Saturday, December 10, 2005

This is part of an email I received from. . .

. . .a new reader (we'll call him "Rick X") a couple of days ago., along with my response (hope he doesn't mind my reprinting).

Hello, Bill—

Hauled out one of my most cherished vinyl discs the other week, transferred it to CD at home, started listening to it over and over, just digging it again. ABC-Paramount, Jackie and Roy, *Free and Easy*, late 50s. Quite probably you know it—Bill Holman charts, medium-big band with great players (Porcino, Stu Williamson, Charlie Mariano, Shelly Manne, others). One of the tunes is—guess what—"So It's Spring." A phrase in those lyrics has always eluded me—it sounds something like "meetch-ah-poh." Have never been able to understand it, even after what must now be many hundreds of listenings.

There are almost no liner notes on the album beyond a few snapshots and some clever patter by Jackie and Roy outlining the history of the side. On the album itself I saw that Tommy Wolf is one of the people credited for the tune. I didn't know anything about Wolf and was hoping google could help me find the lyrics. So today I go there, plug in "'So It's Spring' Tommy Wolf lyrics"—and it takes me to your absolutely remarkable, intensely evocative piece on Bill Black, a.k.a. Clay Mundey. Had never heard of him.

Thanks hugely for writing the piece. My brother, a musician, and I used to dig early Page Cavanaugh Trio things—even worked out our own version of "The Three Bears." I'm going to send him your essay.

With every good wish—

To which I replied:

Dear "Rick X":

When I began blogging and home-paging a couple of years ago, yours is the kind of literate and thoughtful email I thought would result. . . several times a day. Ha! And alas! Not to mention lackaday!

Ironically, I heard the phrase "Nichevo" just last night---I already forget the context---and thought hard but not long about it, and so what we have going on here is a kind of vulcan mind-meld twixt you and I. "Nichevo" is Russian and means "it really doesn't matter." It also appears in the Vernon Duke song "Not a Care in the World."

Thanks for the kind words about the Bill Black essay. When I wrote that, I was perhaps one of only a few remaining in the world who remembered him. The release of his CD was not fought for at all by me. Just happened, and then after it was released on August 25th, I sent a copy to New York dee-jay Jonathan Schwartz and he immediately put it into fairly heavy rotatation on his satellite radio show. I still can't believe it. Not even experts on the big band era recalled Bill. Now, thanks to a Japanese record label and Schwartz, thousands know him. The moral, I suppose, is hire a good publicist and retain him or her even after death if you can manage it. Or else, hire CBS' "Ghost Whisperer."

There is a connection between Tommy Wolf and Black, both of whom are from St. Louis, that I have never been able to suss out, even after talking with Wolf's widow, Mary. Several other songs on the CD are by St. Louis writers.

Anyway, glad to have been of service. That will be fifteen cents, please. LOL

And yes, of course, I know the Jackie and Roy version as well. But there is a possibility that Black's even predates it.

And as for Page Cavanaugh, he is still knocking out a terrific "live" version of "The Three Bears" several nights a week here in L.A. Please allow me while I invoke a cliche and deem him "A National Treasure." Single dearest man in the world. And have you ever heard his recording of Bobby Troup's "Triscadecaphobia"? It's the national anthem of the newly emerging Third World nation state of Ool-Ya-Koo.




To which "Rick X," in turn, replied:

Wonderful to hear from you. I'll pass this along to my brother. . .and I'll look forward to hearing the Bill/Clay album. It's no wonder at all that I couldn't pick up on "Nichevo." I think of myself as reasonably literate, but I've never encountered the word elsewhere that I know of. Mind-meld indeed. Great to learn of the Vernon Duke connection—a tune whose lyrics I don't know. An old pal from high school. . . a big V. Duke fan *. Bet he knows that Russian term.

Wonderful also to have word of Page Cavanaugh. His music lit up my boyhood and still sounds marvelous.

I send huge thanks again and every good wish.


* I should have also noted in my original email to Rick that the lyrics of "Not a Care in the World" are, in fact, by John Latouche who probably picked up the phrase from Russian Vladimir Dukelsky (Vernon Duke).

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