Music in a WWII Internment Camp
Introduction. “Music is the art of arranging sound. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human societies” (Wikipedia).
Similarly, music is also a key element — interestingly, perhaps oddly — of internment-camp life, although that is not always fully acknowledged, or even recognized. As such, music is one component in such camps of what I call the Diversion Factor. The latter encompasses those activities that can serve at least two important functions: acting as a unifying element for camp prisoners; and offering them distractions from the burdensome reality of captivity. The concern here, in other words, is only with those activities that can unify and/or be enjoyed by a camp’s inmates as a whole, as distinguished from their purely personal or group pastimes/distractions (card games, chess, reading, etc.).
The next section will trace the nature and scope of the Diversion Factor in a particular internment Camp, to provide context for examining that Camp’s musical component (Camp is capitalized to distinguish it from the generic internment camp). But to begin with, three points of clarification relating to the title are in order. First, for anyone unfamiliar with the subject, the acronym STIC refers to Manila’s Nipponese-controlled Santo Tomas Internment Camp (a.k.a. Manila Internment Camp). STIC’s 4,000 or so civilian inmates — Allied-country nationals, mostly Americans — endured over three years of privation (1942-1945), culminating in starvation rations, during World War II (WWII).
Second, the term “Signature Songs” refers to those musical works I consider to be the most reflective and representative of everyday Camp existence, and thus in a sense also of Camp history in general. In effect, the four compositions I have selected as Signature Songs are the equivalent of Camp theme songs, even anthems, and as such their study can provide insights, for former internees and especially for non-internees alike, into the nature of Camp life. Rephrased to drive the point home, this survey of the most noteworthy STIC-related music seeks to portray its role in and significance for Camp life — as based, again, on my own judgment.
Third, this study aims to ascertain the sources — meaning the composers and the recording artists — of the four Signature Songs. For this account goes beyond simply identifying and describing the songs in question. The fact is that information about sources — aside from being worthwhile (to some) for its own sake — can provide additional insights into Camp history. Last (and surely least), the very process of seeking such information (regardless of success) serves to satisfy my personal interests, including my sense of order. But enough of preliminaries; we now turn to the substantive portions of this STIC-music retrospective.
The STIC Context. STIC’s four Signature Songs will be discussed after presentation of some essential context. Based on personal experience, it is a simple matter to discern the major components of the Diversion Factor in STIC, of which there were four. Granted, some might propose others, such as that of education; but that affected segments of the Camp separately, and not the Camp as a whole. Nor is it plausible to believe that most non-adult students viewed the educational process as a pleasurable diversion rather than as an inevitable fact of pre-adulthood. Regardless, the first two components, of the four to be examined, provided by far the most popular Camp diversions, as indicated next.
(1) Indisputably one of the two most popular of the Diversion Factor’s four components — easily ascertained by audience turnout — was the entertainment provided by motion pictures. During the first two years of STIC’s existence (actually, mostly during the second year), there were 24 screenings of pre-WWII U.S. movies. Often those movies were preceded by Nipponese propaganda films; to put it charitably, in effect the latter served as (unwelcome) substitutes for the “selected short subjects” — newsreels, cartoons, etc. — that were commonplace in that era. [Note: It should be pointed out that movie-sourced music was ineligible for consideration as Signature Songs.]
[Sidebar. Should there be any question as to their number, I have a list of those 24 movies — on which, for example, the first title is The Feminine Touch, a 1941 film that starred Rosalind Russell and Don Ameche. Coincidentally, during the nearly two months between liberation and my family’s departure from STIC, the U. S. military also showed 24 movies (much more recent ones, of course), whose titles I also recorded. Note: I penciled in both lists in a parallel row on the back of page 8 of a neatly-penned pre-WWII Santo Tomas U. chemistry exam, which I scrounged after class one day on the fourth floor of the Main Building.]
(2) At least as popular as the movies, if not more so, were the Camp’s much more frequently-presented stage shows. (These were a.k.a. floor shows, variety shows, and — by F. H. Stevens — vaudeville shows.) These productions of course relied exclusively on internee talent. There were many kinds of programs — plays, sketches, comedic skits, quiz contests, concerts, etc. They were organized primarily by a pre-war professional entertainer, the widely beloved David Harvey MacTurk (sometimes misspelled McTurk). Known almost exclusively by his professional name of Dave Harvey, he headed the Camp’s Entertainment Committee, among other things (more on him below, and in a future article).
[Sidebar. At first, stage shows were held in the cramped quarters of the West Patio within the Main Building. Eventually both the stage shows and the movies were presented, respectively, on the platform and on the screen that internees constructed on the west end of the plaza in front of the Main Building. That location came to be known as “The Little Theater Under the Stars.” It was around the plaza that many internees (often including me) would assemble before they were allowed to place their chairs on the plaza itself; they gathered early in order to be able to reserve the most favorable spots for viewing the evening’s entertainment.]
