A MOTHER’S WALTZ: MUSIC & PICTURES IN COLLABORATION

Mother’s Day – Sunday, May 14, 2017


FROM swo8 (Leslie Martel): Today is Mother’s Day. To commemorate this day, we have created a photographic montage of families together. It includes eight generations of my family and three of Marilyn and Garry Armstrong’s families.

The song is bittersweet because to be a mother, is indeed bittersweet. Our children bring us our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows. The first couple in the video are my great-grandparents. My great-grandmother died in childbirth leaving 3 babies and a husband.

When my great-grandfather remarried the children were sent off to their aunt to be raised. The aunt is the lady sitting by the fire-place. The first photo of children is of my grandmother and her twin sisters. My grandmother being the oldest would have missed her mother the most. In spite of her early losses she became an extraordinary person and had a huge influence on me and my thinking.

To be a mother has got to be one of the most difficult endeavours to under take in one’s life. We are given this helpless creature for a short period of time to nourish, educate and inspire before they disappear into the ether of adulthood.

As a tribute to mother’s everywhere we dedicate this song, “Mother’s Waltz” by swo8 Blues Jazz and Marilyn Armstrong. 


FROM Serendipity (Marilyn & Garry Armstrong): It has arrived. The melody of A Mother’s Waltz echoes in my mind. I feel as if it is something I remember hearing my mother sing a long time ago … but of course, it is brand new from swo8 Blues Jazz

The pictures of my family include my mother, me, much younger and my son as a toddler. Pictures of Garry’s family include his mother and father’s wedding, Garry’s dad back from WWII with little Garry on his knee. Garry’s mom as a young woman.

The pictures are family heirlooms that evoke strong and sometimes conflicted feelings.

Music by swo8 … with pictures from Leslie Martel (swo8) and Marilyn Armstrong. Memories in music for mothers everywhere.

 

YOU BELONG TO ME – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I guess it happens to all of us. You’re asleep, deep in a peaceful dream, when you hear the music. You start humming and can’t stop as the words rearrange themselves. You’re half awake as the song continues on a loop.

See the pyramids along the Nile 
Watch the sunrise on a tropic isle 
Just remember darling, all the while 
You belong to me.

Images form in my subconscious. It’s the 50’s again and Jo Stafford is singing.

See the marketplace in old Algiers 
Send me photographs and souvenirs 
Just remember, darling, when a dream appears 
You belong to me.

I’m listening to WNEW-AM,  Frank Sinatra’s favorite radio station in New York City. They play all the great standards from the 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s. It’s “The Make Believe Ballroom with Martin Bloch”.  I turn up the volume a bit as Jo Stafford continues.

I’ll be so alone without you 
Maybe you’ll be lonesome too, and blue

I see grainy black and white images of Snookie Lanson and Dorothy Collins — a folksy duet — on “Your Hits Of The Week.” It’s the show that followed Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” 10:3o, Saturday night on WNBC-TV, channel 4 in New York.

That was one of our two “stay up late nights” during those long ago years. Snooky Lanson, Dorothy Collins, Giselle MacKenzie and Russell Arms sang the top “tin pan alley” hits of the week in countdown fashion. In-between, there would be a “Lucky Strike extra,” an unknown song being promoted by the sponsor, Lucky Strike Cigarettes. The “Hits of the Week” singers were nice, but merely pale imitations of the star vocalists of the day. Jo Stafford, Teresa Brewer, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Guy Mitchell, Doris Day, Sinatra, and so on. When Elvis hit the scene, the “Hits” cast looked downright foolish trying to warble songs like “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock.”

But I digress. Jo Stafford is still singing in my head.

Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain 
Just remember, till you’re home again 
Or I come to you
You belong to me!

I can’t shake the song. Jo Stafford sings louder and louder til I finally awake. I stumble out to the kitchen where our scrappy Scotties, Bonnie and Gibbs, are barking for breakfast biscuits.

I belong to them.

 

BRING BACK NATIONAL BROTHERHOOD WEEK

Way back in the dark ages, the third week in February (an otherwise dreary and neglected month) was designated National Brotherhood Week. As designated special weeks go, it was never a big hit with the general public. In the 1980s, it disappeared completely. Probably because it failed to sell greeting cards. Which is, I believe, the point of this kind of created event.

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The National Conference for Christians and Jews (NCCJ) came up with the idea of National Brotherhood Week in 1934. Given the current political climate, maybe we can agree more brotherhood year round would be an improvement. Sadly, we no longer have even that one, measly week.

February is now Black History Month which seems to mean movie channels run films featuring non-white stars, unless you watch PBS or the History Channel. There you might see a documentary or two. A man who took it seriously — back in the ever older days — as he took all politics seriously, was Tom Lehrer. He taught math at Hahvid (Harvard, if you aren’t from around here). He didn’t write many songs. Till his dying day (which hasn’t occurred — he’s alive and living in California), he thought of himself as a math teacher who wrote silly songs — not as an entertainer.

Despite this unfair self-assessment, I’ve always felt Tom got this celebration dead to rights. Ya’ think?

Check him out on YouTube. He only wrote about 50 songs and most of them are posted in some video or other. Me? I’ve got the CDs.

Remember CDs?

BONUS!


Given recent interactions with North Korea, I thought I’d add these two extra little ditties. They seem so … appropriate.

