Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Katherine McPhee and Zachary Levi

This song is by one of my new favorite singers. Zachary Levi you'll recognize if you ever watched the TV series "Chuck". He played Chuck Bartowski the amped up nerd spy. He also did the voice of Flynn Ryder in Tangled and I already posted his duet with Mandy Moore from Tangled. I think one of the reasons I like Levi is because he's openly a Christian and tends to take roles as decent people. This song describes my youthful approach to romance. I was quite frankly "Terrified".

I love these kinds of duets. My Sweet Baboo used to sing duets with me just around the house. We'd just spontaneously break out in song all of a sudden. It was nice and I liked it very much. Sometimes it still happens over a sinkful of dishes. This song is very close to my "life as a musical" approach to living. This song is one of those that "get me".  As a kid, I always doubted whether I was good enough for anybody else to love.  I worried that even God might have trouble liking an awkward, nerdy, self-absorbed kid like me sometimes. Songs like this make me believe two people can "get" each other like that, even though they are afraid that they can't.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

All My Trials - My Theme Song

The first time I was ever asked to perform a song for church was the Spring of 1972 at the Weslaco, Texas SDA Church when I was at Valley Grande Academy.  I had just learned a nice chord progression for All My Trials, the old spiritual and had mastered simple finger-picking.  I was so terrified to perform up front that my voice was shaking. Afterward, people complimented me on my "emotional" and "heart-felt" delivery. 

Forty years later, I sang the last song I ever performed solo in church at Tyler SDA Church in Tyler, Texas.
Oddly enough it was the same song. I'd just learned a new chord progression and had written some verses for it. Over four decades, I had learned the limitations of my voice, so I did a kind of whisper sing and encouraged the congregation to join in on the chorus. As the song went on (my wife says I did too many verses), the congregation gradually picked up in volume and we had a nice little sing-along going, which helped me get through without embarrassing myself totally.

Here is that last performance. Zaida Arante sent me the video. All My Trials, therefore, bookended my church singing career. I'm just glad I got through it without weeping publicly. This was just a few weeks before we left Texas, possibly forever. Given the state of the world right now, all our trials most likely will "...soon be over."

© 2017 by Tom King

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Mary Ellen Carter

SS Marine Electric whose chief mate, Bob Cusick
spent the night clinging to a partly deflated raft
singing "The Mary Ellen Carter" in the freezing
water to keep up his courage till rescued.
This wonderful song about the indomitable spirit of sailor men is one of my favorites. the brief video interview with a sailor at the beginning of the clip tells how the song literally saved his life when his own ship sank.  Stan Rogers, a marvelous Canadian folksinger and songwriter, based this song on a true story about a ship whose drunken officers managed to sink her. Sailors, however, often have a powerful relationship with the ships upon which they serve. As the Mary Ellen Carter sank, they swore they'd raise her up again. Despite a profound lack of interest by the owners and insurers and as unlikely as it might have been, five of the ship's crewmembers banded together and salvaged and refloated the ship.

This song is not only inspiring to all of us to whom "adversity has dealt the final blow", but the song is actually credited with saving the life of one shipwrecked sailor who sang it to keep himself going a whole long night until the Coast Guard found him floating in the sea clinging to the wreckage. The sailor attended Stan's very last concert and was able to shake his hand and thank him.

The song celebrates the human spirit that overcomes adversity. Sadly, we lost Stan Rogers far too soon. On June 2, 1983, Rogers was headed home from the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. A fire started in the restroom on Air Canada flight 797. It was forced to land in the Greater Cincinatti Airport. Rogers was one of 23 people who died of smoke inhalation. He was only 33. We can only imagine what songs he might have given us had he lived on.

Here's Stan singing the Mary Ellen Carter:

Here's a version by another pair of my favorite singers, Liam Clancy, one of the last survivors of the inimitable Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.  It was my privilege to hear the Clancy Brothers in one of their last performances before Tom died. I got to hear Liam in a reunion tour paired up with Tommy Makem. This is Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy singing The Mary Ellen Carter with Liam taking the lead in capturing the Irish seafaring soul.

