When records explain what’s going on in the world

By Charles Berger

During the 1950-1955 era most pop music was all about love (June, Moon, Spoon). However, from time to time, record companies would have their artists record songs relating to what was going on in the world, either on a serious or humorous nature.

 

The Korean War (1950-1953). “Goodbye Maria (I’m Off To Korea)” was recorded by several artists (Wilf Carter, Jimmy Dale, etc.) Allen Holmes Orchestra with vocal by Don Meehan on King 15166 (1952) tells us it’s up to the U.S. “to win the fight for liberty.” The singer will soon return and go back to Iowa to raise corn and family. This is an uptempo, lighthearted reference to the so-called “police action.” Sister Rosetta Tharpe on Decca 48302 (1953) “There’s Peace In Korea” rejoices in gospel style that “Eisenhower has done just what he said” and we’ll have peace of mind and no more misery or sadness (really optimistic). She co-wrote this with M. Asher.

 

Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey Books On Sex (1948-1953). In 1948, Dr. Kinsey had his book “Sexual Behavior In The HUman Male” published which shocked the country in its graphic depiction of the subject matter. Martha Raye on Discovery 503 “Ooh, Dr. Kinsey!” (1949) sings that she is disillusioned about his report on men and that women should beware and hide because the doctor is working on a book about them. Indeed, the doctor did write in 1953 “Sexual Behavior In The Human Female.” On Flair 1018, Big Duke (Henderson) that year in a bluesy manner sings that he has read the report and is upset. The percentages seem to be against him when he recites the data in the report. He’s also “mad at all the women.”

 

Arthur Godfrey Fires Julius LaRosa (1953). In late 1953 Godfrey dismissed singer LaRosa, who was on his variety TV show for being “cocky” and “lacking humility.” In addition, LaRosa reportedly received more fan mail than Godfrey. Ruth Wallis (1920-2007) was a novelty and pop cabaret singer who was noted for her risqué songs. On Monarch 3005 “Dear Mr. Godfrey” she saw a chance and pleads with Arthur to hire her. She claims she has humility and, therefore, he should put her on his show. He did not.

 

Army-McCarthy Hearings (1954). Between April-June 1954, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin conducted hearings in the U.S. Senate to investigate reports of communists in the U.S. Army. Stan Freberg on Capitol 2838 “Point of Order” had a No. 15 hit on Billboard but there was also a lesser known recording by Hal Block (1913-1981). Block was a comedy writer, producer and TV personality. On Jubilee 5149 “Senator McCarthy Blues,” Bock complains that he’s losing his girlfriend because of her obsession with watching the hearings on TV.

 

The Murder of  Emmett Till (1955). In August 1955, 14-year-old African American Emmett Till and his cousin left Chicago to go to Mississippi to visit his uncle. In Money, MS, while leaving a store, he allegedly flirted with a white girl. Two white men were offended and Emmett was shot in the head and thrown in a river. The body rose to the surface, the two men were arrested but the jury found them not guilty. On Dootone 382, The Ramparts recorded the story of the murder in a two-part “The Death of Emmett Till.” There is only one voice heard on the record (reportedly Scatman Crothers) who is accompanied by only an acoustic guitar. The record was shunned by many record stations but the event did help to promote the civil rights movement.

 

Brooklyn Dodgers First World Series Win (1955). The series between the Dodgers and the New York Yankees was tied at 3-3. On October 4, 1955, the starting pitcher for the Dodgers, Johnny Podres, pitched an eight hit, complete game shutout for the first series win for Brooklyn. Allen Swift (Ira Stadlen) (1924-2010) was a voice actor who did the voices of many characters, including Howdy Doody for awhile. On Jubilee 5222, Swift relates how Podres was able to subdue the Yankees by his control, his curve, etc. The song was titled “Johnny Podres Has a Halo ‘Round Hid Head.” It sure seemed to be true.

 

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