as/pma logo

Mayhams / Mayhams Collegiate
Mayhams Records / Mayhams Collegiate Records, 12 W. 117th St., Morningside Station, PO Box 46, New York, NY 10026

Mayhams Mayhem, by Phil Milstein

Norridge Mayhams was a first-class card. In a half-century-long career in which he toiled as songwriter, performer and record company executive, Mayhams authored a body of work that is staggering in its scope, quality and general strangeness, with a fast-and-loose approach to crediting his work that confounds discographical comprehension.

Mayhams's songwriting career stretched from the mid-'30s up until his death in 1988. His early songs, cut at various New York sessions between 1936 and '38, were lively but fairly conventional gospel and novelty blues. Even back then he was apparently subsidizing the recording of his own material; since song-poem companies had yet to evolve from sheet music to records, it seems that these early recordings were made with Mayhams' hands-on participation, as opposed to the strictly mail-order nature of the true song-poem companies.

Neither blues nor jazz purists know quite what to make of Mayhams' early recordings, their bewilderment compounded by the fact that he recorded for such highly-regarded labels as ARC and Decca. His records smell gutbucket enough, but if you sniff a little closer there's clearly something a bit off about them, and as a result they are of but slight interest to collectors today. To appease completists, Austrian archivists Document Records have released a CD comprising the bulk of Mayhams' known 78s, with a further four more included on a compilation CD. See our Miscellaneous Albums page for more information on these two collections, including ordering links.

One of the funny things about Mayhams' early stuff is how quickly it jags from straight gospel material ("Crying Holy Unto The Lord," "My Lord's Gonna Move This Wicked Race") to raunchy double-entredre blues (a cover of Tampa Red's "Let's Get Drunk And Truck," "Ash Haulin' Blues"). Still mingling the sacred with the profane, years later Mayhams would release, on his own Mayhams Collegiate label, a single of "Jesus Will Soon Be Coming" b/w "You're My Surfer Girl Forever," likely the world's only example of a mixed Jesus/surfing 45. In Mayhams' typically convoluted fashion, the Jesus song kicks a lot harder than the surfer one.

As living proof of the song-poem entrepreneur's enduring claim that, given the right breaks, any songwriter can have a hit, Norridge Mayhams did just that. His lone tale of success began with a song called "We'll Build A Bungalow (With War Bonds And Stamps)," a keep-the-home-fires-burning World War II song originally written in 1942. Revising it as "We'll Build A Bungalow (You Spell It For Two)" for peacetime possibilities, the song was taken up by bandleader Johnny Long, whose recording was released on King around December 1949. Johnny Long is little-remembered today, but in the '40s he was quite popular, and his recording of "Bungalow" went to #22 in Billboard in early '50. Exactly two years later "We'll Build A Bungalow" rose to even greater heights, when it was featured on I Love Lucy, then the top-rated TV show in the nation. In the episode entitled "The Benefit," first aired on January 7, 1952, "We'll Build A Bungalow" was performed vaudeville-style as a duet between Lucy and Ricky, complete with interjected jokes. This version is included on the Babalu Music! I Love Lucy's Greatest Hits compilation. In 1966 "We'll Build A Bungalow" made its final real-world appearance when it was included in Sidney Lumet's film, The Group, based on a novel by Mary McCarthy.

Sharks being as indigenous to the legitimate music industry as to its shadier fringes, Mayhams got boned for both credits and royalties on "We'll Build A Bungalow," and eventually filed a lawsuit before he could get the situation straightened out. By 1978 he was once again free to try to cash in on his song, and revived "Bungalow" for a disco rendition, self-released as a 12" single credited to The Seaboard Coastliners.

As a songwriter and a record company executive, Norridge Mayhams was a guy who lacked a little something in the way of consistency, which is one of the secrets of his greatness. Frankly, the guy was all over the map. He was unafraid to draw from nearly any musical genre or lyrical topic, and he was especially beholden to those currently in vogue. From his cycle of World War II songs he next turned to booze -- writing songs about booze, that is -- then dance crazes, surfing, then, during Vietnam, back to war songs again. Early on he hit upon his all-time favorite subject: college. The theme runs rampant throughout his catalog, and you will spot many examples in the discography below. In keeping with the college lietmotif, he named his publishing company Sorority Fraternity. In typical fashion, he registered it with both ASCAP and BMI, a music business two-for-one that is almost never done.

