2007   OCTOBER 14   #287

Don Moreland

Today's post is sort of a follow-up to the Merigail Moreland page I posted a few weeks ago. Heard on a few of the tracks for that day was Merigail's father, Mr. Donovan Moreland. Today I've provided several tracks featuring Don Moreland, either alone or as part of a group, as well as a few other tracks heard on the same tapes as these tracks, recordings I believe that Mr. Moreland was likely involved in as well.

01. Don Moreland - Why (3:04)
02. Don Moreland - Pennies From Heaven (Joke Version) (Live) (1:55)
03. Don Moreland - Why (Live) (2:15)
04. Don Moreland - September Song (Live) (2:59)
05. Don Moreland and Herb - Songs of Tomorrow, Part One (5:05)
06. Don Moreland and Herb - Songs of Tomorrow, Part Two (3:43)
07. Don Moreland and Herb - Songs of Tomorrow, Part Three (5:53)
08. Rose Ramirez - Come Back (2:15)
09. Unknown Vocal Group - Backfire (Version One) (2:17)
10. Unknown Vocal Group - Backfire (Version Two) (2:19)
11. The Notables - The Notables (8:51)
Image: Acetate

For the background on how I came across these tapes, please see the previous post on Merigail Moreland. Incidentally, in my own blog, I have posted several other Merigail Moreland tracks, including tracks I left out of the 365 days posting, and several songs she recorded around 1980, recordings which I received in the mail the same week that Merigail's post appeared in this blog.

Don Moreland's recording have relatively little in common with his daughter's recordings, but their is a fairly wide variety here, from standard pre-rock-era pop music to an almost song-poem like segment, to parodies of singing commercials, meant to sell the talents of the singers.

I have learned from his family that Don Moreland worked in the last days of Vaudeville, and played guitar and sang in a group, The Three Oxford Boys, after being in the Navy, and that this group appears in the film "DuBarry Was a Lady" (1943). Around that same time, Don and his wife had a daughter, and eventually moved to southern Wisconsin. This was followed by a move to Rolling Meadows, IL, where he became involved in Chicago area radio, nightclubs and advertising. Everything heard here was recorded during the 1950's, after Don's career in Chicago began."

First up is a recording of a song called "Why?" There are a half-dozen tapes in the batch of reels from which most of the Merigail/Don material comes from, and this song recurs in nearly a dozen versions throughout those half-dozen tapes, sung by at least five or six different people. I'm certain that someone Don knew had written this song, and was trying to make a hit of it, in the Chicago area.

Next up are three recordings of a live appearance, presumably somewhere in the Chicago area. Sadly, the opening of the comic version of "Pennies From Heaven" is cut off, and for those who have never heard this version, it's about a soldier who is gone for over a year, and comes home to find his wife has had a newborn son, Bennie. So where did Bennie come from....? Two other nice performances follow, including another version of "Why?"

Next up is a curious item, divided up here (by me) into three parts. The audio quality is far from perfect, as this comes from the worst preserved of the tapes, and is an off-the-radio recording. Apparently a weekly nationwide radio program, "Songs of Tomorrow" is about as close as you can get to being a song-poem project, without actually being one. Amateur songwriters were invited to send in their compositions, and Don Moreland sang them, with the best song being picked by a panel of music industry insiders.

I find this recording quite fascinating, and it's even more enjoyable because the songs are, in most cases, so poorly written, and because the professional song that is included in the mix, "Stomp and Whistle", is, to these ears, no better than the amateur submissions. "Stomp and Whistle" was, however, a chart hit, although in it's rhythm and blues arrangement, it must have sounded quite different than Don's version.

All of the above recordings date from around (or shortly before) 1953. Next up are two records from 1958, both of them versions of a song called "Backfire". My guess is that Don is one of the voices heard here, and my well be the guitarist, as well (he is heard later on the same tape). However, this was not his project - elsewhere on the tapes is confirmation that an amateur songwriter (perhaps also the writer of "Why?"), whose full time job was as an electrician, wrote this catchy, peppy tune.

The second version of "Backfire" heard here is the song which was on one side of that first, unlabeled 78 acetate I found from this group of friends, the record where I first heard "Reputation". A half-dozen years earlier, I can imagine that this could have been a hit. The photo accompanying today's post is a scan of that original acetate, complete with my chicken-scratch handwritten note to myself about the possible name for its contents: "What Did I Dream - Combo".

I've included "Come Back" by Rose Ramirez, because it appears to involve the same group of folks as "Backfire", as well as a few others, and also because it's a really fun song and I love the energy in both the lead and backing vocals. There are about eight takes of this song on the tape, back to back, and then both the song and Rose Ramirez fade into the ether.

The big finale is "The Notables", a two-sided promotional record put out to promote Don Moreland's day job - Jingle Singer, a member of a mixed group of commercial singers. This is a whole lot of fun, and what I really love about it is that, rather than including actual products that they had "sung" for, they made up parody ads that sound real if you aren't listening closely, and had someone write realistic ads for the fake companies. Some of the real companies that had singing commercials featuring "The Notables" included Hamm's Beer, Schlitz Beer, Chesterfield Cigarettes, Commander Cigarettes, Ajax, Coke, Pepsi and many others.

Don Moreland died in 1996, of Congestive Heart Failure.

Many thanks to Don's son for providing me with some of his historical information, and to Don's niece (and Merigail's cousin), Janet Ray for providing me with a tape copy of "The Notables", as well as sending me the 1980 Merigail recordings, and especially for alerting me to the existence of Merigail's incomparable 1960 Cha Cha records 45 releases.

- Contributed by: Bob Purse


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