(3) A third component was that of sports activities, some of which often attracted relatively sizable audiences. These included most of the so-called major sports (and others as well), including basketball (with leagues for both males and females, further divided into age groups); baseball; softball; soccer; football (I recall teams called Packers and Bears, named after U. S. pro teams); and even boxing (males only — that was long before female boxing entered the sports scene). [Note: I have a complete list of the starting five players on all the basketball teams in the age-group league in which I participated.]
[Sidebar. Sports events were held on the spacious front grounds of the Camp — basketball southeast of the Main Building (on an earthen court), and field events to its southwest. Boxing was staged in the evenings in a location called “The Starlight Arena,” south of the Main Building, surrounded by trees. According to my copy of a “Boxing Program” for 26 March 1943 (“program price 10 centavos”), the weight categories of the participants that evening ranged all the way from atomweight (40-49 pounds) through electronweight, paperweight, fleaweight, gnatweight, antweight, mothweight, junior flyweight, flyweight, bantamweight, and junior welterweight; categories ranging up to heavyweight were not scheduled that evening.]
(4) The fourth component — at last we cut to the chase — was music, which served as a Camp-wide diversion through two major sources. One involved the aforementioned stage shows, which are self-explanatory as a source of music, especially via the many concerts — both choral and orchestral — that were presented, in addition to the other kinds of entertainment listed earlier. The other major source of music was the Camp’s public-address system, which was hooked up to an array of strategically-located loudspeakers. This source was important enough to merit additional attention.
The public-address system served at least three major functions: (a) disseminating Camp news, announcements, and orders, from both Nipponese and internee leaders; (b) presenting various kinds of entertainment, including 90-minute evening recorded “concerts” (more on that later); and (c) arousing the Camp every morning, by playing a musical number (about which also more later). And in addition, the public-address system came to be used in a much more interesting — musically interesting — manner, as described next.
During the third year of internment, as U. S. forces drew closer to the Philippines in 1944, internee disc jockeys employed a clever musical method to inform internees about the war in a way that the Nipponese would not understand. As F. H. Stevens explains in his indispensable book Santo Tomas Internment Camp: 1942-1945, “The title[s] of the records played called attention to some news topic[s] of the day.” He provides a number of examples of such records as they related to both Camp and non-Camp developments, the latter dealing entirely with the war. [Note: here is a link to Stevens’ lengthy bio, found on Tom Moore’s website: https://cnac.org/emilscott/stevens01.htm .]
[Sidebar a. Stevens’ examples include: when it was rumored that Hitler had been killed, “The Wicked Witch Is Dead”; when American planes began bombing in the Manila area, “Pennies From Heaven”; when there was a lull in the bombing, “Lover Come Back to Me”; when the Nipponese military took full control of the Camp, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf”; when internees were ordered to turn in all of their money, “I Got Plenty of Nothing”; and “There’s Something In the Air” when an American pilot dropped goggles into the Main Building’s East Patio, with the famous attached note indicating that liberation was close at hand.]
[Sidebar b. There are three versions of that famous note’s message that I know of. All versions agree that the note said “Roll out the barrel,” and they agree that there was a second sentence (that may or may not be true; I did not see the note). But they disagree as to what it said — “The gang’s all here”; “Santa Claus is coming Sunday or Monday” (it turned out to be Saturday night); and “There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight.” As a result of this apparently unresolved issue, whenever I refer to the note I simply cite its first — perhaps its only? — line (as I did in a short piece, “Santo Tomas Liberation,” which Cliff Mills reproduced, from the Amcham Philippines Business Journal, on his Philippine Internment site).]
But while outwitting their captors in the manner Stevens describes certainly helped to boost internee morale, obviously the cited records, played only transiently as they were, cannot validly be regarded as a significant part of STIC history. But this study seeks to show that four compositions in particular do meet that criterion and thus qualify as Signature Songs. Of those four, moreover, in my opinion at least two indisputably would merit inclusion in a hypothetical STIC Hall of Fame (musical or otherwise). I also believe (without evidence) that most STIC alumni would agree (or would have agreed, had they been asked) on those two songs. They also might even agree on the other two songs — depending, of course, on how persuasive their ensuing coverage is. Regardless, a reminder is in order before we proceed — all such judgments are purely personal, based on my own assessment of the historical record. Now on with the (musical) show.
Signature Song #1. The first of the four songs is the only one that was written and composed entirely by STIC internees. Moreover, its two creators clearly intended it to serve as the equivalent of a STIC anthem, as its title “Internee Song” indicates. Thus it would seem to be an exemplification of a Signature Song, which is why it is included herein and why it is the first of the four to be discussed. On the other hand, how, if at all, do the preceding statements square with the fact that, as best as I have been able to determine, until as recently as 2013 “Internee Song” had been virtually unknown to — and in any case unmentioned by — STIC alumni?
