Mining the Standards…..
Since I Don’t Have You
I thought I would kick off this Post with this tale:
I have posted previously regarding one of my favorite moments in pop music: One of my favorite singing groups, the Skyliners, were appearing on American Bandstand back in either very late 1958 or very early 1959.
Dick Clark called the young members of the group over to his microphone stand after they completed their big hit “Since I Don’t Have You”. Clark innocently asked the group how they came to select and record the old standard. After a brief pause, group lead vocalist Jimmy Beaumont humbly responded something along the lines of “Mr. Clark, we wrote this song”! Clark was astounded and the record buying public was impressed.
All members of the Skyliners were in high school and in their teens at the time.
It would be easy to imagine that “Since I Don’t Have You” came to us perhaps from Tin Pan Alley in the 1940’s – but no – along with group manager Joe Rock, it was indeed a Skyliners’ composition. As was their moving follow up “This I Swear”.
After three hit originals (“It Happened Today” another Skyliners/Rock collaboration) the group did indeed turn to a couple of ‘old standards’. In the spring of 1960 they released “Pennies From Heaven” backed with “I’ll Be Seeing You”.
“Pennies” was composed in 1936 during the great depression by song writer Arthur Johnson and lyricist Johnny Burke. Bing Crosby took the song to number 1 in the nation that year. Johnson shared in composing credits for several impressive songs including “Cocktails for Two” (1934), and “My Old Flame” from the same year.
Johnny Burke co-wrote many hit songs placing them on the charts 104 times over the decades. Seven of his songs went to number one. His “I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams” charted number 1 by Bing Crosby and again by Russ Morgan in 1938. Later in his career Burke would team up with Erroll Garner to write “Misty” which Johnny Mathis took to number 12 in 1959.
Working with Jimmy Van Heusen, Burke co-wrote “Imagination” which Glenn Miller took to the top of the charts in 1940.
Speaking of “Imagination”, in late 1961 the New York based group The Quotations released the song in a captivating doo wop style on Verve Records. The song failed to chart nationally but stands as one of my favorites. The Quotations immediate follow up was “This Love of Mine” – another standard which first appeared in 1941 recorded by Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra with vocals by Frank Sinatra and The Pied Pipers.
Jimmy Van Heusen teamed up with Burke of course but also with lyric writer Sammy Cahn. Together they wrote “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” (Dean Martin 1960); Sinatra’s “All the Way”; and other Sinatra classics “High Hopes”, “Come Fly With Me”, “Love and Marriage”, “My Kind of Town”, “Pocketful of Miracles”, and “September of My Years”.
Where or When
This one ranks up there very high for me – I ran to the record store back in early 1960 when “Where or When” hit the charts by New York’s Dion and The Belmonts. The tune would prove to be their biggest hits peaking at number 3.
Famed song writing team Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote the song in 1937 for the Broadway production of “Babes In Arms”. Hal Kemp and his orchestra took the song to number 1. Dion and the Belmonts would go back to the well a couple of times following their big hit with a couple of additional ‘oldies’ – “When You Wish Upon a Star” (number 30 in 1960) and a Cole Porter classic “In the Still of the Night” (number 38 – also in 1960). That one would be Dion’s final chart record accompanied by The Belmonts. He would go on to place 25 songs on the Hot 100.
“When You Wish Upon a Star” was composed by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington – both working for Walt Disney’s motion picture “Pinocchio” released in 1940. Harline composed songs for many motion pictures including “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) and “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” in 1962. Washington was an accomplished pop writer co-writing “The High and the Mighty” (1954); “Town Without Pity” (Gene Pitney, 1961); “Rawhide” (Frankie Laine, 1958); “High Noon – Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'” (Tex Ritter, 1952); and “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” (Tommy Dorsey, 1932).
The Lettermen did a fine rendition in 1963 which only reached number 98. But I bought it anyway.
