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Monday, March 30, 2009

(Near) Aultmore House‎ Nethy Bridge, Scotland, UK

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UPDATE: Reader "Fossil" notes in the comments that the Google marker is not pinned on Aultmore House but on a building that he himself restored and lived in and which is at the same general address as The Aultmore. Fossil points to another residence that can (fuzzily) be seen in the clearing about 800 meters NxNW from the marker as the actual Aultmore House. Thanks for the correction, Fossil!

Rumor has it that you and your sweetie may be able to rent Mr. D.'s "Edwardian hideaway" that he bought back in 2007 for around £2,000 per day - around $3k for us Yanks at the current exchange rate. For that you get access to a 10 bedroom mansion, although again rumor has it that only two people at a time are allowed to stay overnight in the main building due to "fire and health regulations." However, outlying cottages are reportedly also available for rental at the less budget-busting price of £350 to £450.

The first floor of the main building has a reception hall with marble fireplace, drawing room with black marble fireplace, sitting room with fireplace, and steps to a garden room with marble mosaic floor and double doors to the garden, dining room with mahogany fireplace, and a billiard room.

The staff of the house politically will neither "confirm nor deny" the story. However, it may be indicative that you can again see Aultmore House in Google Maps. Back in 2007, shortly after its purchase, the image of the house itself had been fuzzed out. And while I suspect it's a ghost site from the time The Aultmore was a B&B, you can see some additional pictures of its exterior here.

As we mentioned back in our "Golf"-themed podcast, "A Good Walk Spoiled," The Aultmore is close by a nine-hole course at the delightfully-named Abernethy Golf Club.

See it can take awhile, but we always work the Theme Time Radio Hour connection in there somewhere.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Theme Time Radio Hour Roundup Day

A lot of highlights in this week's Theme Time Radio Hour, which was either titled "(We Climb Aboard) Noah's Ark" or "Animals: Part 1" dependent on which teaser from Pierre Mancini you want to use.

Stand-out for the show for me had to be Bonnie Raitt's stunning version of Baby, Mine.  The song was originally sung as a lullaby to Dumbo the elephant by his Mom in the Disney cartoon. Raitt turns it into a torchy love song that, as Mr. D. says, sounds as if she's singing it to the man she loves. In fact, Our Host seems so awed by Raitt's version that he uses that exact same phrase in both introducing and closing the song.

A little searching uncovered that Baby Mine appears on Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films a compilation from 19 and 88 that immediately went into my Amazon shopping cart.  The song's arrangement was by Don Was, of Was (Not Was), and impressed Bonnie Raitt so much that she recruited Was to produce her next album.

One of the fun - sometimes frustrating - games to play with TTRH is "Name That Tune" or sometimes "Name That Clip," identifying the various snippets from song, film and T.V. that are used as bed music and underscores throughout the show.  I'm still trying to figure out the name of the jazzy piano piece used underneath this episode's "Nighttime in the Big City" intro, as Ellen Barkin re-appears and relates to her audience that, "a burly man sells factory-second tube socks out of his car's trunk."

There's also a great bossa nova version of the theme from The Monkees playing as Mr. D.'s explores the social organization of bonobo monkeys, which have "large sexual repertoires" according to Wikipedia, and sadly relates that he misses the `60s.

I immediately recognized the clip from Cool Coz's wonderful "Noah" routine, which appeared on his first album, Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow Right! recorded live at The Bitter End club in Greenwich Village way back in 19 and 63.  If your only knowledge of Bill Cosby is as the Huxtable patriarch, check out the video above and recordings of his early work.

It's possible that Mr. D. saw Cosby do "Noah" live.  They were both working the same clubs, and Suze Rotolo mentions in A Freewheelin' Time that Dylan and The Coz "bonded in ambition early on."

Other show highlights included "Cousin Emmy" opening with one of her signature tunes, Groundhog and Tex Ritter doing one of the many variations of Froggy Went a-Courtin', with Our Host, as always, avoiding mention of the fact that it's a song he's covered himself. Cousin Emmy, by the way, deserves a Dreamtime post of her own, and I'm going to hold off saying anything more about her until I get around to doing it.  I should also take a look at The Monkey Speaks His Mind, which, as Mr. D. notes, has a much longer history before Dave Bartholomew put it to music.  I'm pretty sure that song originated from the Black oral  tradition of "toasts."