Mayhams' songwriting credits reveal a torrent of variations on his own name. He was born in 1903 as Norridge Bryant Mayhams, but he came to use the given name Norridge interchangeably with Norris. His performing career was mostly under the name Norris the Troubadour, but even there he sometimes went by Norridge the Troubadour. Either Troubadour variant might also turn up as a writing credit. He often substituted his wife Shirley's name in place of his own for his songwriting credits, although it's possible that she also occasionally joined him in his songwriting efforts. Even when using her name, he would shift it, with no apparent rationale, from Shirley to Betty, sometimes to Julia Betty, and so on. The name Smalls -- probably his wife's maiden name, as his son was named Norridge Smalls Mayhams -- would show up as either a middle or last name, either for himself or for his wife. Occasionally he'd even write under one of his children's names, Benjamin, Blondell or Norridge. When crediting his songs to just a single name, he would use Norris, Norridge (sometimes Noridge), and Bryant (sometimes Bruant). The combinations are far too numerous -- not to mention far too confusing -- to fully list here.

Spelling, syntax and punctuation all take a beating in Mayhams' world, perhaps deliberately so. The title of his 1950 song "My Christmas Time Philosophy; Theme Of The Apostropheis" (previously published as "I Want A Coed By My Side") is a telling one, for Mayhams delighted in dropping apostrophes from the ends of words. It's unfortunate that its lyrics haven't materialized, for I'd love to see the thinking behind his ongoing apostrophe catastrophe. Ones he removes from certain titles he deposits in others, as if he were holding them in some sort of apostrophe bank -- witness "I'Am Back From Vietnam (Hold The Elevator My Baby Is Coming Down)." Dan Quayle might agree that the all-time best Mayhams title is "Poontang Poontang Rankytang, My Sweet Potatoe" (from 1942, credited to "(Norristhe Troobador) Mayhams)". A few years later, after running that one through a spell-checker, he republished it as "Yamtang Yamtang Rankytang, My Sweet Potato."

Little is known about Mayhams' performing career. He apparently sang lead on at least some of his own recordings, but he was as likely to farm his songs out to a song-poem factory like Globe Recording Studios -- where they'd be sung by the likes of Sammy Marshall (as "Professor Marcell") -- as he was to take the mic himself. It's unknown whether or not he played any instruments on his recordings. My guess is that as Norris the Troubador he spent many years playing coffeehouses and college-town pubs in the Northeast, but the only actual evidence of that is a 21-page booklet he self-published in 1947 entitled Experiences Of A Collegiate Singer by Norris, The Troubador. Locating a copy of that would certainly be a valuable addition to the field of Mayhams scholarship.

Norridge Mayhams' world started crumbling in 1977, with the death of his wife Shirley. In 1979 his son Benjamin was murdered in a grocery store hold-up. In tribute, Mayhams wrote his final song, "God's Heaven's Heavenly Grocery Store," which he didn't register for copyright until 1986. It's unlikely that a recording of it was ever made. In '81 his other son, Norridge Smalls Mayhams, died. His musical endeavors wound down. In 1988 Norridge the Troubador Mayhams himself began strolling the aisles of God's heavenly grocery store, where they are known to maintain a well-stocked apostrophe aisle.

