DEAR JERRY: I just read your recent “Scotch and Soda” column, and I thought you might enjoy a little more background on this recording.
Back then, I was working in The Baboquivari, a little coffee house in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Scotch and Soda,” which I learned from the first Kingston Trio album, went over really well with the club crowd.
The owner of The Baboquivari, Loy Clingman, also owned Viv Records, a small label here in Phoenix. His partner in the label was Lee Hazlewood. Loy said we should record “Scotch and Soda” so we cut it in his home studio, a converted one car carport.
I did the vocal and acoustic nylon string guitar (live to tape). Bass is played by the late, great Mike Condello, and vibes and “drums” are by Bob Morgan. The drum kit is nothing but a cardboard box, and Bob just used brushes against the cardboard. Hey, what did we know? It was fun at the time.
Loy then added some applause at the end so it would sound like a live recording; which it did, mainly because our methods, studio, equipment and experience were so unsophisticated.
Lee Hazlewood pitched the record to Liberty and they liked it, but said I was an unknown so they had one of their stable artists Johnnie Ray cut it. His version, as you know if you have heard it, is a dead copy of what we did.
Hazlewood mastered our record in L.A. and got a distribution deal from Era Records. I never did know for sure how ours sold, but I do know that it set a record at the time for being the longest running No. 1 hit in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area something like 14 or 16 weeks! KRLD even flew me to Dallas for a big stage show, which also featured Bobby Rydell.
Another young man, who opened the show with his then-current hit, “Touch Me,” went on to do quite well: Mr. Willie Nelson.
I believe our “Scotch and Soda” single beat the Kingston Trio's by more than just a few weeks. I don't think they put theirs out until after they got wind of our success. After all, their label (Capitol) had four years to release it and didn't make a move until we hit with ours.
Anyway, it was all great fun. And I still play and sing. Henry Thome, Phoenix, Ariz.
DEAR HENRY: I really appreciate your taking the time to share such an interesting piece of folk music history
wondrous details we likely would not have known otherwise.
Worth mentioning is that Johnnie Ray's “Scotch and Soda” did not chart at all, probably in part due to him being, at that time, a generation removed from the younger buyers of 45 rpms.
Our next trick this week might even challenge Martha Stewart, as we concoct a delectable blend of scotch and soda with one meat ball.
DEAR JERRY: My husband and I dined at an Italian restaurant, and the special was spaghetti with one meatball. Seeing that, I immediately started singing “you don't get no bread with one meatball.”
He looked at me like I was crazy, and said “They got bread!” Then he pointed to the couple in the booth next to us, who had bread. I started laughing, and told him it was just a song.
I told him when I was young, in the early '50s, my parents had it on a 78 rpm by Red Buttons, to which he said I would have to prove the existence of such a song to him.
I have since searched the internet for some proof, but to no avail. Now I am turning to you for help.
Janet Bartels, Waterford, Wisc.
DEAR JANET: I am surprised another Italian dinner isn't riding on the answer.
Your recollection of “One Meat Ball” is certainly correct, with the most memorable line being “The waiter roars it through the hall, we don't give bread with one meat ball!”
The only hit version is by the Andrews Sisters (Decca 18636), which they had in the Top 20 in early 1945.
In 1944, Hy Zaret best known as the one who wrote words to the “Unchained Melody” adapted an 1855 George Martin Lane poem titled “The Lay of the Lone Fish,” coming up with “One Meat Ball.”
Though he didn't chart with it, the song is actually associated more with Josh White than anyone else. “One Meat Ball” was White's signature song, though its popularity came not from record sales but from his live performances of it. Josh also sang it in “The Crimson Canary,” a 1945 jazz-oriented murder mystery film.
In both the poem and the song, a luckless vagabond can only afford one meat ball (or lone fish), encounters a ill-mannered waiter who bluntly announces his plight.
IZ ZAT SO? In 1955, Lee Hazlewood's took his first dee jay job at KCKY, in Coolidge, Arizona. Though about as tiny a radio market as could be found anywhere, his audience did consist of one very devoted listener.
Soon, the two became friends as the young man would often visit with Lee at the station. Both loved the then-new rock and roll sounds.
That meeting soon resulted in millions of records being sold, as Lee Hazlewood would produce hit after hit for his guitar-playing pal Duane Eddy.