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“You Are My Sunshine”

July 3, 2017

I’ve hit a century! “You Are My Sunshine” is the 100th song to be added to my repertoire.

 

Almost 80 years after it was first recorded there is still a mystery regarding who actually wrote “You Are My Sunshine”. The song is credited to Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell. Davis had a big hit with the song in 1940 which became his theme tune – he even used it as his campaign song during two succesfull elections to become governor of Louisiana.

Jimmie Davis

Jimmie Davis

However, Davis and Mitchell bought the rights to the song in 1939 from Paul Rice. Rice had recorded the song in that year with his brother Hoke and The Rice Brothers Gang. Apparently, with his wife ill in hospital Rice needed cash to pay her medical bills so sold the song for the princely sum of $35.

Rice Brothers' Gang - "You Are My Sunshine"

Rice Brothers’ Gang – “You Are My Sunshine”

But there is another claim that the true author is one Oliver Hood. His family say that he wrote the song in 1933 on the back of a paper sack and that his version had TWENTY verses! (You can read a fascinating article about Hood’s authorship claim here).

Oliver Hood

Oliver Hood (foreground)

Whilst it would be interesting to solve the mystery, as a singer, the author of a song ends up being a moot point because ultimately it’s really all about the song itself and “You Are My Sunshine” really is a gem.

Click on the link at the top of this post to hear a demo of me singing “You Are My Sunshine”. For a full list of all 100 songs in my repertoire and to find out more about my act go to www.simonpartridge.com or www.vintageweddingsinger.com

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“Do Nothing till You Hear From Me”

January 27, 2017

I’ve added song number ninety-eight to my repertoire!

“Do Nothing till You Hear from Me” is a song with music by Duke Ellington and lyrics by Bob Russell. It began life as a 1940 instrumental (“Concerto for Cootie”) that was designed to highlight the virtuoso playing of Ellington’s lead trumpeter, Cootie Williams, with Russell adding words three years later.

Composer, arranger and pianist Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

Over the years it’s been recorded by artists as diverse as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Phil Collins, Ella Fitzgerald,and Robert Palmer.

In a career that lasted over fifty years Duke Ellington wrote over a thousand works. He, perhaps more than any of his contemporaries, helped to raise the popular perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other musical forms. Such was his influence he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for music in 1999.

Lyricist Bob Russell

Bob Russell

Although you’ve probably never heard of him (and I admit that I hadn’t until I began researching this post) Bob Russell was also highly regarded in his field. In 1970 (the year of his death) he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 2004 he was posthumously awarded the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) lifetime achievement award in the pop category.

As well as “Do Nothing” he wrote the words for “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” in 1969 (with music by Bobby Scott). I would never, in a million years, have connected the two songs. I love it when my work throws up obscure little connections like that!

The enduring popularity of “Do Nothing” is testament to the skill and craft of the two men who created it over seventy years ago. I’m delighted to have finally added it to my repertoire!

When I Was a Boy

December 17, 2015

One of the unfathomable, magical properties of music is its ability to transport the listener to another time and place.

jeff-lynne-electric-light-orchestra-ELO

This happened to me recently when I heard “When I Was a Boy”, the first track from “Alone in the Universe”, the new album by Jeff Lynne’s ELO. The song’s (presumably autobiographical) lyric has Lynne describing his childhood self lying in bed listening to music and dreaming of playing music for a living instead of getting a conventional job.

alone-in-the-universe-jeff-lynne-electric-light-orchestra-ELO

I was instantly transported back to my own childhood where I would lie for hours in my bunkbed listening to my beloved orange Philips transistor radio either through a single, tinny  earphone or with the speaker pressed to the side of my head.

philips-1970s-orange-portable-transistor-radio

(This isn’t it, by the way. My radio is long gone and, to be honest, I probably hadn’t given it a thought in thirty years or more, but hearing the song brought the memory rushing back and finding this picture online has made me dearly wish I still had it).

I can also clearly remember the thrill of sitting in in our living room listening to LPs that I had  borrowed from my local library (two concepts that younger readers may need a grown up’s help with!).  I’d listen on headphones, but they weren’t your modern, diminuitive “ear bud” things, these babies were the size of soup bowls and seemed to enclose most of my juvenile head along with my ears. The result was an immersive, all-consuming experience.

And did I dream of playing music for a living? You bet. I had this fantasy of driving around in a Bedford Rascal van loaded with all my equipment, singing and playing songs to adoring fans all over the country.

Bedford Rascal van. The world's smallest tour bus?

Although I never reached the dizzy heights of owning a Rascal (it’s still on my wishlist of things I’ll buy when I make my first million) my dream came true – music is now my full-time job.

I drive around in what is, more or less, a van packed with equipment. I travel all over the UK to sing at events and although the people I perform for might not always be classed as “adoring fans” the important thing is that all these years down the line I am making a living from music.

Perhaps the most delightful irony in all of this is that one of the borrowed LPs I most vividly remember listening to on those gargantuan headphones is “Discovery” by ELO.

