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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Musical Memory Lane . . .

Musical Memory Lane
Mark Rothman has a blog I enjoy reading. Yesterday and today, in particular, he hit home with his first piece about The Four Lads.

"Moments to Remember," brought back memories of high school back at Benson High School in Omaha, Nebraska. In fact, Mark brings back a lot of memories . . . memories of listening to The Four Lads . . .

As Mark writes . . . he winds up with a three-parter, as follows:

People Just Liked It Better That Way. Part One.

These are the lyrics for "Istanbul", a HUGE hit record for a group known as the Four Lads in 1953:

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul not Constantinople
Been a long time gone
Old Constantinople's still has Turkish delight
On a moonlight night
Evr'y gal in Constantinople
Is a Miss-stanbul, not Constantinople
So if you've date in Constantinople
She'll be waiting in Istanbul

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it, I can't say

Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks'

Istanbul!! Istanbul!!

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it, I can't say

Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks'



The capital letters in the lines in parentheses were provided by me, to point out that the other three Lads laid out for the bass singer, Connie Codarini, to take those lines as a solo.

The last time I saw them perform it was on a PBS concert called "Magic Moments---The Best of 50's Pop".
It was taped it 2004, and aired again last year.
That's when I saw it.
When the other Lads laid out for Connie to sing "People just liked it better that way", the audience went nuts.
Both times.

If anyone could be described as the "soul" of the Four Lads, it was Connie.
He looked markedly different from the other undistinguishable Lads, who at this point were all at least in their seventies.
The oldest Lads you'll find.
The others all had white hair, were tall, and looked decidedly unethnic.
Connie, on the other hand, was short, dark-haired, and olive-skinned.
To say he stood out is a major understatement.

In a week rather filled with major celebrity death, Lena Horne, Lynn Redgrave, etc., Connie kind of slipped between the cracks.
But he died last week, and it was barely noticed, except by me, and probably his family.

I did find this obit:

"Corrado "Connie" Codarini, an original member of the popular Canadian all-male singing group The Four Lads, died Wednesday in Concord, N.C., his son said.
He was 80. A cause of death was not provided.
The Four Lads had many gold singles and albums, including million-selling hits Moments to Remember; Standin' on the Corner; No, Not Much; Who Needs You; and Istanbul.
The group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1984.
Codarini, a bass singer, and the other three founding members - tenor Bernie Toorish, lead Jimmy Arnold and baritone Frank Busseri - learned to sing as members of the St. Michael's Choir School in Toronto."

The group goes on, with only two surviving original Lads. Jimmy Arnold has passed away as well.

Why does any of this matter?

Well, I loved the Four Lads.
I loved the Four Aces.
I loved the Four Ames Brothers.
I loved the Four Diamonds
Generally speaking, if they came in fours, I loved them.
More than that, I love the era of popular music that they represented.
The era that was just pre-rock and roll.
When popular music was purely fun, and brought people of all generations together.

The death of Candy Codarini just throws another shovelful of dirt on that era and what it meant and should mean to a lot of people.

When Eddie Fisher wished we were here, and cared about his father in song,
When Perry informed us that HIS father loved Mambo, and warned us not to let the stars get in our eyes.
When Teresa Brewer wanted no part of a Rickechet Romance, preferring to spend her time putting nickels in Nickelodeons.
When Rosemary Clooney, the reigning Queen of Real Estate, was up front with us about the problems with This Ole House, and beckoned us to Come On-A-Her-House with the promise of all varieties of food items.

I miss it all.

More about this tomorrow.

People Just Liked It Better That Way. Part Two.

Here are the approximate lyrics, as performed by Lou Monte, in his Italian version of
"The Darktown Strutter's Ball", circa 1953:

"Ma di benioc punioc coo quat di chooch
Cumana sina liote mene
Benemola pun de mene
Zoto baccia mene
Zumelia gadi padrua
Gasa nome bangueda
Bene gimine tarantelle
Bina tantarantelle belle
Tomorrow night at the Darktown Strutter's Ball...."

I loved Lou Monte.

Here are two couplets from his recording of "Lazy Mary" from the same era:

"Lazy Mary you better get up
She answered back 'I am not able'
Lazy Mary you better get up
We need the sheets for the table....."

They just don't write 'em like that any more.
The Italian Anti-Defamation League probably wouldn't let 'em.

Lou was, and still is, my favorite.

Back then, in many circles, the mere mention of his name would most-likely elicit an "Awwww"
For those who still remember him, that same "Awwww" would still be in place.

Lou epitomized Fun when it came to popular music.
Just about anyone named Lou or Louis represented Fun when it came to popular music.
Armstrong. Prima. All of them.
The early 50's themselves epitomized fun when it came to popular music.
Maybe I'm biased because those were truly my formative years.

Today's post will primarily be anecdotal, and involve much traipsing down memory lane.
I'll most-likely get to the main point of all this tomorrow.
So if you're not so much for anecdotal or trapsing, you might want to just skip the rest of this and come back tomorrow.

Guy Mitchell.
A total creation of Mitch Miller when he ran Columbia Records.

Loved Guy Mitchell too.

"There's a pawnshop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
And I walk up and down 'neath the clock
By the pawnshop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
But I ain't got a thing left to hock......."

Elvis came in, sang "Hound Dog", and pretty much changed everything.

I thought Elvis was great.
My father came home from work one day and gave me an election-type button that said
"I Hate Elvis".
I thought it was funny.
I wore it to school.
But I didn't hate Elvis
My father hated Elvis.
If I'd known what Elvis would do to the music that preceded him, I might have hated him too.

Frankie Laine.
Loved Frankie Laine.

