Tag Archives: Billy Hill

WHERE A MELLOW MOON IS ALWAYS SHINING

Billy Hill, 1933

Billy Hill knew how to write songs that were easy to hum (although not always easy to sing) and that stuck lovingly in our ears, memories, and hearts: THE GLORY OF LOVE, THE LAST ROUNDUP, WAGON WHEELS, EMPTY SADDLES, HAVE YOU EVER BEEN LONELY?, and THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN. And he breaks stereotypes.  He was born in Boston and died there at 41, and although he spent the most productive decade of his life in New York, another of the Tin Pan Alley demigods, he seems to have deeply understood Americana in much the same way Willard Robison did.  His songs touch us.

I’ve been thinking about cabins these days.  The soundtrack is his 1933 melody:

The lyrics are somewhat sad, but Hill and his peers knew, I think, that songs with a center of heartbreak — that would be repaired when the lovers reunited — were more likely to find audiences than songs saying “My baby and me, we’re so happy,” perhaps because of demographics: more people were yearning than satisfied.  Or that’s my theory for the moment.  However, he did write THE GLORY OF LOVE, so he was emotionally even-handed.

Here’s a version I fell in love with immediately this morning, by the San Francisco-based singer / guitarist Sylvia Herold.  I am sorry I didn’t encounter her in “my California period,” because she can really get inside this song and others:

She has a most endearing little cry in her voice, and she swings.  I knew I loved this performance because I am now playing it for the sixth time.

Here are my heroes Marc Caparone and Ray Skjelbred, from the 2015 San Diego Jazz Fest, introduced by the splendid singer Dawn Lambeth:

Now we move to the most Honoured Ancestors.  Please note that they are not presented in some value-hierarchy: they all move me deeply in their own ways.

Mildred Bailey with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra:

Al Bowlly (I prefer this less elaborate version):

Mister Strong:

Mister Crosby:

I ask myself, “Why are you in tears?” But I know why.

The soul’s home can be an urban apartment, or right across from the BP gas station, but with the right vibrations it can become a dear rustic haven.

May your happiness increase!

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ANOTHER HIGHLIGHT OF 2015: THE DAWN LAMBETH TRIO (The Second Set) at SAN DIEGO, NOVEMBER 28, 2015: RAY SKJELBRED, MARC CAPARONE

Delicious music, full of warm surprises.

DAWN headshot

The infinite varieties of love in swingtime — the lover bemoaning aloneness; proclamations of the highest fidelity; celebrations of the lover’s sweetness; love couched as the wish for an extended life span . . . with gentle nods to Bix, to Lee Wiley, to Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, to Louis, to Bing, to Jim Goodwin — all of these tenderly and heatedly embodied by Dawn, Ray Skjelbred, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet, on the morning of November 28, 2015, at the San Diego Jazz Fest.

REACHING FOR SOMEONE (Ray and Marc):

ANYTIME, ANYDAY, ANYWHERE (the Trio):

SUGAR (the Trio):

AS LONG AS I LIVE (the Trio):

CABIN IN THE PINES (Marc and Ray):

(Let’s have a Billy Hill set by this band at the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest.)

Here — for those who vibrate to such beauty — is the trio’s first set, on the preceding day.

Thanks again to Hal Smith and Paul Daspit for making such beauty not only possible but visible and audible.  I can’t wait to see what happens at the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest.  And, as I pointed out, the Trio is setting up its touring schedule for this coming year, and might have a few dates available.  If you have a festival or a concert series . . . I’ll help you get in touch with them.

May your happiness increase!

LIGHTS OUT (CLOSE YOUR EYES AND DREAM OF ME)

In the name of accuracy, I must report that other copies of the sheet music for this song (circa 1935-6) have Kate Smith on the cover, so I don’t know if Louis ever performed it.  But he did record Hill’s THERE’S A CABIN IN THE PINES, and he would have known his friend Bing’s recording of THE LAST ROUNDUP.  The song seems to have been more popular with sweet bands — the lyrics below are connected in cyberspace to Eddy Duchin — but that doesn’t rule out Louis hearing or performing it, given his deep affinity for the Lombardo brothers. 

A tangential Louis-connection is that LIGHTS OUT was recorded by a jazz combo — with a vocal by Chick Bullock — under tenorist Art Karle’s nominal leadership (January 1936, Brunswick) with Mezz Mezzrow on clarinet, Joe Bushkin on piano and legendary drummer George Stafford as well as Frank Newton!

Beyond that, we have to imagine Louis tenderly asking the Beloved to close her eyes and dream of him.  I can hear the 1935 Decca band — think of THANKS A MILLION — doing this perfectly.  

The lyrics aren’t complex or striving for cleverness, but they’re very touching in their simplicity:

Lights out, sweetheart,
One more perfect day is through.
Lights out, sweetheart,
One more perfect dream come true.
We’ve reached the hour of parting,
So kiss me tenderly.
Lights out, sweetheart,
Close your eyes and dream of me.

Here’s a simple version of the melody, played sweetly by someone who may answer to “djweth”:

And a cover portrait of Billy Hill:

Let’s all sing!

And a postscript, sent to me from the invaluable Jack Rothstein, who knew “Arthur” Karle in Boston in the late Forties, about the LIGHTS OUT record date: “Arthur Karle told me they needed a piano player so he called Bushkin.  His father answered the phone and told him Joey was at the movies.  Arthur persuaded him to go get him.  He went but they wouldn”t page him so he bought a ticket and from the balcony yelled for Joey to go home.  And that’s how Bushkin got his first recording date.  It was the little Loews on 86th St. between Lexington and Third, directly across the street from the Loews Orpheum (the big Loews).”