So to you to whom adversity has dealt the final blow,
With smilin' bastards lyin' to ya' everywhere ya' go,
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And, like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!”

c 2017 by Tom King

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cool, Clear Water - A Song That Makes You Thirsty

Continuing along the contrasting voice theme, there's this little gem originally done by Sons of the Pioneers when Roy Rogers was with them. I love that version, but this version with Joni Mitchell teamed up with Willie Nelson is special. I don't think I've ever been disappointed with a duet by anyone with Willie Nelson.  Here's the Joni Mitchell / Willie Nelson version AND the Sons of the Pioneers rather different version with the smooth Western cowboy blend that they were famous for.

First: Joni and Willie

Next:  The Sons of the Pioneer

And here's a nice version by Riders in the Sky (we'll here another song by them later on)

I love the way everyone has their own take on the song.  I may just come up with my own version someday. If so, I will append it here.

2017 by Tom King

Monday, May 22, 2017

Perhaps Love Is Like...

One of the things I like in music is really interesting duets. One of my favorites is this love song sung by two guys with very contrasting styles. Operatic tenor Placido Domingo and John Denver team up to ask what love is like. It's a lovely song and says things I believe. Love is just a resting place, a shelter from the storm, It invites you to come closer. It wants to keep you warm. And in those times of trouble when you are most alone, the memories of love will bring you home. That just takes my breath away.

Here's the country mouse and city mouse teaming up together with Perhaps Love:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

...He Lifted Me Up

The first time I ever heard this song, it was my daughter and a friend who sang it. It made me want to get up and shout, "Hallelujah!" Instead of embarrassing my offspring, however, I instead got up to try to take a video of it with my cell phone camera. I only got part of it since I missed the beginning. They haven't got together since then to do the song for me, so I could get the whole thing on video.  So I'll have to settle for the original.

The relentlessly happy song talks about Jesus setting our feet on solid rock. For me, the song says something about my own life. The storms of life have repeatedly threatened to sweep me away, but throughout all that experience, it has been His great love that has kept me anchored to the Rock.

The song was originally sung by Southern gospel group, The Martins. It was their first number 1 hit on the gospel charts and they do it well.  Here's their version of Out of His Great Love:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I See the Light

I'm a sucker for Disney flicks. They're really the only really decent musicals still being made these days. As you may know, if you've followed this blog from the first, I am a strong proponent of life as a musical. I think we should just break out singing whenever the moment is right. I used to sing with my wife when we first started going together. I highly recommend it.

All that said, this is one of my favorite break-out-singing-about-your-true-love songs. It's particularly great because it's one of those duets you can sing at the top of your lungs and get all that emotion our and project it to the sky. Tangled is the wonderful retelling of the Rapunzel story with one of my favorite actors, Zach Levi, one of those rare openly Christian actors in Hollywood and star of one of my favorite TV series, Chuck.

This one makes me cry. It says what it was like when I finally met the love of my life.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I'm My Own Grandparent - A Tragic Story of Misdirected Mountain Romance

In case you need further confusion, here's the family tree chart!

I love this song for it's fascinating take on Appalachian dating customs.  You have to listen to this song very carefully on you'll get lost. The thing is, it could actually happen legally. In fact, as I've examined the places where my own family tree branches up into the European aristocracy, I find that some of the branches at the top do tend to grow together. In fact I have one multiple great grandmother whose maternal and paternal grandmothers were the same woman, but that's another story altogether and no longer legal in the United States. The unique thing about this song is that no one violates any U.S. laws in this song.

