Welcome to the first edition of a new Special Feature known as Saluting Silly Songs. And I know what you’re thinking — why in the world is this goofus adding another Special Feature to the GMC? Doesn’t he have more than enough of them already?
Truthfully, I sort of surprised myself too, but it actually makes a lot of sense. For one thing, the Diamonds in the Rough feature has reached the point where I probably won’t be adding to it. That leaves an opening to fill, and silly songs make everybody smile so what could be better? In fact, they’ve already been the subject of some very popular previous posts on the GMC, so I’ve also corralled those and added them to the new Saluting Silly Songs link in the left column.
Today’s featured song is sometimes given the extended title “The Hut-Sut-Song (a Swedish Serenade)” and that gives a clue to its supposed origin. Written by Leo V. Killion, Ted McMichael and Jack Owens, the song first appeared in 1941 and was said to be based on a Swedish folk song about a boy who skipped school and met a girl by a stream. That’s probably an oversimplification, but it’s not a particularly complicated song. Still, the lyrics were certainly unusual and sounded exotic to listeners, and it soon became a quirky hit.
‘Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla, brawla sooit. . .’
The first and most popular recording was by Horace Heidt and his orchestra, but it was soon being recorded by everybody from Mel Tormé to Spike Jones, the master of silly songs. It was also performed in a short comedy film by the King’s Men (video below), a quartet that included Ken Darby, who would have a long career as a singer, composer and conductor.
As is often the case with silly songs, it has continued to pop up through the years in various places, including the soundtracks of movies about the era. It has even appeared on the Muppets TV show, and it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Mel Tormé – “The Hut-Sut Song” (You can also access music in left column.)
You might be surprised to learn that biggest-selling record to ever come of out of Sun Studio in Memphis was not recorded by Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash or any of their famous contemporaries. It was instead 1965’s “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. You might also find it a little strange that the group’s smash record just made it to #2 on the charts, but was named Billboard’s Number One Record of the Year. Maybe they realized that it was on its way to becoming a bar-band classic.
Domingo ‘Sam’ Samudio was a Dallas-born musician who kicked around for a while in the early 1960s before finally forming a combo with guitarist Ray Stinnet, bassist David Martin, saxophonist Butch Gibson, and drummer Jerry Patterson. Samudio called the group the Pharaohs — a name he’d used before — but this time around he also began billing himself as Sam the Sham, a sarcastic response to criticism of his singing abilities.
The group got a record made on a song called “Haunted House” and it sold well enough, but the guys didn’t really make much of a splash until they recorded a new song Samudio had written, one that combined his cat’s name with a tribute to the Hully Gully dance.The lyrics of “Wooly Bully” were pretty harmless but just nonsensical enough to worry some censors, and it definitely featured a Tex-Mex flavor, beginning with Samudio’s countdown in Spanish. (Which he later said was just him ‘goofing around’.)
The song struck a chord with the record-buying public, and even though it didn’t quite hit the top of the charts it was so popular for so long that it was chosen Song of the Year. It eventually became the most popular piece in every small combo’s songbook and has also appeared on the soundtracks of countless movies. As for Samudio and his guys, they followed up with another big hit on “Li’l Red Riding Hood” and made a number of good records but soon became typecast as a novelty act, much to their frustration. Within a couple of years the group broke up and everybody went their separate ways, although Samudio did reappear from time to time in various venues. Now in his late seventies, he appears to have performed as recently as 2012 but there doesn’t seem to be much happening with him since.
Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs – “Li’l Red Riding Hood” (You can also access music in left column.)
We haven’t featured Latin jazz in quite a while, and even though the subject might bring to mind guys like Xavier Cugat, Perez Prado, and Tito Puente, there were many others who were a big part of the history of the music. The popular bandleader known as Machito was an early star who had a lot of success for many years, but part of the credit should go to his brother-in-law, the talented Mario Bauzá, who ably served as the musical director of the band known as the Afro-Cubans.
Machito was born Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo in Havana, although one source says Tampa, Florida. In any case, the son of a cigar maker grew to adulthood in Cuba and was fully immersed in the local music scene by the late 1920s, working as a percussionist and singer. During the 1930s he found his way to America and logged some valuable experience working in the bands of established stars like Cugat and others. By 1940 he was in New York and forming his own band, which he called the Afro-Cubans.
Although the charismatic Machito was usually fronting the group, singing and shaking his maracas, the band didn’t really hit its stride until his brother-in-law Mario Bauzá came aboard as musical director. Bauzá was the consummate pro, a classically trained musical prodigy who could play several instruments and had already spent time in the top-tier bands of Chick Webb and Cab Calloway. With his help, the band soon became a polished, dynamic outfit; one that presented an audience-pleasing fusion of Latin percussion and big band brass.
The band’s popularity grew through the war years and beyond, and to add to the appeal the group began incorporating a lot of collaborations with conventional jazz stars like Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, and Buddy Rich. The band’s success continued into the 1950s, peaking in popularity during that decade’s mambo craze, but it continued to do well in the 1960s and 1970s. Bauzá’s death in 1976 slowed things down, but Machito continued to forge ahead and for several more years he was able to find plenty of spots for the group while continuing to make the occasional record. He was in his late seventies when he died in 1984.
Machito & The Afro-Cubans - “Adios” (You can also access music in left column.)