Posts Tagged ‘Count Basie’

Authors On The Cards

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 9, 2009

While waiting for the Texas Gal to get home yesterday afternoon, I was wandering around the Web and found myself at one of my favorite sites, Find A Grave, a site that catalogs the resting places of people both famous and not. I can spend hours there, wandering through lists of folks buried in Massachusetts or in Hungary or anywhere else on the planet. I’ve seen in person a few of the graves of famous folk listed at the site. I hope to see a few more someday, and I have a few regrets that years ago, I was near several famous cemeteries and did not visit them.

Anyway, I somehow wound up looking at the entry for the tomb of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson on the island of Samoa. (You can read the epitaph carved on his tomb – a favorite of mine – here.) I glanced at the picture of Stevenson at Find A Grave (a cropped version is shown here) and I thought to myself, “Yes, that’s about what his picture looked like on the playing cards.”

The card game was Authors, and my sister and I played it frequently when we were kids. The deck was made up of forty-four fifty-two cards, with each card representing a work by one of thirteen famous authors. The game had the players collect complete sets of four cards for each author, and the player who collected the most sets – called “books” – was the winner. Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the eleven thirteen authors in the game, and his portrait on the cards did in fact look a lot like the picture at Find A Grave and other portraits of him that can be found online.

I once had two copies of the Authors card game, the slightly battered copy my sister and I played with for years and another copy that had never been used, but I don’t think I have them anymore. I believe they were included when I took five or six boxes of my childhood toys to an antique dealer about five years ago. (If my childhood toys are antiques, what does that make me?) And if I still have one of those copies of Authors, it’s somewhere in a box on the basement shelves, and I have no idea which box.

But I wondered, as I looked at Stevenson’s picture, if I could remember the thirteen authors whose works were used as cards in the game. I began a list:

William Shakespeare
Charles Dickens
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Sir Walter Scott
Louisa May Alcott
Robert Louis Stevenson
James Fenimore Cooper
Washington Irving
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mark Twain

And there I stopped. Ten down, three to go. As we ate dinner and watched an hour or so of television, I let the question lie, knowing that sometimes information rises when it’s not being tugged at. I went back to my list later in the evening and got no further. Hoping to jog my memory, I went to a list of those buried or commemorated in the Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey in London. And I found one name, an American poet memorialized there.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There my list stops. I cannot recall the names of the last two authors from the card game. And I cannot find a list of the thirteen online. Does anyone out there know? [See Afternote below.]

I have only one song with the word “author” in the title, so I skipped past it and went to the word that describes what authors do:

A Six-Pack of Write
“Nothing to Write Home About” by Colin Hare from March Hare [1972]
“Paper to Write On” by Crabby Appleton from Rotten to the Core [1971]
“Write Me A Few Of Your Lines/Kokomo Blues” by Bonnie Raitt from Takin’ My Time [1973]
“Why Don’t You Write Me” by Punch from Punch [1969]
“Write A Song A Song/Angeline” by Mickey Newbury from Looks Like Rain [1969]
“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter)” by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie from Sinatra-Basie [1962]

I found Colin Hare’s March Hare at Time Has Told Me, which notes that the album “is a UK troubadour classic which still sounds fresh and innovative today.” Hare – little known in the U.S. even at the time – was a member of Honeybus, handling rhythm guitar and vocals. (All-Music Guide says of Honeybus: “[T]hey came very close, in the eyes of the critics, to being Decca Records’ answer to the Rubber Soul-era Beatles,” an astounding statement that tells me that perhaps I should dig into the Honeybus catalog.) Hare’s own discography at AMG lists March Hare and two albums from 2008 that I know nothing about. March Hare is decent listening, and “Nothing to Write Home About” is quirky enough that it stands out when it pops up from time to time.

Most folks recall Crabby Appleton from the group’s very good single, “Go Back,” which slid into the Top 40 and came to rest at No. 36 in the summer of 1971. That was the group’s only hit, and in search of another, says AMG, the group tried on a harder sound for its second album, Rotten to the Core, “veering off into boogie rock and heavier Zeppelin-esque romps, twice removed from the plaintive power pop and conga-driven rock of their debut.” That makes “Paper to Write On,” with its plaintive country sound, an even more odd choice for the Crabbies. I like it, but it reminds me (and AMG agrees) of the Flying Burrito Brothers. That’s not a bad thing, but for a group like Crabby Appleton trying to cement an identity, it seems strange.

I don’t have to say a lot about Bonnie Raitt except that she’s one of my favorites. Takin’ My Time was her third album (and the track “Guilty” was the first Bonnie Raitt tune I ever heard). Both “Write Me A Few Of Your Lines” and “Kokomo Blues” were credited to Mississippi Fred McDowell, although “Kokomo Blues” has also been credited in other places to Kokomo Arnold and Scrapper Blackwell.

