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Song-Poem References in Pop Culture

Over the entire course of the post-World War II era, song-poem music has provided the subject matter for a variety of drama and comedy pop culture outlets. The song-poem theme, which invariably positions the song shark as a villain who has swindled a sympathetic character (either a spot or regular secondary character, but rarely the protagonist), has been used as fodder for a comic strip, a pulp novel, radio and television episodes, and even (albeit as a sub-plot) a feature movie. (Given the get-rich-quick urge underlying the song-poem quest, it's a wonder -- and a bit of a loss -- that I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners never attempted such an episode.)

It's hard to say what motivated scriptwriters to so frequently draw on song-poem music, which remains obscure (and thus, of little native interest) to the average American, as a topic. Many of these episodes seem to reveal a didactic intent, a sincere and altruistic attempt to warn audience members of the scourge of the shifty song shark. Indeed, some of these outlets (the earlier ones in particular, as well as All In The Family) served largely such a purpose in general.

The plotlines of these appearances have typically emphasized the anomalous experience of most song-poem lyric writing, with the songwriting characters always depicted as one-time-only participants. It's also interesting to note that virtually all the TV episodes are from the early days of the respective series (one of them even forming its debut), an indication, if nothing else, that TV writers have treated the song-poem premise as something other than a stock situation resorted to purely out of desperation (as opposed to the flashback, the dream sequence, the guest star, et al).

Drawn from a variety of sources, following are descriptions of the handling of song-poem music in pop culture venues.

The Adventures Of Superman
Mr. District Attorney
Green Hornet
Steve Roper
Mood For Murder
The Danny Thomas Show
The Flintstones
The Monkees
The Doris Day Show
All In The Family
America 2Night
Melvin And Howard
Shannon's Deal
The People's Court


The Adventures Of Superman

The daily radio serial The Adventures Of Superman broadcast a sequence about song-poem music from December 4 to 13, 1946. In its January 1947 issue, the amateur songwriter tipsheet Songwriter's Review offered a detailed description of that sequence. Following is the text of that article. (See News page for information on ordering a CD (in MP3 format) that includes this sequence.)

Superman Joins Battle Against Songsharks
The spectacular power of Superman was brought to bear on songsharks last month in a radio series sponsored by Kelloggs and heard over the Mutual Broadcasting System. The series started December 3rd and lasted until December 20 [sic].

The story revolved around Poco, the little cook of Editor Perry White, who could speak only in rhyme. Poco, discovered on a snow-covered roof, dangerously ill with a raging fever, blurts out the story of his song escapades. He had fallen for an advertisement by a song publishing firm which promised great wealth to songwriters.

Poco was inveigled into taking a "course" from the song publishing firm, the fees of which consumed his salary. He borrowed money from his employer to pay other "incidental" fees. Finally, the songwriting firm informed him that his song would be published -- that famous bandleaders liked it and would plug it, and that he, Poco, was certain to be rich in a short time. It would, however, be necessary for him to put up part of the "original printing costs." Poco pawned his overcoat, and his near death resulted.

Certain that Poco had been duped by racketeers, and since Clark Kent (Superman) had left town on a story, Jimmy Olsen, Superman's associate, decided to investigate. He took a copy of Poco's song to the publishing firm and was certain of his suspicions when the firm's manager failed to recognize it as Poco's, praised it highly, and decided that it could be published if Jim (and Beanie, who accompanied him) paid part of the "original" printing costs.

A private detective suggested that payment be made in marked bills. Jimmy prepared to do this, but Beanie inadvertently gave the game away when he stood near an open microphone in the publishers' studio and was overheard by the manager.

The lights in the studio were switched out, Jimmy and Beanie tapped on the heads, and fire set to all the records in the office. Trapped in the fire, Jimmy and Beanie were spectacularly rescued in true Superman fashion.

