2007   APRIL 22   #112

Wonderful and Obscure 45rpm Records

When I first heard that the 365 days project was coming back, I searched around my brain, in all the places where Geometry used to sit, for the memory of which 45's from my collection would best suit the project this time around. The five artists we have here are the ones which immediately popped up. While this ability to recall wonderful and obscure records is no doubt a great thing, sadly, my older daughter, who is currently studying Geometry as a Sophomore, can now get no help from this one-time straight-A math whiz.

First we have the b-side from one of my favorite submissions to the original 365 days project, Jeri Kelly's "Poor Ole Santa Claus". This is the almost equally infectious, "Hide and Seek". Once again, we have the powerful vocal performance from the about-to-turn-ten year old Mississippi vocalist, and a swinging arrangement (love the late '50's piano and guitar parts). In this case, I also get a kick out of the subject matter, which is more than a little odd coming from the voice of a grade-schooler - "since our childhood days..."? Best of all, for me, as it is on the A-side, is Jeri's last note. Although she ran up to her high note on "Poor Ole Santa Claus", on this song, it sort of comes out of nowhere.

MP3:
Jeri Kelly - Hide and Seek (1:56)
Image:
b-side

Incidentally, since posting "Poor Ole Santa Claus" in the original 365 days project, I've heard from (the former) Ms. Kelly herself. She shared, among other things, that the guitarist and the pianist on this record (whose work I've always loved) were none of than the soon to be famous Jerry Reed and Ray Stevens! Stevens also also did the dad/hipster voice on "Poor Ole Santa Claus"!

Next up is an odd demo record I found at a rummage sale. A 45 which had never been cut out from it's 10" acetate, it features Bobby Christian with the appropriately named "South Seas Beach House". I suspect that this is a one-man-band effort, given the production and effects. I love the loping rhythm of this record, the interplay of the organ and sped up piano, particularly the rapid runs up the piano during the verses. The label shows that the original title was "Old Hawaii Lookout", but the later title is much more evocative.

MP3:
Bobby Christian - South Seas Beach House (1:53)
Bobby Christian - Jumpin' Jack (1:48)
Images:
a-side
b-side

The B-Side, "Jumpin' Jack" is also good for a listen, with it's more revved up keyboards and sound effects. It appears that this may be the same Bobby Christian who was involved in a spooky novelty 45 called "The Spider and the Fly", and "Jumpin' Jack" was also released in some version, but as far as I can tell, "South Seas" was never released commercially, at least not under that title.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, next we have Troy Cori, who seems to have made at least a brief career of sorts out of sounding like Bing Crosby. "Rinky Roo Rah" and "Tender Are the Ties" came out on the "Bingo" label. In case anyone missed the point, some previous owner of this single has helpfully written "Sounds Like Crosby" on the record label.

MP3:
Troy Cori - Rinky Roo Rah (2:04)
Troy Cori - Tender Are the Ties (2:04)
Images:
a-side
b-side

On to Vicki Belmonte. According to the label, she was the "10-year-old Godfrey Talent Souts Show 1st Prize Winner", and this was perhaps her first single release, circa 1957. "Heaven in a Pair of Wooden Shoes" is undeniably cheesy, with the over-the-top echo and fairly smarmy arrangement, but I still find it irresistible, and worthy of many repeated listens. "Dance Your Fraulien" is a little less essential, being a sort of silly rewrite of an old German song, but it's still a lot of fun. Again we have a grade school age girl singing about activities well beyond her years, in this case, beer drinking.

MP3:
Vicki Belmonte - Heaven in a Pair of Wooden Shoes (2:26)
Vicki Belmonte - Dance Your Fraulien (2:08)
Images:
a-side
b-side

I'd almost put this record up there with the one by Jeri Kelly, except that my preference is for more natural singing. More specifically, with Ms. Kelly, I perceive natural, fairly unrefined talent and above all, unvarnished exuberance, and with Ms. Belmonte, I sense the existence of some "handlers", people who have taken the same type of talent and shaped it into something more focused, less natural - perhaps the words is... more broadway-ish. Just a personal preference, I guess, but for me, that makes this record just a little less intoxicating as a result. It didn't surprise me to learn that Vicki Belmonte went on to appear in a number of Broadway musicals in the '60's, and a couple of films a few decades later.

Finally, the best of all is from Gaitley and Fitzgerald, "Jingle Down a Hill". This one is so good I can still picture where I was the first time I heard it: Almost 20 years ago, I was on my way to a new job, and listening to a cassette tape I had made of a stack of 45's, recorded earlier that day (with one of those record players which would drop the records one at a time). "What the hell was THAT" went through my mind, and I rewound it and listened about five more times. It's actually the B-side of a song which has been included on several psychadelic comps, but that song doesn't move me at all.

MP3:
Gaitley & Fitzgerald - Jingle Down a Hill (2:44)
Image:
b-side

On the other hand, this B-side... well, it's just one of the loveliest things I've ever heard. The folky arrangement fits the song perfectly, the Everly Brothers harmonies get me every time, and the simple piano figure at the end of each chorus has echoed in my head since that first listen in 1990. The cruddy production prevents me from making out every word, but I can get most of them, and they portray a sweet description of tender love for the singer's girl, and time spent together.

"Whistlin' as we walk along, smilin' all the way
Singin' with the summer wind, slow and happy days
Alone and free, the world to see, Jingle down a hill"


Although I'm sure I have a couple of the words wrong, here and elsewhere in the song, I certainly get a detailed picture of the life the singers are describing, and the imagery is absolutely magical. If anyone wants to have a go at all of the lyrics, and perhaps catch a few I've been unable to make out, by all means do. Finally, I've always wondered if the song's sudden, quick fade is due to an error that was being covered up. I've listened to this record hundreds of times over the years, and it never gets old, and always hits me in just the right place.

I hope some or all of these records hit you in the right place, too.

- Contributed by: Bob Purse