By Bruce Sylvester
One of the mid-60s most popular comic singer/writers, Allan Sherman (1924-73) generally borrowed standards’ and hits’ melodies for fond, harmless commentary on middle-American (often Jewish) life. His one top-tenner, 1963 kid’s letter from camp “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!,” used “Dance Of The Hours” from Ponchielli’s opera La Gioconda (as Walt Disney previously did in Fantasia).
More often, pop was his fodder. “You Came A Long Way From St. Louis” was converted into French Revolutionary “You Went The Wrong Way, Old King Louie.” Johnnie Lee Wills’ western swing (and then the Ames Brothers’ pop) “Rag Mop” evolved into “Rat Fink.” Not all of his borrowings turned out so well. For example, “Kiss Of Myer” — based on Georgia Gibbs’ archly immolative “Kiss Of Fire” – could use more spark.
Collectors’ Choice has recently put Sherman’s catalog of Warner Brothers LPs onto CDs with new notes – by Dr. Demento, natch – but no bonus tracks. Of the three discs Collectors’ Choice provided for this blog, My Son, The Nut holds up much better than My Son, The Celebrity and For Swingin’ Livers Only (whose title spoofed Frank Sinatra’s LP Songs For Swingin’ Lovers).
Livers’ “12 Gifts Of Christmas” remains censored. The previously released original single version of the song had, among the not-always-useful presents, “a statue of a naked lady with a clock where her stomach ought to be.” Listeners who are liberal, lascivious and/or brave can surmise which word in the line got edited out.
Sherman was such an everyday singer — a “bathtub baritone” in Demento’s words — that listeners were all the more able to identify with his songs. “Genteely bloated” (as the doctor discreetly describes him), Sherman repeatedly used flab as a vehicle for satire, peaking on Nut’s “Hail To Thee, Fat Person.” Today, songs such as “Automation” and “Pop Hates The Beatles” – based, respectively, on Jane MorganAllan’s “Fascination” and kids’ song “Pop Goes The Weasel” — are pure nostalgia. Incidentally, Demento’s notes clue us in that Sherman’s arranger/conductor/co-writer Lou Busch previously had an alter ego, rinky-tink piano player Joe Fingers Carr, during his years at Capitol Records.
For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store:
• Get a Goldmine collective on The Beatles, “Meet the Fab Four CD”