Superman, hearing the entire story, retrieved a letter from Poco written by the publishing firm and the signature was traced to Harry O'Dea a clever racketeer, recently paroled. O'Dea had switched from songsharking to another racket after the fire, but Superman was on his trail, and eventually, "with the lives of both Jimmy Olsen and the private detective hanging in the balance, Superman captures O'Dea and puts the most cunning of all racketeers back behind prison bars."

The Songwriter's Review salutes Superman, Kelloggs, and everyone concerned with this series of broadcasts for their fine appreciation of a most opportune subject. Recognition of the news value of this story means further education for songwriters, and education means the end of all songsharks.

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Mr. District Attorney

Mr. District Attorney was a long-running daily radio program, featuring D.A. Paul Garrett as the titled crimebuster (the character was based on Manhattan D.A. (and future Republican presidential nominee) Thomas E. Dewey). The show debuted in 1939 as a 15-minute serial, soon expanded to a full hour-hour, and with a weekly television version added in 1951. Four different actors, most notably Jay Jostyn and David Brian, portrayed Garrett between the two incarnations. The radio version lasted until 1953; the TV edition until '55. In a passing reference, the May 1948 issue of Songwriter's Review mentioned a Mr. District Attorney sequence in which the perp was a song-poem tunesmith.

The "District Attorney" [sic] show over NBC recently went to town on melody writers for-a-price, by dramatizing a story in which such a melody writer committed the crime. While songwriting was just a means of background for the story, it still showed that the spotlight must be turned on such practices. Some time ago the "Superman" program dedicated a series of broadcasts to the same subject.

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Green Hornet

One of the more venerable franchises in the history of American pop culture has been the bemasked crimefighter Green Hornet. The Hornet first buzzed to life in 1936, as a radio adventure series on George W. Trendle's WXYZ in Detroit, and remained on the air until 1952. (See "The Miser of Motown," an article by Jack French that exposes Trendle's song-poem-like scheme for tricking creative personnel into working for his station for free.)

Like Batman, Green Hornet was the alter ego of a millionaire playboy -- in this case one Britt Reid, publisher of The Daily Sentinel -- and a mortal. (In the annals of fiction, Reid was also the grand-nephew of John Reid, aka The Lone Ranger.) Despite having no superpowers, Green Hornet and Batman eschewed the use of guns. They would both later make the jump to TV practically at one another's side. In 1966, flush with the instant success of Batman, producer William Dozier launched The Green Hornet as a companion series. But despite the presence of Bruce Lee as star Van Williams' sidekicking sidekick Kato, it failed to catch on, and lasted only one season. (Ironically, it was Batman that had failed on radio, in a 1945 tryout.)

A self-contained half-hour episode of the radio version, airing October 29, 1948, involved song-poem music. Titled "Song Racket" (although some sources have it as "Words And Music"), the episode is about a broken-down vocal trio who have migrated into song sharking. Since their individual names are Joe, Jack and Jim, the men call their firm Three Jays. Waldo Fielding, a young man from the hicktown of Simmons Corners, is enticed by the Three Jays' slogan to "Get Out of that Rut -- Write a Song!" Their encouraging response to his submission (which, alas, we never learn the name of nor hear any lines from, the show's writers doubtlessly wishing to save themselves the effort) makes him ecstatic. Dripping with anticipation, he begins selling off possessions to raise the $50 fee. "You just wait, Ma," he says to his mother, "I'll be rich one of these days. I'm gonna start on another song-poem right away!"

Meanwhile, back at the Three Jays' office, the composing Jay explains that since he "can't think of 150 new tunes every day," he can skimp by banging out just a few melodies, which they can send to scattered locations around the country. Since the lyricists will never get together to compare "notes," the only way the the plan could backfire is if one of the songs became a hit -- a far-fetched possibility, since "the stuff never amounts to anything, so nobody'll ever hear it."

