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Political Campaign Songs II

Political Campaign Songs II

The world my generation inhabited in the 1950s and 60s was greatly different than today. Radio was still dominant but television would soon relagate it to a niche of only music and talk, a mere shadow of its former self. There were no PC’s, IPhones, IPads or even IHops.

One of the few things we had in common were theme songs. Every form of entertainment, bands, radio and TV programs, movie cartoons, serials, short subjects, (March of Time, Three Stooges, newsreels, etc.), had its own theme song. Radio had Dragnet … Dum De Dum Dum, and The Long Ranger’s William Tell Overture.

Television had Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch which most people knew by heart. Movies had The Godfather theme and Jaws, which still shivers my spine, and political campaigns such as FDR’s “Happy Days Are Here Again”, “I Like Ike”, and JFK’s “High Hopes”, sung by Frank Sinatra.

In Lafourche Parish, we followed the custom and my custom was to seek customers to write custom songs for: “Insurance Checks” to the tune of “Shrimp Boats” for Senator Caillouet; “South to Louisiana” for Robichaux/Landry; “I Got The Fever” for Dick Guidry; “Open Up Your Heart” for Francis Dugas; and “I Got A Tiger By The Tail” for two separate candidates, all with appropriate and timely lyrics.

In 1968 boat magnate Minor Cheramie ordered two, one for Sheriff Eddie St. Marie and one for Governor John McKeithen, both running for re-election.

What a dilemma as St. Marie was actively opposing my boss, the assessor, so I couldn’t be identified. Solution? I hired a singer from Lafayette and eliminated all credits. No one ever knew … until now!
It was evident that the sheriff and governor and my other clients were all going to be re-elected.
Confession: I did not vote for all of the candidates I wrote songs for, but all’s well that ends well.

I also wrote songs for friends running for civic club offices like my fellow employee Lillian Duet, running for District President of her women’s club and Police Juror Larry Uzee, running for District President of the Lions Club and two songs for the Thibodaux Fireman’s fair requested by Thibodaux Mayor Warren Harang, Jr.
I sang a Dixieland number with Ted Hoffman’s Band and Vin Bruce sang a Cajun one. Well financed, we recorded with two bands in a real studio. All the others were recorded at home or KTIB.
Both candidates won and … well, the Thibodaux Firemen are always winners.

My clients received praise for the professionalism of the records. Professional? Expensive? Yes and no.
Today karaoke has made music tracts available to anyone. Not then! Having possession of such material was unheard of, but here’s a secret: I recorded on a 2-tract recorder with a separate recorder playing the music tracks as we listened and sung with earphones.

How were the music tracts acquired? No larceny involved. A friend of mine was a recording engineer in Nashville and sold me music tracts of hits by the biggest stars including Buck Owens and Eddie Arnold. The charge was $50 per and I had to pick from those he engineered. Legal? For me, yes. For him, I don’t know, I never asked. I wrote appropriate new lyrics, recorded over the music tracks and “Voila” a campaign song with a well-known hit melody was born.

For St. Marie and McKeithen I used the same music tract, Buck Owens’ “I’ve got a Tiger by the Tail”
Examples: “Let’s all vote for Eddie St. Marie, let’s give him another victory. As our sheriff he won’t ever fail. Law and order will prevail”.

And: “Let’s all vote McKeithen once again. We all know that he deserves to win. He will serve us all through thick or thin. Let’s all vote for Big John once again.”

If you’re curious, a single-track medley is available for MP3, PC or IPhone on ITunes.
Next week, I find a co-writer, a most prominent citizen.
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