Mr. D. tells a dreadful joke about giraffes, which he's told us before. There's a lengthy phone call from a "Tempest Foxx," who's working in a, uh, club, in Australia and who tells us more than any of us probably needed to know about the oeuvre of Grizzly Adams.

Tempest seems to share the same confusion about songs of The Beatles as the caller from the "Money" show, Carol, did as she asks for I Am The Walrus by The Who.  Unlike Carol, though, Tempest is willing to accept Mr. D.'s correction, noting that all those English bands sound alike to her anyway, and changes her request to a song about kangaroos.  Mr. D. complies with Rolf Harris' Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport, and solos - he claims - on the didgeridoo after the song. I kept on hoping for a didgeridoo version of Blowin' in the Wind, but no joy.

Our Host closed the show noting that he had decided 20 minutes into it that he was going to have to do a second show on the subject, not having time to play among others, Memphis Minnie's Mean Red Spider. So we'll have "Animals: Part 2" to look forward to next week.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"It's Got a Great Beat, Daddy!"

The Castaways, with their one and only hit single, Liar, Liar. Note that the clip is pixalated for the first few seconds, but then straightens out. Thanks to Dreamtime pals, Doug, "CamLwalk," and "Dreamtime Fan," among others for answering that question that was bugging us, man, about what Mr. D. was playing at the opening of the "Truth and Lies" episode.

The reason the song seemed so familiar to me, beach movie addict that I am, is that The Castaways perform Liar, Liar in It's A Bikini World, a movie released in 19 and 67, two years after Liar, Liar had charted. One of the last of the great AIP beach movies, It's a Bikini World was shot in 19 and 65, when Liar, Liar was still a hot ticket, but for reasons unknown the film was held off the market until 1967, when the beach movie craze was in intensive care and heading towards the morgue.

Although never officially released, the ever-useful Video Beat offers It's a Bikini World on DVD-R. If you like beach party movies like we like beach party movies, you can't go wrong with It's a Bikini World, which has about every thing you would want from a beach party movie except Annette.  Ignoring that one flaw, It's a Bikini World does have a Disney connection, as it stars Tommy Kirk, who does his best Frankie Avalon, with Deborah Walley standing in for Annette.  As well as The Castaways, The Animals perform We've Got To Get Out of This Place, and girl group The Toys offer Attack.

And because Dreamtime is all about Theme Time Radio Hour, we'll also provide a TTRH connection. If you catch the movie, dig Tommy Kirk's sidekick.  That's one "Bob Pickett," who would be better known as Bobby "Boris" Pickett, creator of that graveyard smash, The Monster Mash, which you can read all about right here.

The Castaways, boys from Minnesota, as is Prince, and a certain musician who moonlights as deejay, never again caught the wave as they had with Liar, Liar, and eventually broke up.  Two of the original members  formed a new group in California with the same name and were active into the `70s. There's still a band called The Castaways around today, although only one original founding member, Jim Donna, is involved with the latest incarnation of the group. The Castaways are available for "community concerts and dance party events to the intimate settings of the country club or wedding reception," according to their web page, playing everything from The Righteous Brothers to Bruce Springsteen.  And, one can assume, Liar Liar.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Theme Time Radio Hour Roundup

We have a couple of TTRH-related miscellanea to talk about, nothing  weighty enough for a post by itself, so we're hereby initiating the Dreamtime Theme Time Radio Hour Roundup Day, which, as all good Mouseketeers know, always comes on a Friday.

Our readers probably know by now that the "deluxe" edition of Together Through Life will include as a bonus disc the "Friends & Neighbors" Theme Time episode, first broadcast way back in Season 1, August of 2006. The track listing on Amazon matches up to the aired show, and I think one can safely assume that Our Host's commentary will be included.