Desperate from two days of starvation (as the $50 he sent in apparently left him penniless, as well as possessionless), Waldo travels to the Three Jays' office to inquire about sales of his song, but the Jays give him the cold shoulder. "We sent you 50 copies of the song. Why don't you go out on the street corner and try to peddle 'em?" Half-crazed (and perhaps not in his right mind to begin with), he accepts their facetious challenge. This, though, proves to be Waldo's downfall, as he is arrested by Officer Doyle for peddling music on the street without a license. In a thick Irish brogue, Doyle scolds, "You can't get away with this sort of thing." The young lyricist passes out right there on the street.

Ed Lowry, star reporter for the Sentinel, happens by just in time to see Waldo lying unconscious. Doyle apprises him of the situation, and the newshound perks up. "This looks like human interest stuff," he astutely assays. As it turns out, Lowry had already been digging up dirt on the Three Jays. He grabs a copy of Waldo's song, before heading back to the office to pitch his story to Reid.

After mulling it over, Sentinel publisher Britt Reid finally takes an interest in Lowry's story -- or, at least, in its subject. "Those three crooks have thousands of people all over the country sending money to them -- money that won't bring a thing except false encouragement and heartbreak," he rants. To this Reid's "faithful valet" (pronounced here "valett") Kato can only add a mumbled, "Yes, sir." But rather than running Lowry's story as is, Reid gives the Better Business Bureau a quarter-page ad to expose the Three Jays. The ad includes a reproduction of one of their songs, music included -- "a typical song copyrighted and published by Joe, Jack and Jim, to show the stuff they call good."

Reading his own paper, Reid recognizes the music in the ad as the same used for Waldo's song, and decides to take real action. After changing into his Green Hornet guise, he and Kato speed out in their "sleek, black car" Black Beauty to the Three Jays' office. Once there they encounter the night watchman, who they knock out with a gas. "That'll hose you for an hour. If I need more time, I'll use more gas," Green Hornet informs the unconscious guard.

Letting himself into the Three Jays' office, the Hornet uses the crooks' own phone to trick them into returning there, by making a prank call informing them of possible coverage in a "national picture magazine." Seeing the passed-out guard on their way into the building, the Jays mistakenly believe he's been killed. Nonetheless they continue upstairs, where they encounter a pistol-brandishing Green Hornet. He quickly subdues them, then gives them a good talking-to. With the Jays still believing he'd shot the guard and thus was capable of anything, The Hornet reasons with them, "Suppose [one of your songs] becomes a hit. What do you suppose the authors of these other songs with the same music would do? They'd sue, wouldn't they? You'd be dragged through every court in the country. Your whole racketeering business would be laid out in the open. Can you stand having a sensational song hit?" "I ... I don't know," answers one of the Jays. Green Hornet snaps back, "You know you can't."

The Three Jays make a final, feeble attempt to blame their musical multiplicity on a printer's error, but Green Hornet hears none of it. As punishment, he forces them to write out reimbursement checks to all their customers. "Now make out checks until you get writer's cramp. And make sure they clear the bank!" He stamps his insignia on the checks and, with a reminder that "Green Hornet can make one of your songs a hit at any time," he has the crooks seal and mail them. The story ends with the excited cry of a Sentinel newsboy hawking the morning edition: "Extra! Extra! Green Hornet mails check!"

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Steve Roper

In a 13-week sequence running from July 11 to October 3, 1954, the daily adventure comic strip Steve Roper exposed the scandalous operations of the song-poem industry. The Daddy-O Duckcut sequence captured the behind-the-scenes workings of the industry more accurately than might be expected for a newspaper strip, indicating some research by Roper writer John Saunders. He did add, of course, some exaggerations for dramatic effect.

Steve Roper has traveled a curved path over its long history. Its roots trace back to the 1936 debut of the ethnic humor strip Big Chief Wahoo, and, now named Steve Roper & Mike Nomad, the strip remains active to this day. Still written by John Saunders, it is one of the few remaining dramatic continuity newspaper strips. Following is a plot synopsis of the Daddy-O Duckcut sequence.

