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  • mistermuse 12:17 am on October 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Dick Smith, doo wop, , It's Wondereful, , , , Maxine Sullivan, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, , Peter Minturn, popular music, , Smith Brothers, songwriters, Stuff Smith, The Sheik of Araby   


    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.



    • calmkate 1:26 am on October 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      well I think you are pun-tastic! Some great classics here, thanks for sharing ūüôā

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 9:52 am on October 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        Kate (speaking of Smiths), here’s a song that’s a real classic:

        Footnote: GOD BLESS AMERICA was written by Irving Berlin in 1918 (near end of WWI) for a show, but it was never published or recorded and was filed away by Berlin “to use someday on the right occasion” (quoting him). That occasion occurred after Neville Chamberlain appeased Adolph Hitler in 1938, leading to WWII. Kate Smith introduced the song on her CBS radio show on Nov. 10, 1938.

        Liked by 2 people

        • calmkate 7:17 pm on October 1, 2019 Permalink

          lol we look nothing alike and I can’t sing a note … a bit too much for me at breakfast time thanks MrM ūüėČ

          Liked by 1 person

    • smbabbitt 10:15 am on October 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Out of a generic name, a delightful assortment of songs.

      Liked by 1 person

    • masercot 12:13 pm on October 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Leon Redbone did a great version of Sheik of Araby…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Elizabeth 12:50 pm on October 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      There are certainly plenty of singers named Smith. Clever of you to realize that there are not too many songwriters with the name.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 3:11 pm on October 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        Having little or no interest in today’s music, Elizabeth, I don’t know how many Smith singers OR songwriters there are now….but I do find it interesting that historically, there have been relatively few songwriters among the millions of Smiths in America over the past 100 years.

        Liked by 1 person

    • magickmermaid 2:26 pm on October 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      Mistermuse is definitely a pun-sation! ūüôā

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 6:05 pm on October 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        It’s easy to sea that you are no mere-maid and have pun-tastic judgment, mm.

        P.S. I’ve forgotten — how much was it that I agreed to pay you for that comment?

        Liked by 1 person

    • Ricardo 2:06 pm on October 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      I’d bring to your attention The Smiths, a popular band in the ’80’s whose songs featured ramblings about death, depression and dissatisfaction in love, except that I couldn’t stand them and I’m glad I never hear their music anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 2:57 pm on October 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply

        The Smiths sound like a good(?) example of why I haven’t listened to popular music since the 1970s, Ricardo. If I missed anything, Ignorance is bliss (so they say).


    • America On Coffee 10:57 pm on October 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply

      A very interesting selection, some I am not familiar with. I really appreciate all of them. Thanks for sharing.‚̧ԳŹ‚̧ԳŹ‚̧ԳŹ‚̧ԳŹ‚̧ԳŹ

      Liked by 1 person

  • mistermuse 12:00 am on May 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gilbert and Sullivan, , , , Joseph Cotton, , , , popular music, , , ,   


    Each of the five days since my last post¬†was the birthday of¬†at least one iconic figure in music or film¬†who¬†left¬†lasting memories for those who appreciate legacies in¬†artistry. I could easily go overboard¬†writing in depth about any¬†of these mid-May arrivals, but maybe it’s best to lessen my losses by not overly¬†testing readers’ patience (O me of little faith!):

    May 11 — IRVING BERLIN (1888-1989). Perhaps the most prolific composer in American history, with an estimated 1,500 songs to his credit, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films (three of which were Astaire-Rogers musicals). Writing both words and music (relatively rare for his era), his hits include seasonal evergreens¬†White Christmas¬†and¬†Easter Parade,¬†as well as¬†the red, white and blue¬†God Bless America. His lyrics may lack the wit and sophistication of Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart, but there’s no denying the¬†emotional appeal¬†of¬†such songs¬†as….

    May 12 — KATHERINE HEPBURN (1907-2003).¬†In the¬†Golden Era¬†of Hollywood, was there¬†ever a more successful,¬†fiercely¬†independent woman than Katherine Hepburn?¬† Successful? It’s hard to argue against receiving¬†a record¬†four Academy Awards for Best Actress, and being named the greatest female star of Classic Hollywood Cinema by the American Film Institute. Independent? Her own words say it all:

    “I have not lived as a woman. I have lived as a man. I’ve just done what I damn well wanted to, and I’ve made enough money to support myself, and ain’t afraid of being alone.” (Hard as it may be¬†to¬†imagine¬†the Bryn Mawr-educated Hepburn uttering¬†“ain’t,” I ain’t about to correct her quote.)