To deal with that problem requires answers to three basic questions, as follows: (1) What circumstances enabled “Internee Song” to emerge from obscurity and (re)gain recognition in 2013? (2) How and why did a composition now deemed to be a Signature Song happen to lose — or, perhaps more accurately, fail to gain — recognition in the first place (as claimed above)? (3) Who were the individuals — in other words, the sources — primarily responsible for both the song’s creation and its revival? These questions will be answered in turn.
(1) As noted, “Internee Song” was virtually unknown anywhere, including the U.S., until 2013 (for reasons explained below). Undoubtedly it would have remained in limbo had not an Australian digital publication, Come the Revolution, published an article on 26 April 2013 entitled “War camp mass has Aussie premiere.” Written by Alex Mitchell, it included background on STIC, accounts of the two creators of the Mass (of whom more below), and also the lyrics of “Internee Song” (which could have implied a connection between the two compositions, as discussed further below). The occasion for the premiere was that it was the 70th anniversary of the first and only previous performance of the Mass, which took place on 25 April 1943, in the Fathers Garden adjacent to STIC grounds. Shortly thereafter, “Internee Song” debuted at a Camp concert on 22 May 1943. (The Australian angle is explained below.)
Yet despite the publicity it received in Australia, “Internee Song” might well have continued to languish in obscurity in the U. S. — except for one noteworthy development. Cliff Mills, while doing research on another subject in 2015, fortuitously came across the Mitchell article. He thereupon posted a report of his discovery, entitled “The STIC Internees’ Song,” on his Philippine Internment site on 11 March 2015. Yet despite what I considered to be its obvious significance, I observed no online reactions whatsoever to Cliff’s post. That fact — the import of something that did not happen, somewhat reminiscent of Holmes’ dog that did not bark — could be interpreted (and I choose to so interpret it) as consequential: in this case, as confirmation of the song’s former obscurity.
[Sidebar. Cliff’s post on Philippine Internment is reproduced below.
The STIC Internees’ Song
by Cliff Mills
While researching the background of Santo Tomas internee Blakey Borthwick Laycock, who was executed by the Japanese in 1942, I came across a 2013 article titled War camp mass has Aussie premiere about a song for the internees written by entertainer Dave Harvey and composer Mario Bakerini-Booth. According to the article, “It was absolutely predictable …”
Read more of this post
Cliff Mills | March 11, 2015 at 2:54 pm | Categories: Articles, Internee stories | URL:http://wp.me/p49RCb-mD
(2) Once “Internee Song” had been rediscovered, another question almost inevitably arose: if that song indeed had been little-known or unknown among former internees, as appeared to be the case, how is it possible to explain such an apparently puzzling situation concerning a composition explicitly intended to be the STIC anthem? Following are some plausible reasons.
- (a) First, as already noted, it can be inferred from the aforementioned Mitchell article that “Internee Song” had religious origins or was religion-related in some way. Whether or not such a perception was correct, it could have worked against — as well as for — the song’s general acceptance.
- (b) Regardless of the presence of any such perception, the humorless and relatively somber tone of “Internee Song” likely did not mesh with the natural preference of many if not most internees for livelier and more upbeat musical fare.
- (c) That leads directly to a related factor: “Internee Song” did not appear on the scene until 22 May 1943; whereas more than a year earlier, on 24 March 1942, a stage show had introduced an amusing and far more entertaining composition — one which is now Signature Song #3. The future #3 completely overshadowed “Internee Song” when the latter debuted, and it continued to do so.
- (d) Finally, and perhaps most important, the predominance of #3 was reinforced when, after the debut of “Internee Song,” any and all of its further performances were prohibited, which thus helped to prevent it from gaining broader acceptance among internees.
(3) Turning to the question of sources, this one is easy to answer. The co-creators of “Internee Song” — Dave Harvey (lyrics) and Mario Bakerini-Booth (music) — were extensively involved in Camp entertainment activities and thus were very well-known among internees.
- (a) As noted earlier, Harvey was a professional entertainer before WWII. He had performed throughout Asia, and he continued as a performer when he arrived in the Philippines (probably in 1939) for good. In view of his background, therefore, it was virtually inevitable that Harvey became the Camp’s Mr. Entertainment. Among other things, he was head of the Entertainment Committee, and he performed in several capacities on his stage shows, in addition to serving as MC. He needs no introduction to STIC alumni.
