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’ll begin with LYLE LOVETT.
Tom Rush has said that Lyle isn’t like the other kiddies, and he’s right. His boat has his pony on board. Not just that but Roy Rogers and Trigger as well as the Lone Ranger and Tonto. If you can’t imagine how all that works, have a listen to If I Had a Boat.
Riverboats didn’t just truck up and down the Mississippi River; they were in Australia as well plying their trade along the Murray River. Actually, they’re still there but it’s the tourists who ride them these days, not wool, cotton, wheat and the like. To tell you of the original boats here are STARS.
Stars were a particularly fine, but short lived group – they produced only two albums. That was due to the death from cancer of their main songwriter and lead guitarist. Before that occurred, they recorded Last of the River Boats.
Back during the great folk scare of the early sixties, THE HIGHWAYMEN had a big hit with the traditional song Michael Row the Boat Ashore.
This group has no connection to a later bunch who also went by the name The Highwaymen. The more recent mob was Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson.
The folkies were Dave Fischer, Bob Burnett, Steve Butts, Chan Daniels and Steve Trott. Later, some left and others joined, including Gil Robbins, father of the actor Tim.
How many versions are there of On a Slow Boat to China? I’ll tell you: a lot, but none of them floated my boat (sorry) except the version by SONNY ROLLINS and THE MODERN JAZZ QUARTET.
I hadn’t realised that Sonny had recorded with the MJQ, so I learn from these columns as well (I hope) as you do. I include Sonny as often as I can and the MJQ are always welcome.
Here is an unusual song by the INK SPOTS.
What’s unusual about it is that bass singer, Hoppy Jones, didn’t perform his free form rap in the middle of the song as he did on pretty much all their other songs. I was a little disappointed as I always expect that. It doesn’t matter, here is Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat.
SPLIT ENZ were a strange band from New Zealand who were huge in Australia, as well as being a cult success elsewhere.
Actually, all bands from New Zealand were a bit strange except for Max Merritt and the Meteors, who were the best of the lot, but that’s enough of that.
The Enz gave us the talented brothers Tim Finn (who started the Enz) and Neil Finn (later the main man for Crowded House). The group gives us Six Months in a Leaky Boat.
I was tempted to include Stan Freberg’s version of The Banana Boat Song, but thought better of it and went with HARRY BELAFONTE instead.
This isn’t Harry’s best song but it certainly is memorable, especially his mentioning the black tarantula, something I normally don’t want to think about. Just try and put it out of your mind (if that’s possible).
Here’s the real version of the song – I suggest you check out Stan Freberg’s version as well.
Texas has given us many of the finest singer/songwriters around and one of the best of them was GUY CLARK.
His songs were an interesting blend of poetry and wit and he turned it all into a musical art form that few have matched. From the album of the same name, here is Boats to Build.
HOAGY CARMICHAEL name-checks a bunch of jazz musicians from around the time he recorded this song.
I had to include a Mississippi riverboat song, at least I think it is, it’s not explicitly stated. I imagine that a song called Riverboat Shuffle sailed on that river.
From the Mississippi to the Gulf, I’ll let JO STAFFORD tell you about it.
Those with long memories will know the song I’m talking about. Her boats are working boats, not luxury tourist ones, and they bring in the shrimps (or prawns as we Australians call them, in spite of that advertisement). The song, of course is Shrimp Boats.
I mentioned the DIONNE WARWICK song in the introduction so it’s only fair that I include it.
This was one of the many songs that Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote for Dionne. Most of them became big hits, including this one. Trains and Boats and Planes.