Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Every four years, when politics dominate the news, my mind flashes back to the 1970s and a very popular song about a monkey who managed to become President.

It was a brilliant satire that ended with the realization that we are probably better off with a monkey in office than having human politicians making monkeys out of everyone.

Not knowing the singer, label, year, or title makes this impossible to locate, so can you help me. Perhaps it is even on a CD.
—Lori Silverman, Wauwatosa, Wisc.

DEAR LORI: It is difficult to find a recording with so little to go on, so I will lend a hand.

Written and recorded by Tom T. Hall, “The Monkey That Became President” (Mercury 73297) became a Top 15 C&W hit in the summer of 1972, just months before the real election pitting Richard Nixon (R) against George McGovern (D).

“The Monkey That Became President” is easy to get on CD. It is one of 50 tracks on the boxed two-disc set, “Tom T. Hall: Storyteller, Poet, Philosopher” (Mercury 731452699220).

Deserving of all those labels, Hall is among the best ever at blending a short story with music, then delivering it with emotion and conviction.

“The Monkey That Became President” scenario turns out to be only a dream, but even in dreams Nixon could not have imagined the landslide of November '72.

His thrashing of McGovern by over 18-million popular votes stands as the largest victory margin ever in a Presidential Election.

DEAR JERRY: When I hear something about more recent trios with names like the Three Tenors, or Three Irish Tenors, etc., I am reminded of an much earlier threesome.

Do you recall an instrumental trio in the '60s with a name like the Three Trombones, or perhaps the Trombone Trio?

Long ago, one of my favorite Jazz cassettes contained an album by these guys.
—Shirl Newport, Providence, R.I.

DEAR SHIRL: You almost have the name right. It is Trombone By Three, and they are J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding, and Bennie Green.

The collection of this trio's music on your '60s cassette is likely taken from one or more of four Prestige albums, issued in the '50s: (1952) “Modern Jazz Trombones” (Prestige 109); (1952) “Modern Jazz Trombones” (Prestige 123); (1956) “Trombone By Three” (Prestige 7023); and (1958) “Trombone By Three” (Prestige 4).

For the record, not every track on these LPs features all three trombonists. Some tunes are by Johnson and Winding, others by Johnson and Green, and a few by Green solo.

Regardless, there is an impressive group of renowned sidemen to complement the trombone section: Sonny Rollins (tenor sax); Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax); Art Blakey (drums); Max Roach (drums); Kenny Dorham (trumpet); Tommy Potter (bass); and George Wallington (piano).

IZ ZAT SO? Since Tom T. Hall composed over 700 songs, it is a challenge to select just a few favorite verses.

However, some splendid Hallisms do immediately come to mind:

“If I got one wish, I hope it rains at my funeral. For once, I'd like to be the only one dry” (from “I Hope It Rains at My Funeral”).

“Old dogs care about you, even when you make mistakes” (from “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine”).

“The jailer had a wife and let me tell you she was awful. But after seven days she was lookin' much better, so I asked her if she'd like to run away” (from “A Week in a Country Jail”).

“You can't have a full house, the queen has been dealt to a friend. But the good thing about life is they shuffle and they deal life again” (from “Deal”).

“It's America in motion, it's a portrait of the times. Blue light special heroes in a land where freedom shines. There's yuppies, puppies, guppies, and a sale on basketballs, down at the mall” (from “Down at the Mall).

“We never call 'em beer joints, dad. Night clubs are the places where I work. You meet a lot of people there, but there ain't no chance of gettin' hurt” (from “Homecoming”).

“There were avenues of glory and some deep despair, that put subtle shades of silver in my hair” (from “I'm Forty Now”).

Then there is final line in Hall's most successful composition ever, “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” the multi-million-seller by Jeannie C. Riley:

“This is just a little Peyton Place and you're all Harper Valley hypocrites.”

Like the box says, “Tom T. Hall: Storyteller, Poet, Philosopher.”

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