"Mule train, hyah, hyah!
Clippetty-clopping over hill and plain.
Seems as how they’ll never stop.
Clippetty-clop, clippetty-clop, clippetty, clippetty, clippetty, clippetty, clippetty-clopping along.

There’s a plug of chaw tobaccy for a rancher in Corolla;
A gee-tar for a cowboy way out in Arizona;
A dress of callico for a pretty Navajo.
Get along mule, get along..... "

I remember going into a record store to buy Elvis's "Blue Suede Shoes"
The proprietor, having none on hand, having sold out what he had, handed me a Pat Boone record, saying
"Here. This guy's just as good."
Having inherited my mother's susceptibility to just about anything approaching salesmanship, I purchased the Pat Boone record, "Why, Baby, Why?".
Now, Pat Boone had a great pair of pipes, but "Why, Baby, Why?" did not show them off well.
Certainly not like ""April Love" or Love Letters In The Sand".
It never made the charts.

Remember the Chordettes?
Two hits.
"Lollipop", and this one-----

"Mister Sandman, bring me a dream
(Bung, bung, bung, bung)
Make him the cutest that I've ever seen
(Bung, bung, bung, bung)
Give him two lips like roses in clover
Then tell him that his lonesome nights are over
Sandman, I'm so alone
Don't have nobody to call my own
Please turn on your magic beam
Mister Sandman, bring me a dream
bung,bung,bung,bung,bung,bung,bung)......... "

Around 1959, when "American Bandstand" and Rock and Roll established it's foothold on the landscape, Lou Monte had a record, "The Sheik of Napoli" that got pretty high up there on the charts.
This elicited an invitation to lip-sync it on "American Bandstand"
I never saw anyone who looked or seemed to feel as out of place as Lou Monte on that show.
This record made the charts because some adults were still buying records.
The teenagers on the set certainly didn't know what to make of him.
Dick Clark, to his credit, did.

You can hear all of these songs, with the music and everything, on YouTube.
If you want to have fun.

Today, I nearly approached the point.
I think tomorrow I'll finally get to it.

People Just Liked It Better That Way. Part Three.
I think it began with Brando.
In 1953.
In the movie "The Wild One".

He and his motorcycle gang swung into a small town, and immediately began raising hell.
Somebody asked him "Just what are you rebelling against?"
"Whattya got?", Brando replied.

That sure tapped into something.
There was an undercurrent of rebellion that people, especially young people, couldn't wait to unleash.

It was shortly followed up by "The Blackboard Jungle", with Bill Haley and the Comets wailing
"Rock Around The Clock" as it's theme song.
It was all about rebellion, and it touched that same nerve.

The new music got intertwined with the rebellion.

And, of course, black people, who were always ahead of the curve, never cared how much that doggie in the window was.
They had their own music. It was then called "Race Music".
Little Richard. Ray Charles. Hank Ballard. Big Mama Thorton.

Pre-Brando white popular music was just that. White.
About the only crossover was Nat "King" Cole.

Blacks always had solid reasons to be rebellious.
Maybe whites did too.

And when the Bastille was stormed, it was at the expense of the music I loved.
It became unfashionable, unsellable, and to many, unlistenable.

Careers were dashed.
The survivors, with rare exception, had to scrounge for work, never to resurface again until there were nostalgia shows a generation later.

There used to be a big hit TV show called "Your Hit Parade".
It was on every Saturday night beginning in the early 50's.
It featured people like Dorothy Collins, Gisele Mackenzie, and other folks nobody remembers but me.
They sang the top ten songs of the week.
They always tried to dress up these songs by putting them in some contextual story context.
Somewhere around 1958, after they tried the eighth version of Dorothy Collins singing "Hound Dog", they threw in the towel.

Maybe it was the natural order of things.
I myself took to early Rock and Roll.
I loved Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and all the doo-wop groups.
But my receptivity pretty much ended with the Beach Boys.
It didn't quite reach the Beatles.
I was old when I was young.

And I never abandoned my affection for Johnnie Ray, The McGuire Sisters, and Kay Starr.
Because of that, I was looked down upon by my peers.
I never condemned anyone for liking something I didn't like.
But boy, did they condemn me.

It wasn't only me.
Generational warfare broke out.
Over music.
I don't know if the wounds have ever healed.
This had never happened before on a grand scale.
Oh, sure, previous generations who adored Caruso couldn't make head nor tails out of Crosby.
But the rift was far more benign.

As Rock Music became more and more popular, the music itself became more tense.
And the tension between generations became larger.
Nothing about the music or the situation was upbeat.
There was and is enough tension in our lives.
Why did it and does it have to extend to music?
The music was becoming clearly no longer fun.
Rock Music was a generational badge to be worn in defiance.

I was no rebel, and I had no cause.
Except that I didn't like being discriminated against for what I liked.
And what I liked was terrific.
Yes, it had some excessive silliness.
But so did music of EVERY generation.

Where was Rodney King, saying "Why can't we all just get along?", when we needed him?

If I've caused any of my younger readers to seek out any of the names I've bandied about in these articles, then I think I've accomplished something.

Back then, a whole lot of people just liked it better that way.

With the understanding that many of our friends are getting up in years, I think it’s our responsibility to be prepared for the worst.

Do your part, consider this necessary preparation.


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  2. Thanks for posting this, Lyle.
    Actually, this series of articles appeared on my blog quite a while ago.
    My blog can be found at
    Also, a book of collected essays from the blog will be forthcoming.
    If anyone would like more information about it,
    my e-mail address is
    I can also be Googled and wikipedia'd if you'd like to learn more about me.