Saturday, 18 December 2010

Chew Chew Ch'boogie

I know, I know, I know. I promised you a festive feast for December and I haven’t delivered. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa, but I promise you all there are good reasons for the apparent inactivity. I will be back later this week with the promised Christmas bundle.

But today, in an attempt to redress the balance, I bring you not one but two recordings, both sides of a 45 which I genuinely believe to be one of the worst, if not THE worst records ever pressed. In fact so obsessed have I become with this dreadful waxing that I have spent as much spare time as I have had in the last week tracking down as much info on the writer, performers and company as I could and ordering (via GEMM) several other discs from the same company.

The two tracks I present to you today, You’re The Only One For Me and You Don’t Remember Any More (sic) come from the Philadelphia-based Musicart label and appear to have been released around 1956 – the height of the rock ‘n roll era. There were several other companies called Musicart operating at various times, one which seemed to license a lot of its material from South America and was operational during the 60s and 70s, and a more recent outfit specialising in Goth material, but this particular company appears to have put out the majority of its material between 1950 and 1956. Both of today’s songs were written by one Grace Pauline Chew, as was pretty much everything else put out by the company (or so it appears). Certainly of the 15 sides I’ve managed to trace to Musicart so far Grace wrote or co-wrote the majority of them.

So who was Grace Pauline Chew? Born 1898 in Camden, New Jersey, Grace Pauline Chew was an American voice teacher, soprano and song composer. Her father, James Buchanan, was a concert and operatic tenor. Educated in New York and Philadelphia, she married Walter C. Chew in January 1917 and they had one son, Walter Chew, Jr. (1917-42). She made a number of concert and radio appearances during the 40s – principle of which was an extended run on radio station WSNJ (New Jersey) in 1945 – and published her first songs, Music In the Sky and Still In Love With You, in 1949 (both issued on vinyl by Musicart in 1950). She also wrote a pamphlet entitled Know How: Information for the Singer who Wants to Become Professional, in 1953. Oh, and apparently she had blue eyes. That’s it.

With regards to the performers of these two ditties, there’s little I can tell you. Mamie Watson performs the funereal You Don’t Remember Any More with the ‘Musicart Ensemble’ – an out-of-tune piano and a kind of reed instrument I cannot quite put my finger on (maybe some sort of harmonium). There was a Mamie Watson who appeared on the British stage in the 1920s and a Mamie Watson also appeared in the US-produced short film His First Car in 1930, but I’ve no idea (yet) if this is the same person or these are three individuals who all happened to share the same name. As for Hank and Jimmy, the performers of You’re The Only One For Me, their accompanists (listed as Rhythm Duo on the disc), appear to be one person playing an out-of tune village hall piano while a second clicks his fingers, kicks at the studio floor in an approximation of an attempt at keeping time and then provides a spectacularly inept hand clap solo. Awesome.

I love everything about this record; I hope you do too.


  1. Reminds me of family road trips when I was a kid in the 60's. My dad would sing while driving these incredibly corny songs I never heard of. I thought he was just making them up. Now I know where he got that one. Thanks for turning us on to!

  2. Wow, those are really terrible! Sounds like they are playing at the wrong speed, too slow, i.e., 33 rpm instead of 44, even though they are not, which only adds to their overall wretchedness.

    (The instrumental backing certainly is *minimal* though. Maybe Phillip Glass might like these...)

  3. The master # is H8OW -0705, which is an RCA Custom pressing, the "H" makes it from a 1957 RCA mastering--

    Melody Mac on Musicart 102 shows as a new advance release in Billboard on February 10, 1951--

    Musicart 318 has a Billboard review from February 12, 1955--

  4. Thanks for that info. 1957 eh? I was only a year out with my guesstimate then. I have a bunch of Musicart ads from Billboard - most of the info I've managed to glean about Grace Pauline Chew came courtesy of Google Books!

