Tune Tuesday – Ain’t No Sunshine

As summer quickly (and sadly) draws to a close, it got me to thinking about the one thing I’ll miss most about summer – sunshine. For those who live where the sun is always shining (or at least most of the time), you really cannot comprehend just how difficult the winter months in Michigan are. While I love Autumn, I miss the sunshine as we start to see it less and less.

The lack of sunshine that is on the horizon in the months ahead, made me think of this great R&B song from Bill Withers. It’s been covered by SO many people including Nancy Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Wynonna Judd and many more, but Bill Wither’s version is the gold standard! It can be found on his 1971 album “Just As I Am.”

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Bill wrote the song after being inspired while watching the movie The Days of Wine and Roses with Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon. He said in an interview that the characters Remick and Lemmon played: “They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It’s like going back for seconds on rat poison. Sometimes you miss things that weren’t particularly good for you. It’s just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I’m not aware of.”

This was his first hit. He was in the navy for 9 years and after getting out, he worked in a factory making parts for airplanes. It was during this time that he met Booker T. Jones (of Booker and the MG’s). Booker brought in some amazing musicians (Donald “Duck” Dunn, Stephen Stills, and himself) to play on the track. Jones also produced the album.

One of the most recognizable parts of the song is where he repeats the words “I know” over and over and over. That was not they way he intended the song to be. he had hoped to write a verse to go there. Withers explained in an interview: “I wasn’t going to do that, then Booker T. said, ‘No, leave it like that.’ I was going to write something there, but there was a general consensus in the studio. It was an interesting thing because I’ve got all these guys that were already established, and I was working in the factory at the time. Graham Nash was sitting right in front of me, just offering his support. Stephen Stills was playing and there was Booker T. and Al Jackson and Donald Dunn – all of the MGs except Steve Cropper. They were all these people with all this experience and all these reputations, and I was this factory worker just sort of puttering around. So when their general feeling was, ‘Leave it like that,’ I left it like that.”

(Keith story: The first time I played this record at WKSG in Detroit, I was in the bathroom peeing when the “I know” part started repeating. I was standing at the urinal listening to the song over the speaker and I thought “the record is skipping!” I was playing this off a cart (which meant that it was already recorded and there was no way the song was skipping, unless it was recorded that way!). I remember running out of the bathroom and through the halls anyway …. by the time I got to the studio, the song was continuing ….skip free!)

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The song won the Grammy for Best R&B song in 1972 and went all the way to #3 on the charts. While English teachers must cringe when they hear the improper grammar (“ain’t no” instead of “isn’t any”), it worked in this song (and also Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough).

“Ain’t No Sunshine”

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And she’s always gone too long
Anytime she goes away

Wonder this time where she’s gone
Wonder if she’s gone to stay
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

And I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know
Hey, I oughtta leave young thing alone
But ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Only darkness every day
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away

Get the “funk” out!

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I am not going to lie, this past week has been a roller coaster of ups and downs.  Whether or not there was more bad than good this week, I really can’t say.  It “feels like” there was a bit more negatives, though, hence the “funk” I was in this morning. I am hoping that this blog will act as a “redirection” in my thinking.

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I read an article a long time ago that talked about the “five to one” rule.  I want to say that it was about relationships.  The basic thing presented in the article was that in order for a person to get over a single “negative”, there needed to be at least five “positives” to counteract it.

Recently, my therapist has had me do something similar.  Focus on the positives.  Think of five positives, or five things that make me happy.  Rather than just “think” about those things, I thought I would benefit from writing them out.  The following may be simply a positive, something that made me happy, or a mixture of both.

1. Waking up next to my love

After a particularly stressful early part of the week, my sleep was a bit messed up.  When this happens, I tend to wake up earlier than I intend to.  As I lay next to my wife, I found myself thinking about how lucky I am.  I watched her sleeping soundly and I found lost in thoughts about just how beautiful she is.  In my mind, verses of poetry started to come so fast, I had to grab a piece of paper to write them down.  I made sure to write them out and give them to her the next morning.

