Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Wilde Tyme

For the past couple of weeks, I have talked about 45s whose artists had names that made searching for information on them a laborious process. In the cases of Michael Allen and the Baby Dolls, I couldn’t find much pertinent information amid the white noise of other Michael Allens and Baby Dollses.

But at least those 45s were Survivors—records that made it through the Great Meltdown and have lived for the past 36 years in a box that I have carefully kept out of the sun. Not so with today’s song, which was both a Victim of the Great Meltdown and extremely difficult to locate because of the artist’s name.

At first glance, the name Tony Wilde would seem to be easier to work with than Michael Allen for search purposes. Not as easy as Márta Sebestyén, of course, or Tarig Abubakar, but easier than Michael Allen.

I learned, though, that around the time I started searching online for today’s 45, that a Tony Wilde was involved with auto racing. Now there’s one who races a Kawasaki, one who competes in 10K races, and a young actor. I had a song title, but it was a common enough phrase that I still had to do a lot of sifting. Then, finally, I remembered the label for which Tony Wilde had recorded, and I found what I was after.

“Whisper to Me” (Gardena 101) was the side three-year-old caithiseach played more often on this 45, though its designation as 101-2 makes it seem to be the intended B side. The gentle vocals and backing track kept the song from becoming one of my favorites, but it was memorable enough for me to recall it easily when I started looking for replacement 45s several years ago.

My memory of the label itself helped me figure out what to search for online. I remembered a white label with the figures from a deck of cards—hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades—arranged so as to hold the letters of the label’s name, Gardena Records. There is also a logo of a hand holding a royal flush. I turns out that Gardena, California had legalized card gambling at a time when such things were rarely legal, so by the time the label came into being in 1960, cards were Gardena’s main claim to fame.

Tony Wilde enjoyed considerable success on Gardena. He was around from the start, since the first Gardena single was numbered 100 and Tony logged number 101. He also released #107, “John Henry”/“There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere” in 1960. After that . . . well, his singles didn’t sell, so we’re done considering his success.

Gardena as a whole was just slightly more successful. The label logged a #38 One-Week Wonder, “Like, Long Hair” by Paul Revere and the Raiders (Gardena 116). If Paul Revere Dick hadn’t driven down from Portland, Oregon to blanket the L.A.-area labels with his demo, it’s hard to say if Gardena would have found a hit artist at any point. The label released 39 singles through 1963, and that was that.

“Whisper to Me” was written by Rusty Nail. Rusty Nail has 54 titles under his belt on the BMI site, including “Whisper to Me.” Often, these old songs aren’t showing up with active registrations, so I was pleased to find that Mr. Nail has been keeping his registrations up to date, though it’s no longer linked to Class Publishing or any other publisher. There’s a business opportunity for you. Rusty Nail seems to specialize in songs about wine, bottles, devils, crying, fools, freight trains and whispering. As mournful as most of these topics are, “Whisper to Me” is a love song that doesn’t touch on infidelity, alcoholism or body parts severed on railroad tracks. So it’s all good.

Both sides of this record were arranged and directed (read: produced) by Jack Marshall. There is a good likelihood that the Jack Marshall in question was a guitar player who started producing records for Capitol in the 1950s. He scored some monster flicks beginning in 1958, and then he wound up composing for TV. He’s responsible for one of my favorite themes, for The Munsters. A producing gig with Gardena records in 1960 would fit perfectly into his music trajectory, so I’m fairly confident that I found the right guy. If so, he was born in 1921 and died at age 51 in 1973. He was the father of Frank Marshall, who has produced Raiders of the Lost Ark and a pile of other superb films.

There’s not a lot of information available about Tony Wilde or the people who helped him put this single together. Even so, I decided to split this song from its A side, because the song, while not exceptional, isn’t a complete throwaway. I do hope you enjoy it, and Saturday I’ll bring you a more amusing tune by Mr. Wilde. See you on the flip side!

Tony Wilde, Whisper to Me

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