March 23, 2014

78 RPMs 1: Kay Kyser ~ The Old Lamp-Lighter


The Old Lamp-Lighter
Kay Kyser  and his Orchestra
Michael Douglas, vocal
with The Campus Kids chorus



The Old Lamp-Lighter is a pop song written by Nat Simon with lyrics by Charles Tobias. The song was published in 1946. Perhaps it is because I've been writing about all those times and worlds in my life that are long gone that the song has been running around in my mind for quite a while. So I photographed my recording and started this new series about 78s.

Several versions of Lamp-Ligher made the best-seller charts in 1946-1947. It was a top 10 hit for Sammy Kaye, Kay Kyser and Hal Derwin. I was a little kid when it came out and I loved the song (lyrics & links to music below). The most popular version was by Sammy Kaye but it was too tinkly and bouncey for me and the vocal phrasing of the Derwin cut turned me off (I know, even as a kid I was finicky, . . . humm, not much has changed). My favorite rendition was by Kay Kyser with vocal by Michael Douglas (that's right, the Mike Douglas TV guy). Douglas had a clear, tenor voice that quietly and nostalgically depicts the beauty of a time long gone (50 years?). I think it was the timbre of his voice, the exquisite harmonies of the Choral background with the muted trombone and quiet orchestra that held me in rapture. Also, it was one of the songs my mom sang to me to put me to sleep at night.

Why did a child love a nostalgic song about a vanished way of life at the turn of the century (1900)? Who knows? Maybe I was an old soul in a kid's body. Whatever, it appears I loved old things even when I was a young boy (Harold & Maude?). It was to be one of my dominant traits for the rest of my life.

Looking back at the song almost 70 years after it was popular is very bizzare on many levels from this point in time. The song is about a lost era not quite 50 years previous to it. The subject of the tune (the lamplighter) is thinking of a long ago time in HIS life. In 1946, the song referred to a period I had no knowledge of other than what my mom had read to me from history books, I had heard on the radio or had seen in movies. Now THAT time period of the song, 1946, is a vanished world and I look back at it with nostalgia mixed with astonishment and gratitude that I had lived it and finally, after seventy years, truly appreciate the message of Lamp-Ligher. WOW! What a circle!






The Kyser/Douglas recording was released by Columbia Records as catalog number 37095. It first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on November 22, 1946, and lasted 11 weeks on the chart, peaking at number three. 

It was a major country-pop hit for The Browns in 1960, released as a single in March of that year. It went on to become a major top-ten hit on the US pop singles chart, peaking at number five, and country chart.  I've put a link to it on YouTube below.

Teresa Brewer did a version that was released on the 1963 album, "Moments to Remember". And it was performed under the name Luktar-Gvendur, by Icelandic singer, Björk (Björk Guðmundsdóttir), on the album Gling-Gló, in 1990, a century after the time depicted. Interesting. Björk teams up with a jazz trio, Guðmundur Ingólfsson, piano, Guðmundur Steingrímsson, drums and Þórður Högnason on bass





The Old Lamp-Lighter lyrics:

He made the night a little brighter
Wherever he would go
The old lamplighter
Of long, long ago
His snowy hair was so much whiter
Beneath the candle glow
The old lamplighter
Of long, long ago

You'd hear the patter of his feet
As he came toddling down the street
His smile would cheer a lonely heart you see
If there were sweethearts in the park
He'd pass a lamp and leave it dark
Remembering the days that used to be
For he recalled when things were new
He loved someone who loved him too
Who walks with him alone in memories

He made the night a little brighter
Wherever he would go
The old lamplighter
Of long, long ago
His snowy hair was so much whiter
Beneath the candle glow
The old lamplighter
Of long, long ago

Now if you look up in the sky
You'll understand the reason why
The little stars at night are all aglow
He turns them on when night is near
He turns them off when dawn is here
The little man we left so long ago
He made the night a little brighter
Wherever he would go
The old lamplighter of long, long ago



The Old Lamp-Lighter music video links:

Kay Kyser and His Orchestra
Sammy Kaye
Hal Derwin
The Browns
Kenny Baker
Teresa Brewer (1963)
Björk ~ Luktar-Gvendur (1990)

~ ~ ~

Perhaps I am still just a little kid at heart; I loved The Old Lamp-Lighter back when I was and I still do, because, after all . . . 

"He made the night a little brighter . . ."



Styrous® ~ Sunday, March 23, 2014

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