Over The Rainbow
Another favorite do over of mine, this one was recorded by the Bronx singing group “The Demensions” released in May of 1960 and reaching 16. A west coast group covered the song quickly in June of 1960, the Baysiders with both versions sounding very similar in arrangement. The Baysiders version was just too late and unfortunately was released by a budget label “Everest”
The Baysiders stuck with the formula following with “Look For the Silver Lining” – written clear back in 1919 by the legendary Jerome Kern and B.G. DeSylvia; and then “The Bells of St. Mary’s” which was even an earlier composition – from 1917 written by Douglas Furber and Emmett Adams.The Demensions also followed the re-do path with “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” (1960); “Ave Maria” (late 1960); “Young at Heart” (1963) and “My Foolish Heart” (March of 1963 – their only other charting record – #95). The song was composed by Victor Young along with Ned Washington of “Pennies From Heaven” fame (above) in 1949.
“Over the Rainbow” was composed by one of the greatest song writers of all time – Harold Arlen – His credits seem endless: “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”; “Blues in the Night”, “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead”, “Get Happy”, “It’s Only a Paper Moon”, “Let’s Fall In Love”, “One for My Baby” and “Stormy Weather” to name a few.
Blue Moon had a couple of run’s on the Hot 100 charts during the rock era – the first being a reissue of an Elvis Presley Sun Records recording – this time on his new label RCA Victor. The Song topped out at number 55 in the fall of 1956. Only one other Presley Sun track would make the charts that being “I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine which first came out on Sun 210 in 1954. As an RCA Victor release in 1956 it would top out at number 74.
The Marcels completely reworked the standard – almost to an unrecognizable degree – taking the doo wop/rocker all the way to number 1.
“Blue Moon” was also composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934. The following year Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra took the song all the way to number 1.
Re-Do’s wouldn’t be complete without a Cole Porter tune being thrown into the mix. The Santa Cruz, California group Harper’s Bizarre took the bouncy little ditty to number 43 in 1967.
The song was composed by Porter for a musical he scored in 1934 of the same name. Some big names would record the song including Frank Sinatra in 1955, jazz singer Chris Connor also in 1955. Others would include Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Stan Getz along with Gerry Mulligan doing an instrumental version as well as the great Count Basie.
Big numbers were the norm for Cole Porter with “Don’t Fence Me In”, “Night and Day”, “Just One of Those Things”, “Begin the Beguine” and “I Love Paris” being fine examples.
Harper’s Bizarre started of their career as “The Tikis” recording for the Autumn record label before crossing over to Warner Bros., releasing their number 13 version of a Simon and Garfunkle tune, “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”. They drew the inspiration for their name from the magazine “Harper’s Bazaar” – choosing the name supposedly to keep their true identity of being the “Tiki’s” masked as to not alienate Tiki fans.
Harper’s Bizarre would also dip back into the standard’s bag to record Glenn Miller’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo” this time charting at number 45.
Choo Choo was a Mack Gordon and Harry Warren composition penned in 1941. Mack and Warren presented the world with a real gem composing “At Last” in 1942 made most famous by Etta James in more recent times – charting number 2 R&B in 1961 and number 47 Hot 100.
Glenn Miller took the song to number 2 in 1942.
Mack Gordon (real name Morris Gittier) often working with Harry Warren had involvement in composing “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” (1933), “I’ve Got A Gal In Kalamazoo” (1942); “The More I See You” (1945), “There Will Never Be Another You” (1942) – both later covered by Chris Montez – “You Make Me Feel So Young” (1946) and “You’ll Never Know” from 1943 – a “Best Original Song” bestowed by the Academy Awards.
Harry Warren (real name Salvatore Antonio Guaragna) also contributed to “Lullaby of Broadway” (1935); “Jeepers Creepers” (1938); “September in the Rain” (1937); “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby” (1938); all number 1 hits.