- (b) Dave Harvey’s good friend in STIC was a musician named Mario Bakerini-Booth (hereafter cited as MBB). An Italian who became a British citizen, he organized a dance band which performed throughout Europe during the 1930s. The start of WWII forced the band to leave Europe, whence it headed for Asia, where it eventually ended up in Shanghai. Later, with WWII approaching the Pacific, MBB and his wife left China, but the Pearl Harbor attack forced their Singapore-bound ship to detour to Manila. Being British citizens, they were interned by the Nipponese. In STIC, among other things his work with Harvey — in addition to “Internee Song” — involved the presentation of a number of concerts. After liberation he and his wife moved to Australia, which explains why the previously-described premiere of his STIC Mass took place there. [Note: There will be more about MBB in a future article on Dave Harvey.]
Justifiably or not, we will now proceed on the basis of two related assumptions: that the three questions raised earlier have been adequately answered; and that those answers explain the selection of “Internee Song” as a Signature Song. If those assumptions are incorrect, that is chiefly attributable to the song’s early history as well as to its subsequent lengthy tenure in the ranks of the forgotten. As those factors do not apply to the same extent, if at all, to the other three Signature Songs, it should not be as difficult to explain their selection (though dealing with the issue of their sources is a different matter entirely).
Signature Song #2. This is one of the two songs (along with #3) that, as mentioned earlier, without question STIC alumni would vote (or would have voted) into a STIC Hall of Fame. But there is a major difference between them: votes for #3 would reflect its popularity, whereas that would be unlikely for #2. That is because #2 was played frequently over the public-address system to arouse internees (at 6:30 a.m. during the third year, according to Stevens). As many readers may have have surmised by now, Signature Song #2 is the appropriately-titled (if ironically so for internees) “Good Morning, Good Morning” (hereafter cited as GMGM). It is also the only one of the Signature Songs whose source remains undetermined (as detailed below).
In the latter regard, note the difference in the treatment here of the first two Signature Songs. The coverage of “Internee Song” deals mainly with issues involving its name — indeed, its very existence — which had been largely unknown until recently, whereas its sources/creators were well-known. The situation is reversed with GMGM, for both the song and its name always have been well-known (only too well-known, some would say), whereas its source — meaning the name of the band that recorded the version played in STIC — is still unknown. As a result, the following discussion centers on the source issue, a subject that may be of little interest to many — most? — readers. Regardless, onward we go.
The resurrection of “Internee Song” in 2015 led me to consider surveying the topic of STIC-related music in general. And, as a collector of pre-WWII jazz and pop music, my attention initially centered on GMGM. Unlike some former internees, I have always liked that song, and I thought it would be interesting to see whether reminding STIC alumni of GMGM would elicit any reactions. Thus on 2 April 2016 I sent links to my two favorite versions of GMGM (by the once well-known Abe Lyman and Jan Savitt bands) to Maurice Francis, who posted my email to his lengthy list of Gang members.
The ensuing responses were chiefly from Sascha Jansen (who usually would contribute to such exchanges) and Mary Beth Klee (who was then working on a novel about STIC). Their comments centered on the question of the source — the identity of the band — that had recorded the GMGM version played in STIC. Sascha thought that the STIC version was by the Horace Heidt band; she sought to find evidence for that, but was unable to do so. Mary Beth disagreed with the Heidt suggestion, and decided to attribute the STIC version to the Lyman band in her book (whose very title, Leonore’s Suite, emphasizes the importance of music in her story); but her view was based on personal preference rather than on factual evidence.
[Sidebar. Following is the April 2016 MM-Klee-Jansen email chain from the Maurice Francis website. It is included here to help satisfy my sense of order and to avoid the chance of its eventual disappearance.]
From: Mary Beth Klee, email@example.com
Subject: Re: A STIC favorite (?)
Date: April 5, 2016 at 11:58:20 AM EDT
To: Martin Meadows, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks, Martin, for listening to the Heidt recording. Very helpful at least to know it’s not that one. I checked cnac and the computer I’m using is having a hard time with the musical plug-in for Good Morning, but I’ll try it from my RI office and see if I can get it to work. I’ll let you know if I figure it out.
Subject: Re: A STIC favorite (?)
Date: April 5, 2016 at 1:21:41 PM EDT
I will go there and let you know later in the evening. Thanks.
Aloha – Sascha
From Martin Meadows, email@example.com
In a message dated 4/5/2016 12:21:55 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time
I have now listened to the Horace Heidt version, so I can answer your question: it has a vocal, with what sounds like a female chorus backing up a male vocalist. The mystery remains unsolved, I’m afraid, but an idea has occurred to me. I haven’t visited Tom Moore’s web site for a while, so I don’t know if the following still holds true. As background music for some of the listings of families on his site, he used a non-vocal version of “Good Morning.” So perhaps he would be able to say whether that version is the same as the one played in STIC, and, if so, who recorded it. Also, if you want to hear the Heidt version, here is how I found it online: I googled “‘good morning,’ horace heidt” and, on the first page, after trying every site, I found that the one at the very bottom of the page did the trick. It provides a long list of Heidt records that can be played (but can’t be forwarded), and no. 21 is “Good Morning” (or it was when I checked). Anyway, as the Nips might say, “rotsa ruck with your search.” — MM
On Apr 4, 2016, at 9:23 PM, Mary Beth Klee, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Oh, you don’t have to forward it, Martin. Does the Heidt version have vocals? Female, I’d assume? If Margo Shiels remembered it as the Andrews Sisters, I’m assuming the vocalists should’ve been female. BTW – after I sent you that link I saw that you did indeed send it already. Sorry about that. THanks for all your help.