Rock-jawed Steve Roper is an investigative reporter and photographer for the muckraking monthly magazine Proof. Fresh from the successful completion of his story exposing the "gift from the dead" swindle, Roper is resting up between assignments. His publisher, Major McCoy, learns that avuncular Ralph Ledger, trusted long-time Proof accountant, has been caught embezzling over $3000 of Proof funds. Confronted with the allegation, Ledger explains that he took the money to support his sexy young wife Grace's hobby of writing poetry. A certain Daddy-O Duckcut, pompadoured president of the Hi-Art Publishing and Recording Co., had told Grace that her poems have surefire hit potential, if only they were put to music. However, the fee for Hi-Art's melody-setting and recording of Grace's poems has grown so large that Ledger has had to resort to embezzlement to pay the tab. But he assures Major McCoy that his intent all along was to pay it back, plus interest, once the finished recordings start burning up the charts.

Sensing something fishy in Hi-Art's form letter touting Grace's poems, Roper smells a hot new assignment for himself. Toting a spy camera hidden inside a volume of Byron, he accompanies the Ledgers as they observe the recording session of her songs. Based on what he sees and the photos he shoots with the poetry-cam, he returns to his office and immediately writes the story, which will expose Duckcut's operation. But Ledger ferrets an advance copy of Roper's story out of the office to prove to his wife that Daddy-O Duckcut is not on the level. Upset at being deluded and at the money lost (although it was never theirs in the first place), she harangues her husband into confronting Duckcut. A scuffle ensues. Duckcut smashes Ledger over the head with a heavy, blunt instrument -- a device used to flatten out his cheap, warped recording blanks. Ledger is killed instantly.

Although his article is already completed, Roper returns to the Hi-Art studio to further entrap Duckcut. He discovers Ledger's body, but Duckcut has split the scene. A massive manhunt ensues. When Roper visits Mrs. Ledger the next day at her new job working for the Helping Hand Mission of the Christian Soldiers, Inc., he discovers Duckcut, in disguise, playing trumpet in the Helping Hand band. A scuffle ensues. Coming to Roper's aid, Captain Goodhart, director of the mission, plugs Daddy-O Duckcut with Duckcut's own pistol, killing him instantly. The coroner's inquest rules that Goodhart acted without criminal intent, and no charges are filed.

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Mood For Murder (aka The Lonesome Badger)

Mood For Murder, a 1956 hard-boiled novel by Frank Gruber, is the only instance of which we're aware of song-poem music cited in a work of fiction. The reference occurs early in the book, on page 8, and is only a passing mention at that, designed to help establish the situation and the down-at-the-heels ambiance. Mood For Murder, starring Otis Beagle as "a quite criminal investigator," was originally published in 1954 under the title The Lonesome Badger.


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The Danny Thomas Show

The December 19, 1960 episode of the long-running sitcom The Danny Thomas Show (originally known as Make Room For Daddy) saw Thomas, as nightclub entertainer Danny Williams, playing hero to a pair of songwriting nuns (this several years before the Singing Nun) who've been swindled by the Quick Sell Music Corp. song-poem racket.

When Danny learns of the sisters's plight, he and his agent-cum-best friend Charlie Halper (played by Sid Melton) pay a visit to Quick Sell's office to try to win back the nuns's $75 outlay. Disguising themselves as Italian immigrant would-be songwriters, Danny and Charlie demonstrate a new song they've written, the intentionally ludicrous "A Piece-A Pizza Cha Cha Cha", for the song sharks. The sharks (played by Joe Flynn and Chick Chandler) react as if the song is the second coming of "That's Amore", which sets the stage for the goombahs to expose them as frauds. When Danny and Charlie hint at an association with mobster Big Mike Morelli, the Quick Sell sharks cave, and refund the dough.

In the wrap-up scene, the triumphant nuns stage a Christmas pageant, which climaxes with Danny grotesquely oversinging ("... and dee-liver us from eee-villl") "The Lord's Prayer".