"Friends & Neighbors" will be the second "official" full TTRH show to be released.  The first, of course, was the "Baseball" show from Season 1, itself a not-for-sale promotional CD that was haphazardly distributed to some stores such as the now-defunct Circuit City.  As I remember, you had to buy both Modern Times and at least one other Dylan CD at onerous CC prices in order to get your "free" copy of the "Baseball" show.  Being the total TTRH fanboy that I am, I have two copies of the show.  It still remains one of the best TTRHs ever aired, if, for no other reason, Mr. D's a capella rendition of the full Nellie Kelly version of Take Me Out To The Ball Game.

The Fan's Conundrum

Speaking of "official," there's been a minor kerfuffle in various online forums about Our Host's comments to a supposed email in this week's "Family" show.  In reply to a listener's aside that she copies various TTRH episodes to pass on to her family, Mr. D. notes that he "can't condone that," goes into Ann Landers' mode to straighten out the listener's family problems, and concludes his commentary with a stern, "And stop giving my shows away!" And stop making copies of my show! (Dylan's actual statement courtesy of our friends over at RightwingBob).

The comment generated some angst among fans.  Is he talking about us? Does he mean it?  What does that mean in relation to Mr. D.'s remark in an earlier show that listeners should go "illegally download" TTRHs that they've missed?

"Who knows?" is what we say here at Dreamtime.  You can drive yourself crazy trying to parse any Bob Dylan remark, of course.  If he said, "the sky is blue," there would be several articles - if not books -  written on its exact meaning, postulating everything that it had been an ironic commentary on the American political situation to proof positive that Dylan was a Freemason.

On the other hand, he might have meant that the sky was blue.

The whole bootleg/download thing is something that any Bob Dylan fan has to confront and deal with on an individual basis.  At Dreamtime we subscribe to Sirius XM as a means to assuage our conscience, and we encourage others in a position to do so to do the same.  We also make copies of the show, usually for personal use only.  Occasionally we make copies for family and friends. We don't sell them.

That still doesn't make it right.  Plus, we have to deal with the fact that bootlegging is one of the few issues I can remember where Dylan's position has been unchanging and unyielding.  Space travel is the only other subject I can think of where his opinion has been the same each time it's been brought up. He doesn't like either, period.  He's compared bootleggers to thieves and house-breakers and complained that they've diluted his artistic opus.  He won't play any new work on tour until it's been released on album for fear that the first release would be a bootlegged release... which, of course, it would.

So, we're dealing with a revered figure that has flatly said that he doesn't want us doing what we're doing, while we grasp at straws like, "some of these bootleggers they make pretty good stuff," in our defense. 

Yet we still do it.  Such is the conundrum of the fan.

It's a conundrum that even Our Host has fallen into at times.  In at least three instances Theme Time Radio Hour has played bootlegged music: a Frank Sinatra commercial for Pete Epsteen Pontiac in the "Cars" episode of Season 1, and more recently, the "Blood" and "War" shows featured two Jerry Lee Lewis songs that have never been officially released.  An obviously delighted Bob Dylan noted, "You know, if anybody ever asks me why I do this radio show, I could just play them that - Jerry Lee Lewis singing Shakespeare. That's what this show is all about."

Indeed.  And we all would have been the poorer if he hadn't played them.   Such is the conundrum of the fan.

Name That Tune

We'll leave it at that and with a question for our readership which is bugging the usually infallible crack Dreamtime research team. At the beginning of the "Truth & Lies" show, when Mr. D. claims that we're listening to Little Steven's Underground Garage, there's a song playing in the background.  It's annoyingly familar to me, I can even hum it all the way through, but damned if I can think of its title or the artist.  Can anyone clue me in?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"And Jackie, have you ever seen a Victoria's Secret ad?"

"A lot of musicians have always been proud to have commercial affiliation. Sonny Boy Williamson sold flour. I can't imagine Sonny Boy saying, 'My blues is too sacred. I wouldn't sell flour.' Jimmie Rodgers sold biscuits. Sheryl Crow sells hair dye. More power to her.

"And Jackie, have you ever seen a Victoria's Secret ad?" - Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour, "Days of the Week" episode.

A couple of commercial affiliation notices.  First, a heart-felt thanks to the various messages of support - some from unexpected sources - we've received over the past few weeks.  It's much appreciated.  Dreamtime has weathered various storms over the years,  We'll weather this one too.

