Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

26 07 2012

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive—H. Arlen/J. Mercer, 1944 (Recorded July 26, 2012) Wikipedia reports that Johnny Mercer came up with this lyric after attending a sermon by Father Divine, where “you got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative” is supposed to have been an actual quote by the (in)famous preacher.

The song was used in the Bing Crosby-Betty Hutton movie, Here Come the Waves. I yanked this arrangement by listening to the master himself, Johnny Mercer, in his recording with Paul Weston’s (aka Jonathan Edwards) band and the Pied Piper vocal group. I sang it through straight, playing the Glyph ukulele, and then added maracas and background vocals.

This song is dedicated to all my pals who, this very weekend, are attending the Hollesley Ukulele Festival, aka “Raystock,” over in Hollesley, Suffolk, England. Hope to see you guys there in 2013!


My Old Man

17 06 2012

My Old Man—B. Hanighen/J. Mercer, 1933 (Recorded June 17, 2012) It’s said that Johnny Mercer and Bernie Hanighen wrote this tune expressly for one of Johnny’s favorite acts of the day, the popular string-and-vocal band, the Spirits of Rhythm. In the spirit of Father’s Day, I dedicate this song to my old man, who died just a couple of days after his 60th birthday way back in September of 1982. Hope there’s barrels of whisky keeping you frisky wherever you are, you ol’ devil! (I don’t believe in an afterlife, but still.)

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.

He’ll Have to Go

2 02 2012

He’ll Have to Go—J. Allison/A. Allison, 1959 (Recorded February 2, 2012) I must post the video of this tune to show off the lovely western shirt my good friend in Arizona sent to me. Thanks, Brian! You are a man among cowboys.

This song was a huge hit for the great Jim Reeves in 1959. Gentleman Jim died in a plane crash on July 31, 1964, when he was only 40 years old. Country music and the world lost a fantastic singer that day.

I’ve also posted the mp3 of this tune over on the Box widget for your downloading convenience.


I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City

6 01 2012

I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City—L. Rene/J. Lange, 1942 (Recorded January 6, 2012) When my wife and I first met back in 1977, we went on a (mostly) hitchhiking trip out west that took us throughout the Pacific Northwest. We stopped in SLC for a spell, where someone snapped a picture of us standing around with a group of people out on the Bonneville Salt Flats; wish I had a copy of that photo.

Johnny Mercer’s is probably the best known version of this breezy, bluesy tune, and I took a few cues from the maestro with this recording. I used the Earnest Instruments cigar box uke, and I distorted the whistling break to make it sound like it went through an amp. Actually, the whole thing is kind of ampy and distorted. You know what they say: Ampy, distorted minds make ampy, distorted music. ;°)


17 03 2011

Skylark—H. Carmichael/J. Mercer, 1941 (Recorded March 16, 2011) One of the many fine songs to have emanated from the collaboration of those two 20th Century musical giants, Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer. Mercer was known to be fond of tunes and lyrical imagery having to do with birds, or “Bird Songs,” as he called them. Thus, “Skylark” was a natural for him. It’s said that Carmichael helped shape the words to “Skylark,” as he was to do often with the work of his lyricists. Most people of the day probably felt, as Johnny Mercer did, that if Hoagy Carmichael wanted to change a word or two to a lyric written for one of his melodies, it could only result in the tune’s improvement.

Two warnings about this recording: first, I used the banjo uke; second, I got my hands on a cheap plastic slide whistle.


UPDATE: I’m changing the old “Skylark” to a new version. Listening back to the earlier one I posted, I realized that I didn’t like it. Not that I like this one much better, but it’s a little better, I think…more up-tempo, slightly more in-tune vocal, better banjo uke playing, and, I ditched the crummy slide whistle for a phrase of regular whistling. Does it work? I have no idea. Feel free to leave feedback here. I value other people’s opinions very much. When I record I am the only person around to judge whether a performance is good or bad or (more likely) something in between. (And this time I remembered to place meta-tags on the MP3. The previous sentence could not have existed 20 years ago.)

UP-UPDATE: Not sure if the updated version is any better. ;°(