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The Flintstones

The September 15, 1961 episode of Hanna-Barbera's animated series The Flintstones saw Fred and Barney succumbing to the song shark game, only to be set straight by the likes of Hoagy Carmichael.

Barney tells Fred that he's written a song lyric based on "something you always say." Liking the idea more than the results ("You make better sounds when you snore"), Fred drags Barney down to the Bedrock Public Library, where they devour a book entitled There's Loot In Lyrics. Fred focuses on the book's list of the subject matter of popular lyrics, scientifically categorized by the proportion of the musical audience that likes songs of that topic (i.e., people who like happy love songs, 40%; sad love songs, 50%; songs about mother, 4%; teenagers who like songs with nonsense lyrics, 46%). Anticipating conceptual composer Dave Soldier, Fred decides to cast a wide net by putting them all into the song they're about to write.

Completing their masterpiece -- which has no discernible title, and is indeed the mess that you'd imagine it to be -- they bring it to Scat Von Roctoven, whose business is "music written to your lyrics." Von Roctoven whips up a melody, and provides them with a manuscript -- in stone tablet form, of course -- of it. This they in turn bring to the offices of Rockwell Music Publishers, a legit firm that numbers the great Hoagy Carmichael among its roster of staff composers. In fact, the boys run into Carmichael in Rockwell's waiting room, where Fred introduces himself by saying to him, "Skin me." The boys, who've arrived without an appointment, push their way into Rockwell's inner sanctum ahead of Carmichael. Nonetheless, the composer volunteers to play piano accompaniment behind Fred's presentation of their amalgamated song. When Von Roctoven's melody turns out to be a variation on Carmichael's "Stardust," Rockwell breaks the manuscript over Fred's head, and throws the boys out of his office. He then picks up a copy of Barney's original lyric (the one Fred had rejected), which in their hasty exit the boys had left behind. Liking its title of "Yabba Dabba Dabba Dabba Doo" (perhaps with the 46% of teenagers who like songs with nonsense lyrics in mind), he assigns Carmichael to come up with a tune for it. (In an uncomfortable bit of verisimilitude, Rockwell reminds the protesting composer that it's been years since he wrote his last hit).

With the whole Flintstones gang seated front and center, Hoagy debuts the new Carmichael-Rubble collaboration in his nightclub act. It's a fully-orchestrated jump number, and Barney comes up to guest on a four-handed piano solo. Smelling a hit, Fred starts counting Barney's royalty loot, but wet-blanket Carmichael reminds them that only one song in 5,000 ever becomes a hit.

"Yabba Dabba Dabba Dabba Doo" (.zip version) was actually composed by Hoagy Carmichael especially for the show. Following is the box blurb of the Columbia House Collector's Edition VHS release of The Flintstones' song-poem episode.

The Hit Songwriters
Fred and Barney try their hand at song writing. This was the second season premier episode in which Hoagy Carmichael guest stars, both in caricature and in voice. On January 24, 1961, Mel Blanc was in a car accident that literally broke every bone in his body. Daws Butler (Yogi Bear) assumed the role of Barney Rubble while Blanc was recuperating [a substitution that lasted five episodes in all]. Jean VanderPyl (Wilma) also plays the librarian and the girl teen. John Stephenson is "Scat" Von Roctoven and Rollin Rockwell.

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The Monkees

The November 28, 1966 episode of The Monkees concerned Michael Nesmith's experience with song shark Bernie Class (played by veteran character actor Phil Leeds), of the High Class Music Publishing Company. His fellow Monkees, smelling trouble where their starry-eyed and woolly-capped friend was unable to, come to Mike's rescue by devising a successful plan to swindle the swindler, and wind up doubling Mike's investment in the process.