What an amazing blessing she has been to me!  I am so lucky that I get to kiss her goodnight and good morning every day!

2. Possibilities

My ex used to question why I had so many Facebook friends.  My friends on social media range from school friends to college friends, friends who work/worked in radio and television and friends who I met through working in radio.  Then there are friends from the record industry, author friends, and friends from the entertainment industry.  Then I have some co-workers and former co-workers and friends who share many of the same interests as me (movies, music, etc…).  The majority of them I have met personally, while some of them I may not have.

Many opportunities have come to be because of “who I know”.  I have continued to work for many high schools and middle schools DJing their dances because the teacher knows me.  I became the voice of Ronnie, the RPM Auto Sales Super Hero, because of my friend at Fox 66 who thought I’d be perfect to be his voice.  I landed a voice over gig on a national TV program because the host heard my voice on something I did for some friends.

This week, another possibility has presented itself to me.  Details are sketchy at this point and I don’t know too much about it.  A friend of mine passed along my name to someone and hopefully, this will be yet another one of those amazing things that I can attribute to “who I know”.  Stay Tuned…..

3. Family Time

The weather hasn’t always cooperated with us this summer.  Friday, however, was just perfect.  Sam and I decided to pack the boys in the car and head to the zoo.  There are a few small zoos close by (Saginaw and Frankenmuth), but she suggested the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing.  I had never been there before, and the boys had never been either.  It’s certainly not as large as the Detroit or Toledo Zoo, but it was still a very nice zoo.

Unlike the Detroit Zoo, there was plenty of shade.  Temperatures were not an issue, as it was sunny and 70 – perfect!  I can see where the shade would be especially nice on those 90 degree days!  What I really liked about this zoo was how close we were able to get to the animals.  When we walked in, there was a sign that said the Lions were not going to be outside.  They were, however, inside, and we could see them up close through glass.  It was awesome!  They are much bigger than I imagined.  When you see them from far away, you really don’t get to see just how big they are!

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We all had such a great time!

4. Radio Time

This week, I got to work at both radio stations.  Being in the studio makes me happy.  I get to be creative and talk with listeners.  Monday – Wednesday, I was on for George.  I got to do his all-request 80’s lunch show.  It’s always fun to see what the listeners want to hear. I love when they ask for those “forgotten favorites.”  Friday, I was on for Lisa.  She was out an an appearance and I was on air.

Today, I was live on the Moose.  “Moosin’ around” is often what I call it.  Today I got to catch up with a couple listeners who used to listen to me when I was here the first time years ago.  I think that’s how you know you’ve made an impact – they remember you.  They remembered a few of the silly bits I used to do when I was here before and it made me smile when the one listener reminded me of my “Accordion Awareness Month Updates!”

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Some say radio is a dying business – I say “only if you are doing it wrong!”

I miss it!!

5. Sam’s check up

The best moment of the week was going with Sam to her OB appointment.  It was just a check up, and she told me since I was running on little or no sleep that I should stay home and sleep.  I wasn’t about to do that.  I wanted to be there with her.  The doc was running a little behind, as he had to deliver a baby earlier in the day.  He came in, asked a few questions, discussed a few things, and then he let us hear the baby’s heartbeat. The baby’s heartbeat was a strong 159-160 bpm.  The doc looked at us and said, “If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a girl.”  It will be a few days before we find out for sure.

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The above is what the heart beat looks like on an ultrasound (this one is not ours, but I am going to ask for one of ours!!).  I don’t care how many times I hear it – the sound of the baby’s heartbeat makes me smile!  It never gets old!  Sam’s sister had a fetal doppler she let us borrow.  It will allow us to hear the baby’s heartbeat any time we want!  How cool is that?!

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So, writing this has helped me to feel better.  Now, I am going to listen to our baby’s heartbeat ….

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Tune Tuesday – Pilot of the Airwaves

In honor of today being National Radio Day, and as a former full time radio DJ, today’s tune was VERY easy to pick.

