Something a little different this week: a record I genuinely believe to be one of the best things ever committed to vinyl. You may, of course, disagree but I love it.
I originally discovered Banana – What A Crazy Fruit! at Rockin’ Jeff’s Junk Shop Juke Box, one of the many vinyl blogs I frequent, and I immediately went off both to search of my own copy (I just had to own it, you understand) and to discover more about the artists – Rusty Canyon and the Banana Boys.
Born in 1922, Rusty Canyon was one of the many noms de plume of Gerald Emmett Teifer who, during a long and varied career in music, went intermittently by the names Rusty Canyon, Jerry Teifer, Bob Bundin, Gerry Teifer and Mickey Moon. A former insurance agent, Teifer’s first big break in the music business came in 1952 when he sold his song Full Time Job to Country-Western singer Eddy Arnold. Credited to Gerry Teifer, the song was later re-recorded by Doris Day, Johnnie Ray and many others.
He moved from his home town of Muskegon to New York in the 1950s where he soon started to build up a bit of a reputation. He released several singles on Wing (including Lady Love/Ten Times in 1955, which was also issued in Europe by Mercury) and Epic Records including the minor hit Poco A Poco (1963), and Heartaches/Blue Brazil (1965) all of which highlighted his whistling prowess. Teifer has performed with Leon Redbone (that’s him whistling on Redbone’s 1977 recording of Shine On Harvest Moon), his song I Don't Care (As Long As You Care For Me) was performed regularly on the Liberace TV show and he even co-wrote the New York Yankees theme song.
An army paratrooper during World War II and a touring table tennis champion, during his career in the music industry Teifer became the first General Manager of the CBS publishing company April/Blackwood Music, President of Metromedia Music, President of RCA Records publishing division Sunbury-Dunbar Music in New York and Vice-President of the ATV Music Group. An unusual claim to fame is that, in 1965, Gerry Teifer successfully pitched a live talent search show to Columbia Records, years before Simon Cowell was to do the same thing for Sony which – of course – is one and the same company.
In 1958 he wrote the incidental music for the Broadway play Tall Story, a comedy about college basketball which ran for 108 performances in the first five months of 1959. It was around this time that he met Joe Hornsby and Ben G. Allen, who wrote the songs for that play as well as composing both sides of this 45. A real oddity, it appears to have been the only 45 issued on the Teenerama label, and although promo copies feature the song King Size Kisses as its B-side all of the stock copies I’ve come across feature the rather banal kiddie song The Storyman by Rajah Leo and the Banana Boys. I guess it’s possible that these songs were composed for another Broadway outing, but I’ve yet to discover if that was the case or not. Incidentally, Joe Hornsby also co-wrote Stop, Look And Whistle, the B-side to Poco A Poco and Teifer and Hornsby appeared together on legendary TV host Jack Parr’s 45 Blue Wiggle.
Gerry/Jerry retired to Dunedin, Florida where he passed away, in 2004, at the age of 82. Thankfully he left us with this – released, I believe, around 1958 – and easily one of the most fun 45s ever.
Download Banana here