Randy Rainbow is back with another new song. And with so much to choose from, this time around he's decided to go with Rudy Giuliani. So, with thanks to "Mamma Mia," here we go again --
From the archives. The contestant this week is Beth Everett from Scottsbluff, Nebraska. I got the hidden song right away, though it's a bit disjointed. (To my surprise, the contestant has some trouble with it the first time around, perhaps it's that "disjointed" nature.) As for the composer style, I thought I knew it pretty quickly -- and I did. So, that means I actually got both the hidden song AND the composer style correct! Huzzah!
Writing about old folk singing groups the other day made me think of this, which I'm surprised I haven't posted before.
Another of the popular trios of the time was The Limeliters. And like The Chad Mitchell Trio, their lead singer Glenn Yarbrough left the group for a solo career -- and then later reunited with them, though not as extensively as Mitchell did.
Yarborough's solo career wasn't overly successful, though he did have one big hit, "Baby, the Rain Must Fall," which was the title song from a Steve McQueen.movie. He also sang another title song, which I've always liked, but which is largely lost to history, and is the point here.
The team of Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass had a very successful career producing animated TV specials, most notably Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. In fact, they did a whole series of popular animated Christmas specials, mostly stop-motion, including The Little Drummer Boy and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town.
In 1977, the did a full-length animated movie for television, long before Peter Jackson got into the picture, with their version of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. It has a very good voice cast, including John Huston, Cyril Ritchard, Hans Conreid, Orson Bean, Otto Preminger, Richard Boone and Brother Theodore. And a charming opening-credit song, "The Greatest Adventure, sung by Glenn Yarborough. The music is by Maury Laws with lyrics by Jules Bass. (Interestingly, the credits say that the lyrics are "written & adapted by...", so I would imagine that the foundation of the words are from Tolkien himself.
(Fun Fact; You'll see in the credits that the script for this version of The Hobbit was written by Romeo Muller. He wrote many, if not most of the Rankin/Bass specials, including their classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.)
Here 'tis --
This is a double treat. It came about after Mark Evanier wrote here about the Mason Williams song, "Classical Gas." Williams was a writer on the Smother Brothers Comedy Hour, who had a big hit with the guitar instrumental. Mark embedded a video of the song which he said helped make it a big hit. I always have loved the song, but honestly I not only had never seen the video, but I don't think I'd ever knew it existed.
Where I first became aware of the song is on the radio and Williams himself performing his song on TV, I think during the Smother Brothers summer replacement show that was hosted by Glen Campbell.
I went to track down that recording, and think I found it. But all the better is that the person who uploaded the video attached it to another video of the song.
Now, on the surface, it would almost seem "sacriligious" to have another recording of the song since it is SO iconic to Mason Williams. But when I say this other interpretation is brilliant, you should understand that it's performed by perhaps the favorite guitar artist of my longtime pal Dr. Greg Van Buskirk -- a fellow named Tommy Emmanuel. At Greg's repeated suggestions, I watched several videos of Tommy Emmanuel, and they've all lived up to his high praise. This one of "Classical Gas" is a virtuoso performance. And it's world's different from Mason William's original, yet the foundation is there throughout.
I wouldn't say which is better. The technical achievement of Emmanuel is remarkable. The purity of Mason Williams is poetic. It's not only personal taste which you prefer, but I'd suggest that they are companion pieces that support each other.
The only thing I know for sure is that if Dr. Buzz has not seen this version by his beloved Tommy Emmanuel (which he may well have, including live in concert), he is going to be in heaven.
We're going to round out our Chad Mitchell Trio Lalapalooza tonight with a video that will show what I mean about the group have a long history.
Keeping in mind that the core group initially formed in 1960, and that Chad Mitchell left his own group in 1965 -- which would seem to signal the end is nigh, especially for a folk-singing trio as the folk music era was nearing an end -- and that the group reformed as the Mitchell Trio after its leader left and that this core three reunited in 1987 for a TV special...it's remarkable that they continued performing together at that point, and here's a video of them on stage only nine years ago! In 2010.
In fairness, they didn't performed regularly together during all those year, but it's still seriously impressive. Especially since they remained in wonderful voice.
From the archives. This week's contestant is Scott Hollopeter from Grand Blanc, Michigan. I didn't get the composer style on my first guess, but...it was my second guess, at least. As for the hidden song, though -- I could hear where the song was , but just couldn't get it. Then, near the end I took a stab at the only thing it sounded like, and...to my my shock (because it was not a well-known song), I was right. I'm sure there will be people who've never heard of the song, though enough will have. Ultimately, though, whether or not you know it, it''s a very nice piece to listen to.
We have two more videos of the Chad Mitchell Trio upcoming, and this one today is an especially interesting and fun one related to their various incarnations. It's a reunion for a sort of a documentary-ish PBS television special in 1987.
