SONG SMITHS

By all accounts, SMITH has long been the most common surname in America. On the other hand, SMITH has been one of the least common surnames among popular songwriters. Take the example of when, in 1939, Mr. Jimmy Stewart Smith goes to Washington and becomes a sen-sation, rather than going to Tin Pan Alley to become a song-sation. We can surmise why mistermuse goes to Word Press in 2009 but doesn’t become a pun-sation; misterstewartsmith could’ve had A Wonderful Life acting like a songwriter in Hollywood musicals.

During the period with which I am most musically in tune (1920s-1950s), I can count on one hand the number of songsmiths named Smith whose compositions achieved contemporary hit status (much less, lasting status as standards). Compared to the percentage of Smiths in the overall (or, for that matter, the underwear) population, there were fewer Smiths of note in music than in the Hollywood Senate — which, for better or verse, leads us to the first of our handful of Smiths, Chris Smith, composer of….

Next, time to rise and shine with Billy Dawn Smith, composer of….

Next next, we turn to lyricist Harry Bache Smith for the words to this somber classic:

Speaking of serious stuff, Stuff Smith composed this wonderful ballad. It may not be your cup of tea, but I can say without fear of contradiction that It’s Wonderful:

We close with a song written by Dick Smith. Yes, THAT Dick Smith. If you don’t believe me, look him up and ask him.

 

 

MEMORIES OF SATCHMO (Aug. 4, 1901-July 6, 1971)

“If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” –Louis (“Satchmo”) Armstrong

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Awake at night, at sunrise, every sunset too, seems to be bringing me….

But that was long ago, and now my consolation is in the….

My only sin is in my skin — what did I do to be so….

In contrast to our current culture of celebrity-for-celebrity’s-sake, today we celebrate the memory of a man who was the genuine article: a true game-changer, unsurpassed in the history of America’s contribution to the music world, namely jazz. To quote Scott Yanow, author of CLASSIC JAZZ:

Although jazz existed before Louis Armstrong (including important giants Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, Freddie Keppard, Sidney Bechet, and King Oliver), Armstrong had the biggest impact of any jazz musician. Whether it was transforming jazz from an ensemble-oriented music into one showcasing solos by virtuosos, popularizing both scat singing and hornlike vocalizing, infusing pop songs with the blues, making dramatic statements with the inventive use of silence and dynamics, and (via his sunny personality) making jazz accessible to millions who had never heard it before, Armstrong’s contributions are so vast [that] jazz would have been a lot different if he had not existed.

To help the reader (who isn’t a jazz buff or remembers only the past-his-prime Armstrong) understand something of the impact of the early Armstrong, I’ll close with this 1928 recording — his favorite (and mine) of his own playing:

There, brethren, you have the earthly counterpart of The Rapture enrapturing you from the West End of jazz heaven. May you abandon yourself to the American Gabriel’s clarion call as his golden trumpet leads you to Blues paradise. Or just enjoy.

 

 

 

THE KISSING POST

I am in favor of preserving the French habit of kissing ladies’ hands–after all, one must start somewhere. –Sacha Guitry, French actor, playwright and film maker

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The title of today’s post is THE KISSING POST– not to be confused with THE HITCHING POST, which would be a post about the ceremony of getting hitched (after kissing went to the hand-kisser’s head). Alternatively, THE HITCHING POST could be a post about a post to which you tether your horse….as opposed to your spouse (pardon my horse play).

Be that as it may, it may interest you to know that anthropologists believe kissing is a learned behavior. But they believe above all in science, so what competence could anthropologists possibly have in the field of kissing….with the likely exception of Parisian anthropologists, who are said to have French kissing down to an art….in the interest of science? C’est une bonne planque!*

Knowing that many of my readers are serious about science, you would no doubt like to know where I came up with what “it may interest you to know” — so, just so you know:

https://people.howstuffworks.com/kissing2.htm

As for the romantic barbarians among you, far be it from me to kiss you off. Kiss on!

*Nice work if you can get it!

I’LL MEET YOU AT THE OLD CAMP MEETING

It has been some time since I devoted a post to one of my passions, namely CLASSIC JAZZ, so what say we ramble on down to the old camp meeting and get some jazz religion? If you’re not a classic jazz lover, perhaps it’s because you’ve never been exposed or open to the sound of America’s own indigenous music, with its roots in late 19th century ragtime, gospel and blues, among other influences. So I’m making it my mission (and New Year’s resolution) to deliver you from that sin of omission in your musical faith upbringing.