A number of our Great Britain and European reader/listeners asked if we could put up affiliate links to, since that's where they did their shopping rather tham  If you look over in the right column now, you'll find a link to Dreamtime as well as an search box.  The deal is the same as with the U.S. amazon.  Start your visit to Amazon through Dreamtime, and if you make any purchases, we get a small piece of the action, at no additional cost to you. Can we make a living from it?   Nope.  Does it help offset our Jones for books and music?  Definitely yes.

You'll also see a new web widget at the top of the page, this one a promotion for Mr. D's forthcoming Together Through Life.  I'm still tinkering with it, but it currently has a live news feed about the album; a Twitter feed from DylanTweets; one of my ubiquitous countdown clocks; and a purchase link to  I'll be adding more stuff as releases it.  You'll see a small "Share" button at the bottom right, or you can go to this link to see a list of various platforms you can embed the widget on.  So if you're into Facebook, iGoogle, MySpace, et al; feel free to grab the widget and use it on your own site.  That's what it's there for.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Episode 61 - Oh, That Big Rock Candy Mountain

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Our Host: We must have a lot of sugar and candy fans out there. Let's see who's on line number two.  Hello, caller, you're on the air!

Candy McNeal: Hi!

OH: Hello there, what's your name?

CM: I'm Candy McNeal.

OH: Where ya calling from Candy?

CM: I'm calling from Rockville, Maryland.

OH: Rockville, Maryland?

CM: Yeah, Rockville, Maryland.  It's the "Valentine City."*

OH: Oh, sure, of course.  What can I do for you, Candy?

CM: Well, I remember when I was a kid, there was this song I used to hear. It was something about "peppermint trees" and there were "streams of lemonade." And I think there was a lake of soda pop? People just think I'm crazy when I talk about it. Could you possibly tell me if I'm dreaming, or if that's actually the song.

OH: Well, Candy, you're not dreaming, and you're not crazy.

[music]  There is a song like that. We talked about Harry McClintock. We played him on our "Rich Man, Poor Man" show.**

We told you about him being an actor, poet, and painter... and a songwriter.  He wrote a song called The Big Rock Candy Mountain from the perspective of a hobo. He gained experience from traveling all over the land with the unemployed. He had great respect for the hobos and bums, and became their musical voice. The song Big Rock Candy Mountain is about a heaven for the homeless. The dogs have rubber teeth.  The police have wooden legs. The jail bars are made of tin. They're going to "hang the jerk who thought of work."

Well, it's got a catchy tune, and kids loved it, but these weren't appropriate words for kids.  So, they changed it.  The cigarette trees became the peppermint trees that you remember. The streams of alcohol - that's right - they became the streams of lemonade.  And that lake of soda pop you asked about is really a lake of whiskey.

People like Burl Ives recorded the kid's version, and it's great for kids to learn songs like this, but here on Theme Time Radio Hour we're all grown-ups. So why don't we listen to the original version: Big Rock Candy Mountain by Harry McClintock.  I hope that helps you out, Candy, and have fun in the Valentine City!

CM:  Thank you so much. I'm so glad to have cleared that up.

~ Phone call during the "Sugar & Candy" episode of Theme Time Radio Hour

Notes and Corrections

Some notes before we get started.

* Rockville, Maryland may well be known to someone, somewhere, as the "Valentine City," but if so, the City Fathers don't go out of their way to advertise that fact.  I can't find any mention of Rockville ever having any nickname.  Maybe if Dreamtime has any listeners in the Rockville area, they can straighten us out.

On the other hand, there is a Valentine, Nebraska, so maybe Candy was really from there and concealing her location in order to thwart stalkers.

** After nearly 100 shows, Mr. D. can be forgiven for occasionally mixing up episodes. And no Tim Ziegler, we, or us, or something.  However, Harry McClintock's Hallelujah, I'm a Bum didn't appear in "Rich Man, Poor Man" but in the first Theme Time Radio Hour potpourri show, "Thanksgiving Leftovers," way back in November of 2006.

As I write this addendum in late 2018, I've probably received more email on this article than any other Dreamtime post, almost all from lawyers or people who have run afoul of the current copyright holders of Big Rock Candy Mountain.