A lot of old-time bluegrass and country singers have picked up this song, originally written by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe.  Their group, the Jesters, did it in 1947 after it was first performed by country humor duo, Lonzo and Oscar. Lonzo and Oscar were a kind of 40s version of the 50s duo Homer and Jethro. A lot of famous people took a run at the song. Guy Lombardo and his trio did it in 1948, followed by Phil Harris (who later was the voice of Baloo the Bear in Disney's Jungle Book), Jo Stafford who reversed the sexes and made her her own grandmaw, Kimball Coburn (whoever that is),  Jon Mark and Alun Davies in the 60s as well as Willie Nelson, Grandpa Jones and the inimitable Ray Stevens. The Muppets even took a swing at the song.  Others, too numerous to enumerate, also took a whack at the song and there was even a Robert Heinlein science fiction short story, All You Zombies in which the deed was done with considerably greater genetic and legal ambiguity by a hermaphrodite time traveler. Tom Arnold even did a version of the story in his movie The Stupids.

Here is the Lonzo and Oscar version from a 50s country TV show my grandmother likely watched religiously.

And wouldn't you know it? The whole thing got started thanks to an anecdote told by American humorist extraordinaire, Mark Twain. Click the links above if you want to hear the other versions of this classic bit of American humor. It's not so popular among the Europe nobility, for some reason. Apparently, the royals don't see what's so danged funny about it.

2017 by Tom King

Sunday, May 14, 2017

August Winds - Another Song About Boats

As you may have guessed, I'm a big fan of boats. This song is a folksy one by Sting that was part of an album that explores his Celtic roots. Sting has somehow turned into a respectable looking older guy, for an old rocker. He's certainly aged better than a lot of his contemporaries. This is a beautiful song about the comings and goings of fishing boats and fishermen. I love this music. It captures the spirit of people that feel familiar to me. Some of my ancestors lived on Scottish islands and in coastal cities of Scotland and Ireland. There were likely fishermen among them. I don't exactly believe in racial memory, but I think some of the traces of a deeply ingrained culture are passed along from generation to generation. It would explain why I'm drawn to the water. I love boats and I like fishing and fishing paraphernalia, even though my sympathies are entirely with the fish. I like to fish, but not so much actually catching them. There's a rhythm to casting the bait and reeling it in. I throw most fish back, although I would someday like to hook a tuna. 

Here's Sting doing an acoustic set with August Winds.     - Tom

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sweeping Up to Glory

Wedgwood when it was a quartet and had facial hair.

Lily of the Valley by Adventist folk trio, Wedgwood, is the one I want played at my funeral. It's such an upbeat and hopeful song as so many bluegrass or old time Gospels often time are not. This song retains some of the bouncy character of the Irish music that was such a huge influence on mountain music in the United States. Not everyone in my church quite understood Wedgwood at the time. It was the 60s and a lot of us who liked the Wedgwood Trio, dressed kind of hippie-like and were viewed with suspicious.

It got so bad that the president of Pacific Union College wrote them a letter saying they didn't meet "standards" after a performance by the group at PUC. The president also wrote letters (this was before email) to other Adventist college presidents telling them they shouldn't book the group. Loma Linda students greeted a concert by the group enthusiastically, but not so their elders. The group broke up finally, but thankfully reunited and repeated the Loma Linda University concert almost 30 years later in a concert dubbed the "Forgiveness Tour". The university president after his predecessor had panned them so badly years before issued an apology.

Me? I loved the songs and the music of Wedgwood (trio or otherwise)
. I judge gospel music by whether it lifts me up or not. The music of the Wedgwood Trio does precisely that. The fact that the venerable radio evangelist HMS Richards Sr. liked them back in the day and that SDA singing staple Del Delker actually performed with them only confirms my opinion that these guys were singing God's kind of music.

Here's Lily of the Valley by The Wedgwood Trio.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

If I Had a Boat (Again)

Drawing by Corrie Chiswell

I stumbled upon this song, If I Had a Boat by Lyle Lovett, about the same time I discovered The Superman Song and the odd works of Robert Earl Keen whom you will meet later. Lyle Lovett is a strange little man who was, even more strangely, married for a time to actress Julia Roberts. The demands of careers ended the marriage after two years, but the two remain friends, however that works. I like this song because it combines two of my favorite things - boats and horses. It also mentions Roy Rogers, Tonto and the Lone Ranger and posits what it would be like to be lightning, which makes this song doubly unique. As you will soon become aware, I like songs which are unique - even odd if truth be known.

