Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: No sooner did I finish reading about some lengthy song titles in one of your recent columns, when that very night on American Idol, Steven Tyler rattled off a dandy — that is if it really is a legit title.

It may have been a bunch of made-up nonsense, of the frim fram, ossenfay, chifafra variety.

Though I don't recall any of his gibberish, it came up when they were talking about Nat King Cole recordings.

Was it hogwash or the real deal?
—Maurice Courtney, Racine, Wisc.

DEAR MAURICE: I'd say it is a little of each.

Tyler's glowing critique, following Casey Abrams' revival of Nat King Cole's “Nature Boy,” included this comment:

“Casey, you are an artist in the truest sense of the word. You chose a song by Nat King Cole, who once sang kemo-kimo stare-o-spare, ma-hi-ma-ho, ma-rump-sticka-pumpernickle, soup-bang, nip-cat, polly-mitcha-cameo.”

That Aerosmith's front man even knew this obscure tune — not having been a hit by anyone — is surprising, but his ability to flawlessly cite its main verse is downright amazing.

For the record, the actual title is “Kemo Kimo (The Magic Song).”

Apparently his mother played Nat King Cole often and Steven grew up listening to him. He never forgot those songs he and mom once enjoyed.

Two weekes later, Casey was unfortunately sent packing. Not to worry, with Casey's many talents his future success is a certainty.

The writers of “Kemo Kimo,” Moe Jaffe and Dwight B. Latham, were no strangers to clever and zany lyrics. Their most famous tune is the novelty “I'm My Own Grandpa,” a Top 5 for Lonzo & Oscar in 1948.

“Kemo Kimo” was recorded and first came out in 1947, the year before Steven's birth. It is the lead track on a three-disc 78 rpm album, “King Cole for Kids (Songs for Children By the King Cole Trio)” (Capitol DC-89). In 1951, Capitol added two more tracks and reissued the kids collection as an eight-track, 10-inch LP (H-3070).

“King Cole for Kids” was the second Capitol 78 album for Cole, but not until his third (“Penthouse Serenade”) did they begin including “Nat” in his cover credits.

Listen to KEMO KIMO now

DEAR JERRY: Like most teenagers in the 1960s, I was in tune with the Top 40. But unlike my R&R peers, I also listened regularly to a weekly radio program called Showtime, that featured soundtrack selections. I don't recall the host, but it ran on a San Francisco station, though it might have been syndicated.

They once played a piece by a male-led ensemble, about clowns. It may be titled something like “Everyone Loves a Clown” (not the Gary Lewis and the Playboys hit), or “A Million People Love a Clown.”

Whether it's from a “Clown” movie or not, I don't know. My research has turned up nothing. Can you help?
—Lee Andersson, Daly City, Calif.

DEAR LEE: Fortunately neither of us is beset by coulrophobia, or we'd be forced to scrap this little adventure.

I suspect any program called Showtime featured as many or more original cast performances than silver screen soundtrack tunes. That explains why you could not find “Mr. Clown” among soundtracks. Rather, it is from a 1968 Broadway show titled “Maggie Flynn.”

Real-life husband and wife, Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones, play the fictional Irish couple, Phineas and Maggie Flynn, as they face the challenge to survive in mid-19th century New York.

Cassidy is the lead voice on “Mr. Clown,” but is joined by lovely Maggie (“picture a map of Ireland on a freckled face” and “a leprechaun dressed up in Irish lace”), plus a childrens' chorus.

Now that you know what you're looking for, “Maggie Flynn (The Original Broadway Cast Recording)” (RCA LSOD-2009) can usually be found online in either the LP or CD format. Both have the exact same selections.

IZ ZAT SO? By Broadway standards, the 82 performances of “Maggie Flynn” (October 23, 1968 - January 5, 1969) is barely a blip on the Great White Way radar. Longevity champ “The Phantom of the Opera” is closing in on 9,700 (January 26, 1988 - present)!

Maggie's music, however, lives on. The Original Cast Recording often turns up on those All-Time Best of Broadway lists.

Moreover, “Maggie Flynn” has taken up permanent residence among my Top 10 cast albums.

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