Camp Music - The Script
Robert Leeds, Michael Harren and Chris Pool
Dreams cast - The Bette Davis Chorus (1997)
This is JD Doyle welcoming you to a special Queer Music Heritage show, one I'm calling "Camp Music." I started off with a track called "The Bette Davis Chorus," from the musical "Freeway Dreams," from 1997, and then went to an Eric Lane Barnes musical called "The Stops." When that show was performed in Houston, in 2003, I was working with the director, so was able to get a recording of the local cast singing "But Ya Are, Blanche." This show will be filled with my favorites of the campy songs of our music history, and a lot of others that just appeal to my gay sensibility.
Before I get back to the music, I have an announcement that will likely surprise most of my listeners. Last January was the 15th anniversary of Queer Music Heritage, and I've much enjoyed sharing and preserving our music culture, but I've decided that QMH has had a long enough run and that this will be the last show. And this month is also the last for OutRadio. I want to devote more energy to my history websites, like houstonLGBThistory.org and texasobituaryproject.org, and my digitizing project for early Houston publications, so it will be nice not to have the deadlines from QMH and OutRadio pressing me. But don't worry, the Queer Music Heritage website is not going away. It will stay as a history resource, and it archives almost 580 hours of programming to amuse you. You'd have to listen around the clock for 24 days to hear it all.
Okay, I've got lots of campy ground to cover so I'm getting back to it, with a trio of songs from England from decades ago, beginning with Douglas Byng and Lance Lister from 1928. They are "Cabaret Boys."
& Lance Lister - Cabaret Boys (1928)
Following Douglas Byng and Lance Lister was Earl Gresh & the Gangplank Orchestre, from 1925, and "Help," and then the Durium Dance Band and "Let's All Be Fairies."
Next we go to 1932, which was the height of what we now call the Pansy Craze. And for this next one I only have a short clip, as that's all there was, but if you ever have a chance to see on TV the old Clara Bow film "Call Her Savage," it's worth your time, if only for the thirty seconds when our heroine visits a night club and sees the beyond nelly performance of two pansies singing about being chambermaids.
Call Her Savage
clip - Working as Chambermaids (1932)
Another curious record, from 1940, that was John Ryan and "I Wish I Were a Fairy."
And from here I'm going to jump to the mid-1960s and a mystery of our culture, the Camp Records label. True to its name this label released two albums and ten 45s of very, Very gay songs, with the singers never identified and leaving no trail of who produced these recordings. I have a special page of my QMH website where you can hear them all but I've singled out two for this show. One is "Homer the Happy Little Homo" and the other was inspired by a cigarette commercial of those days, where the smokers defending their brand said they'd rather fight than switch. For the Camp label it came out "I'd Rather Swish Than Fight."
B. Bubba - I'd
Rather Swish Than Fight (60s)
Okay, I can't resist, here's one more from the Camp Records label, called "The Weekend of a Hairdresser."
- Weekend of a Hairdresser (60s)
To me "Strangers in the Night" by Teddy & Darrel from 1966 always seemed to have a homophobic tone to it. There's a fine line between laughing with us and at us, and I think they crossed it. But this one from 1980 was definitely from our side of the fence. Calling themselves the Beejays, they did a campy parody of "My Boyfriend's Back."
The Beejays - My Boyfriend's Back (1980)
Girl Group records of the 60s seem ripe for gay parodies and from the UK Julian Clary contributes his share, starting with a live TV version of "My Guy."
- My Guy (1993)
That was also Julian Clary in the middle, under the name The Joan Collins Fan Club, doing "Leader of the Pack." And I also played another parody of the song, by a UK band, The Roadies.
And here's more from the UK. About ten years ago, was a comedy show called "Little Britain," with Matt Lucas playing the flamboyantly gay character, who had his own song.
Lucas - I'm Gay (2007)
And, you know, as I pulled all these songs from my collection I began to realize that the realm of campy songs seemed to be a masculine one. But I found a couple songs by women that seem to fit. First is by the duo Dos Falopia, which is made up of Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt, doing one called "A Camp Song." And then you'll hear the Rhythm Method and their wonderful take on the Shirelles song "I Met Her on a Sunday."
- A Camp Song (1992)
Those were both from the early 1990s, and well, I did find another female performer I wanted to include, from 1979, because when Ethel Merman does disco, it's instant camp.
Ethel Merman - There's No Business Like Show Business (Disco) (1979)
She had a whole album of these, and you got to give her credit for always giving it her all.
This JD Doyle and I'm going to close Part 1 with two songs by the Flirtations, including Michael Callen, and then Michael Callen as a solo act. The first song is the group's cover of the already campy Julie Brown song "Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun," followed by Michael Callen's over the top solo version of "Where the Boys Are."
- Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun (1992)
Sam Lanin's Famous Players - The Man I Love (1927)
That over-the-top introduction by me was the way I began my June 2004 show, and I've always been fond of it. As I said in it, that version of "The Man I Love" was from 1927, by Sam Lanin's Famous Players, and it gets us in the mood right away for some other quite old music, for example by Jean Malin, one of the main characters of the Pansy Craze. He wasn't really a singer, but he was such a popular emcee and entertainer that in 1933 Columbia Records put out this outrageous 78 rpm release. It had the songs "That's What's the Matter With Me" and "I'd Rather Be Spanish Than Manish."
Jean Malin -
That's What's the Matter With Me (1931)
Another song that really fits this show is a Noel Coward one called "Green Carnation." It's from his 1933 musical "Bitter Sweet," and talks about the practice of gay men in England in the gay 90's, that's 1890s, wearing green carnations. There's no beating around the bush what the song is about, and for 1933 in a mainstream musical that was noteworthy. I wish I had a version of him singing the complete song, but all I've been able to track down is him doing it as part of a medley. So I've taken that snippet and coupled it with a version very faithful to the spirit of the song. It's from 1967 from a Noel Coward tribute album, and done by Edward Earle and the Satisfactions. They and Noel all wear a "Green Carnation."
- Green Carnation (1933)
Also in that set was UK songwriter and performer Alex Harding, doing "There's Nothing Like a Fairy to Make Sure the Party's Gay." And finally, another Noel Coward song, probably my favorite, and I've collected a lot of versions of it. But I need some help on this one, as I acquired the clip long ago and it was not identified by who is singing it. If you know, please contact me and put that mystery to bed.
As I played some Noel Coward I should include Beatrice Lillie, and her signature song "There Are Fairies in the Bottom of My Garden." She was a great friend of Coward, who commented "I should love to perform "There Are Fairies in the Bottom of My Garden" but I don't dare. It might come out "There Are Fairies in the Garden of My Bottom."
Beatrice Lillie - There Are Fairies in the Bottom of My Garden (1934)
I've not played any Ray Bourbon yet, and he's near the top of campy recordings and he had a long career, the most prolific of any female impersonator, going back to the 1930s and through the 1960s. I picked three by him, probably from the 50s and from his series of LPs then. So here are "I Must Have a Greek," "Queen of the Navy" and "Let Me Tell You About My Operation."
- I Must Have a Greek
All vintage Ray Bourbon, and that last one, from 1956, was telling about his sex change...only that was all hype, never happened.
And this next one is a gem. It's from the UK from 1967 and on the cover of the 45 it says it's by the Brothers Butch, but on the disc itself, by the Butch Brothers. The two songs have the very tongue-in-cheek writing credits of Eileen Dover, and the titles are "Kay, Why" and "I'm Not Camping Out This Winter."
Butch Brothers - Kay, Why / I'm Not Camping Out This Winter (1967)
Now it wouldn't be a Queer Music Heritage show without my digging into some obscurities. Today probably only record collectors remember the name Joe Meek, but he was a legendary British record producer in the early 1960's. His innovative style and very distinctive production techniques gave him legendary status at that time. But personally he was a very troubled man and by 1966 he was in deep depression, caused by lack of success of his later recordings, near bankruptcy and the oppression he felt for being homosexual. Homosexuality was still illegal in the UK at that time.
One of his first smash hits was "Telstar" from 1962 by the Tornados, which he produced. As far as I know, that group wasn't gay, but on the last 45 he produced for them, in 1966, he perhaps gained some satisfaction by exposing a reality long suppressed. On the flip side of their record "Is That a Ship I Hear" he placed what sounded like a throwaway song, called "Do You Come Here Often." It's an innocuous sounding instrumental and most people, had they even bothered to turn the record over, would have stopped listening well before the point of interest I'm telling you about. At about 2 minutes and 15 seconds into the song, he inserted this bit of conversation apparently intended to sound like it came from a London gay club, with two obviously bitchy queens.
