Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Those Annoying Deadly Sins

(Versión en español: http://granfusion.blogspot.com/)

If you’ve gotten into the groove of this blog, you know I am mixing some known songs with real obscurities. (If you’ve discovered me late, you may want to read from the beginning on January 2, as the posts build on each other to some degree.) Today’s post is the first really tough essay I’ve had to write.

It’s a strain for two reasons. The first is that the artist is a true unknown. The second is that I didn’t like the songs on the single when I was a kid, and they haven’t aged well. Part of the fun for me, though, is knowing that I am disseminating information that only one in ten million of you has ever discovered before.

I mentioned previously that in the 1960s I owned several 45s on the Mercury label, and a few from Specialty, Imperial and Hi, though those all came from one artist per label. Another successful indie label, Fraternity, made it into my collection just once. Fraternity Records, despite having hit records from the likes of Cathy Carr, Jimmy Dorsey and Bobby Bare, was capable also of delivering such product as “Jealous” by Danny Kellarney, Fraternity 783 (1957).

There’s nothing wrong with Kellarney’s voice, which sets him apart from a few of the artists I’ll discuss later in the year. But three-year-old caithiseach put the other side of this 45 (to be profiled Saturday) on the turntable one day, listened to a few seconds of the yawner of a chorus and orchestra, and yanked it. I don’t know if I ever played the A side, “Jealous.” I don’t remember it from my childhood, and since the 45 managed to fall prey to the Great Meltdown in 1972, I couldn’t play the song as an adult to see if I liked it. Frankly, I don’t know how this 45 got stacked high enough in the box of 45s to be melted by the sun, but it warped, and I tossed it.

Once I replaced the 45 a couple of years ago, I got the impression that I hadn’t missed much. The song is very much a product of its time and its label: orchestra plus electric guitar, vocal chorus and everything that a three-year-old dislikes in a song. Nowadays I would have to say that I have heard worse recordings, and I’ll even share some via this blog, but “Jealous” is not a tune I play often.

If the recorded song is not very interesting, the back story is a bit better. The song was written by Tommie Malie, Dick Finch (1898-1955) and Jack Little (1899-1956). Malie registered just 18 titles with ASCAP, Finch just 5, but Little composed 95 tunes, including “In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town.” He had tunes covered by artists as disparate as Jimmy Durante and Fletcher Henderson.

Little got some of his work into the movies. “Jealous” showed up in a 1941 film, The Feminine Touch, starring Rosalind Russell and Don Ameche, and also in Somebody Loves Me (1952), starring Betty Hutton. The song was very appropriate for The Feminine Touch, as the plot concerned a jealous husband. But the song was written in 1924, so the writers got lucky by its inclusion in the film.

“Jealous” was a #3 hit for Marion Harris in 1924, and Ben Selvin’s version reached #13 the same year. The Andrews Sisters took it to #12 in 1941. Cab Calloway and Jimmie Lunceford both recorded it, probably around 1941, though I can’t confirm the date. Les Paul & Mary Ford sang it later as well.

A figure of considerable notoriety connected with this recording is the orchestra leader, “Dom Frontieri.” With his name spelled correctly, you may recognize Dominic Frontiere (born 1931) as the composer to the theme from The Outer Limits. He composed music for the TV shows Branded, The Flying Nun and Rat Patrol, among others, as well as the score for Clint Eastwood’s Hang ’Em High, which was a Top Ten hit for Booker T. and the MG’s in 1968-69.

In 1980, Dominic’s ex-wife, Georgia Frontiere, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams (who died on January 18, 2008), gave him some tickets to that year's Super Bowl. He scalped them. The big problem was that she gave him 16,000 tickets, and he made half a million dollars from the sales. Oopsies, he forgot to report the income to the IRS, and he did nine months for his bad memory.

It would be intriguing to learn why the people involved in the Kellarney recording decided to resurrect this song, which didn’t even chart during its second film life. The Kellarney trail is pretty cold, though I have one tidbit to follow up before Saturday. I am going to hope one of my readers has a clue to warm up the trail again. Let me know.

For my amusement, please consider taking the opinion poll on this song. (It’s off to the right.) See you on the flip side Saturday!

Sources: IMDB, Wikipedia

Danny Kellarney, Jealous mp3

"Jealous" label

Fraternity Records sleeve

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you have any additional info on Tommie Malie: date of birth/death/ biography? I understand he had an accident and had one (or two) arms/hands severed. Any details? Thanks so much.