When I originally posted the story in 2009, my research indicated that Harry McClintock had lost his case against Billy Mack, and the song had been ruled in the public domain. Wherever I found that claim has long disappeared from these here Webbernets, and if true, appears to be unprovable, at least as far as my later research now indicates.  What is true is that McClintock's heirs are not shy about defending their rights to Big Rock Candy Mountain including obtaining a settlement from Burger King for its unauthorized use of the song's music in a 2005 commercial.

I still have my doubts that McClintock authored Big Rock Candy Mountain, no more than Bob Dylan wrote the music to Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum,  but can I help you prove it?  Nope, sorry.  If I do ever come across that long-ago case, I'll be sure to post it here. Normally I resist making after-the-fact corrections or edits, preferring to let my mistakes stand, but in this case, I've revised my article to reflect the facts, such as they are, so as not to raise any more false hopes for those thinking Big Rock Candy Mountain is in the public domain.

On with our show...


Episode 61 - Oh, That Big Rock Candy Mountain 

[Harry McClintock on The Big Rock Candy Mountains]

Harry McClintock, known at various times in his colorful career as "Haywire Mac," "Radio Mac," sometimes simply as "Mac," and maybe once as "Hats McKay," (more on that one later) claimed to have written Big Rock Candy Mountain - originally as The Big Rock Candy Mountains - sometime around 1898 when he was 16 years old, on the bum, and singing for his supper on street corners.

"But my new trade," McClintock told an interviewer. "brought new dangers.  I was a shining mark; a kid who could not only beg handouts but who could bring in money... a valuable piece of property for the jocker who could snare him... there were times when I fought like a wildcat or ran like a deer to preserve my independence and virginity..."

That last word, virginity, is key.  McClintock is referring to one of the dirty little secrets of the Romance of the Open Road.  Rather than yard bulls and train wheels, the biggest danger a rail-riding youth faced was being besieged by predatory hobos, known as "wolves" and "jockers," who promised food, protection, booze, and what-all in exchange for the boy's, ah, sexual favors.

Ghost Stories

"The Big Rock Candy Mountains may appear a nonsense song," noted a commentary that accompanied the first publication of the adult version. "But to all pied pipers in on the know it is an amusing exaggeration of the 'ghost stories' used in recruiting kids."

"Ghost story" was a hobo slang term for any plausible - but untrue - story, whether told to a housewife in order to promote a handout, or told to a young boy to entice him into the hobo life.  As ghost stories go, The Big Rock Candy Mountains was one big fable of fun and adventure, where cigarette trees,  lemonade springs and soda water fountains were always at hand for the taking. Harry McClintock's claimed original is pretty much recognizable as the better-known Big Rock Candy Mountain.  At least until we get to the final stanza, where a sadder but wiser lad tells his older traveling companion:
The punk rolled up his big blue eyes
And said to the jocker, "Sandy,
I've hiked and hiked and wandered too,
But I ain't seen any candy.
I've hiked and hiked till my feet are sore
I'll be God damned if I hike any more
[To be buggered sore like a hobo's whore]
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains."
The exact wording of that penultimate line is in question, as both published transcripts of The Big Rock Candy Mountains blank the line out to spare the tender sensibilities of their readership.  Musicologists have extrapolated gentler versions of that missing line, and some even randier versions.  But in all cases, the ah, thrust, is the same.

For obvious reasons, Harry McClintock never recorded his "adult" The Big Rock Candy Mountains, although he comes teasingly close in the interview I played at the beginning of the show.  He did record  a clean version for Victor in 19 and 28, and promptly launched a plagiarism suit against a "Billy Mack," a ukulele player who had copyrighted the sheet music for his take on Big Rock Candy Mountain that same year.  McClintock produced his lyrics, including the final stanza featuring the buggered boy, as evidence of his authorship to what must have been a very bemused judge.

Evidence about whether McClintock won or lost that particular case is shrouded in the mists of history, with some writers noting that the court ruled that Big Rock Candy Mountain was a traditional tune and in the public domain, fair game for any musician to try his hand at. However, at some point McClintock definitely won a ruling about his ownership of Big Rock Candy Mountain, as to this day his heirs take aggressive legal action against anyone, including at one point, Burger King, who use the song without their permission. McClintock complained bitterly about the appropriation of Big Rock Candy Mountain  in a letter to the League of Composers, asking how they thought so-called "hillbilly" songs could apparently be written by no one.