BLACK ARTISTS, WHITE SINGERS – RICH PASCHALL

Black artists & white singers
Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


At the dawn of Rock and Roll in the 1950’s and even into the early 1960’s, it was not uncommon for white singers to cover African-American singers.  Black artists did not get radio play on white radio stations.  That shut them out of a lot of markets and kept much of America from hearing their songs.  This opened the door wide for white singers to record songs heard only on black R&B stations, leaving the impression in many areas that they were the original artists.

The Memphis area, Tennessee label, DOT, founded in 1950, became big by hiring white singers to cover black songs.  Indeed they made stars out of some of these singers.  Among the biggest was Pat Boone.  The crooner recorded Fats Domino’s 1955 song “Ain’t That a Shame,” which became a big hit.  It had been suggested that Boone change the lyric to “Isn’t That A Shame,” perhaps to sound more “white.”  Fortunately they resisted that bad idea.

Boone followed with a number of covers that made him a household name.  His next success was the Little Richard song, “Tutti Fruitti,” which Boone did not want to record.  To Boone “it didn’t make sense” but he was talked into it and it went to number 12.   A song that went all the way to the top was “I Almost Lost My Mind,” originally by Ivory Joe Hunter.  Nat King Cole even covered the song, but Boone had the hit.  The main reason was Boone got a lot of radio play.  The others did not.

DOT also made a star of Gale Storm when she covered the Smiley Lewis R&B hit, “I Hear You Knockin.”  She also recorded “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”  Snooky Lanson and The Fontane Sisters also benefited from the era of covering other artists.  Eventually DOT cashed in off admitting to the practice with an album of 30 of these songs.  “Cover to Cover,” includes 7 recordings by Pat Boone alone.  It also includes a mediocre version of Chuck Berry’s Rock Classic, “Maybelline,” by Jim Lowe.

The white versions were generally slower and toned down in comparison to the R&B versions.  They were playing to a different audience so they produced versions they thought would be more appealing to that audience.  It was a sign of the racially segregated times and something that would not happen now.  Of course there are still many covers, but for various other reasons.

When Elvis Presley hit the scene, he also brought with him cover versions of other songs.  His 1956 hit “Hound Dog,” was originally by Big Mama Thornton, but Elvis may have been influenced by the 1953 novelty version by Jack Granger and his Granger County Gang, aka Homer and Jethro.  The 1954 hit, “That’s All Right,” belonged to Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and was originally called “That’s All Right, Mama.”

One of the consequences of all these cover songs was they helped pave the way toward acceptance of this genre of music and eventually of some of the black artists who originated the songs.   Little Richard is said to have claimed that while teenagers and young music lovers may have had Pat Boone on top of their dressers, but they had “me in the drawer ’cause they liked my version better.” 

By the late 1950’s, with the segregation of music dying out, the Doo-Wop group Little Anthony and the Imperials came along and started to hit the big time.  While many of their early songs found great success for other artists, they found wider radio and television play than earlier Black R&B stars.

For a look at the Linda Ronstadt version of this song, see this past article.

SHARING THE WORLD – APRIL MOVING ALONG NICELY

I am delighted to report that nothing is going on. Soon we’ll have flowers and shortly thereafter, trees. Then, caterpillars. Maybe they won’t be as bad this time, but it’s hard to know. We will put in the air conditioners shortly. It’s getting warm. This is the least eventful period I can remember in a long time. I love it!

Share Your World – April 17, 2017


When writing by hand do you prefer to use a pencil or pen?

I do everything on the keyboard. I have pens because sometimes, I have to sign something. Probably there’s a pencil somewhere in the house, but I have no idea where that might be. But we have almost everything here, so I’m sure we have one of them, too.

Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I wrote out more words than I needed for grocery list or birthday card. But I do sign things. There’s always something that needs a signature.

Would you rather be an amazing dancer or an amazing singer?

Amazing indeed if, at my age, I were suddenly to become a great dancer or singer. The amazing would be that it happened. At all.

I used to have a pleasant voice, but damaged my vocal chords many years ago. I wouldn’t  mind being able to sing a little, but amazing? I don’t think so. And, to be fair, that was never on one of my “lists” of things I wanted to do or be. I did want to be a great pianist and I tried. Didn’t quite make it, but I tried hard.

Not since my post-toddler days have I yearned to be a dancer. That dream ended before it got started. Too much like work!

If you were on a debate team, what subject would you relish debating?

Once upon a time, I could have written a list of thing I would like to debate. Once upon a time, long, long ago. Because I think I have completed all the arguments about anything that mattered. I’ve battled for health care, women’s rights, equality, tolerance … and against war. During the 1960s, we all got together and tried to change the world. I’m pretty sure that what we really accomplished was making blue denim jeans and sport shoes really hot clothing. Otherwise, the world is as appallingly terrible as ever, except worse.

So I’m not debating with anyone about anything. I’ll sign petitions, call my congressperson, and post articles that I think will help those who have a mind for facts. Otherwise? If you are happy about the state of the world? Go away. Do not annoy me with your stupidity.

What are you a “natural” at doing?

Writing about things that happen and are true, but little or no aptitude for fiction. And certain kinds of photography.

I could always write. I don’t remember a time in this life when I couldn’t say it better on paper–  or these days, a monitor.

As for photography, I have a good eye for landscapes and casual portraits. Other things, not so much … but I keep trying and I am getting better at some of them. I don’t work terribly hard at photography. These days, I don’t work terribly hard. On anything.

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, JOE DIMAGGIO?