Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I know you've written about “Manhattan” before, but there is one peculiar line in the song that I have never seen explained. My copy is by Dinah Washington, but I imagine other recordings of “Manhattan” are the same.

In the part about going to Yonkers, Dinah sings about how they both will starve in either Childs or Chiles.

Is this an area or community in Yonkers?

New Yorkers no doubt understand the reference, but can you enlighten the rest of us about this place where couples go when starvation is their goal?
—Doreen Stanford, Indianapolis

DEAR DOREEN: For those who don't have the tune handy, here is the entire verse in question:

“We'll go to Yonkers
Where true love conquers
In the wilds
And starve together, dear
In Childs”

Richard and Lorenz may have chosen Childs' Restaurant simply because it rhymes with wilds, but the humorous implication refers to their reputation at the time for serving small portions.

Fortunately for the hungry twosome flitting about the Boroughs, inexpensive nutrients awaited them at Coney Island, as told in the next verse:

“We'll go to Coney
And eat baloney
On a roll”

“Manhattan” is loaded with other references known well by locals, among them: The Bronx; Staten Island; the (Central Park) Zoo; Delancey Street; the subway; Mott Street; pushcarts; Central Park; and “My Fair Lady” (Broadway show).

And those are just the ones included in Dinah Washington's 1960 rendition.

As originally written, “Manhattan” contains about twice as many verses, and mentions many more familiar places and things: Niagara (Falls); Greenwich; Bowling Green (Park); Brighton (Beach); Jamaica Bay; Canarsie's Lake; “Abie's Irish Rose” (Broadway show); Fifth Avenue; Bronx Park Express; Flatbush; and Inspiration Point.

It seems as though every recording of “Manhattan” includes some, but not all, of the original lyrics. At least I have not heard one. However, by listening to three different records, by Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, and Dinah Washington, I accounted for all of the original lyrics.

Written in 1925 for the Broadway comedy of the same name, “Manhattan” is the song that paved the road ahead for Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

When Hart died in 1943, the team had 28 stage shows, some later reborn in Hollywood for the silver screen (“Pal Joey”; “Babes in Arms”; “On Your Toes”; etc.), and over 500 songs to their credit.

Among their memorable milepost standards are: “Dancing on the Ceiling”; “My Romance”; “My Funny Valentine”; “Where Or When”; “The Lady Is a Tramp”; “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”; “It's Easy to Remember”; “Blue Moon”; “I Could Write a Book”; and “You Took Advantage of Me.” In 1943, Richard and his future partner, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, wrote their first musical, the landmark “Oklahoma.”

Using this blockbuster as a template of sorts, Rodgers & Hammerstein churned out one smash hit Broadway show, and inevitable film, after another: “Carousel”; “South Pacific”; “The King and I”; “The Sound of Music”; etc.

By 1960, Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) were the all-time No. 1 musical theater collaboration, and they still are.

DEAR JERRY: There is a piano instrumental the stations in Phoenix played in the 1950s, where the music is occasionally interrupted by a man asking for a match.

Can you tell me anything about this recording?
—Marla Gregory, Palm Desert, Calif.

DEAR MARLA: “Got a Match?” came out first in mid-1958 by the Daddy-O's (Cabot 122). Since a piano is prominent in this version, it is probably the one you recall.

ABC-Paramount immediately issued a cover, by Frank Gallup with Don Costa's Orchestra & Chorus (45-9931). With Costa's touch, this track is more orchestrated than the original. It features a harpsichord instead of a piano, and includes lots of “la-la-las” from the chorus, not found on the Cabot single.

Of the two, the original sold a bit better, eventually charting at No. 39. The Gallup disc peaked at No. 57.

The B-side of Frank Gallup's single, “I Beg Your Pardon!,” is practically a carbon copy of “Got a Match?” Instead of asking “Hey there, got a match,” the same voice, in the same way, says “I beg your pardon.”

IZ ZAT SO? Frank Gallop, shown as Frank Gallup on “Got a Match?,” achieved greater success with a comical parody of Lorne Greene's No. 1 hit, the 1964 cowboy gunfighter tale of “Ringo.”

Slightly over a year later, Gallop galloped into the Top 40 with “The Ballad of Irving (The 142nd Fastest Gun in the West).”

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