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.
This column is about songs with introductions that most of us didn’t realise had such introductions. Given that, they are mostly pretty old songs, and the versions are just about as old.
Anything Goes is a famous song written by COLE PORTER.
Most of us wouldn’t have heard the introduction before; I suspect that Cole is the only one who recorded it. I think this is the original version of the song, as there are references in it that I haven’t heard before, some of which are a little dated.
Anyway, here is the way Cole imagined his song originally.
The song Love Letters in the Sand is mostly associated in my brain with Pat Boone. However, he didn’t sing the introduction. I could only find two versions of the song where someone did.
One I eschewed, even though it was the better one, because I’m using him for another song, and including his version in another column - pickings are slim in the category so I had to shuffle things around. I ended up with GENE AUSTIN who recorded it in 1931. It was the original version.
Gene started in Vaudeville as the result of a dare. He later became one of the first crooners. He was also an early champion of Fats Waller, and besides that wrote numerous songs that entered the canon and are still sung today.
This isn’t one of them, it was written by Fred Coots and Nick and Charles Kenny.
Not only did the song Are You Lonesome Tonight originally have an introduction, it also had an extra verse that those familiar with the more famous versions by Elvis and Al Jolson lack. Also, besides losing things, they added that talkie bit in the middle of the song that’s not in the original.
When I say original, I mean it. This is the original recording by CHARLES HART.
He recorded this back in 1927, and I notice that he really likes rolling his R’s.
Like the previous song, this one not only has an introduction, after all, that’s why we’re here, but it also has an extra verse, or perhaps a bridge, that I’ve not heard in elsewhere. This one is by the BOSWELL SISTERS.
This is the only one where I heard the intro. Even Fats Waller, who as far as I can tell, recorded it first, omits the intro and extra verse. Maybe the Boswells were the only one would record the complete song.
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, it’s I'm Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.
I could have included several songs by FRANKIE LAINE from an album he recorded with Michel Legrand.
It was a matter of which one that no one else had done. The song I chose is Blue Moon. Years ago I had a column with different versions of that song, so I went back and found none of those had an introduction. Indeed, apart from Frankie’s I couldn’t find another one that did, that’s why he’s included.
I imagine that some of you might be wondering why I included the next song. I know that Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, is one such. The song is one of my guilty pleasures, so it stays. The song is sung by NICK LUCAS as part of the Nick Lucas Troubadours.
If you’re wondering what the song is after that introduction (sorry), think Tiny Tim. Yes, you’ve all won a koala stamp for knowing Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips With Me.
Back in 1937, Harry Warren and Al Dupin wrote the song September in the Rain for the film “Melody for Two”. That song is only memorable for the song. In that film JAMES MELTON sang it as it was written.
Of course, since then it’s gone on to be a standard, not just for singers, but jazz instrumentalists as well. None of the later versions have the intro.
Normally, I’d include Otis Redding, but he didn’t sing the introduction. I believe that he modeled his version on BING CROSBY’s.
I have to take his word on that as they’re as different as night and day. There were a couple of versions before Bing’s but if he’s in the mix, I’ll go with him. The song is Try a Little Tenderness.
The contribution by ETHEL WATERS not only contains a generally unsung introduction, she also performs extra verses or bridges or something that also don’t usually turn up in her song.
Ethel was the real deal, she could sing in pretty much any genre of music and appeared in quite a few films and was nominated for an Oscar for one of those. The song she sings in today’s category is Am I Blue, another I didn’t realise had that intro.
LES GILLIAM recites his intro, rather than singing it.
I don’t know if that counts in this category or not, however, it’s a country song so that’s acceptable in that genre of music. The song was a hit in the fifties for several artists, Les not being one that I remember performing it. The song of which I speak is The Shifting, Whispering Sands.
Going way back, indeed to 1928, we have FRANKLYN BAUR.
Back in the 1920s Frank made hundreds of records, sometimes under different names. He performed on radio and made the occasional film. His career declined in the 1930s and he died quite young.
From his heyday, in this case 1928, Frank sings Marie.
I’ll end with person who is responsible for this column. Well, not quite, that person is Ronni.
She was setting up a column that had LEON REDBONE in it, and noticed that the song had an introduction that generally wasn’t performed by others. We wondered how many other songs out there are like that, and if it could make a column.
As you can see, it certainly has. This isn’t the song in question; it’s another as I found that Leon performed several such songs. This one is My Melancholy Baby.