Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gary, Indiana X 3

I’m still on the Eastern Seaboard, U.S. version, so once again this post will be hampered by sluggish facilities. This time, though, I don’t have to race to finish my post to avoid the stares of people who want to use the Holiday Inn computer.

I’ve reached the point in my musical formation where I get to confess that, with a collection of more than 300 45s and probably 100 LPs, I was exposed to exactly one musical when I was small. I don’t know if that dearth of information contributed to my general ignorance of the genre, or if I’m just not wired to be a lover of musicals. I have come to appreciate the value of musicals. Their history, especially as one of the primary sources of chart songs during the formative years of the recording industry, now intrigues me.

I have decided that my primary difficulty with musicals stemmed from my touchiness about suspending disbelief. When I watch a non-musical film and a thunderstorm occurs in it, I cringe. Why? Because in the real world, if lightning and thunder come simultaneously, the thunder is ear-splitting. It’s a moment of crisis in the storm. It’s much more common to see lightning, wait five seconds, and then hear the thunder. In a film, though, thunder and lightning always come as a matched set, yet the actors sort of ignore the thunder. They should be covering their ears. I have seen exactly one film where there was a flash of lightning, followed by a low rumble of thunder several seconds later. I found that realism gratifying, but I have forgotten which film it was. Darn.

When it comes to musicals, I have a bit of trouble imagining (for example) some New York toughs walking down the street as a gang and suddenly breaking into song and dance. That’s not how it went in my home town, Gary, Indiana.

Hey! Speaking of Gary, Indiana, the one musical three-year-old caithiseach had on LP was The Music Man. The LPs in my collection were an odd assortment, and only one of them came from Uncle Tom. My dad contributed The Fabulous Johnny Cash, which I replaced on CD around 1990. He (Dad, not Johnny) provided an ABC-Paramount LP of martial music: "Reveille," "Taps" and the like. There was a collection of Barn Dance music interspersed with humorous dialogue, but I set it under the footrest of my mom’s recliner, and she crunched it. My bad.

And apart from the one Survivor among the LPs, a sound-effects LP I have discussed before, one of the few LPs I recall vividly was an RCA budget release on Camden records, Instrumental Selections from The Music Man. The catalogue number seems to be Camden CAS 428, but I am having trouble pinning that down. Hill Bowen led the orchestra. Bowen later became part of the "Living Strings" gig for Camden, but around 1958, he was doing a budget version of Music Man tunes.

I suspect that my mom bought this one musical because it included a song about her home town, Gary. That is also why three-year-old caithiseach played the LP. But I liked another tune as well, "76 Trombones." I can’t name any other tunes from the musical, and I’ve never seen it. It’s probably time I did so.

The song "Gary, Indiana" impressed me when I was little, because it was the only song I had heard that featured a place I knew personally. Once in awhile, during my teen years, if someone from Somewhere Else learned that I was born in Gary, that wit would sing the song. But it didn’t happen often, and by the time I moved to Michigan in 1998, not a single person in that fine state regaled me with a rendition of "Gary, Indiana."

And then I moved to Minnesota. In this state, I have had that song sung to me close to one hundred times. I don’t know if it’s because more Minnesotans have asked me where I was born, or because they actually heard my answer to the question, or because they . . . well, they sing the song a lot.

The Hill Bowen instrumental versions of "Gary, Indiana" and "76 Trombones" (a rousing rendition that, I assumed at age three, involved seventy-six trombones) have not made it to iTunes, as far as I can tell. I found someone selling the LP online, but I couldn’t order it in time to post the songs here. Sorry. To give you a feel for the songs if you’ve never heard them, I have included versions I found in my collection. I don’t know who made these recordings; it could be the original cast. I am far too ignorant of musicals to tell you.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, which is already "today" in Australia) I begin my trek back to Minnesota. When many of you read this post, I will be sleeping in Gary, Indiana, of all places. And the day after that, I’ll be driving through brutal storms that follow a wave of destructive weather that created havoc in one of my favorite states, Wisconsin. I ate at the Famous Dave’s at the Wisconsin Dells on my way to Philadelphia, and now that area has been devastated beyond belief. My heart goes out to anyone affected by the disaster.

For Saturday, I’ll be writing about a Big Band singer who was not a Big Band singer by the time her 45 got to me. It was a great tune, though, and I think you’ll like both the song and the singer’s voice. See you Saturday!

76 Trombones: http://www.zshare.net/audio/130760273f2d3b40/

Gary, Indiana:


yah shure said...

Your mentions of Gary and 'The Music Man' remind me of another place and musical.

I'd accepted a job in Oklahoma City, and April 14th was moving day, which took until about 5PM. Then it was off to Crossroads Mall to pick up an item. In the parking lot, I filled out my tax forms, then dropped them off at the post office in downtown St. Cloud.

It was 6 PM when I finally hit the road, driving straight through to Oklahoma City. A while after I'd crossed into my new home state, I began to take note of the license plates on passing cars. All I could make out was "Oklahoma is..." something. As dawn emerged, I was determined to find out what that other word was, and got very close behind another vehicle.

I said aloud what I saw. "'Oklahoma is...awk??' What is THAT supposed to mean?" I'd been on the road nonstop for over eleven hours after a long day, and it just didn't sink in. When I finally realized that "OK" meant "okay" rather than "awk," I had another thought: "Oklahoma is 'okay?' Just 'okay?' Not great, or wonderful, but just 'okay?' What the hell kind of a state am I moving to?"

Had I ever seen or heard the musical "Oklahoma!" I would have known, of course. But on that morning, it was more like "brain with the fringe on top."


So, how were things on the east toast? :)

whiteray said...

Well, you see, we Minnesotans always thought that the song was about a football player, Gary Indiana, kind of like Joe Montana.(Don't buy that one. Well, lemme think.) And you mean to tell me that the toughs in your hometown didn't saunter like the Jets and the Sharks? Sounds like a song title to me: "The Gangs Don't Dance in Gary."