Friday, 8 June 2012

It's the Plinger, not the Song

For today’s post I’ve delved into my ever-expanding collection of song poems to bring you a brace of tracks from the album Sunset Swing with the MSR Singers (catalogue number LPM 215 for those that care about such things), just one of the hundreds of albums put out by MSR, one of the biggest and busiest of the song poem outfits. Over a relatively short period – the earliest recordings date from the late 60s and the company had wound up by the end of 1983 - MSR (the initials stand for founder Maury S Rosen) issued in excess of 3,000 45s and around 300 albums; that’s some going by anyone’s standards.

Unfortunately the majority of these albums fail to credit the ‘talent’ involved. Our first track, the ridiculously-titled The Not Impossible Waltz on the Moon, was written by one Sven Swanson – his lineage may account for his rather poor understanding of the English language – but nowhere on the disc or sleeve do we get any clues as to who the lead vocalist is. The same is true of today’s second helping, the John H Kelly Sr composition From Slavery to Freedom – just one of four tracks the prolific Mr Kelly has contributed to this rather mundane collection. We also are given no clues as to when the album was issued, although judging by the catalogue number it must have been around 1970.

I’d take a pot at the vocalist on both of these tracks as being our old friend Dick Kent (aka Dick Castle, aka Buddy Raye, aka Sonny Cash, aka Richard House). Not only was he was the company’s most fertile male vocalist and certainly the most active during the period when this album was hastily put together but, when you add in the innumerable recordings he made for other companies – including Songuild, Kay-Em and the more than 1,000 cuts he made for Sunrise Records – he outstrips Rodd Keith (and his many nom de plumes) and Gene Marshall as the most prolific of all the song poem vocalists.

A man by the name of Elmer Plinger is the real person behind all of these song-poem singers, indeed in the documentary Off The Charts - the Song Poem Story Elmer himself admits as much. However I'm a little confused over his Buddy Raye persona. Was Elmer also a fiddle player and occasional vocalist from Texas who used the stage name Buddy Ray (note the missing ‘e’)?  Both men were producing music at the same time, and with so little information available about song-poem artists it’s easy to see how the mistake might be made, but Buddy Ray - to my ear at least - has a lighter, almost ethereal voice, quite unlike that of Buddy Raye; they sound like two completely different singers to me. If you fancy listening for yourself check out the wonderfully odd The Shooting of Governor Wallace – Jack, Bobby, Martin Luther Too at and see if you agree....or let me know if you don't!

If anyone has any further information I'd love to hear from them. A while back I was contacted by a relative of Dick Castle's but she did not reply to the email I sent her. Hopefully she'll read this post and try and contact me again. But for now enjoy The Not Impossible Waltz on the Moon and From Slavery to Freedom from the MSR Singers.

1 comment:

  1. AT least the first tune is within 2 minutes; the second one is truly dire. I initially thought it was some racist sludge, but eventually it dawned on me (I hadn't seen the title) that it was a moving paean to the anti-slavery movement.


WWR Most Popular Posts