"Discovery" by Electric Light Orchestra

Funny how things turn out sometimes, isn’t it?

(PS. If you haven’t heard it, here’s “When I Was a Boy”. It’s excellent).

A Rose By Any Other Name

January 12, 2015

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

So says Juliet in Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet”.  But here are a baker’s dozen of my favourite Hollywood icons who, for whatever reasons, ditched their birth names on the road to fame.

FREDERICK AUSTERLITZ – Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire born Frederick Austerlitz

 

ARCHIBALD LEACH – Cary Grant

Cary Grant born Archibald Leach

 

DORIS KAPPELHOFF – Doris Day

Doris Day born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff

 

FRANCES GUMM – Judy Garland

Judy Garland born Frances Gumm

 

AUDREY RUSTON – Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn born Audrey Ruston

 

VIRGINIA McMATH – Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers born Virginia McMath

 

JOE YULE Jr – Mickey Rooney

MickeyRooney born Joe Yule Jr

 

BERNARD SCHWARTZ – Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis born Bernard Schwartz

 

BETTY PERSKE – Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall born Betty Perske

 

DAVID KAMINSKY – Danny Kaye

Danny Kaye born David Daniel Kamnsky

 

MARY SLATON – Dorothy Lamour

Dorothy Lamour born Mary Slaton

 

NATALIA ZAKHARENKO – Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood born Natalia Zakharenko

 

LUCILLE LeSUEUR – Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford born Lucille LeSueur

In the Arms of Love

January 6, 2015

Once upon a time the idea of being booked to sing in a pub would have filled an entertainer with unease if not downright dread. But the public house has moved on a good deal since those dark, sawdust-floored days and The County Arms in the London borough of Wandsworth is a shining example of what the modern inn can be when flair an imagination are put to work.

County Arms pub, Wandsworth, London

I was booked to sing during the wedding breakfast of Nick and Michelle which was held in the pub’s light and welcoming downstairs function room.

County Arms' function room Wedding breakfast in a London pub?Light and welcoming function room London pub

The room was beautifully decorated and I particularly liked this bunting made from prints of vintage sheet music:

Vintage sheet music bunting

Big love!

Wedding flowers

There was a whole table full of sweet treats including these delicious (yes, I was allowed one once I had finished!)  macarons:

French macarons

Nick and Michelle - the bride and groom

An intmate wedding ceremony in the room upstairs was followed by a drinks reception in the pub’s charming beer garden after which the guests sat down to dine with myself for musical accompaniment.

Singing at The County Arms

Vintage wedding singer in London

Nick and Michelle’s wedding cake topper was absolutely wonderful.  Made for them by their friend and cake topper creator extraordinaire Laura Hambleton it (literally) topped the wedding breakfast off perfectly.

Handmade wedding cake topper

Cutting the cake

Congratulations to Nick and Michelle – I wish you every happiness for the future.  Thanks for letting me be part of such a wonderful day!

Find out more about how I can add some elegant live music to your wedding or event by visting my website www.simonpartridge.com

PICTURE CREDIT:  Some of the photos in this post (the five decent ones!) were taken by Jordan of Michelle Lindsell Photography.  My thanks for letting me use the shots.

It’s Beginning to Sound a Lot Like Christmas

December 8, 2014

It’s that time of year when I sally forth, Wenceslas-like, through cold December nights to sing wonderful Christmas songs from years gone by at parties across the country.

I’m contractually bound, of course, to say that there really is no substitute for live music when it comes to creating the perfect Yuletide atmosphere, but I can’t be everywhere at once so if you’re in need of some festive sounds then here, in no particular order, are the albums I simply wouldn’t be without at Christmas.

1. “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas” – Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald - Swinging Christmas

My first choice finds the legendary Ella Fitzgerald swinging her way through a dozen festive favourites under the baton of Frank de Vol and his orchestra.  From the sheer joy of tracks like “Jingle Bells” and “Let it Snow!” to the gentler introspection of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” this is one of popular music’s greatest voices pulling out all the stops. The CD reissue by Verve is nicely packaged and features bonus tracks.

In a Nutshell: More swing than you can shake a jingle bell at.

2. “A Christmas Gift For You” – Phil Spector

A Christmas Gift For You

Long before his spectacular fall from grace in 2009 Phil Spector produced what for many is the definitive Christmas album and fifty-one years on it still packs a punch few can match. Spector’s legendary “wall of sound” is the perfect vehicle for creating a lush Christmas sound and the album rattles along at a breathless pace with some truly outstanding vocal turns along the way – particulary Darlene Love who delivers “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” as if her life truly depended on it.

In a Nutshell:  Sheer joy to fill up your silent nights.

3. “The Christmas Album” – Doris Day (1964)

The Doris Day Christmas Album

Released the year after Phil Spector’s bombastic masterpiece, Doris Day’s Christmas offering is an altogether more traditional album and is none the worse for that.

