One strong memory from childhood was listening to a couple of LPs my folks had on a huge RCA console stereo. In particular, we had two Allan Sherman LPs, “My Son the Folk Singer” and “My Son the Celebrity”. I listened to them endlessly, and can still sing some of the songs by memory, often coming to my brain unbidden and at completely inappropriate times.
I put his work on a similar level as Tom Lehrer, though it hasn’t held up as well. Still, some of the puns and parodies are priceless.
Do not make a stingy sandwich, pile the coldcuts high,
Customers should see salami coming through the rye
Counting both feet, I have ten toes
They’re not lady toes, they’re men toes
And I keep them as mementos
For I love them tenderly
Harry Lewis perished in the service of his lord
He was trampling through the warehouse where the drapes of Roth are stored
He had the finest funeral the union could aford
And his cloth goes shining on
Al ‘n’ Yetta watched an operetta.
Leonard Bernstein told them what they saw.
They both shouted, “Hail Bernstein!”
Then they switched to What’s My Line.
Apparently, he lived a very sad life and died at 48 of complications from his obesity.
With sincere admiration, I have to say, “Hail to thee, fat person! You kept us out of war!”
(And it comes in a leatherette case with holes in it, so you can listen right through the case.)
“Has it ever occurred to you
That the plural of half is whole?”
“How’s your cousin Shirley?”
“She got married early.”
“How’s your cousin Ida?”
“She’s a Freedom Rider.”
“And our head coach wants no sissies,
So he reads to us from something called Ulysses.”
“Downtown…borrow a car and go Downtown…wait 'til i get you kids home…”
Of course my daughter had to go there.
“The tickets are cheap!” she hollers.
I was able to pick up a pair
For forty-seven dollars.
Mom had to explain to me that $47 was an unthinkable amount to pay for concert tickets back then.
“Harvey and Sheila,
Harvey and Sheila,
Harvey and Sheila,
Oh! The day they met!”
“Won’t you come home, Disraeli? Won’t you come home?
Come home to Queen Victoria!
Don’t leave that House of Commons, and that House of Lords
just sittin’ waitin’ for ya!”
And let’s not even get into the greatness that was the Mexican Hat Dance.
“I drive up Ocean Parkway,
and before I stop the car,
my ma leans out the window,
and she hollars,
’Here we are!’”
“Said he, I don’t want to be a knight,
that’s no job for a boy who is Jewish.”
“Oh I diet all day, and I diet all night,
it’s enough to drive me bats.
Got no gravy or potatoes, 'cause the whole refrigerator’s
full of polyunsaturated fats.”
“My Zelda, she found her big romance,
when I broke the zipper in my pants.
My Zelda, she took the money
and ran with the tailor.”
As a kid, I only heard Camp Granada (which has ruined the work “La Gioconda” for me), but I heard about the others. I stumbled across Rhino Record’s The Best of Allan Sheram a few years ago, so I finally heard “Eight Foot Two” and others I’d missed. Then Pepper Mill told me about “I See Bones” (a take on “C’est si bon”), so I had to fins that. Going through the bins at a local used-record shop, I eventually found all of Sherman’s LPs, and have them on tape now. Great stuff!
If you really like Sherman, dig up a copy of his book The Rape of the APE*. It was published by Playboy Press in the mid 1970’s, and is a surprisingly long and personal history of The Sexual Revolution (“APE” stands for “American Puritan Ethic”). Well worth tracking down and reading!
There was a Camp Granada board game out in the 1960s. Allan Sherman did the TV commercials for it!
I second Cal on “The Rape of the A.P.E.” It’s fascinating and very funny.
Sherman was one of the first (and by far the best) of the “change the lyrics” school of comic music.
I have on tape (7" reel-to-reel, which tells you how far this goes back) a recording of Allan Sherman and (IIRC) the Boston Pops Orchestra performing “Peter and the Commissar” (a variation on Peter and the Wolf), “Variations on ‘How Dry I Am’” (based on the precept that all composers drink, and thus include that four-note progression in all their works) and something about ending a symphony. I especially enjoy the “How Dry I Am” cut, where Sherman admits that he is no musician, and so has pieces of tape on the piano keys that he is supposed to play as his part in the performance.
I don’t know exactly how much of the musical research was done by Sherman himself, but it was a brilliant piece of work.
I snagged the ‘rents’ “My Son the Nut” LP years ago. One somg that comes to mind very often is his parody of C’est si Bon:
The doctor was looking at the x-ray
And I asked him, "What do you see?