    “We are taught you must …. never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change, you’re the one who has got to change.”

    “As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.”

    “Life gets harder the smarter you get, the more you know.”

    “Politicians remain professional because the voters remain amateur.”

    NOTE: For my ode to another May 12 bundle of joy, see my post of May 12, 2015.

    May 13 — ARTHUR SULLIVAN (1842-1900). Can’t place the name? How about Arthur Sullivan of¬†GILBERT AND SULLIVAN fame? Who doesn’t¬†enjoy their great comic operas such as THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, THE MIKADO and H.M.S. PINAFORE —¬†the latter of which I have loved since When I was a Lad:

    May 14 — SIDNEY BECHET (1897-1959). This is a name you almost certainly can’t place unless you’re a classic jazz fan….but if you are such a fan, you know¬†him as a¬†major figure in¬†jazz¬†annals since his¬†recording debut¬†in 1923. New Orleans born, he spent the last decade of his life in France, where he died on the same day — May 14 — that he was born.¬†Here he is on soprano sax in¬†a 1950s recording¬†from the soundtrack of Woody Allen’s magical¬†MIDNIGHT IN PARIS:

    May 15 — JOSEPH COTTON¬†(1905-1994). I have previously mentioned Joseph Cotton in regard to his co-starring role (with Orson Welles and Alida Valli) in one of my favorite films, THE THIRD MAN. He first met¬†Welles in¬†1934, beginning a life-long friendship and on-and-off association with Welles in numerous plays, radio dramas and films,¬†as well as co-starring with Katherine Hepburn in the 1939 Broadway play THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. But it is in¬†his role as Holly Martens in THE THIRD MAN that he stands alone (literally so, in the end), and I can think of no more fitting way to¬†end this post than with that indelible closing scene from the film (to the¬†tune of Anton Karas’ Third Man Theme):

    • calmkate 3:49 am on May 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Nice to know I share my birthday with someone better known lol

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 9:10 am on May 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        Being better known isn’t necessarily something admirable — in evidence, I offer that supreme IT’S-ALL-ABOUT-ME showman, Donald Trump. ūüė¶

        Liked by 1 person

        • calmkate 3:55 pm on May 15, 2017 Permalink

          well you know how to burst a girls balloon .. what a truly terrible comparison … now I want to stay anonymous forever!

          Liked by 1 person

    • Jay 12:17 pm on May 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Isn’t it nice to imagine a big party where they’re all celebrating?

      Liked by 2 people

    • Don Frankel 12:41 pm on May 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Irving Berlin was born Israel Isidore Baline in what is now Belarus. I always think of that when I think of such songs as Easter Parade and White Christmas since he was a good Jewish boy.

      One of my relative’s relative was his Accountant.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 4:23 pm on May 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Don, Berlin once wrote a song titled I PAID MY INCOME TAX TODAY. It figures that he might have gotten the idea from your relative (the accountant).


    • Ricardo 6:02 pm on May 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      True dat about the voters, Sr. Muse

      Liked by 1 person

  • mistermuse 1:01 am on November 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Harry Woods, , , , , piano roll, popular music, , ,   



    In my¬†last post (NOTES FROM THE ALLEY), I touched on¬†TIN PAN ALLEY’s origins and location, but¬†failed to mention where the name came from. For that, I quote from another¬†book, FROM SAGINAW VALLEY TO TIN PAN ALLEY by R. Grant Smith:

    On a summer day in New York City, just before 1900, songwriter and journalist Monroe Rosenfeld walked down West 28th Street, on the way to his publisher, to demonstrate a new song he had written. As he passed the rows of music publishing houses, clustered together and piled on top of each other, he heard the sounds of hundreds of pianos, playing hundreds of pieces of music, pouring out of the open windows. The tumultuous noise reminded him of tin pans clanging together.
    Later that day, when Rosenfeld returned to his typewriter at the New York Herald, he wrote an article about what he had just experienced, referring to the area he had visited as “Tin Pan Alley.” This name would remain synonymous with the popular music publishing industry in America for the next¬†sixty years.

