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.
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".
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
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."