The song Mike submitted to High Class was "Gonna Buy Me A Dog," a novelty number that appears on the group's debut LP. According to Bobby Hart, co-writer of the song along with the late Tommy Boyce, "Gonna Buy Me A Dog" was originally recorded by a singer called The Gamma Goochee (who himself had nearly been selected for Monkees membership), for use as the B-side of his insane stomper "(You Got) The Gamma Goochee" (Colpix 786). Shortly thereafter Boyce and Hart redid "Gonna Buy Me A Dog" with The Monkees. Although the song can easily be construed as having been specifically written to simulate Mike's amateur submission, it in fact pre-existed the script for The Monkees' song-poem episode.

In fact, further research has identified what appears to have been an even earlier use of "Gonna Buy Me A Dog." The January 7, 1966 episode of the brief-lived domestic sitcom The Farmer's Daughter centered on a teenage rock quartet, Moe Hill & The Mountains, that included a pre-Monkees "David" Jones on guitar (and wearing the same goofy stableboy cap he'd later wear in The Monkees). With the lead singer's gorgeous stepmom manning the controls, the band cuts a demo version of the song, with the co-lead singers covering their heads with plastic water buckets to cheaply simulate an echo chamber. Moe Hill's "Gonna Buy Me A Dog" rocks a lot harder than either The Monkees' or Gamma Goochee's takes on the song, and although it was rejected in the TV show, the music world at large would have been better off had Moe Hill & The Mountains' version received an actual release. The episode is actually a very funny satire on the rock music business, and includes one of the band members adorning a Mohawk hairdo to accompany one of their early name incarnations.

Back to the Monkees, "Gonna Buy Me A Dog" is the only instance any of us here can remember of the boys referring to one of their own songs by title. An extensive synopsis of the episode's storyline, plus further notes of interest about it, is available at The Monkees Film & TV Vault. Following is the box blurb of the Columbia House Collector's Edition VHS release of The Monkees' song-poem episode.

I've Got A Little Song Here
Mike gets swindled out of $99.95 by an unscrupulous music publisher who claims that he will place Nesmith's song with top star Joannie Jans. Music includes "Gonna Buy Me A Dog" and "Mary, Mary." Trivia note: Although I've Got A Little Song Here centers around Mike's trials and tribulations with getting one of his songs published, the tune used an an example in this show ("Gonna Buy Me A Dog") was actually written by professional composers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. However, Nesmith is also represented in this program by one of his most successful songs, "Mary, Mary." In 1988 it became a Hot 100 crossover hit for rap artists Run DMC.

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The Doris Day Show

The late 1960s/early '70s sitcom The Doris Day Show is known for the many shifts in occupation, locale and supporting cast it endured in its near-constant search for an audience over its five-season run. The premise at the time of the show's debut in the fall of 1968 had Doris Martin a widow and mother of two young sons living on her father's farm near San Francisco. In the fifth episode of the series (Oct. 29, 1968), farmhand LeRoy Simpson (played by James Hampton, fresh from his role as F Troop's inept bugler Dobbs) falls victim to a song-poem scheme. As usual, the hero exposes the song sharks for what they are by concocting a song so awful that only a fraudster could claim to love it.

From a contemporary newspaper listing:

The Songwriter
Doris deliberately writes an awful song, to show LeRoy he is the victim of a song publishing racket, but he won't believe her. LeRoy is sure his song, "There Are Weeds In The Garden Of My Heart", will make a fortune, and pities Doris for her effort, "Your Love Is Like Butter Turned Rancid".

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All In The Family

In the October 9, 1971 episode of this groundbreaking sitcom, Edith and Gloria are excited by an offer from the When You Wish Upon A Star Song Company to set Edith's lyric (the word alone excites her) "Everyone Is Someone If You Love Them" to music, for a fee of $30. Savvily recognizing a scam when he sees one, Archie prefers to spend the money instead on a fancypants home security system, consisting of a tape loop of barking, growling dogs and a World War II-vintage German luger.

