The 24-Hour Burlesque Show

That title got your attention, I’ll bet. It’ll be explained a little bit later. But first, let’s talk about something a little fancier than burlesque. Let’s talk about aspiring to a fancy retro Hollywood life. You want to feel like a movie star. And the makeup and beauty product ads that claim their products will give you that silver-screen aura just aren’t enough.You know what you need?

A canary. Canaries make you feel glamorous and special. They – well, they sing. They sing and sing! And you can call their part of the room a “Hollywood corner.” That ad over on the left says so. In the 1940s, there was a canary fad going on -  because a canary will make you feel like the Bonita Granville of the neighborhood. Or something like that.

But if you want to feel like a real celebrity, you will need something more. You will need a critic. And that is why you should also get a parakeet.

Yes, it is true. A parakeet hanging out in a little cage giving you the side-eye and making tart remarks is going to make you feel like you’re living the high life in LA.

And it won’t be all movie premiers and champagne either. In Popular Science in October 1953 an article about parakeets claimed that “Any home with a parakeet is a 24-hour burlesque show.” Oh, really? And do the parakeets wear little outfits with tassels or do fan dances? Never mind, we don’t really want to know.

It’ll be just like having a gossip blogger right in your very own home. Because they are saucy, those little birds. That 1953 article quotes a parakeet who wandered into a housewife’s vacuum cleaner tank and started yelling (as who would not): “Get me out of here! Get me out of here!” So imagine what your parakeet would say about you, given its druthers*:

“Hey, what kind of horrible outfit is that?”
“Who was that cheesy guy I saw you with yesterday?”
“You have 25 Mars Bar wrappers hidden in your pocket, don’t you?”
“You’re in big trouble now!”
“You can’t act for toffee, why don’t you just pack it in! Pack it in! Pack it in!”

And if this isn’t enough fun – your parakeet will also make lots of droppings. Oh, and you have to give it lots of seeds and be nice to it while it talks smack about you to anyone who comes over.

Now, the record actually trains the parakeet to say things that are not quite so complicated, like “Hello, baby.” Hey – maybe you could use the parakeet instead of the Girl Getter Cards. Just carry your little friend around with you and when you see a girl you like, get it to do the talking for you. Just make sure it doesn’t tell her about those Mars bar wrappers or insult her outfit.

The Parakeet Training Record is from Frank’s Vinyl Museum.

*To have one’s druthers was an 19th century American phrase; druthers was a shortening of the words “would rathers.”

The Legendary Ken By Request Only

So I was looking at Bad Retro Album Covers for today’s post and this one caught my beady eye. I knew that I had to learn more!

Now apparently – according to one of the message boards over at Snopes, there is some debate as to whether this mid-1970s era gem is a real record cover, or a clever fake. Several people point out that (a) the cover shows no signs of wear, and always looks the same in various scans and (b) no one seems to know anything about the actual music (perhaps that is because no one ever requested it).

He seems to have a group of fans over here, by the way; he’s credited as Ken Snyder there. On YouTube it transpires that he is a real guy from Iowa and there are several clips from this album (allegedly). I haven’t listened to any of them yet but there seems to be some debate there too, on whether these are really genuine songs from the album. There is a clip of him on Mount Rushmore but the audio is cut off and he just says “Now then…” It’s at the YouTube link if you are sufficiently interested.

And at Communist Dance Party you can read the full story of the Legend of Ken. I guess it really is true, then! Am I the only one who had never heard of this Legend?

[Image from x-ray delta one at Flickr.]

Here’s To You, Mrs. Miller

Have you ever heard of the fabulous Mrs. Elva Miller (1907-97)? In the mid 1960s she had a brief period of fame for singing all sorts of well-known pop songs and absolutely making them her own. She sings like no one else I have ever heard.

She was discovered around 1960 through a self-financed single she made. She was featured on Garry Owens’ radio show after that (he produced Laugh-In in the late 60s) and was signed to Capitol Records in 1965.

She had a brief period of popularity due to her singing being so – unique. At first of course the poor lady thought she was being heralded for her good diction, but to her credit, once she realized that her fame was for other reasons, she went along with the joke and deliberately missed the beat. But as the Wikipedia article says, “she was capable of skipping beats and missing cues all by herself,” too.

She put out several albums, which include her interpretation of Beatles songs like “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Yellow Submarine.” She did quite a version of “Downtown,” the 1966 Petula Clark hit. And a stunning version of “These Boots Are Made For Walking.”

There are some good clips over at YouTube. It was very hard to choose which ones to present here. Seriously, Mrs. Miller is amazing. Here is her unique interpretation of “A Hard Day’s Night”:

And here’s “Let’s Hang On,” originally sung by Frankie Valli:

Album cover is from Frank’s Vinyl Museum.