RCA Victor Studios, New York – July 12, 1939, 1:30-4:30 PM
038261-1 Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead (MH vcl) Bluebird 10366
038262-1 Over The Rainbow (RE vcl) Bluebird 10366
038263-1 The Little Man Who Wasn’t There (GM & TB vcl) Bluebird 10358
038264-1 The Man With The Mandolin (MH vcl) Bluebird 10358
New pop songs continued to appear on the band’s recording schedule. The first two on this date would eventually become among the most familiar melodies of the century, but on July 12th, they didn’t stand out as being anything special. The film they were written for, THE WIZARD OF OZ, would not be released for another month and no one could have predicted that one of these songs would win an Academy Award.
That song was, of course, OVER THE RAINBOW, immortalized by young Judy Garland. In this case, Glenn was not infallible in smelling hits. Sometimes a great song would get a mediocre treatment, and that was, unfortunately, the case here. The arrangement is routine and played too fast in a slapdash manner. Also, the key is too high for Ray’s comfort, as he struggles to get through the wordy bridge without mishap. He’s not out of the Haunted Forest of Oz yet! Eberle mixes up the closing lyrics, singing, “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, birds fly over the rainbow, why then oh why can’t I.” It’s hard to listen to this non-rhyme without wincing, but obviously nobody in the studio caught the error.
Lose one, win one – DING-DONG! THE WITCH IS DEAD sparkles from beginning to end. The witty, low-key (and uncredited) arrangement is likely by Miller, as it has a similar sound and flavor to Glenn’s Ray Noble chart of BUGLE CALL RAG. Marion Hutton effervesces, Tex gets a nice little solo and the band winds down to an unusual diminuendo ending. The record’s only drawback is its brevity – an additional chorus could easily have been accommodated.
The next disc has a similar quiet ending and an odd genesis. THE LITTLE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE began life in 1899 as Antigonish, a poem by college professor Hughes Mearns, based on a ghostly legend from Nova Scotia. Songwriters Harold Adamson and Bernie Hanighan lifted the poem’s text nearly verbatim and got themselves a big hit and a title phrase that became a part of the American vernacular (see below).
Moe Purtill makes with the tom-toms, Glenn & Tex deliver some cross-talk patter and Tex then launches into the strange story of the Little Man.
Marion returns with another swinging “Man” – THE MAN WITH THE MANDOLIN. It was written by Frank Weldon, James Cavanaugh and John Redmond, journeyman songwriters who had created I LIKE MOUNTAIN MUSIC, THE UMBRELLA MAN and other hits. The band hits the perfect tempo for this jivey arrangement, which holds the distinction of offering the only solo appearance by guitarist Richard Fisher.
Coming up on the next record date – a surprising and short-lived major personnel change!