In the midst of this thoughtful family discussion, the sanctity of the Bunker's home is invaded by a couple of "jigaboo" (their words, not Archie's) burglars -- played by pre-Blazing Saddles Cleavon Little and pre-Sanford And Son Demond Wilson, the latter sporting a 2"-tall Afro -- on the lam from the cops. After effectively deflating the sociological theories on ghetto life of both the bigot Bunker and the leftist Stivic, the prowlers manage to get away (only to be captured off-screen in the wrap-up). The punchline of the episode finds Meathead and his friend Lionel Jefferson rigging the Bunker's home security system to play a tape of Edith fracturing her own song, figuring those sounds to be scarier than those of a pair of snarling Dobermans. Following is the box blurb of the Columbia House Collector's Edition VHS release of All In The Family's song-poem episode.

Edith Writes A Song
Edith and Archie disagree over how they should use the "fun money" they've saved over the years. Edith wants to use it to set her love poem to music -- Archie feels they should invest in a gun. A couple of crooks who break into the Bunker home help them decide.

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America 2-Night

Cleverly hiding his avaricious intent behind a billing as the program's resident "consumer advocate," sleazy salesman Lou Moffat (played by character actor Lou Felder) appeared on the April 25, 1978 episode of this talk show parody to promote the Hollywood Academy of Hits, a song-poem company that uses Happy Kyne's Mirthmakers as its house band. Moffat wraps his spiel with the pitch, "Musicians are standing by waiting for lyrics at this moment." As the address and phone number crawl across the screen, the fine print informs us that HAH is "a division of Gimbleco Enterprises West," a company owned by the show's unctuous host Barth Gimble.

America 2Night was the successor to Fernwood 2Night, a somewhat purer version of the original concept of an underfunded, Nowheresville talk show overseen by a resentful refugee from a big-market city. Brilliantly hosted by Martin Mull, the two versions together formed as astute a satire of mid-to-late 1970s American culture as has yet been produced, an especially remarkable achievement given that its aim was at a still-moving target.

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Melvin And Howard

In Jonathan Demme's 1980 film Melvin And Howard, good-natured schmoe Melvin Dummar (played by Paul LeMat) picks up mangy hitchhiker Howard Hughes (Jason Robards) for an overnight drive through the Nevada desert. The outgoing Dummar whiles away the time attempting to loosen up the crusty, withdrawn stranger, who never lets on that he is one of the world's wealthiest men. Dummar finally breaks through by exhorting the old man to help him sing "Santa's Souped-Up Sleigh," a song he'd written and had recorded by a "send us your lyrics" company. The movie was based on a real-life incident in which, after Hughes' death, Dummar produced a will in which Hughes bequeathed a large portion of his fortune to him. The movie version of "Santa's Souped-Up Sleigh" was adapted from a real-life song of the same title, written by the actual Melvin Dummar.

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Shannon's Deal

The most thorough, accurate and insightful pop culture examination of the song-poem business to date occurred in the debut episode of John Sayles' short-lived drama series Shannon's Deal, which aired April 16, 1990. Starring Jamey Sheridan as a down-on-his-luck Philadelphia lawyer, the "Words To Music" episode guest-starred David Crosby as a redneck hack composer who steals an amateur song submission and turns it into a country-western smash, Tanya Tucker as the once-happening singer whose recording of the new song launches her comeback, and Iggy Pop as the song-poem studio singer.

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The People's Court

The long-running quasi-reality courtroom drama The People's Court dealt with song-poem music in a January 19, 1998 segment entitled "The Hip-Hop That Didn't Pop." In a case presided over by "Judge" Ed Koch, a song lyricist named Mr. Wiener confronted a song-poem entrepreneur who he accused of ripping him off. Judge Koch decided in favor of Mr. Wiener, awarding him $250.

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Thanks for their assistance in the preparation of this page to Byron Coley, Paul DiFilippo, Michelle Epiloto, Jad Fair, Bobby Hart, Patty MacDougall, Meredith Marciano, Bill Perks, Kelly Reichardt, Gary D. Russell, Wayne Shirley, Lou Smith and Brenda Weaver.


All design and uncredited content of this website ©2004 Phil Milstein