Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Jack Lawrence

With the possible exception of the oft-recorded "Mountain High, Valley Low" from the 1946 Broadway musical Lute Song, Raymond Scott's best-known compositions are instrumental. Defiantly so, one might say. His oddly juxtaposed passages, schizoid tempos and abrupt transitions don't lend themselves to songcraft. But that didn't deter one legendary Tin Pan Alley scribe: Jack Lawrence.

Lawrence has a monumental catalog: "All or Nothing at All," "Ciribiribin," "If I Didn't Care," "Poor People of Paris," "Sleepy Lagoon," "Sunrise Serenade"—you get the picture. Not exactly a one-hit wonder.

But Scott's publisher got the bright idea that some of the composer's more appealing instrumental hits could be born-again chart-toppers if re-targeted for the 1940s karaoke market. Lawrence tried to make these novelties singable: "Boy Scout in Switzerland," "Huckleberry Duck," and "In an 18th Century Drawing Room." The Andrews Sisters recorded "18th CDR" and the Scott archives contain radio airchecks of lesser-knowns performing the other two. Heard them? We have—and cringed. They don't add much to Scott's legacy, and it's doubtful they do much for Lawrence's. These vocal versions remain justifiably obscure.

Nonetheless, happy birthday Jack — born this day in 1912.

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