In Monroeville, Alabama on this day in 1926 Nelle Harper Lee was born. She grew up to become one of the best known and most respected novelists of the 20th Century, mainly due to some book about mockingbirds.
So in honor of Ms. Lee, who died in 2016, here's a musical mocking bird salute!
First here's a well-known tune by Inez & Charlie Foxx, a brother and sister team from North Carolina, who released this in 1963, three years after Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird.
Fans of The Three Stooges or Heckle & Jeckle should recognize this next one. "Listen to the Mockingbird, composed in 1855 with lyrics by Septimus Winner (under the pseudonym "Alice Hawthorne") and music by Richard Milburn, was a pop smash during the American Civil War.
Zooming ahead to the late 1980s, the duo House of Freaks did this song on their wonderful album Tantilla.
Country singer Pam Tillis twisted the title of Lee's famous book in 1995 for this sweet song of barroom violence:
Today is the 75th birthday of the Pope of Trash, the Prince of Puke, the most venerated Filth Elder alive, John Waters.
It's never easy to explain to those not familiar with this Baltimore filmmaker, just who the man is and why his work deserves the acclaim it's received. Just go over to Youtube and look for interviews with Waters. If you're not a fan within a couple of minutes, maybe just move on.
One thing I've always loved about Waters is his musical tastes. From sickly sweet '50s pop to crazed R&B to all sorts of sonic trash, Waters has a knack of using music that richly enhances the weirdest and most hilarious moments in his films.
So here's a musical tribute for Mr. Waters on his birthday.
In his first feature-length film, Mondo Trasho (1969) Waters used
several Little Richard songs, including "Long Tall Sally."
Waters used this jolt of saccharine by Patti Page in a notorious scene
involving the incomparable Divine and dog doo doo.
Here's the title track of Waters' 1974 classic Female Trouble, sung by Divine:
The theme from 1981's Polyester sung by Tab Hunter (background
vocals by Debbie Harry, who co-wrote the song with husband Chris Stein):
Waters' Hairspray (1988) included not one but two songs by Dee Dee
Sharp. Here's one of them:
Waters doesn't use a lot of country music in his soundtracks, but he admits
he's become a hillbilly music fan in his old age. For a look at
CLICK HERE. He used this song, by Roger Miller soundalike Leroy Pullens in Pecker
It's been more than a year since I dedicated a Wacky Wednesday to the Golden Throats.
Well, friend, that's too long!
What's a "Golden Throat?" you might ask. As I've said before:
Back in the '80s and '90s, when Rhino Records was actually a cool label,
they released a series of albums called Golden Throats. These nutball
compilations featured movie and TV stars, sports heroes and every stripe
of cheesy celebrity singing ham-fisted versions of songs they had no
business singing. Pop tunes, rock 'n' roll hits, country song, whatever.
Nothing was sacred and nothing was safe from the Golden Throats.
Because of the exposure from the Rhino series, some of these
unintentionally hilarious songsters became notorious and ironically hip.
Think William Shatner -- the Elvis of the Golden Throats! -- and his
over-the-top renditions of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Mr.
So, let's start today with Mamie Van Doren dissing the beatniks, as only Mamie could:
Another singing blonde bombshell of the mid 20th Century was Jayne
Mansfield. Although her vocal talent wasn't her best-known attribute, it
might not be fair to label her as a "Golden Throat." She was a classically
trained violinist and pianist and she actually could sing.
Jack Nicholson sings "La Vie En Rose" in the 2003 movie Something's Gotta
Super model -- but not so super singer -- Naomi Campbell meets T Rex
Finally, here are William Frawley and Vivian Vance -- who portrayed the beloved Fred &
Ethel Mertz in I Love Lucy -- as OG Golden Throats in 1953. (Sorry, the person who posted this doesn't allow embeds. You have to click on "Watch on YouTube" in lower right corner.)
About a week ago I got in a discussion on Facebook with my friend
Max about the magic of doo wop. I sent him a link to an old piece I wrote in
1994 about meeting Gaynel Hodge in Phoenix the night before that year's
Lollapalooza (re-published on this blog a mere 17 years ago).
Afterwards I remembered that just a few months before encountering Gaynel, I'd
written a Terrell's Tune-up column about a wonderful Rhino Records box set
that collected four CDs worth worth of doo wop classics.
