Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Mind for Music…or did they say, "If I think this is music I must Be Out Of My Mind?

Way back in the ancient days when dinosaurs still roamed the earth (or were they just automobiles with giant fender fins?), I dabbled in a number of things. One of those things was songwriting so to speak. Having something of a tin ear, this was pretty much a challenge. I couldn't carry a tune if you loaded it on a forklift. However, in fourth grade I had learned how to read music and I played a trumpet, a-rooty-toot-toot!

I also began writing some poetry early on, being inspired by the rhythms and wordplay of Edgar Allan Poe. A lot of that early verse was parody of popular songs.

Then one day my friends and I discovered these recording booths at the Downingtown farmers market.
This was where we frittered away our time on weekends, at the farmers market playing pinball machines and somewhere along the line noticed these booths. We began to crowd into one of the things, sometimes as many as four of us, and chatter away, cracking corny jokes or insulting easy other for posterity.

But Stuart Meisel and I began making records of us singing duets. Generally we did old songs we learned at school or some of the popular hits of the day, but on occasion we just began making it up as we went.

One day at Stuart's we came across an old-time dictaphone that cut recordings into wax cylinders. Now we didn't have to spend our quarters, we could sit up in his bedroom and make all the recordings we wanted for free…or at least until the supply of wax cylinders ran out (they never did).

Our little duets and made-up songs weren't our first collaboration, nor would be our last either. We had created, wrote, printed and sold a newspaper called "The Daily Star" when we were in sixth grade. We were back writing plays and song together almost fifty years later as two old men. In the mid-2000s we collaborated on nine plays and 33 songs; songs such as "Zat Chew", "Bad Teachers", "Talkin' Termination Blues", "Bald-Headed Smiling Men", "Duck Walk Blues" and "Wad Welder Song".

One song we did back in the mid-fifties together was called "Ya-Ha-Whoey! and I used that later when I wrote a play of the same name to impress a girl right after graduating high school.

On the left is a cover I did for that play many years after the fact. It is my wife I used for the model.

On the right is the girl I was trying to impress. I don't think I
did, even though we did date for some time in 1959 and 1960.

Anyway, in those mid-fifties I wrote a song myself. Since most of the music I heard on the radio or on the old 78 rpm records at home was selected by my father, I was more familiar with Country and Western than a lot of other forms. So I wrote what I considered a Country and western song. It was a mournful love-lost ballad with death images and all. It didn't have a truck or a dog in the lyric, so maybe that is why it didn't go anywhere.

Or maybe it was the arrangement on the record.

Backup a moment; did I say record? Yes, there was a record.

I wrote the song when I was 14 and still at Junior High School in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.  I sent the thing out now and again and lo and behold when I was 15 it got published on sheet music by a New York firm. By this time I had moved to Bucktown and lived in the country and changed schools. In 1957, when I had turned 16, the song got recorded by one Ben Tate.

I was somewhat displeased when I heard it because I didn't feel it sounded as Country as I wrote it.

Didn't much matter because I doubt many others ever heard the song. Mr. Tate and the song quickly disappeared into oblivion.

I stumbled upon the record this week. I decided it may be good for a chuckle, so here it is in video
along with a bunch of photographs of me at the time it was written, published and recorded. Stuart appears in a couple of photos, as does my friend Ronald Tipton. A couple of my teenage girlfriends are also included, Jeannette and Joan. The video is introduced by Frantic Frank. I did some stand-up comedy in those days and Frantic Frank was my stage persona. Back then I had to wear a bald cap. Today I wouldn't need that, nor the fake goatee.

So, for posterity or for hilarity, here is straight from obscurity,  something you have never heard and will probably wish it had stayed that way, Ben Tate's version of "My Little White Lamb."


Geo. said...

35 to 98 American Bandstand scale: "Little White Lamb" has a beat and I can dance to it. I give it a 98!

Ron said...

Fabulous! This is as good or better than most of that time period. Good job!