There are even apples

Do you know the song, “Danny Boy”? ‘Course you do. The pipes, the pipes are calling. Do you know who wrote the words? Almost certainly not.

Frederic Edward Weatherly was born in England in 1848. He was a successful barrister – the photograph shows him in 1895, in his legal robes – but he was also an author and an astonishingly prolific lyricist.


Yep, this is the chap who wrote “Danny Boy”.        Image: WikiMedia Commons


He is said have written 3000 songs. “Danny Boy” is the best known, but literally hundreds of them were successful pop songs in their day: “The Holy City” and “Roses of Picardy” were also huge hits. Weatherly’s lyrics were mostly sentimental, sometimes patriotic, and often expressions of “motherhood and apple-pie” values. But they were good. Catchy, memorable; songs you find yourself singing, despite yourself.

This song, “Up From Somerset,” manages to combine family values, patriotism and sentimentality, all in one. There are even apples, though not for a pie. The recording was released on a budget label, Broadcast. One trick to keep prices low? They squeezed the music onto discs only eight-inches across, instead of the usual ten. That is why the label is so small.


Weatherly himself was originally from Somerset. Unfortunately, the singer in this recording most decidedly was not. His attempt at the “Zommerzet” accent is cringe-worthy. But never mind. Just listen, and see if you don’t find yourself later humming, “Oh, we come up from Somerset, where the cider apples grow.”

  • Artist: John Thorne
  • A side: Up From Somerset
  • B side:  Come To The Fair
  • Format: 8”, 78 rpm, shellac, mono
  • Label: Broadcast
  • Made in: England
  • Catalogue: 114
  • Year: 1927

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Coal miner’s daughter

Like any self-respecting country singer, Loretta Lynn was born into poverty in a colourfully named Kentucky hamlet – Butchers Hollow, in this case. The daughter of a coal miner, she was married at 13, though happily not to Jerry Lee Lewis. She does not quite complete the c.v., not having been to jail, but this is serious country cred.


Image: Wikipedia

Though I knew the name and some of the hits, I had not realised how big a star Lynn was. Through the sixties and seventies she was a giant of country who also made the pop charts: “crossover” is the annoying term the marketers use. More to the point, she could really sing. She had that ability to sing sometimes maudlin material and carry it with sheer conviction. Given a half-decent song …

She also had a feisty, no-nonsense assertion on behalf of women: brave stuff in its day. Still needed, actually, judging by the news from Hollywood.

Here is one of her gutsy-sentimental songs, from the 1973 LP, Love is the Foundation, a declaration that this Southern Belle ain’t no doormat.

  • Artist: Loretta Lynn
  • Album: Love is the Foundation
  • Track: A4 “Just To Satisfy (The Weakness In A Man)”
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, vinyl, stereo
  • Label: MCA
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalogue: MAPS 7001
  • Year: 1973

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs


Where good doggies go

Yesterday, driving my daughter to her soccer game, I found myself trying to explain Elvis. This isn’t easy. There is the 1950s fireball, who melded R&B and country and CFM sexuality, and changed everything. There is the long decline into bloated, jump-suited, self-parody. There is the piratical “Colonel” Tom Parker, who both made Elvis a star and robbed him blind. There are the good movies, and all the terrible ones. An extraordinary talent, often squandered.

7083 Label APersonally, I was not there until the dismal end. By the time I was old enough to be aware of Elvis, he was well into his deep-fried-peanut-butter-sandwich period, and then he was dead, and “Elvis” became a pastiche: sideburns and sunglasses and loopy conspiracy theories. I had to rediscover Elvis by putting aside prejudice, just listen, and look for the good and forgive the dross.

A girl called Betty did. She once owned this EP, and cared enough about it to put her name on the label. And she must have played this record a lot. The whole thing is worn, but by far the most worn is the title track. The crackle and pop shows that this is the song Betty really loved.

7083 Label A CU

In the long history of sentimental popular songs, there can be few challengers to “Old Shep” as the most lachrymose and over-the-top of them all. A man sings of his dog, the friend and companion of his youth, who rescued him from drowning, and who finally passed on to (a prickly theological point this) wherever it is that “good doggies go”. And somehow, this slop succeeds. Elvis sings with conviction. You believe him. Clearly Betty did.

This EP came out in 1956, but many years earlier “Old Shep” had provided Elvis with his first public success as a singer. As a boy he entered a junior talent show, and sang this song, and came first. He won five dollars. Colonel Parker was not yet on the scene, which is just as well – Parker would have taken a cut of $4.50.

  • Artist: Elvis Presley
  • EP Title: Old Shep
  • Side 1, Track 1: “Old Shep”
  • Format: 7” EP 45 rpm
  • Label: RCA 20044
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1956


Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs