Whispering Grass

This is one of my clear childhood memories, while I was an only child – listening to The Ink Spots on our record player with my Dad while he got breakfast for us on Sunday mornings. He would sing along with Java Jive – though I don’t think I ever saw him have a cup of coffee. My mother was a tea drinker.

At the time I had no idea was coffee was but I always loved that song. I loved The Ink Spots, those harmonies and easy rhythm of the song. I can picture the cover of that album with the four of them in tuxes singing around a microphone while staring at the camera.

The other song I remember clearly was Whispering Grass – by Fred Fisher and his daughter Doris Fisher – with its very surreal lyrics about blabbering trees. I am pretty sure those lyrics became a part of my poetic influence at that early age. I recent did a search for other recordings of Whispering Grass, so I now have some great versions of those blabbering trees, including one by Dorothy Carless (https://wp.me/p1RtxU-1zn).

I have a stand-alone cd Greatest Hits collection which brings me sweet memory when I play it. Their simple accompaniment of upright base, drums, guitar also influenced my jazz leanings as well. I’ve always enjoy the dry, deep sound of what I thought was an acoustic upright base but was sometimes a plucked cello. Hearing the Spots now I also can hear how repetitive their song structure was – it could almost be the same basic track with different lyrics on top. Mellow, smooth, romantic. Now I also understand where the name comes from – ‘black as ink’ becomes The Ink Spots.

They set a vocal standard that lead to do-wop but they were never do-wop. Their sound was not revolutionary or challenging nor particularly black but their harmonies have influenced countless groups & I can hear them in The Temptations, Men2Boys. For some these songs are the 40’s, early 50’s romantic memories – the sound of simpler, supposedly better, times. 

Even The Best Of Families

‘Did you hear about your cousin Josephine?’

‘No!’

‘Well, she left that guy from the circus.’

‘Circus?’

‘You know, the trapeze artist. That’s a stretch – artist. He couldn’t draw a line in the sawdust, if you know what I mean? Anyway, she’s left him for some banker.’

‘Good for her. Didn’t your brother end up with some banker, as well?’

‘No. Dave settled down with a dentist. Imagine. Some people have all the luck.’

‘Dentist! Well good to have that in the family isn’t it?’

‘It didn’t last though, Dave’s now with some man who owns a construction company. Roofing, that sort of thing.’

‘Can’t complain about that.’

‘Well, you know who can complain though, is Dad’s second wife, Sally – remember Sally?’

‘Who could forget Sally. Those macaws ruined the furniture in less than two weeks. Who knew birds shit so much?’

‘Anyway, Sal has found out that her first husband has died and left her nothing.’

‘What did she expect?’

‘Some people expect the world. I heard this from your half-sister Jewel.’

‘Oh, how is that bitch anyway.’

‘I don’t know why you and Jewel never got along. She is really very sweet.’

‘So is arsenic until you swallow it.’

‘My my. Bitterness becomes you.’

‘So what about Jewel. How’s she doing?’

‘She was looking fine. Just got out of a 28 day rehab program and seems to back on her own two feet for a change.’

‘Instead of on her back, you mean?’

‘Ha ha.’

‘I ran into your ex the other day too.’

‘Which one?’

‘Chuck.’

‘Chuck. That was years ago. He was my first. Actually I don’t think we ever got married. You know. Just as well, he didn’t have much to offer, if you know what I mean?’

‘He certainly kept you happy.’

‘Honey we were only 12, so what do you expect?’

‘Right.’

‘So how is he.’

‘He’s doing well. Sold the steak house and has moved along to a chain of motels.’

‘Motels? Do tell.’

‘Along three inter-state highways. He hopes to be rich one of these day. You should have stuck with him.’

‘Twelve-year olds aren’t noted for their ability to see the future potential of many things.’

‘Right. Did you see that TV special of Greg’s last night.

‘Which Greg? Your step-son or my son-in-law.’

‘Neither. He’s Dave’s son.’