"The theory seems to be they are created by some sort of spontaneous generation," he wrote.


Actually, that's not a bad theory.  And, we'll talk about that it a moment, but first:

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Thanks for your time, friends, and now back to our show.


The Strange Case of Miss Peggy Lee and Mr. "Hats" McKay

It's likely that Harry McClintock's version of Big Rock Candy Mountain was one in a long line of songs that derived from an English ballad that first appeared in written form in 16 and 85, called An Invitation to Lubberland.  In Lubberland, all the brooks and streams ran with fine wine, and the hills were spun of sugar candy.  There's even a sexual element to the old song.  In Lubberland, if one found himself without a wife, you simply borrowed your neighbor's.

Wherever Mac first heard the source song of The Big Rock Candy Mountains, it's obvious that it was itself a variation of another, much more explicit, song called The Appleknocker's Lament, which Harry McClintock also may or may not have written. The only known written copy of The Appleknocker's Lament was sent to the Library of Congress by a collector in 19 and 27.  The big rock candy mountains make an appearance in that song, as does the disillusioned kid, who relates very explictly that he's tired of sitting on a hobo's peg and of being a "punkerino."

Harry McClintock made something of a career of claiming authorship of traditional songs and trying to copyright them, usually without much success from a monetary standpoint, although he was persistent enough to get credited by History for several works that he probably didn't write.

John Greenway, who first collected the randy version of McClintock's The Big Rock Candy Mountains for his book, American Songs of Protest, was willing to give Mac the benefit of the doubt, although he did note that McClintock offered virtually the same evidence as he had for his claim that he wrote Hallelujah, I'm a Bum.  That is, he produced a version of the song with some added and some changed lyrics, which he claimed was the true original. McClintock probably wasn't the original author of Hallelujah, I'm a Bum either. It's more likely he heard the original of that song at some I.W.W. meeting in the early 1900s, although Mac claimed he authored it at around the same time he wrote The Big Rock Candy Mountains, when he would have been age 15 or 16.

And then there's the strange case of Peggy Lee and "Hats" McKay.

In 19 and 47 Peggy Lee had a Number One hit with a song she co-authored, Manana. One "Hats" McKay, described in reports as an "elderly banjo player," filed a plagiarism suit against Lee and company, claiming that Manana was a reworking of a song "Hats" had written way back in 19 and 19, Midnight on the Ocean.

Here's where things start to get interesting.  According to her biography, Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee, "Hats" McKay real name was "Harry McClintock". Whether this was our Harry McClintock, I  can't determine, but I'm pretty sure it was. Harry McClintock was also the author of a song called Ain't We Crazy, which was a variation of yet another traditional tune titled - you guessed it - Midnight on the Ocean.

Our Mac or not, "Hats" McKay followed in Harry McClintock's grand tradition, losing his case against Peggy Lee.  This may have been partially due to "Hats" habit of strumming his banjo while court was in session, irritating the judge no end. More likely the scales of justice tilted in Peggy's favor when Jimmy Durante made a surprise appearance, wheeling in a piano and launching into his Laughing Song, which also shared musical similarities with Manana and Midnight on the Ocean.

With the Ol' Schnozolla on your side, how could you lose? The court ruled that the melody Manana shared with Midnight on the Ocean was in the public domain.  "Hats" retired back into the mists of history.  Manana, however, wouldn't be a particularly happy memory for Peggy Lee.  Her co-author husband, who had a drinking problem, went out on a binge to celebrate their winning the case, and tried to sell the rights to the song for two tickets to the Rose Bowl that same night.


A Poet, Pirate, Pauper, Pawn and a King

Haywire Mac would move into radio in a big way in the mid-20s, becoming "Radio Mac" and hosting a popular children's show in San Francisco called "Mac and his Gang." He'd later try his hand in Hollywood, and Mr. D. might have even seen him on-screen, as Mac made it into several Gene Autry films, although his part was usually limited to saying "He want that-away."