One of the greatest pioneering jazzmen was New Orleans-born Joseph “King” Oliver, mentor of Louis Armstrong, who made a number of historic jazz records beginning in 1923, including CAMP MEETING BLUES. Here is the beginning of that primitive recording, which transitions beautifully (after 37 seconds) into the PERUNA JAZZMEN’s 1988 faithful-to-the-original rendering:

Next, we turn to an even more recent rendering of an even older Camp Meeting song:

:

Our last Camp Meeting is a Swing era classic from another king, the King of Swing, Benny Goodman:

Now that you have seen the light, go and sin no more.

Amen.

Oh….and Happy New Year!

 

SCAT!

Wait — don’t scat! Stay where you are and let scat come to you — scat singing, that is — and who better to lay the scat on you than two of the best: Mel Tormé, whose birthday (9/13/25) we celebrate this month, and the First Lady of Scat, Ella Fitzgerald:

Man, if that didn’t knock your socks off, you’d better put your shoes on and scat back to Squaresville, because you’re just not with it! To say scat singing is little more than vocal jazz improvisation with nonsense words is like saying The Donald is just improvising when he lets loose with nonsense tweets (to use a reverse perverse metaphor).

So, who was the cat who ‘invented’ scat? There seems to be no definitive answer, but some say it began 2/26/26 when Louis Armstrong supposedly forgot the words to this song and began improvising a little more than halfway through the recording:

Let’s wrap it up with this recent scat-iteration (which, I kid you not, ends with tweets):

And now you can scat! Come back any time.

MAY IS OLDER AMERICANS MONTH (and don’t you forget it!)

May is OLDER AMERICANS MONTH. I’m pretty sure I qualify as an older American because, as George Washington told me, “The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves”….or maybe I’m thinkin’ of Lincoln (incidental details, like who said what, can get a bit hazy at my age). No matter — either way, it proves I’ve been around long enough to establish my bona feces.

As long as I’m quoting bigwigs I have known or could have known (as the case may be), no doubt you will be interested in other memorable quotes that I remember, most of which admittedly weren’t said to me directly, but which I either overheard, or were whiskered to me in confidence by the quotees under their goatees (or beards, as the face may be):

Old age is no place for sissies. –Bette Davis (whose facial hair at the time was confined to a mustache, as I recall)

Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act. –Truman Capote

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened. –Jennifer Yane

If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself. — variously attributed to  Eubie Blake, Adolph Zukor and Mae West, among others

There is no cure for the common birthday. —John Glenn

You’re only as old as the girl that you feel. –Groucho Marx

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. –Chili Davis

Time may be a great healer, but it’s a lousy beautician. –Anonymous

Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. –Anonymous

So there you have the story of my anonymous existence: just when I’m on a roll, I run flush out of time. C’est la vie. Take it on out, Pops (Louis) and Schnoz (Jimmy):

 

 

 

 

 

EAST MEETS WEST DAY

EAST IS EAST, AND WEST IS WEST, AND NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET. –Rudyard Kipling

The above quote notwithstanding, it’s not too late if you want to meet Twain. Forget East/West, and return to the site of my previous post (MARK TWAIN ON DONALD TRUMP), where Twain still lives. I could quibble that you should have met him there then, but I am magnanimous enough to forgive those of you who didn’t read that post (so long as you promise never to let it happen again).

Be that as it may, this is April — April 24th, to be exact, which just happens to be East Meets West Day, which just happens to give me an excuse to engross you with some of my favorite East and/or West songs, such as this old standard by an old favorite:

Keely Smith (born Dorothy Keely) died four months ago at age 89, one of the best (though underappreciated) female vocalists of the 1950s-60s.

Next, we change directions for this Kurt Weill classic from the 1943 musical ONE TOUCH OF VENUS:

Let us end, fittingly, with WEST END BLUES by Louis Armstrong, one of the all-time great recordings in jazz history:

That performance was recorded in 1928; 90 years later, you can travel far and wide, east and west, and never the same shall meet.