Sunday, February 19, 2017

It SIMMS nobody is talking about the father of Paul Simon

Only here, at the blog of less renown, do you hear about Lee Simms.

To be honest, it's because this is a peculiar place, and Mr. Simms has no reason to be considered more than an odd footnote in music history.

When Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel had a fluke hit as “Tom and Jerry,” singing an Everly Brothers-type tune called “Hey Schoolgirl,” his label had another Simon issuing a 45 rpm. It was Paul’s father Louis, who was billed as Lee Simms. Whether it was to smooth over any paternal concern about his teenage son signing a label deal, or a sincere belief that Louis had talent, nobody seems to recall.

Louis Simon/Lee Simms led a dance band that was capable of standards and jazz. He also played bass. Mostly he and his group worked minor area nightclubs and halls, but thanks to his son Paul, he got to release a lone single featuring the instrumentals “Blue Mud” and “Simmer Down.”

Back then, there was a blurry line between pop and jazz and between edgy teen tunes and middle of the road music. Alongside The Beach Boys or Little Richard or The Coasters, Billboard might point to Acker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore,” Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly” or even Mitch Miller with the “Colonel Bogey March.” Simms' "Blue Mud" sounds a bit like a Hugo Winterhalter 45 played at 33. As for "Simmer Down," you can't say it was that hot, but the gag is that it plays on Lee's last name. Har har.

Lee Simms didn't seem to ever play on his son's fame. His journeyman band did well for a while, and that was that. I think Lee Simms eventually became Louis Simon again, and took up teaching. He used to tell his son Paul that this was a much nobler profession than music. Even when Paul Simon was one of America's most important songwriters, Lou was figuring that one day, Paul's fame would wane, and he'd go into teaching.

There was a Father and Son reunion of sorts when Lee Simms' single was added onto the bogus Pickwick album, "The Hit Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel." To fill out the album of old Tom and Jerry recordings, and Paul's Jerry Landis solo singles, the label included "Blue Mud" and "Simmer Down," both credited to L.Simon/Prosen (that's Sid Prosen), and now re-titled “Tijuana Blues” and “Simon Says.”

For extra fun, the album also had “True or False,” a faux-Elvis number Lou Simon wrote that Paul recorded as Jerry Landis. Look out below. It's your chance to sample Simms, and be an educated consumer. (Oh, the clothing guy spelled it Syms...nevermind...)



No comments: