Thursday, January 09, 2014


Now that Thanksgiving is long over, here's "Turkey Mambo." No way would this blog endorse or celebrate a holiday that degenerated into nothing but an excuse for shopping, gluttony, and killing animals. The irony is that most people don't even like turkey (not when dere's frahhhd cheekun). Most housewives FAIL with a dried out carcass that even gravy and Stovetop Stuffing can't save.

If you're like me, and spent way too much time plowing through bargain bin records before the Internet made downloading cheap and easy, you probably know the name Richard Hayman, and confused him with the rudely named Dick Hyman. They offered two different specimens of lounge music. Richard "Dick" Hyman (March 8, 1927) specialized in keyboards…turning out literally dozens of albums featuring himself on piano, organ or even moog. Our tribute subject, Richard Hayman (March 27, 1920) was a virtuoso on the harmonica, and a capable music arranger and conductor. After a stint with the Harmonica Rascals, and working for the MGM music department as an arranger, he created charts for Vaughn Monroe's big band. A somewhat wacky guy, The Haymaker did some novelty harmonica songs on stage with the band, developing an entertaining presence that would suit him later on when he became a "Pops" conductor.

In the 50's, Hayman signed with Mercury for a bunch of easy listening albums as well as some singles. His version of the movie theme for "Ruby Gentry" ("Ruby") was a big hit in 1953. Eventually movie themes and middle-of-the-road (now called "lounge") music fell out of favor. Instrumentals (Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball, Percy Faith etc.) stopped making it into the Top 40. One last refuge for that kind of thing was the "Pops" orchestra. Fans of easy-listening could gather at a "Pops" concert hall for a clean, quiet evening of family fun...and perhaps still find a Christmas or "classical fireworks" album in the store somewhere. Hayman worked as an arranger for the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler, and conducted "Pops" concerts himself with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Through the 70's and 80's, affluent elders supported "pops" concerts, but by the 1990's, as so many of them reached their 90's, Hayman had to follow the money trail to Florida, where he became Music Director for the Space Coast Pops Orchestra. Given the title "Pops Conductor Emeritus," he would return to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra now and then for a guest gig. He performed a show with the St. Louis bunch on his 90th birthday.

Back in the day, there were so many "easy listening" albums in the racks, the record labels resorted to "sexy" album covers. Unfortunately for Hayman, his cover girls weren't quite as erotic as the ones for the 101 Strings, or even Jackie Gleason's mood music discs. Then again, his music wasn't intended for seduction. At least, not "Turkey Mambo," which turns up on "Let's Get Together." Like a supermarket assortment-pack of cheese, which would be some squares of Swiss, Colby, Cheddar and maybe a Muenster with a few caraway seeds in it, a Hayman album such as this, would have a travelogue tune, a romantic slab, a few ballads and some pleasant but not too upbeat jazz numbers. This one includes "Port of Spain," "Song of April," "Never Again," and for the sake of novelty: "Turkey Mambo."

"Turkey Mambo" is a mild big-band version of "Turkey in the Straw," which is stupid enough, but what renders this even more ridiculous, and delightful, is the chorus of middle-aged men who happily call out "TUR-KEY! MAM-BO!"


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