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Charlie Dore is a singer songwriter from England, who reached the Top 20 with this song in 1979.  I was about a decade away from my start in radio when this song came out.  When I started working at WKSG, Kiss-FM in Detroit, we were “all request.”  I did the overnight show and many people called to hear their favorite songs.  I remember one listener in particular (her name was Heather) who used to request this one all the time.

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What I love about this song is that it shows what all DJ’s hope to accomplish – bonding with our listeners!  We hope that when you listen, you feel like you are hanging out with a friend.  That’s what made me want to get into radio, really.  I listened to Jim McKenzie all the time when I was working in the Parts Department at Suburban Marine.  Jim always seemed like a friend.  He had a friendly voice, told stories, was nice to his listeners, and funny.  While I worked, I was hanging out with my friend.

This was a common theme with my favorite DJ’s.  They were story tellers.  They were friends.  They included me in the stuff they were talking about.  I laughed with them.  They did radio, as my mentor Jay Trachman would say, “one to one.”  So many great DJ’s:  Paul Christy, Jim McKenzie, John Bailey, Gail McKnight, Johnny Molson, Richard D., Boogie Brian, Ted “the Bear” Richards, Ron T., Jon Ray, Kris King, Tim Roberts, Brian Cleary, Dan Richards, Jim Biggins, and SO many more!  The list of people who I worked with and admire is a long one!  They were all “Pilots” of the airwaves!!

Happy National Radio Day to all my radio friends!!

Pilot of the Airwaves

[Chorus:]
Pilot of the airwaves
Here is my request
You don’t have to play it
But I hope you’ll do your best
I’ve been listening to your show
On the radio
And you seem like a friend to me

Or a record of your choice
I don’t mind, I’d be happy just to hear your voice
Saying this is for the girl
Who didn’t sign her name
Yes, she needs a dedication just the same

[Bridge:]
Late at night I’m still listening
Don’t waste my time chasing sleep
People say I look weary
But that’s just the company I keep
Ooooh, you make the nighttime race
Ooooh, I don’t need to see your face
You’re sounding good (Sounding good)
Sounding good to me

[Chorus]

[Bridge]

You’re sounding so good to me

[Chorus]

Oh, I’ve been listening to your show on the radio
And you seem like a friend to me

[Chorus]

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Capturing Memories of Yesterday

In my last blog, I was ranting about making spaghetti sauce.  I hadn’t made it in awhile, and it was long overdue.  I was making it because we had friends over Saturday night.  Our friend Amy was bringing by the flash drive with the photos she took of Dante’ for senior pictures – session #1.  You can read about that emotional day here:

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Session #2 will happen as fall arrives, and we’re already mapping out the details of that.  I’m especially excited for that session as there will be a few locations that hold very special memories for both Dante’ and me.

Dinner

Amy, her husband Matt, her daughter (and Sam’s Goddaughter) Skyler, and her boyfriend “Po” were our guests for dinner.  I worked Friday on the sauce, tweaking a few things here and there.  I used that sauce for baked ravioli.  I make a big pot of sauce and throw whatever I am not using in jars and freeze it for future use.  I made sure to leave an extra jar out, because sometimes those ravioli will “soak up the sauce” in the oven.

Any time I make sauce, I am extra critical of it.  I took a leap of faith and tried something I had never done before.  There was no going back – this was the sauce that was going in the ravioli!  Personally, I could tell the difference in this batch.  I pressed the garlic instead of just chopping it up and putting it in (so it tasted less “garlicky”).  I also felt that it could have been a little sweeter (maybe not enough wine or sugar).

When every one arrived, I was nervous.  The sauce was good – but I was still running through the things I noticed in my mind.  I shouldn’t have been nervous at all!  They all loved it!  Skyler said that she could “drink it with a straw” it was so good.  In a Facebook post, Amy said: “As we took the first bite, it was clearly evident that the sauce is the BEST we have all ever tasted!”  She went on to write, “Well done, Chef Keith.  We could “taste” the passion, heart and soul you poured into our meal. You’ll find us all at the front of the line to purchase that sauce when you bottle it!”

