Saturday, 5 November 2011

Bob and Bobby

Here’s a real stinker for you, another song poem from one of my all-time favourite performers and companies.
Bob Storm‘s Bobby, an ode to the assassinated Robert Kennedy, is another great from the Halmark stable. Typical of Halmark’s output, the song sounds like it was recorded in the 50s, although Kennedy didn’t meet his untimely end, at the hands of Sirhan Sirhan, until June 1968 and Halmark itself had been established in 1967. With lyrics by Stella Smith, the music was written by song-poem pioneer Ted Rosen and it appeared as the B-side to a dreary little ditty entitled Rosary of Kisses.
The lyrics to Bobby are just awful, and full of the usual song-poet non-sequiturs: 

Far away from home and family
Lying in a cold and silent grave
Is the man we knew as Bobby
And we never shall forget
Taken away from his nation by a cruel assassin
In the prime of his life

Now that voice is stilled forever
We’ll never miss him in days to come
He was loved by millions
‘Round the world and everywhere

Many hearts are saddened
Because he is not here
And for the oppressed
Bobby always did his best

Ted Rosen, who we’ve featured on these pages before, grew up in Boston, spending his time, according to his son Jeff (who these days runs the company his father established) with “a smile on his face and his head up in the clouds, writing new songs every day”.  Moving to New York in pursuit of his dream of working as a full-time songwriter, his first break came when he wrote the children's song Herkimer the Homely Doll. Released as a 78, in a rather fetching picture sleeve, by Sterling Holloway on Decca in April 1954 Jeff would have you believe that ‘it ran up the Billboard charts’; it didn’t, but you can’t blame a son for being proud of his dad, and it was heavily featured on the hit kid’s TV show Captain Kangaroo which began its record-breaking 30-year run the following year. Ted also claimed to have written a hit song for Rosemary Clooney, but nothing obvious appears in the Clooney discography.

His companies - Talent Incorporated, Halmark, Grand and Chapel – often used the same musical beds for their output; this means that the same music track would appear as backing to a political song on Halmark, an overwrought ballad on Grand and as the tune to a hymn on Chapel, for example – and he didn’t care how often these tracks were used. It made life simple for his stable of performers: all they had to do was walk into the studio, have a quick squint at the lyric sheet and fit them as best they could around a track they had heard time and time again. One particular bed turns up so often it’s unreal: Memories (Genevieve Leahy), A Friend to All (G M Fogarty), the Galveston Rose (Nathan Ricketts & Don Richards), Near to Your Heart (Walter D Rogers), Tomorrow (Mrs Marvell Wyrick) and countless other would-be hit writers have had their material shoehorned into this tune.  

Unusually, Rosen was hauled over the coals by the Songwriter's Review magazine, a publication which existed almost exclusively to advertise the services of other song-poem outfits, in 1972. ‘Listen to what Ted Rosen told the Better Business Bureau and didn't tell you or the other 7,000 amateur songwriters he does business with. He [said] his services appeal to the egos of the would-be Hammersteins and the chances of any amateur receiving royalties or making money are very remote...He also doesn't promote nor sell songs; all you're sure of receiving is one record. As for his own experience, Rosen said only one of his songs, entitled "Herkimer the Homely Doll", resulted in royalties. You all remember what a smash hit that was! ‘

Never mind. We love Ted Rosen here at the World’s Worst Records…and I promise that this will not be the last time you hear from him.


1 comment:

  1. Who knew Reverend Lovejoy recorded a record? Ah, Rosen strikes again, I see. Bless 'em.


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