Day’s voice is pure Christmas, with all the warmth of a festive fireside scenes, but with none of the kitsch. She includes all the songs you’d expect (“The Christmas Song”, “Winter Wonderland”, ” White Christmas “) but also includes a few less well-known numbers such as “Be a Child at Christmas Time” and “Toyland” which add some welcome variety.

In a Nutshell:  Smoother than eggnog and twice as festive.

4. “Cool Yule” – Bette Midler

Cool Yule - Bette Midler

Doris may have avoided the kitsch, but my next festive essential positive revels in it.  The cover of Bette Midler’s 2006 Christmas album, “Cool Yule”, gives fair warning of its contents and while many of the tracks have their tongues firmly in their cheeks (notably the title song and an utterly glorious version of the  Hawaiian-themed “Mele Kalikimaka”) there are some wonderfully restrained numbers too (“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” are especially touching).  There’s a beautiful rendition of the carol “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” too.

I have one gripe about the album and that’s the whiff of autotune about Midler’s vocals, but given the quality of the arrangements and excellent song selection it’s a minor complaint.

In a Nutshell:  Camp as Christmas with a heart of gold.

5. “What a Wonderful Christmas” – Louis Armstrong and Friends

What a Wonderful Christmas

Louis Armstrong’s voice is like bottled sunshine and when he gets his musical chops on a song like “Zat You Santa Claus?” you can’t help but grin from ear to ear.  Unbelievably, in a career that spanned five decades Louis Armstrong only recorded six Christmas songs which accounts for the “friends” included on this album, but there are far worse fillers than Duke Ellington’s take on “Jingle Bells”.

In a Nutshell: Musical sunshine on a cold Christmas Day.

6. “Sweet Bells” – Kate Rusby

Kate Rusby - Sweet Bells

My final festive essential is something of a departure from the others. Barnsley-born Kate Rusby is a folk singer who, in 2009, released this gem of an album.

Before those pesky, order-loving Victorians got their hands on the hymn book and introduced a one-hymn-one-tune regime hymns and carols often had numerous accompaniments.  Different regions would have their own tunes, particularly for Christmas carols, and there would even be variations from village to village.  Rusby’s native Yorkshire has a strong tradition of this and for her album she uses a range of regional tunes to accompany well-known and obscure carols.

The title track is  a special favourite of mine.  It’s essentially “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night”, but with a chorus added between the verses.  With a brass section culled from the might Grimethorpe Colliery Band the result is a sound that is at once reassuringly familiar and startlingly new.

In a Nutshell: A joyful folk-fusion of the traditional and the contemporary.

So there you have my personal pick of the hundreds of festive albums available.  Of course if you ever fancy some real live Christmas music you can find out all about my act on my website www.simonpartridge.com

Merry Christmas!

Murder Most Fun

September 26, 2014

I’ve shared the bill with some interesting fellow artistes over the years (The White Hart Morris Men spring to mind – read my blog about the wedding we both performed at here), but last weekend was the first time I’ve (knowingly!) worked alongside a group of murder suspects.

Big Adventures Theatre Company

It was all in the name of entertainment, of course, with the suspects being played by members of Big Adventures Theatre Company as part of a vintage afternoon tea.

Murder mystery afternoon at Fairlawns Hotel

Big Adventures were there to perform one of their excellent murder mystery shows, “Murder at the Redfriars Reunion”.  The venue was Fairlawns Hotel in Aldridge.

Fairlawns Hotel and Spa

The mystery, set in the 1930s, revolved around group of old pupils from Redfriars School one of whom had been horribly murdered after the previous night’s reunion dinner.

Murder at the Redfriars Reunion

Guests took on the role of detective and had to use their best sleuthing skills to work out “whodunit”.  My job was to keep everyone entertained between scenes while the suspects mingled with the guests to answer questions.  My songs from the 1920s, 30s and 40s fitted in perfectly with the Agatha Christie murder mystery theme and created the ideal atmosphere for all the budding Poirots present.

And this is me! Vintage vocalist Simon Partridge

Our hosts for the afternoon, Phil and Diana, had taken great pains with their decoration including floral table centres which incorporated school geometry equipment and an “old school tie”…

"Old school tie" flower arrangement

…and a chocolate pistol for each guest!

Chocolate pistol

I’ve known Caroline and Dave from Big Adventures for over fifteen years now and have worked with them countless times acting in many of their theatre shows and murder mysteries. I’ve even performed in “Murder at the Redfriars Reunion” on many, many occasions playing the part of the vicar, Reverend Chaste.  It was strange watching the story unfold as a spectator rather than an actor, but hugely entertaining.

Murder mystery suspects

The afternoon was a great success and the guests had a wonderful time attempting to solve the mystery.  Host Phil said afterwards, “The drama, along with Simon’s elegant vocals, made everyone’s day”.  They’re already planning another such event for next year.

And if you’re wondering who the guilty party turned out be I’m afraid my lips are sealed.  You’ll just have to book Big Adventures for your own murder mystery evening to find out!

Find out more about Big Adventures by visiting www.bigadventures.biz

Find out more about my act of songs from the 1920s, 30s and 40s by visiting www.simonpartridge.com

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