This tale is a bit long, but those of you interested in musical mysteries will likely find it interesting, and I really hope someone out there knows the answer to the one minor question I am asking and the big question at the end.
In 1952 (several years before I was born), my father purchased my family’s first reel to reel tape machine, a Berlant Concertone behemoth. When it arrived, it had on it a reel of tape, containing five studio recordings. My parents quickly recognized the voice on the first recording on the tape as that of Doris Day, but didn’t know the rest of the tunes, which included another female vocal, a male vocal with chorus, and two Latin flavored instrumentals. The tracks were banded, and you could hear studio chatter and references to mistakes, so it was clear that these were not released takes.
(Recent research done by my older brother and me (Hooray for The Internet!) has resulted in the information that these are all outtakes, all of which are from singles or albums released by a major record label in 1952. All of the released tracks we’ve been able to compare are subtly different than the versions on this tape. However, this is not the focus of my story today.)
Oddly, at the end of this reel, after quite a bit of blank tape (and, unbanded), there was a brief polka type performance played by an accordion and tuba duo. (There may actually be two accorianists, and we think perhaps this was also an outtake, due to the flub of a note near the end, by the tubist.) The end of the reel has broken and frayed over the years, leaving the piece without its last note, but aside from that loss, this duet sounds like this:
If anyone knows the name of this tune, or what album (if any) this recording might be from, my brother and I would be much obliged. That’s the minor mystery here, but the really fascinating piece didn’t reveal itself until much later, after we grew up loving and wondering about this tape.
In the 1970’s, we borrowed a 15 IPS four track tape machine, in order to make high quality copies of my family’s oldest tapes. While listening to this track, my brother said “there’s something else recorded here!” Sure enough, there was a vocal selection hidden underneath the polka, with what sounded like a mixed chorus singing a peppy little tune. The only thing I could clearly make out at the time was “open up the roof, let the stars shine” (although even that turned out to be inaccurate). The mix of two recordings was clearer with the equipment we had that day, but here’s an approximation of what we heard:
With the advent of high quality computerized sound manipulating equipment, I’ve been able to mess around with this track, to the point where, though it unfortunately sounds horribly processed, I can actually hear the entire thing (with almost no interference from the polka) and make out almost all the words. You probably won’t get the words from one listen – I’m still unsure of some of them. But as you’ll hear, the song starts out with a fairly ugly blast of horns or wind instruments, then is followed by a small mixed chorus, singing happily about being poor. I think these are the words:
“Holes in the roof and the ???
Can’t save for a ????
Oh, bo, diddle-ee-eye-dye, bum dum dye-dye
Holes in the roof, let the stars shine
I ain’t got a dime, but I got a sweetheart
We got a dog, can’t afford a flea
Oh, bo, diddle-ee-eye-dye, bum dum dye-dye
Ain’t got a dime, but ….. Got a ???….”
And that’s where the tape runs out. Here are two attempts at cleaning up this material. The first is not as annoying with processed sounds, but the second one, I think, has much easier to distinguish lyrics and vocals:
The big question, that’s been on my mind (and my brother’s) for decades now is: What Is This Song? Does anyone recognize it? Is it perhaps from another early 1950’s album? Or is it (as has been suggested for reasons I won’t go into) from a commercial from that era? Anyone who knows either the name of the polka, or more to the point, the name and source of this mystery song would be forever in our debt.
I hope you found this interesting.
(A side note for you reel to reel tape fans who might find this interesting. While the rest of this tape is recorded in whole track mono, playing this section on a both a standard stereo machine and a four track machine demonstrated that the polka music was actually recorded on the outside edges of the tape surface, while this background stuff was recorded on the two inner tracks, a set-up that would seem to have been impossible in the whole track mono and half-track mono era.)