And he kept on looking at the x-ray
As he answered, in French, to me…
"I see bones
I see gizzards and bones
And a few kidney stones
Among the lovely bones!
"I see hips
And fourteen paper clips,
Three asparagus tips
Among the lovely bones.
I see things in your peritoneum
That belong in the British Museum.
"I see your spine,
And your spine looks divine.
It’s exactly like mine.
Now doesn’t that seem strange.
And in case you use pay telephones
There’s two dollars in change,
Among your lovely bones.
"Oh hello there, Nurse.
Come over here and look at this X-ray.
It’s really remarkable.
Look at this.
Isn’t the lumbar vertebrae supposed to be connected to the clavicle?
Well I know, but with Scotch tape?
Hey, look what’s in there.
Look at that, it’s a stamp.
It’s a 1922 McKinley ultramarine blue with imperfect perforations.
I’ve gotta get that out and put in my collection.
Look in there, there’s printing.
What does it say in there?
“U.S. Certified Grade A.”
Look at this, fascinating.
See those little round things.
Know what those are?
Those are M & M’s.
Those people are right.
They don’t melt!
“Among the lovely bones.”
Ah! I grew up on Allan Sherman (not literally, of course . . .). I only hope this thread was partly inspired by my own recent Cafe Society thread entitled, “What’cha Doin’, Sarah?” “Reading John O’Hara.”
I’ve met Tom Lehrer, and seen him teach. He bores me completely.
Allan Sherman, however, always seems to be able to convey that sense of someone presenting at a party and having a really fun time. Creative, intelligent, nice person, with a great sense of timing. I wish my record player was working…
My dad was an Allan Sherman fan and I still have, somewhere, several LPs - My Son the Nut, My Son the Folk Singer (a very early one, with Victor Borge appearing as Fyvush Finkel) and the Evening with the Pops. He was a comedic genius indeed, right up there in the pantheon with Spike Jones. I’m going to have to dig all my records out of the garage next time I’m up in NH and try to find a turntable to play them on.
There are things in your peritoneum
That belong in the British Museum!
Anyone who can come up with a line like that…
Go to sleep, go to sleep Paul Revere!
Will you please get that horse off my lawn!
And the French revolution song was pure genius as well…
If you had been a nicer king
We wouldn’t do a thing
But you were bad, you must admit
We’re gonna take you and the queen
Down to the guillotine
And shorten you a little bit
Harvey and Shiela…
Man, that guy was great. I know there’s a greatest hits of his on CD, but someone really ought to re-release his entire repetoire on CD as a boxed set.
There will never be another like Allan Sherman. I listened to his music throughout my formative years, and was saddened to hear of his death back in 1973.
The only record of his I don’t have is “Peter and the Commissar”. And, much to my wife’s dismay, I’ve gotten my kids hooked on his work.
My personal favorite was “Grow, Mrs. Goldfarb”
You had for breakfast 2 pounds bacon
3 dozen eggs, one coffe cake and
Then you had something really awful
4 kippered herrings on a waffle
9 English muffins, 1 baked apple
Boston cream pie, Philadelphia scrapple
17 bowls of Krispy-Krunch
Then you said “What’s for lunch?”
I once gave Angie a “My Son, the Greatest” CD for her birthday. She had never heard of Allan Sherman, I had to explain that he’s like the Weird Al of the '60s. I still want to introduce her to Spike Jones.
My parents also have the “My Son, the Nut” LP. My favoirte line from that is “King Louie was living like a king and the people were living rotten.”
Why not?? That was one of my favorites:
“There are Mexicans dancing on derbies
There are Mexicans dancing on caps
They just throw their fedoras wherever the floor is
And stop doing horas and taps!”
My father had one of his records. I don’t remember the name of it, but it had a song with Sherman singing the names of the states. The album jacket said that when he performed that song on stage he had to have oxygen. There was also a song called “Green Stamps” sung to the tune of “Green Eyes”, & my favorite, “Lotsa Luck”
“When you’re driving through the desert & your car runs out of gas,
Lotsa luck, pal, lotsa luck
Then you try to stop some strangers & they holler as they pass
Lotsa luck, pal, lotsa luck
So you walk eight miles & all uphill to phone the auto club
And the whole thing’s nip & tuck
'Cause they’ll ask you for your number & your number’s in your wallet & your wallet’s in your car so lotsa luck!”