Saturday, September 29, 2012

Whistling in the dark

At the monthly meet-up of the Woodies last night the conversation turned to whistling. It seems to be dying out among the youth of today - when did you last hear a teenager whistling as he or she goes about their business? Some of the guys went to a Golden Years of Variety show at the Hackney Empire recently which featured 89 year old Ronnie Ronalde, who was famous for his whistling and bird song impersonations many years ago. I must admit, I didn't realise he was still alive!
The conversation turned to records of the fifties and sixties which included some whistling, so here are my top ten whistling discs of the era. Of course, other suggestions are more than welcome.
1. Guy Mitchell - Singing The Blues.
Also covered by Tommy Steele, this was a big hit in 1956 and featured one of the most famous whistling intros in pop history. Tommy's version apparently featured whistling through the teeth, rather than the lips -a talent which I pride myself on.
2. Guy Mitchell - Knee Deep In The Blues.
This was the follow up to Singing The Blues - why change a winning formula? - and once again Tommy Steele had a hit with a cover version (again, why change a winning formula?). Oh how I hated the British cover versions of the era - and still do.
3. Dale Wright & The Rock-Its - She's Neat.
Released in 1958, this is one of a number of records which kicked off with a wolf whistle. A good rockabilly number by a former DJ from Ohio.
4. Royal Teens - Short Shorts.
This is another record which begins with a wolf whistle. The Royal Teens - from New Jersey - included Bob Gaudio, later of the Four Seasons, and the song sings the praises of what would later be known as hot pants. Another one from 1958.
5. Larry Williams - Short Fat Fannie.
Larry was one of the unsung greats of rock and roll and this - his first release in the UK in 1958 - was a big hit in the US. It was one of a number of songs of the era to feature the names of other hit records, including Bye Bye Baby (Johnny Otis), Splish Splash (Bobby Darin) and La Dee Dah (Billy and Lillie). (Maybe a topic for a future blog item - other suggestions welcome). Larry moved on to a slimmer model for his follow up - Bony Moronie.
6. Jimmy Jones - Handy Man.
Jimmy died recently and will always be remembered for his first huge 1959/60 hit Handy Man. Apparently when the flute player failed to show up Otis Blackwell improvised with a whistle - very effectively.
7. Lovin' Spoonful - Daydream.
This, a big hit and the title track of the Lovin' Spoonful's second LP in 1966, features one of the best known whistles in pop. Another great record.
8. Otis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay.
This huge 1968 posthumous hit for the Big O was recorded shortly before he died. It didn't have a final verse at that time, so Steve Cropper added its famous whistle, along with waves and seagull cries.
9. Whistling Jack Smith - I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman.
A 1967 UK hit on Deram, this was possibly the biggest all-whistling UK hit of the pop era. Written by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, Billy Moeller appeared under the name of Whistling Jack, but the whistle was actually provided by John O'Neill of the Johnny Mann Singers.
10. Mama Cass Elliot - Dream A Little Dream Of Me.
This was a 1968 hit for Mama Cass, formerly of the Mamas and Papas, released on RCA.


At 4:33 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Brian Jessup wrote: I have found two whistling songs which I like and are not as common as yours - Johnny Fuller - You Got Me Whistling, and Champion Jack Dupree - Barrelhouse Woman. Mike Vernon is the whistler on this one. Both can be found on Youtube.

At 12:42 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Michael' by the Highwaymen also has a whistled introduction does it not? I tend to only listen to that bit and then switch it off when they start singing haha! Daniel x

At 7:34 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Yes, you're right about 'Michael'. I'd forgotten about that one (for good reason I think).

At 6:26 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Whistle while you work' Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs.

"As you sweep the room,
imagine that the broom is someone you love"

John Soulboy

At 11:35 am , Blogger Nick said...

Dave Williams commented:
A couple of Whistlers for your blog list ...

You Got Me Whistling Johnny Fuller ...covered by Johnnie Allen among others I think. Maybe Lonesome Sundown too.

Also how about Proff Longhair 'Going to the Mardi Gras '


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