Once I’ve chosen a song, I decide how I’m going to deliver it to the audience. That involves a number of considerations: the key, for example.
This is the first of a series for the solo singing guitarist, both professional and hobbyist, who’d like to know how another soloist goes about his work in rehearsal.
In addition to key choice, I’ll cover: how I understand and deliver a melody, the considerations regarding the meaning of the song and writer/composer intent, knowing one’s own abilities, the different way to play to a live audience as opposed to a studio recording and the equal importance of technical mastery and in-the-moment joyfulness.
I hope you enjoy it!
Listen to my brand new Space City Funtet album, BLAST-OFF!
Just click on this ROCKETSHIP!
Also on iTunes:
Whinin’ and Complainin’: Classic Nashville Out-of-Love Songs
Today’s song snippet: the opening to “I Never Mention Your Name” (Mack Davis/Don George/Walter Kent).
The couplet intro is less often recorded, with singers generally going straight to the hook, but it succinctly sets up the number.
So many things that I think of so much
But there is one memory my lips never touch
I never mention your name, oh no
I never dream of your eyes
I never go where we used to go
To hear the echo of your sighs
“I never” is the hook, repeated throughout the lyric, until the final couplet contradicts it. So there is a set-up (the couplet intro) for the set-up (the repeated hooks) for the final couplet. And the final couplet is:
Except for every minute of every hour
Of every night and day
An ingenious form for a song lasting under 3 minutes that keeps the attention throughout and makes the song very memorable. One might only remember this as “The I Never” song and still have marched in to a store to buy the record or the sheet music.
The melody is rather ordinary and the rhythmic content a bit lackluster, so the vocal delivery means everything. I tend to prefer Audrey Morris. Who was she, you ask? A Chicago girl singer in the 50s. Here in a Marty Paich arrangement (he was the bandleader as well).
In 1947, Jimmy Giuffre, working as an arranger for Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd, wrote “Four Brothers” for Woody’s sax section of three tenor horns (Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn) and one bari (Serge Chaloff).
The “brothers” play the head together and then each player solos. But since Jimmy Giuffre was a stellar clarinetist, we thought we’d do it like it’s never been done before: with a clarinet!
Some singers, like Anita O’Day, Sarah Vaughn and the Manhattan Transfer have done their own versions in which they scat, but here we feature Ernesto’s solo, while Richie plays the rhythm section. (And a great solo it is, too!) 18 players usually make up a big band. Talk about economy!
The Texas connection: Jimmy Giuffre was born and raised in Dallas and attended North Texas State Univ., which is still providing music instruction to jazz musicians. We recorded this at SugarHill Studios in Houston. Our recording engineer was Cody Franz; our videographer, David Gaona.
I visited the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. A world-class collection of the highest order! I’ll have many images to share.
Here, for example, is page 1 of Ella’s vocal chart for Skylark, in large print to accomodate her eyesight. Very likely the chart she read from in the 1964 recording with the Nelson Riddle for Verve. Looks like a big band part. What a marvelous copyist! (A lost skill, really.)
And the entire vocal chart for Route 66, with a key change after the bridge. Early to mid-60s as well? Maybe a rush job, a more impromptu setting for fewer instruments? But still clear and easy to read, don’t you think? Funny, but I don’t recall ever listening to an Ella recording of this tune and the discography doesn’t list one. Maybe somewhere still in the can??
I See the Want To in Your Eyes (Conway Twitty, 1974)
Who’ll Chop Your Suey? (Cleo Brown, 1936)
It Won’t Be Long (The Beatles, 1963)
Detour Ahead (Billie Holiday, 1949)
Careless Love (Snooks Eaglin, 1958)
And a couple of new originals, as well, to be recorded this year.
WBCQ will play my slapstick version of Walter Donalson’s “Makin’ Whoopee,” recorded many years ago. I’d not released it before. I found it lingering on an old hard drive and, yes, it made me laugh. So pleased it will go out on the airwaves and my thanks to the management (you know who you are!).
If you never heard me do Jimmy Durante, Barry White and Judge Judy in the same clip, you’re in for a treat. Well, you’re in for something, anyhow.
For fans in Europe and Japan, listen in tomorrow (March 16, 2017) between 2300 and 2330 UTC on 7390 kHz. For those stateside, that translates to 5:00-5:30pm Eastern. If you don’t have a shortwave radio, you can listen here.
I’ll be in great company with lots of novelty songs you’ve not heard in decades. Grab an ice cold Cheerwine or a hot toddy if you’re still stuck in the northeast and be prepared to laugh.
I listened to several dozen versions of this perennial favorite, recently heard in the soundtrack of several movies, including Woody Allen’s, Sweet and Lowdown. But none it seemed played the verse, instead going straight to the chorus at the top of the song. Here’s an example:
Those few who sang the verse did so before 1930, it would appear. At some point, singers just dropped the verse. Curious, because it’s a wonderful verse, too. (Of course, it’s not as memorable as the hook and on radio of old, no time was wasted.)
These singers skipped the verse and went straight to the famous chorus.
Bing, Ella, Ezio Pinza, Pat Boone, Mr. Armstrong, Sue Raney, Doris Day, The Mills Brothers, Durante, Jolson, Frank Fontaine, Vaughn Monroe, The Platters (!)
Here’s who sang the verse (before 1930):
Red Nichols (instrumental, but the verse is played)
But other instrumental versions before 1930 are already lopping off the verse:
Even Isham Jones’s own recording of 1924!
And after 1930, almost no instrumental versions play the verse at the top: Jan Garber, for example.
The only recent recording in which the verse is at the top appears to be this:
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
So early on, the tradition was: cut the verse.
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