I spent two years of my life starting and running an equestrian program for emotionally disturbed youth and kids with disabilities. I spent 5 to 7 hours a day riding and caring for 20 oatburners. I taught fifty some-odd kids how to feed them, brush them, saddle them and ride them.  I also learned a bit of the farrier's art (hoof maintenance on that job.  The most valuable lesson I learned from trimming horse's hooves was that if you pick up a horse's foot and start trimming the hoof, after a time the horse decides you are such a nice guy for doing this that you won't mind them leaning a quarter ton or so of their horsey selves against your back. It says something about something, I'm not sure what - possibly dependency. I'm not sure. This is why professional farriers are such big burly guys, though, and possibly why my knees are in the shape they are currently in.

I took a Red Cross Aquatic School course to become a canoeing instructor back when I was a younger man and working summers at Lone Star Camp.
It confirmed me in my other passion of all things "boat". By the time I was 54 I owned a catamaran, six canoes, and a motorboat. Then life took a wrong turn and I lost them all and my transportation to get to an actual lake.

I miss my horses and my boats. I dream about horses and boats, but, for now, I don't get to enjoy either. Perhaps God wants me to long for heaven where I can spend an eternity building boats that will carry me, my dogs and my horses (and the wife if she wants to go) out on the ocean. 

All that said, here's Lyle Lovett and the oddly beautiful "If I Had a Boat".    - Tom

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Supe Had a Straight Job and So Did I

I loved The Superman Song the first time I heard it. Some songs grow on you. This one didn't have to. I mean, how can you go wrong with a song about a comic book character sung by a Canadian group called "Crash Test Dummies"?  I think I liked the song because I empathize with Clark Kent's plight in the song. Throughout our careers, both of us wanted to shuck all the do-gooding and go swinging off through the jungle scooping up unsuspecting women, running with scissors, swimming less than an hour after eating, and breaking chalk. It's a great song, and I'd further add that if you don't like this song and you grew up in the 50s or 60s, you're a commie! It's that simple.

Enjoy!  If you go to Peggo.co (not com) they'll even let you turn the vid into an mp3 and you can put it on your phone's music list.  Not that I would do such a thing. I mean I'm not a real pirate. I just play one on Facebook!  Here's The Superman Song.


Monday, May 8, 2017

The First Song I Ever Learned

"Hello big boy."
I was two years old when Tennessee Ernie Ford appeared on the Dinah Shore program and sang his #1 hit song, an old folk tune called Sixteen Tons (below). The song's about a career coal miner. I must have heard it a lot on Mama's radio, because it was one of the first songs I ever remember singing.....that and a politically incorrect Pat Boone number called Speedy Gonzales.  My sister tells me my Dad used to play guitar and sing that song. I don't really remember that. I was vaguely aware he played guitar, but I don't remember what songs he sang.

For some reason Sixteen Tons was one of the best selling records of the 50s, giving even old Elvis a run for his money in total sales. Ernie Ford did a lot of Grande Old Opry and even did a turn on I Love Lucy as her country cousin. Lucy tries to scare him back to the country by dressing up as a wicked city woman with the usual disastrous results - Cousin Ernie liked it. In the episode, he delivers the classic line, "Vamp me!" to a black-wigged, slinky dressed Lucy and it was off to the races. 

Ford had a wonderful bass voice. When I was two I was rather less than a bass, but I still remember singing the first verse and chorus and still can sing it after all this time. As a toddler I was to also pick up "Jesus Loves Me" and "Dare to be a Daniel", but for some reason Sixteen Tons was to be my life's first soundtrack music. As it turns out, at the age of 63, I can identify with the line, "St. Peter don't you call me cause I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store."

If you do a search of Youtube, you'll also find a version where Ernie sings his signature song with Go-Go dancers and perkier music. How they talked him into that, I'll never know. But then the TV show, "Hollywood Palace" was never known to be a sophisticated venue anyway. Here's Tennessee Ernie Ford and Sixteen Tons.  - Tom King