Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Herman Hupfeld - Moonlight and Love Songs OR "Moonlight and Pretzels"

      The graves of Herman Hupfeld and his mother. 

     The man who wrote about “moonlight and love songs never out of date,” wrote some songs for the forgotten “Moonlight and Pretzels.” Neither song (download links below) is particularly "out of date," especially if you enjoy nostalgic razzmatazz and fetchingly catchy pop-jazz.

    Written at the height of The Depression, 1933, the cheerful “I’ve Gotta Get Up and Go To Work” is sung by Dick Robertson, who is obviously grateful to have a job:

     “A lucky guy just getting by…oh such is life, my darling wife I’m doing it all for you. I’ll phone at noon, I’ll see you soon….the time’s not far away when every man will say: I have a job, so help me Bob, I gotta get up and go to work!”

    Compare that to glum Paul Simon nearly 40 years later: “Tomorrow’s gonna be another working day and I’m trying to get some rest.” Yeah, Mr. “we lived so well so long” was in a different space than Hupfeld, who was cheerleading people to be positive and thankful for what they had. 

     The Depression was an excuse for people to want music FREEEEE, but many were glad to pay for a boost in their spirits. Back then you could walk into a record store and come out with hopes and dreams. There was also a lively business in sheet music, and pianist-singers were employed in department stores to entice people with the latest tunes.

    Your second download from "Moonlight and Pretzels" features Ramona Davies. She asks “Are You Making Any Money?”  Being a practical female, that’s ALL she wants to know. Davies, featured with the Paul Whiteman orchestra, was usually listed simply as RAMONA. If Ray Davies ever wants to re-issue “Out of the Wardrobe” or really sell a “hey are you gay can you come out and play” lyric, he could use the “Ramona Davies” name. 

      As usual for these 78 rpm tunes, there’s a lot of music (we go 1:30 minutes) before there’s any lyrics. And the lyrics? Do they make a lot of sense? Not a lot: “You make love dandy, you make swell molasses candy, but honey are you makin’ any money, that’s all I want to know!”  

    The best things in life are free, as another Depression-era song goes. If not free (moonlight), pretty cheap (pretzels). While many were out of work, Hupfeld was knocking out songs. That doesn't mean he was out all night enjoying himself, and hobbing his nob with stage stars.  

     Hupfeld seemed to lead a rather dull and cloistered life at home in Montclair, New Jersey. His mother’s house was within a pretzel’s throw. One distant relative recalled that he had a drinking problem, which may have had to do with his problems being either asexual or gay. Michael Feinstein says the latter: 

    “There was a big divide back then between performers and songwriters that were gay. Most of the songwriters were in the closet. People knew that Cole Porter was gay but he never spoke of it and was married. There were many songwriters who were gay such as Herman Hupfeld who wrote "As Time Goes By." Many people did not want it to impact their careers. But then there were people at MGM like Conrad Salinger, who was film composer that was so outrageously flamboyant but he didn't care what people thought because his job was secure and he was extraordinarily talented. For performers it was very much hidden.”

    Hupfeld’s mother out-lived him by several years but as you see from the photo above, they remain side by side for eternity, as they did back in Montclair, New Jersey.


ARE YOU MAKING ANY MONEY (gosh, buy it IF you like it) - Ramona (not Ray) DAVIES

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