  5. Found your site during a search on Grace Pauline Chew. Her name appears as writer on both sides of a 45 by The Planets - Could You Would You / Moon Crazy - Bingo 330/331. Just dug this from a box of singles I purchased 30+ years ago. Unable to give a listen due to amp failure. I must have given it a spin back then, because of the notation of "strange" I have on the sleeve.

  6. Thanks for the info on the Bingo 45 - that's one I'd not come across before. Would I be right in assuming that Bingo was another Philadelphia-based company? I've found listings for another Bingo Records, but their cataloguing uses four digits rather than three, so I'm guessing that's a totally different outfit.

    I'd love to hear it, once you get the amp fixed that is!

  7. Re: Grace Pauline Chew.

    I was once a disk jockey on a college radio station in Minnesota in the late 1950s. We somehow found a 45 rpm recording titled "Chickasaw Blues" that was actually both written and sung by Grace Pauline Chew. It was truly awful, so we played it regularly for weeks. The station phones would light up immediately. It got us a lot of attention. After some time passed we decided to break the record on air in an elaborate ceremony of triumphant music and sound effects. But of course when the breaking was over, we played the song again, fading as the show ended ....

    As a side note, someone got the idea that Mrs. Chew was also the singer Hoyt Axton's mother. We had no idea if this was true or not but we repeatedly passed it off as gospel on air.

  8. Thanks for the extra info - I now need to track a copy of Chickasaw Blues down and post it here!

    Grace Pauline Chew was definitely not Hoyt Axton's mum, but what a lovely, perverse idea. Mae Boren Axton was born in Bardwell, Texas in 1914, and the family moved to Oklahoma when she was two years old. Mae Boren attended college at East Central State College (now East Central State University) and the University of Oklahoma, where she received a bachelor's degree in journalism. After she obtained a public teaching certificate, she married John T. Axton. The union produced songwriter Hoyt Axton and attorney John Axton.

    Known for helping aspiring musicians, Axton co-wrote Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" as well as helping to bring Willie Nelson to fame.

    She was elected to the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame in 1985 after devoting much of her life to teaching journalism and English in public schools in Broken Bow, Moore, Walters, Frederick, and Ada. She died at her home in Hendersonville, Tennessee in 1997, apparently suffering a heart attack whilst reklaxing in her hot tub.

  9. I probably should have mentioned that I discovered a couple of years later that, as you say, Grace Pauline Chew was NOT, in fact, Hoyt Axton's mother.

    But brushing aside cobwebs and searching my memory, I think in addition to saying that Mrs. Chew was Axton's mom, we actually claimed that she had written "Heartbreak Hotel." Honestly, I cannot imagine where any of these notions came from; sort of a study in Urban Legends I suppose. I think my co-host brought it up on air and we made it part of the ongoing bit.

    I have no idea what ultimately became of the record. I was playing it on air with my co-host in 1959-60 (the newscaster, by the way, was our classmate Garrick Utley, who became a nationally-known TV newsman on NBC).

    Anyway, I can recall some of the lyrics:

    Take off your shoes
    We're doin' the blues
    Singin' "Chick, Chick, Chick, Chick, Chickasaw."

    Kick up your heels
    While the old organ reels
    Singin' "Chick, Chick, Chick, Chick, Chickasaw."

    (something, something, something)
    But you oughta know
    That everybody listens
    To this rhythm show.

    So take off your shoes
    We're doin' the blues
    Singin' "Chick, Chick, Chick, Chick, Chiiiiick-a-saw"!

    All this was sung to the accompaniment of what souned to me like a solo pump organ, very wheezy. The tune, which I could sing were this in person, was about as downbeat and lugubrious as you could imagine.

    As you can see, the whole experience is permanently embossed on my brain. You gotta love that line "this rhythm show."

  10. The music links don't seem to load or work anymore?

    1. I've updated the links: they should work now

    2. Thanks so much! I listened to your podcast set today with The Squire and couldn't get the Hank and Jimmy "Your The Only One For Me" song out of my head. It really is great!


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