“Deep Purple” started off in life as strictly an instrumental piano piece – composed in 1923 by Peter DeRose. Several artists would release the song including Colorado’s Paul Whiteman. The song was tremendously popular and so song lyricist Mitchell Parish wrote lyrics for it 15 years after it first appeared.
DeRose would also compose “A Marshmallow World” and 1949 Christmas hit and “Wagon Wheels” in 1934 performed by both Bing Crosby and Paul Robeson.
The biggest hit version came out in 1939 by the Larry Clinton Orchestra – achieving a number 1 ranking and holding the top spot for nine straight weeks.
Now fast forward to 1963 – New York born brother and sister duo Nino Tempo and April Stevens release the song as their second Atco single and take it to number 1. The hit convinced them to stick with the oldies and in succession they would record “Whispering” (another Paul Whiteman song – number 11); “Stardust” (number 32 in 1964 – a Hoagy Carmichael/Mitchell Parish standard); “Tea for Two” (number 56 – 1964) and “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You)” a 1930 Guy Lombardo hit (number 99 – 1964).
Stevens had earlier recorded a song called “Teach Me Tiger” which was banned on many stations due to it’s suggestive lyrics (give me a break!). Early in her career she knocked several years off her birth date to compete with the many teen female singers hitting the charts at the time during the 60’s. – Her youthful looks didn’t hold her back either.
April was born Caroline Vincinette Lo Tempio and brother Nino was born Antonio Lo Tempio – They are both still living – April 90 years old today and Nino 85 years of age.
Soul singer Billy Stewart took this George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward classic to number 10 in 1966 (number 7 R&B). Stewart placed 11 songs on the charts during a career that was cut short when he died in an automobile accident in early 1970 – He was 32 years old. Like many others, Stewart would immediately follow his “Summertime” success with another track from the past “Secret Love” – a song composed by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster in 1953 for the musical “Calamity Jane”. Doris Day took the song to number 1 in 1954 – where it enjoyed four weeks at the top
Paul Francis Webster – co-writer for “Secret Love” also gave us “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing” (1955); “The Shadow of Your Smile” (1965); a couple of Pat Boone hits “Friendly Persuasion” (1956) and “April Love” (1957); the Johnny Mathis songs “A Certain Smile” (1958) and “The Twelfth of Never” (1956); “The Green Leaves of Summer” rendered by the Brothers Four (1960); and “Somewhere My Love” from “Doctor Zhivago” (1966) – a very impressive list!
“Summertime” was composed in 1934 for the 1935 production of “Porgy and Bess”. “Summertime is a true classic ‘standard’ and has been recorded over 25,000 times! Billie Holiday took the song to number 12 in 1936. It would be Sam Cooke’s second Hot 100 appearance coming after his debut and only number 1 hit, “You Send Me”. Cooke’s “Summertime” only managed to reach number 81.
The Happenings were a group that habitually dipped back into the Tin Pan alley bag of tunes. The song was the New Jersey group’s 5th charting record, reaching number 13 in 1967.
“My Mammy” is probably best remembered as an Al Jolson mainstay – first from 1927 in the film “The Jazz Singer” and then singing it two more times in motion pictures – “The Singing Fool” (1928) and “Rose of Washington Square” (1939).
Somewhat surprisingly, the first artist to perform the song way back in 1918 was William Frawley who was a vaudeville performer – who would later become “Fred Mertz” on the very popular “I Love Lucy” television program.
“My Mammy” was written by a trio of composers – Walter Donaldson, Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis.
Donaldson contributed to “Carolina In The Morning” from 1922; “Little White Lies” (1930); “My Blue Heaven” (1927); and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” in 1925. Sam Lewis to his credit delivered “Dinah” (1925); “How You Gonna Keep ’em Down on the Farm (1919 with Donaldson); “I’m Sitting On Top of The World” (1925; and “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” (another Jolson classic 1918).
Of course there are many, many more examples of dusted off oldies and classic standards brought to us during the rock and roll era. Solid song composing when placed in the right hands – stands the test of time!