Monday, June 28, 2010

Leave my song alone, Lionel

Copyright laws can't possibly keep up with technology. The internet makes it so easy to get  so-callled "intellectual property" for free  that lawyers and legislators are going nuts trying to figure out how to make us pay for it.  One of the old laws, which still exists so far as I know, is that you can't copyright a title. I'm ambivalent about that one.  If I want to write a song called  "I love you, " I want to be free to do it without getting sued by the Cole Porter estate or anybody else who put music to those three little words.  On the other hand,  I hope that anybody trying to write another "Stardust" or a novel about "Gone with the wind" might get some legal flack from Hoagy Carmichael's people or the Margaret Mitchell estate. 

So where am I going with this? One of my favorite songs is "Dancing on the Ceiling."  Rodgers and Hart wrote it a long time ago. A great melody line, appealing harmonic progressions and  a lyric that is  some of the greatest  romantic imagery ever produced.

                           He dances overhead on the ceiling near my bed
                            in my sight through the night...

It ends with imagery and rhyme that gives me goosebumps.

                             I love my ceiling more since it is a dancing  floor
                             just for my love

Will I go to the federal pen for posting those words without permission from the copyright owners? Will Lionel Ritchie go scot free for his  rock song "Dancing on the ceiling" on which he steals Fred Astaire's ceiling dance  and Rodgers and Hart's title?   There oughta be a law.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Walter Tetley: Leroy and Julius

I heard one of  radio's most recognizable voices on the Great Gildersleeve show mentioned in the previous post. Walter Tetley was  the voice of Leroy, Gildy's nephew.  He was also Phil Harris's bratty neighbor, Julius. Tetley's story is not a pretty one. He was in his 30s on those shows, still sounding like a pre-pubescent boy. Later he voiced some TV cartoon characters.   His voice never changed and he was quite short.There is one awful story that his mother had him castrated because she didn't want to lose the meal ticket that he provided with his early radio work. He spent his last years in a wheel chair, the victim of a motorcycle accident. A sad show business tale.
Added July 3:  I just watched "Gildersleeve on Broadway."  Walter Tetley appeared, not as Gildy's nephew Leory, but in a bit part as a bellboy.   A review called him "Midget actor Walter Tetley."
There's a biography, Walter Tetley: For Corn's Sake  by  Ben Ohmart and Charles Stumpf.  Listening to old Phil Harris shows every Sunday Night on Yesterday USA Radio, I am becoming very interested in Walter, thinking about springing for the book.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Old Radio Commercials as history

Some radio historian has probably written about old radio commercials as a history of the times in which they were aired.  Here's one I heard last night on a "Great Gildersleeve" show from 1949. Sponsored by Kraft, makers of  Parkay Margarine, it told us that we could now buy colored margarine if our state was one that had made it legal.  But it would cost more because of a federal tax on it. No doubt that made no sense to any  present day youngsters under 70 or so who might have been listening. I remember when "oleo," as  we called it, had to  be sold  in its natural white and colored at home with a little packet of yellow coloring that came with it.  The dairy industry didn't want the margarine makers to fool us into thinking we were getting the real thing..  Some parts of the world were behind us in accepting the yellow non-dairy spread. .  Australia didn't legalize it until the '60s.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Geriatric Obstreperousness

Thanks to Helen Thomas, former dean of the Whitehouse press corps and Bob Garfield of NPR's "On the Media," one of my blogs will have a new name.  Formerly "Farting Around," it shall henceforth  be known as geriatric obstreperousness.  That's one of the possibilites that Bob came up with to explain the  recent comments of the old babe,  even saltier than usual for her. Oh, I still believe in farting around.  But at my age I can think of nothing more fun than doing it with geriatric obstreperousness.  I don't know if Bob writes his own commentary.  I think he does.Whoever thought that one up deserves some kind of literary award.