‘But I thought Dave was with that guy is construction.’

‘He did test the waters before once or twice. Greg was the result. Named him after our grandfather.’

‘So how is this Greg doing.’

‘He did win that Academy Award two years ago.’

‘He’s been in more treatment centres than June though.’

‘They must have paid off. He was looking good and has a new picture coming out next month.’

‘Good thing we have such a busy family. Isn’t it.’

‘I suppose. Give us a little something to talk about. Speaking of which, did you know that Cyril’s mother has left them. Run off.’

‘Not with a Fuller Brush Man?’

‘Ha ha. No found out about the other woman, she did.’

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


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every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
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Carless Grace Jones

This mp3 collection ranges from the forties to the eighties starting with Dorothy Carless. This is how I sometimes find music: I wanted a version of Whispering Grass – one of the Ink Spots big hits – by someone else. I did a search & it popped on up a best of collection of Carless’s work. A Big Band singer with a pleasant voice she’s easy listening.

backcouch01

More best of with a Dusty Springfield set: an amazing voice. These are all from her British days & there are sweet covers of things like Tupleo Honey as well as the hits. Another British, yet American, is Ketty Lester who had a Brit hit with Love Letters: I heard this in a documentary about the Beatles Fan Club & was happy to find a sizeable hits collection by Ketty – lots of covers & sweetly moody.backcouch02

Boys Town Gang: a Tumblr post of a video for their song Cruisin’ the Streets brought this collection to me – an early disco song about queer cruising – the music is slick faceless fun you can dance to – like queer sex 🙂backcouch03

Gloria Lynne – another one I found in my look for Whispering Grass – & a fine version it is – a mid 60’s soul singer working with a string orchestra. Not at all like Yvonne Fair: The Bitch is Back – another Tumblr find, the cover was posted on an LP blog; the title was enough for me & I found another lost treasure – sharp social sexual commentary with a funky disco-soul setting. woodchair

The Bobbettes: this is a massive set of 50+ track by this girl group from the late 50’s early 60’s – they start do wop & shift to a more r’n’b sound. Have Mercy Baby was their biggest hit. They clearly paved the way for the Supremes. The cd ends with Grace Jones: Warm Leatherette – one of the classic German disco (or is it disco) recordings. She is in peak form here. I love the music arc this cd takes from 40’s to 80’s as it covers so many styles and eras, from the obscure to the less obscure.

sample

grandmother

grandmother my mother her mother my father his mother

a trickle of memory but none too too strong

never knew my dad’s parents they had died when he was a child. I don’t even know how.

Met my mother’s mother – grandmother – several times. A little woman who lived to nearly 90 in the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil. I once saw Merthyr on the Antiques Road show but what they showed of the town & surroundings didn’t bring back any memories of the place or my Gran.

She lived in a house with my Aunt Nelly who for some reason I called Aunt Neddles.

My mom & I visited two summers for a month while I was a boy about 10 or 11. She came from a big family. I had over 10 aunts and uncles to meet. One Aunt lived up the street and others were scattered around Britain. One Aunt in London we stayed with for a week.

My Gran lived in a row house – the end house – grey/brown stucco. She had a big garden, roses in front and vegetables in the back.

I remember tea time the clearest – bacon & tomato sandwiches thick with gooey mayonnaise. Crumbly little cookies, orange squash, lace curtains in a dark dining room.

Grandfather – my mother’s father – someone I never met who died of his hard life. A coal miner and heavy drinker – that’s all I know of him. Don’t even know his name – nor my grandmother’s for that matter – strangers that I have very vague images of – his from a photo – baggy work pants, shirt, suspenders, cloth cap, toothless smile. The light not quite on his face. Or perhaps the darkness of memory.

My Gran smiling, small round body, comfy floral print dress and bib apron. She’s wiping her hands on the apron with that ‘don’t take my picture wearing this’ look. She’s at the front gate, or maybe the back. There’s vines behind her and a sliver of the cobblestone street in the fore front of the picture.

money

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