And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining

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He only gave us 48 years (1924-1973), and his musical compositions peaked and all but disappeared after 1963. But as I was preparing supper tonight, I found myself humming again one of Allan Sherman’s memorable parodies:

O, the moon is bright upon the carwash
And I’m having my Volkswagen washed again
But the way it is with me, the way my luck runs,
Just as soon as they’re finished it will rain.

The song segues illogically into

On top of Old Smokey,
All covered with hair.
Of course I’m referring
To Smokey the Bear.

Allan Sherman was a television comedy writer and producer who made it big in 1962 with his long playing album My Son the Folksinger, which sold a million copies. Most people remember him for his parody of Dance of the Hours by Ponchielli: Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah, Here I am at Camp Granada …”

But for those of us with a high tolerance for lyrical puns and simple satire, Allan Sherman’s songs remained stuck in our heads for the rest of our lives. My all-time favorite was his send-up of the French Revolution mimicking the rhythms of You Came a Long Way from Saint Louis” (“You Went the Wrong Way Old King Louie”).

But who, having heard them once, could forget Sherman classics such as:

When you go to the delicatessen store,

Don’t buy the liverwurst.

Don’t buy the liverwurst.
Don’t buy the liverwurst …

Oh buy the corned beef if you must,

The pickled herring you can trust,

And the lox puts you in orbit AOK.

But that big hunk of liverwurst

Has been there since October First,

And today is the Twenty-Third of May.

Or his homage to Gilbert and Sullivan: “I’m called little butterball.”

When I put on my earphones for my morning walks, my iPhone is usually tuned to the Grateful Dead or Norah Jones.

But I’m convinced that as I grow older, the last tunes to rattle in my head will be Allan Sherman tunes: deep, soothing, irrepressibly funny, and impossible to forget.

They say Allan Sherman’s fame declined when the nation’s sense of humor changed following the death of President Kennedy in 1963

That could be true, because the short, pudgy songster and tall, slender president had something in common. If Wikipedia can be believed, Sherman’s send up of Frère Jacques soared to the stratosphere when JFK was overheard singing it in a hotel lobby.

About Philip E Jenks

Philip is a retired communicator for American Baptist Churches USA, the U.S. Conference for the World Council of Churches, the U.S. National Council of Churches, and two Philadelphia area daily newspapers. He and his spouse, the Rev. Dr. Martha M. Cruz, are the parents of six adults and are members of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rye Brook, N.Y. They live in Port Chester, N.Y.
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