Several months back, I came across this beauty in a collection that I had to have. It was Les Paul and Mary Ford’s ‘The Hit Makers’ from 1955. The original album came out in 1953 and was a 10″ record. This one is a 12″ re-release just two short years later and it added four more songs than the original.
Now it is pretty simple as to why I would want an album that is 63 years old. The album features Les Paul. This amazing guitarist and guitar builder is known worldwide and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have some of his music in my collection. And it doesn’t disappoint. I could go into the history of Les Paul, but will save that for another post some time in the future.
Les Paul and Mary Ford met in the Summer of 1945 and married four years later. They recorded numerous albums together and ‘The Hit Makers!’ is a greatest hits collection of their music. The album is a mixture of instrumentals highlighting the great guitar playing of Les Paul and songs with Mary Ford singing away. Shortly after the release, the hits started to dry up a little as the start of something called “Rock & Roll” hit the radio airwaves.
The songs are of many different styles including Blues, Jazz, Country, pop (50’s pop) and even a little rock & roll. The album is a “High Fidelity Recording” according to the album cover and let me tell you the sound is so crisp and clean. It sounds utterly amazing. There are very few pops and sounds almost perfect. The people that had this thing before kept it in impeccable shape.
Back in the 50’s, Capitol Records even explained what High Fidelity recordings were on the dust jacket of the album…see what I mean…
And to show you how much Capitol Records cared about delivering a top-notch product, the told you all about that on the flip side of the dust jacket…How thoughtful were they!!
I guess we should talk a little about what songs are on the album. So we will go through and I will gleam what I have found out about some of the songs.
“How High The Moon” – This song is considered a contender for the first Rock & Roll song recorded. That song is upbeat and has some riveting guitar work so I could see that being considered an early rock song. The song contains 12 overdubs of the guitar and Mary’s vocals and is just layers and layers of arrangements. The song went to #1 on the charts. They wrote and recorded the song in their cramped apartment in New York City.
“Josephine” – An instrumental that features only Les Paul and let me tell you it is worth it just to hear him play. His picking is sensational and unparalleled for the time (I am guessing).
“Mockin’ Bird Hill (Tra La La Twittle Dee Dee Dee)” – The song is based on a Swedish waltz and originally made famous by Patti Page. Les and Mary recorded and made it as well taking it to #10 on the charts and to Gold status. This song just screams 50’s for me. Child-like in its vocals that seem would be a good child nursery rhyme.
“Whispering” – Another great Les Paul instrumental. A little more upbeat from the previous and another showcase for his talents.
“Vaya Con Dios” – This was the duo’s second #1 song and probably the most popular version ever of the song as it has been covered by 100’s of artists. It was the biggest hit of their career. This is another song where Mary’s vocals are harmonizing with herself as they have several layers of her vocals which is very unique for this era.
“I’m A Fool To Care” – One of the newer songs on the album and it did chart at #6. A very slow and sad song that Mary performs effortlessly and beautifully. It has a little jazzy feel to it.
“The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise” – This is one of the first songs to ever feature distortion in the guitar parts. The song was so upbeat and joyful in sound and style. It was very distinct and as a result of that distinctive sound Stan Freberg used when he lampooned the song for a comedy bit. (Greg Adams at Allmusic.com). Les Paul really lets it rip on this song with some fast picking.
“Meet Mister Callaghan” – And we get another instrumental from Les. Nothing real fancy with this one, but the song did go to #5 on the charts back in 1952.
“Tiger Rag” – A Dixieland Jazz Band song that is so fast paced and another that screams like a kid song with it’s lyrics. It is one of the most recorded jazz compositions of all times. It was a big hit for the duo reaching #2 on the charts.
“Tennessee Waltz” – This of course is a waltz and in is in that slow flowing country style. Another song popular with Patti Page that led to the duo covering. They had success as well as it went to #6.
“I’m Still on Top of the World” – Mary’s vocals are so overdubbed on this album. I swear there are hundreds of her on here. The fast paced song and fast picking harken back to a simpler time.
“Whither Thou Goest” – The last song features Mary again on vocals and is a little downer after the last song. I would have liked a final guitar finale but it is the Les Paul AND Mary Ford album and not just Les Paul.
One thing I learned about Les Paul and Mary Ford was the use of the overdubs but was also the use of ‘Close Miking’. Close Miking is where the singer is only inches from the microphone which produces a more-intimate, less-reverberant sound. The singer sounds more relaxed and less effort is needed while recording. This was not common at the time, but of course is the standard way it is done today. The duo’s recording styles were actually quite innovative for the time.
Alright, I think I am done. I hope you enjoyed the journey in discovering this album as much as I did. I have to say it is a nice piece to have in the collection and gives me something completely different than all the rock & roll in my collection. It will be a cherished piece for some time to come.
Thanks and have a great day.