Friday, January 27, 2012

New Oldies - !aaaH-aH yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er'yehT by VIX noelopaN

Am I crazy, or does this sound like Russian to you?

This is the flip side of They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha by Napoleon XIV, a novelty song that has been called one of the worst records ever made. Maybe I'm just nuts or something, but I loved this song when I first heard it, and I still think it's really fun today. The flip side was just the same song running in reverse. Even the label was a mirror image, with just a couple of exceptions. This may not be your cup of tea, but you can't deny that it's a very strange piece of pop music history!

Napoleon XIV was actually a professional songwriter named Jerry Samuels who started writing songs when he was 16 years old. Jerry was born on 3 May 1938 in Brooklyn, New York. The first song published with his name in the composer credits was called To Ev'ry Girl To Ev'ry Boy (The Meaning Of Love) by Johnnie Ray on Columbia 40252 in 1954:

He actually wrote this song with Sol Parker, even though it's credited to B. Parker. That's Sol's father, Barry. The same thing happened on Jerry's second published song, The Only Girl I'll Ever Love by Johnnie Ray on Columbia 40324 in 1955. The first song written solely by Jerry Samuels was So Rich And Yet So Very Poor by Tommy Mara on RKO Unique 377 in 1956. The biggest hit he wrote, but did not sing, came in 1964 with The Shelter Of Your Arms by Sammy Davis Junior, which peaked at #17 on Billboard's Hot 100.

Also in 1956, Jerry started recording his own records. His first was Puppy Love by Jerry Samuels on Vik 0197. By the way, there were at least 19 completely different songs recorded using the title Puppy Love in the 1950's and 1960's, which may be some kind of record! Jerry also recorded a Break-In novelty record called The Trial under the name Jerry Field And The Lawyers on Parkway 801 in 1958:

In 1959, he recorded Dancing Partners using the name Jerry Simms on RCA 7483:

He used that same name on Treasure Supreme on Dual 501 in 1961. He's also rumored to be singing under an assumed name on Gruesome by Mike Evans on A&M 837 from 1967:

I suspect he's also the artist on Medical School Talkin' Blues by Dr Douglas Greer on Reprise 0524 from 1968. But his biggest hit came in 1966 when he made They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha! on Warner 5831. That bizarre novelty record shot up the charts, peaking at #3 on Billboard's Hot 100, and #1 on Cashbox. It also went to #7 in Canada on 1050 CHUM, #4 in England, #7 in Ireland, #13 in Australia, and #22 in Germany. The record dropped off the charts like a lead balloon after an avalanche of protests forced Program Directors to take it off the air.

He filled an album with more songs about insanity in that same year, then followed up with a second single from that album called (I'm In Love With My) Little Red Tricycle on RCA 5853. He was working on a second album for Warner called For God's Sake Stop The Feces in 1968, but it was never released.

He made one more novelty record in 1973 as Jerry Samuels again with I Owe A Lot To Iowa Pot b/w Who Are You To Tell Me Not To Smoke Marijuana on J.E.P. 1175.

Jerry is 73 now, but still running a talent agency in New York City.

Speaking of Crazy, did you know there was a little flaw in Crazy by Patsy Cline? When that track was recorded in Nashville, Patsy came in too early near the end of the song. This was fixed in the editing process, but her voice "leaked" into the instrument pickup microphones. You can hear it faintly in the background if you listen carefully. I've made it easier for you by jacking up the volume on that part. You should easily hear it at 2:29, right near the end:

You may think I've lost my mind, but I don't think 120,000 oldies provides enough variety. That's why I'm adding 100-200 new songs from the 1950's and 1960's to the MusicMaster Oldies mix every week. If I can keep up this pace, and I don't get myself committed to the Funny Farm, you could listen forever and never stop hearing something you've never heard before. Scary, right?

Oh, one last thing before I forget (too late, I did forget it!) They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Haaa was not the first song of this kind. Let's dial the time machine back to 1947. Here's Hooray Hooray I'm Going Away by Beatrice Kay on Columbia 37922:

Totally sick and certifiably demented, eh?