I found Punch’s delightful cover of Paul Simon’s “Why Don’t You Write Me” at Redtelephone66, where I’ve found gem after gem in the past few years. (Thanks, Leonard!) I find it interesting that Punch released the song on its self-titled album in 1969 while the Simon & Garfunkel version didn’t come out until 1970 with the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water. Technically, that means that Simon & Garfunkel’s version is a cover.

The haunting “Write A Song A Song/Angeline” is the opening track to Mickey Newbury’s equally haunting album Looks Like Rain, which is one of those records that you wonder how the world missed when it came out. But then, I’m tempted to say the same thing about a lot of Newbury’s work. He wasn’t exactly unknown, but . . .

The awkwardly titled “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter)” comes from one of several projects that Frank Sinatra did with Count Basie and his orchestra. As time moves on, I find myself more and more appreciating the Sinatra catalog, listening more and more to the work he did in the 1950s and early 1960s. I imagine that any list ever compiled of the essential entertainers in American music history would have Frank Sinatra’s name at or very close to the top. (I’m not even going to try – writing as I am on the fly – to figure out who else would be in the Top Ten.)

Afternote
Based on a post with two accompanying pictures that I found at another blog, I have to assume that our game only had eleven authors in it, as opposed to the thirteen authors I’ve seen mentioned other places. The game we played came in the blue box with Shakespeare’s picture on it, just as pictured at Bachelor at Wellington. In other words, I remembered ten of the eleven on my own, and needed a reminder only for Longfellow.

Note from 2022: The photo and website referenced above are no longer available. Below is a similar photo of the author cards and a photo of the blue box.

Saturday Single No. 324

January 12, 2013

In the absence this morning of anything more interesting – and I’ve spent about forty minutes alternately staring at a blank page and wandering through various websites in search of inspiration or an idea – we’re going random this morning.

(I was tempted to write about Popular Crime, a book by Bill James – better known for his work on baseball analysis and history – that examined how some crimes become American obsessions. But I just finished the book yesterday and want to let it settle in some, so I’ll put that off until maybe next week.)

So here’s a hop and skip trip through six tracks from the years 1950 to 2000 or so, with the usual caveat of skipping over something that’s been discussed here recently or something that excessively reflects my eccentricities – like a track from the two-CD set The Best of the Red Army Choir.

First up is “Nothing Left To Move Me” by Anne Linnet from 1979. Linnet is a Danish performer who has been making and recording music since the early 1970s. The track comes from You’re Crazy, one of the few albums Linnet has recorded of songs in English. That, of course made the work more accessible for a wider audience but, to my mind, made Linnet’s work too much like some middle-of-the-chart Adult Contemporary fare.

From there, we jump to 1962 and “There Is No Greater Love” by the Wanderers, an R&B group about whom I know nearly nothing. In Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn lists the names of the group members but gives no indication of where the group originated. The record, which was the third that the group got in or near the charts, sounds a lot like something the Platters would have done. “There Is No Greater Love,” which was released on MGM after being first released on Cub (which released the two earlier mentioned records), went to No. 88, the highest any of the three records got. It’s nicely done, but as I said, sounds very much like the Platters (or maybe a hundred other groups).

And then we get a nice and very familiar slice of the late summer and early autumn of 1969: Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” The record went to No. 4, and as soon as I heard the introduction, I had a brief flash of memory: Rick and I are pulling into the parking lot of the Country Kitchen restaurant here on the East Side and the song’s intro comes out of the radio speaker. We haven’t heard it for a while – I’m driving, so this took place sometime after I got my license in the autumn of 1970 – and we debated sitting in the car to listen instead of going straight inside. I don’t recall what we decided, but as soon as that bit of memory flashes past, another one pops up: St. Cloud State students and hockey fans adding their antiphonal chant of “So good! So good! So good!” to the chorus as the record plays during a Husky hockey game.

Fourth up this morning is “Stay On” by Wisconsin’s BoDeans, from 1993. Found on the group’s Go Slow Down album, the track has a slight jangly sound above the group’s Midwestern foundation that very much echoes the 1990s (as it likely should). It’s a good album track from a CD that I think is very likely the group’s best release (although their first, Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams from 1986, is pretty darned good, too).

We move on, and find ourselves in an arena somewhere with Paul McCartney and his band on stage. After a little noodling on the electric piano, McCartney launches into “Carry That Weight.” The track is from Back In The U.S., the 2002 live release recorded during the ex-Beatle’s tour that year. The Texas Gal and I were lucky enough to see McCartney in St. Paul during that tour, and the two-CD package is a nice after-the-fact souvenir, but on the night we saw him, McCartney was in better voice than he was during whatever performances were used for the live CD, so Back In The U.S. is a little bit of a bring-down.

And our final destination is a 1962 collaboration between Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter),” part of the sessions that ended up on the album Sinatra-Basie: An Historic Musical First. From what I understand, various members of Basie’s orchestra had long been involved in Sinatra’s sessions, but the 1962 sessions were the first with the full Count Basie Orchestra, with Basie at the piano. Here’s a video that gives a little bit of an idea how the recording of “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter)” went down, and it’s today’s Saturday Single: