowing out the recording during the lung-busting measure. This cut turned out ok, technically and performance-wise, although I still sing it better in the shower. ;°)





My Old Man

17 06 2012

My Old Man—B. Hanighen/J. Mercer, 1933 (Recorded June 17, 2012) It’s said that Johnny Mercer and Bernie Hanighen wrote this tune expressly for one of Johnny’s favorite acts of the day, the popular string-and-vocal band, the Spirits of Rhythm. In the spirit of Father’s Day, I dedicate this song to my old man, who died just a couple of days after his 60th birthday way back in September of 1982. Hope there’s barrels of whisky keeping you frisky wherever you are, you ol’ devil! (I don’t believe in an afterlife, but still.)





Like Someone in Love

15 06 2012

Like Someone in Love—J. Van Heusen/J. Burke, 1944 (Recorded June 15, 2012) I’ve been on a Jimmy Van Heusen kick lately. Edward Chester Babcock has long been in the Top Five of my favorite songwriters, along with Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, and Cole Porter. (E. C. Babcock was Van Heusen’s birth name—he changed it at the insistence of a radio program manager who thought “Babcock” sounded, well, too “cocky.” As the story goes, Babcock looked out the window and, seeing a Van Heusen shirt truck driving by, changed his name on the spot.)

Back in the early 1990s, when I first heard the album, Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Jimmy Van Heusen, I was hooked. An inventive songster, Van Heusen is most closely associated in his early career with Bing Crosby and later on with Sinatra. I was prompted to record these numbers because I’ve been reading the engrossing book, “The House that George Built” by Wilfrid Sheed, and I’ve just finished the chapter about Van Heusen. What a character, that Jimmy! Read Sheed’s book if you have any interest in these song standards. It’s excellent.





But Beautiful

15 06 2012

But Beautiful—J. Van Heusen/J. Burke, 1947 (Recorded June 15, 2012) This song was written for the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope/Dorothy Lamour flick, Road to Rio. Bing sings it to Dorothy, natch.

I learned this tune years ago and have not played it in quite a while until I decided to make this recording. It took a bit of practice, but it’s sort of like riding a bicycle: I jumped right back on, fell off and skinned my knees a couple of times, but soon I was riding around the block.





My Heart Is a Hobo

15 06 2012

My Heart Is a Hobo—J. Van Heusen/J. Burke, 1947 (Recorded June 15, 2012) Here’s another tune from a Crosby movie, this time, Welcome Stranger. Bing sings it with a fishing pole in his hands while sitting next to Barry Fitzgerald. The masculine lyric changes the line from “Hates the stay-home gal that I am” to “Hates the stodgy guy that I am,” but I altered it to “Hates the stay-home guy that I am.” Small difference. I like to stay home, so it fits that way. ;°)





The Glory of Love

14 06 2012

The Glory of Love—Billy Hill, 1936 (Recorded June 14, 2012) Today is my 32nd wedding anniversary. It occurs to me that I have been playing the ukulele for about as long as I’ve been married, so what better way for me to express my devotion to my one and only by singing and playing the ukulele? And a song called “The Glory of Love,” to boot? Heidi doesn’t pay much attention to my singing and ukulele playing, though, so posting this as a tribute to her is probably an exercise in pointless behavior. Ah, well, we still love each other, and that’s what counts—at least that’s what my lawyer tells me.

“Glory of Love” was the biggest hit song written by Billy Hill, whose downeast New England upbringing contrasts with his fame for writing cowboy/western-style melodies. Hill did “Go West” around 1917, spending youthful time absorbing influences that led him to write some of the best high-lonesome–sounding pop songs of the era.

I recorded this tune not only for m’lady, but also as the current entry in the Ukulele Cosmos’s monthly “Open Invitational” song challenge. Go there to hear many other fine ukulele versions of this song. In fact, if you have any interest at all in ukes (and who doesn’t?) sign up for the Cosmos forum. In addition to getting a Euro-British–inflected taste of ukuleledom, you’ll also virtually meet some of the most witty, intelligent, talented people to be found in any hemisphere.

Thanks for listening. Oh, and if anybody sees my wife, tell her I’ve been trying to call….





My Ship

2 06 2012

My Ship—K. Weill/I. Gershwin, 1941 (Recorded June 2, 2012) This bittersweet ballad comes from the Weill/Gershwin Broadway musical, Lady in the Dark, and introduced by Gertrude Lawrence in character as Liza Elliott. I first fell in love with the tune by way of Johnny Hartman’s recording from his 1964 album, The Voice That Is!

Here’s a provocative quote by Ira Gershwin about the song. When the Hollywood movie of Lady in the Dark was made in 1944, “My Ship” didn’t make the final cut. Gershwin was bemused by this decision. From Wikipedia:

“Later, when Lady in the Dark was filmed, the script necessarily had many references to the song. But for some unfathomable reason the song itself—as essential to this musical drama as a stolen necklace or a missing will to a melodrama—was omitted. Although the film was successful financially, audiences evidently were puzzled or felt thwarted or something, because items began to appear in movie-news columns mentioning that the song frequently referred to in Lady in the Dark was ‘My Ship.’ I hold a brief for Hollywood, having been more or less a movie-goer since I was nine; but there are times….”

Hollywood. There are times, indeed.

A note about this recording: This is another of my early-morning, before-the-first-cuppa-joe efforts, where my voice is still, um, textured. I used the 1920s Lyon & Healy soprano ukulele and sang it straight through, with a touch of added reverb.

Oh, one more thing—also snatched from Wikipedia…I had to post this picture of Kurt Weill. It’s charming. ;°)





Meet Me Somewhere in Your Dreams

31 05 2012

Meet Me Somewhere in Your Dreams—Herb Cook, 1938 (Recorded May 31, 2012) I recorded this song today in honor of Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson (March 3, 1923–May 29, 2012). It has special meaning to me. Included in Doc Watson’s 1973 album, Then and Now, this song was a particular favorite of my wife’s and mine as we were coming up together. While Watson’s amazing guitar style could not be beat, it was his warm, natural singing voice that I most enjoyed about his musicianship. He was one of the greats.

So long, Doc.





Satan’s Li’l Lamb

31 05 2012

Satan’s Li’l Lamb—H. Arlen/E.Y. Harburg/J. Mercer, 1932 (Recorded May 31, 2012) This is the first published song with Johnny Mercer’s name on it. In my research I could not get a sense of who contributed what between Mercer and Harburg in the writing of this lyric, although there are Mercerisms throughout. “Satan’s Li’l Lamb” was controversial when it appeared in the short-lasting Broadway show, Americana, and it never became a hit. In fact, during its time it was only recorded by a single artist—the great Ethel Merman. The tune also marks the beginning of Mercer’s fruitful musical relationship with Harold Arlen.

I sang and played this straight through using the Glyph Dias-replica soprano ukulele, then I went back and overdubbed drums, sound FX, ocarina, and kazoo.