Thursday, May 18, 2006

Two Camp Quizzes from Johnny Mercer.

Harold Arlen wrote the music based on a sad song he had heard a black man hum a refrain. He picked it out on the piano, then wrote it down and called Mercer to write the words. It was to be for the film “Hot Nocturne” [1941]. Mercer went away, lolled on a couch and hummed it to himself and then got up, went to the desk and wrote. He applied his memory of the sound of train whistles at Five Mild Bend in Savannah: “Hear the train a-callin’/ Whooee…” The song was, of course, called what?

It starts this way: My mama done tol’ me/ When I was in knee-pants/ My mama done tol’ me: Son--. So that’s the first question: what’s the name of the song that swept the country in 1941?

Next: For bragging rights: Johnny’s lover Judy Garland wanted to record it but, of course, being a woman she couldn’t sing “when I was in knee pants.” How did he change the words to fit her needs? This one is pretty tough unless you’re a Mercer devotee (like me).

1 comment:

  1. 1. "Blues In The Night."

    2. "when I was in pig-tails--"