Tornados - Do You Come Here Often (1966)
Remember this was 1966, homosexuality was still illegal, and that indulgence by producer Joe Meek was in a way an amazing achievement. It was the first record on a UK major label, Columbia, to give us a look at gay life, with all the campiness sometimes present. No one knows how much satisfaction that recording gave him, because within six months he had committed suicide with a shotgun.
Moving on to happier things, here is the UK singing group 4 Poofs & a Piano...no closet for them. From 2003, here's their version of "My Enormous Penis."
4 Poofs &
A Piano - My Enormous Penis (2003)
Now, I really tried to not play any Christmas songs, but that one, also by 4 Poofs & A Piano, certainly fits this show.
Okay, I got those out of my system. They were obviously fake commercials, starting with "Little Pink Pill," which aired on the radio show This Way Out in 1988. Next is a quite homophobic version of a Chesterfield cigarettes commercial, from I believe the 50s. Then, a studio outtake of two radio folks just fooling around, doing male voices on a Lux Radio ad, also probably from the 1950s. And next was "Drag Detergent," from a 1970 comedy album by Mad Avenue Records, with lots of fake commercials, including that gay one. And finally a group called Rock's Gang thought it humorous to include some homophobia on their album otherwise just filled with cover songs.
And here's another radio ad, for the 2003 film "Die, Mommie, Die."
That was Firesign Theatre, a very popular comedy troop, and a single they released in 1969 called "Station Break." They may not have meant the term straight people the way we do, but I still thought it was amusing.
Here's Charles Nelson Reilly going a commercial for Bic Banana Ink Crayons, you'll want to find it on Youtube, he's wearing a banana costume.
Reilly - Bic Banana Ink Crayons commercial
In 1984 Fred Barton wrote a musical from the point of view of the wicked witch of the West in Wizard of Oz, called "Miss Gulch Returns," and it was amazingly clever. For those who want to track it down, it's on CD now, and I pulled from it the track "Pour Me a Man."
Fred Barton - Pour Me a Man (1984)
This is JD Doyle and I'm closing Part 2 of my Camp Music Special with a track called "Buggery on the High Seas," from a 1973 Cheech & Chong LP, followed by a wonderful song by Martin Mull. From 1977, it's just called "Men."
Chong - Buggery on the High Seas (1973)
Perry Como - Keep It Gay (1953)
Yes, "Keep It Gay," by Perry Como, in 1953, and of course he didn't know how the meaning of the title would evolve over the years. This is JD Doyle, with Part 3 of my Camp Music Special. Yes, I have more, and it was difficult to whittle them down to only four hours. And I'm starting off with a track from the 1995 musical "Whoop De Do," called "It's Tough To Be A Fairy."
Whoop De Do
- It's Tough To Be a Fairy (1995)
That's a old song, from the age of British music halls, most famously done by Tessie O'Shea. But I really prefer the song sung by a man, and found that good version done in 2013 by Jack Boner. I do wonder if that's his real name. That's one of the newest songs on this show, as I'm afraid camp is becoming a lost art. But I do have another recent one, also from 2013, by Patty Bruce, but I know his real name is Patrick Johnson. He, or she, sings "Is It So."
- Is It So? (2013)
In the middle was, pay attention to this name, Saul T Peter, and the track "Queen of Fire Island," from 1960. And the comedy duo Hudson & Landry released a number of albums in the 70s, and the Bruiser Larue character was used on several of them. That one was his first appearance, from 1971. And from a very obscure 1967 movie called "Teenage Rebellion" is a track called "The Gay Teenager," that now sounds quite camp.
Burt Topper - The Gay Teenager (1967)
Here are some clips from 70s UK television. First, John Inman does the title track from the show that made his career, "Are You Being Served." And then from Monty Python we hear "Camp It Up" and the "Lumberjack Song."
John Inman -
Are You Being Served (1975)
Of course that was Nathan Lane, from a 1995 concert version of "The Wizard of Oz." And sort of continuing that theme is a track from a very rare musical, "Rocky Over the Rainbow," a mash-up of The Rocky Horror Show and The Wizard of Oz, on the song "Science Fiction Double Feature."
Rocky Over the
Rainbow - Science Fiction Double Feature (2002)
Up next, a kind of surprisingly gay song from a 1961 musical, "Seven Come Eleven," and the soundtrack has even been reissued on CD, with Steve Roland singing "Captain of the Pinafores.