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What an amazing thing to read!  I felt like I was reading an review for a 5-star restaurant! I am humbled and thankful that the meal was enjoyed by every one!  I made sure to send home a jar with them for future enjoyment (No label.  No charge!)

The Pictures

If you took the time to follow the link above, you are aware at how emotional I was the day that the pictures were taken (and I wasn’t even there for the whole day).  The weather that day was far from ideal.  It was 90 degrees, humidity was high, plenty of sun, and many of the pictures were taken during the hottest part of the day.  The fact that Dante’ made it as long as he did was a “win” in itself!  It was obvious by the time I arrived for the second half of the session that he was only good for a little while longer.

I was not with them while they snapped pictures by classic cars at a car show.  I was neat to see which cars Dante’ chose to pose by.  As we looked through the photos together, he rattled off the year, make and model of each car.  There were some taken at the park which were very nice.  I could tell which pictures were taken later.  Dante’ has a habit of messing up his hair, when he gets hot, so there were a couple shots I laughed at and asked him, “were you hot?”

We went to the park right around the corner from our house and snapped a few more pictures.  There were some that we took of him standing on this little bridge.  He is just kind of lost in thought, and those really stuck with me.  He’s always thinking.  He asks a lot of questions.  He is always looking stuff up on the internet and likes to share the “facts” and “figures” he learns about with others.  I’m not sure why those photos in particular stuck out to me.

I could post many shots here, but then again, I don’t want to share them all, so I am going to share just a couple of my favorites.

First, after the park, we came home and the boys gamed a bit.  We brought the boys out to the porch and she caught some shots of them just talking.  There is a great pic of the two of them clinking their glass and iced tea bottle together like they are making a toast or something.  One of my favorite shots, though is one of them laughing.  My boy’s laughter fills my heart.  I love when I can make them laugh.  I think I was doing some silly impression of a radio guy I worked with, which made them laugh out loud.  Check out this great shot:

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A day without laughter  – is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin

Dante’ is ALL about gaming!  He has a handful of games that he loves (on various gaming systems).  He has some very good friends who also love to game.  When these guys get together, the noise level doubles or triples!  LOL!  They are SO into the game!  Usually, they are playing a game called Super Smash Brothers (which I SUCK at!) and they are bouncing and jumping around all over the place (which is fun to watch)!  Skyler made a cool sign and Amy lined up some of his favorite games next to it.  While Dante’ played his game, she caught this amazing shot:

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“Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.” – Orrin Hatch

Finally, perhaps my favorite picture of all, is referred to in the blog I mentioned above.  Amy told me that she had taken the picture.  I just hadn’t seen it yet.  Skyler had bought a cute “gender friendly” outfit for our future baby.  She had it in a gift bag.  Also inside the gift bag was the picture of Dante’ and me in a frame.  Seeing it, brought about all the emotion of the day, which I held back – because I had to serve up the ravioli!  However, I have looked at it many times since Saturday, and well up with tears almost every time.  As I showed Dante’ the picture, he could hear the crack in my voice and asked again if I am crying.  He thinks it is funny that I am so emotional.  He will have plenty of laughs in the year ahead, because I know that there will be many tears in the months leading to his graduation!  Even though I am dressed like a bum, and my head needs shaving, I will treasure this picture forever:

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“There is no greater bond than the one between a father and a son – strong, unyielding, and everlasting.”

“A father and a son are bonded for life.  Even when a father never says it out loud, the son knows there is love.”

“Often, a father is proud when his son looks or behaves like him. It’s unclear why exactly  fathers are like this, but perhaps it’s a sign that they know they have done well raising their sons.”

“Sons always identify their fathers as their greatest heroes, while fathers always look at their sons as their greatest accomplishment.”

In her Facebook post, Amy said, “When I am entrusted to capture “A Memory of Yesterday” for some one to cherish for years to come, I pour my heart and soul into capturing the essence of who my subjects are.”