  1. I see my old Wikipedia research is being read by somebody. Be it known that Jerry had at least four songs recorded by others that were written solely by himself before the Mara record. I've spoken to Jerry on the phone on a few occasions, and while he is reluctant to talk about many of those older compositions, I was able to at least confirm what he did and did not write or record. He knows or recalls little to nothing of who actually recorded a lot of his songs, so it was up to me to find out on my own. Note that the Jerry Field record is NOT Samuels.

    1. Thanks for checking in. It's very difficult to be 100% accurate when researching these artists and their music. When I am able to contact the actual people involved, which is rare, I often get conflicting information from them. I try to rely on facts that I'm able to corroborate from at least three different sources, but that's no longer very reliable. In this age of instant communication via the Internet, misinformation can spread quickly and appear in hundreds of different places. I've seen completely false information literally copied word for word into dozens of different blogs! I don't rely on Wikipedia because anyone can edit that information even if they don't have direct knowledge of the subject matter. Even when they provide a reference, that source is often incorrect. Most of the artists I've been talking about are either reluctant to speak, unable to recall, impossible to locate, or deceased. That's why it's always so exciting to run into someone who has first hand knowledge. In fact, that's one of the reasons I enjoy writing this blog. It's amazing how many people find what I've written and post a comment or send me a private message to provide additional information from first hand knowledge. I've also been fortunate to hear from family members of deceased artists who can fill in many missing pieces. It's really exciting when they provide photos, too! I hope anyone reading this who has such information will share it with us so we can all benefit from their knowledge and experience!

  2. As I said, my information confirmation comes from Jerry himself, beginning back in 2006. While he was reluctant to go deeper into it, he was graceful enough to at least confirm my research and what I'd been hearing from other sources. You also have to take into account that things that happened 50-60 years ago aren't as clear on the memory as if it were only 10-20 years back. I mainly relied on ASCAP and BMI listings of his songs to get myself started, and the Billboard on-line to confirm and date my research. I was surprised to see the Billboard ad for his Vik record here (from March 24, 1956), as I never saw it before. The record was reviewed a week later. Regarding photos, Jerry's a very private person, and I knew that if I ever should meet with him, no pictures would be allowed. He was unaware of the RCA "Jerry Simms" promo release having his picture on it until I told him. That was when I was confirming it was in deed him. He was also unaware that "Treasure Supreme" was ever issued, as he though it was one of the worst songs he'd ever written. But he did have memory of the other side, "Good Luck, Orville" getting issued. By the way, Jerry's agency is in Philadelphia (serving the Delaware Valley), not New York. He has no idea who recorded many of his songs, and really doesn't care to know. But he did say that Johnnie Ray was the reason he got started writing songs in the first place. Johnnie recorded three of them altogether, although the last one, "Ooo Aah! Oh! (This Is Love)" wasn't released until Ray died in 1990, though it was recorded in February, 1953. That was the first song written entirely be Jerry that was recorded.

  3. I just realized the 1956 print ad you show is not from the same (Billboard?) edition as I found it. The characters to the left aren't present (March 24, 1956, page 29). May I ask where the ad is from...? I also realized you never mentioned his agency wasn't in New York (sorry about that, I must have read that somewhere else today).
    Also worthy of mention is Woody Woodpecker's debut in the Walter Lantz Andy Panda "cartune", KNOCK KNOCK, from November, 1940. It could have just as easily been titled as THEY'RE COMING TO TAKE ME AWAY, HA-HA-HA-HA-HAAAAAAAA!

  4. I used to buy old Billboard magazines whenever I found them. Now I've got a ton of them laying around. But that particular ad is available for sale right now on eBay.

    Knock Knock is a great Woody Woodpecker cartoon! Animation was so much better back then. No computers, all hand drawn and colored, with great writing and music too. Fantastic stuff. For anyone reading these comments, you can watch it here:

    I don't think there are insane asylums anymore. Crazy people are no longer taken away, they just become politicians instead!

  5. Thanks for the Ebay link. A bit expensive, but I guess it's cheaper than trying to find and purchace the entire edition.

