This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
I started this particular column only so I could include this first song. Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I were driving to Daylesford (north-west of Melbourne, famed for its restaurants) when we heard it on the radio.
"What is that?" we said, and "We have to include that in a column." And so it shall be. Fortunately, we got the name of the song but not the performer. I have since discovered that it is SOL K. BRIGHT & HIS HOLLYWAIIANS.
That's Sol, third from the left. What a treat the song is, so for your delectation here is the Hawaiian Cowboy. I challenge you not to smile while listening.
BILLIE HOLIDAY was in full swing around this time.
Naturally, I'll include Billie whenever I can. The song I've chosen was written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields and first performed by Fred Astaire serenading Ginger Rogers in the film "Swing Time". It is The Way You Look Tonight.
Here is another unlikely cowboy. This time it's BING CROSBY.
At first I couldn't imagine Bing as a cowboy but after some research I found that he played one in the film "Rhythm on the Range" from 1936 – our chosen year, in fact.
Indeed, it was from that film that we get Bing's song I'm An Old Cowhand. There were about a dozen songs in the film which wouldn't have left much time for ridin', ropin' and rootin'.
I could have included FRED ASTAIRE earlier, but I already had him for this next song.
Like the Billie's song, it was written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, and was also from the same film. Fred sings A Fine Romance.
LOUIS ARMSTRONG could have been included several times this year, but I restrained myself.
I also restrained myself from saying that he was the most important musician of the twentieth century. Oops, too late. Here is Lyin' To Myself.
While we're on the subject of important musicians, probably the most influential blues musician of the first half of the century had several songs on the chart this year. I'm talking about ROBERT JOHNSON, of course.
He didn't get around to recording any more songs (after the 40 or so he produced in his first recording session) as he was murdered a few months later. He was one of the earliest members of the "27 Club". One of his most covered songs is Sweet Home Chicago. Here is the original.
FATS WALLER is another who can bring a smile to your face, even when he's being serious.
Fats wrote hundreds of songs that are attributed to him, and apparently many more. Early on, he had to sell them to earn a little money and for which he wasn't credited with the authorship. Alas, he died young, 39, of pneumonia on a train between Los Angeles and New York. Fats' song from this year is All My Life.
THE BOSWELL SISTERS were the main competition to the Andrews Sisters around this time.
Fats Waller was probably the first person to record and popularize the song I'm Going To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter, however, he didn't write it. That was Fred Ahlert and Joe Young. Hot on Fats' heels, the Boswells had a go at it. They included parts of the song that aren't heard these days.
I'm sure that TAMPA RED had nothing but pure thoughts when he recorded Let's Get Drunk and Truck.
Red started life as Hudson Woodbridge but from early on he was known as Hudson Whittaker. He was another influential blues man and was a master of the bottleneck guitar style. That's not evident on this song; piano and kazoo seem to be the dominant instruments.
HAL KEMP played saxophone and clarinet and was a band leader in the thirties.
Unfortunately, he was killed in a car accident in 1940. BOB ALLEN was one of several singers who performed with Hal.
Here they are with A Star Fell Out Of Heaven.