I would say that she did that perfectly.

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Getting Saucy … sort of

Frank Sinatra sang, “Regrets.  I’ve had a few….” One regret I have is waiting too long to ask my grandmother for recipes.  By the time I thought to do this, the beginnings of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia had begun to overcome her and it was too late.

It is not like we never tried to ask, because we did.  Our questions were often responded to with vague or generic answers.  The only thing I can duplicate pretty accurately, is my grandma’s breaded steak.  I can do this, because I watched her do it once.  It’s not hard.  You take the steak, dip it in olive oil, dip it in Italian bread crumbs and broil it.  Simple, right!?  She once walked me through how she made her chicken and gravy, but I have long forgotten how.

The one thing I have been trying to duplicate for years is her spaghetti sauce.  I have come close – very close – but it’s just not right, yet.  I have asked friends, and some family, and have tried to incorporate things in hopes that it would be “THE” missing ingredient….without any luck.  Granted, some of the suggestions have brought me closer, and each time I try something new, I am afraid I may mess it up more.

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One thing I DO know, is that grandma used sugar in her sauce.  I am told it is a Sicilian thing.  Whether or not to use sugar in your sauce is a heated topic among Italians.  Some people find it utterly disgusting.  Personally, I love a sauce that is a bit sweet.  I also know she used a lot of garlic.  She always used basil (“You have to use good, fresh basil!”) and a bay leaf.  Never oregano – she (and many Italian grandmas) used to say that you only used oregano for pizza sauce.

I also know that she always used Contadina products!

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I remember she had a pantry down in her basement that had literally HUNDREDS of cans of Contadina tomato sauce and tomato paste!  (We used to call her pantry Kroger because she also had rows of dish soap, canned vegetables, and other things down there.) When I first attempted to make the sauce, I knew I had to start with this.

I used my friend Christina’s grandma’s recipe as a basic guide.  I have expanded on it since my first attempt.  A cousin said that her grandma used to put a stick of butter in her pot of sauce.  Another cousin (and my aunt) both suggested a Bechamel sauce be added to thicken the sauce, which it did.  I thought my grandma used a little wine, so I tried that, too.

I have used ground beef, ground sausage, ground pork, and stewing beef in the sauce to see if that makes a difference.  To a degree it does, but I know grandma used to cook all of those in her sauce at times.  I have tried more seasoning and less seasoning, bullion cubes instead of salt, and white wine and red wine, but still come up short.

My radio buddy, Jim Bosh, is Italian and he has hosted dinner parties for holidays and such in the past.  His sauce (and meatballs) are about as close as I have tasted to my grandmas.  I can’t remember if I ever sat down with him and discussed making the sauce at length, but I know he has offered a suggestion or two.  I also remember him telling me that no matter how many times I try to make grandma’s sauce, there will always be one important thing missing – Grandma.

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The King is Gone

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May 1977.  The month I turned 7 years old, two movies were released that would have major influences over my childhood, and adulthood.  The movies were Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit.  I can recall exactly where I saw each movie, too.

I saw Star Wars at Hoover 11 when the movie theater was still in the complex.  I don’t recall the exact date I saw it, but it was within a month of it’s release.  Eventually, the theater closed and became a TJ Maxx.  It was a one screen theater, and I remember the line was long.  I remember waiting in line for what seemed like forever and it being a full house!  I also remember not being able to sleep for a week, because Darth Vader scared the hell out of me.

I do remember the exact date I saw Smokey and the Bandit. August 16, 1977 – 42 years ago today.  I believe my folks had a station wagon at the time, and we drove to the Gratiot Drive-In in Roseville.

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When you saw a movie at the Drive-In, you always got their early.  You found a good spot where you could see the screen without obstruction.  The spot also was ideally close to the bathrooms and concession stands.  You had to pull up to the pole that held the speaker that you would hang from your window, so you could hear the audio of the movie.

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The movie never started until it got dark, so I remember bringing a baseball and mitt to play catch, or we’d go to an old playground that was up near the screen.