On Monday, Apr 4, 2016 at 8:34 PM, Martin Meadows, email@example.com wrote:
The Abe Lyman version is one of the two I sent originally, along with the Jan Savitt version, and (as I said then) I don’t think either one is the right one (though i’m not positive about that). However, Sascha is correct that Horace Heidt also did a version, and it is the same song; unfortunately, though, it does not seem to be accessible for free online, unlike the Savitt and Lyman versions. I do have the Heidt version in my own collection, but I have no idea how to get it online in order to forward it. — MM
On Apr 4, 2016, at 6:49 PM, Mary Beth Klee wrote:
Hi, Martin and Sascha,
What do you think about Abe Lyman with vocal by Rose Blane. Check it out on http://www.shazam.com/track/10400596/good-morning. Came out in 1939 and I’m voting this one because Abe Lyman also did a version of “The Monkeys Have No Tails in Zamboanga,” (vocals: Rose Blane) which my mother actually sang to me as a child. My five brothers and sisters can actually sing it. (Nobody rebuffed us for insensitivity. We thought it was about monkeys.)
Sascha, I checked out Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights and their “Good Morning” is a different song! At least from what’s posted on line.
On Mon, Apr 4, 2016 at 12:36 PM, Martin Meadows, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
The reason I used the phrase “the Garland-Rooney duet” is that it did not occur to me that Judy might have made such a record on her own, because I have never run across such a thing. It is possible, of course, that she did so, but I’m doubtful. — MM
On Apr 4, 2016, at 8:08 AM, Mary Beth Klee <email@example.com> wrote:
Thanks for ruling out the Andrews sisters, Martin. Very helpful. How intriguing that you have this hobby – I love the music of this era, and have tried to be accurate when citing it. Any chance the young Judy Garland recorded a version of this without Mickey Rooney? Again, I can’t find evidence of it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen….
On Sun, Apr 3, 2016 at 8:27 PM, Martin Meadows, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
My main pastime is taping/collecting pre-WWII music (I have thousands of tapes and records), and I can assure you that the Andrews Sisters did not record “Good Morning.” It is possible (though unlikely) that they may have sung it on the air (i.e., on a live radio program), but even if they did, that performance wouldn’t have been available on a record that could have been played in STIC (or anywhere else, at that time). But unfortunately that information doesn’t help in identifying the source of the STIC record. — MM
On Apr 3, 2016, at 2:26 PM, Mary Beth Klee, email@example.com wrote:
Thanks, Martin. It helps to know there were vocals. I was looking through my research and one account I read of STIC (excerpts from Margo Tonkin Shiels 1999 book, Bends in the Road) says the tune was sung by the Andrews Sisters, but I can’t find any indication they recorded it. I copied Sascha on this exchange because she also said she’d see if she could find out.
Many thanks to both of you.
On Sun, Apr 3, 2016 at 10:36 AM, Martin Meadows, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Just read your email. All I can say is that I don’t think the STIC version was either of these two, but I don’t know whose it was or who did the vocal (except that it wasn’t the Garland-Rooney duet). Sorry, can’t help on this. — MM
On Apr 2, 2016, at 7:45 AM, Mary Beth Klee <email@example.com> wrote:
Martin or anyone in the know,
Was the version played in camp just instrumental or did it have vocals? (Judy Garland?)
On Sat, Apr 2, 2016 at 3:35 AM, maurice francis <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From Martin Meadows – thank you Martin- as usual am passing this on to the group – Maurice
Date: Sat, 2 Apr 2016 01:46:31 -0400
Subject: A STIC favorite (?)
Maurice, here are two 1939 recordings of “Good Morning,” which was played every morning to wake STIC denizens, which I still enjoy hearing, and which may (or may not) be of interest to others. — MM
At this point, a brief detour is necessary to correct three erroneous ideas about the identity of the mystery band and/or its vocalist(s). As context for understanding those errors, the key fact to keep in mind is that the vocalist(s) on the STIC GMGM recording was/were female(s). Unfortunately, however, I cannot recall the number of singers on the recording; nor has anyone else been able to provide an answer. Regardless, it is generally accepted that the vocalist(s) was/were female(s), and that fact helps explain two of the three aforesaid misconceptions, as shown next.
