You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
I'm starting an experiment today, a series featuring the music of a particular year. There will be ten of these, the years from 1950 through 1959 and the music from those years.
These aren't the Top 10, Top 40 or Top anything, they're just tunes I selected from the year with no apparent logic behind it.
What happened in 1950?
- Well, I hadn't started school yet.
- North Korea invaded the south.
- Peanuts was first published.
- The great Brinks robbery in Boston.
- Australia won the Davis Cup (again).
- George Bernard Shaw died.
As a mathematician, I know that 1950 was actually the final year of the Forties but I've pretty much bowed to the inevitable and common usage and say that here's where the Fifties begin.
Musically, the Fifties probably didn't really begin until 1956 (and ended around 1963) but I won't go with that argument. Let's just play some music.
The legend is that Carol Reed, the movie director, was in Vienna filming his masterpiece, The Third Man, and came across Anton Karas playing in a club. He hired him on the spot to perform the music for his film.
This isn't quite the way it happened. Filming had finished and Carol and the rest of the crew were at a post-production party and Anton was playing at the gig. The rest of the story is pretty much the same.
Initially, he was hired merely to play over the opening credits but Carol decided to use him throughout the film. He kept him at it for three months working 12 to 15 hours a day. He was a bit of a taskmaster was the old Carol.
It paid off in the end with one of the most recognisable scores for the best film ever made. Anton Karas with The Third Man Theme played on a zither.
Guy Mitchell could be considered the first major artist whose career was crafted in the recording studio. Before that, singers had to make it big singing with bands, going on the road and so on.
I don't know if that is a positive or negative thing but Guy recorded some of the most enjoyable songs of the Fifties. There are a couple of negatives though - covering some of Marty Robbins' songs and selling more than Marty's (superior) versions.
However, there were a lot of songs he made his own. All that said, I really like Guy Mitchell. This is one of his earliest songs, My Heart Cries for You.
Frankie Laine, along with several other artists, feature several times in this series.
Born Francesco LoVecchio in Chicago, Frankie could sing in any style - country, of course, gospel, folk, rock & roll, popular standards. However, he considered himself a jazz singer, a style that's not usually associated with him.
He started recording in the mid-Forties and was rather a trail blazer for such artists as Johnnie Ray and Tony Bennett. He had many hits in the Fifties; this is just one of them, The Cry of the Wild Goose.
Nat King Cole is another artist who will be featured a bit in these columns.
Nat needs no introduction to anyone who is likely to read this column (unless you show it to your grandchildren, something I won’t do as I don’t have any). I’ll just talk about the song, Mona Lisa.
I was surprised to learn that this was a song from a film (Captain Carey, USA, about which I know nothing) and the song won an Academy Award. It also spent eight weeks as number 1 on Billboard. Well, it certainly deserved to do that.
Since then many people have recorded it. The ones I like are the Neville Brothers and a rockabilly version by Conway Twitty. Today we’re talking about Nat, though.
Hank Williams was one of the greatest songwriters of the twentieth century. He pretty much invented modern country music, although you may not be able to tell that from all those hat acts that are prevalent in the genre.
He was yet another of the live fast, die young crowd; he was only 29 when he died in the back seat of his Cadillac. Although they make a big deal of him now, when he was alive, the Grand Ole Opry really didn't want anything to do with him. He was too much of an individual and they couldn't control him.
Also booze and drugs had a bearing on that as well. Nonetheless, we are indebted to him for his fine songs and the recordings he left behind. This is one of them, Long Gone Lonesome Blues.
Nearly 50 years after her death, Édith Piaf remains the singer against whom every other French singer is judged. Naturally, they all come up wanting.
Édith was born Édith Gassion in Paris. Her parents abandoned her as a young girl and she lived for a time with her grandmother. She re-established contact with her father as a teenager and she sang with him as he performed as an acrobat on the streets.
Édith was discovered singing in those streets by a nightclub owner. It was singing there that she was discovered once again, this time by a record producer.
She led an extraordinary, interesting but extremely taxing life and there was far too much to mention here. Her songs became world-wide hits and this is one of them, La Vie en Rose.
For some reason The Weavers used an orchestra (conducted by Gordon Jenkins) for some of their songs this year rather than rely on their own playing.
I guess it worked as several of these songs topped the charts in spite of the obstacles put in their way. You probably know what they were but I expand on this a little in 1951, coming shortly to a computer near you.
The song is Goodnight Irene, a folk standard but it's often attributed to Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) as he was the first to record it and also changed the words a bit, naturally.
Here are The Weavers in full orchestral mode with the song.
Hank Snow or Clarence to his folks was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. He ran away from home when he was 12 as his stepfather was a vicious tyrant.
He joined a fishing boat as a cabin boy, bought a guitar and learned to play. In his teens he'd gig around the clubs and bars in Halifax. A successful radio spot got him a record deal in Montreal and on the basis of this, he started touring Canada and the country to its immediate south.
Hank settled in Nashville and became a successful singer. He was the man who persuaded the conservative folks at the Grand Ole Opry that they should allow a young singer named Elvis Presley to appear.
This is the song I remember Hank for, I'm Moving On.
As in every year, and particularly in the Fifties, there was certainly some rubbish around. This is today's piece, it's by Eileen Barton.
The daughter of vaudeville artists, she made her stage debut at age two-and-a-half in her parents' act. She was a child star appearing regularly on radio by the age of six. She had her own radio program when she was eight.
As an adult, Eileen had a number of minor hits but there is only one song for which she is remembered. The song apparently is "humorous"; I've also seen it described as "apostrophic.” A little ditty called (If I Knew You Were Comin') I'd've Baked a Cake.
The Ames Brothers were Joe, Gene, Vic and Ed Urick. They originally called themselves The Amory Brothers after Vic's middle name. This was shortened to Ames when they started performing for real.
They were from Massachusetts and their parents brought them up listening to classical music and opera. They also read Shakespeare and other great works of literature to them and the other five kids in the family.
The boys won some talent contests and that led them a job in Boston. They were heard by a record producer and he signed them. Their first record was a smash and it's the one we have today, Rag Mop.
1951 will appear in two weeks' time.