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As the sun began to go down, we’d go back to the car and dad would usually turn on the radio.  We had an AM radio in the car, and Dad turned on Honey Radio (where I would years later have the honor of working).  I remember the DJ (I don’t recall who it was) coming on and saying that Elvis had died in Memphis.  He was only 42.  They played Elvis music for the remainder of the time we listened.

I remember the news sort of putting a damper on the night.  My dad was a big Elvis fan.  I remember him watching the Aloha From Hawaii concert in the living room. I remember the many albums he had (including the Moody Blue album on blue vinyl). And I remember how he recorded the song Way Down on 8 tracks that we listened to on the drive to Caseville.  Dad would often put Elvis songs on the stereo and play his guitar along with them.

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I’m glad that we were at the movies to see a comedy.  I recall my dad being visibly upset by the news.  I don’t know that I had ever seen him that way before.  Once the movie started, I knew he was ok.  I recall the hearty laughter from him as Jackie Gleason shouted out profanity into the CB microphone.  Those scenes continue to make dad and me laugh out loud today – no matter how many times we’ve seen them!

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I remember in the days before VCR’s.  I used to record movies on cassettes so I could hear my favorite scenes.  I had no idea that in the future you’d be able to go out and buy your favorite movies on DVD and Blu-Ray.  Smokey and the Bandit was on cable one night at like 12:30am.  It was the last time that month that it was airing.  To me, it could have been the last time it ever aired!  I asked my dad to record it for me on cassette.  When I listened back to it, I could hear dad laughing at all of the Jackie Gleason scenes.  I was probably mad about it at the time, but looking back, I know I’d have done the same thing!

In everyone’s life, there are events that become etched forever in your mind.  For some, it was when they heard Buddy Holly died.  For others, it was when JFK or Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. Those become memories that when you look back on them, you remember exactly where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing.  I have a few of those memories – President Reagan being shot, the Challenger explosion, and, of course, 9/11. The first one that is forever etched in my mind, though, happened 42 years ago today.

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Tune Tuesday – That’s Amore

It was 66 years ago today that Dean Martin stood in the recording studios at Capitol Records to record a song that he will forever be associated with – That’s Amore.  In 1953, Dean recorded it with Dick Stabile and his orchestra.  The session went from 8:30pm to 12:30am.  Also recorded at that session was the flip side of the record, a song called “You’re the Right One”.

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The song first appeared in the Martin and Lewis movie, The Caddy, which was released by Paramount Pictures three days earlier.  The song was written by Jack Brooks (who wrote the lyrics) and Harry Warren (who wrote the music).  According to Jerry Lewis, the writers of The Caddy left Dean very little to do.  The relationship between Dean and Jerry was already a bit strained.  According to Jerry, he went behind Dean’s back and said that he needed “a hit song” for Dean to sing in the movie – and That’s Amore was it.  Jerry said he paid about $30,000 for the song.  The song received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Song (it lost to Doris Day’s ‘Secret Love’).  It reached #2 on the charts.

The video below is taken from the Capitol Collector’s Series, which includes some playful studio chatter from Dean before the take.  Enjoy.

That’s Amore

“That’s Amore”

(In Napoli where love is king
When boy meets girl here’s what they say)

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That’s amore
When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine
That’s amore
Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you’ll sing “Vita bella”
Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay
Like a gay tarantella

When the stars make you drool just like a pasta e fazool
That’s amore
When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet
You’re in love
When you walk in a dream but you know you’re not dreaming, signore
Scusa mi, but you see, back in old Napoli
That’s amore

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That’s amore (That’s amore)
When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine
That’s amore (That’s amore)
Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you’ll sing “Vita bella” (Vita bell—Vita bella)
Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay
Like a gay tarantella (lucky fella)

When the stars make you drool just like a pasta e fazool
That’s amore (That’s amore)
When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet
You’re in love
When you walk in a dream but you know you’re not dreaming, signore
Scusa mi, but you see, back in old Napoli
That’s amore (amore)
That’s amore