In the early `50s, Mac returned to San Francisco and radio, and eventually even television. He passed away at age 74.  He was at various times in his life a bum, street musician, cowboy, railroad brakeman, poet, painter, actor, labor organizer, magazine writer, and model for several fictional characters...

... and maybe the composer of Big Rock Candy Mountain and Hallelujah, I'm a Bum...

...or maybe not.

Thanks as always for reading and listening to Dreamtime.  Remember you can find out what we're up to as well as Bob Dylan and Theme Time Radio Hour-related news on Twitter at DylanTweets.

Sources:Various entries on Harry McClintock and Big Rock Candy Mountain at the always invaluable Mudcat Cafe.  

American Songs of Protest, John Greenway;The Folk Songs of North America, Alan Lomax; Harry McClintock's AllMusic and Wikipedia biographies. Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee by Peter Richmond.

Haywire Mac's Big Rock Candy Mountain story and song is from a 1972 Folkways recording and can be found on Amazon in mp3 format, as can the complete album.  A bargain at $8.99.

This show was suggested by a friend of Dreamtime, Mr. Adam Dean.

Opening segment courtesy of Arnold Stang from, The Clock That Went Tock-Tick.


You've been listening to the Dreamtime podcast – occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour. Dreamtime is researched and written by Fred Bals and is a Not Associated With production. As the name says, we're not associated with XM Radio, Bob Dylan, or much of anything else.

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The Dreamtime top cats are Curly Lasagna and Shaggy Bear. Our announcers are the notorious honky-tonkin' sisters, Jailbait and Joyride.

Until next time, dream well.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Another Day the Music Died...

... was yesterday, March 5, in 19 and 63, when Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, and Hawkshaw Hawkins were killed in a plane crash outside of Camden, Tennessee.  Randy Hughes, who was Copas' son-in-law, Patsy Cline's manager, and the pilot of the plane, was also killed.

You might point at the crash as proof of the old adage that bad luck comes in threes. The group was returning from a benefit show in Kansas City for the family of a disc jockey, Cactus Jack Call, who had recently died in an automobile accident. Jack Anglin, of the country duo Johnny and Jack, would himself be killed in a car accident a few days later on his way to a memorial service for Cline, Copas, and Hawkins.

Of the three, Patsy Cline is the best-remembered today. But at the time, all three were superstars of the Grand Ole Opry.  Hawkins had just recorded Lonesome 7-7203, which would, posthumously, become his biggest hit.

Here's Hawkshaw Hawkins with Lonesome 7-7203...

... After a stint selling stocks and bonds, and dabbling in managing other performers, Copas at age 50 had just revived his career with a major hit, Alabam. Patsy Cline with Cowboy Copas on I'm Hog-Tied Over You...

I'm hog-tied over all three of them.  They are missed, but never forgotten

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Underneath the Harlem Moon - The Brown Sisters

You start off doing one thing, and end up doing another. Coming up, a post on the location where the Dreamin' of You video was shot. But first, this amazing video of The Brown Sisters performing Underneath the Harlem Moon.

Underneath the Harlem Moon was written by Mack Gordon, née Morris Gitler, in 19 and 32 when Gordon was 28, and was his first big hit. Gordon would later go on to write many more memorable - and less racist - songs, including Chattanooga Choo-Choo, You Make Me Feel So Young, and Etta James' signature song, At Last.

Except for the urban references, Underneath the Harlem Moon was a straight-ahead minstrel show number, and a 21st century perspective might find it surprising that it was popularized by black performers - it was a favorite of Ethel Waters - and popular with black audiences, although it was also a huge hit among whites. Billie Holiday notes in her pseudo-biography Lady Sings the Blues that she used the song in an audition "because it was so popular," and subsequently lost the job when Waters, who was heading the bill, said that nobody else sang Underneath the Harlem Moon except Herself and The Brown Sisters.

Ethel Waters would introduce Underneath the Harlem Moon to film in 19 and 33 in a short called Rufus Jones for President starring Sammy Davis, Jr. as a seven-year-old whose mother, played by Waters, dreams he gets elected president. We'll pause for a moment to reflect on all the obvious ironies. You can find Rufus Jones for President on YouTube, although the usual caveats about this sort of material apply. If you're offended by Underneath the Harlem Moon you'll almost surely be more offended by Rufus Jones.

