Novelty or comic records of bygone years can be sadly lacking in humour to our modern ears but these are three of my favourites. Phyllis Robins sings ‘ In my little bottom drawer,’ from 1934. It features a wonderful list of items she has collected, such as a bassinet, lino, flannelette pyjamas and a bath to keep the coal in. Tom Wright, a North East of Scotland Bothy Ballad singer, does a magnificent rendition of the tongue twisting ‘ McGinty’s Meal and Ale. A song that celebrates food, drink and feasting. Its in the broadest Scots. We finish with My Yodelling Lancashire Lass from Harry Torrani. Lovely wee love song all about his mill worker girlfriend. It mentions ‘wakes week,’ the annual week many work places and trades took off in the North West of England in the first half of the 20th century.
All three songs are full of wonderful period detail and are great social history documents. They are also great tunes, fun and from unjustly neglected artists. Perfect for Forgotten Songs.
The word was that a whole bunch of 78s had turned up in a charity shop in Portobello. That’s the Portobello on the outskirts of Edinburgh and not the famous London market. No doubt 78s turn up there all the time. This was in the early days of Forgotten Songs from the Broom Cupboard and back then I was only playing records from the collection we had gathered over the years. My addiction to the shellac discs hadn’t really kicked in. So I sauntered along and there they were on the bottom shelf, below the LPs and 45s. Well over a 100 of them, I mean well over a 100. The thing is they were all in new, thick card sleeves, the artist and song written in ink pen long hand on the cover. Looking like they had been catalogued and were from a collection. This was a charity where everything was 99 pence. Not quite believing my luck I checked that fact with the assistant and got stuck in. I think on that visit I got about 30 records. An interesting mix. Of course there were some Bing Crosby, Guy Mitchell, Vera Lynn and Jimmy Shand. There is always Jimmy Shand, this is Scotland and the accordion was big news here. There were others I’d never heard of: Jan Savitt, Carson Robinson, Husk O’ Hara. They sound different and fun and at 99p they were worth a shot. There was also Bob Skyles and his Skyrockets, who were probably some sort of dance band, there were two of them, I took both. Actually I think it was the label that interested me the most. Not a standard HMV, Columbia or Parlophone but a Bluebird label.
So that is how way over here, in Scotland I discovered the magnificence of Western Swing. I didn’t know Bob Skyles and his Skyrockets were that particular genre of music then. What I did know was was these four tracks were different. This wasn’t dance band music, it was a crazy blend of country, novelty, blue grass, goodness knows what and these fellas were having fun. I wished I’d been in the studio with them or at a dance bopping away to this infectious sound.
A short video about those fine purveyors of Western Swing music that I recorded last year, when our studio really was a broom cupboard. Bob and the boys, in reality the Kendrick brothers, remain firm favourites with me. Their exuberant, fun recordings make me smile every time I listen. Still can’t believe how two of these Bluebird recordings from 1938 turned up in a charity shop in Edinburgh. Oh lucky day!
Another good piece of fortune has been that this video has brought me in contact with the daughter and niece of the band, Bob, Cliff and Sandford Kendrick. So massive thanks to Peg and her mum in the USA for reaching out across ‘the pond’ to Scotland. Your dad and uncles are still entertaining us.
Music and songs from an unusual source. Roberto Inglez , a band leader who specialised in Latin American music was born Robert(Bertie) Inglis in Elgin, Scotland. Interesting for me, here in Edinburgh, Bertie’s grandparents lived in Portobello. That is about a miles from where I sit writing this and he is known to have based himself there while touring.
Harry Torrani, reckoned to be one of best yodellers of his day, was billed as The yodelling cowboy from Chesterfield. That’s in Derbyshire, England. He certainly looked the part and, to be fair, was a damn fine yodeller.