10:30 Saturday morning listening to Click & Clack, the car-talk guys and my mind flashed back about seventy years to The Make Believe Ballroom, hosted every week at that time by Martin Block. It was the radio version of The Hit Parade. What would be number one, up three notches from last week?
Martin Block named Dinah Shore when he forgot her first name, Francis Rose, and christened her after the song, Dinah. He also contributed LSMFT (Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco) to the language. Two significant contributions to Western Civilization.
I can recall reenacting a make-believe rendition of Make Believe Ballroom with my neighbor, Johnny K. as we took turns speaking into a hairbrush (microphone) while spinning our Bluebird label of Glen Miller’s Chattanooga Cho-Cho, Columbia’s Harry James’, Flight of the Bumble Bee and Decca or Okeh records something or other.
Of course Black musicians had to have a separate show with Armstrong, Basie and Ellington. But why do I remember Ella’s, A Tisket, A Tasket finding its way into the Saturday morning list. Billie Holiday?….forget it.
A few years later payola (paying for the Victrola) was exposed revealing how disc jockeys (Walter Winchell’s term) accepted money to plug certain recordings. Martin Block was never implicated and I don‘t want to know.
Certain moments must remain innocent, Edenic even, in my memory bank. I took lyrics literally wondering why her Daddy Beat her Eight-to-the Bar…whatever that meant. Or how it was that a Million Dollar Baby was found In A Five and Ten Cents Store? I imagined some girl Sat Under the Apple Tree with Nobody Else but Me while Bluebirds Flew Over the White Cliffs of Dover. Ah, sweet bird of youth!
I suppose the top ten were a way of ordering my bewildering universe. Maybe an attraction to baseball stats offered me the same illusion. Could it be that those times were just as fractured and random as ours today to all but a child’s eyes? Say it ain’t so, Joe.
Listen to the titles, It’s Gotta Be This or That. Easy enough, multiple choice. All we had to do was Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition. What could be more simple? On the other hand came Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla, brawla sooit, or Gimme that Frim Fram Sauce with the Ausen Fay and Chafafa on the Side. Excuse me? Life was getting complex. Was there a sub-text eluding me?
After the war came that ode to consumerism, How Much Is that Doggie in the Window? and, All I want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth but times were good if we could only remember to, Accentuate the Positive and Eliminate the Negative, Latch on to the Affirmative and Don’t Mess with Mister In Between.
Soon enough I learned that much of life happens in between. Annie got her gun some Enchanted Evening while Dear Hearts and Gentle People looked on. Nothing much has changed. Mac the Knife coexists with Peggy Sue.