So what the heck? Here's that column, which hasn't been published since its
original appearance in the Santa Fe New Mexican's Pasatiempo.
I'll insert a few videos and links.
Like most folks my age, I first became cognizant of doo wop music in the late
1960s through such comedy groups as Sha Na Na and Frank Zappa's Ruben and The Jets.
In other words, for years, doo wop seemed like a quaint joke. Ram a lama ding
dong. You, know, stuff like that.
But one night last winter I was driving alone on a rainy night, listening, for
reasons I don't remember, to an oldies station, which happened to play “I Only
Have Eyes for You” by The Flamingos.
There's a strumming of three guitar chords, followed by the steady beat of a
piano. Singer Tommy Hunt comes in singing effortlessly, My love must be
a kind of blind love/I can't see anyone but you , as if he's got to justify
what he has to say.
Then the group responds with unintelligible, almost discordant syllables, like
some kind of eerie voodoo chant. All this before Hunt starts the first verse,
invoking celestial bodies.
By the end of the song, all five Flamingos are gushing the beautiful melody,
the falsetto going nuts as if possessed by the loa of high register. It
almost seems that the group is having the aural equivalent of a simultaneous
orgasm, right there in the echo chamber.
But way before the song got to this point on that rainy Santa Fe night, I was
transported into the past, reliving a buried memory of being a 5-year-old kid,
listening to a radio late at night to a sound that was alluring and forbidding
at the same time, just like Lou Reed's Jenny.
The Penguins, The Moonglows, The Orioles, The Five Satins/The deep,
forbidden music they'd be longing for ...
And, as if by magic, just a couple of weeks later Rhino Records announced its
new four-disc Doo Wop Box.
In recent years, with all-oldies radio, recurring '50s revivals and all, much
of the mystery and power has been sapped out of this strange and wonderful
Therefore, it is best to look at Rhino's Doo Wop Box with the eyes of
Rene and Georgette, wide-eyed immigrants entering a new world, where almost
every song is an adventure. Even overly familiar tunes, “16 Candles,”
“Only You,”“Earth Angel,” regain some of their magic if listened to in this
Listening to the four hours-plus of music in this collection, one realizes
there are definite traits of the doo wop Universe.
Sometime it seems like a world in which every utterance, every movement is
painstakingly planned, every harmony in place. But, then, before your very
ears, it will seem to break down into near anarchy, a falsetto screaming like
a banshee, the bass man grunting noises that seem to come from deep within the
There's an underlying religious atmosphere. Although God is rarely mentioned
after The Orioles' “Crying in the Chapel.”
There's also evidence of nature worship. For instance, Dion asks the stars up
above why it hurts to be a teen-ager in love.
Doo wop singers tend to give themselves mythic powers. They always are willing
to climb the highest mountain and swim the deepest sea.
And sometimes a group almost will prove itself to be superhuman with songs
that are downright transcendental.
There's “My True Story” by a Brooklyn group called The Jive Five. The
sad little love story of Earl and Sue might seem lethally corny under any
other context. But, when Eugene Pitts wails, “And you will cry cryyyyyyy
cryyyyyyyyy ...” any listener who ever has had his heart ripped out will know
this is the real thing.
Then there's “Since I Don't Have You” by The Skyliners, a white group from
Pittsburgh. Forget about Axl Rose's limp cover. He's outgunned by Jimmy
Beaumont who by the end of the song shouts “You-ooh! You-oooh!
You-oooooh!” like a wounded accuser while Janet Vogel sings a near aria
like a siren of the cosmos in the background. [Note from 2021: I'm not sure
why The Skyliners, in this 1959 TV appearance are dressed up like
they're serenading Marshal Dillon and Miss Kitty at the Longbranch Saloon!]
Despite some self-conscious goofery here and there, the most appealing thing
about doo wop is its sincerity. When Johnny Maestro (now there's a rock 'n'
roll moniker!) of The Crests sings, “You are the prettiest, loveliest girl
I've ever seen,” to his 16-year-old birthday girl, you know he means every
word. And because of the forceful way he sings it, a listener will believe
Maestro will feel that way about his sweetie for the rest of his
Sometimes simple sincerity seems magical in a jaded world.
Here's Johnny Maestro & The Crests with their big hit. No Matt Gaetz jokes, please.