    Think of THE¬†GOLDEN AGE OF POPULAR MUSIC (which includes the storied¬†Roaring Twenties) as TIN PAN ALLEY writ large, a¬†coast-to-coast¬†cacophony of sounds¬†impossible to¬†paint a complete picture of¬†in these few sketches — but¬†my hope is¬†to¬†convey¬†at least a feel for the era….principally with clips of songs written and performed by composers and artists¬†like those featured in the previous post. Picking up where we left off in 1921, I’ll resist the urge to¬†test your forbearance¬†with a 1922 triumph of treacle¬†titled¬†GRANNY, YOU’RE MY MAMMY’S MAMMY (I kid you¬†not), and go instead with 1922 and 1923 hits about guys named Harry and Barney:

    Skipping past such 1924/25 doozies as DOODLE DOO DOO and¬†DOO WACKA DOO, we come to 1926, a banner year for songs that became all-time standards, including one that a very young Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers blew out of the water —¬†“The name of this song is DINAH”:

    Now we’re on a roll — here’s¬†another 1926 standard, played by it’s Hart-less¬†composer:

    But¬†what’s a Richard Rodgers composition¬†minus Lorenz Hart lyrics? It’s like¬†romance expressed without a word, as proposed¬†in¬†another of¬†their 1926 songs (1:40 into this clip):

    Hart died (tragically young) in the month of November, but many great Golden Age songwriters were¬†born¬†in this month, including Harry Woods, who began writing¬†hits (like “I’m Looking Over A Four-Leaf Clover”)¬†in the early¬†1920s….however, I’m going to¬†jump ahead here¬†with one of his lesser known songs from the 1930s — repeat, the 1930s:


    • arekhill1 7:41 pm on November 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I’m a punk rock fan myself, Sr. Muse. But history needs to be tended by historians like yourself.


    • mistermuse 10:51 pm on November 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Perhaps six music clips in one post was too much of a good thing, even for those who are open to the oldies, Ricardo….so how about some history-making political news: Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, has just elected a new mayor — a two-year old pit bull named Brynn — to succeed Lucy Lou, the border collie whose bid for President went up in smoke months ago. It’s been a bad year for females running for the White House.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Carmen 5:19 am on November 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      You mean we were watching Alfalfa in the 60’s and he was already over 30 years old?? ūüėČ That was certainly a blast from the past. ..

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 8:03 am on November 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Carmen, I remember watching the Keystone Kops on TV in the 60’s when they were already 50 years old, so if Alfalfa was a blast from the past, the madcap Kops were an indignity from antiquity! ūüôā


    • Don Frankel 9:24 am on November 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Great stuff Muse. Roger’s first song or one of his first. And of course Alfalfa. I remember that scene from when I was a kid.


    • mistermuse 11:48 am on November 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks, Don. I own a biography of Rodgers (titled SOMEWHERE FOR ME) which shows that his first published songs go back as far as 1919, however BLUE ROOM was certainly one of his first HIT songs (after MANHATTAN, written in 1925).


    • Cynthia Jobin 8:54 pm on November 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Can’t beat Bing, in my book….

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 10:01 pm on November 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        I much prefer the voice of the young Bing to the 1940s-and-later Bing. His early recordings are classics, and I own most, if not all, of them.


    • D. Wallace Peach 10:46 pm on November 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Lots of music! Most from before my time but I remember them! ūüôā

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 11:12 pm on November 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you, Diana. In a certain sense, if you remember them, they’re not before your time. ūüôā

      Liked by 1 person

  • mistermuse 1:15 am on August 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Charles Tobias, , , , , , , , Ned Washington, popular music, recordings, Rose O'Day, Sidney Clare, , Victor Young   

    ATTENTION! (Or, as the French say, ATTENTION!)* 

    *There is a pronounced difference.


    It is said that youth must be served, but¬†the extent of¬†what this generation¬†knows of¬†music¬†is such¬†that 1920s-1940s popular music/classic jazz, and hence¬†this post,¬†might as well be¬†in¬†a foreign language. However,¬†for¬†those¬†past being¬†served by¬†the¬†myopic world of¬†current¬†culture,¬†listen up!¬†August 15¬†is one of those days of a convergence¬†which doesn’t come along every day: it’s the birthday of no less than¬†four¬†Golden Age American songwriters, the titles of whose songs afford me a theme-opportunity beyond the happenstance of their birthdays-in-common.