-- Singles --

Mayhams 1598: Norris The Troubador -- Bote In Bin Mother But In Ben / Rock Rollin' Honey (1958)
Mayhams 049-094: Georgie's C&W Collegians -- Run Away Heart / Jeanie (1961)
Mayhams Collegiate OV-669: Norris the Troubadour, Seaboard Coastliners -- Jeanie / Runaway Heart (both wr. N.B. Mayhams) ("countrified versions"; may be same sides as Co-Ed 049-094)
Mayhams 115-120-A-C/115-120-A: Norris The Troubadour & The Three Blue Chips -- We'll Build A Bungalow (Mayhams-Troubador) / Mint Julep Bloomin' Like A Tulip (Mayhams) (1961)
Mayhams 212: Norris The Troubadour, "The Collegiate Singer" -- The Girl School (She Told Me So) (Pts. 1 & 2) (1960)
Mayhams Collegiate M-212: Sonny Marcell & The Collegians -- My College Girl (She Told Me So) (Pt. 1) / My College Girl (She Told Me So) (Pt. 2) (both wr. Norris the Troubadour)
Mayhams 213-A-1/213-A-2: Singing Sammy Marshall & The Collegians -- Play It Hard-Play It Smart (Mayhams) / Sonny Marcell & The Collegians -- My College Girl (She Told Me So) (Norris) (Note: Mayhams and Norris are one and the same person; Marshall and Marcell are one and the same person.)
Mayhams Collegiate 214-22/214-23: Prof. Marcell, Biscayne Bay Surfers -- Surfing Is A Sight To See (Norris-Pender) / Surfin On A Swingin Soiree (Bryant)
Mayhams Collegiate 214-22/215-NBM: Prof. Marcell Collegians -- The A.C.L. And The S.A.L. (Norridge) (abbreviations stand for rail companies Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line) / Be No Fool-Play It Cool-Stay In School (Mayhams-Klibanaw)
Mayhams 215: Prof. Marcell's Collegians -- Be No Fool Play It Cool Stay In School
Mayhams Collegiate, number unknown: The Professor -- Be No Fool -- Play It Cool -- Stay In School (Go-Go) / You Left Me Money Honey (see ad above)
Mayhams Collegiate 215-A: Prof. Marcell Collegians -- Jesus Will Soon Be Coming (Mayhams) / You're My Surfer Girl Forever (Shirley-Bryant)
Mayhams Collegiate 215 N.B.M./216-A.A.: Blimey-Blighty & The Rattlers -- Dance The Rattlesnakin Mama (Bryant) / You Left Me Honey Honey (Norridge) (A-side vocalist is Rodd Keith)
Mayhams Collegiate 216-A.A./217-A.B.C.: Wailer Norris The Troubadour -- You Left Me Honey Honey (Norridge) / My Minnesota Girl (Norris)
Mayhams Collegiate 1508-A/15018-AA: The Seaboard Coast Liners -- Fortitude (Marianne Abene) / We'll Build A Bungalow (You Spell It For Two) (Mayhams-Norris) (c.1970; A-side label reads 1508-A, but matrix no. reads 15018-A)
Mayhams Collegiate 15018-A/15099-AA: The Seaboard Coast Liners -- Fortitude (Marianne Abene; Norris) / Rock'N' Roll'N' Honey (Norris)
Mayhams 1958-A-A/1958-B-B: Norris The Troubador -- You Left Me Honey Cause I Had No Money / Run Away Heart (1961; advert. as "A Rock N' Roll Special" in 1964 Songwriter's Review Directory)
Mayhams 1958-A-A/1958-B-B: Norris The Troubadour -- Rock Rollin Honey / Run Away Heart (both wr. Mayhams)
Mayhams 1958-AA: Norris The Troubador -- Blue Am I / A Wee Wife (1964 Songwriter's Review ad: "A Scotch Novelty and Instrumental Twister")
Mayhams 1958-BB: Norris The Troubador -- Run Away Heart / Blue Am I (1962)
Mayhams Collegiate 1958-A/38711: Norris The Troubadour -- Blue Am I / Norris Troubadour-Seaboard Coastliner -- Grits And Gravy (Miscalculatin Mama) (both wr. Norris)
Mayhams Collegiate 1959-A/3105 (SP): Norris The Troubadour, Seaboard Coastliners -- The Wall Street Daily Cry (Buy Low Sell High) (I Gotta Work I Told You) / Singin Sied The Showboy (both wr. Norris)
Mayhams Collegiate 1960: The Dee Cals -- Stars In The Blue (What Should I Do) / Wonderful Day (both wr. D-Cals/Mayhams) (c.1961; "R&B Series"; released in both red and yellow vinyl editions; also released as Co-Ed 1960)
Mayhams Collegiate A-1975/B-1976: Norris the Troubadour, Seaboard Coastliners -- Midwifery (Norman Casserley) / Midwifery (Norman Casserley) / Midwifery (Norman Casserley) (all wr. Mayhams) (Note: Two different versions of this record exist, and both contain two different versions of the same song (adding up to three different versions in all). See Updates file for 10-29-01 for further details and label graphic.)
Mayhams Collegiate 549-989-S.T.M./S.A.M.: The Seaboard Coastliners -- But The Rock Rolls On (Mayhams) ("The Historical Rock") / Zoomba Zoomba High Kicka Zoomba (Norris The Troubadour) (1972)
Mayhams Collegiate 765-65-8/765-65-9: Norris The Troubador, Seaboard Coastliners -- I'Am [sic] Back From Vietnam (Hold The Elevator My Baby Is Coming Down) / Mr. Guitar Man I Know You Can (both wr. Norris)
Mayhams' Collegiate 765-65-8: Seaboard Coast Liners -- Tom Dooley Testament / Mr. Guitar Man I Know You Can (1970)
Mayhams Collegiate 9999: Norris The Troubadour, The Seaboard Coastliners -- We'll Build A Bungalow (You Spell It For Two) / I've Got Soul Love Burning In My Heart (both wr. Norris The Troubadour Mayhams) (1978; also marked: "Shirley-NBM"; arr. & pr. Rich Al Basi)
Mayhams Collegiate 10101-M/10101-N: The Symphonic Rattlers -- Mario And Josephine Joe / Casey's Walk (both wr. Mayhams)
Mayhams Collegiate 38711: Norris Troubadour-Seaboard Coastliner -- Grits And Gravy (Miscalculatin Mama) / Jeannie (both wr. Norris)
Mayhams Collegiate 38711/38812: Norris Troubadour-Seaboard Coastliner -- Grits And Gravy (Miscalculatin Mama) / House In Bin (both wr. Norris) (1971)
Mayhams Collegiate B-41351/B-41352: Norris the Troubadour, Seaboard Coastliners -- Mary Ann McCarthy (N.B. Mayhams) / My S.O.S. To You (Norris)
Mayhams Collegiate M-213-1-1/M-213-2-2: Norris The Troubadour Collegians -- We'll Build A Bungalow (Norris) / Sing To Me Your Love Song (Shirley Mayhams)
Mayham's Collegiate IRDA 546: Seaboard Coastliners -- Dance Dance All Night Long (Norris Mayhams) / Sweet Shirley (Norridge B. Mayhams) (©1979; arr. & pr. Rich Al Basi)
Mayhams Collegiate OVL-161: Seaboard Coastliners -- We'll Build A Bungalow (Big Enough For Two) (You Spell It For Two) / Dance Dance All Night Long (both wr. Norris Mayhams) (12" single, hot pink vinyl w/ orange label)