Waters' version, which you can hear about 4 minutes into Part 2 of Rufus Jones for President is notable as it deals head-on with the racism of the original lyrics, zapping the Jewish composer in the process with a change of “darkies” to “schwartzes.”

“You may call it madness” turns into “white folks call it madness.” And then Waters adds a series of brand-new lyrics, creating, as a review at the Faking It blog terms it, "... an incredible act of reclamation, changing racism to triumph."

Once we wore bandannas, now we wear Parisian hats,
Once we were barefoot now we wear shoes and spats,
Once we were Republican but now we’re Democrats
Underneath our Harlem moon.

We don’t pick no cotton, pickin’ cotton is taboo.
All we pick is numbers, and that includes you white folks too,
’Cause if we hit, we pay our rent on any avenue
Underneath our Harlem moon.

We just thrive on dancin’;
Why be blue and forlorn?
We just laugh, grin, let the landlord in--
That’s why house rent parties were born!

We also drink our gin, puff our reefers, when we’re feelin’ low,
Then we’re ready to step out and take care of any so-and-so.
Don’t stop for law or no traffic when we’re rarin’ to go,
Underneath our Harlem moon.
Love and Theft, baby. Love and Theft. Throw the stereotype at us, and we'll just turn it on its head and sell it right back to you.

As Mr. D. might say, I don't know very much about The Brown Sisters, although they apparently were very popular on stage and radio during the `30s, at least on the East Coast. Several YouTube commentators noted the heavy influence of The Boswell Sisters in this clip. Certainly true, as were any singing sister act of the time - including The Andrews', who would eventually overshadow The Boswell's.

The Brown Sisters never recorded, and Underneath the Harlem Moon is all we have left of them. The clip is from a so-called "race" film, Harlem Revue, created by the Feeber Film Corp. circa 19 and 38, presumambly in an attempt to popularize the featured "all-star cast of radio performers" to theater goers. The setting appears to be a stage set for an actual theater production, and Harlem Revue may be one of the few documents left of a complete black burlesque minstrel show of the late '30s .Harlem Revue can be found at the internet archive, and again, I have to provide the warning that much of the material - especially the opening blackface routine - is extremely racist and offensive. Nevertheless, it is our past, and one ignores the past at his peril.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Who's On Stage

In honor of the forthcoming "Questions" show, an update to the classic Abbot and Costello Who's On First? routine, performed by the Animaniac's Slappy Squirrel and her nephew Skippy in Woodstock Slappy.

As older Dreamtimers know, the original skit was performed by the great comedy team, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, and is the most famous of many burlesque routines centered around word confusion.  The earliest example may be a skit designed for a straight man and comic probably written at the start of the 20th century called "The Baker Scene," where the straight man relates that he's getting paid for loafing in a bakery.

Comic: I'd like to get a job in that bakery.  Who's the boss?
Straight Man: Yes.
Comic: That's what I'm asking.  Who's the boss?
SM: Yes.
C: Who's the guy you're working for?
SM: Exactly.
C: I'm asking you for the last time, what's the name of your boss?
SM: No, Watt's the name of the street.
And we're off.  Abbott and Costello originally introduced Who's On First? in their stage act, and eventually trotted it out to a larger audience during their run on The Kate Smith radio show in 19 and 38. By 19 and 44, the duo had had the routine copyrighted, and it became a staple of  their radio and television appearances.

The first rock'n-roll version seems to have been done by the L.A.-based comedy group, The Credibility Gap, in the mid-70s. The Credibility Gap's routine centered around a music promoter trying to write a newspaper ad about a concert to feature The Who, The Guess Who, and Yes. Hilarity, as one could guess, ensued.  I've heard the Credibility Gap version, and it's not half as funny as Woodstock Slappy.

Although it took some 60-odd years, life finally imitated art in 2007 when the Los Angeles Dodgers added an infielder named Chin-Lung Hu. After Hu singled in a game against the San Diego Padres, Dodgers announcer Vin Scully solemnly remarked "And Hu's on first."

"I've waited my entire life to say that," Scully later added.