    You're right about the cartoons back then. I've even got my soon-to-be 4 year old grandson watching them, along with early Popeye and Tom & Jerry. He loves them (like me).

    Just so you know, my interest in Jerry was prompted when I first heard "Miracles" by LaVern Baker. I'd heard the two earlier Johnnie Ray songs before then, but it was LaVern's song that set the ball rolling to follow thru for them all.

    Now I see you did say his agency is in New York City... His son, Scott, is in New York (he plays gutar for hire and teaches), but Jerry is in Philadelphia.

    Some people think I'm crazy (my daughter, for instance) for taking my research to extremes like this (I was the one also responsible for the "Puppy Love" versions story you found too), but Im not crazy enough (yet?) to go into politics.

  6. Just saw an error in an earlier post. That first song written entirely by Jerry Samuels, recorded by Johnnie Ray, was recorded in February 1955 (not '53).

    While I'm here, neither the Dr. Greer or Mike Evans records are Jerry incognito. Though produced by him (both Jepalana Productions), the only other name he used to record under was "Jerry Simms", on songs already mentioned. Note that on the 1959 RCA release, stock copies show his last name as "Sims". I have a Canadian promo (Record Prevue) of that issue that uses the Sims spelling (no photo on the label there). He is of no relation to the "Jerry Sims" who recorded for the Big Tyme and Buddy labels.

    I'd also heard that he was rumored to be Ric Castle on Warner Bros. 5355. That was also a Jepalana Production along with one side co-written by Jerry, "The Twilight Of Youth". Jerry specifically confirmed to me it wasn't him, though he did remember the session. The only other name he used to write under was "Scott David" (he used his son's name). He never wrote under Sims/Simms. Any "Jerry Sims" songs shown in his BMI catalog are a different writer, not him.

  7. Sorry to be jumping in here so often, but I just received the Billbord page featuring Jerry's ad. It's from the same issue as I spoke of earlier (March 24, 1956). The first ad (on page 29) was part of a two page spread on Vik Records, featuring Dick Lee on page 28, and then Jerry on 29. The ad you display above is from page 43. I also just realized that different sides are featured on each page, "The Chosen Few" on page 29, and "Puppy Love" on page 43. "Puppy Love" would be the favored side when the record was reviewed the following week (March 31). Also, page 43 features a banner on top showing "Mr. Explosive TeeN Tune!" (note the "TNT").

  8. You might want to see this (I just ran across this on Youtube... It's Jerry)

    1. VERY cool. Thanks for sharing that. And thanks again for filling in some missing pieces and correcting some misconceptions. I love learning as much as possible about the people who made the great music of the rock and roll era.

  9. I only just realized this today, that Jerry had an even BIGGER hit as a songwriter with a song he didn't sing, and before "The Shelter Of Your Arms". While "Shelter" peaked at #17 for two weeks in March, 1964, his other Billboard Hit was #10 for 2 weeks in September, 1961.

    Co-wriiten with Larry Kusick, the song was "As If I Didn't Know", and recorded by Adam Wade on Coed Records. While "Shelter" took 13 weeks to reach it's peak, the Adam Wade record took only 7 weeks to reach #10.

    The reason for the unknowing public attention is that when Jerry wrote the song, he was using the Scott David name (his son's name). The reason I didn't know is that I wasn't aware that the song Charted so well until now (I'm a Record Geek, not a Chart Geek).

    Jerry also used the Scott David moniker on three other songs that I can account for: "We've Got To Tell Them" by Johnny Mastro (soon-to-be Maestro) in February, 1961; "Little Miss Lovely" by Adama Wade in April 1962; and a then-unreleased song by Johnny Maestro from 1961, "Keep away From Carol", which saw release for the first time in 1991 (on CD). All three of those songs were written by Jerry alone under the new moniker.

    After that, he went back to using his real name. Aside from "Jerry Samuels", "Scott David", and "N. Bonapart", he used no other. He never used "Jerry Sims" as a songwriting credit, despite the name association in BMI or ASCAP.

    Fred Clemens

    Fred Clemens