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.
This is an on-going series featuring the music of a particular year. 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 1952?
- Well, I was in 2nd grade.
- First hydrogen bomb was tested.
- Elizabeth Windsor became queen of England.
- Helsinki staged the Olympics Games.
- Richard Nixon made his "cloth coat" speech.
- Anne Frank's diary was published.
- Australia won the Davis Cup (again).
- Hattie McDaniel died.
Although he is right handed, SLIM WHITMAN plays his guitar leftie. That's because he lost a couple of fingers from his left hand in an accident at a shipyard where he worked before the war.
He learned to play the guitar while in the navy during the war. I guess the navy weren't fussed about missing fingers. Afterwards he started his professional singing career at several Tampa radio stations where he caught the ear of "Colonel" Tom Parker (ah hah).
Old Tom got him a recording contract (and collected a pretty decent percentage, no doubt). Slim had a few songs that did okay but the one we have today is the one that hit it big for him, Indian Love Call.
THE MILLS BROTHERS had an astonishingly long career, more than 50 years in the business.
Even after the first of the brothers died, they kept going as a trio to rack up even more mileage. Their father started a barbershop quartet, well he actually owned a barbershop, and it was probably this influence that set his sons on their career.
Their professional career began in the twenties and, as I said, kept going for a hell of a long time. They had so many hits over the years. I'm not going to mention any of them apart from the one we're interested in today, The Glow Worm.
PEARL BAILEY, and that's her real name, started in vaudeville, appeared on Broadway where she won a Tony, on television scoring an Emmy. Only the Oscar is missing.
Her uninhibited approach to singing gave inferior songs a worth that nobody noticed and made good songs sound magnificent.
She started performing as a dancer and a singer while still a teenager and performed with many bands of the day. She married jazz musician Louie Bellson and they had a long (and apparently happy) life together. Pearl's biggest hit is the one we're featuring today, It Takes Two to Tango.
At last we're starting to get some rhythm & blues recognised. Normally there'd be some Fats Domino by now; he must have slipped my mind. However, in his place is fellow New Orleans singer, LLOYD PRICE.
Lloyd had many hits throughout the Fifties but this is the first that came to general notice.
Speaking of Fats, as Lloyd didn't have a band at this stage the record company put together a scratch unit that included Fats playing the piano with Dave Bartholomew doing whatever it was he did. After this one the hits dried up, mainly because Lloyd was drafted and sent to Korea.
Later in the decade he was huge with such songs as Personality, Stagger Lee, I'm Going to Get Married and so on. Here he is with the one that kicked off his career, Lawdy Miss Clawdy.
For a complete change of pace, here's EDDIE FISHER.
This song doesn't really grab me but choices were lean this year. Anyway, it was on one of my "various" CDs so I might as well use it.
Eddie's probably best known for having married Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, Connie Stevens and others. In the early Fifties it was almost de rigueur that Eddie had to have a song on the chart all the time. Even my sister had one of his records. This isn't it. This one is Lady of Spain.
Another artist whose records my sister had is JOHNNIE RAY.
Indeed, this is one she owned. His records I would play, unlike those of Eddie Fisher. The tune was more a nod to jazz than leaning towards rock & roll as his later songs did. Well, Nat King Cole did a version of this at the time as well. This is Walkin' My Baby Back Home.
Although she far preferred singing sophisticated pop or jazz standards, that arbiter of bad taste, Mitch Miller, insisted ROSEMARY CLOONEY sing "novelty" songs as well.
These generally outsold the good songs, many selling in the millions so I guess there was something to what he was doing. However, Rosemary never did like performing them and who can blame her?
This is not one of Mitch's choices. This is one of the sophisticated pop songs, Half as Much.
Tex Ritter recorded the theme for the film High Noon. Originally this song wasn't released. It wasn't until FRANKIE LAINE had a hit with it that Tex's version saw light of day as a single.
By then it was rather too late as Frankie's was the one everyone knew about.
The two versions are somewhat different in their words. Whereas Tex's version describes the action in the film, Frankie plays a little fast and loose with it as he wasn't constrained by telling the story that was unfolding on the screen.
They're both good, but I prefer Tex as I usually go for the original. To be true to the spirit of these columns Tex really appears in 1953 so it's Frankie's version today.
When I was compiling this one, I wondered about the song You Belong to Me. I couldn't place it, so I went through my collection, found it and played it.
Ah - light bulb. That's the "See the pyramids along the Nile" song, now I know. This was a hit for JO STAFFORD.
It was also a hit for Patti Page (and probably others), however, as I'll be featuring Patti a bit in this series I thought I'd give Jo a run this time.
Jo originally wanted to be an opera singer and took singing lessons with that in mind. She eventually chucked that in and joined her sisters as the Stafford Sisters (catchy name). She eventually joined the Pied Pipers, attached to Tommy Dorsey's outfit, and later pursued a solo career in pop and jazz.
Here's Jo with You Belong to Me (the pyramids along the Nile song).
This was HANK WILLIAMS's last year on the planet.
He had several hits in 1952, including Jambalaya, Your Cheatin' Heart, and the prophetic I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive.
Hank was supposed to appear at a 1953 New Year's Day concert in Ohio. However, the weather was really bad so he didn't take the plane. He hired a student to drive him to the concert. Alas, by the time he got there, due to a combination of painkillers and alcohol, Hank was dead.
Because the first two songs I mentioned are so well known, I've decided to go with the third of these, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive.
In past columns I have already used some of the songs from this year. If you'd like to hear more you can find them here. They are:
Patti Page – I Went to Your Wedding
Teresa Brewer – Till I Waltz Again With You
Guy Mitchell – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1953 will appear in two weeks' time.