-- Albums --

Mayhams Collegiate 40904: Norris The Troubador Seaboard Coastliners -- Our Centennial [sic] Album: Riding Nostalgia And New (2-LP) [CD-R]
I'm Back From Vietnam
Mr. Guitar Man I Know You Can
Maryann McCarthy
My SOS To You
Ruby Arlina
You're Going Too Fast
House In Bin
Grits and Gravy
I Will Be Your Rooster
I've Got Soul Burning in My Heart
But The Rock Rolls On
Zoomba Zoomba High Kicka Zoomba
Rock 'N' Roll 'N' Honey
Tom Dooley Last Will and Testament
Jesus Will Soon Be Coming
Surfing Is A Sight To See
Be No Fool -- Play It Cool -- Stay In School
Surfing On A Swingin Swoiree
You're My Surfer Girl Forever
My College Girl Pt. No. 1
My College Girl Pt. No. 2
The Wall Street Daily Cry
Singing Sied The Showboy
Blue Am I
Run Away Heart
Sweet Harriet
Play It Hard -- Play it Smart
Christmas Time Philosophy

Liner notes:
"These new albums will introduce you to the unique talents of Norridge B. Mayham. Otherwise, known as Norris The Troubadour. Norris was born in the Great Southern Seaboard Town of Georgetown, South Carolina. At an early age, he became interested in traveling and when he became old enough, he joined the Merchant Marines to begin his travel all over the world. During the lonely hours at sea he started playing the banjo and singing. After years of traveling he landed in New York, where upon formed a small combo. They appeared on one of New York's leading radio station -- WMCA and signed for five nights weekly broadcast by WMCA -- later broadcasting for WMCA British American Ambulance Corp. Program -- With British children to England -- Later working as a regular artist's for the WMCA Artist Bureau Booking Department & Special Events Programs. The radio program led to night club appearances and these led to the start of college bookings all over the country. As a Collegiate Singing Troubadour, Norris was called on to sing all types of college songs. Norris became so engrossed with his college tours, he started writing college songs along with other material. His vast knowledge acquired during his travels gave him all kinds of catagories to write about. This album features Norris The Troubadours most popular songs which he sings and arranged. It takes you from the past to the present in various moods and interpertations."

Affiliated labels:
Co-Ed || Globe || Little Shirley || Mr. Midwife || TDS || TJB Brandes

Labels index

Discography ©2004 Phil Milstein