    All four (born on this date¬†from 1892 to 1901) were prolific tunesmiths, but what¬†caught my¬†attention¬†is that each wrote¬†one song with a girl’s name in the title which, in two cases, became standards, and in all four¬†cases, were big hits in their day. The writers: Harry Akst, Sidney Clare, Charles Tobias, and Ned Washington; the¬†songs: DINAH, MISS ANNABELLE LEE, ROSE O’DAY and¬†STELLA BY STARLIGHT.

    Although none of these men’s fame survived their era,¬†a number¬†of their compositions¬†did (or, as an Irving Berlin song title put it,¬†The Song Is Ended, But The Melody Lingers On). One such¬†ditty is DINAH, by Harry Akst,¬† a favorite of jazz musicians which has been recorded¬†countless times since the 1920s. I like so many versions of this song that I couldn’t further¬†narrow down this¬†list if you Akst me to:

    (Louis Armstrong)
    (New Orleans Jazz Vipers)
    (Bing Crosby/Mills Bros.)
    (Fats Waller)

    The next tune, by Sidney Clare,¬†is a particular favorite of mine.Written in 1927,¬†it¬†was recorded by numerous jazz and dance bands and became¬†a toe-tapping¬†best seller in America and Europe. What’s not to like about her? She’s wonderful, she’s marvelous….MISS ANNABELLE LEE:

    (George Fisher Kit Cat Band)
    (Savoy Havana Band)

    Next we have Charles Tobias’s ROSE O’DAY, the most lightweight of the four — due, not¬†to diet, but to being¬†a¬†silly novelty song¬†which nevertheless was one of 1941’s top hits:

    (Dick Todd)

    Last but not lightweight, there’s STELLA BY STARLIGHT, composed by Victor Young as¬†the theme for¬†the 1944¬†film “The Uninvited,” with lyrics added by Ned Washington in 1946. This beautiful standard has been recorded by dozens of artists, including the following:

    (Billy Eckstein)
    (Anita O’Day)
    (Frank Sinatra)

    That’s all. AS YOU WERE¬†(if you’ve ever been¬†in the military, you know what that means).


    • sonniq 7:35 am on August 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      You are right that the kids today won’t know this music. I listened to one with Louie Armstrong and then got lost in YouTube watching video after video of old clips. Fun.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 8:49 am on August 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I grew up with this music and was still in my teens in the early to mid 1950s when R&B and R&R burst on the scene, some of which I dug & some of which I didn’t. I think young people should be open to sounds different from what they hear every day, but they’re captives of their culture, and most will probably never know any better/grow to be open to expanded horizons.


    • M√©l@nie 2:24 pm on August 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      excellent post, comme d’habitude… ūüôā well, “attention!” sounds better than… “achtung!” ūüėČ

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 3:50 pm on August 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      You got that right. When the Germans said “Ach-tung!”, they weren’t just “Act-ing!” – they meant it! ūüė¶

      Liked by 1 person

      • M√©l@nie 6:24 am on August 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        it does mean almost the same thing nowadays, as well… they haven’t changed that much and do believe they’re THE best – at least in Europe…

        Liked by 1 person

    • Don Frankel 3:41 pm on August 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I’m going with Louis Armstrong on Dinah, Billy Eckstein on Stella by Starlight and the Savoy Havana Band on Miss AnnaBelle Lee. But you can’t go wrong with any of these. Keep ’em alive Muse. Keep ’em alive.


    • mistermuse 4:27 pm on August 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Don, did you notice that when Sinatra made that 1947 recording of STELLA BY STARLIGHT, he still pronounced Stella “Stellar’ like he never left New Jersey? But that doesn’t take away from his fine rendition, though I agree that Billy Eckstein takes the prize, and Anita O’Day’s version is also top notch.


    • BroadBlogs 1:22 pm on August 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Lovin’ all that jazz.


    • mistermuse 3:01 pm on August 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      If you didn’t love jazz before, I’m glad you’re lovin’ it now, because I love to win converts to my religion. ūüôā


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