Friday, July 25, 2008

Public School Music Class

I had to learn this song in public school music class. It and the "Sloop John B." The music teacher seemed to like a nautical theme, and the songs were still popular then. But we also had to learn "Joy to the World" and "Froggy went a-courting". We sang the Beatle's "Let It Be" and she always counted on me to belt it out, as no one else must have learned to sing amongst a group of tone-deaf Baptists.

Truth be told, I have an excellent singing voice, but only for certain types of music. Case in point, my "shower set". I have three songs that I know by heart. These are as familiar to me as the scars on my hands or the curve of Flannery's face. An eclectic assortment to be sure, but all have one thing in common. I know them by heart. They are very bluesy, and if sung back to back, provide me with 12 and one half minutes of shower time.

The first is "Tulsa Telephone Book" by Tom T. Hall. If I was ever cornered and a gun was placed at my temple and I was forced to sing for my life, I would sing this. It tells the story of a man who meets a girl for a one night stand and he searches for her ever afterward by using the phone book to track her down, but he only knows her first name. In Mr. Hall's version her name is Shirley, but when I sing it, I substitute Flannery's name instead, and oddly enough it rymes where the original didn't.

The second is "Blind Willie Harper" by Bobby Bare. This song tells the story of a blind musician coming into Memphis in winter and performing on the street to earn money. While playing on the street, he stumbles into his ex-lover who blinded him and he slits her throat and goes to jail for it. It really is much more heart-warming than it sounds.

The big ending is an upbeat number entitled "Shoeshine Man". When I get to this one I know I have two and one half minutes left if I do all three verses. While a fun tune to sing at the top of one's voice, this one involves death too.

"Had a girl that worked wth me, She had a lot of hooch-coochie ways.
Bumpin' and grindin' made that girl a dollar a day.
But She was short on time,
And the Lord come and took her away!"
I'm not sure why all three of these songs involve loss and death, but I do find them to be great motivators to get moving, especially if the water is cold.


  1. I'm pretty sure I can recite Johnny Prine's Dear Abbey by heart - but like you, only in the shower.

  2. "It really is much more heart-warming than it sounds."

    No doubt. I find all those songs about death and loss and love gone wrong to be very reassuring somehow.

  3. I can't carry a tune to save my life. I torture anyone around me with my voice. I don't care, I love to sing. Everyone should sing.


  4. I have fond memories of music class and "The Big Rock Candy Mountain." We sang "Sloop John B.", too. (Although I went to Catholic school, not public.)

    People who know me sometimes say, and I tell them it's not true, that I know every song ever. I don't know _any_ of the songs you mentioned, though of course I know Bobby Bare.

  5. I still remember some of the songs we did in high school choral concerts, and have been known to regale my audience of body soap and wash-cloth with HMS Pinafore.

  6. I can't sing but it doesn't stop me. I remember having to sing Kookaburra in music class and in a group competition when I was but a wee lad singer. Or bad singer, whichever you prefer.

    You must record your shower set for proper judgment, I bet it's awesome.


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