The other Royal Wedding!
Back in 1951, MGM released the above musical movie that was set in London and starred Fred Astaire and Jane Powell. The characters weren’t royal although Peter Lawford played an English lord. The songs were by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane and included the wistful and Oscar®-nominated ballad “Too Late Now” which Ms. Powell sang to Mr. Lawford. There was also a fun duet between Mr. Astaire and Miss Powell titled “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know You’ve Been A
Liar All My Life?” which was performed as in a show within the film itself.
However, the film is most remembered for its other musical highlight: “You’re All The World To Me“, the song which leads into the famous routine where Mr. Astaire dances on the walls and ceiling of a hotel room. He actually sings the song to a photograph of co-star Sarah Churchill who was the actress-daughter of Sir Winston Churchill.
Incidentally in Britain, “Royal Wedding” was released under title “Wedding Bells”.
All this talk of impending royal nuptials got me thinking of some favorite songs of mine whose lyrics specifically refer to weddings. There was Jessie Mae Robinson’s milestone composition “I Went To Your Wedding” which was first recorded by Steve Gibson & The Original Red Caps Featuring Damita Jo on RCA Victor in 1952; Hank Snow had a big-selling 1952 country version also on RCA but it was Patti Page’s recording on Mercury that overshadowed the other interpretations and went on to reach #1 on that year’s Hit Parade. Eight years after that in 1960 came “All I Could Do Was Cry” with a lyric full of desperation and sadness, qualities which were perfectly suited to Etta James’ haunting vocal and which handed her a best-seller on Argo; written by Billy Davis, Gwen Fuqua and Berry Gordy, the song was revived by Beyoncé in the recent movie “Cadillac Records”.
Other wedding-themed songs for which I’ve always had a soft spot include Al Green’s self-written success “Let’s Get Married” on Hi in 1974, Holland/Dozier/Holland’s “Third Finger, Left Hand” by Martha & The Vandellas on Gordy in 1967, “Do You Hear Wedding Bells” sung by The Jive Five on Beltone in 1962 and written by their lead singer Eugene Pitt, Laura Nyro’s huge seller “Wedding Bell Blues” by The 5th Dimension on Johnny Rivers’ Soul City label in 1969, “With This Ring” penned by Luther Dixon, Tony Hester & Richard ‘Popcorn’ Wylie for a latter grouping of The Platters on Musicor in 1967 and finally, Roy C’s sound effect-laden “Shotgun Wedding” that he wrote under his real name Roy Hammond and which was a Top 10 hit in the UK first in 1966 and then again in 1972.
Credit where credit is richly deserved
Just as the on-screen movie credits in Hollywood’s so-called Golden Age of the 1930’s and 1940’s are relatively few compared to today’s lengthy lists that roll by seemingly forever at the end of each picture, so record label credits have often omitted mention of key instrumentalists. For instance, the 1962 UK hit version of Monty Norman’s “The James Bond Theme” by The John Barry Seven and Orchestra did not identify Vic Flick who was the guitarist who plays the famous menacing solo.
Similarly, when the original record of “The Pink Panther Theme” by Henry Mancini & His Orchestra was issued by RCA, it gave no mention of Plas Johnson who played the memorable sax solo.
Session musicians have always figured among the leading unsung heroes on recording dates and a standout example is pianist (and singer-songwriter) Leon Russell. During a
speech in March when he inducted Leon into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, Elton John read the following list of names of some of the artists on whose records Leon has played over the years: Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Doris Day, Herb Alpert, Frank Sinatra (the “Strangers In The Night” session), The Ventures, The Everly Brothers, Del Shannon, Duane Eddy, Bobby Vee, Bobby Darin, Jan & Dean, Sandy Nelson (“Let There Be
Drums‘), The Fleetwoods (“Come Softly To Me“), Connie Francis, The Crystals, The Ronettes, every Phil Spector record, The Byrds (“Mr. Tambourine Man“), Delaney And Bonnie, every Beach Boys record including “Pet Sounds”, J.J. Cale, Harry Nilsson, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Freddie King and B.B. King.
Below is an early 1960’s photograph of Leon Russell (left) standing alongside record producer Snuff Garrett. The two worked together on many sessions back then.
Tommy ‘Snuff’ Garrett was one of the most successful producers of his day; illustrated below are just two of his million-selling productions: Johnny Burnette’s original version of the Bob & Dick Sherman song “You’re Sixteen (You’re Beautiful And You’re Mine)” from 1960 and Bobby Vee’s #1 smash from the following year: “Take Good Care Of My Baby” written by Carole King and her then-husband Gerry Goffin.
Originally a dee-jay in Lubbock, Texas, Snuff was signed by Liberty Records for whom he produced a long list of artists in the 1960’s including Walter Brennan, Johnny Burnette, J.J. Cale, Vikki Carr, The Crickets, Jackie DeShannon, Buddy Knox, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Julie London, Dick Lory (aka Dick Glasser), Gene McDaniels, Garry Miles (aka Buzz Cason), Earl Palmer, The Rollers, Del Shannon, Troy Shondell and Bobby Vee. Snuff also produced a series of concept instrumental albums for Liberty featuring session musicians and credited to ‘The 50 Guitars Of Tommy Garrett’. He went on to have major chart success producing both Cher and Sonny & Cher for Kapp Records and he founded The Nostalgia Merchant marketing company. An ardent lover and collector of American western art, Snuff retired to and still lives in Arizona.
Movie Quote of yesteryear:
“I hope that was an empty bottle, George. You can’t afford to waste good liquor, not on your salary – not on an associated professor’s salary!”
Spoken by Elizabeth Taylor as Martha to Richard Burton as George in “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf” (Warner Bros: 1966).