Friday, 25 October 2013

Dreck of Cards

I’ve got a lot of time for spoken word records, as any of you who have been following this blog for a while now will know. The chances are, if a disc has a spoken word passage or – better still – it’s entirely narrated rather than sung then it’s almost preordained that it’ll be awful. And the granddaddy of all awful spoken word records is Wink Martindale’s huge 1959 hit Deck of Cards.

Winston Conrad "Wink" Martindale was born in Jackson, Tennessee, and started his career as a disc jockey at age 17 at WPLI in Jackson. His version of Deck of Cards, the ridiculous, melodramatic story of a soldier caught playing snap at the back of a church, went to Number Seven on the Billboard chart, selling over a million copies; four years later it reached Number Five in the UK. This wretched record just won’t die: Martindale has been in the UK charts with it on three different occasions, and it has been recorded by everyone from Texas Tyler (in 1948) to WWR favourite Pat ‘The Deal’ Campbell.

Ignore the last line: I know! That soldier was me! No it wasn’t. The original story, which Tyler adapted for his recording, has been known since at least 1762 – 180 years before any American soldier became involved in WW2!

Wink began his TV career in Memphis, as the host of science-fiction themed children's television programme Mars Patrol. His first game show job came in 1964, when he fronted the NBC show What's This Song? More recently he has hosted TV versions of Trivial Pursuit, Boggle and the show Debt, which saw contestants compete to try and eliminate their debts. Still a popular face on American TV (at the grand old age of 79), in June 2006, Martindale received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and, a year later, he became one of the first inductees into the American TV Game Show Hall of Fame.

As an extra, I’ve also included Max Bygraves’ white bread version of this appalling song. Inexplicably popular - especially as the man was a dreadful singer and a terrible game show host (another thing he shared with Wink) – old waxy Maxy’s career began in earnest shortly after the Second World War. He appeared in a number of movies before establishing himself as a housewives favourite, releasing an endless stream of albums and singles through the 50s and 60s. When he issued his version of this godawful record (in 1973) it managed to reach Number 13 on the UK charts. Sniffing out the possibility of a few sales the Martindale version was reissued, reaching Number 22.

The former boxer and RAF fitter (born Walter William Bygraves), Max died last August, just a couple of months shy of his 90th birthday. Married to former WAAF sergeant Blossom Murray, with whom he had three children (the youngest of which became his manager later on in his career) for almost 70 years, naughty Maxy also fathered three other illegitimate children who, although he went to great lengths to distance himself from, finally made peace with the serial philanderer shortly before his death.


1 comment:

  1. We had the Wink Martindale version, as a kid I loved it, but o it is so mawkish and religious isn't it!


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