“(You ain’t worth) The Salt in My Tears” was a big hit for Martin Briley. (Happy Birthday to Martin...born on August 17th). But did he make up that clever remark? Uh, no. As he’s admitted, one of the tricks in songwriting is to take a phrase listeners are already familiar with, and use it in a song. Musically speaking, the phrase turned up on vinyl when vinyl was black shellac. “There Ain’t No Sweet Man Worth The Salt Of My Tears” was recorded back in 1928 by Annette Hanshaw.
Catherine Annette Hanshaw (October 18, 1901 – March 13, 1985) recorded over 200 singles in the 20’s and 30’s. Sometimes, so that the glut of material wouldn’t be so obvious, her record abels used pseudonyms. Among the oddest Hanshaw items are the ones credited to “Dot Dare” and “Gay Ellis.” That almost none of them are available today is quite a surprise and a shame. As most fans of old jazz know, at one time Annette was billed as “The Personality Girl.” She was the female rival to Bing Crosby in terms of national popularity. In fact, both of them would record “Ain’t No Sweet Man Is Worth the Salt of My Tears” the same year. Crosby (with the Rhythm Boys) took second billing to the Paul Whiteman orchestra. Bix Beiderbecke was on cornet.
One of the odd quirks of songs back then, was that they didn’t necessarily adhere to today’s accepted patterns of verse and chorus. This song is one long, tuneful and catchy instrumental until Annette turns up towards the end with her jolly slam at the idea of feeling sad about a break-up. And yes, if you’re wondering, the Rhythm Boys version doesn’t alter the song’s lyrics, which makes them seem like a bunch of big homos. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Consult an English professor if you want a definitive answer to why THIS song references "the salt OF my tears," while Briley's more popular version says "the salt IN my tears."
The Hanshaw version is the classic (though a nice one was turned in by Peggy Lee decades later). A catch-phrase Annette used, which isn’t on the single below, was ending a swingin’ tune with a blithe, “That’s all.” (As opposed to “That’s Ill.”)
Annette’s family owned “The Melody Shop” in Mount Kisco, New York, and she was a song plugger there, playing and singing for prospective buyers of sheet music. She performed locally and signed to Pathe in 1926, moving to Columbia in 1928 where they had her grinding out material for all the major and minor labels. A year after she left Pathe, she married Herman Rose, a Pathe exec.
In 1932 she began a two year run on the “Maxwell House Show Boat” radio show. When that ended in 1934, so did her recording career. She simply was sick of it all. As she later said in a less-than-nostalgic interview, she didn’t even like her records: “ I was most unhappy when they were released. I just often cried because I thought they were so poor, mostly because of my work, but a great deal, I suppose, because of the recording. I disliked the business intensely. I loathed it, and I'm ashamed to say I just did it for the money. I loved singing, you know (but) I was terribly nervous when I sang. You just have to be such a ham and love performing, and I happen to be an introvert.”
Annette Hanshaw Ain’t No Sweet Man Worth the Salt Of My Tears