Tennessee Waltz and memories of childhood………..

My earliest memories of hearing music in my childhood (mid late fifties) was my mother singing as she did all the household duties. Remember, for working class families the norm was for the mother to stay at home and look after the children and the man to be the “breadwinner.”

Whatever she was doing my mother would usually be singing, often popular songs from the 30s and 40s, many I came to recognise in my later years as “standards” and which were the “pop” music of the time.

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Bonnie Rait

Two of the songs that made an indelible mark on me were Tennessee Waltz, written in 1946 and which became a million seller in 1950 for Patti Page. The other was Goodnight Irene, which was originally sung by the great bluesman Huddi Ledbetter, better know by his performing name of Ledbelly. It was subsequently recorded by The Weavers, with sanitised lyrics, and became a million seller in America.

I can only assume that my mother heard performances of these songs on the radio as she did not have a gramophone, but I do find it interesting that she was singing a very old traditional old blues song.

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Norah Jones

My father listened to people like Perry Como, Andy Williams and some light opera, what he called “good music.” However, his absolute favourite singer was Nat King Cole, a man who became best known for his wonderful voice. What I discovered in later years when my own interest in jazz developed was what a brilliant jazz pianist Nat Cole had been………..but of course he could make far more money as a vocalist than as a pianist.

There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that the great Oscar Peterson, who did a bit of singing himself once said to Nat Cole “If you promise not to play the piano, I will promise not to do any singing”………that is how highly the piano playing of Nat Cole was rated.

Anyway, back to the Tennessee Waltz. Over the years I have heard many versions of the song but only recently came across a concert performance by Norah Jones accompanied by the sublime Bonnie Rait, taken much slower than I remember my mother singing it, but still a wonderful interpretation of the classic song.

 

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