(1) One error is that the Andrews Sisters were the vocalists on the STIC recording. For example, Margo Tonkin (Shiels) so stated in her 1999 book, Bends In the Road (see page 8 of the online excerpts of her book). So did Rupert Wilkinson, in Surviving a Japanese Internment Camp, p. 71. But that belief is easily refuted — the Andrews Sisters never recorded GMGM, as an internet search of their discography proves conclusively.
(2) A second error derives from the very first performance of GMGM, in the form of a duet by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, in the 1939 movie Babes In Arms. (Here is a link to a colorized version of the Garland-Rooney duet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mRVWNYM-Dw.) That duet apparently has led some to assume that Garland must have also recorded a solo version of GMGM, and that hers was the STIC version; but there is no such title listed in her discography prior to 1947, when she left Decca Records.
[Sidebar. I cannot say the same for the post-1947 period, which is literally impossible to check, as evidenced by the following quotation (from one of “The Judy Room” site’s “subsites” titled “Judy Garland Discography”): “To say that Judy Garland had one of the most prolific recording careers in the history of American music would be an understatement. Over the years, literally hundreds of records and CDs have been released, and yet there is still a large number of recordings that have yet to be officially released.” Also worth noting is the site’s current subtitle: “The Judy Room: Judy Garland Centennial 1922-2022.”]
(3) And a third error, cited for the record and for the sake of comprehensiveness, concerns the confusion that occasionally arises from the fact that a 1952 movie, the classic Singin’ in the Rain, revived GMGM with a bang, in the form of an outstanding Gene Kelly-Debbie Reynolds-Donald O’Connor dance number. (Here is a link to that dance number: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB2yiIoEtXw.
Having dealt with misconceptions about the version of GMGM which bedeviled STIC internees, I will now sort out my own ideas about the identity of the mystery band. I have found a total of seven big-band versions of GMGM, any one of which hypothetically could have been by the mystery band; all were recorded in 1939, after Babes in Arms was released. Of the seven, three can be excluded from consideration because they were recorded by British bands (those of Jack Hylton, Joe Loss, and Harry Roy), and it is reasonable to assume that mostly American records would have been more widely available than British records in the Philippines before WWII. (Besides, males were the vocalists on the Loss and Roy versions; more on the Hylton version below.)
Of the four American bands, two — those of Jan Savitt and Sammy Kaye — can be eliminated, because their GMGM vocalists were not females. The vocalist for the third American band, that of Abe Lyman, was Lyman’s wife, Rose Blaine. The vocalists for the fourth band, that of Horace Heidt, were the “Heidtlites” (a.k.a. Heidt-Lights), a quartet composed of one male (Lou) and three females (Fay, Jane, and Mary); and as the voices of the three clearly were dominant, the Heidt band should not be ruled out of consideration as the mystery band, along with Lyman’s band.
[Sidebar. Here are links to the Lyman and Heidt versions of GMGM.
It is time to call an end, or at least a provisional halt, to the fruitless search for the identity of the mystery band. That is mainly because those former internees who might have known the answer are long gone. Too, I have (as noted) sought suggestions from Maurice’s vast audience; I have repeatedly scoured the internet; and I also made sure to check with Tom Moore, whose website provides song recordings for those on his extensive listing of former internees — no luck there either. I have to conclude, therefore, that a definitive answer to this question is no longer possible. But that does not preclude presenting my own views on the issue.
If forced to choose between the Lyman and the Heidt versions, purely as a matter of personal preference I would pick the former, chiefly because of its somewhat faster tempo. On the other hand, and apart from Sascha’s aforementioned impression supporting Heidt, there is an additional pro-Heidt consideration that should not be overlooked: the voices of the three female vocalists in the Heidtlite quartet conceivably could have misled those who thought the Andrews Sisters were the vocalists on the STIC version. Whatever the case, I am reasonably confident that the mystery band was either Lyman’s or Heidt’s. [Note: To hedge my bets with a dark horse pick, it is not inconceivable that Jack Hylton’s excellent version, with vocalist Dolly Elsie, was the STIC version. Here is that link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wZ9-QGKUsE .]
Signature Song #3. Next we turn to the second of the two songs that would (or at least should) be included in any STIC Hall of Fame. As many readers may already have guessed, that song is — drum roll, please — the de facto (many would say de jure) STIC theme song/anthem, “Cheer Up, Everything’s Gonna Be Lousy.” It was introduced quite early in the Camp’s existence, during a 24 March 1942 STIC stage show, by the Camp’s Entertainment Supremo himself, the much-acclaimed Dave Harvey.
