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My Son, the Reissue Campaign

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In the pantheon of American comedy, there’s a special corner reserved for the work of song parodists. The form arguably reached its greatest heights under the aegis of Stan Freberg in the 1950s. Freberg and his stable of talented voice artists (including animation legends Daws Butler, Paul Frees and June Foray) knew no sacred cows and their amazing body of work still inspires gales of laughter today. (Any comedy fan unfamiliar with the Freberg oeuvre is advised to seek out Rhino’s exhaustive 1999 box set, Tip of the Freberg.  You’ll be hooked for life!)

Following in Freberg’s footsteps a few short years later and creating some of the 1960s’ best-selling LPs was an unusual gentleman by the name of Allan Sherman. The portly, bespectacled Sherman had first tackled a popular song in 1951 with his single “A Satchel and a Seck,” recorded with singer Sylvia Froos, parodying Frank Loesser’s hit “A Bushel and a Pack” from Loesser’s musical Guys and Dolls. Despite the single’s lack of success, he continued writing parodies for the amusement of famous friends like Harpo Marx and George Burns. Sherman finally secured a record deal with the still-young Warner Bros. Records label in 1962, and the result was the LP My Son, the Folk Singer. Its familiar melodies outfitted with Jewish-inflected humor turned Sherman into a star virtually overnight, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart and reportedly selling so fast that Warner Bros. had no choice but to start selling the vinyl without its sleeve; the whole package couldn’t be produced quickly enough to meet the album’s high demand. President John F. Kennedy was said to be a fan. (Ironically, Sherman was persuaded by his label to employ public-domain folk standards for this first LP’s source material; eminent composer Richard Rodgers famously called him a “destroyer” while other top names of the day discouraged his parodying their material.)

Sherman’s fame hit its epoch with 1963’s chart-topping My Son, the Nut which introduced his enduring “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” and stayed at No. 1 for 8 weeks. In all, Sherman recorded eight albums from 1962 to 1967, showing his disdain for rock music with his dry “Pop Hates The Beatles” (from 1964’s For Swingin’ Livers Only, titled in homage to Frank Sinatra but released at the height of Beatlemania) and with the non-LP single “Crazy Downtown,” mocking Petula Clark’s hit. His final LP, Togetherness, gave Sherman’s comic spin to the New Vaudeville Band’s “Winchester Cathedral,” reinvented as “Westchester Hadassah,” and Fiddler on the Roof‘s “If I Were a Rich Man,” which found new life as “If I Were a Tishman.” Not even a young Barbra Streisand escaped Sherman’s eye as he spoofed the cover to her My Name is Barbra for, what else, 1965’s My Name is Allan, which included “That Old Black Magic” rewritten as “That Old Back Scratcher” and an irreverent “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Late in the decade, Sherman turned his attention to various other areas. He wrote book and lyrics to Albert Hague’s music for a Broadway musical (1969’s The Fig Leaves Are Falling, which was a massive flop) and more successfully performed voiceover work, creating the voice of the animated Cat in the Hat in 1971. Allan Sherman’s story had a tragic ending with his death in 1973 from emphysema, a mere 10 days short of the age of 49.

Yet Sherman’s work lives on. He has been frequently remembered by disciple “Weird Al” Yankovic, and his entire Warner Bros. catalog was anthologized by Rhino Handmade in 2005’s exhaustive box set My Son, the Box. This 6-CD set also included a number of rarities and unreleased tracks, including Sherman’s complete parody of My Fair Lady, which was prevented by the musical’s authors from seeing release in 1962; song titles included “With a Little Bit of Lox” and “Get Me to the Temple on Time.” Still, Sherman’s original LPs have never seen CD release in their original form. Collectors’ Choice Music rectifies this on July 6, when all eight of Sherman’s Warner Bros. LPs will be reissued by the enterprising label, from 1962’s My Son, the Folk Singer to 1967’s Togetherness, his only LP recorded without an audience. Titles and links to pre-order with full track listings follow after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 28, 2010 at 09:39