- Captain of the Pinafores (1961)
That was so campy, with Batman's Burt Ward doing "Boy Wonder, I Love You," from 1966, with an odd bit of trivia; it was written and arranged by Frank Zappa.
Canadian comedian Scott Thompson embraced his gayness in his many skits with the group Kids in the Hall, like this one.
Scott Thompson - Gay Bar Monologue (1993)
In the early 1950s Liberace was becoming quite popular and there were even several songs written about him. One was by Ruth Wallis, who had heard that he was considering getting married, which she just could not fathom, so she wrote the song "Dear Liberace."
- Dear Liberace (1953)
Liberace was a good sport, at least when you were not talking about him being a homosexual, and in 1955 someone recorded the song "Hey, Liberace" and he decided to get in on the joke and record it himself, which you just heard.
Here's another by Ruth Wallis, from 1948, one she's quite known for, called "Queer Things Are Happening."
- Queer Things Are Happening (1948)
Rip Taylor Interview, in TWT, 1984
And that was a busy set. After Ruth Wallis, from 1949, Nan Blakstone told us "He Should Have Been a Wac." Then from around 1957 came the "Queer Policeman" by Billy Devroe, followed by one by Rip Taylor. His song, "How Does It Feel," was not all that campy, except for his trademark laugh. And I ended with the UK duo Topping & Butch, and "Fag Hag." That was from their 2005 CD "A Lot to Take In."
This is JD Doyle, and that was Part 3 of my Camp Music special, and stick around, there's one more hour. Closing this one is a very campy disco song from 2006 out of Denmark, and I really recommend you check out the over the top video. Here's Tomboy and "OK2BGay."
Tomboy - OK2BGAY (2006)
Kinsey Sicks - Gay Straight or Bi / I Will Swallow Him (1999)
No, that last one cannot be played on broadcast radio. That group is known as America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet, the Kinsey Sicks, and I think they are terrific. Both of those tracks came from their 1999 CD "Boyz 2 Girlz." And this is JD Doyle bringing you the last segment of my Camp Music Special, and the last segment ever of Queer Music Heritage. It will contain near the end a very rare comedy special first aired in San Francisco in 1974, that includes Lily Tomlin. But I have a few more gems I want to pack in before we get to that.
For example, remember the wonderful 1997 movie, "In & Out," with Kevin Klein playing a teacher being outed before he knew he was gay. Well, there's a scene where he's trying to butch up his act by playing an audio tape to help him along. Of course it's much funnier on screen but you'll get the idea.
In & Out
- Getting a Grip (1997)
I'm not sure how old that is, but I found it on the internet around 2005 and am calling it Simpsons Gay Mix.
Here are a couple novelty records, both from the Laurie Record company, the label that spit out a lot of hits in the 60s; but not this time. From 1962 is Hugh Masher and "Operation Decoy." Hugh Masher, get it? And then from 1975, at the height of the Jaws movie craze is one by the Seaweeds, "You Swam Away With My Heart."
- Operation Decoy (1962)
I played a couple songs about Bette Davis in Part 1, and that was her doing a duet. From 1961 it's called "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" The duet was with an unknown singer named Debbie Burton. I'd love to know how that was decided.
I can't leave out Jose Sarria, from his 1960 LP "No Camping." He sings an intro and then "A Good Man Is Hard to Find."
Jose Sarria - A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1960)
That brings us up to the comedy special I promised you. It is courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco and this is probably one of the few times it has ever been aired. From 1974, the late radio producer Randy Alfred will introduce it.
Gay Liberation Follies (1974)
Andrews Sisters - Three Caballeros (1944)
This is JD Doyle with the Andrews Sisters winding things down.
Again, I thank the GLBT Historical Society of San Francisco for making that available. I have one last song and I hope you forgive me, but it has nothing at all to do with the theme of this show. I'm going to get sentimental for a moment. Queer Music Heritage began in January 2000 and the very first song I played was "Gay Spirit" by Charlie Murphy, from the LP "Walls to Roses." I used a bit of that song to open my show for the first two or so years, so it has special meaning to me. Therefore, after a bit over 15 years, I'm using the song to close the very last QMH show. I thank those who have listened over the years and supported my work. I've much enjoyed providing this resource for finding the history of our music culture. And the website is not going anywhere, it will be available for research and listening to every show from that 15 years, about 580 hours of it. By Charlie Murphy, here's "Gay Spirit."
Charlie Murphy - Gay Spirit (1978)
who Didn't fit onto this show?