In this instance, initially it seemed that two key facts about the song were well-known from its inception — its name (unlike the case with the long-forgotten Signature Song #1), and its source or creator (unlike the case with Signature Song #2). Nevertheless, after the previously-described email exchanges on GMGM, I decided to look into the question of whether there had been an outside influence on Harvey’s masterpiece. Now of course some might well wonder why this should have been a question at all, since it might seem obvious that Harvey was the composer. After all, what non-STIC source could there possibly have been of a song with title and lyrics so descriptive of, and so applicable to, Camp life?
Despite those considerations, the question arose because of my previously-cited familiarity with pre-WWII music. To be specific, it seemed to me that I had once run across a similar song title in my ancient and hallowed jazz record book — a well-worn copy of French jazz expert Charles Delaunay’s New Hot Discography (1948 edition, acquired that same year at the U. of Oregon bookstore). Combing assiduously through the pages of that jazz bible, eventually I hit pay-dirt. The entry I had been searching for stated that in 1935 an individual named Chick Endor had recorded a song entitled “Cheer Up, Everything’s Going To Be Lousy” (using “going to” rather than Harvey’s “gonna”).
I then tracked down the Endor recording and learned that not only the title, but the music and some of the lyrics (as detailed below) had influenced Harvey’s version. I then forwarded what I thought was this startling news of a remarkable discovery — along with a link to the Endor recording — to Maurice Francis, who as usual posted my email to The Gang. Cliff Mills soon responded with the only comment my find elicited; he cited the similarities between the Endor and the Harvey versions, and he added a useful PDF of the Harvey lyrics (taken from Liz Irvine’s book, Surviving the Rising Sun).
[Sidebar. These exchanges are shown in the following email thread from April 2016.
Subject: RE: FW: Dave Harvey song borrowed from Chick Endor
Date: April 8, 2016 at 1:38:17 PM EDT
To: “maurice francis,” email@example.com, “Martin Meadows,” firstname.lastname@example.org
This song is a great find since, from listening to the Chick Endor version of “Cheer Up Everything’s Going to be Lousy,” (1935, 2 minutes, 20 seconds), it’s clear that Dave Harvey borrowed the music, but changed some, but not all, of the lyrics (see attached page from Liz Irvine’s book). Still, it’s a very fun piece!
Subject: FW: Dave Harvey song
From: “maurice francis” <email@example.com>
Date: 4/8/16 1:49 am
From Martin Meadows – thank you Martin – as usual am passing this on to the group – Maurice
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Dave Harvey song
> Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2016 03:56:10 -0400
> To: email@example.com
> To STIC alumni, Dave Harvey needs no introduction. During one of his stage shows, he introduced his trademark song “Cheer Up, Everything’s Going to be Lousy,” which quickly became in effect the STIC theme song. It was generally believed that the song was his own original composition, and no doubt it was. However, I thought it might be of interest to note that, in 1935, a little-known vocalist named Chick Endor recorded a song with exactly the same title (obviously the lyrics were not all the same). [For details, google “chick endor, cheer up everything’s going to be lousy.”] — MM
When Cliff’s was the only reaction to my discovery, I thought that something should be done to arouse more interest in the subject of STIC-related music. But I put the matter aside until recently, when I decided to revisit the Endor-Harvey connection. The first task was to check more closely on the extent to which Endor’s version had influenced Harvey’s.
The titles, obviously, needed no attention, as they were identical, aside from the trivial change from Endor’s “going to” to Harvey’s “gonna” — “Cheer Up, Everything’s Going To [Gonna] Be Lousy” (hereafter cited as “Cheer Up”). As to the song’s lyrics, the main thing to keep in mind is context — Endor’s song was a response to the Great Depression, which had eased only slightly by 1935. On the other hand, the emphasis on context is relevant only to Endor’s chorus, or middle sections; it does not apply to his intro and outro (concluding) sections, which do not refer specifically to the Depression. As a result, Harvey was able to incorporate the latter two sections into his own version of “Cheer Up”; to drop Endor’s context-specific chorus; and to substitute his own STIC-centered material.
Finally, I learned the most important fact of all — in effect, the clincher: Endor not only was the vocalist on “Cheer Up,” he also was its composer. Actually, at this point it is time to broach a (mildly) complicating factor — namely, that Endor’s long-time musical partner, Charlie Farrell, was both co-composer of and co-vocalist on the original (1935) “Cheer Up” recording. Thus the latter should be called an Endor-Farrell work; however, discographies and other listings usually name only Endor, at the expense of poor Farrell. It is justifiable, therefore, to simplify matters hereafter by citing only Endor.
In view of the foregoing, it is entirely valid to describe Dave Harvey’s version of “Cheer Up” as in reality a hybrid Endor-Harvey (technically, Endor-Farrell-Harvey) work. On the other hand, the situation is quite different when it comes to pride of place. It is my opinion — or rather, it is very clearly evident — that precedence definitely, positively and inarguably should and must go to Endor. After all, this is indisputable: no Endor version, no hybrid/Harvey version of “Cheer Up” — indeed, likely no version at all, or certainly nothing comparable.
