But Beautiful

15 06 2012

But Beautiful—J. Van Heusen/J. Burke, 1947 (Recorded June 15, 2012) This song was written for the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope/Dorothy Lamour flick, Road to Rio. Bing sings it to Dorothy, natch.

I learned this tune years ago and have not played it in quite a while until I decided to make this recording. It took a bit of practice, but it’s sort of like riding a bicycle: I jumped right back on, fell off and skinned my knees a couple of times, but soon I was riding around the block.


My Heart Is a Hobo

15 06 2012

My Heart Is a Hobo—J. Van Heusen/J. Burke, 1947 (Recorded June 15, 2012) Here’s another tune from a Crosby movie, this time, Welcome Stranger. Bing sings it with a fishing pole in his hands while sitting next to Barry Fitzgerald. The masculine lyric changes the line from “Hates the stay-home gal that I am” to “Hates the stodgy guy that I am,” but I altered it to “Hates the stay-home guy that I am.” Small difference. I like to stay home, so it fits that way. ;°)

The Glory of Love

14 06 2012

The Glory of Love—Billy Hill, 1936 (Recorded June 14, 2012) Today is my 32nd wedding anniversary. It occurs to me that I have been playing the ukulele for about as long as I’ve been married, so what better way for me to express my devotion to my one and only by singing and playing the ukulele? And a song called “The Glory of Love,” to boot? Heidi doesn’t pay much attention to my singing and ukulele playing, though, so posting this as a tribute to her is probably an exercise in pointless behavior. Ah, well, we still love each other, and that’s what counts—at least that’s what my lawyer tells me.

“Glory of Love” was the biggest hit song written by Billy Hill, whose downeast New England upbringing contrasts with his fame for writing cowboy/western-style melodies. Hill did “Go West” around 1917, spending youthful time absorbing influences that led him to write some of the best high-lonesome–sounding pop songs of the era.

I recorded this tune not only for m’lady, but also as the current entry in the Ukulele Cosmos’s monthly “Open Invitational” song challenge. Go there to hear many other fine ukulele versions of this song. In fact, if you have any interest at all in ukes (and who doesn’t?) sign up for the Cosmos forum. In addition to getting a Euro-British–inflected taste of ukuleledom, you’ll also virtually meet some of the most witty, intelligent, talented people to be found in any hemisphere.

Thanks for listening. Oh, and if anybody sees my wife, tell her I’ve been trying to call….

My Ship

2 06 2012

My Ship—K. Weill/I. Gershwin, 1941 (Recorded June 2, 2012) This bittersweet ballad comes from the Weill/Gershwin Broadway musical, Lady in the Dark, and introduced by Gertrude Lawrence in character as Liza Elliott. I first fell in love with the tune by way of Johnny Hartman’s recording from his 1964 album, The Voice That Is!

Here’s a provocative quote by Ira Gershwin about the song. When the Hollywood movie of Lady in the Dark was made in 1944, “My Ship” didn’t make the final cut. Gershwin was bemused by this decision. From Wikipedia:

“Later, when Lady in the Dark was filmed, the script necessarily had many references to the song. But for some unfathomable reason the song itself—as essential to this musical drama as a stolen necklace or a missing will to a melodrama—was omitted. Although the film was successful financially, audiences evidently were puzzled or felt thwarted or something, because items began to appear in movie-news columns mentioning that the song frequently referred to in Lady in the Dark was ‘My Ship.’ I hold a brief for Hollywood, having been more or less a movie-goer since I was nine; but there are times….”

Hollywood. There are times, indeed.

A note about this recording: This is another of my early-morning, before-the-first-cuppa-joe efforts, where my voice is still, um, textured. I used the 1920s Lyon & Healy soprano ukulele and sang it straight through, with a touch of added reverb.

Oh, one more thing—also snatched from Wikipedia…I had to post this picture of Kurt Weill. It’s charming. ;°)

Meet Me Somewhere in Your Dreams

31 05 2012

Meet Me Somewhere in Your Dreams—Herb Cook, 1938 (Recorded May 31, 2012) I recorded this song today in honor of Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson (March 3, 1923–May 29, 2012). It has special meaning to me. Included in Doc Watson’s 1973 album, Then and Now, this song was a particular favorite of my wife’s and mine as we were coming up together. While Watson’s amazing guitar style could not be beat, it was his warm, natural singing voice that I most enjoyed about his musicianship. He was one of the greats.

So long, Doc.

Satan’s Li’l Lamb

31 05 2012

Satan’s Li’l Lamb—H. Arlen/E.Y. Harburg/J. Mercer, 1932 (Recorded May 31, 2012) This is the first published song with Johnny Mercer’s name on it. In my research I could not get a sense of who contributed what between Mercer and Harburg in the writing of this lyric, although there are Mercerisms throughout. “Satan’s Li’l Lamb” was controversial when it appeared in the short-lasting Broadway show, Americana, and it never became a hit. In fact, during its time it was only recorded by a single artist—the great Ethel Merman. The tune also marks the beginning of Mercer’s fruitful musical relationship with Harold Arlen.

I sang and played this straight through using the Glyph Dias-replica soprano ukulele, then I went back and overdubbed drums, sound FX, ocarina, and kazoo.

Bye Bye Blackbird

5 05 2012

Bye Bye Blackbird—R. Henderson/M. Dixon, 1926 (Recorded May 5, 2012) I recorded this old classic early in the morning, while my voice was still low and grumbly. Introduced to the world by the great Gene Austin, and covered and referenced in song, film, theater, and pop culture ever since, it’s one of the most recognizable musical memes in our history.