UKULELE MUSINGS, 16 October 2021: “Sweetness; How Sweet it is!”

Well, fellow strummers,  it seems with the fine fall weather we’ve been having (amid the many raindrops, however) I’ve found time to do another one of my musical musings. 

Looking at the calendar, who knew that mid-October is the time for “National Sweetness Day.” 

In the olden days—when I was a bit younger than now, this was known as “National Candy Day” and bits of candy were to be handed out to friends and family as a token of thoughtfulness and friendship.  Like so much these days, this celebration has evolved with the intent of handing out bits of kindness to friends, family, and—for that matter—to all!  What’s not to like?

Needless to say, there are reams of sheet music touching on the “Sweetness” theme. Here are just a few of the more noteworthy–graphically if not musically speaking!

So, in keeping with the theme of this musing, I searched through our Blue and Yellow Books and found over a dozen songs with the word “sweet” or some derivative thereof in the title.  Who knew?  Anyway, with my penchant to avoid songs written more recently than the 1950s, I was surprised by the several that fit into my “oldie” category.  As you gentle readers might recall, I have mused over the years about two of the greatest of this genre—“Ain’t She Sweet,”

and “Sweet Georgia Brown.” 

If you want to re-read my thoughts on these two gems, just hit the link and search through the entries until these two tunes show up—worth a visit if I do say so myself.

Just for a bit of fun, however, click or tap on the next link or image for a listen to a much, much newer—and with a ukulele, no less, version of this musical chestnut, “Ain’t She Sweet.” 

Let’s move a few decades back with a Blue Book favorite, “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” a song with lyrics written in 1950 by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays of the folk group, “The Weavers.”  Their tune was adapted from Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter’s 1937 song “If it Wasn’t for Dicky,” which, in turn, was adapted from a traditional Irish tune “Drimindown / Drumion Dubh.” Who knows where the Irish got that one!

Here’s the “Lead Belly” tune.  Click or tap on the next link or image for a listen:  

  Now, click or tap on the next image for the Weaver’s revamp.

Now, for the sake of thematic purging and to stay in a lighter mood, let’s let the late 19th century, maudlin, death-bed, Sunday School staple from our Yellow Book, “In the Sweet By and By” go unsung. OK?

But, let’s move quickly on to a “Capital-C” Chestnut, also from our Yellow Book, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” Every barbershop quartet worth their pitch pipe sings this one so we should really give it a go.

Click or tap on the next image or link for a nostalgic listen to this 1910 oldie by Beth Whitson and Leo Friedman.  To attest to the long-lived popularity of this one, it has been used in hundreds of vaudeville reviews and over twenty movies or TV shows over the years ranging from The Waltons to Downton Abby!

 After that trip way, way down memory lane, let’s move on to a much more sprightly song from our Blue Book, the 1919 torchy “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me.” 

This jazz standard was written by Tin Pan Alley regulars Charles Mc Carron and Cary Morgan and has become a Dixieland favorite.  Click or tap on the next image or link to hear this oldie but goodie!

As would be expected, the adjective “sweet” was used to modify girl’s names in dozens and dozens of songs from “Sweet Adeline” to “Sweet Caroline.” 

We’ll forgo the 1959 Fenway favorite of our Blue Books, “Sweet Caroline,” in favor of the ultimate barbershop quartet standard that is not found in either Blue or Yellow.   Go figure!  Anyway, click or tap on the next image or link for a one-man “quartet” version of this oldie!

And—why not?—a ukulele version.  Click or tap on the next image or link for a listen.   

I could go on and on with so-called “sweet, sweetie, and sweetness” songs and, if you have the time and are so inclined, here are a few more YouTubes just for fun;

Click or tap on the next image or link to hear Bessie Smith’s bluesy, torchy version of “My Sweetie Went Away.

And, for a bit of musical craziness, click or tap on the next image or link for a wild and wooly western take on “Sweet Little Buttercup.”

Now, let’s wind up this musing with one or our favorite Blue Book songs, “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” an American traditional song developed from the cowboy song “My Lula Gal” which, in turn, is based on a bawdy British and Appalachian song known as “Bang Bang Rosie” or “Bang Away Lulu.”  Tap or click on the next image or link for a real downhome bluegrass version of “Lula . . .”

Of Course, the ultimate bluegrass version of “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” is, beyond a doubt, that by Earl Scruggs and Lester Flat from 1951.  Click or tap on the next image or link to be blown away with some lightning-fast finger picking.

And how about a ukulele version of this one!  Click or tap on the next image or link for a look.

I would be remiss if I didn’t show a thematically appropriate ukulele from my collection   .  .  .

As well as another.

And, despite the vagaries of the times, stay as sweet as you are!

and—above all—STAY TUNED!  

And be safe with and for you and yours!

Author: NohoBanjo of Northampton and, now, Easthampton, Mass.

Hi friends, neighbors, and fellow strummers. These “musings” are based on my interest and study of Banjo and Ukulele history, lore, and music. My goal is to both educate and enlighten by sharing what I have learned within a broad musical and historical context—with honesty and, at times, a bit of humor. Needless to say, your thoughts and comments are, as always, welcome.

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