As I mentioned, Chad Mitchell left the group himself, in 1964. He was replaced by John Denver, and the group became known as the just Mitchell Trio. In the late 1960s, the other two core members -- Mike Kobluk and Joe Frazier -- departed the group, as well, over a period of a few years and also left the music industry. While they were in turn replaced, Denver eventually left too for his highly-successful solo career. And the Mitchell Trio at this point had three totally different members than they started out with.
Then two decades after leaving the group to try for his own solo career, which was only moderately successful, Chad Mitchell reunited with Kobiuk and Frazier for the TV special, which is the subject of this video. They're terrific together, in great voice, even after all that distance of time, but what's especially fun is that that's not the only reunion in this reunion video -- because Chad Mitchell's replacement John Denver joins them, as well.
Mitchell gives a very affectionate introduction and then graciously walks off to let the second incarnation of the trio perform together as they all those years earlier. I have to believe that he eventually returned and that all four members of the "trio" sang together at some point in the show, but this is all I've been able to track down. Still, it's a treat to see.
Continuing with our Chad Mitchell Trio Fest, I've mentioned that the group has had interesting incarnations. And without question, the most notable of those is when Chad Mitchell left the Chad Mitchell Trio. He went off to pursue a solo career, which didn't pan out all that well. But what makes this change in the group even more interesting is not only his leaving from his own group, but who replaced him. That would be a young, unknown singer named John Denver. They made a good choice.
The challenge was what to call themselves. With Chad Mitchell departing, it was obviously inappropriate to stick with the same name. What they decided on was to go by simply The Mitchell Trio.
And so today, we have a video of The Mitchell Trio with John Denver appearing on the Merv Griffin Show in 1966. As Merv points out, the group didn't make many appearances on TV, so this is a rarity. (He also notes that they've been banned on a few station, which I can imagine, especially when one hears this song below, to go along with the song I posted yesterday, "The John Birch Society"...) I'm not quite sure why they didn't appear on television all that much. The best I can think of is that more than most other groups, as clean-cut as they came across, when they sang satirical political songs they were extremely pointed -- witness "The John Birch Society." Though in fairness, as blunt as that song was, it wasn't going after sacred cows in American society but what was considered a nut-job right wing group considered far out of the mainstream even by conservatives. And it wasn't like all or even most of their songs were political or satirical. For the most part they were just a standard folk singing trio -- and one that had successful record sales and a long nightclub career. So...I don't know.
What makes this video all the more whimsical therefore is that with it being one of their rare TV appearances, they chose to sing yet another comic political song -- and one that is even more pointed in its ridicule than "The John Birch Society," and about a group that, while not remotely in the mainstream, had a much wider reach, even through to today. Notably so. This is "Your Friendly Liberal Neighborhood Ku Klux Klan."
What also stands out here is that, while not nearly as funny a song as "The John BIrch Society," it's still pretty amusing yet there is a very noticeable absence of laughter. That could be because of the way the audience was miked, but more probably it was because the audience wasn't a typical one for the group. It's extremely scathing, though well-deserving of the harsh ridicule. But, maybe it is the miking because the harshest joke in the song actually gets a big, very audible laugh, and they get nice applause when done.
Continuing along with our Chad Mitchell Trio Fest, there's one other song I want to include before I get to the interesting incarnations of the group in future years. And that's my favorite of their songs and perhaps their most famous, "The John Birch Society."
Unfortunately there isn't a video of a live performance -- surprising too since it may be their most-famous song. But any version is well-worth it.
Despite what the video say, the song is not "by" the Chad Mitchell Trio, it's written by Michael Brown, who also wrote the wonderful "Ballad of Lizzie Borden," which I posted here a while back. It also surprisingly has a resonance to today, despite having been written 57 years ago in 1962.
One of the first members and early sources of financial support for the very far-right wing John Birch Society was a man named Fred Koch -- who was the father of the right-wing Koch Bros.trying to influence American society ever since. There's also the irony of this far-right group being so dead-set against anything that wasn't deeply conservative, so much so that it linked anything with even a hint of liberalism to its a virulent hatred of communism and socialism -- like so much of today's Republican Party, with the one huge, bitterly-incongruous difference being today's GOP having a love and support of Vladimir Putin thanks to the enabling of Trump. Which is not unrelated to today's news about Trump and Ukraine which could get him impeached.
So, sing along with history...!
There are a few groups from the folk music era that I've liked and have posted videos of here from time to time. One of those is the Chad Mitchell Trio which I not only enjoyed but also find fascinating for its incarnations over the years and it's surprisingly very long life despite most people thinking otherwise I suspect.
I found a few interesting videos of the group that I want to get to in the coming weeks. And I think it's best to start with this early appearance to establish some solid footing to put the later ones in perspective. This comes from the popular show Hootenanny and aired in 1963. It's the song "You Can Tell the World."
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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