‘The Lights Shine Down The Valley . . .’

Originally posted October 16, 2007

I still wonder who Mary was.

Oh, not the young lady I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the girl with whom I had a college romance during a long-ago spring. The Mary I wonder about is the one whose arms Ian Sutherland longed for, the girl who inspired “Arms of Mary.”

I don’t know if “Arms of Mary” qualifies as an obscure song or not. I tend to think it does, at least here in the U.S. In Britain, the version recorded by the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver got as high as No. 6 on the UK’s Top 40 chart during the late spring of 1976. In 1978, on this side of the Atlantic, the Canadian group Chilliwack recorded the song and released it as a single on the Mushroom label; it got to No. 92 on the Cash Box chart and then fell off.

There are a few other versions of the song floating around. A country-ish version was included on Born Yesterday, a 1986 release from the Everly Brothers. The British pop band Smokie recorded a version of the song that was released in a recent box set. As I’ve been unable to track down much information about that recording, my sense is that it’s a 1970s-era recording that remained unreleased until the box set.

Keith Urban recorded a version that was released as a single in 1991, but it didn’t make the charts. That same version is included on the Keith Urban [1991] album that was released in 1997.

Three other versions of the song popped up during the 1990s: Guitarist Leo Kottke included a sweet instrumental on his Peculiaroso album in 1994; Boizone, the Irish boy band that launched Ronan Keating’s career, included the tune on its Said and Done album in 1995. And Dutch singer Piet Veerman covered the song in 1992 on his album In Between.

Since the turn of the century, All-Music Guide has four versions listed, by Kevin Kennedy, Dominic Kirwan, Jim Neyerlin and the group Oizone. I’ve heard none of those, and in fact, until I checked AMG this morning, had heard of none of the performers.

The most intriguing version of the song I’ve come across is the one that I found credited to a singer named Pete Gardner. It’s a folky recording by a fellow with an appealingly gruff voice. It sounds to me like something from the 1970s.

Now, given the rampant inaccuracies that populate the ’Net, that could be entirely wrong. I’m thinking that it is. There was a Pete Gardner who played drums in the second lineup of the British band Fools Dance in the 1980s. There’s a Pete Gardner who has done some acting, according to a Google search. But neither of those seems to have any connection with the folky style of the recording I found.

AMG has a listing for a Pete Gardner, but he’s a photographer. I think I’ve run through all of the various sites I use when tracking down obscure musicians, and none have a Pete Gardner listed. There’s a page for Pete Gardner at AOL Music, but it’s utterly blank, so that means nothing.

If today’s Tuesday Cover truly was recorded by someone named Pete Gardner, then it’s one of the most obscure records ever, as a combined Google search for the terms “Arms of Mary” and “Pete Gardner” results in that extreme rarity: A Google shutout. No documents among the millions – billions? – cataloged by the search engine’s webcrawlers have that combination of terms.

So if it’s not Pete Gardner, who is it? I have no clue, although I admit that after a nearly sleepless night, I may be missing something obvious this morning. So, in the hopes that one of the people who wander by this blog might know, I’m going to post the recording.

If you know who this singer is, leave a comment, please.

Pete Gardner? – “Arms of Mary” [1970s?]

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