Nonetheless, let me emphasize that the preceding does not — nor is it intended to — minimize Dave Harvey’s contributions to the hybrid version of “Cheer Up.” On the contrary, not only was he skilled enough to convert Endor’s version into one relevant to the STIC scene, but the fact that he was able to do so within a short time after STIC’s inception, and in the midst of such an initially hectic environment, speaks highly of his talents. So, trusting that should mollify any pro-Harvey extremists, we can move on. [Note: There will be more on Endor in the aforementioned future article on Dave Harvey.]
Signature Song #4. We now turn to the last of the Signature Songs. As both its title and its source — meaning the band that recorded it — are known at the outset, it requires relatively brief coverage compared with that devoted to the first three. Another minor point is that, from the standpoint of balance or “equal time,” each of the Camp’s two major sources of music has contributed (not by design) two of the four songs: stage shows (songs #1 and #3), and the public-address system (songs #2 and now #4). But enough for trivialities, and again on with the (musical) show.
Initially, one potentially complicating matter involving the public-address system needs attention. As described earlier, one of that system’s functions was to air entertainment programs. Of particular relevance here is that every evening the system broadcast 90-minute “concerts” of recorded music (selected from a collection of more than 3,000 assorted records). Weather permitting, that made it possible for internees to spread out on the Camp’s spacious front lawns (on folding chairs, mats, or just the grass) and relax while listening to the music — until the closing song signaled it was curfew time.
The aforesaid complicating matter requires a resolution of the following apparent conflict: On the one hand, I am now saying that the public-address system aired a future Signature Song (i.e., #4); on the other hand, I had earlier asserted that records played only transiently — as in the case of the nightly concerts, for example, or of the records used to refer to WWII events — “cannot validly be regarded as a significant part of STIC history.” But there is no conflict here, because the quoted statement does not apply to a recording that was played not transiently but after every evening concert — because it was an appropriate one to indicate it was time for internees to return to their quarters. Before naming the song in question, one more point should be addressed.
Although internees were familiar with the melody itself, I suspect it is likely that they were unaware of, or after liberation soon forgot, the song’s title. That surmise is supported by the fact that said song had received virtually no notice whatsoever in the U. S. from its inception in 1937. It was recorded by only two bands that I know of, and when I sought to check on them, I was shocked — shocked, I say — that absolutely nothing turned up. But here is the absolute topper: on a listing I examined of nearly 200 popular songs recorded in 1937, it does not even appear on the list! Thus what is most surprising to me is that the recording was even in the STIC record collection at all.
But as far as the source question is concerned, it does not matter whether STIC alumni have been unaware of or have forgotten the name of #4. Whatever the case may be, it is extremely — and unexpectedly — fortunate that the names of the song in question, as well of the band that recorded it, are on the record, thanks once again to F. H. Stevens. In his invaluable book, Stevens states that the title of the nightly concert-concluding song — another drum roll, please — was (and still is) “Toodle-Oo.”
There — just as I said, nobody remembers that song title (which, by the way, should not be confused with such titles as “Toodle-Oo, So Long, Goodbye!” and “Toodle Loo on Down” — both also from the 1930s.) Unsurprisingly, the title “Toodle-Oo” has no entry, for instance, in Wikipedia (which does, however, helpfully include two somewhat similar titles: Duke Ellington’s well-known “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo” and — trigger warning — “Toodle-F*****g-Oo” from the HBO series “The Sopranos”). And that is more than enough (attempted) levity.
Interestingly Stevens also notes that the version of “Toodle-Oo” heard nightly in STIC was by the Russ Morgan band; and he even adds (in a footnote) that its music and words are by (Carmen) Lombardo and (John Jacob) Loeb, respectively. Of course I had intended to include a link to the Morgan version here, but that was nowhere to be found. However, I did find basic information about it — Morgan’s band recorded it in 1937, and his vocalist was the beauteous and multi-talented (e.g., one-time ballerina) Bernice Parks.
Conclusion. Fortunately for the finale of this survey of STIC-related music, I finally did manage to unearth the only other known recording of “Toodle-Oo” — by the Dick Robertson band, whose version I prefer to Morgan’s, due to its faster tempo, personnel (including Jack Teagarden and Bobby Hackett), and Robertson’s smooth vocal. Here is its link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2m9oXMWDnU. And, by way of a suitable conclusion to this account of STIC Signature Songs — works that both reflected and influenced the Camp’s tortuous history — the Robertson recording is conveniently available. It provides an appropriate coda to this extended musical note — capped by its very last line: ♫♪♫ Nighty-night ♪♫ sleep tight ♪♫ toodle-oo ♫♪♫ — much as it did for so many internees on so many evenings so many years ago.
Other articles by Prof. Meadows: